Thursday, 24 December 2015

Top 15 of 2015 - Live Shows

2015 saw the trend of the last years continuing. As I am one of the last CD buyers, bands need to tour to survive. This means lots of shows and especially in spring and autumn  a collapse of shows you really should not miss, but do. I won't list here the bands I missed, but run through the shows of his year I did see and picked my favorite 15 ones  ending in the best show of 2015 I attended. While putting the list together I do recognize that nostalgia plays a role, so old bands never seen before do end high upon the list.

15. Marillion - weekend Sunday night 22 March / Fish Boerderij 3 November
Joining some old friends to just make the list. While Marillion weekend overall is the most interesting musical experience of the year (Rockaoke Rulezz), the show itself culmulated on the Sunday when the singles were played and the first hour only contained Fish material.
Fish himself played the full version of Misplaced Childhood, but was suffering from a band not up to its task. Fish himslef was top notch though and still one of the best entertainers on stage.

14. Hell - Gebr. de Nobel 24 May
On a festival that brought us mainly black or death orientated metal Hell brought their great stage show to Leiden. The first time the surprise was tremendous, but still one not to miss with a perfect mix of heavy metal music and a bloody show.

13. Saxon - Gebr. de Nobel - 5 April
Still trying to figure out why someone would ever throw a beer to the stage when the evening of NWOBHM classics passed so well. Killed the end a bit, but not to Saxon's fault. I missed them in de Boerderij in November, so next year it is again.

12. Anihilated - Musicon 10 May
An old band, but unknown to me. Great performance and one hour of British Thrash metal just aroud the corner made this Sunday night a special one. Proving inbetween that w edon't depend on the big 4 for some great thrash metal on stage.

11. Hekz - Boerderij 4 December
I came to see Lonely Robot who released a great CD and has John Mitchell on guitars, a stamp for quality. Hekz I silently hoped on a big surprise. I did not realize they would be this good. Definitely a contender for Progpowers to come. Great progmetal with some Heavy Metal overtones.

10. Operation Mindcrime - 013 27 November
When you expect not that much really and everything surprises positive a great evening guaranteed. Geoff Tate better by voice than last times I saw him, the band good and the setlist opening with the greatest concept album of all time hardly could go wrong. Take Hold of the Flame as a closer of set also not a bad choice.

9. Thunder - Boerderij 11 July
They are back!. First the CD Wonder Days and then they passed de Boerderij. Still a great bad and just good atmosphere. Ballads (many) and rockers stood side by side during this evening of a band having a good time (according to Aardschok Graspop was emotionless, well this evening was great).

8. Absolva - Musicon 3 April & 1 November
A band that plays Heavy Metal passing the Musicon in April releasing a new album and returning in November is a great THHMA initiative. Too bad the second time (sunday) was poorly attended, but to me both nights contained all one needs in modern heavy metal with an old school touch, twin guitars anyone?

7. Dead Lord - Nobel 3 September / Paard 20 Noember
Exactly same story as Absolva. Great band, new to me loved their show bought their Cd's and then they came back when I already new the songs. Yes Lizzy is there, but also like Absolva one of the hardest woking bands picking up tours whenever possible. Twin guitars anyone?

6. Serdce - Sjiwa 4 October
Progpower Europe brought us many great bands, but Serdce was the one standing out to me. Tech metal, grunts, clear voice and some simply amazing instrumental work. Still a pity they did not bring any merchandse driving two days up from Belarus.

5. Raven - Musicon 16 October
Probably the biggest name under the THHMA banner so far passing Musicon. Great to see that the Athletic metal is still in great shape. Also a setlist that could do nothing wrong passing through history. Rockin untill they dropped and than have a beer with the fans. That is the spirit indeed.

4. Anubis - Boerderij 15 May.
Travelling to Europe from Australia for a few shows and than find a bar stage degradation. This would put off many bands, but not Anubis. Well over two hours giving it their all and live the solo's came over even stronger than on CD. One of the great hopes for the future of Prog.

3. Armored Saint - Melkweg 3 August
They came to support Queensryche and won hands down. Not to say te headliner was bad, but a shortened set due to vocal issues, gave the Saint the chance to shine. What a balls out set of US Heavy Metal at its best. So great to see them again after many years for me and to realize how strong their albums are.

2. Twisted Sister - Barcelona 24 July
Rockfest Barcelona is a relative new festival on the circuit. This second edition contained three days of going back to the eighties. I choose the Friday to see Twisted Sister for the first time live. What a show, what fun and total madness by Dee Snider. Next year they say 40 and f%&k it, for their farewell tour. Anyone never seeing them before should not miss out!

1. Trespass - Sudbury 3 July
This was the highlight of shows to me in a stunning live year. Travelling to England to see Trespass in their hometown in a small theater was too good to miss. So I had no LP's from them in the eighties as they did not release any, still knew their hits One of These Days, Bright Lights and Stormchild.  Last year seeing Stampede for the first time was my annual highlight, now Trespass passed a very similar exerience. Great reception in the place by organizers and band, brilliant set and the question remaining, why were they never huge? Headbangers Open Air have them in July, how about a stop in The Hague first?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Hekz & Lonely Robot - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 4 december 2015

John Mitchell is one of the house artists of de Boerderij. I saw him in the past several times with Arena, Frost*, John&John, PBII and missed him with Kino (don't know if he also passed with It Bites or The Urbane ever before). So when he released this year his solo album under the title Lonely Robot, it was no big surprise that when he decided on a venue to play outside the UK it became de Boerderij. To make the evening even more interesting he brought along a band he produced in English progmetallers Hekz.

Hekz had the honours to open the evening. Last year they played a progmetal festival in Holland which I missed, so for me a Dutch debut. I only knew them from Progstreaming where I heard their last album once on the background through a mini laptop. If tonight proved one thing, it did show that listening half hearted to a band on a laptop is definitely not the best way to judge a band. As from the first notes I realized that we had something special on stage. Hekz plays progmetal, while not moving to far from heavy metal itself. The vocals reminded me sometimes of Bruce Dickinson light and at other moments of Geddy Lee. A definite highlight were also the swapping guitar solo's throug all of the songs. As I was unknown to their songs all came fresh over me, but The Black Hand is one of those gems that immediately stuck. They got plenty of time (75minutes even?) and the night could already be a considered a success when they left the stage. The rather chauvinistic British Prog magazine already slightly hyped this band through the past years. These articles reminded me on the way Haken was pushed. After seeing this show, thoughts went back to Haken opening Progpower some 5 years back. Technically at similar levels I considered Hekz a renewed Haken, but without the cabaret bits. Great band to follow and a potential Progpower-after-dinner-break-band for sure.

Afer the break Lonely Robot came on. The first remarkable fact about the band was that on keys and bass we did not get the usual bolding or bulking blokes, but two girls who looked like they could be John's daughters. They were not and turned out to be good musicians. The bass player also took care of some female vocals. While on the CD famous females in Progrock helped out, these were not missed. Tonight's vocals were pretty similar and personally I do not care a lot about female voices in Prog. Completing the band was Craig Blundelll from Steven Wilson fame and a powerhouse indeed. For those who do not know John Mitchell, he is way up there among the guitarists with emotion written all over. This evening wasone of the few shows Lonely Robot shall play and they went to start through the whole Please Come Home album. Opener Airlock got us going and we saw that it was good. Several songs from this album have their own mood and with some explanations on the intentions behind the lyrics we got a great show. Bands owning one album and following that through a show do lack the element of surprise, but quality made up for that. So our hopes were on the encores for some surprises. That is where things went slightly disappointing. First song was Here Comes the Flood and frequent Boerderij visitors (probably around 75% present) saw John sing this song more than once before. Than came a drum solo and another song I did not know (Gabriel again?). So where were the Kino songs?

So John Mitchell gave an enjoyable show due to his ever great guitar work and sympathetic presentation. Only minor problem to me was that the only song I don't like from his album (Oubliette) stuck in my head until now with it's nagging chorus. Winersof the evening however to me were openers Hekz. The buzz is right and they have all the basics for becoming big. Keep an eye on them and hope to see John Mitchell next time with It Bites or a reformed Frost* in de Boerderij.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Operation:Mindcrime - 013 Tilburg 27 November, 2015

So I had my doubts about Geoff Tate and his new band. Are his vocals still up to performing one of the best (if not the best ever) concept albums? Is the band good enough? Will there be anyone bothered to go and see them? Can we relive 1988? So while still in doubt things were made very easy for me by DPRP. By answering 3 fairly easy questions I got two free tickets and Hans & Mary joined for an evening of Operation:Mindcrime. First we had to be warmed up, which was not an easy thing in the huge new hall of 013. Apart from that the supports did not get anyone in the mood really. Fire & Water were good musicians, but an Irish due going on acoustic guitar and sax through some covers and own work was quality wise good enough, but had nothing to do with the main act. Young local band Wildfire only showed that they had nothing to justify their presence on this stage. Why not bring for example one of the three great bands I saw at Progcity two weeks ago? Luckily Mario from MMM made up a lot by playing the best inbetween music ever heard at a progmetal show. Only songs matching the audience's collective pasts.

And then came OM. Starting of with I Remember Now, we knew the full album would open the set. Just like us many people took a kind of wait and see attitude. In the past the spoken Hello-oh and You Bastard woudl be warmly shouted along, but now it remained silent. When Geoff Tate came on the first approving smiles appeared as he surprised us with a rather good voice. He was dressed Chicago mob style and the tie, hat and sunglasses did not come off during the whole evening. The band might not be the original Queensryche, but were good enough. Earlier this month I saw another favorite 80's album of mine being partially ruined by a band that was not up to the job (Fish : Misplaced Childhood). This evening the solo's might have been slightly less aggressive at times, but nothing disturbing the flow of the album. So we got a very good first hour guaranteed with so many highlights we love from that album. During Sister Mary the girl from Fire & Water appeared on backing vocals. explaining their presence and giving an added value to the show. When Eyes of a Stranger closed the first part, the evening was already a success to many. Hereafter we got the new album represented by new songs. Sounding Okísh I decided to get the abum and a Tee as and effort for the band.

Then we still got some work from the Queensryche past and some surprises appeared. Damaged I did not hear in some time and was very nice. Closing the first official set with traditional closer Take Hold of the Flame did raise the atmosphere even more. After a short break we were treated on 4 more Queensryche songs. Their ballad hit Silent Lucidity opened. Then came in The Thin Line another surprise song. helped by the F&W girl on sax this was a highlight in the evening mainly due to the unexpected factor. Closers were Yet City Women, possibly the worst song from Empire, plus the title song from that same album. After the show there seemed to be a consensus in the hall. Most people entered with doubts and this evening was much better than we hoped for. Geoff Tate appeared to be in great voice, the band was good enough and the setlist was great with next to Queensryche's best album, some surprises and known songs from the past. Maybe the sad fight within he band did result in two great alternatives after all. Interesting enough both versions avoided the dip 1996-2013 resulting in great shows. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Our Oceans - The Room - Teramaze - Swallow the Sun

As it has been silent on the CD review front lately, herewith a return to the format used earlier this year. Four short pointers to great new albums going from soft to heavy.

Starting with the hardest one to describe: Our Oceans. I pre-ordered their album based upon the presence of Tymon Kruidenier and Robin Zielhorst formerly known from Cynic and Exivious. The grunts Tymon used in Cynic are nowhere near to be found here. Their facebook page describes them as Dreamy, Otherworldly, melancholic, post-rock, singer/songwriter. This explains I am stuggling to put my finger on their style, but that shall not stop me from recommending this release. A Beautiful album for the quiet moments.

The Room released their second album Beyond the Gates of Bedlam this month. I knew their voaclist from Grey Lady Down, but this band is moving slightly more to melodic rock, AOR corners. Ther debut was stunning and it seems that this one gets better every time I hear it again. I believe I wrote for their debut that potentially they could please a huge market covering the styles mentioned above. So far this does not seem to be the case, but now with two great releases who knows where they might end up. Otherwise they remain one of many unknown secrets. Great band, how about de Boerderij for once?

Teramaze- Her Halo. Well this one is easily among the best progmetal releases this year. They do tick all the boxes for making a great progmetal album. An epic, an instrumetal, a ballad and five uptempo metal songs. This brought by great players and a remarkable voice of new vocalist Nathan Peachey. For anyone into melodic power prog metal this album is a must have. Hard to mention any preferred song, but maybe the extremely catchy chorus of the title song lifts that one just above the rest. Another proof of the fact that Australia is releasing a never stopping stream of top progmetal releases.

Swallow the Sun - Songs from the North I, II & III. This is a work of Art. Any band releasing a triple CD in today's downloading times already deserves full support. When this triple album contains so many beautiful songs one has to buy the album. Of course grunting is a hurdle to many, but still Part II can please those. pt.I Gloom sounds most like their only other album I own New Moon. Great doom metal with changes in heavyness throughout. pt. II Beauty is for the melancholic rockers. pt.III Despair is desparate and HEAVY. Swallow the Sun created the soundtrack for autumn 2015 when the world is at it's lowest since many years. "From Happiness to Dust", "Before the Summer Dies", "Empires of Loneliness"are just some of the titles showing this is not a happy metal album. But so beautifull in all it's misery.  

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Dead Lord, 77 & Danko Jones - Paard Den Haag 20 November 2015

The story of Dead Lord is very similar to the one of Absolva to me. I did not now them, saw them earlier this year and bought their two CD's, after which they came back to Den Haag to see them playing again while knowing their songs. So yesterday for me was all about Dead Lord, with high hopes for 77 and som doubts on Danko Jones. Het Paard is the renewed venue in Den Haag with the worst programmer in the region. Reason why I hardly ever go there. Without knowing Danko Jones really, I was surprised by the subscription Alternative on the posters and the audience also looked alternative to match. Rarely seen so few black T-shrts at a Hard rock concert, nor often so many women but later all would be explained.

Dead Lord opened at 20:00 hrs. and a half full floor saw them going through their set covering both albums. I missed both great opening songs "Farewell" and "Hank", but was not in the least disappointed with them. Dead Lord bring back the guitar battles in great style. All songs are full of twin and swapping solo's and the feel is just great. From the posed guitar lifting during "Because of Spite" to the soking amp in "When History Repeats Itself" the show was entertaining and lively. Being the opening band gave them less space than last time in Leiden, but what good 45 minutes we had. After closer "Hammer to the Heart"I silently hoped for "Farewell" as an encore but it was not to be. Definitely one of the better new life bands who tour their socks off all year around. As they are touring that much I count on may returns to the area.

After a short break 77 from Barcelona came on. They are being critizised for being too much an AC/DC clone. After seeing them life I would say who gives a shit 'bout that. What an energetic show, great songs and a band having fun and knowing how to pass this on to the audience. Two brothers at the front on guitars and vocals a jumpy bass player and a Spanish Animal on drums make them a joy to see. One round through the hall for the guitarist and after a short break ? three more songs to keep the spirits high. It seems that Barcelona is becoming fast one of the new hotspots in Metal. 77 playing Classic Hard Rock and Obsidian Kingdom plus Exxasens highlights of Progpower and last year extreme releases from Vortice and Foscor make the city able to pull of a very interesting festival of homegrown bands only. Before leaving during Danko Jones I tried to pick up their last CD as support, but unfortunately they had left the building.

And then came Danko Jones. So yes there was energy on stage and in the audience, There were fast rocking songs and easy to move on rhythms (hence the many dancing girls). But it just passed me by in a boring blaze. I guess just not my thing as the majority of the audience seemed to love them. Turning 50 next month I also might be that bit old to shout along 'Do you kiss on a first date?". Mostly this reminded me on The Offspring with their adolescent Punk/Pop Rock & Roll. They can built a party, but just not mine.
Next Monday Dead Lord and 77 shall play Holland's best Metal Bar Little Devil in Tilburg. I hope many people show up, as these two bands on that small stage should be brilliant. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Progcity - Musicon Den Haag, 14 November 2015

Progcity Den Haag. Funny, I never considered my hometown to be a progcity. Our Satellite city Zoetermeer might be a strong candidate, due to presence of de Boerderij. The Hague has as biggest venue het Paard and I do not recall any shows there that come close to anything Prog rock or metal. Recently I saw local band ReSolve release their debut album in Musicon and now a Progcity festival with some public. So staying in prog phrases, maybe the tide is turning.

First on were Infinite Mind. While drying up from a bicycle ride through a rainy and storming city I did quite like what I heard. Infinite Mind were the unknown band to me and did surprise positively. The vocals are a matter of taste. While closing your eyes you could at times not tell if you heard a male or female, but opening them the beard gave it away. A new band to follow and yet another Dutch hopeful, so maybe prog is not dead anytime soon yet. Only tip for them: while facing retracting audiences, demand them to move forward. Worked very well with Absolva and Anihilated earlier this year.

Next came Armed Cloud and I recently saw them at Progpower. At the time I missed the first half and I already wrote that I would catch up later. I did find them OK in Baarlo, but this time on the small stage of Musicon I liked them much better. A very smooth run through their debut album and interaction with the audience. Last month I was not sure if the buzz after their debut album was deserved. This time I got convinced as well, one of the better new progmetal bands from Holland.

Cartographer had the honour to close the evening. They play instrumental prog, but given the three guitars on stage there is a lot of dynamics going on. Also this band I had only seen before at Progpower, again they proved to be a very tight band. Being instrumental there is always this risk of loosing attention, and to a certain extent I faced this. Overall they showed enough variation to keep all focussed and boring never came close. Tonight was also the last show of their drummer, so some commemorations for that.

 Concluding three good dutch bands, that showed there is a future in prog. As the organizer said after the show he was not sure if same concept would be repeated we can definitely hope so. With ReSolve, Codex and a Liquid Landscape any potential lineup issues should be solved herewith.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Fish - Boerderij Zoetermeer 3 November 2015

Fish saying Farewell to Childhood, means two quickly sold out shows in de Boerderij. While most people seemed to come to hear Misplaced Childhood indeed, Fish started with what seemed 5 random songs from his solo back catalogue. While all songs would not be me favorites from their respective albums it showed the huge base Fish can dive in to bring us music. Highlights on this section were "The Perception of Johnny Punter" which remains linked to actualities and the for me under the radar song "Long Cold Day". Especially the aggressivenes in the line "it'll be a long cold day in Hell before I take you back" was impressive. Coming to Fish, his voice seemed better than it had been for a long time. Very convincing performance and his inbetween songs bantering about women, old age, football and a horrible South African rugby referee were amusing. Family Business has been a small hit in Holland so got most response.

After five songs the show turned to what brought most people here: a full visit to Misplaced Childhood. For me this was also the point where the show took a slightly dramatic turn. Misplaced Childhood is one of the most played albums by me, so I do recognize every line and every note. And then there was the band. While doing fine during the Fish songs they just did not seem up to the job of copying perfectly the original. As such this is not a problem, since Fish's voice changed and he walks different through the album as well. The problem was that the keys on Pseudo Silk Kimono did hurt your ears and the whole album the guitar seemed to be playing with a brake on, never giving us these eruptions that Rothery gave and brought the album alive. So while I was looking forward to seeing one of my all time favorite albums being performed live, it turned out the low of the show.

Never give up before the encores though and Fish did gain most points back. However, this time the audience did not response as they should. With many people there who want to relive their past the atmosphere was dead all out. So if Fish plays Market Square Heroes one of Marillion's hardest rocking songs ever, there should be some kind of reaction. For those who believe they should stand in front of the stage some responsibilities come with that. One of them is that when Fish sings "Are you following me?"you go apeshit crazy and do not do your best impression of a bag of potatoes. During MC, the half muted Childhood chants were already embarrassing for de Boerderij, but now they took it to the next level. Actually the spark never went from stage to audience and it was the most boring audience I ever saw in de Boerderij. Mind you I've seen shows there with only 50 people around, but humor and participation were always there in one form or another. But the band played free again (seemingly relieved they passed through another MC performance) and the Market Square Hero rocked. A final goodbye was dedicated to missing Euro Chamionships for Scotland and Holland which leaves drinking as an alternative. The Company is the singalong song and a perfect closer.

So the evening overall was nice, but this won't be going down as one the Classic Fish shows I attended. Strangely his voice and form were very good, but I guess you need a better band and audience to have a party. I will keep on supporting Fish though until his farewell tour in 2017 ordering a table for one for the word drunk poet.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Absolva - Musicon Den Haag 1 November 2015

"We are Absolva and it's Never a Good Day to Die". Unfortunately too many people also thought it was not a good day to go to Musicon. Sharing some of the excuses: Sunday night or the day after Halloween (yes this seems to be an excuse in Europe as well nowadays). I believe the main reason can be found in the huge amount of shows we can see nowadays. The Friday before I sent a mailing to friends asking who wanted to join me on any of the 21! potential shows during the coming 5 weeks.  The huge offer is great for fans, but results in choices and some empty places on less favorite evenings. But hey I went to see Absolva one of the hardest working bands around. As their roady told me, even on quiet shows they always pick up some new fans and slowly they shall grow. For me this is fact as seven months ago I saw them for the first time live also in Musicon and here I was back to see them promote their Bond movie titled new album.

As there was no support band we got an extended show of 1.5 hours and a nice overview of their three studio albums. Absolva play heavy metal and do this very well. I got the new album only on the evening, but especially "All Alone"and "No Tomorrow" sounded very promising at first hearing. From their previous two albums the highlights came for me in the form of "From Beyond the Light"from their debut, with some crazy fast twin guitar soloing over and under guitar necks. Highlight of the Anthems to the Dead album came for me in the form of epic "Silent Sacrifice". Their songs are just plain heavy metal and the covers from Iced Earth and Maiden blended well with their own songs. If Absolva were disappointed with the size of the crowd, they did not show this and played an very entertaining evening of metal for us. Also during the set those present from cautiously waiting changed into a full shouting out loud ending on film. Next time they are in the area I shall be back again as well. Actually their first return is already booked when they play Gebr. de Nobel in Leiden next March backing up Blaze Bailey during his tour. Great band, great show, great CD.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Watchtower - Mathematics

Mathematics might still be coming our way!!! The album the tech metal loving world has been waiting Pi semi decades for seems to be underway and as dates are always an uncertainty in the Watchtower Universe they have now released three new songs. Going completely against my beliefs I did order these songs through iTunes. Struggling to remember the password and to find the songs after purchasing them I am now displaying a large smile as these new songs bring me back to the times of Classic album Control & Resistance. This mainly because vocalist Alan Tecchio is back at the mic.

Watchtower are for me the start of everything tech metal. When the big three of Progmetal already set the tone on a genre that would fit my personal taste to the max, Watchtower added some crazy rhythms, surpising breaks and total wizzardry on all instruments. First time I could see them live was  around 1990 when they played het Paard in my hometown (when they still frequently had good metal bands coming our way) During some apartment moves I lost the Classic Control & Resistance Tee, but the LP still frequently turns when I go back in time and play some old LP's to remember the eightes in style. At least 20 years ago Mathematics was announced as follow up, but not much happened really. Some ten years ago Watchtower came back to Holland and headlined the Headway festival.  With Jason McMaster on vocals this  was again one showcase of energy mixed with amazing play. Their encore a Watchtower hyped version of 2112 is still a highlight of everything I ever saw live on stage. In 2010 they released one song Seize of the Matter when returning to Europe to play Keep it True (the festival that always reunites the best of the eighties and sells out before I can decide on going or not)

And now they are back working on the album. M-Theory Overture is an instrumental with the Ron Jarzombek signature all over it. Together with the pulsing bass of Doug Keyser it does not need long to recognise which band is playing here. The next two songs include the vocals of Alan Tecchio and make me look very much forward to the complete album. Arguments Against Design and Technology Inaction show me why I have missed Watchtower for so long. Hectic metal for the unquiet souls is just what you need on a dull autumn day. For years I  have been asking for Watchtower as headliner for Progpower Europe on their questionnaire. Lately I gave up, but now I am hopefull again and count on them coming back to Europe soon. Mathematics is coming our way!! for now I go and play Demonstrations in Chaos

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Raven & Distillator, Musicon Den Haag 16 October 2015

Raven in Musicon!!! One of the bigger names I saw playing under the THHMA flag. Friday night and a good support band, so Musicon was busy and the atmosphere was great. Starting the evening was Distillator from Enschede. At Schollenpop they were already one of the nice surprises and now in a small place their thrash metal came over even better.  As a retuning band they got quite some reaction and even after calls for them to stay Ruuusssstaahg they definitely did not slow down. Great band and in Holland you won't meet many better thrash metal bands leaning towards the Slayer corner. Got their CD Revolutionary Cells at the end of the evening and can recommend same.

Being warmed up well did help, but when Raven hit the stage matters got even better. So they might not be the slim athletic rock trio of the early eighties, they definitely did not loose much energy over the years. Opening with Destroy All Monsters of their last album Extermination stated nicely that their last work also is still very relevant. Hereafter we went through their history passing many albums. As with most NWOBHM bands we came to see the eighties back alive and so we got  Rock Until You Drop, Live at the Inferno, All for One and Mind over Metal. From start to finish Raven came saw and conquered (not Hung Drawn & Quartered). They come over as a band who love to play and give it all always. So when after Break the Chains the lights went on we were as thirsty and tired as the band.

After the show Raven walked through Musicon showing to be as sympathetic as they looked on stage. With Magchiel joining and being more into signatures and pictures than me (I usually am ok with a thank you for the show), I suddenly had a signed Rock Until You Drop DVD and could see the next morning on my phone that the evening had been nice. Their tour now moves back to the UK. For those having them pass nearby go check this out, you shall drop.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

ReSolve & Hillsphere - Musicon Den Haag 10 October 2015

Two years ago I saw ReSolve play at the Plein open festival and they pleasantly surprised me with covers of Pull me Under and Undertow, while their female vocalist did not disturb the show with operatic vocals. Now they released their debut album, being performed fully in Musicon so a Saturday night well spent. First we had to go through Hillsphere from Amsterdam. This actually was another positive surprise. This young instrumental progmetal band played some interesting songs. A pity that string problems made them shorten the set with one song. As much as I do appreciate instrumental music as well, the standout song for me was the one with a guest vocalist. A heavy song with grunts and calmer parts, might make them consider to use more vocals in my view. Good band and show though.

Then we had to wait for ReSolve. New technical issues made this last slightly long and the intro was broken off abruptly as well in order to solve some guitar sound problems. When the band was complete on stage I found out that they changed singer. Radina who turned out not to be Dutch had a decent voice, but to me she came over as the weakest link. This not to say that she was bad, but the band seemed again very good. Even with some continuos sound issues it was clear that instrumentally ReSolve is amongst Hollands talented new Progmetal bands. Highlight on the instrumental parts was the guitarsolo at the end of ballad Still Breathing. While the vocals were not (yet?) as convincing, we got a guest for the last song. A certain Yannick first needed to be found as he was having a shit (seriously). Hereafter he laid out the lyrics he was supposed to grunt which were not too many lines. But to his credit he showed much more comfort on stage as vocalist and tried to get some audience participation.

As this was their CD release show, all was over after last song of the album. So no Progmetal Classics covered this time. My conclusion was that The Hague now has a great new Progmetal band with CD in the pocket. I just heard their CD "Wayward Sanctuary" and can recommend same. After gaining some more live experience they should be opening band on a Progpower Saturday or Sunday afternoon anytime soon.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

ProgPower Europe 2015, 2-4 October Baarlo

The annual pilgrimage to Baarlo this year represented a statement. I guess not on purpose, but many of the bands this year came from countries that if making our news this usually means bad news. ProgPower Europe showed that music transcends politics and the world would be a better place if we would live by Progpower rules. I loved to see bands from Russia, Greece, Tunesia, USA and Belarus, next to the usual Scandinavian/Polish/Dutch base with this year some focus on Spain to complete the line-up. Apart from the usual 75% of familiar faces this year some more people showed up it seemed, which was a pleasant surpise. On driving distance we had competition from EuroBlast Festival, Cynic in Limburg and Steve Hackett two nights in de Boerderij all fishing in the same pond.

Friday started with Danish band Vola. Earlier this year I asked them if their album Inmazes would be available on CD as well, to which they replied that the number of downloads sold would tell. A few weeks later their target was passed and I could order my copy. Nice album and great live performance. For me Vola showed that we can easily blend some djent into PPE.
Headliners on Friday were Myrath from Tunesia. Their power metal with some arabic melodies is not fully my thing, but they make more than a bit up by their enthusiastic presentation. Bringing a bellydancer along resulted at least in many extra pictures taken. Good atmosphere and a nice opening evening.

Saturday I arrived a bit later,so I missed half of Armed Cloud's show. As they are Dutch I shall catch them again on tour and they surprised me positively. No shocking new ways, but easily accesible melodic prog metal. Next up were Karma Rassa from Russia. They cranked up the volume a bit and gave me mixed feelings. When at parts their guitar wall sounded impressive enough, they did not have great melodies that would stick, nor a great voice. Still they did keep my attention and I had some sort of approving nodding going on for sixty minutes. Next up Exxasens deserves an apology from my side. First I missed their opening catching up with friends and when entering I was immediately distracted by the keyboardist appearance. Due to his similarity with a famous comedy show star from the seventies I was waiting for Basil Fawlty to join the stage and hit him on the head with a book. Hey, they are from Barcelona to make matters worse. In order to make up a bit I can say that what I saw was probably the second best band of the day. Nice instrumental cosmic stuff, which is better explained in this month's Prog magazine.

Dinner came upon us and as it followed beers I missed the next band fully. Luckily Schizoid Lloyd are Dutch, so I saw them before and shall see them again. The buzz was positive from what I heard. Then it was time for Soen to play Progpower and they impressed. It became clear that this is a band who are as headliner touring Europe. The stage presence, show and confidence were from a different level. Good songs to match and Andrew is trying to find out what the Black Flag waiving was about and shall let me know later.
Saturday was closed by Festival headliner Pagan's Mind. Looking at the T-shirts around a pretty popular act this year. I do like their music as such, but somewhere around the one hour mark I have had enough in general. This happened some years ago on the Friday night and happened again this year. Their Power Prog brought Ok-ish, but to me too little variation for a two hour show. Even now that they opened instrumentally for 15-20? minutes it still became more of the same after awhile. The different looks from their vocalist remains even arriving 20 minutes late a sight to be seen. Still not enough to keep me two hours on my feet at the end of a long day.

Sunday was the day I was looking forward to most when line-ups were decided. Even after the sad loss of Abnormal Thought Patterns of the program, the day promised lots of variation and most bands I knew in advance. Opening band Until Rain was unknown to me. I appreciated their Vandenplas like metal, but what drew most attention was the slightly uncomfortable feeling backup vocals dressed in white. And then came Serdce from Belarus. Usually I do leave some bands to surprise me on progpower, not checking out clips or streamngs. When Serdce was announced last year I did look them up and was sold immediately, with their album Timelessness making it into my top 14 of 2014. As this is complicated music it still could go several directions live on stage. This turned out to be for me the standout show of the festival. Memories of the impact of Riverside 2004 came up, with sheer class at display. Amazing domination of instruments, beautiful soft-heavy variation and a voice that was more present than on CD. Their tech Metal with grunts did split the audience into two parts. Those who hate grunts and want easier accesible metal and those who got it and absolutely loved this performance. I do not know if there is a metal scene in Belarus and they can play often, but they looked experienced on stage. Driving up for two days in a van, at least was made up by being my favorite band of the weekend and not just mine. Pity they did not bring merchandise, as I would like to hear their older albums or get a T-shirt with the last cover on it. After this impact the downstairs bar was the place to regain energy. This at the cost of Polish band Animations. The short bit I did see was very energetic and they became a typical case of unfortunate timing for me.

As time always seems to fly in Baarlo the last evening was there faster than expected, but the closing trio promised good things. First up were second Barcelona band Obsidian Kingdom and they were the next big surprise. I have their debut album, but did not recall so much metal. This was one show with band members jumping all over the place playing a tight metal, with mainly extreme bits broken with Anathemic quiet bits and surprisingly good clean vocals. Sunday already gave more than I hoped for and then the two famous names were still to come. Enchant were a bit of the light band on this metal Sunday. This did not disturb them too much and they played an entertaining show passing through their career. Their music is carried by the great voice of Ted leonard. I wondered if his T-shirt was a message to the former vocalist of his other band, but even with a cold he sounded great. Instrumentally there is also nothing to moan about so we had a professional good show. One moan I can make is that they did not play their best song Break, but these things happen with bands of so many albums.
Closing the festival this year were Leprous. Five years ago they played on the Friday and I absolutely loved them. At the time their album Bilateral was just released and this has been my favorite. Their last two albums are not as good in my view and their Coal tour was somewhat disappointing after what I saw of them before. As I was unsure what to expect I counted on a possible early run for a bit of fresh air. This did not happen as I quite liked the show from start to finish. In the beginning there was some alarming overdose on the harmony ahahaha they like to add to their songs, but the balance light/dark or heavy/soft was in good order and their show with 4 screens was entertaining enough. A good closer of another great ProgPower festival.

So then it is over. This year the Festival shirts were sold out faster than usual in XXL, taking me by surprise. Further the food options increased with the arrival of Pois Chic falafels by Debbie and the former metal mayor of Stroud. Thanks to the organization for giving us PPE 2015, already looking forward to further announcements for 2016.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Praying Mantis - Legacy

Releasing their debut album in NWOBHM days Praying Mantis always edged to the more melodic rock side than the dark and metal. Being big in Japan, they kept on recording new albums and here we have their latest album Legacy. For fans of melodic rock definitely one to check out. My main interest was raised when last year I saw Deo in concert. Both vocalist Jaycee Cuijpers and drummer Hans in't Zandt joined Praying Mantis. Being partially Dutch did not change their music though as it still is accessible melodic rock build around the guitar tandem Tino Troy / Andy Burgess.

Legacy basically gives us what we expect. There is faster work in "Fight For the Honour"/ "The Runner", midtempo epical songs "Against The World"/ "Eyes of a Child" and a ballad "Better Man". Those needing more references think of fellow British bands Magnum and the melodic side of Rainbow. As JC sings in Deo, a Dio cover band, there is no issue with the vocals really: powerful and with lots of variation.

Earlier this year I missed them live in Little Devil. Now I hope for some more partially home country shows as this should sound very good live. Epic cover artand logo should also result in interesting Tees.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Dead Lord & Dead City Ruins - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden, 3 September 2015

For those who know which Tour this is the question "where are Audrey Horne?"might raise, so let me go for the long intro. After last Friday's succesful night of Belgian Metal in Musicon, I sent an email around on Monday if anyone wanted to join me to Don Airey in de Boerderij. After receiving several underwhelming replies, I looked for alternatives and proposed one night earlier the tour of Audrey Horne / Dead Lord / Dead City Ruins in Leiden. As much as I might like all the songs Don Airey would play (Rainbow, Sabbath, Purple or Gary Moore) it would still feel like a coverband. Apart from that I would be seeing great vocalist Carl Sentence playing covers and not sing any Persian Risk songs. Problem was that although the descriptions of the three bands playing Leiden looked good, I did not really know them. In comes internet and after some streaming it turned out that all three bands might be very good live. So as I was going alone the choice was up to me and I choose originals. Then there was another issue as there was serious competition on the Thursday from the football front. Holland was playing a crucial qualification match against Iceland (?!?) and needed a win. Admitted I was in doubt, especially since Friday morning I had some rather serious calls and meetings at work waiting for me. In my mind also a recent occassion was bothering me. For work I travel crazy places and some weeks ago I was sitting on Dubai airport when someone asked if I would reply a questionnaire on my experience in the Emirates. Not bothered to tell the locals some truths I agreed and when the question came up which religion I had, I let out the obligatory none. This while I was reading at that very moment the biography of Dee Snider "Shut up and give me the Mic". Maybe my fever and 45 degrees did not make me react fast and adequate, but the only correct answer to what my religion is can be : I Believe in Rock and Roll!!\m/ As the choice looked hard, in the end I followed the golden rule  Music always beats football. Hardly ever before was this rule being proven so right. Gebr. de Nobel it was, but only the two opening bands. So sorry Audrey Horne, the streaming sounded nice and the muppet clips looked great, but responsibility is a bitch so an early departure it was.

Arriving at the still closed Gebr. I feared a rather quiet evening (football?), as some 15 people gathered before the doors opened. Luckily that improved well over the next 45 minutes. After entering a sense of panic caught me and many others as there was a problem with the beer taps. Ten minutes late crates came to the rescue and when the first show started the taps started flowing as well. On came Dead City Ruins. This Australian band moved to Europe in March, trying to pick up as many shows as possible and live at peoples homes and in bars. A band which such attitude one can only support and promote. This was made easy by their show and music. Seventies hard rock, double guitars, groove, a vocalist that looked like Bruce Dickinson with evil eyes, lots of hair and great songs. Australian bands  already showed Progpower how to build a show (Voyager, Alarum, Aeons of Horus, Alchemist) and these guys were not different. As I got my hand full of beer I did not picture the vocalist singing from the bar, nor the guitarist jumping through the hall. A very good show and I do wish them luck in making it at the old continent. Playing their Tour Edition CD now I can only say check  them out when you can.

Next on were co-headliner Dead Lord. Starting of with the line "This is Farewell" one might fear a short set, but they played over an hour. Their reference is pretty obvious from the first twin guitar melodies. There is nothing wrong in following the style of the best band ever coming out of Ireland (no, that is not U2) when it is done with such class. Vocalist Hakim has a warm deep voice as well and the constant guitar solo battles packed in songs that seem classics to be, guaranteed a show to remember. The hour flew by as I saw only highlights. Getting both ther CD's after the show I could see they played a mix of both albums. I just can not see these Swedes not going very far with this mentality and songs. The guitar solo's, the banging, the smoking amp, the spontanity coming off stage and mainly the songs should bring them on the radar of everyone into Classic Hard Rock. The next song is about tools and organs showed some dry humor to close the set with fast rocker Hammer To The Heart.

I found myself two new bands to follow and renewed proof that Metal should rule Football always. While I had a great time banging my neck, Holland lost to Iceland. Playing without a defense and substituting one crappy coach by another obviously did not work. I even learned something on Nuclear waste deposits in Onkalo on the night. Apologies to Audrey Horne for leaving early, see you next time.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Fireforce, Guilty as Charged, Drakkar - Musicon Den Haag 28 August 2015

A Friday evening and THHMA brings us three Belgian Heavy Metal bands in Musicon. Opener was Drakkar. A band coming from the eighties but unknown to me. Their Heavy Metal sounded nice and the biggest atraction came from their pretty energetic vocalist. He decided to leave the stage for what it was and performed the full show on the floor, behind the bar and around visitors  necks. I thought this was just the right thing to do as it brought smiles (or frowned eyebrows at some) and good atmosphere. The music was traditional Heavy Metal and sounding fine.

Next up were Guilty as Charged. I immediately think of Culprit when hearing that name, but unfortunately that great band from 30 years ago was not covered or set as an example. This band played more Thrashy metal and at times the vocalist came awfully close to James Hatfield. This brings me to my main impression and tip for the band. As they came after the extremely participative Drakkar show, they were not going to top that live performance. Still their music sounded great, but lacked for me points of recognition. With a voice like that in the band for me the obvious would be to add a cover from Metallica early in the set and the attention will be grasped better. If they need further tips "The Four Horsemen" would in my view blend in nicely in their set.

Fireforce were headlining and had a nicely decorated stage set up. A large Deathbringer banner on the back and some huge logo's before the amplifiers, with sandbags and military outfits they made their point. That point is that Fireforce play Combat Power Metal. Well whatever the name they played a nice set of metal anthems. Two years ago I saw them playing at R-Mine festival and already liked their set. As I do not know their CD's I liked at the time their cover of Battle Hymns. After the show we spoke with the vocalist and understood that at the time they had only one album, so a cover was needed to fill the show. Still for me a good cover works with slightly lesser known bands. (earlier this year Absolva took Musicon by a storm, but when they played Fear of the Dark the roof came off) Even without a cover Fireforce convinced and played this straight forward metal style that goes down so well over a beer.

So another entertaining evening in Musicon and THHMA keeps bringing us good bands. Of course the evening deserved more people showing up, but that is old news. Only by showing up chances of more bands interested to play The Hague or returning during next tour shall increase. I keep on trying to do my part and had a great time doing so.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Frank Dimino - Old Habits Die Hard

Frank Dimino was vocalist of Angel, one of the best rockbands in the seventies. I remember playing for a Long Time cards with  Hans and Magchiel listening to their Classic "Live Without a Net" Over and Over (both not so great puns intended). This live recording can stand next to great live albums of that time by UFO, Thin Lizzy or Scorpions. In opener The Tower it also contained one of the best Rock songs written ever. Frank Dimino had a remarkable voice which gave Angel this easy recognizable sound (well next to some Keys from a certain Mr. Giuffria). The band dismantled in the early eighties and returned late nineties to release "In the Beginning". Actually I was still hoping to see Angel one day live. Last time they played within 2000 km from my home was at Bang Your Head I believe some ten years ago. That show was with Steve Blaze of Lillian Axe taking the honors on guitar, but I missed it. Now I still did not give up, as almost all great bands from the past reform and tour. Unfortunately rare news on Angel (AOR magazine) told me they are all busy on other careers and chances for a tour are slim at the most and visiting Europe somewhere below zero.

And then Aardschok suddenly had an interview with Frank Dimino about his new (and first) solo album. The interview started with an obligatory introduction for anyone under 45 years, but the fact that a solo album was released through Frontiers got my interest. After reading about guest participations of amongst others Punky Meadows, Oz Fox, Eddie Ojeda and Jeff Duncan I placed an order in the blind. Pleased to inform that my gut feeling was right as I can say that this is one of the best albums in the melodic rock genre (to be) released this year. The CD contains exactly what we could hope for. Some midtempo melodic songs, some ballads and some (for Angel standards) very fast rockers. Frank's voice is still very strong (which makes sense for the vocal coaching classes he gives nowadays) My favorite songs are in the fast area with Mad as Hell and The Quest. Next to these fast rockers the one song that sounds most like old Angel is very good as well: I Can't Stop Loving You.

Anyone into Melodic Rock should get this album. It has the variation needed, great perfromances and well getting a surprise release from a hero of the past basically deserves a purchase at all times. Being released by Frontiers who knows they get him over for the Frontiers festival. A get together of old bands I did not manage to visit yet, but might as well if Frank Dimino makes it. Until then Old Habits Never Die shall do.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Trial - Vessel

One of the advantages of being a commuter and frequent traveller is that I always keep an eye open for finding interesting books or magazines, as I have many hours to kill waiting. Some time ago I ran into a cover in black and white of a Thin Lizzy picture with logos of old Whitesnake, Girlschool plus names of Tygers of Pan Tang, Anathema, Europe and Thor. Going through this issue of Iron Fist magazine I found inside also more new bands and plenty of CD reviews. One of the bands inside that was new to me and drew my interest was Trial. With the help of some internet research and sounds the CD was quickly bought and it is a grower of an album by a band that THHMA should get to play here soonest.

Trial are a Swedish Heavy Metal band and play an epic type of Heavy Metal. I have read some reviews and Mercyful Fate is mentioned (production/recording by Andy La Rocque) as well as occult metal. My main comparisons are with some of the early US Heavy Metal bands like Liege Lord, Exxplorer and the likes. During doomy rocker Ecstacy Waltz I can even hear bits of Psychotic Waltz' debut album. Well it is not about which bands these guys remind me of, but the beauty of their album. This is just good old fashioned Heavy Metal played with incredible skill. Apart from the short title song we get six more songs in a total of 51 minutes so time enough to work on build-ups and atmospheres. It is interesting how many of my favorite 2015 albums were actually released end 2014. I shall probably bend the rules by the end of the year as this is top 10 material again. Very curious how this band would be live. As it turns out they had a debut album in 2011 (missed by me) which is sold out on their website.
To make the package complete the artwork is arty, the lyrics are dark and the album ends with a 13 minute epic "Restless Blood". Try this out, you might be as positively surprised as I am.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Queensryche / Armored Saint - Melkweg Amsterdam, 3 August 2015

Monday evening in Amsterdam, tropical temperatues and mid summer school holidays. Not the ideal conditions for a Heavy Metal show, but the double Queensryche/Armored Saint attracted a decent crowd to the Melkweg anyway. Both having their career high some 30-25 years ago it showed in the crowd as well. When you compare modern metal bands with the quality on stage tonight it is sad that very few people in their teens/twenties were present, but I do not see a way to reverse this. For the older people that did show up we got two amazingly good shows and just an evening of Heavy Metal at its best. Warm up band Beyond the Black I missed, so soon after arrival the real work started.

Armored Saint opened with Win Hands Down, title song of their last album released some months ago. This was a good choice as it showed that the new album is as good as previous work also in a live setting. Actually to me the Armored Saint show was one trip through time amd space as they are not a band that I did see a lot, but I have most of their music. The only time I saw them playing before was at Dynamo Open Air in 1991. I believe that in their CD review I already called their music dance music, as it is heavy with a tremendous groove all the time. Live it simply is not possible to stand frozen and watch. Highlights all around in The March of the Saint, through Raising Fear, Pay Dirt, Reign of Fire to Madhouse. Special mention deserved by their best song ever Last Train Home in a killer version and the next generation joining on guitar/vocals during Can U Deliver. This show just passed with a smile on your face and so many good songs to keep the atmosphere at high for the full time. Probably one of the best shows I shall see this year and the question even became would Queensryche be able to follow this one up?

Opening with Anarchy-X and the Nightrider we were immediately remembered that with Todd La Torre at the helm the highlights of the eighties are possible live again. On it went with Breaking the Silence. OK, the surprise was not as big as last time when we saw the old songs perfromed brilliantly again for the first time in some 20 years. Still the setlist could not disappoint, but something was hindering the show. So when Todd la Torre mentioned that a cold and fever was really making things hard for him we realized that we were right in hearing a lack of power, as well as relieved that there was a reason for this. Stilll he fought himself well through the remainder of the set, while unfortunately same set was drastically cut short. As we have to appreciate the fight, what we got was really good and Arrow of Time did make me look forward to the new album. The split now defintely resulted in one great Queensryche and one Operation Mindcrime. While we saw confirmed that we can expect lots of good to come from the first one, the latter still has to convince us which might happen soon on CD.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Schollenpop - 1 August 2015, Scheveningen

Schollenpop is the festival closest to my home and usually is guitar orientated. Not necessarily heavy rock, but normally acceptable music and some hardrock or metal inbetween. It is always held at the beach of Duindorp on the first Saturday of August. Problem with that is that it falls mid school holidays and the past 5(?) years I missed it due to family holidays at the same time. This year we went early and as a bonus they announced particpation of none other than Bay Area Thrashers Death Angel on the main stage. To increase the fun some weeks ago it became clear that The Hague Heavy Metal Alliance would organize a metal stage as well, which basically meant that we would have a full day of Heavy Metal in the sun, on the beach, for free. All ingredients therefore for becoming the best Schollenpop ever and so it was.

THHMA stage brought us a wide variety of metal-hard rock and seeing these bands in this setting was so good, which made me like all shows. Starting the day were two heaviest bands of the day in local band Rages of Sin and from Belgium Carnation. Death Metal played well and shocking the slowly arriving festival visitors not that much into metal (as the stage was next to the entrance of the festival). The Stiff played punkrock which suited me slightly less. Locals Rebelstar brought us melodic hard rock played continuously with no time lost on endless speeches a risk of that genre. Distillator from the East of Holand was a new name to me and brought us very good thrash metal to warm up for the main stage headliners. Closing bands were 80's heavy metal and to me the two best shows on this stage indeed. Sad Iron played fast and furious and is actually a very good band who good have been bigger in the eighties. Martyr I saw several times recently and they just know how to make a party. Maybe their reputation goes around outside metal circles as well, since main stage band Novastar demanded no overlap and we got a large delay before Martyr got started (being forced to listen to part of Novastar, they were probably right as their boring rock would be completely blown away by Martyr). Martyr playing us into the dark and untill there were more people on their stage than on the beach. Great closer of the THHMA stage and what a succes this stage was. Being most part of the day the crowdiest place on the beach. A wide variety of styles and good reactions, with sandy moshpits to ensure sore calves the next day. Of course the fact that Death Angel was on the bill added many metal fans, but next year's stage has already been confirmed and in my view justifies also another big metal name on the main stage.

And then there was Death Angel as well. I saw them several times in the past as both Death Angel or The Organization. They always know how to get the crowd going and to play very tight. Due to the fact that it was a long thirsty day and I went to another show last Monday I do not recall their full setlist (also not knowing all songtitles admitted) I remember that they opened with Seemingly Endless Time and closed with Mistress of Pain. Inbetween that we got one hour of solid Bay Area Thrash Metal. Being experienced enough they welcomed all people who never saw them before and explained their long history of shows in Holland. Having had their first show abroad ever at Dynamo Open Air, it looked honest when they stated liking Holland. Those who know the band were with many as well and the atmosphere was good. Just a great show, which might  drive me towards their thrashumentary, which has been released after many years in the making.

So Schollenpop was to me the best edition ever, on this great location with as a bonus a sunny afternoon/evening. I do hope that my suggestion hereabove becomes true and next year another eighties metal giant plays Schollenpop next to a full day at THHMA stage. I might start trying to plan my holidays with more care if this will be the case.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Rock Fest Barcelona - Friday 24 July, 2015

Rock Fest Barcelona was held for the second time this year. Building a line up around bands who were big in the eighties, with some seventies and nineties around it an interesting set-up for the metal fan of the time. For me it was a good combination with holidays, were we drove a Brazilian cousin through France and Spain on short trip through Europe. As "coincidentally" we hit Barcelona during the first two days of the festival I had to choose between Thursday night with Dream Theater, Scorpions, Wasp and Saxon or the Friday with Some heavier bands, plus Helloween, Europe, Angeles del Infierno and the band that made me choose the Friday Twisted Sister. Actually my favorite band of that day would close between 02:00-03:00 hours and as I had to drive up into France the next morning I decided to leave before the end. Annihilator I hope to see later this year when they tour Holland as well. Almost I decided to go the evening only as Tiago showed an interest in the double Twisted Sister-Europe. Unfortunately showing the time-schedule had the same effect on him  as Annihilator's slot had on me, so alone I went.

Arriving slightly late I missed spanish band Hamlet, entering the heat with the pleasant Death Metal tones of Entombed A.D. Missing their set some years ago at Stonehenge festival I now did see Left Hand Path performed live and the show was good. At the same time I got very worried that Barcelona Rock Fest would come to an end before reaching it's third edition as there basically hardly was anyone around at two o clock. Maybe 1000-1500 people uncrowded the fairly large area and with two bars still closed and everyone hiding in the shade gave a macabre impression at first. France has Hell Fest and Dubai had Desert Rock, but these names would be very apt for the heat hitting us in Barcelona, well over thirty degrees on a windy sandy underground made life of a metal fan a tough one.

This brings me to the organization which was pretty good. Water bottles were available at a fair 1 Euro for half a liter, avoiding accidents of sunstroke. Beer was also priced normally and the food options were a delight. Never before did I have an Argentinian Chorizo  for dinner after a Iberico ham sandwich for lunch at a festival. Next to many other options the food and beverage obviously scored a big plus.

Continuing the festival I watched from the shade a cheesy show by german Power Metallers Axxis, which was OK, followed by (Mexican??) extreme metalleros/rap/core band Brujeria. They managed to get a great response by the slowly increasing crowd, but it was not my cup of Tequila. Then came the biggest surprise of the festival to me in Nuclear Assault. Representing no-Nonsense on an overly Power Metal day was one plus and their songs, not known to me, impressed a lot. In the end Dan Lilker announced they would play some crazy short stuff from years ago and their hit passed by. Ridiculously fast sung I did love the Hang the Pope, hang him by a fucking Rope Lines, which are classic lyrics in metal and another box I ticked off. Definitely I will explore more music of this band and keep an eye on festival appearances nearer to home.

Hereafter came Destruction, one of the Teutonic 4 giving us plain German Thrash Metal. No worries there, but that soon would change. Recently Powerwolf made it to the cover of Aardschok already and I noticed that also in Spain they are becoming big. So probably this band shall be touring European festivals for years to come, which is a pity as it easily was the worst show I saw in years. Completely over the top, silly image, cliche after cliche and every song contained either Hallelujah or Ave Maria in a gothic way of metal. Love them or hate them, probably so hate them it is to me, realizing they had some succes with the ever increasing crowd. Next up were a home country band in Angeles del Infierno. I listened on the internet before to them and quiet liked their eighties melodic metal in Spanish. At FNAC I got a best of CD the day before and live I saw many Spaniards singing along to their old songs. Probably a similar feeling I had seeing Vandale last year. Classic songs in your own language always stay in your mind for longer times. A good show and a warm up for the bigger names of the day.

First on were Helloween, who started with Eagle Fly Free and sounded right. Their show was actually not that different from the last times I saw them in the second half of the eighties and nostalgy factor helped in making this a great show to see. Especially when they played the start of the seven Keys Epic Halloween.  Ending with I want Out was also nice and suddenly I noticed that while I was digging for the words in my memory, many young visitors who were not born at the time of release shouted every word along.

During the Helloween show I was walking to different spots, as now it had turned really busy (20,000 one band mentyioned) and I decided that I wanted to be somewhat closer to the stage for Twisted Sister to particiate on the show in full. Today's show commemorated the live of A.J. Pero their drummer who sadly passed away this March by a Heart Attack. His substitute on one of the last shows ever for Twisted Sister was noone less than Mike Portnoy. Both the fact that Twisted Sister retire next year and that I never saw them live before made me choose for this day. I can easily say that TS paid off for my choice as this was one impressive show. Dee Snider is mad on stage and gets the audience going by all means. Diving on stage, swearing every second word, looking like 30 years ago, threatening Europe's crew for screwing up the show tuning guitars, taking the piss on Scorpions retirement and asking for many shouts and clapping hands. The band itself is further still the same as it has always been and the songs just ROCK.
Highlights their biggest hits We're Not Gonna Take It and I  wanna Rock. But special mention the emotional drum solo on Video by A.J. Pero and ballad the Price. Twisted Sister got the longest set and they deserved every minute of it. Entertainment at the highest level.

And then Europe had to follow this up. Maybe I was too tired, as I definitely like their new work as well. Maybe they lacked the humor we just got overdosed on, maybe they were a bit too sunburned and white teethed, but I decided halfway to call it a day and leave for home. I would like to see Europe when fitter one day though as War of Kings sounded great and Screaam of Anger relived their eighties best. So while only seeing bigger part of one day of this three day festival I can highly recommend Rock Fest Barcelona. If at the Costa Brava or in Barcelona itself for holidays this festival is just a very nice alternative from Beach or musea. If they manage to continue filling their line-up with bands from the past  this formula might work for years. I would suggest to advertise more in magazins abroad as many Dutch, Germans, Brits, Belgians pass Catalunya in July I did feel that while obviously present more foreigners can be attracted. While saying that the chant of Ole sung by mainly Spaniards as it was meant to be has its charm as well.