Monday, 29 February 2016

Tesseract & The Contortionist - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 28 February 2016

This one I was looking forward for some time: Tesseract who released the very decent Polaris last year and The Contortionist probably my favorite band in the Djent genre whom I never saw playing live before. Exactly two years ago I did see Tesseract with other djent bands and I made many comments on the whole experience. While being so close to Progmetal the audience and atmosphere are just very different. Without going too much into repetition mode, here some words that describe the observations in short. Colors, beards, many beards, student gathering, Apple watch, low beer consumption, quiet audience. Upon arrival another surprise in the long entering line. Having been many times to de Boerderij, including sold out shows, this was new to me. Good point was that even on a Sunday evening this meant a nicely packed Boerderij.

Because of the delay in getting everyone in, The Contortionist started 15 minutes late, but off we went. I discovered them on their second album Intrinsic. That album had mainly screaming vocals and some light interludes. On the last one Language the balance changed the other way around and we have 90% clean vocals. Somewhere I read about them as Ambidjent and this describess the picture nicely. Starting off with Language I and II the show took of on a mellow note. Most striking was the presentation of the vocalist. As noone was ever introduced I do not know his name, but he had a quite unique way of performing. Walking around slowly with his arms held up mostly close to his body and eyes closed he seemed to be on a different planet altogether. The rhytmical breaks he would accompany by a sort of backward headbuts and occassionally he would start clapping and this worked well as he was followed. Surprisingly the audience also held their hands before them while clapping along and my long boney arms stood out like an honest man in Fifa. While I do prefer their last CD, which is a more comforting listen, live the heavier songs were a welcome break in pace and aggression. When we got the aggressive screams the decibels went up and so did the mood. They played some songs from Intrinsic but I could not recognize the titles of non introduced ones. By his performance the vocalist attracted the attention, but the band played impressive. Seemingly not allowed to move around, they really created a perfect background for this different show. I loved the twin guitars who took many licks from the Watchtower school of Ron Jarzombek as inspiration. All in all this was one remarkable show, which fully lived up to my high expectations. One doubt that I have for further development of The Contortionist is their stage show. As support act, during a too short set they can get away with the limited interaction and just perfect performance. If growing to bigger stages and festivals somehow this might create a distance too big for those unfamiliar with the band.

Question after this was if Tesseract, would be able to follow this one up. The answer to that is twofold as the majority of the audience came to see Tesseract and would reply with a clear yes. For me however, they could not. OK the show was bigger, the stage fully used, the lightshow beautiful, some words from the vocalist and they opened with my favorite song from Polaris Phoenix. Still I felt something was missing and after a while I realized what it was. Where the Contortionist had this great variation between dreamy and really heavy parts, Tesseract stayed more in the same vein all the time. This means heavy riffs, a break and clear vocals. I cannot say that the songs were not good, and the performance and show were even excellent. Still I did not manage to stay interested full time, by the lack of variation. Two years ago I wrote that Tesseract could be a welcome headliner at Progpower in order to attract new audiences both ways to Progpower and to Djent. Now I think that this year's headliner Textures shall do a much better job at this as they do use the variaty of heaviness to the max, something I missed yesterday.

All in all another succesful evening at de Boerderij, with The Contortionist exceeding expectations and Tesseract giving the stage show. In appreciation I did buy the Contortionist Tee, but old fashioned as I am I got the Black one.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Montra - The Machine

Times are expensive for any progmetal fan. New releases of my yearlist numbers one Headspace (2012), Oceans of Slumber (2013) next to the progmetal band of the century Redemption and Dutch powerhouse Textures already are must haves. Further on the live front I missed nearby shows of big names Symphony X and Dream Theater (shall the penny ever drop for me?) while visiting Josy in Portugal (Portalgre is great!). At the same time tomorrow starts a series of great progmetal shows to attend for me, while I might miss Complexity Fest's inauguartion version due to obligations elsewhere. And them Prog Metal Zone put me on the track of this lot some weeks ago. Montra from San Jose California.

The not overly informative website, makes me believe this is their debut album and what a killer it is. Montra play Progmetal leaning on the heavy and technical side, with clean vocals only not scaring of the more melodic fans. PMZ has this comfortable habbit of putting streams to the music with their new release page. While interested after reading the subscription, these songs caught me by first listen. Even now that US post is trying to kill the industry for last CD mailers and buyers I knew I needed to get this one in support of this new band. I can try to describe this band in detail, but better just link you to their website where the album can be heard. Anyone interested in the names above musically combined with djenty clean vocals might like what they hear as well. Progpower Europe has a new band to watch and get over if we are lucky. Let the big names come and surprise, disappoint, overwhelm or destroy me, meanwhile I have in Montra already  a great new find.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

O.R.k. & KoMaRa - Boerderij Zoetermeer 17 February 2016

Wednesday evening and de Boerderij invited two bands from Pat Mastelotto to perform for us. While ORk already needs some refined taste for appreciation Komara turned out to be a bridge too far even for me. Komara is a trio playing well jazzy prog, where drums, trumpet, guitar and lots of effects give us slowly building songs turning into  heavy climax or not. Actually the first song I thought interesting still, just watching amazed at all that was going on and where these noises were coming from. After some 25minutes I got tired though and we took a short bar break to think over what was just on stage. Komara did have interesting T-shirts though (design by a guitarist of Tool)

ORk are a different breed as they play actual songs with clear structures and apart from Mr. Mastelotto have on bass Colin Edwin from Porcupine Tree fame. With PT and KC members one would expect a bigger turnout, but tables in the hall showed us not that many were expected. When I saw that ORk would come to de Boerderij some months ago I checked them out on internet. Liking a lot what I heard I did order the CD and it goes to the list "should have / could have made my top 15 of 2015". Due to the dominant pulsing bass I do hear some Tool, mixed with prog on experimental level, while hidden in compact songs. Does not make much sense does it, but it works beautifully on CD and even better in the live setting. Actually next to the two solid performances of the big names the Italian half was at least as impressive. Lorenzo Fornasari not only showed a great vocal range he also played all  kinds of electronics with some weird stuff included (Did we see Sheldon on Theremin?). Guitarist Carmelo Pipitone was main responsible for the heavier parts, occassionally moving forward and go wild on stage.

As they have only one album (Inflamed Rides) they played it in full I believe. A nice thing was that they did not follow the running order of the CD. This makes the show more surprising, but also harder to decorate if they played all. Highlights to me were the same as on the album: "No Need", "Dream of Black Dust" and "Funfair". Actually the rest did not come far behind. With this being their first show in Holland I was glad I made it and  who knows ORk one day get the recognition they deserve. They themselves already shared the recognition of the great place de Boerderij is calling it the best place in Europe to play. This coming from men with a background in King Crimson and Porcupine Tree might explain the second year second place of best venue in very British PROG magazine. Great show, early start early home, good mood, so no complaints apart from the T-shirt sizes available maybe. Hope they will release more albums and be back.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Mute Gods - Dream Theater - Borknagar

2015 was a great year for music with too many releases to make a top 15 only really. We are now five weeks into 2016 and already the list of interesting albums keeps on growing fast. Herewith 3 of the albums I liked so far:

The Mute Gods - Do Nothing till You hear from Me.
Music and lyrics  for the Mute Gods has been written by Nick Beggs from Steen Wilson, Steve Hackett and Lifesigns fame. This album contains poppy prog songs, with sometimes a dark edge. The opening title song reminded me somewhat of Chroma Key and further there is a pretty wide range from soft  ballads to heavier work. TMG are completed by Marco Minneman and Roger King. Quality is guaranteed and actually the album is great for the quiet moments of the day. Doubt if these busy men shall ever tour, but the CD is a good starting point.

Dream Theater - The Astonishing
I am still undecided about this one. As I think that in two months time I shall still be in teh same mood I might as well spend some words here. Over two hours, a double concept album a choir and lots of soft piano interludes. I might be joining the camp of too soft shouters, as the Train of Thought is as far away from this album as you can imagine. Still there is obvious class on display and I never was in the camp of James Labrie complainers. In two weeks time they play the album in full for three nights in Amsterdam, but I shall be in Portugal. As such a pity a sthis album might come alive with a full live show telling the story. A lot to absorb still, but undecided I shall give it many more chances. At least this is something very different again.

Borknagar - Winter Thrice
This is one of the examples I mentioned during my BlackDeath live review. A Black Metal band, still showing their roots, but evolving into proggy areas. This is one beautiful album sung by 4 big names of the Norwegian BM scene. Many times I am reminded of Green Carnation by mood, atmospheres and vocals. This album should be well accepted way beyond Black Metal circles as it has eight great songs with lots of variation. Hope to catch them at Graspop later this year, curious to see this live. A Highlight of 2016 so far. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Blackdeath & Cultus - Musicon Den Haag 31 January 2016

"I did not know you were into Black Metal as well" Rene from Musicon told me in the break. I admitted he was right, but both timing and curiousity were just about right to quickly drop by Musicon for some live music. So between 17:00and 19:00  hours when the family was learning or reading and I could stay home killing time or see a Russian Black Metal band playing near home I choose the latter. My Black Metal roots are non exisent really as all Black Metal bands I have on CD, came into view after they moved away from pure Black Metal into more experimental territories. Examples of this: Enslaved, Ihsahn, Arcturus, Solefald, Ulver, Borknagar. Apart from that I can recommend the book Lords of Chaos (the bloody rise of the Satanic Metal Underground) to anyone with an interest in music. So apart from the occassional festival BM band this might have been my first Black Metal club show bringing the antropoligist in me back alive.

Arriving one hour late I missed opening band Black Command, so sorry for that. First thing that was clear that there was quite an audience for a Sunday show in Musicon. While not packed a decent turnout compared with other Sunday shows I attended last year. A second quick observation was the color Black being all around. While at all other metal genres (Djent!) the T-shirts vary in color nowadays, Black Metal still follows the original rules of one has to wear Black to a Heavy Metal show. When the for me first band BlackDeath from Russia started another surprise came to the front. Both band and audience show very little emotion or participation towards each other. While I can afford to stay nearer to the bar with a beer in my hand I still enjoy watching pits going crazy, and always see this as added appreciation of the bands. Well no such things for BlackDeath who bulldozered over us in a storm and kept on riffing for 45 minutes. No time wasted on speeches, showing of soloing or introductions all came down to the riffs and the typical BM Scream. I believe Blackdeath shriek in German, but could not define that. After 45 minutes the guitars were taken off and without much of a word the band were finished.

Next on were Dutch band Cultus. To my surpirse the same guitars and bass went on stage, only this time without the bullet belts. Second guitarist Blackdeath turned about to be the mainman and vocalist of Cultus. As a kind of jobrotation we got same people playing now a slghtly different style. I must admit being too little specialist in the genre to define the differences, but both vocals and riffing sounded somewhat lighter to me. Further pretty much all was the same. The audience did not suddenly shout along, or go maniacal. The band went through their songs untill they took after 45 minutes the guitars off. So that ended an afternoon blasting my ears. Actually I quite liked the whole show and mood. If this is to be repeated this close and comfortably timed I probably shall be back.. Still I did not turn into the biggest Black Metal fan and prefer those who developed onwards.