Sunday, 27 March 2016

Warrior Soul, Jesus Chrustler Supercar, Buzz Rockington - Musicon Den Haag, 26 March 2016

Warrior Soul in Musicon, that is one of those surprises when reading it at first, followed by a smile and a note to self: should not miss. Warrior Sould were some 25 years ago close to breaking big. I remember seeing them with Metallica and Dio in Leiden, as well on an Aardschokdag with Riverdogs and Dream Theater. They played energetic Rock and Roll with attitude and lyrics coming close to Punk and next to that they produced some of the best rock ballads ever (The Golden Shore!!). I don't know if we can blame grunge/nu-metal as well for their demise, but to me they disappeared of the radar somewhere in the nineties. Musicon was far from fully packed, but a decent turnout and in Andreas even a German coming over from Koln to see them.

First two support acts warmed us up. Local band Buzz Rockington were unknown to me, but turned out a band to follow. Nice aggressive hooks, Metal with funky and punky influences and a lot of Rock and Roll. Great vocals as well, who switched between styles easily. Hereafter came Jesus Chrustler Supercar, from Stockholm. Their name already being very suitable for Easter weekend they gave us Metal and Roll. The vocalist was wearing a Motorhead T-shirt and this is one of their influences indeed it seemed, While playing good, I did not really enter into the songs. They have some great videoclips (check them out on Youtube) so maybe I was hoping for more. The reality was that this seemed a good festival band playing nice music on the background while you have a beer and bite break.

Then we waited for Warrior Soul to rock Musicon. When the bass player came on with four beers, not for the band, but hiding them on a stool next to his amp, we knew some alcohol fueled R&R would follow. Well Warrior Soul came with a storm and rocked through a set of classic songs, which to my surprise I recognized all. Vocalist Kory Clarke is the only original member and he was as active and energetic as I remembered from 25 years ago. His voice however also seemed to have been left in the nineties as we now got a whole different graspy singing. Somehow this did not impact the songs at all. During the more shouting parts his voice kept up well and the ballad the Loseres got a charm with his voice now really doing justice to the lyrics. This turned out to be one pivotal moment in 2016 live shows: hearing Kory Clarke roaring "Here's to the Loseres, the substance abusers, to the rejects, all the imperfects, cause I think we're beautiful." Goose bumps and raising my glass when the lyrics so demanded. For those who could not make it some of their hits played were: Rotten Soul, Punk ad Belligerent, The Party, the Wasteland and closer DownTown. Kory Clarke with a new voice and, a great band are to em enough for a succesful evening. See them on Tour!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Diamond Head - Diamond Head

Diamond Head has a long history and I found out that I actually participated in a small part of that. On 3 July 1983 Diamond Head played their first show outside the UK in The Hague. being second band of the day on the mainstage at Parkpop just after a lot called Marillion also first time in Holland. At that time I knew the Borrowed Time album. As this LP saw the band exploring longer less metal songs, they went somewhat against prevailing tastes in Holland at the time and not a huge crowd turned up to see them. While nowadays Diamond Head are known by the majority as that band from Am I Evil, I remember this song was not played that day. Still as this was one of my first liveshows I remember loving it from start to finish. At the festival they also had a stand at the market and I bought the tour program and a patch, which I proudly kept as stand alone patch on my jeans jacket for the coming years. Now a collectors item I do not know where that one ended, but miraculously the tour program survived all my home  moves, even abroad,  since 1983. Interesting to see that in the program amongst their favorites of the last album Am I Evil is not mentioned. That same year they would release Canterbury and controversary would only increase. Poppy as it might be to some, I still loved it and until today holds some of my DH favorites in To the Devil his Due and Knight of the Swords. I also got their debut LP Lightning to the Nations, which is their NWOBHM Classic and holds the songs, building up their set until today and being famous by cover versions of a band called Metallica.

So now there is a new self titled album, the first release since 2007's What's Inside Your Head?. I do own that last one and like it. After a few spins I can already say however, that to me the new album is their best in over thirty years (as I do not own all albums). The riff of opener Bones, brings us back to typical eighties Diamond Head. I believe I hear traces of In The Heat of the Night on speed here. Through the album their are more clear references to their past as Our Time is Now ends with the opening riff of Am I Evil (bridging live?) and closer Silence reminded me of Ishmael with the arabic riff. Brian Tatler is for years the man still waving the Diamond Head flag proudly and he does a great job maintaining their signature sound. New vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen sounds good and should be able to perform the classics as well.  Going through the songs I believe on lenght and heaviness they are between their rocking debut and their more elaborated Borrowed Time. I have not yet discovered any favorites that stand out. In general I can only recommend this CD to all those in doubt if NWOBHM bands still can make relevant albums. I believe I never saw them again after Parkpop, so 33 years onward it is about time for the Diamond to come to Holland or me visiting the UK.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Redemption - The Art of Loss

Redemption releasing a new album is something I would look forward to more than just a little. For those unaware of the band, Redemption are the ones most frequently releasing top quality progmetal albums in the 21st century. Apart from their music I also have an emotional band with this band due to some parallel history. This does not refer to seeing them playing live the two times they played Europe (Headway touring the Origin of Ruins and Progpower supporting This Mortal Coil). It is now 2016 and we are almost 7 years from the health scare that bandleader Nick van Dijk passed. When I read his story "How I spent my summer holidays" I just came out of hospital after months living between hope and fear, driven by a major medical cock-up resulting at least in me being still here. The first CD I played while coming home  was Snowfall on Judgement Day, which Hans brought to the hospital when I came to my senses after some hallucinating, nightmaring just plain scary days. On "Keep Breathing" Nick wrote about his hurt due to a suffering child, something I know all too well from personal experience.  Then I read about his multiple myeloma and I just lost it. So when Nick wrote about his fights on next album "This Mortal Coil" I could more than a little relate to some of the words. But now there is a new album so how does it sound?

To start with the Redemption story continues to be scary. This record has been made without guitarist Bernie Versailles who is recovering from medical issues. Wishing him all the best I do hope for a full recovery and him returning making music for us. Bernie brings the Agent Steel part into Redemption, which mean the heavy and fast work. Substitutes for him came in multiple form and we are treated on some great solo's and riffing by Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Chris Broderick (all ex Megadeth) and Simone Mularoni (remembering me I should listen to that last DGM album once again) Finally Jon Bush joins on vocals in the Who cover dedicated to Bernie. Still I did not write about the album itself. Well it sounds great on songs, sounds and performance. If there would be  a critical note, it would be for me the fact that this is album number six. The element of surprise is gone by now. We get some heavy songs, some calm intro's, many great guitar solo's, Ray Alder in topform and an epic of over 20 minutes, Regarding the epic, they have created this problem themselves. In my view noone is ever going to write a better epical progmetal powerballad then Redemption did with Sapphire. At Day's End is a nice attempt, but not the highlight of the album for me. Those would be Thirty Silver and The Center of the Fire.

Overall we gained another album, that confirms Redemption being one of the most stable deliverers of Class Prog Metal albums. The surprise is gone for me, but who needs surprises when the standard is this good. How it compares to their other albums only time will tell and if live shows are an option without Bernie I would not know. Finally it is good to see that Redemption did not walk away from metal, so not following the 2016 trend set by some others.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Oceans of Slumber - Winter

Oceans of Slumber are going to be huge, festival headlining big. And they shall do this while bridging dark, progressive, extreme, female fronted, and classic metal fans. I saw this coming after hearing their debut Aetherial, which I voted number one in my list of 2013 albums. The strange thing is that on their debut they had in Ronnie Allen a vocalist who mainly screamed, which is not my favorite kind of vocals. After he left Cammie Gilbert came in and also Female vocals can hardly be considered amongst my preferred styles (well I like Madder Mortem, Aghora, Atrox, Magenta and some) Yet with vocals not being to my specific taste I love both their albums due to the stunning songs they contain. This band has such a beautiful mix of styles that I just cannot see them not growing to the level of say Opeth or Anathema. Headlining niche festivals and if they are lucky one day become a household name. At least these Female Voices or FemMe festivals should be an easy target as I can not see any female fronted band currently come close to the quality they deliver.

Upon the entrance of Cammie it was decided to first release an EP with covers. I just mention the bands they covered here, as it gives a pretty accurate picture of the level of band we are talking and the ranges they explore. Candlemass (Doom), Led Zeppelin(Classic), Emperor(Black) and Pink Floyd (Prog). This next to a new song Turpentine and an acoustic version of Memoriam from their debut. When I tried to purchasse this digi version through BigCartel I learned they did not supply this EP to Holland (while they did to Belgium?). And now there is a new album, which is simply astonishing (unlike...). Opener Winter builds up to a nice battle between the voice of Cammie and a heavy grunt. The tone is set and the album keeps surprising us several times  Four short instrumental bridging songs, next to eight originals and one cover, a heavy version of Nights in White Satin. Highlights possibly Devout, Apologue and Sunlight. Well actually all songs heavy or calm have something on offer.

Next news I found is that they are coming to Europe supporting My Dying Bride in April. I am sure that they will go down well with that audience and now have to choose which show I am going to see. Never the biggest fan of MDB (well I have one CD of them) I am sure that the 45 minutes support slot alone will be worth the ticket. I do hope they won't ignore their debut in the short set. Then in my view they also should play Progpower during a slot after dinner break, as they shall amaze many there for sure.

For those who cannot make much of a direction about the above words maybe the sticker on the CD can be of help: Atmospheric melodies over darkened dynamics that range from the perversely sinister to the adventurously progressive, creating and undeniable epic wall of sound. Maybe I was not that unclear after all! Don't miss this one!!!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Headspace - All that You Fear is Gone

This one took some time to complete. After the brilliant debut "I Am Anonymous" Headspace toured around with Haken and then it turned silent. Two years ago they were scheduled to play Progpower, but cancelled as this album was supposed to be finished (or other obligations forced them to back out). Some silence followed yet again and now there is the long awaited sophomore album. Main reason for these delays must be in the fact that all members have one or more other bands to attend and getting together should be a scheduling nightmare. As a reference for my interest in this album you can go back to January 2013 and find that their debut album was picked as my favorite of 2012 alltogether. Being ranked album of the month in both Aardschok and IOpages did not reduce expectations either.

So what is it like? Well I am not too sure yet. I only know that it won't be the best album of 2016 for me. The playing is very good, the songs are nice enough and Damian Wilson proves yet again that he is among the best vocalists around. After some 4 turns the album starts, sounds nice and then is over. Overall, not unlike Dream Theater's last one, it all seems a bit much and a bit quiet. I do believe that this one continues to grow on me and in the end I will like it a lot. Still the main difference with their debut album is the fact that that one started with Stalled Armageddon a heavy rocker. Now we open with some spoken words and slowly have to be sucked into this album. The number of ballads and softer parts is pretty high and maybe some more power would have made this a more instant killer.

Still I won't give up on this one that easy. I actually got interested in the singer songwriter album that Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman released recently as well. So it is not about the heaviness only, I can only conclude that I might have been expecting too much from this one. At the same time the song "The Science Within Us" alone is worth a purchase. Let's see how I regard this album in some months, actually knowing the songs. Times are hard for any album to stand out as the releases from end February till mid March only should make a very strong yearlist already. Headspace should tour and I am sure this album will come alive to the full thereafter.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Kingcrow, Votum & Mind:Soul - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 3 March 2016

Both Kingcrow and Votum I saw twice before. Once at Progpower and once supporting  a bigger Progmetal band. As I like them equally and have most of their work, no excuse really not to go to de Boerderij. I was expecting two similar shows, as in my memory they both play progmetal more towards the melodic lighter side with Votum at times turning to the heavier interruptions. Later on I would find out that they do not have that much in common any longer really. First we were warmed up by Mind:Soul. a Dutch band who gave us a short but animated set. I don't recall seeing them before, while they played pretty often in the area. Last time was some weeks ago with Resolve whose guitarist now appeared as back-up vocalist in the audience. I think it is nice that apart from the older growing audience also young bands support each other. Maybe not mindblowing, but definitely a nice opening slot and I shall try to see them with a full show next time they hang around Musicon or Saturnus.

From the double headliners Votum came on first. A dark stage with red lasers welcomed us slightly long, until the band appeared all dressed in black with some of them covering their heads in black hoodies light. From that moment on it mainly stayed dark and black. The lightshow was interesting but almost full time main lights were off and we watched a black hole. Musically I also was put on the wrong foot. They seemed to have turned into new directions really, maybe due to the arrival of a new vocalist. The melodic songs with many softer parts have been substited by a darker, heavier and at times gothlike presentation. Still there is use of heavy light variations, but the overtone is dark and somber. This whole approach did take me by surprise, but at the same time  got me interested in the new album :Ktonik (I got a copy of the unpronounceable CD at the evening). During the five quarters they played I hardly recognized any songs (not sure what old material was actually played) Still the show managed to hold my attention. Dark as it was, and probably pretty preprogrammed it did not come over as extremely spontaneous. Yet I did like the new direction and with the heavy stepping of their Christ like vocalist my head kept nodding in approval. I do need some sessions to fully get the new album which I am looking forward to do soon.

After a short break among a small audience, but with many Progpower regulars second headliners Kingcrow came on. The difference which I expected to be small could not be bigger really. Kingcrow did not seem to be bothered by well thought through stage acts and just went on and played. Following Andre's tip they covered the Votum drums with a Kingcrow t-shirt. The lightshow was full colour and the stage clothes not much different from their audience. But the music was great mainly (or all?) coming from their last two albums In Crescendo and Eidos. I do not recognize all song titles nor lyrics, but at least I knew all the songs. The presentation was sympathetic and they genuinly seemed to be enjoying themselves. Afer touring with both Redemption and Fates Warning I sometimes saw some Ray Alder in the moving and jumping of the vocalist. Eidos did not make it to my top 15 last year, but as with most good bands their songs came more alive to me after seeing them performed live. Their also five quarter set was closed with the epic In Crescendo, where we passed through their full range of ballad, heavy instrumentals and a catchy chorus. Kingcrow again turned out to be a very good band and I wonder what they can do to make it to the next level. Such good songs deserve a wider audience, but competition is killing nowadays. For those still having a chance to see this tour, go and you will leave as pleased as all present last night did.