Saturday, June 18, 2016

De Meester, Almere, The Netherlands

Never break a good tradition. We’ve been to Meesterlijk Metaal many times, but this occasion was quite special. We’ve never had the privilege of seeing a Japanese band on stage there, until now. Coming over to Almere for an event like this is always a pleasure. You catch up with people you know and there’s a nice atmosphere. There are new people organizing and hosting the festivals. Previously, it was in the hands of Hans Pendavingh for several years, but now it went over to Henny Vos and Ghislaine Diersman. The concept remains the same. Give a good rock and metal band a platform to play live for many devoted fans. A lot of bands have been on stage there and Meesterlijk Metaal became a well-established name to look out for. They mostly have at least one band on the bill drawing the intention to go there and this time is no exception. On the bill are three Dutch bands, two clinics, an acoustic set and SABER TIGER from Japan, who are (to be honest with you) the reason why we are here tonight. Although it will be cool to see MARTYR again, who have just released their new album “You Are Next” and EAR DANGER, because they have never let their fans down, when it comes to playing a very energetic show. Also, it was a perfect night to hang out a bit with SAD IRON guitar player Bernard Rive and his wife. What fun we had with this bald-headed speed monster!

Anyway, it’s the music that counts and we start off with THE LEGS. They play a retro rock kind of sound. You feel the HENDRIX vibe and the instrumental parts sound so great, it’s like you are back in the roaring seventies. They are a good opener of this festival, which has many items on their programme. Before THE LEGS hit the stage, there was a drum clinic in the small room by Dick Vijgen, the four legged drummer of EAR DANGER. Sorry, we missed it, Dick. We also missed the spoken word part, because the shoarma place just around the corner asked for our full attention. We all have to eat, right? And this was the best moment to get a quick bite. The spoken word part was done by someone from Into The Limelight Records, by the way, which is the record company of MARTYR. We also missed the ‘Headste Banger’ right after that, a headbangers competition. I guess, there wasn’t anybody around, who still knows to bang their hear properly. Maybe a competition of who is able to make the nicest selfie with a rock star would have attracted more competitors? No offence though, because most of the visitors here sure know to rock hard and are not the posing kind of people.

Now it’s moment for what we came for. MARTYR is promoting their “You Are Next” album tonight and until now we didn’t have a chance of seeing them live right after the release. Tonight will be the time. And I am quite astonished, when I watch the first song. When the intro starts, a young girl stands on a small stage, that is there for her alone. Her name is Johanna Kindt and she’s only nine years old. The last lines in “Darkest Of All Realms” are for her and all she does is standing there and staring into the audience. It’s amazing and weird at the same time. She must be some kind of natural talent. Would you go and stand there before a wild audience, not doing a thing and just staring at the people? I guess not. “Infinity” is another track taken from the new album, which sounds dynamic and energetic at once. Just like the shows of MARTYR in general. What else would you expect from a front man like Rop van Haren? One of the heaviest songs of the evening is “All Warriors Blood”, one of the finest MARTYR tracks, simply because it’s so freaking heavy. It shows what this band is capable of. After all, it sounds very doomy because of the slow pace, but in combination with the power that it has, it becomes a killer rock song, that is very outstanding from the rest. “Snow & Fire” rocks you off your feet. This is one of the two old school metal songs these guys play here tonight and therefore a real highlight for yours truly. It’s taken from the cult “Dutch Steel” compilation. Very soon a hard rocking boyfriend is found for little Johanna, and brought to the stage as well. Young Yngwie and Johanna become the real stars of tonight’s show. These are the metal heads of tomorrow. The future of the heavy metal. You can’t start young enough. “Inch By Inch” is also a new song and if I look at the reactions of the audience, they seem to enjoy the new stuff just as much as the old material. Unfortunately for the older fans there is still one really old song coming up, but first we hear “Unborn Evil”, another fine metal song. What happens next is always a big surprise. You’ll never know how big the mess will be on stage, when the band explodes in “Speed Of Samurai”, taken from their debut album. I’ve seen producer and guitarist Jack Nobelen on the neck of Rop van Haren in Zwolle, so things like that could happen during this song. Heavy metal maniacs climb on stage and again it gets more crowded on stage than the audience in front of it. The guitar tandem of Marcel Heesakkers and Rick Bouwman work overtime and thus the party on stage gets bigger and bigger each time they play this particular song. When the fun is over, it’s time for “Monster”, which is quite a difference. Obviously, we’re dealing with a very talented metal band here. They always give a full hundred percent and they support the metal scene in Holland all the way by showing up at live shows from their colleagues. Not too many other bands do the same, but MARTYR has always been a hard working band, that performs powerful live shows and give you real value for money. And they always make time to have a short chat with their fans. I think, they’re one of the kindest persons in this scene. Okay, we’re done with the compliments, now it’s back to the music. The title track of the previous album “Circle Of 8” is on next and the temperature is rising pretty fast. It’s time for Rop to take a quick shower. Not in the backstage room but on stage by using a bottle of water. Life can be so simple. Rock and roll is dripping from the walls of De Meester and we’re very proud to be part of it all again. Things are getting creepy in the very last song, when we are “Eaten Alive”…. And guess what? This is only just the beginning of the evening, but I’m already knocked off my feet. Johanna can be proud of herself for she did an excellent job and so did little Yngwie. MARTYR still knows to rock hard and put on an excellent show, so much’s for sure after this awesome gig!

SABER TIGER is shining in the premier league of the Japanese metal scene for me. They rock the joints in their native country for over thirty years now. Japanese metal is so much more than LOUDNESS alone, believe me and with getting SABER TIGER over to Europe, the interest in Japanese metal might be gaining a lot more popularity. There are a lot of bands playing in Japan nowadays, but I’m mostly interested in those, that existed in the period of 1980-1990. Just like the Dutch heavy metal scene. I know, that their albums were very expensive in the early days, but I always bought whatever was available. And I’m still trying to find old stuff from that period of time, because I’m that of a die-hard fan of the Japanese metal scene. They simply made the best music in those days and SABER TIGER is being one of them. It’s hard to find their albums, but they always present the best quality possible. Obviously, we were looking forward to seeing this band perform live in our country a lot, after so many years. But first we joined the guitar clinic in the little room, which is given by Franc Tijdink, who owns a guitarschool. Frank tells us everything about shredding, finger tipping, sliding and all other techniques used by a guitar player. Critical questions are asked by Bernard, which turns it into a lively conversation for a while. Let’s be honest, this is a great way to keep the people focused when the stage gets a makeover for the next band. You could smoke a cigarette outside or have another zip from your beer, but you can also get to know a little bit more about how to play guitar. The practical lessons are given by SABER TIGER, who will play a forty-five minute set of eight songs tonight. Eight songs may be not much, but the high quality Japanese kamikaze metal from SABER TIGER turned the place upside down. They started off with “Angel Of Wrath” and it shows, that these Japanese metallers play a lot together. They know the drill and let the singer do the talking in between. The musicians simply proved that nothing can beat them. High octane fueled rock songs with a steady beat, that’s what we get. The guitar players share their solos equally. It’s really great seeing these skilled musicians playing here. Their show continues with “The Vague Blessings”. The one thing that is a pity is, that their albums are so hard to find over here and therefore I’m not always familiar with their songs. But when you see their passion, they already convinced me. “No Fault / No Wrong” is next and the crowd is definitely getting excited by what they see and hear this evening. “Painted Red” continues and “Hate Crime” comes thereafter. “The Hammer” is a real hammer and the band is pounding it out loud. No time for ballads or slower tracks, SABER TIGER came to rock and that’s what they do. It’s utterly cool to see that not only the audience is enjoying their show but the band is having a great time as well. “First Class Fool” and “Sin Eater” close their set and after only forty-five minutes it’s all over. It’s short, I know, but it was a fantastic performance and that’s what counts. Domo arigato for coming over to Holland SABER TIGER, you were wonderful! Come back soon and bring HONJOH MISAKO, BOW WOW, HAMADA MARI, SHOW-YA, MURASAKI, CROWLEY, SNIPER, RAJAS, MAKE UP, 44 MAGNUM, SABRABELLS, EASTERN ORBIT, 5X, X-RAY along and let’s make a crazy Japanese party!

We skipped the acoustic set of THE LEGS for a conversation with Rick Bouwman (MARTYR), Bernard Rive (SAD IRON) and Rudo Plooy (BLACK KNIGHT). How often do you get the chance to talk to these three legendary rock musicians on one day? And of course we have to buy some merchandise, because SABER TIGER brought at least two CD’s with them that we don’t have in our collection. The last band of the evening is EAR DANGER. Always good for a solid rock show and tonight won’t be an exception on that golden rule. EAR DANGER plays loud and Matt’s enthusiasm is simply wunderbar as always. They start with “Warrior Soul” and “I Am Your Enemy”. The “Warrior Soul” album is a good example of what Dutch heavy metal should be like these days. No trends or hypes, just plain solid metal, nothing more and nothing less. These guys rule in ignoring fanciness. They have come to destroy Almere and songs like “Hellish Wings” accomplish that mission very well. The song for tonight is called “Assassin” and it’s one of my favorite all-time Dutch metal songs for sure. I can’t take it anymore and I start to shout it out loud, which destroyed my voice for the next couple of hours. These four guys are guilty of that crime and they can be proud of it. “Spread Like Wild Fire” and “King Of The Midnight Fire” are on next and the band is working their asses off to give the audience a hard time. They won’t let you down, because they are made of solid steel. You probably wouldn’t say, but Matt is experienced in this scene since 1981 or something and also played in a band called TEMPTER, who will be releasing a compilation album soon. These guys would die for heavy metal and that’s why I am so glad to see that they’re still alive and kicking. They could also be sitting behind the curtains at home, enjoying their tea and biscuits, you know. “Children Of The Sun” is next and with “Bound By The Law (Of Heavy Metal)” they really hit the nail on the head for tonight’s show. Let’s celebrate our favorite music every day, while we still can. Another highlight is coming up, oh my poor tonsils. The ultimate EAR DANGER song is next and “Beelzebub’s Friend”, has made this band immortal and gave them a well-deserved place in the history book of Dutch Heavy Metal. I volunteer to become the writer of it. It’s a piece of art, that shows how true the intentions of this band are. Thirty plus years ago, Matt closed a deal with the devil to play that song for all those metal heads that want to hear it over and over again. And still, when he plays it on stage, he will be remembered to that secret pact and he can be damn proud of it, because it’s a killer song. Not too many bands were singing about the devil and his dark companions in those early days. So hail to Matt for becoming a friend of Beelzebub. Slowly, we have arrived to the seclusion of this awesome night. “Burn At The Stake” is next and then another highlight follows thereafter. Three highlights in one set? How deep is the love for EAR DANGER? “Heavy Metal Hammer” from the third demo is another reason for my sore throat the day after. Talk about a killer song…. Why didn’t they put this on an album? So far, it’s only available on this demo and if you don’t have this sacred piece of art, then you’ll never discover the beauty of it, which is a real pity. The lights go out with “Shock & Awe”, the final chords of tonight’s Meesterlijk Metaal edition. But I won’t stop writing, until I’ve mentioned the names of Ivo Metz on guitar and Leon Lohmann on guitar and vocals. What would EAR DANGER be without them, let’s face it? Our thanks go out to the organization and the bands, that made this Meesterlijk Metaal edition to a real success again. Up to the next edition I should say!

*Text: Toine van Poorten/August 2016
*Photos: Rita van Poorten/

Setlist MARTYR:
Darkest Of All Realms
intro - All Warriors Blood
Snow & Fire
Inch By Inch
Unborn Evil
Speed Of Samurai
Circle Of 8
Eaten Alive Outtro

Rise (intro)
Angel Of Wrath
The Vague Blessings
No Fault / No Wrong
Painted Red
Hate Crime
The Hammer
First Class Fool
Sin Eater

Warrior Soul
I Am Your Enemy
Hellish Wings
Spread Like Wild Fire
King Of The Midnight Fire
Children Of The Sun
Bound By The Law (Of Heavy Metal)
Beelzebub's Friend
Burn At The Stake
Heavy Metal Hammer
Shock & Awe

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