Monday, 25 December 2017

The Top 17 of 2017 - Live shows

While trying to order my favorite CD's of 2017 seemed hard, putting up a list of favorite shows turned even more complicated. I had so many shows this year and do not recall any disappointing night. During the few festivals I attended maybe some of the bands were not my thing, but in general over one show a week was a party. So reducing to 17 only and taking out some fifty shows out was a crime. Looking back the year 2017 was for me mainly based around NWOBHM, Thrash and eighties metal. So we closing the shortlist I noticed that Progrock did not make it at all, even though I saw great shows by Dream the Electric Sleep, The Gift and Pendragon. Same goes for the heavier end with  great performances by Revocation, Fen, Fleshkiller or Sinistro. Also the fact that I had three bands staying over after their local gigs I did not let weigh in my favorites, while seeing the other side of touring and hearing the stories is always very nice. But cut the crap here is my list of shows that made the biggest impact on me in 2017.

17. Beyond Creation - DB's 2 July
The absolute masters of Technical Death Metal to me. While the year before we only got a short support slot their full show amazed all present. Mixing the very heavy with the melody and all so easy is beyond many things really.

16. Threshold - Bosuil 28 November
Back with a new album and an old vocalist they proved to be amongst the best progmetal bands as always. Great perfromance and as Hans told me in London Glynn was already more at ease. Good setlist as well.

15. UDO - Alcatraz Metal Fest 11 August
Last year I saw the full two hour show in Tilburg already. Now it was 90 minutes at the end of a festival day in a tent filled with 5000 wildly loving this fans. What a way to lose my voice over Balls to the Wall, Fast as a Shark, Princess of the Dawn.

14. Flotsam and Jetsam - Baroeg 2 April
In 2016 I missed their show in Musicon due to holidays. Now they returned to Baroeg and what a surprisingly great show this was. While they started their careers with classics the last self-titled album is also very good and live in perfect shape.

13. Tokyo Blade - Musicon 23 April
With the many NWOBHM shows in 2018 (Tytan, Warrior, Vardis, Night Demon, Tygers, Hell and Saxon) this is one that stood out. On a Sunday afternoon in far too empty Musicon Tokyo Blade brought us back to 1983 in style. They repeated the dose at Baroeg Open Air a few months later.

12. Manilla Road & Vortex - Gebr. de Nobel 4 May
This show was a complete surprise on high atmosphere all over, which already started at Vortex. Going back to the eighties once again was bringing out the best in many.

11. Mike Portnoy's Shattered Fortress - 013 6 July
Dream Thaken gave us the best Dream Theater show in years. Playing the AA suite in full the setlist was great and the performance by Haken  and Eric Gillette even better. A one off historical tour of progmetal.

10. Solitary - Musicon 10 June
Withe the many thrash metal shows in 2018 (Havok, Warbringer, Defazer, Overruled, Exodus, Testament, Overkill and Death Angel) this is one that stood out. Existing for 23 years, remaining fairly unknown abroad this was Solitary's first overseas tour. What a great band it was and even though they skipped Anthems of Regret that evening still made it one of the best thrash metal shows of the year.

9. Them - Little Devil 22 May
Them not only gave us a show of perfect heavy metal. They brought along three actors and the concept album was played to us. Amazing really that we could see this show in Little Devil. Such a great production alltogether this band deserves bigger stages (Considering boring Ayreon sold out 013 three times)

8. Insomnium - Biebob 13 January
My first show of the year and I thought noone would be able to top this. Winter's Gate in full was overwhelming really. In November I could see the best of part again, when they toured MTV. Yet their full concept album was special indeed.

7 Sacral Rage - Little Devil 14 May
Mario puts on many great shows in Little Devil and at the same time manages to introduce new favorites to me. This Greek band was unknow to me and gave us a perfect show of eighties US metal. Even got the LP of their debut and one band to follow closely. I love surprises like these.

6. Fates Warning - de Pul 28 January
Fates Warning going through their career since Ray Alder years and with a focus on Theories of Flight their brilliant last album. Well nothing could go wrong really and nothing did. Band in good form, Ray good by voice and a perfect setlist.

5. Michael Schenker Fest - de Boerderij 31 October
Michael Schenker was the guitar hero from my youth. So when he toured with his three original vocalists we would be in for a treat. First time I saw Graham Bonnet sing Desert Song live with this band. Surprisingly good show and Michael Schenker at his best.

4. Diamond Head - Baroeg 16 July
It was a long time since Parkpop 1983 that I saw Diamond Head play live. This band turned out to be so tight and solid, that Metallica's covering them was blown away by the originals. Warmed up by Martyr and Killer this was one party of Diamond Head Classics and their last album is just as fine.

3. Toxik - Lazarus 14 September
So I saw Toxik at Dynamo Metal Fest and Little Devil thinking I covered the festival and club gig and than this evening came. Lazarus being far too small stagewise and barwise for this great band and the atmosphere between band and audience became something different altogether. Josh even confrmed to me that this was one of their most remarkable shows ever and what a Circus it was.

2. Psychotic Waltz - Fluor 17 June
Psychotic Waltz were my favorites on stage in the nineties. In 2011 they gave a support slot return and now we had a full headliner set. They have so many classic songs and their playing was so amazing that we simply need the new album and many returns soonest. Still as good as in the past and a new song that sounded promising. Psychotic Waltz are back and how.

1. Stampede - The Exchange / Musicon  11 March / 8 December
Maybe the Compliance committeee would not allow me to put my own party at number one, but it started in Bristol really. Stormtrooper, Lautrec and Bristol Rovers brought Magchiel and I in perfect mood for Stampede live. During the aftershow talks I put the base for them making their debut in Holland on stage. Well for me this was the highlight of the year with all the stories around it both in Bristol and at home with them telling stories from the past. And yes the two shows nailed it as well.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Graceless, Neoceasar, Warmaster & Deathhammer - Musicon The Hague 22 December 2017

Last gig of the year to me, so why not make it a party. That is what Rene must have been thinking as he decided to commemorate his birthday with live music. As he loves his death metal, the menu was loud tonight. Good thing was that Musicon was packed and many faces from the triangle Nobel/Leiden, Baroeg/Rotterdam, Musicon itself decided to close the year in style.
Regarding the bands they all played well in different death metal ways. Deathhammer playing covers, Warmaster in camouflage shirts Bolt Thrower alike (as Rene explained to me). Neoceasar had the bad luck that their vocalist had to cancel due to family  circumstances. A big thumbs up for them not cancelling the show, but playing an instrumental set. New headliner therefore were Graceless showing they are one of the better death metal bands of the region.
In the end it was a very nice end of year do, now let's see if I can gather some friends for a New Year's drink in Musicon 5 January when the first metal and rock bands are on.
Heavy New Year to all.  

Friday, 22 December 2017

The Top 17 of 2017 - CD's

Ranking the albums, always a nice task at the end of the year. Unless my first shortlist of albums that should absolutely enter the list is twice as big as the 17 I am allowing myself. So this list represents how I felt Friday 22 December and might have been slightly different any other day. So sorry My Soliloquy, Riverdogs, Iris Divine, Vandale, Portrait, Hourswill, Night Demon, Persefone, Cosmograf, Lee Abraham, Warrior, Prayers of Sanity, Solitary, Steven Wilson and many more, today my list opted for others. A special mention to A Sense of Gravity who released one of my favorite albums received this year, but was in the mail too long in 2016. Same might go next year for Perihelion Ship whose pledge has not arrived yet.

17. Horisont - About Time
Sweden is onmipresent in all the syles I love and this retro hard rock band was a new discovery to me. Slightly softer than countrymen Dead Lord this hardrock with 70's vibe is played so well and packed in such good songs that they became for me one of the first big discoveries of the year.

16. Need - Hegaiamas
A song for Freedom. One of the better progmetal albums of the year in good old style. This means long songs, great playing and vocals and based upon metal. Live they weer brilliant in Diest and I am sure they will rock Progpower. If only they would stop including spoken word songs.

15. Fen - Winter
Andrew tipped me on Fen already before, but this was the first album I heard of them. Long epic UK Black Metal songs with progressive and post whatever touches. A perfect soundtrack for the season that just started and seldom six songs in 75 minutes fly by as beautiful.

14. Anubis - The Second Hand / Tim Bowness - Lost in the Ghost light
This might seem an attempt to slip in an extra album, but in reality these two prog rock concept albums made a very similar impact on me. Anubis with a story on an ageing media mogul and Tim Bowness (mr Melancholy) sings about an aging rock star looking back on his life. Both beautiful albums filled with emotional songs.

13. Moonspell - 1755
Now I never was a big Moonspell fan, hardly knowing them really. But this album on the great Lisbon earthquake in 1755 sung in Portuguese is perfect. Bombastic, epic, glorious while staying away from cheesy. A history lesson and musical masterclass combined in one. Far from a Desastre.

12. Exist - So True, So Bound
This one is a grower. So after several spins the beauty came to the surface and what an album we have. With members passing Cynic and Death to All, their is some progressive death metal here, but it sounds different really. Not humming along music, but definitely pleased I gave them the time needed.

11. The Contortionist - Clairvoyant
The Contortionist proof that slowing down is not always a loss of quality. From a hardcore-prog past they now are calm and clear. Still the songs are that good, that we don't miss the energy from the past. They just evolved, but unlike others keep their strenght.

10. Reuben Archer's Personal Sin - Petrolhead
Yes, of course I am biased towards anything Stampede related and this album is only two weeks old, so not sure if they should be higher or lower on the list. But my god what an album filled with earwurms. And playing it in the car made it even better indeed.

9. Vice - The First Chapter
Many styles are mentioned for this band, but let's call them metal. Filling an album with great guitars is one thing, but packing it all in songs s catchy as dengue in a Brazilian wetland is another thing. One of the least known surprises of the year.playing Belgium next April, so we can see this live.

8. Trial - Motherless
Their previous album Vessel made it to my number one of the 2015 list. The surprise is gone, but the quality is not. Old school heavy metal blended with some doom and progressive metal. I am reminded at times of Psychotic Waltz at their quiet moments. They come in February to Holland with Portrait and RAM, already the Heavy Metal package of the year.

7. IT - We're all in this Together
An old band, but new to me and the prog rock surprise of the year. Well they mix some hard rock and AOR at times. Their politically themed songs describe what is worng with the world in a very right way. Canadian/British progressive rock which should attract rock fans in general as proven by Peter.

6. Witherfall - Nocturnes and Requiems
Another album filled with good old metal. This one should appeal to Savatage fans as well. This is the album of the passed away drummer, but should also be reminded for the great songs and performances on it. Not afraid to blend in some external influences (spanish guitar) the album comes down to headbanging really.

5. Threshold - Legends of the Shires.
How would Threshold come out of the loss of Pete Morten and Damian Wilson? Well glorious it was. A double album which goes from proggy ballads to their signature metal epics. Glynn Morgan doing a great job back on vocals. They have been the stable factor in UK Prog metal for over 25 years and showing they still are on top of the game.

4. Pain of Salvation - In the Passing Light of Day
Pain of Salvation was amongst my favorite bands around the beginning of this century. And then they started experimenting (too much for my taste). Now here is one return to old form album I can say. Telling the emotional story of Daniel's fight against a life threatening disease, I recognized more than a bit in the lyrics. If the music then also is back to progmetal mode we have a winner.

3. Fleshkiller - Awaken
Fleshkiller continue where Extol left us some years ago. This is Technical Death Metal, but than blended with melodic hard rock choirs in the best King's X style. Only playing the first minute of opening song Parallel Kingdom convinced me already. This album is all about the songs and the melodic breaks make it really accessable as well.

2. Twisted Illusion - Insight to the Mind of a Million Faces
When Brian Mear(fest) talks about a progmetal band he loves, my interest was risen as he is more a NWOBHM man. This is not typical by any means. Don't you dare to box me in Matt sung on their debut, so I won't either. This band seem to release music constantly, with next year three albums planned. I was completely overwhelmed when I recieved their debut together with this double album. Prog rock, Melodic rock, Hair metal, Guitar shredders, You name it you find it. Go listen to this great band on bandcamp or whatever streaming you find and then buy their albums.

1. Cormorant - Diaspora
Thank you Angry Metal Guy for pointing me towards album number four of Cormorant. So I missed them in the past and corrected this pretty well this year. What an album crossing all extreme genres. We get four songs lasting one hour in total where we pas Death, Black, Doom and Progressive metal. While these are the dominant styles per song, the variation is such that you go all over the place all the time. I have problems picking my favorite track, but believe the album is best heard in one go. Even the artwork is beautifull with hints of Jeroen Bosch. Pure art in it's heaviest form by all means.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Verbal Delirium - 't Blok Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel 17 December 2017

This show was announced over a year ago already. So when Andre said he could not have thought by then that the trains would not stop in Nieuwerkerk today he was probably right. Result of it all was that people came by car and the bar turnover lost. Now I have been a year ago twice before to 't Blok for Neoprog shows of Martigan and The Gift. I noticed a pattern with sympathetic volunteers and a group of what seemed to be regulars. Well this afternoon the regulars reduced in numbers, but in came a good delegation from Progpower including representants from Norway and Romania. Verbal Delirium did play Progpower once a few years ago. It was one of those years I missed out due to work travelling obligations. So I did not know Verbal Delirium really, but read Andre being very positive about them for a while (album of the year 2016) so I decided to check them out.

After the opening song the vocalist explained the band recently lost their keyboardist and he took care of all keys tonight. In order to stay balanced they also brought along their ex guitarist who played their first two albums. So more guitars is always good and we got indeed many long melodic solo's thrown at us. The set was broken down in two parts of one hour, with halfway a break of 20-25 minutes. Well that might look like an extended football match, the set itself compared with one as well. While the first half was calm and the home team looked to be losing 0-1, the second half matters got more energetic and they turned around the game into a deserved victory. As they more or less followed their three CD chronologically I decided to get the last album "The Imprisoned Words of Fear". Now let me describe slightly better the first hour was not bad, far from that. But it was in my ears missing some spice to it. The songs were all good and we got listening music to watch. That the band could play was clear to hear and see. Well to see for four of them as the bassist was living the cliche hiding at the back behind a guitarist in front of the amps. Roughly the first hour was progrock and after the break we got Progmetal. It seemed to me that I was not the only one appreciating half two better. So we liked the set, many pictures with the audience were taken and we got an encore. Well that started with a surprise to me. As the music world lost in Warrel Dane this week, we were treated on a Nevermore cover: The Sorrowed Man. This was a nice gesture of the band, who could not rehearse this song until earlier that afternoon, so it sounded pretty good I'd say.
Then we got one fnal own song and it was over.  Another nice afternoon at 't Blok. In July they have Anubis, which is to me one of the best progrock bands around at the moment. So if not away for work, holidays or UK Tech Fest I shall be back again as well.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Lee Abraham - Reuben Archer's Personal Sin - The Erkonauts - Vice - Cloak

For those looking for christmas presents or just some music to play while watching the darts (Cullen - Wattimena on now, best match of the tournament so far) herewith five tips. As usual building up in volume.

Lee Abraham - Colours
Lee Abraham is one of the progrockers in the UK, which I can buy in the blind. He falls herewith in the same category to me as several people working with him on this CD (Dec Burke, Simon Godfrey and Robin Armstrong) On this album he moves somewhat his proggy style towards even more AOR melodic hard rock. Actually this album would be better released in May as it has to me a spring summer feel over it. Reminding most of American bands from the eighties, there is still a mark by all his British friends. We even get Steve Overland from FM singing along. Feel good music which can be nice in winter as well.

Reuben Archer's Personal Sin - Petrolhead
Last 8 December was not only the debut of Stampede in Holland, it was also the official release date for Petrolhead.  As Reuben mentioned in his interview this project gives him the chance to blend in some more blues or even jazz and funk. Well with the two guitars and drums of Stampede also in this band I can hear the bluesier side, but in the end it sounds comfortably close to that other band. As Reuben has a history with cars, this album is all about them. Tomorrow I go by car to 't Blok, so I will test the CD in the car. Pretty sure that will the best place to hear this album. Watch out for speeding tickets, great album.

The Erkonauts - I Shall Forgive
Some years ago I discovered this band from Switzerland with their album Do Something Bad. I remember ordering directly from the band and receive a crazy low order number. Seems to me their name is growing as I ran into many reviews this time. All speak about Progpunk to decsribe their style. This makes sense as they have something proggy and something Motorhead alike in their music. the songs are diverse enough and I would like to see them live one day. I can imagine this to be a party on and off the stage. Hard to pinpoint so recommended to try for many.

Vice - The First Chapter
When the guitarist/vocalist of an English Prog rock band tips you on Vice, one does not expect such a heavy album. Metal Archives boxes them under Melodic Death Metal / Metalcore. I personally would add Heavy Metal / Thrash Metal. Meaning what they play is not the point, how they do this is astonishing. An album about the seven deadly sins, containing seven songs around six minutes, plus in Lust an instrumental monster of over ten minutes. Highlight of the album the guitars really. Heavy, catchy songs, good vocals, but the constant flow of good guitars really sets the bar that high. Now I just read they lost one guitarist. I hope they find good replacement as they come to Belgium in April together with the band that gave the tip. So I shall be there it seems.

Cloak - To Venoumous Depths
While I mentioned all Erkonauts reviews spoke of Progpunk, all Cloak reviews mention Tribulation. Now I was very impressed with Tribulation both on album as live, so why not try them out. Turns out To Venomous Depths indeed has many similarities, but as long as it is as well executed as this I have no issues with that really. This Blackened rock is packed in nice long and moody songs. One final comparison with Tribulation then. While the swedes look different with their tiny guitarists in tight pantys, this lot looks on the picture in the CD booklet like a southern rock band to me. Looks can deceive  as they are both heavier than that.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Stampede & Winterfell - Musicon The Hague, 8 December 2017

This was always going to be a special evening to me for several reasons. First Stampede, one of my favorite bands in the early eighties making their debut on stage in Holland. At the same time I was making my debut as promoter, getting this show together. So how did it come this far? In March I visited Bristol with Magchiel to see Stampede play live with as supports their predecessors Lautrec and Stormtrooper. During the after gig drinks we spoke and I asked if we could think of something for Holland when they would be travelling. In comes the Blast From the Past Festival, today in Belgium (with a brilliant line-up) and one plus one makes three. As I also needed some co-operation from Musicon enabling their venue. Pity I don't do bucket lists, as this would have been two to scratch of the list really: Being a promoter and getting Stampede to play Holland. In order to make the deal feasible we reopened our HM B&B and Stampede stayed with us the nights before and after the show. Many interesting anecdotes on heroes from my past, but in order to get those: buy the book being released one day.

Now every show needs a good support band and that brought me to Winterfell, as they hold old Huppel the Pub regulars Ron and Simon. They reacted enthusiast after contacting them and when I went to see their rehearsal I knew they would fit the bill nicely. Of similar interest they informed that they would pull a crowd of friends. Now the gambling would start for the day as NWOBHM in Musicon can fall either way. Lords of Metal agenda mentioned 27 metal gigs in Holland/Belgium for the evening, but the direct competition from Raven was too far in Nijmegen to interfere. So my expectations were 30 people for a bad attendance, 60 as expected and 90 being very good. Unloading the van in hail, storm and rain did not raise hopes all that much, but remaining positive was the motto. Well what can I say, this turned out to become one of Musicon's biggest nights I attended. Crossing through the 100 attendants barrier was really above anything I hoped for. So thanks to Winterfell for keeping their promise and to all who were present on this evening for making Stampede feel very welcome in Holland.

Comes 21:00 hours and Winterfell kick off. Their set consists of covers and own songs divided more or less equal. Their style eighties heavy metal. Their warming the crowd up factor: steaming hot. Loved their set with good own songs as well and favorite covers to me in Mr. Crowley and Killed by Death. Lead guitarist Simon some 30+ years ago actually learned Stampede's Missing You as well and this came back in his skills. Very nice soloing throughout the set. So they did not only bring fans, they also warmed up those not knowing them in advance. Job done so to say.

Somewhat after ten Colin's bass (one of them!) rolled in usual opener Shadows of the Night. All sounding well, from thereon it would be glorious to me. Having Fun followed from their last album A Sudden Impulse. Hereafter we got catapulted back to the early eighties and forward again to 2011. Highlights? well the full set, but Moving On and Hurricane Town are absolute Classics to me. Send Me Down and Angel had the audience participation again in "Shine the Light On Me". I might be wrong, but to me it felt like Musicon outsung Bristol big time. And as time flew by to me, before we knew it Jessie closed the set. Staying on stage for an encore Stampede did a repeat. During the regular set guitar problems handicapped Days of Wine and Roses a bit. Now in full we got a second chance and what a brilliant song that is really. And then it was over, but with so many friends around a nice afterdrink was on the menu, followed at home by Josie's lovely cheese and onion quiche.

A recap of a succesfull night followed at home and as the alarm went of early-ish for their trip down to Belgium a short night until Stampede over the breakfast table. Well to me this whole experience was one to remember, so thanks to Stampede and Winterfell for that. For those who missed the merch table yesterday. Petrolhead by Reuben Archer's Personal Sin came out yesterday and can be bought in the blind. The Hague - Hurricane Town!!!