Monday, 19 March 2018

Savage Master & Steel Shock - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden 18 March 2018

Sometimes Tiago and I run in parallel yet rather similar fashion. So when he left at the end of the afternoon for the city center to eat something with friends and go to an action movie, I followed soon hereafter in the same direction. Now I was off for Leiden to drink some beers and watch some battle metal. If only Tiago knew how fantastic that can be he might have joined. Unfortunately he still does not get eighties metal and I would fall asleep during Lara Croft so our quality time remains for breakfast and dinner. But I was off to Leiden to see two bands I did not know yet and with both sounding interesting in advance on the internet I decided to ignore the last remainders of a bothering fever and face the cold. Mid March temperatures were that low, that we could do with some Metal Fire indeed. I did not know yet, but we would get just that.

Steel Shock were the first band and only watching the stage with swords, armour and a huge banner looked promising indeed. The cover of their debut album For Metal To Battle promised us even more. Fully in line with some of the best albums of the eighties this design was beautifully ugly. Attackers - Battle at Helms Deep sprung to mind. Unfortunately I still connected the design with not that nice, but next time I will get the Tee. This is cult, authentic and true in one shirt. Now I only got the CD after the show, which was one partying way of returning in time. Most songs were mid-tempo and good old heavy Metal in performance, so yes the shrieks, the solo's and the whoo-hooos were all there. The lyrics mentioned  the Heavy Metal textbook with a remarkable frequent return of words like: Steel, Fire, Defenders and Metal. The result of this all, was that the fast majoriy of those present had a very good time and we can speak of a small sensation. No this might not be original in music, lyrics or performance, but it happens to be the music we loved when we were younger and still goes down so fine with a beer in your hand. Special heads up to vocalist Nima Metalheart who managed to remind me of Helstar, Virgin Steel and Attacker indeed. Nice to know we have in Holland such a defender of True metal walking around, hope to see much more of them.

After this highlight headliners Savage Master were still to come. Soundchecking in their daily outfit, they left the stage to return with faces hidden behind black cloth. Apart from the vocalist that was. An impressive lady of small stature. Being the tall freak myself I am allowed to talk heights again, but looking someone wearing high heels and standing on a fairly high stage still straight in the eye must mean we talk different sizes indeed. What made her impressive was her voice. Luckily no operatic nonsense, but good old singing like we know from the eighties again. The event compared here with Doro, Lee Aaron and Leather Leone and yes that is the range we have to look at. Black masks or not the band played some mean metal as well. This hour and a bit flew by and  before I realized it they left the stage. Well they did return and gave us a nice surprise of a closer when Swords & Tequila came upon us with some help from Steel Shock vocals. Savage Master closed the evening in style and those who like their metal in eighties fashion had one blast of an evening really. I got myself one CD each and gained the knowledge that fever and beers do mix well and have a healing effect if consumed at right doses.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Hekz - Twisted Illusion

Usually I buy CD's. Nowadays online as all good shops in The Hague closed down, but the holding of a physical product shall for me always beat any download format that is out there. This time I am reviewing two download versions though, but both for a good reason. Before going into any detail it is already good to hear that England is and always shall be a stronghold for music. Also on the front of Progmetal where these two bands are compared with bands like Rush, Queen and Dream Theater. Both of them fronted and contacted throug a Matt, there are more than a few parallels indeed.

Hekz - Invicta
This April 20 Hekz shall release Invicta upon the world. As a special Pre-release show they play Alphen aan de Rijn next Friday 23 March. I was already eyeing this show as I do own and like their first two albums. To my surprise Hekz invited me to put some words on their new album down. Well only if hating the album, one can refuse such request really and luckily I can tell Invicta does not disappoint. On several fora Hekz have always been compared to the greats in progmetal plus Iron Maiden. Now I do not hear that much Maiden, but can see where namedropping of Threshold or Dream Theater are coming from. If there is any band I am reminded of most however, it must be Everon, but than without the German accent. Everon always bordered between heavy progrock or lighter progmetal, with great songs, sounds and voices. Well Hekz, does just that to me. this album spends ten songs with the range we know from them. Midtempo rockers, Piano ballad parts and some Epics. The Epics are this time twofold with Line in the Sand and The Devil's coin clocking in around ten and fifteen minutes respectively. Where the long songs give the band the chance to change between moods, for me the outstander is this time their uptempo headbanger. To the Lions must be one of the better bangers released this year and where uptempo throughout, we also get some high shrieking vocals any fan of eighties metal should love. But this is my favorite song today, which can change until catching them live next week. One song deserves a special mention as well being closer Victorious. Songs like that aren't written that often anymore these days. It is Hekz answer to We Are the Champions. This song could echo around football stadiums worldwide really. Well not  in Holland or Paris, as both football is shite. Pity that I don't think Hekz will ever get the exposure for the world to pick this anthem up, but maybe their local team can do something with it. Resuming there is something for everyone into progmetal really. So Parktheater Alphen it is next week (cold and fever improvement allowing) for seeing some new songs on stage and picking up the physical copy.

Twisted Illusion - Excite the Light: Part 1
Those following my blog must have noticed the impact Twisted Illusion made on me last year. This band released a debut album in 2016, a double album in 2017 and here we have Excite the Light Part 1, the first of a trilogy. With a production rate like that one might fear a drop in quality at times. Well going through the downlead that anticipates the Pledge CD I did not hear any such drop really. So what does Twisted Illusion all that right? They just start and play songs telling us a story, without worries on formula's or rules. This means that we often get acustic openings followed or not by a gripping guitar solo. Another point of reference are the choirs shouted loudly at us by the band and the voice of Matt going all over the place really. When I first heard them I mentioned they sound like Motley Crue playing progmetal. This mainly based upon Matt's vocals, although he can teach Vince Neil a lesson or two on variation. Six songs make up for this album and the title track starts of fast and furious. Not sure yet if I have any favorite track here, as all work for themselves. One of them is an "oldie" as Molly's Smile was released as a single already last year. The Molly in this song is Molly Mear and this beautifull epical ballad became the anthem of Mearfest. the world's most sympathetic Charity Metal Fest that I know off. After that epic, the album is closed by a song called after the band. It amazes again how we can move from singalong chorusses to calm acustics and that ever returning impressive guitar solo. So now comes the scary bit.  Twisted Illusion are unsigned. Still their pledge campaign reached target within 24 hours from release. We the fans (Illusionists) are a community not unlike the Marillion freaks, loving any step of the band. Unlike Marillion though Twisted Illusion did not yet sell millions of albums, nor can they afford their fan weekends. Still as we should trust in quality I somehow think this band will become one day a sort of household name. The Pledge for Part 2 shall start in August, you can still jump the bandwagon and become one of the early discoverers..I hope to finally catch them live at Mearfest early June.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Michael Schenker Fest - Oceans of Slumber - Tribulation

Coming home sick after a short week travelling for work left me with time to listen a bit better to some interesting recent releases. So herewith my thoughts and buy recommendations.

Michael Schenker Fest - Resurrection
Last year Michael Schenker Fest hit Holland and it was one of those shows that blew me away. Michael Schenker getting back the three vocalists of the eighties. This together with Ted McKenna, Chris Glen and Steve Mann meant a party indeed. Going through a history of my youth sounded so good and the atmosphere and playing were on a high. So when a new album was announced, I knew I was going to buy it for completion and historical perspective alone. Now through the years I did not get all his albums, but a decent number. I never expect the impact that he first three MSG albums made on me, but at the same time the guitars always kept on sounding great. So when the album opens we get the first surprise with uptempo Heart and Soul, a fast rocker. On the guitar parts a certain Kirk Hammett starts a dual with Michael just to set the tone I guess. Next song Warrior is the hit from the album and allows all four vocalists to share the duties. With the singalong chorus this should becoem a live anthem. Actually quite a few songs tend to have this massive chorusses and should work fine on stage. The split between the vocalists is made and I like the Graham Bonnett song Night Moods as it fits his voice so well. The album sounds like a bunch of people having fun, making an album in the style we grew up with and love so much. Including Doogie White in the Fest made sense as his voice has a different colour as well. A final word for the guitar god himself as he still manages to talk to us through his solos. My only doubt is in the title Resurrection. This implies MSG was flat on the floor before, while I have seen several very strong shows in different setups (MSG, Temple 0f Rock) over the past decade. I guess "continuing on top of the game" didn't sound as catchy as album title.

Oceans of Slumber - The Banished Heart
Well did they make it hard for us listeneres on this one. Oceans of Slumber announced over the last months that their new album would be dark and heavy. When I first heard it not giving it all attention, maybe disappointment was lurking around the corner. Well that got corrected by now, but still listening to this album in full ain't no walk through the park. Putting perspectives I discovered this band when releasing their debut Aetherial with Ronnie Allen on vocals. Being something very new and refreshing to me that album became my album of the year 2012. When Winter was released in 2016 we got a surprise with swap of vocals to Cammie Gilbert. This new setup worked very well for me as well and having the chance to see them on stage opening for My Dying Bride and later Enslaved I could see how great they are live. So we have here a potential favorite band for the coming decade in hands, so expectations rise accordingly. This explains the initial disappointment as well, while at first undetailed listen it seems to have too many calm bits. Oceans of Slumber combine extreme metal parts with soft piano bits just like that. Well that is still in place, the playing as good as we got used to and Cammie does have a striking voice. So opening with some long songs that change moods at first even Madder Mortem - Deadlands era comes to mind. Enough going on and happening here, while in At Dawn they possibly released my favorite track of the album. The title track is a sort of long power ballad with a beautiful building up of emotions towards the end. We continue heavy after a dark instrumental sound effect piece with Etiolation and  A Path to Broken Stars. Why the latter has it's lyrics not pulished in the booklet is unclear to me. It is the one song that stays fast throughout. When already exhausted we get another four songs all rather mild in tempo and dark in moods. While certainly some will consider the duet with Tom Englund (Evergrey) No Color, No Light a highlight I prefer the title track as ballad.  Closing down with a 150 year old cover is original and different again. Now I still have not heard by far eneough of this album to opinion how strong I rate it. There are very good songs for us and the darkness has to become clearer in time. I can safely state that they released a thrid top album out of three (plus a cover album Blue). Now Oceans of Slumber return to 013 yet again. While I could accpet them opening for MDB and Enslaved, opening for Epica just won't do. So I hope for a long headline slot one day soon. And yes I will repeat my requests for Coffins Like Kites as after all Aetherial still might be their best album.

Tribulation - Down Below
 This band is on another fanbase level for me. I saw them touring the previous album The Children of the Night in Leiden and loved their performance. This band has the remarkable characterisitc, that their voclas are much heavier than the music itself. I already felt this with TCOTN, but with Down Below they take it to the next level really. The vocals continue Blackish, while the music is actually very accessible. Opener The Lament starts procedures off very well a catchy upbeat song. Going through the album this new style is omnipresent and it works wonderfully well to me. Instrumental Purgatorio halfway through could have been on a Faith No More album in the nineties. This band is very much about shocking. The stage clothes already did surprie in the past, while this mix is bound to confuse people as well. The voice far too heavy for many and the music too light for others. Pity that the Tribulation / Insomnium package skipped Holland and plays Lisbon in April three days before I arrive. I could do with another Tribulation live show and see if the album grows even further herefater. 

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Bent Knee & Golden Caves - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 2 March 2018

This review has to start with a warning for Andy: If yesterday you already were upset that I am going to see Q5 this summer, you might not want to read about me seeing one of your recent favorites. To make it more serious I even skipped Blind Ego, high on your 2016 best album list, due to family priorities. So Progdreams 2018 started this Friday night. Josie was also arriving at Schiphol at 22:25. So as faith decided I could just see the band I was most interested in until 22:00 and leave for the airport. Now I saw and liked Blind Ego last year, but they shall return I guess. Progdreams is a small event for connaisseurs of Progrock. Through the years they showed always to include some interesting and exotic names, often before they breakthrough (as long as that is possible in Progrock). So while I only could attend the Friday night partially, bands like Alan Reed, Dave Kerzner or Lifesigns would be very interesting indeed along top headliners Magenta and Steve Rothery. Now Tim Bowness already cancelled due to snow in England. As he was only scheduled for Sunday this did raise some eyebrows. First today the snow is disappearing fast here already and second Bent Knee took 4 trains and a night ferry to make up for a cancelled flight from London. Yet not knowing any details we can only guess. The program today suddenly shows Focus instead of Lifesigns as well, so the UK must be much worse indeed.

It was up to Dutch band Golden Caves to open the festival. Now Andy is not the only one impressed with this band. The fairly large international Progpower delegation present seemed to like them as well and the famous Roarrrr towards the stage did surprise some people unaware of this crowd custom. Now I started completely blank on this band and could judge for myself. Well first the playing and principally singing were above average. This girl has a great voice and luckily stayed away from operatic screaming. While the band was also good, not all that glitters was gold to me. The songs themselves did not make much of an impact on me, as I missed variation. All moody and calm I believe as always that one fast short rocker would boost their set and one long epic guitar solo sounded welcome to me as well. Still I did like the performance overall and during the last two songs a bit more of a bite was mixed in. I guess they won over new fans and reconfirmed their talent to old ones.

The band of the evening for me however was Bent Knee. Last year I discovered them when they released their already fourth album Land Animal. Now their music is hard to describe as it hangs between genres and styles really. So let me start with the looks as they were also not your every day band. As I am a tall freak myself I am allowed to comment on heights and the majority of Blind Knee is not that tall really. Passing the stage  from left to right we had a kind of DJ on the left. Wearing headphones his role was unclear to me, but I guess he took care of some soundscapes in the music. Then we got a small violinist who was moving around while playig or picking his violin. Centre stage the lead vocalist, a small lady with an impressive voice (Ani di Franco alike at times) and strong presence on stage. During the calm parts she could dominate the audience Hogarth alike with just a voice and a few keys.  On the right the female bass player who danced through the show and when she got lead vocals in one song I was reminded of This Mortal Coil. On the back the drums were steady and moving from heavy beats to soft accompanying the calmer parts. So now I skipped the guitarist and he really was the hero of the band to me. His head reminded of Zappa,  his colourfull unbalanced jacket he must have bought at Zeeman in the eighties and his playing was flawless and varied. At times he took off his glasses allowing him to bang and jump more franctically around stage. To make the interesting picture complete inbetween songs the band as thank you to the audience starting waving to the crowd. After a while people started waving back and the whole show got a royal tour through the city atmosphere.
But they played music as well and while I only have one album I recognized many songs and the new ones were easy to follow as such. Yet there was something contradicory happening with me. I totally loved the show and performance, while at the same time this is not your typical music I could absorb any time or day. So while we have friends, without the need to mention Esther and Michel, who followed Fates Warning through Europe on the full tour I can see how brilliant that is. With this band I now saw it and do not need to see them again anytime soon. Next year would work, but the same set on the same tour again would be too much. Yet if you have the chance to ever see them, go and do so as this is something atypical and interesting. They made the huge effort to reach Zoetermeer in time  and I was pleased to be at their debut show in Holland. I only believe they made an exchange rate mistake somewhere as underground shows with CD's for EUR 20 and shirts for EUR 30 was something new to me. And while I am writing this day two of Progdreams starts. Maybe one day the timing suits me so that I can attend the three days. as small festivals like these deserve all support.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Icarius - HPC The Hague 16 February 2018

There is something good happening on the metal front in The Hague. Various styles of metal are represented by newish bands that over the last years showed to have it in them to become a national force in their genre. To name but a few: the Thrash metal from Defazer The Death metal of Warborn Waste, the Progmetal of Resolve is returning next month with a new vocalist and Power Metal Boreas was unfortunately a scheduled one-day fly. If then THHMA brings international bands to town/region and after Metalcon died The Hague Metal Fest takes over, it is not all doom and gloom behind the dunes really.

Icarius are the local hopes in the modern metal(core). As family is involved for friends, we use to get some people together when they play a local gig. Icarius a young band. so they bring a young audience of friends and fans. As a results the six of us upped the average age at least 5 years. HPC filled up well enough and we could wait to see if they keep on getting better. They had two support bands tonight, but they were not really my thing. Both the deathcore from District of Misery and the Pearl Jam light of Rain Nation did not make much impact on me, as these bands should just keep playing live shows to improve. Icarius we already saw several times and yes they manage to keep their curve of performances going up. Three guitars lay the base and for the first time this evening one of them actually played nice solo's during the songs. Also the vocals are very good, both from Nick as their second voice. If we add a band bouncing around the stage and an audience jumping along every now and then it was a good show yet again. Last month they won the Metal Battle Zuid Holland in Baroeg, so let's see where they can go from here. For us it probably is 6 april Musicon for seeing them again. Now that they also have an EP for sale we might even recognize 5 songs next time. Keep an eye on these guys as they might go furthest of all them local bands. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Trial, Portrait & RAM - Merleyn Nijmegen 13 February 2018

Roadkill is the name of this package touring Europe. Anyone into good old Heavy Metal as it was meant to be should be there. So when this tour hit Holland (just) I knew I should be there. I wrote just as this tour is somewhat German based on the logistics. If you are in the centre of Nijmegen and you get somewhat upset, you can throw a German Sausage straight back to where it came from. Further 11 out of 16 dates in Germany and none in Belgium (full house guarantee with these bands) looked onesided planning. So crossing the country it was and not willing to risk failing trains I drove. Upon my arrival in Nijmegen I discovered to my surprise that Nijmegen also does carnaval. Not that it was busy, but loads of empty cups, confetti, a beer tent and most positive several people wearing outfits in the colours of The Hague. So I got worried on the evening. Closing night of carnaval I thought we could rule headbangers from nearby Brabant and Limburg out. Further a Tuesday does not appeal to many (I couldn't find anyone interested in joining me even by car) and how worried did we need to be on a very empty Merleyn (not Merelyn as teh RAM-tee said). Well no worries here as it turned out that sympathetic Merleyn filled up OK taken it was a Tuesday evening. Turned out I am not the only one who can always be called for Metal music with the Crushin' and the Screams. Being warmed up by the likes of Priest, Maiden, Accept, Manowar we were ready to go. This evening gave us Heavy Metal as we like it: so we got three steady drummers, three stable bassists, Six great guitars and three vocalist extraordinair. 

Trial made me drive down to Nijmegen really. Three years ago they released Vessel and after reading about them in Iron Fist and getting that album I was hooked. I mean my yearlist of 2015 albums had Vessel on One. Trial play Heavy Metal, but with some very own  flavours blended in. In the past I used terms like US Metal, doomy and a certain dose of Psychotic Waltz. Listening to a song like Ecstasy Waltz it could have blended in on any of the first PW albums, without anyone noticing. There are two things in music that are hard to beat. First discovering a new favorite and second seeing that band on stage for the first time. So when they opened with Motherless it was this moment of checking the basics.  Band tight -check, solo's loud and fluent-check, vocals clear and impressive major check. Apart from Trial being a great band their vocalist Linus Johansson deserves a special mention. In reviews the name Bruce Dickinson is being dropped at times to name just one. His high screams seemed to come out easily while his faster lyrics were brought powerfull. The best of all was that I was right with my Psychotic Waltz reference, even as I learned from some members they did not even know that band. Linus' presentation looked more than a bit like a young Devon Graves, like when he still was called Buddy Lackey. Seemingly in trance, with hooked moves and gestures, open shirt barechested the comparison, also in vocal abilities was there. But the band played on and Vessel was visited with Through Bewilderment. Next on came two more songs from Motherless (which by the way is as good as Vessel) in Aligerous Architect and Cold Comes the Night. And then it was already over with The Primordial Temple title track from their debut. Since discovering Vessel I looked for this album on CD, but can't find it really. Later on I learned only 500 were pressed, so chances really slim on finding it. So recovering from the set I found that Trial are live as good as I hoped for. Unfortunately due to curfew of Merleyn they had to shorten their set and dropped To New Ends. Now they are signed with Metal Blade we might see more of them in the future. This is one band I wil travel for, so if I ever see an announcement of a 90 minute anniversary set I might book flight. hotel and tickets. A long set would give them the chance to play more calmer and doomier stuf as well. Actually I think they would please a fair amount of people at Progpower, but I've been wrong there before. As souvenirs they brought a bronze single of Where Man Becomes All and nice T-shirts. Reoccuring tip to Scandinavian bands: While touring Holland (and Germany I guess) bring XXL.

So after Trial made an impact the evening was far from over for me. Portrait gave the world last year with Burn the World one of the best Heavy Metal albums of the year. Their influences might come fron Denmark mid eighties, but they have a typical Portrait sound with lots of aggression. Again I never saw them before, so opener Burn the World would give first impressions. Well also not to worry here. The sound seemed a bit messy at first, but when Per's voice came through and the guitars were duelling freely we got some of the best possible metal tunes. The fact that made this even more impressive was that Portrait toured with two standins on drums and guitar. Well nothing I noticed going wrong on the songs I knew. Songs I knew as I do not have all their albums. Some years ago I got the CD with the complicated latin title, I missed Crossroads and had Burn the World again. From the last album I heard strong versions of Mine to Reap and Martyrs passing by. Possible highlight of the set was however coming from Crossroads in Epic long song Lily. So I got that CD afterwards. The energetic set closed with the opener of the latin album Beast of Fire. Not much latin in that and we got something you expect a neckbreaking banger with flying guitar solo's all over the place. So Portrait was the second hit an evening that was already epic to me.

Headlineres are RAM also from Sweden. They exist longest, have released most albums and to be frank got the most reactions from the crowd. Now don't get me wrong I do like RAM and believe I saw them before at a festival. Yet where Trial sound to me totally original, Portrait have something own to them, RAM play Heavy Metal. Nothing wrong with wearing your influences on your sleeve, but it means I would not recognize any music as fast being RAM as I would with the others. I only have one of their CD's  (Svbversvm) and therefore did not know as much music as the rest of the obviously loving this audience. Many people banging and shouting along the lyrics. I did recognize the openers and they were brought powerfull indeed. To go further I could see RAM have lots of touring under their belts and were completely at ease on stage.  I on the other hand started feeling less at ease when their gloved vocalist promised a punch in the face on exit to everyone not buying their new album. So I did like this show, but it did not blew me from my socks. Yet RAM might become one of the flag barrers of Good old Heavy Metal, when the originals all retired.

Given the fact that Nijmegen is bloody far away on a Tuesday for such a small country I left before the set closed. Roadkill turned out to be a package not to miss indeed. For me it gave with Trial a band I would consider seeing in Sweden one day if they promise 75-90 minutes, Portrait I would go and see anywhere in Holland anytime soon again and RAM one to watch when passing the west of Holland. Yes it is not all about geographics, it is just plain Heavy Metal and I loved it.


Saturday, 10 February 2018

Howling Sycamore - Hamferd - In Vain

I thought I was going to spend this evening in Nobel in Leiden for some thrash and death metal, but a very nice evening at the Huppel last night. putting last dots on I's for our Lisbon football trip in April, made me change my mind. So why not share some CD tips on the heavier edge of my taste.

Howling Sycamore - Howling Sycamore
Now I wrote about this band before. When I first read about them and listened to the two songs they put on bandcamp I was hooked fast. With Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), Jason McMaster (Watchtower) and Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid) one can not expect pop music. To my astonishment I just saw only 791 people follow this band on FB. So while I stumble from one raving review into another for some reason the band is not coming through in big numbers yet. Now is their adventurous progressive metal not for the masses, but people into original and beautiful music should love this. Yes at times there is a saxophone, but only for increasing the haunting atmospheres. Jason McMasters never sung simple melodies, so he won't start now. There is a lot going on this album and the 37 minutes fly by. The opening songs are having a dark spell over them. After short instrumental Intermezzo Midway almost sounds accessible. Chant of Stillness a sort of ballad reminds me of the album by Midnight (The ex vocalist of Crimson Glory RIP, not the BM band). Descent to Light is an epic closer before the second short instrumental Dysphoria ends the album. Only 37 minutes, but more going on than on many extended discographies by your average band. The year just started, but I doubt many albums will make a bigger impact than this one on me in 2018. Listen to it!

Hamferd - Támsins Likam
The Faroer Islands, a place the vast majority of people can not point on the map of the world. Yet they bring us now a second metal band of certain fame (after Tyr). Now Tyr became famous due to a whale hunting voclaist and banned shows. Hamferd can let the music do the talking. In this case I really mean the music as they sing in their own language so that can be just about anything (Actually it is the end of a trilogy about mortality and loss) Somehow this singing fits their death doom metal very well. The sticker on the CD said Death Doom, but they are fairly mild and the death part is not huge. This music is all about creating atmospheres and Hamferd manage to do so in an impressive manner. Six songs of an average 7 minutes with all an own identity really. Vocalist of Hamferd is Jón Aldará, whom I saw on stage during Dutch Doom Days in Baroeg with the band Clouds. I was already impressed by Clouds, but could not get their sold out CD. Now I have Hamferd on album and they come to Holland next Wednesday. As this is only a support slot in not so nearby Tilburg and the evening before I have to be in even further Nijmegen I shall pass. Yet this CD is definitely good for dark days around us and comforting us on long winter evenings.

In Vain - Currents
In Vain play Death Metal, but not the most brutal kind. Actually they are very accesible and their technical version of same with many clean vocals in, might even make them suitable for Progpower. A band like In Mourning springs to mind as reference. Currents is the fourth album by In Vain, but a start for me. Well this tasted like more. Playing this album a few times in order to know the songs works best, as this type of Death Metal can even be hummed along to while slowly banging your head up and down. While the vocals can be understood easily, it is a pity that no lyrics are included with the CD. Well one sentence we cannot miss, being the gutteral low Blood We Shed when the music stops and the voice continues some seconds. Now In Vain are also coming to Holland this month. Well I shall be in Lisbon that day and big part of their target audience should be at Complexity Fest I guess. Hope they come back headlining soon, as this accessible Death Metal sounds like it deserves a stage for us.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Dr. Living Dead, Comaniac, Rezet & Razend - Baroeg Rotterdam 4 February 2018

Thrash metal on a Sunday afternoon seemed a good plan. For me it closed a diverse 10 days which gave me Progrock, Death Metal, Classic Rock and Heavy metal before. Dr. Living Death on tour through Europe supported by some younger bands. I did not know any of them in advance, so just a few clips on Baroeg's event page made me go to Rotterdam again. Entering slightly late Dutch openers Razend were already halfway through their set. This was a pity as it turned out that Razend is a good band. They have a female vocalist who stays far from opera and reminded me at times of Agnete from Madder Mortem. The band played something between trash and US metal, with the latter influence especially during the semi ballad. As they are dutch I hope to see them soon again with a full set. Next on were the German band of the day Rezet. Musically they played a thrash metal style I possibly liked best of the day, as I heard several US references. Their mainly fast to very fast songs went down well and the clip of Minority Erazer is a good reference for further exploring. Koen told me THHMA had them play de Vinger in The Hague already several years ago. I must have missed that by not being around, as this was one solid thrash metal gig.

Next on another young band from another European country: Comaniac from Switzerland. Another good show as well. Their thrash metal sounded more European to me, but the delivery was as enthusiastic. No songs titles stuck with me, but also a band one can go and see for some moshing songs any day. So for Dr. Living Death the task to close this early evening off in style. Last year they played Alcatraz Metal Fest, but on the day I left Belgium. Dr. Living Death on stage meant masks, bandanas, bermuda's and loads of energy. This was by far the most energetic presentation of the day, with the guys bouncing around the stage all the time. While jumping around all the time, the playing was extremly tight. At the same time the reference with Suicidal Tendencies which I read before, was there for sure. Now ST are not my favorite band, but I could enjoy the show. So four interesting bands on a late afternoon/early evening show made for another Sunday well spent.


Friday, 2 February 2018

Anvil - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden 1 February 2018

Anvil started their European tour in Leiden. The story of Anvil is known, as that is also the title of the best Music documentary ever made. In my office I made the DVD obligatory cultural education some seven years ago. Everyone loved the band after seeing the movie and those into metal should have a soft spot for Anvil. Now the film is already almost ten years old and Anvil did pass Holland several times since then. Knowing that the tour started with no less than four shows in Holland I thought Gebr. de Nobel were far too optimistic, putting Anvil in the big hall which can hold around 800. With an early start at 19:00 and the usual train problems I arrived when Rampart were closing their set announcing the last song in an accent stronger than Doro. The few people in made it look even worse than feared. After a short break GreyAttack started and I recognized the guys with sunglasses from a previous show on the same stage. Their mid-tempo rock was Ok, but the bar at the entrace with many friends turned to be more tempting. The evening was passing fast as we even seemed to gain on the time-schedule. So when we came close to nine I returned into the main hall.

Wow, that was a nice surprise. The big hall filled completely. Well maybe not sold out, but even the two rings of balcony looked busy. so I was wrong and maybe the interview in the university magazine and showing the movie the previous evening gained some people. While saying that the majority was well beyond student age. Anyway it was Anvil time and Lips played March of the Crabs from within the audience to kick things off. A strong version of 666 followed and the atmosphere was set. Anvil know how to build a set so when they played an unknown new song from their last album  it was followed by another highlight Winged Assasins. Talking about highlights the I-did-something-wrong-grin of Lips when he pulled out his vibrator for the famous guitar solo remains funny. Mothra is also as a song one of their classics by the way. Like they should Anvil also remembered the recently passed away producer Chris Tsangaridis with Free as the Wind.When towards the end new song Eagle was played there even was a growing circle pit. Not sure if this was something new to some documentary fans, but it all was in friendly violent fun style. Metal on Metal announced the end of their set and yes, it is a classic singalong that everybody knows. An encore could have been Forged in Fire for me, but it wasn't. A succesfull evening came to an end, with a great show and for a change a much larger crowd than I expected and hoped for. Anvil also seemed pleased with the start of their tour. Now everybody shall say that, but if Anvil are one thing it must be genuine. Unfortunately I could not stay all that long in Leiden as today I had an 08:30 appointment at the dentist for some Pounding the Pavement in my mouth. This was too bad as I just saw some nice pictures passing by of friends with the band in the after show drinking party. Let's hope their tour stays such a success with Little Devil already being long sold out.


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Thunder & Lovell's Blade - Boerderij Zoetermeer 30 January 2018

Thunder back in de Boerderij is a matter of why not go and see an evening of feel good music. Actually Thunder's melodic hard rock would fit better on the beach at Schollenpop than on a dark winter night. Still de Boerderij filled nicely with an open balcony and just space enough for easy walks around without fighting through the crowds. I follow Thunder as such, but not extremely close. I have several CD's, but not all and seeing them every two years suits just fine. Their last album Rip it Up I only heard once, flying KLM for work. It seems that my years as frequent flyer suggesting more hard rock on their entertainment system resulted in some advance, as I was surprised to find Thunder as an option,

First band of the evening was Lovell's Blade. This band contains several ex-Picture members and plays actually a style slightly more melodic than expected. I saw them before at Very 'Eavy and again they sounded fine, but their songs lacked a bit of urgency. It all passed by smoothly without too many attention seekers. When they played their last song Out For Blood I thought they were at their peak of the set and we could have had more of those ballsy songs. Good not shocking was my ordeal therefore.

Thunder on stage is always a guarantee of good playing. It also amazes how the voice of Daniel Bowes does not show signs of aging whatsoever. He definitely is one of the best voices in melodic hard rock, while every tour he starts looking more and more like Bert van Marwijk (Australian not Saudi coach at World Cup). The rest of the band is also tight and the solo spots for Luke Morley are to me the highlights of the show. This evening it seemed to me that Thunder overdosed a bit on the ballads. Only occasionally they went for uptempo rockers and most songs had calm guitars with the beautiful voice of Daniel over it. Astrid was right calling it Ladies'night this evening. If I see that Ron and Hans were not bothered joining Astrid and Mary, plus the large number of women in the audience, she was probably right. A Thunder set for me always had three good guarantees, of which one was skipped tonight. So we had Backstreet Symphony and their ballad hit Love Walked In. To my surprise no Low Life in High Places tonight. Yet a mix of old and new songs. In advance I was hoping for one of my favorite Thunder songs of all time to return in their set tonight after a long time, as the topic became relevant again. On their album Behind Closed Doors from 1995 they had a powerfull song on a very sad occasion in "It Happened in This Town". The song told the true story of two 10-11 year old boys killing a small child. Now recently I heard on the BBC that one of them was recently arrested again for sexual assault. That song expresses the anger and frustration and is an alltime classic. I do understand that this dark story does not fit in an evening of positivism that is a Thunder show. So in the end the playing was flawless. The request for clapping and oooh-oooh or naa-naaa-nananaaaah a bit too much and the songs good. Thunder plays to make people feel good and they managed to do so again.

Monday, 29 January 2018

In the Grip of Winter Fest - Baroeg Rotterdam 28 January 2018

In the Grip of Winter is a new festival added to the Baroeg calendar. As any new metal festival deserves support this mainly Death Metal gathering was to be visited. Now I arrived late as I first was invited for a football  match a few km away from Baroeg. Dutch football and me basically stopped in 1992 when I left VVP 5, informed the KNVB of my unavailability for the national team and stopped goig to see Eredivisie matches. In those days playing in het Zuiderpark we used to go after our own match to FC Den Haag with a team of Martin Jol, Cor Lems, Karel Bouwens, Joop Lankhaar, or so to say an easy national champion nowadays. Football in Holland is in a freefall, but I enjoyed the afternoon. Even if we had the louder support, the better chances but lost 3-1. This meant I entered Baroeg after the first three bands had played already. Rene told me that Reptilian were very strong and Arian said Craven Idol to be a good band.

So I started with Execration from Norway. Their Death Metal was tight and grooving, but a bit too monotonous for me. We did not get sudden changes in pace or riffs. Next on were Brazilians and I have to support my semi countrymen. Luckily Rebealliun made it easy to support, as their set did have the variation needed to keep an intense Death Metal set interesting. Maybe the breaks inbetween songs could be shorter for devastating effects, but what a solid show they gave us. Now playing their last album, it is fast and brutal on CD as well.

Pestilence were the main act and the ones who attracted most people. Now when Pestilence broke through in Holland I still was afraid of grunts, so they never were my band. As with age one becomes harder, I now could see they are Holland's pride on the technical death metal front. Maybe not as brutal as Rebealliun their playing brought the day to the next level really. This set was build around their first albums, with for me no nostalgic flavor therefore. To many others there was old glory and one succesfull show they presented us. As trains would not ride home and a swap to bus or metro halfway was needed I left when they were closing their set and pleased to see half this new festival. Let us see if this will be repeated next year.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Red Bazar & Tiger Moth Tales - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 26 January 2018

This year started for me on the live front with three evenings of only Dutch metal bands, but the coming week I go international and kicking off that week was an evening of very British Prog rock. To me Very British is a compliment as ever since I discovered this musical style my favorites have been British bands. Until today Brits are a class on their own, unless you are Australian Anubis who meets that class. Over the years I have seen live and bought on CD so many new British Prog bands, that stepping in for an evening of two unknown bands to me is hardly a risk. Now the announement on this event was not vey clear to me, so I was unsure if we would get one band playing songs of both, or if we would get two seperate bands. Turned out the latter, while I knew in advance that Peter Jones would be the core of both bands. Now Peter Jones is quite a remarkable character. First he is blind, so joing the ranks of Jeff Healey here. Tonight his instruments were keyboards and on a standard over that a horizontal guitar. Henriette and Harry told me that last time he also played several brass instruments on stage. Finally he is more than a bit of an average player as even Camel asked him to join them, so we can see him again in June. De Boerderij looked upon arrival empty and there were tables with chairs at the front and higher tables further back. In the end it stayed empty-ish, but not as desastrous as Ork two years ago when tables also made up for empty spaces.

Red Bazar was the opning band. Now last year (or 2016) I tried to order their CD Tales from the Bookcase, but the postmen between Wales and Holland did not work. The seller very friendly returned my money and I promised to go and check them out and get the album if ever they would play Holland. So that was corrected and it did not take long to see this would be one of those bands  that impress you fast. Very british indeed the music holds all the parts good British prog needs for me. Long songs with story telling. A solid band with good musicians and at times heavy bits, mainly through great guitar solo's. And then there was Peter Jones. I read that people compared his voice with Peter Gabriel and yes that could be heard. Also traces from bands like Big Big Train, Cosmograf or Frost were around. To make the evening even more British the line This Green and Pleasant Land passed by. Now I  had to google it as too many progbands mentioned that line. Turns out it is from a William Blake poem, so got that sorted. The set of well over an hour focuseed on the last album, with also an older song in, when Red Bazar were still an instrumetal band. So when Peter Jones joined they got a voice in. At the same time an instrumental past shows that the band must be good enough to keep matters interesting during an instrumental set. Conclusion another great Prog band from the UK, which I shall return to often, when I look for quiet soundtracks during dark or sunny days.

A break with no stage change and Tiger Moth Tales would be on. Well to my surprise not only Peter Jones returned, but the whole band was the same. OK the band put on different shirts, but   I recognized those faces. So hallo again to drummer Paul Comerie and on bass and guitar Mick and Andy Wilson (now that's a name you don't get often in British Prog). The question to me was if this would be very different musically. Well maybe not extremely different, I felt that TMT go a bit weirder on their sound at times, mixing in whatever they feel like. Luckily the high standards of performing remained and we got another impressive show. Another plus on British prog I did not mention yet, is that their inbetween song banter in general is filled with an undercooled dry sense of humor (unlike many continental bands I saw). Peter was not different and when he while buggering about during an opening gave us the tune of Blackadder, all was good. As I knew no songs in advance I can not name any highlights by songtitle really although something with a Tiger in the title was very good. The guitar over Peter's keys was used more this set and it turns out that he can shred away on this horizontal setup. So this turned out to be an evening of almost 2.5 hours top prog rock. Bands like these never reach large crowds I am afraid, but if you have the chance to see either don't miss out. You always wonder why all these thousands of people who go to some Genesis cover band do not support originals like this. How can anyone prefer Firth of Fifth again, but not as good as the original, over refreshing new bands playing own songs in a style pretty similar. I must be too simple to get that point.


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Galahad - Trespass - Sinistro - Synaptik

As I already mentioned before, 2018 looks to become a good year for music based on January releases alone. About time I share some recommendations.

Galahad - Seas of Change
Galahad are one of my favorite progrock bands, although I only discovered them much later then the favorite ones that put me on track of this musical style (Marillion, Pendragon and Pallas). Galahad were never shy of mixing other styles and even electronical music in their prog, which to me always resulted in interesting albums. Last time I saw them live there was a big role for punky guitarist Roy Keyworth and bassist Neil Pepper. They have been replaced by old member Lee Abraham and Tim Ashton, but that does not seem to harm quality. With Seas of Change they released an epic of almost 43 minutes divided in 12 parts and describing the Brexit process. The result an epical album indeed with a Toastmaster and a Newsreader next to Flute, Clarinet and Sax to add some spice. When hearing the album first I was somewhat disappointed, but getting to know the songs after a while it turns out to be a grower. How I would love to see this album played in full. Stuart's vocals always sound somewhat thin, but fitting this very British progrock album all too well. Once again Galahad have proven to be unafraid to go sideways at times and these Seas of Change shall turn into a classic among their  discography for sure.

Trespass - Footprints in the Rock
Trespass are one of my favorite NWOBHM bands, although they never released an LP in the eighties. I knew them from the two songs I taped from Metal for Muthas and Bright Lights I had on a Stampij tape I believe (Stampij being the best radio show ever on Dutch national radio). Later on collections would appear with 16 songs on The Works and another 15 on The Works II. So why no LP? I guess labels were asleep, as Trespass were amongst the best with a very recognizable sound and One of These Days was a hit, that surprisingly never made them big. So next to their grungy album head in 1993, this actually is their first NWOBHM album on record. And the good news is, that while only Mark is original member the sound is still very similar to their songs of the eighties. Some songs sounded familiar as they played them in Musicon (Title track and Be Brave) and the overall sound is still very much melodic guitar intro and than rumbling on. Momentum has a clip on Youtube and pretty much represents the band. Good playing by Mark, Danny, Joe and Jason and yes I am allowed to call them by their first names, as they opened my HM B&B summer 2016 after all. In June they play the most sympathetic charity NWOBHM gig around at Mearfest and I am looking for logistics and a hotel already.

Sinsitro - Sangue Cássia
Ever since Portugal became more on our radar with Josie working there and future plans heading for Portuguese porco preto on the weekly menu, I also entered the local music scene. Turns out that Portugal has a lot to offer.mainly in the darker and heavier side of metal. After Moonspell Sinsitro might be the biggest metal exporter from the country with their Fado/Doom metal. The Fado comes from the voice of Patrícia Andrade, while the band is mainly slow and heavy. I became a fan with previous album Semente and went back in time to discover their hymn on Lisboa: Cidade. And now we have at the very begin of 2018 Sangue Cássia. Where Galahad were a fast grower, I must admit I still can not grasp this album fully. Maybe some headphones and reading along the lyrics might help.  With the lyrics being Portuguese (one of the languages multi-talented me masters) I do not feel that this adds to the experience as the music is all about the atmosphere. (Unlike Moonspell's 1755). Now I am still undecided about the album I hope to see Sinistro live again, as their show in Tivoli last year was very impressive. If so, than preferably together with Andrew who also loved their Semente album and mentioned me in his Ave Noctum review on this album. So returning the favors here. Maybe I can see them in their current and my future hometown Lisbon one day soon, sure that will be overwhelming.

Synaptik - Justify & Reason
A good thing about the end of each year is that people and magazines publish their end of year favorite releases. Now one of the lists I always eagerly look out to is Andy Read's one on DPRP/Something for the Weekend. We have a rather large overlap in musical taste and there are just too many releases to catch everything good. So when he started listing his first 10 out 30 highlights my ears fell on Synaptik. What a shame I missed this band until now, as they play a style of music I totally love. Somewhere along Tech Metal or Progressive Thrash metal. It only took the opening song The Incredible Machine on Bandcamp (Look for Tribunal records as Synaptik has only the debut album) to make me surf to their homepage shop and order both the debut and this album. This is very powerfull music, with strong melodies, heavy melodic vocals without a grunt and lots of guitars. The album contains after the first five songs another five that appeared on the debut as well. It seems to me that although slightly different only, the quality of the first five songs is even better. This is good news, as they are improving therefore. Than again the last song is a recording of Your Cold Dead Trace with Alan Tecchio! on vocals. Fans of Techmetal around 1990 should hear this. Andy mentioned righteously Watchtower and Sanctuary as references, I would add Toxik and Hans should rush to bandcamp now.


Friday, 19 January 2018

Callous Intent & Razorblade Messiah - Paardcafe The Hague 19 January 2018

On a stormy Thursday Paard had it's first metal cafe of the year. While Hans & Mary plus Peter & Marga  went to Essen to see Fates Warning in great form, I could not travel this day and enjoyed yet another evening of Dutch Metal. Actually Warborn Waste from The Hague closed the evening, but I left early due to old age. The evening was opened by Razorblade Messiah from Rotterdam. I saw them last summer in Musicon and loved their heavy metal. Tonight was not going to be much different as  their mix of speed and battle metal came over very fine. Instrumentally this band is very strong and their Russian vocalist has an impressive range. Therefore we get this typical eighties screams, while he also can get low and aggressive without entering grunts. The songs are mainly uptempo where they sing about Chaos, Fire, Warriors and Metal. Their signature headbanger is called Metal Messiah which is a very nice way to strain your neckmuscles. This band is often in the area and I will go and see them again later this year. Very nice band playing good old heavy metal.

Next on are Callous Intent. Now I was planning to see them last October, but missed out on the day, so pleased to see them now. They moved to the next level in heaviness as they play thrash/death metal. Sounding very nice from the beginning, the highlight were the topics they sung about. If you followed the news in Holland and found any horror stories over the past years Callous Intent have a song about it. So after they described the shopping mall shooter we got in Bird of Prey even a song about the killer Oehoe terrorizing the city of Purmerend two years ago. All was presented full of energy and fast. When their own songs were finished, we got some covers still. I did not know Dismember's Casket Garden, but it came over very well. When we thought it was all over, it was not. As it is common behaviour nowadays to shout for Slayer at any live show, it is not always met with a Slayer cover. Well tonight we got a good version of South of Heaven as an extra. This made it two great bands on one evening and enough for me.

So I skipped the death metal from Warborn Waste, but as I saw them before and probably see them again soon not to worry. As this band is much younger than the previous two, they brought many young friends and fans. I was taken by surprise when Peter & Marga's youngest daughter Lea asked if I was Erik indeed. Nice to see the next generation stepping in, as again this evening would have deserved more attendants. Those surfing their TV channels and couches at home lost out again.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Heritance, Deformus & Defazer - Musicon Den Haag 12 January 2017

The year is starting Dutch for me on the concert front. After last week's surprises by Vexation and Moonstruck I was going to Musicon to be surprised again. Well openers Defazer were not much of a surprise as they played a lot in the area the last years. The FB event only said that if you don't know them and are from The Hague you must have been living under a Rock. True that is as they are the best old school thrash metal band from the region (country?). Last year they released their strong EP Order Out Of Chaos, so by now we can recognize some of the songs. To me it seems they are getting tighter every next show and we really were treated on some top class thrash metal. Only during the last song it started as if all four decided on a different closer of the set at first. When this was corrected  they finished in style. For those not knowing them yet, check them out.

After the homematch of Defazer, with a musical style I am fanboy for 35 years it was time for new bands and less introduced styles to me. First one was Deformus a band hard to describe. Now usually this is a good thing and tonight it was partially true as well. Binding factor to me sounded their groove which was omnipresent in all songs. Further there seemed to be a metal blender in place as we got bits that were thrashy, death metal or whatever I could not put a finger on. As we do not live in an ideal world not all was perfect and for me the tempo could have been a bit faster at times and the vocals were both not overly exciting. Still musically some interesting parts mixed in, curious if they develop into a certain direction from here or stay rather wide in styles.

The Heritance closed the evening and although unknown to me, obviously a band with some experience below their belts. During the change over the small stage looked rather busy, but it turned out that one of the two vocalists would sing along on two songs only. Visually he was the mismatch anyway as he was blond, had no beard and seemed much younger than the rest of the band. When The Heritance started it turned out they played a Death/Thrash kind of metal, with the occasional break for twin guitars or good solo's. Their stage presence was good and their songs were as well. They even have a beer brewed by metalworld famous HappyFace beers: The Devil's Draught. This also turned out to be one of their best songs. As I am nearing a cold or fever, I was not bothered to get their merch package CD/Tee/Beer after the show, but rushed off fast. Next time I correct that I guess. Good closers of another fine evening of Dutch metal. Next evening of three Dutch metal bands Thursday in Paardcafe.  

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Moonstruck, Vexation & Daisy-D - Musicon The Hague 5 January 2018

Friday 5 January already so high time for kicking of 2018 gig year. Musicon put on some dutch bands which seemed to vary in style. As I had not been to any show over Christmas- New Year this looked a good start of the year. First band on were Daisy-D from Woerden. Now if you thnk their bandname is somewhat odd on a metal bill, their music was even less pinpointable. Coming on stage and looking at them I expected some sort of Southern rock (helped by the 3 guitars, beards or cap) During the first song I thought we would get a show of dark wave/rock due to the low voice. Than we got to melodic rock and more poppunk like songs of bands that mix rock and accesible heavyness. When their lead guitarist sung music went more towards melodic hardrock and those were my favorites, Finally re-occuring technical issues with one guitar did not help a lot on the speed front.

Second band were Vexation from Amsterdam. As they stated playing since 1758 they managed to stay under my radar for all these years. This is strange twofold, as first I do follow their style on stage 35 years by now and second I did like their music a lot. In fact they play NWOBHM. So we have two guitars, many uptempo work ,a solid base and decent vocals over that. Probably I did not go to enough old-school metal festivals in Holland to catch them earlier. Fact is that with this kind of faster headbanging metal you always have a winner on atmosphere. The band that got best reactions of the evening and one that made me wonder how many good Dutch bands are out their I've never heard of.

The evening was closed by Moonstruck bringing me back some 25 years in time. Their style of music reminded me strongly of Power-Progmetal as it was played in the early nineties. The late eighties brought us some US metal bands with progressive touches, with Heir Apparent and Lethal as two of my all time favorites. In Europe soon a wave followed with bands playing a style not dissimilar to them. Mainly German bands like Ivanhoe, Soul Cages or Richocher. Now Moonstruck reminded me very strong of latter bands. There is some Powermetal base, some Queensryche and instrumentally there is not much wrong either. If you than add the fact that they suddenly have one of Holland's best voices on stage we had a good band. Good songs, good performance and relaxed enough to convince on stage. My only advice to them would be writing two 3-4 minute all out headbangers to add variation in the setlist. I got ther EP Impact afterwards and shall keep an eye on shows of them in the area.

So for a first evening early in the year all was good again. Next week there is more in Musicon, when we go for heavier metal styles. I'll be back.