Sunday, 26 October 2014

Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival 2014 - 18 October P60 Amstelveen

Heavy Metal Maniacs a Dutch fanclub founded in 1997 and highlight of the year is their festival. As the focus is on the best period in music: the Eighties, they presented a nice Dutch/British dive into our past again. Opening band Venator I had seen not very long ago with Night Demon and missed their first part. The last three songs I did see were sounding good and showing them to be perfect warm-ups before the past reveals. Second band Diggeth had a slightly harder time to keep audience's attention as they play slightly slower and heavier, while southern rock also seems to be an influence. This meant they had to work harder for appreciation, but they managed to convince at least some.

Hereafter the first NWOBHM band hit the stage and for me Dealer came, saw and conquered. Their first live show in a year due to the loss of their bass player they returned to Holland a year late and rocked. Technical problems or not they brought their songs with attitude, enjoying themselves and swearing the songs together with a very British accent. Highlight was the final while playing full album First Strike. Great songs all of them with to me favorites the hardly before played Choose your Weapon and epic closer Final Conflict. As I had none of their music got First Strike after the show and hope to see them in Hatfield next year. Hereafter we got the last Dutch band of the day Sad Iron. I do not really know why I missed them in the eighties, but they reminded me of another Dutch band of that era Jewel. Fast songs, lots of energy and a great guitarist. Very good set.

Next was Midnight Messiah, my main reason for joining today after their great show at Power & Glory in August. Well I can be short, just as good again. This time I knew the Elixir songs as well, so even more recognition points. While I enjoyed their show massively I did have the impression they were not as known by all. I got into them due to the present, when I bought their CD The Root of all Evil last year. Only hereafter I discovered the Elixir works. Most people in P60 today are even better aware of the past, while I did not have the impression their new songs were all that known. This is a trend we see in other genres as well. Clearest example is Thrash Metal where we speak about the Big 4. Any follower of Thrash knows that bands like Heathen, Exodus, Death Angel have released the last years much better albums than any of the big 4 have done over the past 15 years. In NWOBHM Iron Maiden and Saxon still stay close to their origins, but we love their past. Surprises come from lesser known bands like Hell or Salem and for me Midnight Messiah fits perfectly well in that list. A new album that reaches the level of the past showing their relevance today. But before drifting off too far, Midnight Messiah are just a great band and if you need a reference melodic Saxon comes closest and the Son of Odin rules!

Headliner of today were Grim Reaper. They opened Rocking us to Hell and probably closed Seeing us in Hell as well, but I had to leave before our appointment near the horned one was made. As I needed to drive with the family the next morning some 600 km, I left halfway and got home in time for some decent sleep. What I did see was fast and well fast again. Not many moments of rest they played with an urge to bang our heads. So next year I shall be back and if not travelling the next morning coming by train and drink my beers. After all the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival is about how it all used to be better in the eighties (which is soo true) and as I did not drive then, I should not do so now either. Thanks HMM hope to see many more festivals like this one, great Tee by the way.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

ProgPower Europe - 3-5 October 2014, Baarlo

Prog Power Europe is: Coming home, Camping de Berckt, Red Plastic bags, Sjiwa downstairs bar, Sunny breaks, Rented bicycles, Milanello, Meeting old and new friends and most of all 3 days of Great Music. This year's line up was for me the usual mix of bands I love, bands I know but not that well and bands I never heard of. Opening evening Friday gave us two bands only. Votum opened earlier this year for Riverside, much to my liking. Going through almost the same set as earlier this year I would only recommend slightly more heavy songs, as the balance now was a bit too light. Friday's headliner Jolly brought some fans of their own along and I could not really place them. I do like bits and pieces, but sometimes get bored away. Also their presentation moves from sympathetic, to slicky. Maybe if I gave them a lot of time I could grow into this band, but I don't see me putting the effort in.

And then came Saturday. In my many visits for a day or full weekend Progpower I do not recall any day where I did not miss one minute and got  entertained from begin to end during six shows. This turned out to become a day to remember with lots of variety and only highlights. First on were Disperse, who I knew and lived up to expectations. I don't know what they put in the wodka in Poland, but they do make great guitarists.  Their show was lively, impressive and including two covers I never heard of varied enough as well. They wanted to return one day and I hope they do. Then came Prospekt from the UK. Their first show abroad and I think a succesfull one. With their music more etching to melodic power metal not the most surprising act of the day, but certainly well worth my attention. Next on Australias first band of this year. With Aeon of Horus we got the needed energy injection. What a blast of technical Death Metal and what fun to see a band on stage enjoying themselves even more than the audience. Very sympathetic performance and I got the CD for appreciation.
Dinner break did not allow me to queue up at any snackbar or pizza place/Chinese as next up would be Pain of Salvation playing an old set. Starting with 25 minutes of Perfect Element Part 1 not much could go wrong really. How good to see why I considered PoS the best new Progmetal band between 1996-2004. Loosing me partially with too experimental lighter works lately this was back to great form. Also great to see Daniel Gildenlow in his usual outstanding voice after the scare he passed before. Of course I could list many songs I would have loved to hear as well (Inside!!), but 70 minutes is not enough for a band with a backcatalogue like theirs, ever considered a weekend Marillion style?

With PoS being silent headliners the pressure was on for next band Aeon Zen. How to follow up a setlist most people loved to hear once again? Well they managed and soon I entered Aeon Zen mode to see a great show. I did know some songs from Prog magazine samplers, but never got a CD from them. Well that was corrected with their latest album after the show as I really appreciated their performance. Not having the easiest slot they were not intimidated and came saw and conquered Baarlo, great set. I do remember saying that with 5 out of 5 the Saturday already made an impact within PPE history. Hardly could I imagine that the best was yet to come. Through the years some bands that were not households names yet, made an impression we always remember. I can think of Riverside 2004 as clearest example, but many others can be named as well. So I missed Voyager in 2006 due to work and I saw them for the first time live. I know their debut as well as their one but last album, which honestly speaking I am not playing all that much. When they hit the stage it was party, energy, musicality and total insanity. What a blast, what a band and what fun they had. Australia ruled PPE 2014 that became clear. Great performances of their own material and a ridiculously interesteing 80's pop medley. This band deserves to become huge and than bigger. Disappontments? none apart from the sold-out XXL Tee, which I would buy if their show was great. I mean even their T-shirt was great. Definitely a band to see again if on the continent.

So Sunday had to follow up all this. I noticed I was hyped on Saturday, tired after already two days standing and drinking and not as fresh this was always going to be an uphill battle for the Sunday bands. Cartographer were this year's only Dutch band, instrumental and slowly building up to heavy climaxes, nice enough. Tenebris from Poland did not manage to catch my attention. The grunt was there, the instrumental bits as well, but I missed the dynamics. Time for a pizza, the first served in Baarlo that day avoiding dinner break queues. But Sunday of course also had it's highlights. Brightest one came in the form of Vulture Industries. This was a show, filled up with great music and all attention towards the crazy eyes of the vocalist.l Never imagined I would witness a polonaise at Progpower, but it was all part of this crazy yet beautiful show. Chimpspanner were next and second instrumental band of the day. Very good musicians, but a bit too similar for the full 60 minutes.
Agent Fresco followed and being for me maybe the right band, but at the wrong time. I decided to have a beer downstairs and prepare myself for a grand finale as PoS would play Remedy Lane from Of Two Beginnings until Beyond the Pale. This being one of the best Progmetal albums ever, the Sjiwa was more than a bit looking forward. And we got what we wanted, live is always more of an impact. With the full album played we were afraid that a great weekend would be closed with one of the saddest jokes in Progmetal: Disco Queen. Now only hidden in a medley and instrumental we agreed this was their message to kill the bitch for good and we hope she never returns. Pain of Salvation was a perfect closing act for a very succesfull Progpower Edition. I was afraid that with the relative lack of famous names this might be a not so busy PPE, but quite the opposite was true. A big thanks to the organisation and promising us Abnormal Thought Patterns for 2015 the tickets shall be purchased when available.