Friday, September 22, 2017

P60, Amstelveen (NL)

This festival will always put a smile on my face, mainly because there are a lot of bands on it, that you don't see that often. Besides that, it's always nice to catch up with many of the heavy metal maniacs, that we know for a long time. Two trips to Amstelveen have been planned this time. The first trip is only on Friday evening and the second one will be for a much longer part of the (Satur)day. Looking at the bill, there are three Dutch bands scheduled on day one and the second day is actually a melting pot of Dutch, Spanish, Swedish and English (heavy) metal bands. I could start to argue again, that I still have very fond memories of the Manifesto in Hoorn, where the festival started in the early days, but I won't. Those were the days and here in Amstelveen, we also got to see many interesting bands, like THE RODS, PRIMAL FEAR and HOLOCAUST, to name but a few. On Facebook, a lot of fans indicated that they were really looking forward to seeing this 2017 edition. Anyway, on the first day we are truly pleased to see ELISE back on stage again and we will celebrate the 35th anniversary of MARTYR. On the second day we will see the return of ATTILA and DREAM EVIL will close the festival. There's loads to enjoy, so let's see what happened on the top floor of the P60 in Amstelveen. Mind you, this is my personal view of what happened on stage. If you see things in a different way, which might be the case, I'm very sorry. Everybody is not the same and you are entitled to have your own opinion.

It's Friday evening and we're ready to party. And party is what we will do, because MARTYR will celebrate their 35th anniversary today and seeing the many posts on Facebook, we would be in for something really special, right before the band will leave on a tour in Japan. I wish, that they would have hired me to carry their suitcases through this beautiful country. Anyway, let's focus on the music now, because three bands will be on stage to kick some serious ass. The dead of Jannes Bloemert didn't come as a real surprise maybe, but it was still a huge shock to hear that this pioneer of Dutch metal had passed away. Would ELISE ever get over this? I think, they actually never will, but after some time a rockers heart knows that the fans will miss a band like ELISE on stage. Their great dynamic shows have always been a real treat for every devoted hard rocker, who has their heart at the right place. When they found Michael de Waard, they started to believe in a come back again and I'm so glad that they did. Tonight they would climb the stage for the very first time in several months. These things do take time, but I think that these guys felt so proud to be back again and they were ready to give two hundred percent, instead of the usual hundred. It's difficult I guess to play a show after a long absence, but with the Heavy Metal Maniacs they have a safe audience to play for, although they don't really need that. Their high quality metal is always welcome and when the band starts off with "Nightmare", everything feels like a warm bath. And after a few notes, the band plays like they have never done before. "Careless Rat" is on next and vocalist Gerd Hento runs from here to there on stage. He is a very energetic frontman and he knows like no one else what it's like to play in front of an audience like this. They have found the right flow in "Witchfinder" and Robbie's guitar solos sound meaner than ever. The man is a real killer, when you put a guitar in his hands. It's great to see how an experienced band like ELISE knows to impress the crowd. Gerd's vocals are strong and the rhythm tandem consists of Rieks (in the back) and Henk on the four fat string bass guitar. "Lights" and "Breaking Rules" show a band in perfect shape. All nerves, when they were there, are gone by now and apparently, Michael has found his place on stage as well. Five rockers at full force, storming at full power, that's the ELISE that I know and like so much. The best is saved for last with a smashing version of "7 Witches". Good grief, you can't escape these ladies. I'm very glad, that ELISE gets rewarded for their hard work with some loud cheers from the fans in front of the stage. They sure deserve every single bit. "Hell Of A Fight" is the next hammer that they throw in the audience. Try to avoid that smack in the face. Sorry, too late, BAM, another forceful attack strikes the audience. What power is being spread here. The forty-five minutes that they have is much too short in my opinion, but hey you can't have it all. The all-time crowd favorite closes the set of tonight and that's "Cry For Mankind" and I hear the first chorus sung by the audience, at least by some people in the audience, like myself. This has been a glorious ride for ELISE, as far as I'm concerned. The band deserves so much more recognition, because they surely know to put on a solid rock show.

Same goes for DISTILLATOR, who add a more direct approach to their sound. The band was added to the bill only a few weeks before the festival took place, because SABER TIGER cancelled their show. What a shame, because after seeing the band in Almere, I was really looking forward to seeing them again. Toine and Japanese heavy metal is a good combination, but it was all too good to be true. I don't have any problems with DISTILLATOR and their music is powerful and intense and they always get in with a loud bang and leave the public breathless in no time. They're like a bullet train, that will take you by surprise once the light is green. This three piece outfit could be compared to their partners in crime, like DESTRUCTION and SLAYER, to name but a few. Their music style is very comparable to each other. Their show starts with "Guerilla Insurgency' and "Mechanized Existence", and from these first two songs on, I noticed what kind of music the maniacs like to bang their heads upon most. There are quite a few people, that came to see this threesome in action and songs like "Estates Of The Realm" and "Shiver In Fear" sound very impressive. The thrash machine is at full steam now and that's the way you like it. Most of the songs are taken from their latest album "Summoning The Malicious", released in 2017 and rewarded by many good reviews. For "Revolutionary Cells" (the title track of their previous album) and "Distinct Or Extinct", the band also grabs back to their older stuff. All songs sound equally brutal and fast and the way they've been performed here, you could easily provide a large city with electricity, because DISTILLATOR only delivers the goods and doesn't settle for less. "Algorithmic Citizenship" and "Stature Of Liberty" are next and Laurens is all over the stage, while torturing his guitar. The well-oiled machine closes their set with one of the oldest songs, namely "Bloody Assault" and to round of things 'Megalomania" is lurking around the corner. The band had a good time, the audience had a good time and DISTILLATOR will surely be on many festivals next year to promote their new album. They did a helluva job here and I'm glad that I was there. High octane fueled metal distilled from the veins of three young guys, who dare to go for the throat, what more can you ask for?!?

Next is the gig that attracted many people to Amstelveen, the 35th anniversary of MARTYR. Just before the gig, I had the chance to have a nice chat with Gerd Hento, the vocalist of ELISE. He was very happy about their show tonight and he was blessed to see that the band had found their way back on stage. I couldn't agree more. While we are talking, there is a curtain coming down on which MARTYR will show a video compilation about their long fruitful past as a band. The demo years were the first years, when I started to gain interest in this five piece band. "Speed Of Samurai" was the killer song, that was really demanded a lot by tape traders all over the world. The other songs of that debut album rocked too of course, but this song has by far been their biggest success in the early eighties. Let me remind you, that MARTYR has been one of the very few Dutch bands that ever made it to the well-known "Metal Massacre" compilation albums. This accomplishment has really put them in a long list of influential bands of the underground scene worldwide. Many support tours in Holland for huge names followed afterwards, but MARTYR also took many bands to the Dutch stages and showed them how it all works. In my eyes, they're not an ordinary band anymore, but they've slowly reached the status of an institute, that you simply can't avoid anymore, when talking about the Dutch heavy metal scene in the past, the present and hopefully the future as well. Their next step on the ladder of success will come right after this 35th anniversary show. Almost right after they will leave this stage tonight, they will be heading to Japan to play some live shows in the land of the rising sun. A country, where many bands, they admired so much in their early days, have their home country. Just like me, guitarist Rick Bouwman is a big fan of Japanese heavy metal and for him it must be even more exciting to go there. Obviously, MARTYR have come a long way and they've always been one of the hardest working bands around, that finally received the recognition that they earned so much. Looking at the band now, I sometimes miss the songs from the first two albums, but that's mainly because I am stuck in the eighties. The band however developed and watched the scene very closely. Not only by listening to the more new fashioned heavy metal bands that are quite successful over here, but they also watch the trends very closely and they constantly show up at various live gigs in our country. Just to shake hands with fans, hang out with friends or leave behind a large pile of flyers at the different clubs and venues. Like I mentioned before, you simply can't avoid them and that's a brilliant market strategy, when you want to reach the top of this ladder of success. And besides that, these guys are very cool to hang out with, because they're not only rock musicians, but they're rock and metal fans as well. And hey, they have a very charming lady behind the merchandise table, whenever she is available. A lot of old school rockers will definitely recognize her as Angel of the Dutch radio program Vara's Vuurwerk (Hi, Angel \m/). Anyway, thirty-five freaking years in heavy metal is quite an accomplishment and it deserves a huge party. They take it away with that nice video compilation, in which you'll see many pictures from the old days, the very old days and some more recent pics as well. The whole video has been shown on a big screen with KISS "100,000 Years" as the soundtrack to this nice overview. There also was a poll, in which you could vote for your own personal favorite song to be played here tonight, but I'm afraid that mine was not chosen. I'd opted for "En Masse (Stand Or Die)" from the "Metal Massacre VI" compilation. Unfortunately, they didn't play much stuff from the first two albums, which is a shame. Many fans from the new generation know the band especially from the last two albums "Circle Of 8' and "You Are Next", but it would have been nice to introduce some of the very rare and old material here today. However, it didn't detract anything of the party atmosphere though and the band starts off with the "Intro", which leads to "Into The Darkest Of All Realms". It's a perfect reflection of what happens in the video clip and I believe that I spotted nearly everybody from this video clip in front of the stage. What a huge opener! Now I'm asking your attention for something complete different. Where do you find a young child, who dares to go onstage, while Rop van Haren is standing next to you singing his lungs out and a crowd of wild metalheads are headbanging in front of you? All you do is stare at the people, show no emotion and then leave the stage after five minutes? This is incredibly cool and if you didn't see it, you wouldnt believe your eyes. It really gives this anniversary show something special. A show, that drips from the Jagermeister, the sponsor and favorite drink of these five martyrs. "Infinity" is on next and it's time to clear the stage and let the band do their thing. The first golden oldie is "Snow & Fire" and it shows the strength of MARTYR and the fact that they wrote some incredible songs. This song is still timeless in my book. It's from the incredible "Dutch Steel" split album (1984), featuring many of the (then) upcoming Dutch heavy metal bands, not to be confused with the double CD compilation, that was put together by Robert Haagsma in 2014, which has "Speed Of Samurai" by MARTYR. "D.I." is one of the more recent songs and one of my personal favorites on "Circle Of 8", next to the mighty "All Warrior's Blood", but we'll have to wait for that one later on. "Inch By Inch" is a song from the new album, in which Rop uses a megaphone to give his statement an extra boost. Rop is really the perfect frontman of MARTYR. He is a true stage animal and also off stage he's full of surprises. Despite his strange moves and jokes on stage, he still knows to hit every note right. Sometimes, when his mates are looking for him on stage, he's just gone out for a walk through the crowd or whatever. That's what makes each show so fascinating and exciting. And he always involves the public in the show. People just love the personal attention and Rop is always ready to give it to them. There are a few special guests on stage as well, like in "Unborn Evil". After that, there is a short break, in which the band receives their 35th anniversary birthday gift. Then the stage is turning into one big family reunion for "Speed Of Samurai". Everyone is being invited on stage to sing along to this ultimate MARTYR song. However, what you see is a whole bunch of out-of-control fans and the focus on this amazing song has been overlooked now. I know that I am not here to criticize, but it would have been so much better to play it once without the fans and then for example invite the crowd on stage and play it as an encore for the second time. It also takes a while to clear the stage and continue the show. Anyway, for the next song there is another guest being announced on stage, which is female siren Monica Janssen of X-TINXION. She will perform "Souls Breathe" with Rop. To make the surprise even bigger, also Nick Holleman has been invited on stage. Three great singers, who are creating a good interaction with the audience. When Monica growls in the mike, you simply want more. She's brutal and elegant at the same time. It's not a surprise, that X-TINXION's star is rising very fast. This lady is a natural born talent. I guess, that I don't need to introduce Nick Holleman (ex-VICIOUS RUMORS, POWERIZED) to you. Either Nick or Monica are the future defenders of the Dutch heavy metal scene and tonight they are teaming up to give the crowd what they want, a brilliant vocal performance of the cream of the crop of the Dutch metal scene. Clearly, the party is a huge success. "In The End" is next and then we have arrived at one of my favorite songs. I've mentioned it before: "All Warriors Blood" definitely belongs to my personal MARTYR faves. The bottle of booze has reached the bottom and the party of MARTYR slowly has come to an end, but not before Gert Nijboer of HIGHWAY CHILE has been called on stage to perform "Monster" with the band. MARTYR closes their show with "Circle Of 8" and all guests have been invited on stage to participate one more time. Beer is dripping from the walls right now and the throats are feeling soar. Rop is here, there and everywhere now and I hear the party alarm howling all the time. What a birthday event. They won't forget this party for a long time, I guess and it will definitely give the band a huge boost to play some hurricane shows in Japan and make the Dutch public proud of MARTYR. And for those, who thought that this simply can't be the end of the show, they are absolutely right. There has to be an encore to get the audience back on their feet again. "Eaten Alive" will certainly do the trick. Heep Heep Hooray for MARTYR and their 35th anniversary show, here's to the next 35 years. Looking back at the list with songs, I noticed that the band didn't play any songs from the "Darkness At Time's Edge" album and only one song from their debut album. The appearance of the guest stars, the movie before the show, the happy-birthday speech and the complete show in general is really something we will never forget. It also marks the end of the first day of the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival, so we'd better get ready for day two.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

P60, Amstelveen (NL)

Saturday is jam-packed and today we are back with our Belgian friends Eddy and Christine. Our good friends of MYTHRA will play their show today and that's also the reason why you won't find a review of DREAM EVIL here. Yours truly missed the headliners of today, simply because we've been socializing with the guys of MYTHRA after their show. I'm really sorry for that. ATTILA is an important opener for us. I always admired the band and their DIY attitude. They always went left, when everybody went right and they never listened to people telling them what to do. In 2016 I bought an EP by an outfit, that was calling themselves H.A.T, and I was being told that it was ATTILA, but then under another name. Looking at the inside cover of the CD "Paranoid Ramblings", I found out that all of the guys of ATTILA were indeed in the band. Today they won't perform under the name of H.A.T. but under the name of ATTILA. There are some songs (three in total) from that aforementioned album, that will be played here this afternoon. The band played a mix of well-known, lesser known and some unknown material. Our thanks go out to drummer Ton Holtewes for providing the playlist of this memorable show. ATTILA starts off with "Mouth Of Madness" and "Religion Kills", and it shows that guitarist Herbie Vanderloo is still one of a kind. He really impressed me with his playing and the songs are not simple or straight forward. That would be too easy for a band like ATTILA. This is music for connoisseurs and fine tasters in my opinion. Sometimes the band plays fast, while at other times you're starting to wonder if you're at the right festival. Call it a little experimental or complex, but they sure don't present any ready-to-eat AC/DC or SAXON type of songs. "Demon Inside" is next, which is followed by the first track from the "Paranoid Ramblings" CD, called "Sue Me, Sue You'. It matches very well with the other songs. Their songs may not be easy on the ear but when you watch the band closely, you'll see some very devoted and gifted musicians, that are giving all they've got. "Drastic" and "Wailing Wall" are next and more rockers seem to be gaining interest in what this band has got to offer on stage. The band is really enjoying themselves and that's a good thing. They give the full hundred percent and try to push as much songs in the set as possible. These musicians also tend to stretch out the songs a little bit longer to let their instruments do the talking. A lot of improvisation parts make the set super exciting for me. Next are "Evil In Me" and "Fruit Of The Poison Tree" and once again the band is really focused on how to surprise the crowd again. At the end of the set, the public that looks with interest at the threesome has grown immensely and I think it's a pleasure to see that this band is working so hard to give their fans a good time. And they succeed with that, for which I'm glad as well. Their set closes with "Mescaline" and "Cowboys And Indians'. Hold your horses Holland, because ATTILA is alive and kicking again and for what I've seen here, they've been armed to the teeth. It's good to have ATTILA back and hometown Amersfoort can be proud of them!

LEATHER HEART from Spain and the Maniacs have some good ties with the Spanish metal heads and metal bands. These young metallers have their metal heart at the right place and like many of the other Spanish bands I've seen here, they provide us with a good dose of old school heavy metal songs. Their most recent album "Comeback" is from 2015, but I'm not really familiar with it, to be honest. The band works hard and receives some good reactions from the audience. The band is planning to write songs for a new album after this last gig of this year, so check them out on Facebook for any updates. "Don't Believe A Word" is the only song, that everybody has probably recognized. The THIN LIZZY cover sounds great and I must admit that LEATHER HEART definitely deserved their place on the bill this afternoon. Their sound consists of traditional heavy metal with a heart of steel, instead of leather, so both thumbs up for these hard working lads! At the end of the show we planned our dinner in the restaurant, because we want to be back in time before SCREAMER starts their show.

SCREAMER from Sweden is on next. I have to admit that the strength of the Heavy Metal Maniacs always is the fact that they manage to get bands from all over the world. They broaden their horizon every time, which is a good thing. This time you'll get to see bands from Sweden to Spain and from England to Holland. I've always liked SCREAMER a lot and their releases scored far above average in my book. Their guitar sound is just a bit rawer than the average band and they just rock a little bit harder. Looking at their original playlist, they skipped four songs, but they start very forceful with a band introduction in "Screamer", which is almost directly followed by "On My Way" and "Adrenaline", of which the first one is taken from their current album "Hell Machine", that just came out this year. Later on, they will play two more songs from that album. Their melodic metal does appeal to many metal fans out there. And the songs they play tonight are nicely evenly divided over the three full-length albums, that they've released so far. "Keep On Walking" is a relatively old song. The band exists for about eight years now, so everything is relatively new when you are going to metal concerts for forty years now, but this mean rocker is from the band's earlier days. "Slavegrinder" is followed by another song from the new album, called "Lady Of The Night". After "No Sleep "Till Hamilton"/"The Punishment" the most recent single from the band is being played, which is called "Monte Carlo Nights" and is definitely one of the highlights of tonight's gig for me. "Can You Hear Me" is the title of the next song . Of course we can hear them, because these Swedish rockers really know how to throw a party. "Demon Rider" and encore "Rock Bottom" close the set of these enthusiastic and hard-working Swedish metallers. I've had a nice time seeing this band live. They definitely belong to the union of metalheads, that will carry the torch, when the Maidens and Priests are gone.

The headliners and most important band of this evening are on next. This is different for everybody, I guess, but after seeing MYTHRA in Belgium and at Keep It True, there is simply no other choice for us than rewarding this band as our highlight of the festival. Not only their music is brilliant and simply the best NWOBHM you are about to hear nowadays, but these five band members are also by far the coolest dudes to hang out with. They take the time to chat with you about whatever subject and they know what's going on in the scene and in the world. No egos or rock star attitudes, but five awesome musicians, who are having a good time together and a band that wants to give the full two hundred percent to give the audience a great show. This is also mainly the reason, why yours truly skipped the headliners. Once you start to hang out with these guys, you simply forget the time and before you know it the DREAM EVIL show is already over and done. I'm really sorry for that. Fifteen songs will be squeezed into the full hour playing time of MYTHRA and this leaves the band with a very tight time schedule. There's no time to waste. No time for long chats on stage with the audience, but hey make up with that after the show. When it's show time for these guys, they push the pedal to the metal and they play at full force from the first notes on. Opener "The Best Is Yet To Come" must be about the other songs. When listening to the new songs, you must admit that they don't differ that much from the old stuff. The band has captured the old school NWOBHM feeling perfectly well and the more recent albums "Still Burning" and "Warriors Of Time" sound like they have been written in the early eighties. With "UFO", they already add something from the early days in their set. It's a killer track to shout the title out loud. Both new and old fans are very pleased with the first two songs, who can beat that? Like we could see it coming, the band is racing through the songs and give the fans hardly any time to breath in between. "Vicious Bastards" and "New Life" are next, before they crank out a sublime version of the title track of their 2017 release "Still Burning". The title already suggest that it's autobiographical, because the band still sounds steaming hot after their long absence from the scene. I guess, that they're one of the tightest bands around and of course this has been noticed by all promotors and bookers as well, because MYTHRA played at almost every huge festival around Europe. They even took their chances to go to America. And if one band deserves it, its these guys. Their show continues with "Ride The Storm" and "Silence In Siren" before coming to another song that a lot of the old rockers might remember from that fantastic single or twelve incher (whatever you have in your collection and why not own both, like we do-lol), called "Killer". I can hardly remember things from that moment on, because John Roach and Alex Perry were constantly blowing pieces of brain out of my skull with their amazing guitar work. And while I'm writing these words, I get goosebumps all over again. I don't know, if you've ever seen John and Alex at work during a live show? Better watch out and fasten your seatbelt, because they will simply blow you away and if they can't do the trick, Maurice and Phil will knock you off your feet completely. They are the Oliver/Quinn, the Murray/Smith or the Tipton/Downing from the NWOBHM underground. So what about singer Vince? Well, he's not only a great front man and a warm and friendly person, but above that all, he's a marvelous singer. Once you've met the man, you can say you have a new friend. "Machine", "Sands Of Time' and "You" are next. "Call To All" belongs to my highlights and I decide to shout my balls off. Bye bye nuts, glad to have known you. After "Survival", the band closes this majestic glory ride with two killers from the aforementioned single or twelve incher. "Overlord" and of course "Death And Destiny" are the two remaining songs, that will make the MYTHRA show complete. Some people might have other preferences for sure, but this is it for me. Anyway, after the show we met up with all the band members in the space on the first floor. And even when headliners DREAM EVIL from Sweden played their show, it was great fun down there. Once again I'm sorry we have missed their show, but Rita decided to shoot a few pix of the band anyway and one of it goes with this report. It's singer Nick Night. Well, back to MYTHRA. Since I did this interview with guitar player John Roach for Snakepit in 2001, a lot has happened with the band. Not only did they release some of the most wonderful albums, of which the CD artwork already invites you to buy the damn thing and the sleeve alone tells you that this band are the representatives of some magnificent old school heavy metal. In the meantime, we've met the whole band several times. In 2001 there were only memories about a band that had released four songs more than twenty years ago. Now it has become a band whose name is on everybody's lips. The band got back together again and I'm so proud to seeing them over here in Holland finally after so many years. And hanging out with these five British rockers is just great fun. For all the people, who did see DREAM EVIL, their play list consisted of "Antidote", "Hellride", "Heavy Metal In The Night', "Children Of The Night", "United" and "Book Of Heavy Metal". This might not be complete, but at least they played these songs and in this order.

Last but not least, it's time for the after party with MESSED UP. And we just continued partying, dancing and headbanging in the back of the venue, while the band cranked out some PURPLE and RAINBOW classics. Then it's time to say goodbye to our good friends of MYTHRA and to the P60 and the Heavy Metal Maniacs. It has been a real blast and we're very thankful and glad that we could be part of it. Hopefully, we'll be there again next year. Both thumbs up for the organization and all the bands on stage, that made this festival another unforgettable experience. Final update is that the 2018 edition of the HMM Festival takes place on Sept. 21 and 22, 2018 during our holidays. The following bands have been announced on Friday: UNIVERSE (GER), STEEL SHOCK (NL), STALLION (GER) and BATTLEAXE (UK) and on Saturday: ALLTHENIKO (ITA), TYTAN (UK), RANGER (FIN), EMERALD (NL), VHALDEMAR (ESP) and PILEDRIVER (CAN). I really hope that we can make it, but it's still uncertain right now.

*Text: Toine van Poorten, February 2018
*Photos: Rita van Poorten/www.metalmaidens.com

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