UPDATE: December 17, 2023:

ANGELIC FORCES-Arise (No Dust Records)
Nine songs and thirty-five minutes of old school metal influenced rock and metal are on this silver disc. Make sure you don't miss it, because the quality on this album is far above average. It starts off with some ominous sounds. An alarm goes off and flying objects are moving around your head. People are starting to scream. Soon the earth is about to be destroyed. Is this reality?!? Nope, it's just the introduction to the "Armageddon" of life, called "Rapture". Clearly, if the whole Armageddon would sound like this, it could happen right away, if I had to say something about it. I know that things are going downwards all over the world and this sounds like a light in the dark to me. Thunderous heavy drum beats, furious guitar licks and on top of that there's a twin guitar solo part as the cherry on the cake. Obviously they have been influenced by old school metal bands such as JUDAS PRIEST and VICIOUS RUMORS and maybe even STRYPER, because of the positive messages that are being spread out by the band. The world could use some positivity by all means and it won't do you any harm. ANGELIC FORCES originate from the high north of our country, Friesland to be a bit more precise. Check out the marvelous guitar work on "Through The Fire" and you will be heated up immediately. The scream at the end of the song definitely comes from the toes of singer Harold, who used to be in METHUSALEM. Wow, what an amazing throat this guy has got!! I hear more high screams in "Against" and there are also some harmony vocals to enjoy here and of course the flashing guitar work of Harold and Maurice. Title track "Arise" is in fact a very powerful song of hope, which is entirely clear the way they shout out the lyrics 'we will arise'. This way the listener will surely get the message that things will happen, no matter what. The guitar solo spits fire and it will surely turn a smile on your face. "Mission To Hell" is definitely influenced by my big heroes JUDAS PRIEST. Just check out the way they handle the intro. It's not that Harold sings like Rob Halford. On the contrary, I would say, yet the powerful intro of the song and the way the guitars sound is obviously influenced a lot by these masters of metal. Some high screams of Harold may possibly remind you of Halford though. Besides that, it's another great pounder with some amazing double bass drum beats that will torture your poor ear drums for sure. I think, I will join this mission at once, if there ever would be one. The next question will possible remain unanswered and that is "Repent Or Die". You choose, what is the right answer?! The filthy guitar work in this song sounds all destroying. "Religion Is A Lie" might be a warning. Check out the lyrics thoroughly for the deeper meaning of the title of this song. I'm not a preacher, so I think you will have to find out for yourself. What I do know is that this is another damn fine powerful song this band has composed here. "Fear No Evil" is a bit slower, yet it can't be categorized as a real ballad, although it comes close to that definition. It's a nice closure of a surprising good and solid album. What if some record stores would place this in the 'white metal' corner? You would still buy a great metal CD, which will put you in a time machine and launch you directly to the mid-eighties. On the CD cover you can see something rising from the ashes. It might be a new angel, especially when you see the bright light that is behind it. It must be a creature with a positive mind. ANGELIC FORCES is a name that will speak for itself, once you have heard this album. The band consists of Harold de Vries on lead vocals and guitar, Maurice Gijsman on guitar and backing vocals, Tjaard Walstra on bass and backing vocals and Rudie Kingma on drums. For more information, go to: https://www.angelicforcesband.com or https://www.facebook.com/angelicforcesband.
(8,4/10- Toine van Poorten)

ATTILA-Devil's Carnival (No Dust Records)
That's right, you have just arrived at the "Devil's Carnival". This is the latest twelve track album of Amersfoort's 'proud-to-be-loud' veterans ATTILA. Don't let the gruesome demon face scare you off, because you will be treated to some savory heavy metal on this brand new album. In almost fifty-five minutes, the carnival will be the playground, on which ATTILA will manifest their heavenly-sounding metal. People, who are familiar with this band, will know by now that straight-forward, catchy rock songs are not on the agenda. For experienced metal heads who like speed breaks, flashing guitar work and adventurous sidesteps, ATTILA turns this album into a rollercoaster ride in the dark. It's not the well-known merry go round, in which every song sounds exactly the same. You will never know where you're heading next. Sitting in the Ghost Ride was never that unpredictably horrifying. The sudden break in title track "Devil's Playground" clearly indicates that this is not a carnival for party animals. The friendly waltzing guitar notes are the main focus here, together with the immensely hard drum beats of Ton Holtewes and the constant plundering bass sound of Arjan Michels. Up next, "Die Is Cast" starts with more of these uncommon song structures to which this band adheres. The rather heavy introduction suddenly changes in a slower pace, in where the guitar sounds will seem very relaxing. But hang on; almost instantly a machine gun guitar salvo fires right at you. When the break is there, a RUSH type of instrumental part will take you right into another dimension. Come to think of it, early RUSH could very well be a suitable reference here, although ATTILA definitely sounds a lot heavier. Holtewes's innovative drum fills, the heavy bass parts of Michels and the amazing guitar licks by Vanderloo, may at times, sound very close to the Canadian rockers. The song "I Am" may start off like a good solid rock song, yet, after a couple of seconds, the band totally changes plans and redirects the entire song. Sometimes it's pretty difficult to know what's going on in the Vanderloo's musicical brain, although the results are amazing, quite refreshing and adventurous to me and that's what really counts. Check out the guitar explosion in this song and tell me what's not to like about it. Previously released as a single, "My Dyin' Friend" reappears on "Devil's Carnival". The song title explains it all. It's about a friend of Vanderloo's, a musical homage with some raw edges to it. Life itself has its raw edges, too. An honest way of paying deep respect to a friend. This song's final notes are the tones of a beating heart that abruptly stops. "Down The Drain" will implore guitar lovers to be on the edge of their chairs again. Vanderloo's fiery guitar solo sounds truly amazing and the repetitive drum beat at the song's end may even remind you of a band like VOI VOD. "Sweet Redemption" is an up-tempo rock song and there is nothing wrong with that. Every band should have a few spattered throughout their repertoire. Dark as night, the tune "Imminent Death" harbors immense power via the drum beats of Holtewes, which gives Vanderloo enough room for his solo spot after the intro. The instrumental break is really fascinating and don't be surprised by this jaw-dropping experience. It just happens. You don't need a doctor and it will dissipate on its own after a while. "Forgive & Forget" is not only a song by ATTILA, it is the lesson you will learn from this band, while they take you away on a musical adventure. It's also a lesson in life with a really exciting instrumental fight between the guitar licks of Vanderloo and the Neil Peart-type of drum rolls and beats from Holtewes. "Fruit Of The Poison Tree" also has much to offer listeners. The fast and fiery guitar solo, the distorted vocals of Vanderloo and the insightful lyrics will give you food for thought as well. Don't be afraid; the fruit of this poisonous tree even tasted good to me. A "Hattrick" is when you score three goals in a sport or game, but ATTILA has scored ten already, long before even arriving at this track. It's also the title of the final song on the official album. The instrumental tracks on the disc show you that this is the "real" deal for the experienced music fan who wants to hear something different from the abundantly available, average rock song they hear nowadays. It's food for heavy music connoisseurs who like to chew on rhythm and speed changes and impressive instrumental parts. The bonus tracks sound great too and the first one is the alternate take of "My Dyin' Friend". Undeniably, I think this version is how the song was meant to be. It's just Vanderloo and his guitar, unaccompanied by his band mates. The song comes straight from his heart and the lyrics are from the depents of his soul, there's no doubt about it. Clearly, most of the band's feelings have been reflected in their songs, and to be honest, I think that this version allows listeners to palpably experience the sadness in his words and the grieve that is rooted deep in Vanderloo's being. The CD closes in a more airy way, with an alternate take of the title track "Devil's Carnival". ATTILA stays very close to their original sound in the early 1980s, so if you already liked the band back then, this album will be a safe buy for you with lots more to explore.
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

BAD HABIT-How Bad Do You Want It? (Pig Records/Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records)
"How Bad Do You Want It?" is a compilation album of demos by the band BAD HABIT from the area of Tilburg, that unfortunately never made it to the top, but sure had the potential to. The CD cover shows a picture of the band being stepped on by a stiletto heel, now that's pretty bad already. However, that's not how bad I want it. The twelve songs here are worthy of a full hour of decent heavy metal. Just listen to the opener, which has always been one of my personal favorites and probably even their most well-known song, "Come Together". It has a very catchy vibe with a heavy undertone and of course it features some great guitar work. What more do you want? Just lend your ear to the incredible guitar licks and your mind is gone for sure. "Just Let Me Be" throws in some hoarse MOTORHEAD type of singing, but the song itself shows that BAD HABIT was not exactly a thirteen in a dozen band. Check out the instrumental mid-piece and you will know what I mean. There is a certain progressive touch in here, too which sounds pretty heavy and moves away from the paved path. "Tell Me Why" is a bit more straight forward with rocking riffs and some story telling kind of singing. In the lengthy and rather progressive "Warriors", the band is going on an adventurous instrumental journey. While moving towards the end, the band is gaining more speed. RUSH would have done this the same way, I guess. Sometimes, you must dig a bit deeper to keep the attention of your listeners and that´s exactly the strength of a song like that. "Kick That Habit" is again very straight forward with flashing riffs and a notch more speed. However, it has still got that catchy vibe, which makes it the easy to comprehend. "On And On" slows things down a bit. I think, we can categorize this as a ballad with some rough edges here and there. In the next song called "Power", I hear some outstanding drum beats and high crying guitar licks. It might not be fast, but it's definitely very powerful. "Running Fast" is not only fast, it also contains some powerful and flashing guitar riffs. This sounds really amazing and it's definitely fuel for my metal heart. The bass parts are absolutely mind-blowing. "Fair Child" is another favorite song on my list with a stunning AC/DC kind of vibe and heaps of energy to get it going, it's truly amazing. VENGEANCE could have written a song like that in their hey days. It will get the party started from the first fiery riffs on. "Dirty Worlds" is a slower ballad type of song, while "She's On Fire" is another solid rock song with a very catchy vibe. This raises the question why these great musicians never attracted a bigger audience? The ballad "I Don't Need You" is another good example of such a terrific rock song. This killer song has two parts, the slower and ballad part, and the second and more up-tempo part, which has some UFO influences ("Doctor, Doctor") for sure. "Inside Out" closes the album. This steady rock song could have lasted much longer, as far as I'm concerned. BAD HABIT is showing a nice variation of various music styles and they also throw in some melody at times. There are different band line-ups on this compilation disc. The following BAD HABIT members are on these recordings: Rob van Gestel on guitar, Marcel van de Wouw on bass, John van de Sande on drums, Ronald Westland on guitar, Wil Uijtdewilligen on vocals, Arjen de Groot on guitar, Arthur Verschuuren on vocals and Frans Cronenburg on guitar. The CD booklet shows a lot of nice pictures, flyers and the complete history of the band. For more information, go to: https://www.pig-records.rocks, https://www.headbangerszineandgigs.nl and https://www.bigbadwolfrecords.nl.
(8,4/10- Toine van Poorten)

BLACK KNIGHT-40 Years Live (Pure Steel Records)
BLACK KNIGHT celebrated their 40th birthday party at the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival in Amstelveen and the recordings at the P-60 are released on a fifty minutes live CD. A nice picture of an empty stage before the show is put on the front cover. The band was in a good shape that day, as always I would say. The recordings are from the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival in 2021, like I already mentioned, where they opened for ROADWOLF, JURASSIC PARK, SACRILEGE, BUTCHER and headliners SORTILEGE. It was a night to remember, because a lot happened during that gig, as a matter of fact. They start off with an intro tape, called "The Victory-Hymne" and the first song of tonight is the fast and furious "Story Of The Day", in which you can almost feel their power. What a great way to start your show with a song from many years back in the past. Listen to the powerful drum beats of the only remaining original band member Rudo Plooy in "Road To Victory", which is also the title track of their most recent album. The sound of BLACK KNIGHT may refer to a band like PRIMAL FEAR for example, but also the name of JUDAS PRIEST or the German pumpkin band HELLOWEEN may cross your mind at times. It's the groove, the power and the energy that are alike of these bands. While the high screams of vocalist David Marcelis in "Legend" will possibly remind you of Bruce Dickinson of IRON MAIDEN in a way. This song is dedicated to metal head and chairman of the HMFC Henny Vos, who passed away in 2021. Obviously, BLACK KNIGHT is exploring many music styles and always with a heavy heart. Check out the amazing speed and power changes in "Pendragon" for example. It´s there where some audience participation is needed in the sing along parts. Your metal heart will spontaneously start to beat a lot faster, I guess. Besides the variation in styles between fast and straight forward to slower and more melodic, the range from old to new stuff is also quite diverse. "Beware Of The Blind" follows after a rather new track to please all the fans. "Excavated" contains some amazing twin guitar work. "Warrior" has a drum intro from main band warrior Rudo himself. However, the song also contains some marvelous axe work and it's another killer song from the BLACK KNIGHT back catalogue. The show closes with "The One To Blame", where the band is helped out by two background singers, namely Anneleen Olbrechts and Diana Raadschelders, who are also featured on the "Road To Victory" album. This never happened before in a live situation, as far as my knowledge goes. After this pleasant surprise, they thank everybody that came to see the band tonight. The bonus tracks were recorded a year earlier at the album presentation at P-60 in Amstelveen on June 20th, 2020. I remember very well that on that day vocalist David Marcelis announced that he would be leaving the band. The two songs are performed by Patrick van Maurik of MONTANY and REVIVER, who was the biggest candidate to replace David and an introduction to the BLACK KNIGHT public. In the meantime, we welcome Henk Overbosch as their new singer, but at the time he was not in sight yet. "Primal Power" is the title of the first bonus track, which is another firm rock song with some excellent high vocal pull outs. The CD closes with my own personal favorite song, "Rival". What a great song this is and I just love the steaming hot climax. I remember very well that all the Maniacs, that were present at this festival, hailed glory to these hard working musicians and this long lasting metal band. BLACK KNIGHT consists of Ron Heikens on bass guitar, Gertjan Vis on lead and rhythm guitars, David Marcelis on vocals, Ruben Raadschelders on lead and rhythm guitars and the blackest knight of them all, Rudo Plooy on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.blackknight.nl and https://www.facebook.com/BlackKnightNL
(8,4/10- Toine van Poorten)

DARK OMEN-The End Of Rage (Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records)
DARK OMEN is a relatively newcomer to HHM and because there is a former POWERVICE member on board, we took the liberty to review their four tracker here. The front cover of the CD artwork is divided into two parts. On the left, there is a whole bunch of hundred dollar bills, while on the right there is a hellfire that will burn you down to the ground. Richard Nijhuis is playing the bass guitar in DARK OMEN. The four songs are worthy of eighteen minutes of early thrash metal. The guitar intro of "Star Dust" will already blow you away for sure, which is directly followed by the groovy "Frozen Star". Their music style is definitely heading into another direction than the true metal spirit of POWERVICE but if you like ANTHRAX or DARK ANGEL then this band is worth the try, I guess. "Nebuchadnezzar" will prove why I make this earlier comparison with the steady beats, Bay Area grooves and ditto flashing guitar solos. AGENT STEEL fans on the other hand might dig the riffs and polka beats in "Interstellar Godz", which is my personal favorite. The letter Z at the end of the title might point into this direction as well. There are some high pull outs to enjoy here, too, although unfortunately they don't reach the level of John Cyriis or Bruce Hall in any way. It's hard to describe the overall sound of this dark omen."The End Of Rage" closes the EP, which could appeal to the fans of for example CELTIC FROST. Obviously, there are some references here, although they are not really pointing into the same direction. Their sound is definitely quite heavy and it may appeal to many metal heads out there for that matter. DARK OMEN consists of Richard Nijhuis on bass guitar, Daan van Hooff on guitar, Neil van Kleeff on guitar and Vincent Koreman on drums, guitar and vocals. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/dark.omen.thrash.
(7,7/10- Toine van Poorten)

DIXI'S-Banzai!!!! (independent)
This is already the third release of the Amersfoort three-piece outfit DIXI'S. Once again, I wouldn't throw it away in a Dixi's toilet that easily. It's worthy of thirteen songs and a full hour of groovy rock consisting of partly own penned material and cover songs. The main reason that I review this album is that DIXI'S is the side project (or second band) of ATTILA guitarist Herbie Vanderloo. The first five tracks are groovy rock songs with Herbie's outstanding guitar licks on top of it. Just check out opener "The Hunger", which is a very good example of what the DIXI'S is all about. You can tell exactly, when the guitar solo will explode in your face. The impressive guitar work of Herbie doesn't come as a surprise to you anymore. What a kiler opener. "Gotta Move" rocks big time and you will get that recognizable seventies rock feeling right away. It's the time when rock bands still knew how to play their instruments. Bands like MOXY, BAD COMPANY, MONTROSE, PAT TRAVERS and FRANK MARINO, they all delivered killer albums with a groovy touch and just enough melody to appeal to the many hard rock fans out there. This band will always put the guitars in front of their sound and that's the way I like it. "Sick & Tired / Woo Hoo" contains some sick and fast double bass drums and the heavy rockabilly sound also includes more splendid guitar licks by the maestro himself. The second part of the song is originally written by the 5, 6, 7, 8's (all-female Japanese rock-n-roll band) and you will know what I mean right away. "It's So Easy" sounds very laid back, in which the guitar parts are playing an important role again. I would like to refer to HENDRIX or FRANK MARINO here. "Powder Keg" is another typical rock song that you would expect from this band. The sound of the DIXI'S is more accessible than ATTILA, however I think that even those fans could handle this quite well, too. Then we have arrived at the covers section on this CD. The perfect example of what to expect is the MONTROSE classic "Rock Candy". It rocks, it's groovy and it's definitely candy to my ears. "Soulshine" continues, which is a slow bluesy track, originally written and performed by GOV'T MULE. This band is probably only well-known to the experienced fans of this particular music style. Yet a comparison might be called for here, too. In this new millennium, both bands definitely take their music to a higher level and they still know to play it with a natural feeling. I can only agree that this song feels better than sunshine or moonshine. The FOREIGNER cover "Dirty White Boy" is a lot heavier than the original, because of the rawer guitar sound. And what about these mighty drum beats? You haven't heard that in the original song, have you? The rather heavy BLACK SABBATH cover "N.I.B." shows up very well here. It's hard to top SABBATH in their specific playing field, but I think they did a splendid job here. Another GOV'T MULE song comes next with "Slackjaw Jezebel", which closes with a long wah-wah guitar part. I love this kind of stuff, and it's finger licking good. The three remaining songs are taken from the album "Ajeto!!", which is also filled with memorable rock songs with a groovy touch. They picked "Stealer Of Light", "Nightstalker" (with some awesome ZZ TOP type of guitar work!) and "Cheating Lyin' " here, which is also beefed up with some excellent axe work. It will definitely put a smile on your face. At least it did with me and it was a big smile, too. DIXI'S are: Herbie Vanderloo on guitar and vocals, Arne ten Hoedt on drums and Dirk Kollen on bass. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/Dixisamersfoort
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

GILGAMESJ-Another Daybreak (No Dust Records)
This is the album that many Dutch rock and metal fans have been waiting from GILGAMESJ for a long time. Finally, it's here and it's a killer from beginning to end. Thirteen songs and sixty-seven minutes of melodic rock are on "Another Daybreak", the follow-up to the "Take One" EP, released in 1984 by these Dutch melodic hard rock cult kings. Well-known for their high quality and low quantity of music, the old adage "less is more" is applicable to GILGAMESJ , and I can only agree with that. More importantly is what "Another Daybreak" brings us musically. Well, I will tell you right now; opener "Down Like Rain" sounds much like what I had hoped for. The highly recognizable voice of Frank van Stijn still does what it should, evoking emotions within the listener, and adhering to the classic GILGAMESJ sound. The keyboards in the intro are upfront in the mix, while the guitars ask for a more prominent place in the spotlight. Guitar solos seem to invade from everywhere around you, sounding overwhelmly awesome. Sometimes the guitar eruptions have a similar flair and style to that of that of NIGHTRANGER's Brad Gillis. Guitar players such as Michael Schenker or Ronnie Montrose also come to mind here. One explosion after another spews from your speakers - I just love it when a song is packed with guitar solos like that. It's a mighty fine opener that you can't help but to sing along with and it proves that the holy fire is still burning. Next is the title track "Another Daybreak", which can be seen as the 2.0 version of "Daybreak" from the EP "Take One". This new version offers subtle guitar solos, played with such passion and feeling, they can't be topped. The vocals, seemingly emitted from van Stijn's toes, are truly mind-blowing. "Another Daybreak" is a typical ballad, however, doesn't every good heavy rock band have their biggest success with a ballad? Think about it, how big this could become with the right promotion. What a great start and this is only the second song on the album. Because GILGAMESJ are from my area in the Netherlands, many songs are quite familiar to me; I've heard these songs on a few occasions, when the band played live somewhere. For example, easily recognizable "Lost Horizon" builds up nicely after an instrumental intro, in which bass player Rene Sterk has a prominent role. The instrumental mid-part could be categorized as progressive rock in my opinion and it gives the song character and a face of its own. Speaking in GILGAMESJ terms, it sounds pretty adventurous and it brings the band back to their roots. In the early days, GILGAMESJ were regularly compared to bands like STYX, for example. While many songs on "Another daybrak" invite you to sing along, the next track, "Right Here Right Now" is just as catchy, yet, it still possesses that well-known GILGAMESJ vibe. Same applies to "In My Dreams", although I had to listen to it a couple of times more before I really caught it. Van Stijn's voice is much lower here, but the recognizable sound returns in the high pull outs. The song's slower pace is also a little unexpected - It's down-tuned and I have never heard the band this way. The vocal harmonies have also play a more prominent role, and again the guitar part shine brilliant again, no doubt about it. When the pace picks up in "Down The Road", the unmistakable and highly recognizable GILGAMESJ sound resurfaces. The guitar work is mind-blowing, lifting the song up to an entirely different level. Sylvester van Leeuwen and Gerrie den Hartog are two fine guitarists and they equally share their solo spots. The catchiness of the song is unavoidable too, because some parts just implore you to immediately sing along with them. "Tales Of No Tomorrow" is a rock song, narrates a tale of time, - one with no tomorrow. Take note of the guitar solo's flashing start here. I tried to reproduce it on my air guitar, but my fingers ended up in a knot of flesh. The song "Lightning Strikes" has perpetually held a spot on GILGAMESJ 's play list for many years. Once again, it shows the classy, yet, melodic sound of the band, which gives them a sound all their own because of the individual forces blending together in unity. It's heavy, because of the guitar breaks, but you wouldn't call it heavy metal that easily. Hard rock is a much better description, when listening to these high class songs. And as sudden as lightning, the stop at the end comes as a real surprise. Another song, that I had to listen to several times to fully grasp is get it, is the ballad "Where Is The Love". Upon arriving at where the guitar takes the spotlight, you will realize these guys are operating from a higher echelon. Bands like NIGHTRANGER, JOURNEY, PRAYING MANTIS, EUROPE and FOREIGNER proceeded to the point directly, and GILGAMESJ is in no way inferior to these giants of rock. Last song on the CD, before the three bonus tracks, is called "The Unknown". I hope you are ready for the journey of your life into the unknown, because there is some fiery guitar work to be enjoyed here again. The song starts progressively Chris van Hoogdalem's adventurous keyboards and the thundering drums of Rob Boshuijzen. The bonus tracks are older, more familiar songs and every time I listen to them, they seem to impress me again, because of their amazing sound. The LP lacks the three bonus tracks from the CD, but it is pressed on beautiful purple vinyl and it looks and sounds gorgeous. Of the three additional songs on the CD, the first, "No Contact" another song with ballad-like overtones, allows the guitars enough space to impress. The amount of slower songs or ballads might be heavy, but when they're of such high quality you don't hear any complaints from yours truly. Following that, "Into The Fire" sounds like it was recorded live somewhere and it will set you on fire for sure, not only because GILGAMESJ is such a strong band on stage, but also because of the spontaneous and hilarious situations that sometimes arise. The band members are a group of hard working men, that take their job quite seriously, although they also know when it's time for humor, certainly another highlight. The song "Carry On" closes this magnificent album, and with that i can only conclude that I hope GILGAMESJ will carry on for many more years to come. This band can be proud of what they have achieved with "Another Daybreak", as the disc hasn't been out of my CD player for weeks. The band are still on top of the Dutch hard rock and heavy metal scene and their name stands for high quality and the amazing legacy that they have built over the years. I hope, that they finally receive the recognition they so deserve with this album, because these guys have earned a prominent place in the rich hard rock scene. If you like Dutch bands such as HORIZON, FIRST AVENUE, EMERGENCY and VANDENBERG, then this might be the diamond in the rough that you have been waiting for. After so many years of hard work, I think GILGAMESJ sees this album as the crown on their musical career.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

HAMMERHAWK-Breaks Loose (Metal Warrior Records)
The two items of HAMMERHAWK reviewed here are available on CD and colored vinyl and they both contain some of the purest Dutch metal that you would wish for. The original "Breaks Loose" EP is an item that is hard to find and people pay a whole lot of money for it on record fairs or online. That is, if you can find one at all. This re-release of the magic EP, which originally came out in 1984, is now compiled with the 1982 demos of the band. The nine songs are worthy of about forty minutes of pure HAMMERHAWK mayhem. Those first riffs on the EP are memorable already and I think that a lot of other bands took them as an example of how to sound really heavy. "Discovery" is pure heavy metal and because of the raspy voice of Thys, a comparison to MOTORHEAD would well be called for, however I think you have heard this all before. The speed change will make you realize that HAMMERHAWK consisted of some very gifted musicians. They easily turn this song from a pure heavy metal song to a more bluesy sound and then return back to metal after this short side step. Also check out the double leads in the instrumental break. This is not just an average power explosion after the next speed change. There's enough variation to make it stand. This band covered many styles and because of that they had a wide range of fans. Sometimes, they even sounded very melodic. Just check out the beginning of "One By One". However, things could suddenly change to an enormous tsunami of power. Keep listening to this song and you will be taken by surprise of such a shock wave. The drummer will beat his cymbals to death, when they are gaining speed. It's a freaking killer track. Put MOTORHEAD, the MENTORS and SAXON in a huge blender and the steel welding sound of HAMMERHAWK would be the result. Check out the amazing heavy fueled guitar solo in here. "High Score" sounds fast and brutal, just as it should be. It would easily receive a high score from all the devoted metal heads out there. "Chinatown Braindamage" is an instrumental tune, which has some IRON MAIDEN influences. The bass parts are very heavy and the way the song is build up gets very close to the early years of this NWOBHM band, when they still were inspiring and fresh. Same goes for the adventurous guitar work, which indeed shows some Chinese influences. Does somebody need any more noodles, please?? "Killer" is the first song from the 1982 demo. It's loud and heavy and it catapulted the name of the band pretty firmly into the premier ranks of the Dutch heavy metal scene. What more do you want with song titles, such as "White Hot Steel", which is possibly referring to the steel factories in the area of their hometown Beverwijk. Check out the slower opening riff, which could very well be from JUDAS PRIEST or BLACK SABBATH, at least it has the same heavy feeling. The song "Hammerhawk" has got another fantastic MOTORHEAD vibe which starts off with a progressive bass intro, that could have been inspired by IRON MAIDEN. Thys throws his head on high, when he tries to hold up the microphone, just like Lemmy did, while plundering the strings of his bass guitar and making some exploding noises. This was extreme for the early days of heavy metal, but the fans just loved it. And when hearing it again so many years later, you still get the urge to bang your head to the sound of it. "All Of The Days" is a bit more up tempo, yet it has got the same effect on you. "Dead Or Alive" is perhaps the best song, that is being kept for later. It's as heavy as hell and it has a good head banging speed, containing some thunderous drum beats by Ray and probably the dirtiest guitar sound of this entire album. Heavy Metal Forever has been the slogan of HAMMERHAWK and now you know why. Did you see any other Dutch metal bands that had to lock up their drummer in a cage, so he wouldn't get out because he would wildly disappear into the audience? An HAMMERHAWK is a wild predator and "Breaks Loose" is the moment, when they go out hunting for their prey. Forty years later, their name is still on the lips of many die-hard metal heads out there and the reason why is on these forty minutes of pure metal mayhem. That's the first part of this two CD set. The booklet contains the first part of the extensive biography of the band, plus many flyers and pics. On this first CD, we are treated to some cool heavy metal by Thys 'Maniac' Bruyns on vocals and bass, Bart van Rixtel on guitars, Alex van Die on guitars, on the EP, Hans de Jong on guitars on the demo songs and Ray van Wijngaarden on drums. Heavy Metal Forever!
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

HAMMERHAWK-Welcome Home, We Expected You (Metal Warrior Records)
The second part of this two CD set of HAMMERHAWK contains their album "Welcome Home, We Expected You", including one bonus track. It has fifteen tracks and it’s worthy of a bit over forty-five minutes. The music has become a bit more thrashy at times and it starts off with an harmonica intro, which is not metal at all. Clearly, it simply belongs to the sound of HAMMERHAWK at that very moment, heavy metal with the wink of an eye. What happened? Don't worry and just wait, because the band will soon explode in "If You See Kay" (FUCK), an anthem loved by every HAMMERHAWK fan and metal adept in general. "Love Song, Oh No!" is not a love song, oh no. The guys show that there is more to this than meets the eye and they went on from pure heavy metal mayhem to a more thrashy kind of direction. For the old school HAMMERHAWK fan, this must have sounded quite different and adventurous, but humorous as well. This becomes clear in "Kill The Enemy", where the ghost of a band like ANTHRAX wanders around as one of their new influences. It's 1990 and thrash metal is hot, so it is explainable why they evolved this way. Their sound is not always plain and straight forward and obviously it contains some adventurous sidesteps as well. "Lady Bike" however sounds like old school metal again. Just listen to the deadly drum beats by Ray, what power! "Blow Up Doll" is really something special. Just in case you have never heard someone blowing up a leaking blow up doll, then you are in for a special treat here. It's freaking pervert and very funny, don't you think so? This song became timeless and a crowd's favorite at their live shows. "Hit It" is definitely not meant for Ray, because he hits it loud and fast and with great power. "The Unknown" has some fast and highly dynamic riffs and the guitar salvos go on and on in this speedy song. I would like to refer to METALLICA in the third degree, as the guitar solos are so full of fire. Sometimes it has a touch of melody, while at other time it's galloping and bone hard, yet always as loud as hell. In "Deep Sea Tragedy", the guitar players are showing their skills, while in "Marked For Life" the band breaks all possible speed records. In "F.H.C." the polka beats keep coming and HAMMERHAWK will make you scream for more. The vocals go back to the MOTORHEAD way of singing here. "Doom Of Pleasure" sounds brutal and it has more exploding guitar riffs. It's as funny as hell and so is the short and ultra fast "Aids II (The Warning)". "To Be Continued" is a pre-taste of things to come. The bonus track is called "Raping The Future", which is exactly what we are all doing nowadays. The band took a good look in the future. With their changing sound, they became even more popular than they already were and the band profiled themselves to a much broader public than ever before. HAMMERHAWK is still on the lips of every metal head out there and the musicians on this album are: Thys 'Maniac' Bruyns on vocals and bass, Paul van Rijswijk on guitars, Danny Vlaspoel on guitars and Ray van Wijngaarden on drums. The bonus track originally appeared on the "IJmond Pop" compilation album. Oh and for everybody, who is interested, Ray has left his cage many years ago.
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

LEADER-V For Victory (Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records)
This CD contains four demos and some live songs, worthy of almost seventy-five minutes of pure heavy metal from Groningen. They call that value for money. The vaults have been emptied and it's time to enjoy the magical and previously unreleased tracks by this amazing metal band. Aircrafts are flying high above your head before the music of LEADER hits you by surprise. Title track "V For Victory" is on the album twice and it also starts the first demo, recorded in 1985. The guitars are crying and the high energy makes it an outstanding opener. There are some references to the NWOBHM movement here, which was just over the top of its success, when this demo was recorded. "Hit The Streets" has got a nice drive and the guitar explosion is raw and shows no mercy. Bands like SAXON and old school RIOT, with which they shared the stage in 1988, definitely come to mind here. "Whiskey And Hellbound" on the other hand is a slow and very emotional ballad. The guitars however are right in your face and they lift the song up to a very powerful track. The live demo, which was recorded in 1986, shows that LEADER was a very powerful live band. "Victims Of The Vulture" is pure heavy metal and once again the focus lies on the lead guitars. The riffs are sounding like razorblade killers, ready to cut through your flesh. "Excalibur" is a very exciting instrumental and also in "Surrender", the main focus is on the instrumental part. The twin axe work will definitely blow you away. "Breakaway" however is a solid metal track. It s fast and furious and full of high energy power. I guess, that banging your head is not prohibited on that one. Next are three more songs from a live recording session at the Stadspark in Groningen in 1988. The sound quality might be a little bit blurry at times, yet the exclusivity really counts here. "The Hunter" takes off here and this fast killer song was on their full-length album "Out In The Wastelands". The guitar parts in "Eye Of Tomorrow" ask for the most attention in this up-tempo rock song, which also got on that fantastic album. The title of the third song is not mentioned here at all, but I'm sure it's called "Set You On Fire". It's a fast track, which matches very well with the other songs. After this, we dive to the demo which gave its name to this compilation, the "V For Victory" demo, originally recorded in 1987. This is the band in its full glory, in my opinion. "I Want More" leaves nothing to be desired and it's crystal clear and heavy. The guitar solo is short yet flashing. Same goes for "Rebel Down" with the double leads in the middle. The riffs chug in this song like a lawnmower, which ploughs through a huge heap of sand and there is no way to stop it. "Law Of The Thundering Hearts" starts with some loud thundering drum beats. That must imitate the sound of thundering hearts, I guess. It contains a nice speed change around the flashing guitar solo and yelling voice of Keith Ellis. We are already familiar with "Breakaway" and this is the original demo version of this fast and raw rock song. The speed goes up a few notches in "Under Control", which even leans towards speed metal for that matter. At times the vocals of Keith show some resemblance to for example Rick Ambrose of JEWEL. Add to this the haunting riffs and amazing guitar solo and I think that we can draw the conclusion, that this is one of the meanest and loudest tracks on this CD, which rips like hell. Title track "V For Victory" is the most attractive song here, which is a rough diamond indeed, so check it out when you can. LEADER has had so much more music to enjoy, which unfortunately never saw the light of day, until now. The CD closes with another demo from that same year, the "Victims Of The Vulture" demo with the title track from the 1986 live demo and "A Tale To Tell", which is another good rock song. The vaults of LEADER have been completely emptied now, I guess. The band had the privilege of supporting SAXON in 1988 at De Oosterpoort in Groningen, so the quality of the demos and the local live recordings reflected the success of the band very well, that now sees their hard work compiled on this amazing CD sampler. Responsible for these great metal tracks are Oscar Carre on guitar (1984-1992), Richard de Jonge on guitar (1985-1992), Harm Timmerman on guitar (1984-1985), Paul Kremer on bass (1984-1988), Erik van Dijken on bass and guitar (1988-1992), Richard Koning on vocals (1984-1987), Keith Ellis on vocals (1987-1990), Quince Jones on vocals (1990-1992) and Jack Schurer on drums (1984-1992). "V For Victory" is an essential buy for those of you, who have a heart for Dutch heavy metal
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

LORD VOLTURE-Live 'Em Up! (Freya Records)
LORD VOLTURE presents their ten track live album, worthy of almost fifty-five powerful minutes. These songs have been recorded at several locations and it shows a solid metal band, creating their own sound out of the influences of other traditional heavy metal bands. Opener on this exciting live document is "Where The Enemy Sleeps", which unites to the sound of IRON MAIDEN and old school HELLOWEEN. The riffs are raw and the voice of David Marcelis (also THORIUM) lifts the band up to a higher level for sure. Add to this the powerful beats of Frank Wintermans and a solid rock sound is guaranteed. LORD VOLTURE has a good live reputation and prove is given on a great version of "Minutes To Madness", with blood-curdling high screams of David and fabulous licks of the guitar tandem Paul Marcelis and Leon Hermans. "Taklamakan" on the other hand will add more PRIEST and ACCEPT influences to their sound. The high pull outs of David are amazing and your mind will easily go out to a younger version of Bruce Dickinson at times. Just have a listen to the next song "The Puglist", which includes a long impressive instrumental part. The enthusiastic performance and talks in-between of Singer David are surely an asset. He clearly states that these recordings were recorded at De Verlichte Geest in Roeselare. The next track "Will To Power", is one of my own personal favorite songs for sure. The hungry audience eagerly sings along to it. "Taiga" is the second single taken from the album, which is recorded in Manchester, England. It's the longest track and you will hear the crowd go crazy. LORD VOLTURE are experienced and skilled musicians and they prove just that. The song has got very recognizable IRON MAIDEN type of riffs and licks and a catchy feeling, which makes it highly enjoyable for the public. It's definitely a crowd's favorite. During "Wendigo", the fast and powerful drum beats of Frank Wintermans are truly amazing! It will destroy everything and beyond. In "My Sworn Enemy", the screams are longer and higher and the guitar work is stunning. The first single and title track "Live 'Em Up!" is next. It contains some exciting mood changes in the instrumental parts and once again there is some audience participation. In "Hearts Of Steel", LORD VOLTURE gives their best shot for the last time. What an honest reflection of a LORD VOLTURE live show. The sound quality is very clear and it almost feels like you are in the middle of this venue. Once again, David screams like an air raid, the guitars are crying, the drums are pounding hard and the bass is exploding. The public is raising their hands and yelling and the show is over. Hopefully, many more gigs will follow for this very skilled true metal outfit from the Netherlands. LORD VOLTURE is David Marcelis on vocals, Paul Marcelis on guitar and backing vocals, Leon Hermans on guitar and backing vocals, Simon Geurts on bass and Frank Wintermans on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.lordvolture.com or https://www.facebook.com/LordVolture.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

ROB ORLEMANS & HALF PAST MIDNIGHT-Shake Them Down (Rodisc Music)
Rob Orlemans on Holland Heavy Metal? Sure thing, as Rob has been the man behind RFB in the eighties and currently he is fronting his own blues band with former HIGHWAY CHILE and HELLOISE drummer Ernst van Ee and Piet Tromp on bass guitar. The fourteen songs here are worthy of a full hour of amazing blues rock and boogie and there are even a whole lot of guitar sounds to enjoy on "Shake Them Down". Twelve songs and two live bonus tracks are certainly a 'must-have' for those who like high quality rock and blues. And who doesn't?! If you like ZZ TOP kind of rhythms and guitar riffs, then opener "Boogie Down The Line" is a majestic opener for you. All band members are receiving a very short solo spot and the band is in perfect shape for a full hour of boogie and rock. After this fast and swinging opener, they take a step back in speed and drive "Into The Night", where life is much slower and darker. The guitar solo dominates in this song, in my opinion and that’s exactly the way I like it. Rob's fiery guitar licks also start off in the fast "Never Be Ready". Yes, people, it's boogie time again. "Honkin' To The Blues" is definitely a song to get the people going, when playing live. When you hear the first notes of this ZZ TOP influenced song, you simply can't sit still anymore. It's that catchy. It really belongs to the highlights on this album, as far as I'm concerned. "A Dirty Shame" has got the same vibe. Dance and jump around, while Robbo burns his fingers on his guitar strings for you. While the next song "Shake Them Down" has more lengthy guitar solo parts. Fans of bands like ZZ TOP, TEN YEARS AFTER, MICHAEL KATON and JOHNNY WINTER will know what to expect for sure. "Give That Thang To Me" is another hip shaker and the sound of this boogie is coming right from the swamps of the Southern States. The song structures are from the book of ZZ TOP and then you will know that it's good. After that, it's time for an emotional instrumental song. This is one of the only slower songs on the album and not without a good reason. "Song For Erik" is dedicated to one of the roadies of the band, that passed away a while ago. It's an honest tribute to a very dear friend. Life is filled with good times and bad times and this reflects on this album. Sometimes it's time to party, while at other times you feel down and want to cry, too. "Nadine" is not the RORY GALLAGHER song, in case you wondered, although it rocks just the same. Chris Meierink takes care of the organ parts here. The only cover on the album is also the longest track. "Love Like A Man" was originally recorded by TEN YEARS AFTER and starts off with a very recognizable and timeless riff. The band is able to show their skills to the max in this song. They can stretch it out for as long as they want to and even improvising is allowed here, which they did. It turned this song into a jam session of seven minutes plus. "Moonlight Rumble" will show the diversity of music styles on this album. This song could have been written by a group of native Americans dancing around the campfire to the beat of it. At least, that's the feeling I get. Robert-Jan Kanis does the acoustic parts in this song. "Desire" is a short acoustic track, which will please many fans of RORY GALLAGHER, I guess. Then we have arrived at the two live bonus tracks on this album. "JL Boogie" was recorded live in Germany in 2022. It shows the band in full action, which is their playground. The song sounds quite impressive and of a very high quality. As soon as this band jumps on stage, it's like they are in their favorite habitat. What a crazy and lengthy version do they play there live. The speed change is magnificent and the flashing solo spot of Robbo at the end is amazing, what a killer track. "Red Moon Rising" is taken from the live shows with boogie king MICHAEL KATON for RTV Rijnmond in 2015. This is an honest reflection of what is happening on stage of this amazing rock, blues and boogie band, which originates from the area of Tiel, in the Betuwe region. For those of you, who like it hard and also swinging, this one is for you. ROB ORLEMANS & HALF PAST MIDNIGHT is: Rob Orlemans on guitar and vocals, Piet Tromp on bass and Ernst van Ee on drums. For more information about this incredible band, go to: https://www.roborlemans.com and https://www.halfpastmidnight.nl.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

RESTLESS-The Demo Years (Metal Warrior Records)
RESTLESS from the Northern part of our country is playing pure heavy metal and this is a compilation CD of four demos, worthy of seventeen songs and seventy minutes of raw metal songs with sometimes a melodic edge to it. The demos are in chronological order here, starting with the five track demo from 1988, when the band consisted of Luitzen Boelens on vocals, Robby de Vries on guitar, Wierd Oosterloo on guitars, Jan Siebe Veenstra on bass and Ienke Frankes on drums. The picture on CD cover shows the name of the band with the head of a ram facing you. It starts off with "Rock And Roll Angel", which is introduced by some pounding drum beats and it contains a lot of energy and raw guitar licks. Clearly, these guys came to rock and nothing else. "Unlock The Doors" will tell you to open up and besides the high energy level, there is plenty of room for melody. The biggest eye-catcher here is the energetic guitar solo. The level of catchiness is enough to sing along to the chorus. "Remember The Good Days" will slow things down a bit in this melancholic type of ballad. The speed change at the end doesn't come as a surprise at all. After all, RESTLESS is metal band and they love it hard and loud. At the end of the song they get back to the slow pace tough. While "Bring On The Night" is another pure up- tempo rock song with some mean guitar work. The guitar solo in "The Devils Daughter" will set you on fire right away. This is how rough the band really sounds and it's just the beginning. As far as I'm concerned, it’s also the best song on this first demo. The second demo has been released in 1989 with the same line-up. I must admit that the first song "Like The Mighty Eagle" has been influenced a little by the early material of the Belgian band KILLER, also vocally. Check out it out and you will know what I mean. "Looking Out For Number 1" is another decent hard rock song that will please many of you because of its high energy level. The raw guitar solos lift it up to far above average and it sounds really dynamic. Things will get even better in next song "Robot Man" (which is not a cover of the SCORPIONS, by the way!). The guitar solo in this particular song will definitely tear your place apart and it shreds like a madman! The demo closes with the rock song "If You Ain't The Same", which will make your heart beat faster. Then we will move on to the year 1991 to "Break The Chains" from the third demo. The band line-up has changed on several points. The band hired a new skin beater in Jack Schuber and lost their second guitar player Weird and moved onward with just one guitar player. The songs are still loud and perhaps with a bit more melody here and there. The demo artwork is completely different and the ram has obviously found himself a suitable hobby. Find out for yourself and see what I mean. "To Night" contains some furious guitar licks and a galloping rhythm. The best song for me is called "No Way In Between", which has a rather rocking rhythm and some bluesy final chords. "Digging For Gold" may start out as a ballad type of song, however when the speed goes up, this great rock song has got some amazing guitar parts and fine speed changes. On this 1993 demo, the band recruited a female vocalist. Wieke van der Veen is her name and she knows to impress pretty easily with her very powerful and high vocals. Who says that girls can't play rock'n'roll, you'd better think again, because on this demo she likes to press the pedal to the metal. Check out the SAXON type of riffs in opener "Game Over", which starts and closes with the sound of a computer game. Vocalist Wieke sounds raw and mean and she gives a whole new meaning to the heavy sound of the band. Durk de Haan is the new man behind the drum kit on this demo. "Time Will Tell" starts off with some fiery riffs and proves that RESTLESS is really an amazing rock and metal band. The song even closes with some typical RUSH chords, that did something alike back in the days. The mighty heavy pounding drums in "When Does Hell Freeze Over" will possibly refer to for example MONTROSE's "Rock Candy". It's quite innovative and the short drum solo, that follows thereafter... What can I say? Who would come up with such thing? RESTLESS sure did and I think this is certainly one of the highlights on this compilation album. It contains all the elements that you would like to hear in a good solid rock and metal song. The demo closes with a satisfying melodic ballad, called "Soldiers Child". Oh and just in case you wondered about the ram on this demo cover. He became a child's friend after all. The CD booklet of this nice overview contains a lot of nice pictures and all the lyrics to the songs. In the meantime, Luitzen Boelens and Jack Schuber have passed away unfortunately, but the band injected new life into the old bodies and in 2022 they played at Holland heavy Metal in Drachten, in their backyard, so to speak. The demo captures some of the finest moments of the band, that has found its way back to the stage again after a much too long absence. RESTLESS anno 2022 is: Hans Kuyper-vocals, Robby de Vries-guitar, Jan Siebe Veenstra-bass (SUPERBUG) and Ino Frankes-drums. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/hardrockformatie.restless
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

RVH PROJECT-Enter The Machine (PT78 Records)
The reason why we review this CD on HHM is because former VORTEX and now METAL BATS and MAESTRO guitar player Orion Roos is in this band and on this CD. The eleven tracks here are worthy of a bit over fifty minutes of rock with a capitol R. A warning should be in order here, because this album may not be suitable to every metal head out there and strictly for those, who are very broad minded. Opener "Caught In The Middle" is an up-tempo rock song with some nice keyboard lines, raw vocals, a stunning bass rhythm and just the right amount of guitars to make it heavy enough for a heavy rocker like me. Also in "Enter The Machine" there is not a leading role for the guitar work of Orion, but the drum beats of Gerry are rather heavy in the second part of the song. These thundering beats will hit you quite hard, I can tell you that much. "Point Of No Return" starts off with some nice rock riffs and it's being accompanied by some keyboard parts and more dreamy vocals. It's a lengthy track with a nice instrumental part in the middle, in which Orion shines in the spotlight. And although this is not your average metal or rock song, you can tell that it is being performed by some classy musicians. For example in "Blame", I hear some BOWIE type of influences in the vocal parts. Then it's time to move your body to the rhythm of the beat in the "Kingdom Of The Freak". The next song is called "Pride", which will take you to a more sentimental world and shows a lot of emotion. The saxophone solo of Stanley Medema simply belongs in here. Each song on this album is going into a different direction and in "So Alive", the vibe of soul and disco even wanders around. This is the moment to dance, if you are into that. "Let's Get Serious" is not that serious at all, as the title might suggest. On the contrary, it's more or less a funky piece of music. "Stranded (The Greenpeace Blues)" on the other hand is a very serious topic. While "Living On The Edge" contains some serious fretwork of Orion. "Hollow Man (Homo Nihilis)" has more funky vocal rhythms and I also hear some BOWIE influences again. This album contains a wide range of different music styles and therefore, it never gets dull in any way. I strongly suggest to enter the machine too, if only for once and taste the classy rock of Rick van Heuzen on bass and vocals, Orion Roos on guitar and backing vocals and Gerry de Graaf on drums. Marin Verdonk plays percussion on this album and Hans Voerman is playing the keyboards. For more information on RVH, go to: https://www.rvh-project.nl or https://www.facebook.com/rvhprojectnl.
(7,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

VANDENBERG-Sin (Mascot Music Productions)
After a short romance with singer Ronnie Romero (ex-every band) Mats Leven became the new man behind the mike in the band of Flying Dutchman Adrian Vandenberg. The sharks are back on the album cover and the familiar VANDENBERG logo returned as well and even the sound of the band evolved further. "Sin" contains nine songs, worthy of forty minutes of pure hard rock. Let's go through all of these tracks for a moment. Turn up the volume a few notches, so that every inch of your body can absorb the sound of this amazing new album. Opener "Thunder And Lightning" is showing the influences of Adrian in WHITESNAKE for many years, which reflects to the sound of his own band. It feels like the best of both worlds and this fast and heavy song is a nice mix of the old school WHITESNAKE sound mixed with the sound of VANDENBERG or even VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS. The catchiness is high and this will occur in some of the other songs as well. You will sing along to it right away and obviously it will light your fuse immediately. After this, just tune in to "House On Fire", which isn't any different. Next to the catchy approach, it also has got the rawness that a good rock song needs, because of the guitar parts of the maestro himself. He's a real fret-flyer of the first category. The only thing that I'm missing here, when comparing it to the old VANDENBERG sound from the first three albums, are the harmony vocals, that easily turned every song into a recognizable song with its own VANDENBERG trademark stamped on it. This new line-up sounds remarkably heavier on this new album. The rock attitude is still there and they want to show it. Title track "Sin" sounds like it was extracted from WHITESNAKE's "Judgement Day", a real classic, also in the live set of VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS. There is a layer of that juicy LED ZEPPELIN sauce over it, which turns it into a real highlight, as far as I'm concerned. The guitar solo seems to fall from the sky and gets into your eardrum like the crown lands on a king's head. It's the moment you all have been waiting for and it turns into another highlight right away. This is the cream on top of this tasty cake. "Light It Up" is an up- tempo rock song, in which the guitar riffs and solos of Adrian are getting a prominent role. The catchiness is there, too. "Walking On Water" is a stunt that was done about two thousand years ago. Now this memorable moment is being remembered and it received its own soundtrack. Mats' low vocals are a little more difficult to comprehend than his higher screaming. To me, it feels like he's more confident in the higher regions. "Burning Skies" is next and you will notice that the band is destined to rock hard, maybe harder than ever before. Koen's drum parts are solid and Randy keeps the rhythm extremely tight. It's nearly impossible to image the band without these guys today. "Hit The Ground Running" flirts again with a good WHITESNAKE song. It's up-tempo and it would do very well at the American radio stations for that matter. I guess, a long journey on the American highway would turn into a nice and cozy drive with songs like that. Just turn the volume up to ten, while gnawing away mile after mile. The guitar solo sounds dazzling and makes this rock song complete. It was also the opener on the release party in Enschede and a very good choice indeed. The first chords of "Baby You've Changed" reminded me of the early VANDENBERG days, when mighty ballads like "Burning Heart" and "Different Worlds" were released. It contains a lot of emotion that you will also hear back in the guitar solo. In fact, a lot of hard rock bands have been well-known because of their slow ballads and in my opinion this one can be added to a long list of successful rock ballads. "Out Of The Shadows" closes this album much too soon. The child's voice in the beginning is done by Emil Leven, by the way. The song contains that well-known pushy DIO type of beat in the rhythm section. It's very adventurous and I would like to refer to LED ZEPPELIN here because of that. It sounds a bit experimental to my ears and that's exactly what bands like ZEPPELIN and RUSH were well-known for. They didn't like to ride the paved path but always created a path by their own. And so does VANDENBERG on this new album. You might hear more influences from other rock bands, but in the end it still is VANDENBERG, mainly because of the guitar sound of Adrian Vandenberg himself. The high quality of his playing is really outstanding and I truly hope that this line-up will be a long time. In my opinion, Mats Leven delivers far above the qualities of former singer Romero, which was a musical cooperation that simply wasn't meant to be. How much bigger are the opportunities with Leven, who can do so much more with his amazing voice. Add to this the strong backing of musicians like Herfst and van der Elsen and you will get the perfect sound of a band that is able to rock on for ages. VANDENBERG consists of Adrian Vandenberg on guitars, Mats Leven on vocals, Koen Herfst on drums and Randy van der Elsen on bass. Occasional keyboards were played by producer Bob Marlette and engineer Chris Marlette. Clearly, the artwork of the album was done by Adrian Vandenberg himself. Let "Sin" attack you like a vicious shark. After forty minutes, you will push the 'repeat' button again, because you can't get enough of it. For vinyl freaks, and I know that there is a lot of you out there, the album is also available on green vinyl, which looks truly amazing. VANDENBERG will tour in the US in 2024, supported by former QUEENSRYCHE singer Geoff Tate. The doors to an endless international success are wide open at last with the release of "Sin". For more information, go to: https://www.vandenbergband.com or https://www.facebook.com/vandenbergbandofficial.
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

V/A: NEW WAVE OF LOWLANDS HEAVY METAL 1979-1984 -Crash, Bang, Wallop (Excelsior Recordings)
Two die hard heavy metal fans teamed up and put this compilation package together, consisting of twenty-three songs. It's their vision of the metal scene in Limburg and surrounding area. It contains Belgian and Dutch metal bands and is released as 2CD/2LP and collectors box, which contains a special book of all their best memories. A real must to every devoted metal head of my age. This overview is basically my entire childhood, so I can relate very well to the stories being told and the information that is given here. The initiators of this jewel are A.H.J. Dautzenberg and Vincent Loozen. This review is my personal view on the music and the bands. What the two writers have got to say is for you to find out in the CD booklet and the book, which has been included in this deluxe boxset. Happy hunting, I would say. The first CD contains eleven songs, worthy of almost forty minutes of pure heavy metal. Obviously, these compact rock songs will easily get your head banging up and down. I guess, you can't go without the first band PICTURE and any song would have fitted in here just the same. They picked "Lady Lightning", probably because they love the voice of Shmoulik Avigal, because at the end of this CD, you will also hear Shmoulik's former band, MOVER. This song is taken from their third album "Diamond Dreamer" and I think there is not much more to say about it. If you are not familiar with this metal anthem, then you are holding the wrong compilation album in your hands. BLACK WIDOW recorded one album and from this 1984 release they took "Heaven Is Yours, Hell Is Mine" to be on this two CD set. The heavy beats and catchy chorus are matching very well together. Drummer Leon Ulrichts has been a well-known name for Easy Livin', the concert organizer in the region, that brought many bands over to play in Belgium. Some of these riffs have been influenced by QUEEN's "Tie Your Mother Down" and this is one of their heavier songs, as a matter of fact. KILLER is another well-known name in the Flemish metal scene. They are in Belgium what PICTURE is in Holland. They toured a lot in our country and I have lost count of the many times that I have seen them on stage. "Ready For Hell" is a killer track, a joke that is too easy to make, but each and every word is true. It's good to see that this amazing band is still around, Shorty rules. Taken from their debut album and also the first heavy metal album from Belgium, which is quite an accomplishment. WARHEAD on the other hand is probably less well-known, but they sure had the potential to become huge. Their rendition is the instrumental track, called "Attack And Kill", from the album "Speedway", released in 1984. BODINE needs no further introduction, although I want to ask some special attention for the song that they picked here, "Shooting Dice". This song never made it on their debut album, but instead it was taken from a two song demo, which secured them a record deal. This is a newly arranged version of the amazing blues rock song from the time that Jay van Feggelen was still their singer. The spoken word piece at the beginning is part of the heavy, bluesy rock sound that the band carried out on their debut LP. It matches perfectly well here. Oh, those early BODINE days! The story of STEELOVER from Belgium is mainly about their world famous drummer Rudy Lenners, who came from THE SCORPIONS and played on the albums "Virgin Killer" and "In Trance". After being in a band called K-WEST, he joined STEELOVER, that contributed the up-tempo metal track "Need The Heat" on this compilation album. ACID from Bruges is next up here. They play some of the best speed metal that is available and their debut album is in my CD player at a very regular base. This is taken from their second album though and "Bottoms Up" is definitely a crowd pleaser at their live shows. This fast, powerful speed metal simply can't be topped, no matter how hard you try. All hail to Kate and her mates, because this overview just wouldn't be complete without these Belgian Maniacs. LIONS PRIDE could be categorized as a one hit wonder, because their album "Breaking Out' never got a successor. Raw voiced Willy Beckers steals the show in "The Nighthunter" here. Honestly, I can write a book about GILGAMESJ. They resided in Leerdam rock city from the mid-seventies on. To me, they are one of the very best hard rock bands ever. The EP "Take One!" is of an absurd high quality level and one of the songs on this CD is from that four track EP. "Oppression" contains some mind-blowing guitar licks, amazing vocal parts, steady drums and a stunning bass player, who holds the rhythm together. They are the absolute winners on this compilation disc. Why this band never received the recognition that they deserved so much, I just don't know. When I'm writing these lines, they will release their first album in a zillion years and I'm glad that they finally did, because musicians like that simply need to be heard. I raise my horns to this band. Same goes for JACK PISTERS and AVALON. The short instrumental "Arabesque" will really blow you away and the skills of Pisters are reckoned worldwide. Whereas Ben Blaauw once won the guitar of TED NUGENT, Pisters won the guitar of GARY MOORE in a contest. After he left AVALON, Pisters became the guitar player of ANOUK and KEITH CAPUTO for a while and not for his shining blue eyes. The plaster will come away from your wall, when you play this sucker at high volume. You'd better warn your neighbors upfront, because he's playing some heavenly guitar parts here. MOVER may not ring a bell to all, but in 1979 guitarist Arjen Lucassen (BODINE, VENGEANCE, AYREON, etc.etc.) and vocalist Shmoulik Avigal (PICTURE, HORIZON, HAMMERHEAD and THE RODS) started their career in MOVER. It's nice to see, that they added the song "Don't Touch It" on this album, while MOVER never released any music on CD, single or LP. The second CD contains one song more and is worthy of almost fifty minutes of powerful, loud rock music. Well, fasten your seat belts, crash, bang, wallop and here we go!!!! Starting off with CROSSFIRE, the speedy power metal band that stopped their career, when Peter de Wint left to join OSTROGOTH, that is also on this sampler. The high energy fueld "Demon Of Evil" was the opening song on their album "See You In Hell". S TO S are from Seraing and to be quite honest, I don't know them at all. "I'm A Killer" is from 1979 and from their D.I.Y. release that will probably appeal to every NWOBHM adept out there. What a crazy and very fast track and I am really impressed. VOPO'S are from Zwolle and the de Grebber brothers played a mix of metal and punk. I'm glad they choose my personal favorite here, which is called "In The Book" and taken from their second album "Conquer", released in 1983. OSTROGOTH surely belongs to the long list of Belgian heavy metal bands that is still very active in the scene nowadays and quite successful, too. What strikes me is that they picked another instrumental track here. Obviously, these skilled musicians put their complete heart and soul in playing heavy metal. The song is called "Lords Of Thunder" and is taken from their debut album "Ecstacy And Danger" from 1984. ROGERS added the title track of their twelve inch here. "Metal King" received a bad review in Aardschok. Why? The music may sound simple, but it's heavy as hell and it will please many VENOM t-shirt wearers out there for sure. VICTIM are next on the list and although the band never released an album, they surprise us with their keyboard sound, that will directly refer to URIAH HEEP, as a matter of fact. Their song "Nightriders" is from 1984 and taken from the recording sessions for their first album, which unfortunately never saw the light of day. The roadie of the band is one of the organizers of Graspop in Dessel, that will take place the same weekend I am writing this review. Amazing how things can go at times. The next band TEASER is an outsider, because their song "What You Need Is Love" was released in 1978 on the one and only album that the band recorded. Adrian Vandenberg's guitar playing shows a lot of resemblance to string pullers, such as Paul Kossof and Mich Ralphs here and so does this song, which comes very close to a mix between THE FREE and BAD COMPANY. Adrian Vandenberg would later start his own band VANDENBERG (where is their rendition?!?) and WHITESNAKE of course. After a brief adventure with VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS, the Flying Dutchman is back with VANDENBERG 2.0. Singer Jos Veldhuizen joined FLAVIUM for a while and he was also in the blues band FREE & EASY. What an underrated band. Another one album band from back in the days would be DANGER. Their song "Woman" is taken from that same self-titled album released in 1981. Their LED ZEPPELIN kind of music style is definitely loved by many hard rockers out there. VAULT has often been referred as a cult band from Holland. Just like GILGAMESJ, they never received the recognition that they earned so much. The two albums they recorded are a must for every metal adept and this song "Suicide" came from their debut album "No More Escape". The instrumental part in is very impressive indeed. HAMMERHAWK was the Dutch equivalent of British heroes MOTORHEAD in their early days and the song "High Score" is taken from the four track EP "Breaks Loose" from 1984. Drummer Ray van Wijngaarden appeared in a cage on stage, while Thys 'Maniac' Bruijns (R.I.P. 2010) could have been Lemmy's twin brother. This is pure metal mayhem from the area of the Dutch Steel company Hoogovens. The band TORMENTOR is perhaps also a bit unknown in a way, although when you see the album cover of "Goddess Of Love", I guess that you must have seen this in your local record store once or twice in the early days. The song "No They Ain't Gonna Catch Me" is catchy with a heavy twist. Last but not least, we have THUNDERFIRE for you. What HAMMERHAWK was in Holland, they were in Ghent and surroundings, a good MOTORHEAD type of band, that performs "The Beast On The Run" here, which is a very fine and energetic closure on this awesome compilation package. It marks a time frame that will never come back again. No one that wasn't there at that particular time could ever imagine what rich days of heavy metal we lived in. Festivals everywhere, club shows everywhere, record stores everywhere and a time where every hard rock fan greeted their fellow metal mates, no matter which country they came from or what music style they liked. It was a time of respect for each other and great music, a time of having a good time and having fun. The time of tape trading and discovering new music. It's all gone. Not really, but times are changing and the fans love their music in a much different way now. It was great fun being pulled back to those days with this amazing compilation album, which was named after one of the songs of the athletic metal band RAVEN. Both thumbs go up for the makers of this twenty-three song killer package. I think, I have another read in the book now. The CD contains No Ballads, No Hairspray, Just Raw Energy! That's the way I like it.
(9,9/10- Toine van Poorten)

V/A: FRISIAN METAL MASSACRE 3 INCURSION DEMENTIA ATMORAN Old Dogs, New Tricks....(Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records)
This split album contains two Frisian metal bands, namely old dogs INCURSION DEMENTA and the band that is responsible for the new tricks is called ATMORAN. It's the third part of this "Frisian Metal Massacre" series, which is released on Headbangers Records and Big Bad Wolf Records. Did you know that the debut album of INCURSION DEMENTA, "All This Is", sells for explosive high prices at the internet?! You will have to pay over five hundred bucks for a copy of this album right now. It was re-released on CD under the title "A Long Lane Has No Turning", and compiled with two demo and two additional tracks. It proves that we're dealing with a real cult name in the Frisian metal scene here. Side A contains INCURSION DEMENTA, a band that is named after the well-known NASTY SAVAGE song. They start off with "Cut This Life", which shows that the riffs are powerful and sharp and this energy is enough to provide the entire area of Friesland of power. The atmosphere is truly amazing, even after thirty years of existence. The sound of fast drum beats, exciting riffs with raw and wild vocals, accompanied by a staggering bass attack will enter your room, captured in a live setting. I haven't got a clue, where these obscure live recordings came from, as there's no information here, but they sound amazing and crystal clear. The riffs at the end will cut right through you... Man, what a killer stuff!! The excitement grows in the fast and furious "Nightmare", where the band shows that they are experienced in playing some powerful thrash metal. In "Never Ever", the band plays around with some speed and mood changes, which results in the highlight of these three songs, as far as I'm concerned and it's good for a splendid start. INCURSION DEMENTA consists of Benny M(eerstra) on guitar, Radboud B(urgsma) on bass, Benny (van der) W(al) on vocals, Simon S(choon) on guitar and Douwe Leeuwen on drums. Website: https://www.incursion-dementa.nl. On the B-side ATMORAN will present three songs, existing of a variety of different styles of thrash and dead metal. Soft and whispering type of vocals are easily alternating with wild screams and growls, while fast and furious riffs take turns with deep emotional charged solo parts. In the rollercoaster ride of "The Gathering", a name like old school OPETH comes to mind, when I hear all these different music styles passing by. Whispering vocals, distorted vocals, clean vocals, screaming vocals, wild riffs, softer pieces, it's all packed together and the band really shows their skills in all of the above mentioned parts. In "Forsaken", the drummer takes the spotlight and goes on like a real maniac, while the wild screams have been influences by ARCH ENEMY. "Savage Sanction" starts off like another wild thrash type of explosion, however they introduce some breaks here with nice speed changes and real adventurous instrumental parts, which makes it special. This is the final song on side B of this Frisian metal compilation. ATMORAN consists of Frank van der Ploeg on vocals, Frank Homma on guitar, Klaas Haaksma on rhythm guitar, Ian Postma on bass and backing vocals (who recently left the band) and Max van der Meij on drums. For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/Atmoran. A nice compilation album introducing you to two great Frisian metal band. Grab yourself a copy, when it's still hot.
(8,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

V/A: The Years Around The Wizard (Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records)
Did you ever consider Vroomshoop being the heavy metal capitol in the Netherlands? Possibly not, although this three CD package will possibly change your opinion a little, I guess. Seven bands from the area of Vroomshoop have been compiled on this three CD set. Intentionally, only the songs of BLIAND would be on this release, but walking Winkler Prins of rock and metal, Egbert Berenst came up with so much more suggestions from that same area that they decided to create a massive overview on three CD's, comprised of over thirty-four different songs, worthy of two full hours of Dutch heavy metal. Let's see what Vroomshoop has got to offer, starting with CD one, which contains eight songs of BLIAND. I hear influences of early JUDAS PRIEST in opener "California", where the band rocks at its very best. I just love the guitar solo, which shows a more rocking side of the band and probably leans towards the late VARDIS in a way. In "Freedom", the band slows it down a bit. Obviously, the band has been influenced a lot by the old school hard rock bands of the very early eighties or maybe even the late seventies, like SCORPIONS, JUDAS PRIEST and UFO. "Keep On Loving Me" is a real rock song from which you would almost believe it was a left-over from OZZY OSBOURNE in the late eighties. I make this comparison here mainly because of the vocal lines. The clear and well-produced sound quality is well-worth mentioning here, too. "King Klark" on the other hand is more a ballad type of song. There is a nice speed change in the middle though and it closes with a rock part at the end, as you probably would expect. "Lover In The Night" is catchy and it has some nice guitar work. "Mercy" contains a melancholic atmosphere, which refers to OZZY's later solo work, in my opinion. In "Music", the band is showing their rock attitude and once again I hear some references to the old school hard rock scene in the eighties. Some of these hard rock riffs really sound very cool. For example in "What A Lady Would Like", I thought I heard the well-known "Smoke On The Water" riff go by. And I can tell you, that there is no smoke without fire. The fiery guitar work here is played by Eddy Endeman, by the way. BLIAND consisted of Berto van Veen on vocals, Henk Kamermans on bass, Tony Wuite on drums and Eddy Endeman on guitar. In 2015 there's a reunion of this band with Henk Kamermans on bass, Tony Wuite on drums, Bert Gerrits on guitar and Egbert Berenst on vocals. Then we move on to CD two, which comes as a complete surprise to me. I have never ever heard of a Dutch band called DUST before. Anyway, they really blew me away in opener "Don't Break The Chains". Their music style is quite heavy and in combination with the female vocals, your mind will immediately go out to for example BITCH, BLACK LACE, the later ACID and some other female fronted metal bands from the eighties. "Rock 'N' Roll Desire" contains some nice speed changes, a catchy hook, a heavy beat and especially the very impressive high vocals of Aletta. How come we didn't hear about this band before? Also check out the amazing guitar work of Hans Pol (EXIT, BLACK SUN and of course DARK WIZARD). The 80s hard rock inspired tune "Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Dust" has a very catchy character, yet it sounds heavy enough to impress. "You've Got A Reason To Know" is an up-tempo rock song, while "Cheating Lie" is much slower. Both songs will really rock your world though and they sound fresh and remarkably well. "Play The Game" contains more exiting speed changes, while "Dreamer" is a ballad type of song, in which you can feel the emotion in Aletta's voice. In the final track, called "You Better Run", the band will rock out one more time. DUST is definitely a heavy rock band that you must check out. Clearly, you will discover a new pearl here. The line-up of DUST is: Heleen Heine on vocals, Hans Pol on guitar, Herrie Lucas on guitar, Rik Kremer on bass and Rudy Marissen (EMERALD) on drums. The next band is called EXIT and they will take you back to the laid back sound of the seventies. And I mean this as a compliment, because in the seventies all the bands played real music instead of home recorded crap coming from a computer. First track "Burn Away The Goodness" is a ballad, which has some references to one of my favorite Japanese vocalists MARI HAMADA. It's performed with a feeling and I hear a lot of emotion in Aletta's voice. Once again this band is a real eye opener to me. That the lady is also able to rock out, she proves in "Freedom Fighter", which includes an impressive instrumental mid-piece, in which the band shows what they are capable of. The song is introduced by some highly impressive guitar work as well, just check it out. "Holy Bird" on the other hand is slightly catchy and a bit more up-tempo. In the way it's build up, I would like to refer here to some Japanese female-fronted bands from the early eighties, like HONJOH MISAKO. Clearly, it's one of the highlights. The second CD, worthy of over seventy minutes, closes with "When The Stars Are Falling", which gives you a good introduction to EXIT, that shows a lot of variation in these four songs. The band consisted of Herrie Lucas on bass, Gert Slot on drums, Hans Pol on guitar, Marcel Hop on guitar and Aletta Berkhof on vocals. The third CD includes four bands and thirteen songs, worthy of almost a full hour of metal and rock. The first band is called CRUMMY and these songs were recorded live, possibly during their reunion gig in 1989. "Everything That I Want" is an 'easy-on-the-ear' rock tune and some parts will even invite you to sing along to it. It's a bit bluesy and therefore it might even expand your musical taste. "Future's Calling" is more or less a psychedelic ballad type of song. The guitar parts may remind you of early PINK FLOYD in a way, while "Natural Emotion" has some influences of THE DOORS. It's a firm rock song and that's what it is all about. CRUMMY consisted of Henk Kamermans on bass, Bert Prins on guitar, Rob Verburg on guitar, Jan van Laar on drums and Berto van veen on vocals. The band ILLUSION is much heavier and guitar oriented. The band has almost got the same line-up as CRUMMY though. Just have a listen to "I'm A Free Man" and you will definitely hear a lot more guitars here. "Illusion" is a firm and fast rock song and totally different than what we have heard from the same members in CRUMMY. "Pull You Down" has got a boogie kind of rhythm, which gets very close to the old STATUS QUO sound in the early seventies. The guitar parts in "Pushing" are quite impressive. "Transparent" is perhaps a bit more psychedelic in a way, but once the instrumental part starts off, you will know that there is a lot of talent going on here. ILLUSION consisted of Henk Kamermans on bass, Bert Prins on guitar, Berto van Veen on vocals and Tony Wuite on drums. The first song of BLACK SUN cuts off abruptly during the instrumental part of opener "Burn Away The Goodness", while in "Dirty Old Man", you will hear a good rock band, in which we find back Hans Pol of DARK WIZARD and Essie Zagers of EMERALD. The sound quality is perhaps not that perfect, yet it's the exclusivity that counts to make it complete. "Stole My Heart" contains some nice guitar licks, although it sounds very dusty. BLACK SUN consisted of Hans Pol on guitar, Essie Zagers on bass, Bert Jansen on drums and John Mulder on vocals. The best is saved for last with the band REVENGE, that plays some firm metal with references to LED ZEPPELIN. "Evil" is a good and straight forward opener, in which the raw voice of Heleen Heine is the biggest highlight. The best song is the lengthy "Under The Table" with expansive jamming parts, that have LED ZEPPELIN written all over. REVENGE consisted of Heleen Heine on vocals, Essie Zagers on bass, Bert Prins on guitar, Rick Rickert on guitar and Rudy Marissen on drums. That's half of EMERALD, in case you wondered. The bands in Vroomshoop are like one big happy rock family to me and one way or another they are connected to each other, although some of these bands never got out of their comfort zone for that matter. Well, actually until now on this amazing sampler, which is a nice musical journey into the world of unknown rock and metal band for most of us, I think. For more info or to order it, go to: https://www.bigbadwolfrecords.nl or https://www.headbangerszineandgigs.nl.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

VULTURE-Fatal Games (Metal Warrior Records)
Metal Warrior Records released both VULTURE albums on CD and put together a third CD with demos and live recordings plus their previously unreleased mini album from 1989. So, if you're a fan of this band from Rotterdam and surroundings, then you're in for a real treat. Let's start at the very beginning with the debut release "Fatal Games" from 1990, consisting of ten bone hard songs and worthy of a bit over forty minutes of Dutch heavy metal. Formed in 1983, the band evolved a lot over the years and outgrown their demo years. They were ready to fly out and release their first full-length album after seven years. The CD starts off with an intro, called "S.O.S.', which is a serious cry for help. The first thrash-like riffs dominate in "You're Invited (To My Chainsaw Party)" that will definitely end up in a bloody mess. This is definitely not a party song. Next to the guitar salvos and the fast drum beats, you will also hear the sound of shooting, which will make you fall off your chair. It even gets worse, when Dirk literally beats the shit out of you with his fast drum beats. In the next song, "I Stand Apart', it's quite obvious that this is the sound that a metal head like you and me want to hear. I hear riffs cutting through your flesh, high screaming vocals and thundering drum beats. It's all there and more. In "No Romance", you can feel the threat from the first slow riffs on. There is no place to hide and there will be no romance tonight for sure. I like the high pull out of Robert here. If you like a more up-tempo rumbling sound, then "Psycho" is your destination. Think of TOXIK (especially vocally) for example and you will get close to this killer track, while being carried away in a straitjacket. It's impossible to move to a song like that. The speed change sounds great in the middle and it will introduce you to the incredible guitar part. The galloping riffs keep going on and on and if you weren't a psycho before this, it's a warning before the riffs will enter your room. "Coitus Tormentus (Hard Love)" is not really a song to practice on between the sheets, because it will end up pretty badly then. Better thrash on and stay with both feet on the ground. The guitar solo is something you don't want to try at home, which is followed by a majestic instrumental part, in which bass player Ed gets a leading role next to the guitar players. The song is followed by title track "Fatal Games". The riffs are more brutal and the screams are louder and wilder than ever. "Don't Pray' is next up and clearly VULTURE came to kill and they will only leave the premises, when the place is slaughtered to dead. What a power and such an energetic feeling. We have arrived at the final part here. If you didn't get the VULTURE fever by now, it will definitely happen in the very last song. First you will have to get rid of some sweat in "They're Here", while banging your head to this killer track. The final song "Not Six But Seven Dead" was aired on national radio and by then everybody knew that VULTURE would be a name to remember in the Dutch heavy metal scene. This killer song contains a lot of high screams and more amazing riffs. And those thundering drum beats are faster than the speed of light. What a great song! This introduction of their debut album would change my world for sure and its successor "Easier To Lie", released two years later, would have an even greater effect on me. Anyway, you don't want to miss out on this pre-taste of the early VULTURE stuff. Responsible for it is Robert Soeterboek on vocals, Marcel 'Mac' van der Heyden on guitars, Andre Tolhuisen on guitars, Ed van Savooyen on bass and Dirk Bruinenberg on drums. For more information about the band or to order a copy, go to: https://www.metalwarriorrecords.com. Note: I noticed some bad bruises from moshing around during this review, but hey that's the risk of my job, I guess. And what a mess I've left behind, better clean it up before my wife kills me. I’m not used playing fatal games, I guess. What happened to the man that pulls a gun to his head on cover is unknown to me. I really hope, he has survived the fatal games with gambling and booze. Otherwise the vultures would have ripped his body apart by now. The CD contains extensive liner notes and many nice pics from the band archives. A real must for all the collectors of Dutch heavy metal.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

VULTURE-Easier To Lie (Metal Warrior Records)
After the debut release of "Fatal Games", there is a small gap of two years before its successor appears in the form of "Easier To Lie". This second album is worthy of nine songs and almost fifty minutes of Dutch thrash metal. The band line-up has changed on many points and the band continues with two new recruits, namely Pieter Oosterman on guitar and Rick Ritman on vocals. Robert Soeterboek is heading into a more melodic direction, while guitar player Andre Tolhuizen choses to play death metal with his new outfit SINISTER. The songs became a bit longer and more complex on this album and in opener "Hatred At First Sight", you can hear some of the influences of bands like ANTHRAX, OVERKILL and METAL CHURCH. The pounding drums are harder than ever and the guitar riffs are rawer and much more intense. The recordings are also sounding a lot better than on their debut album, to be honest. Just listen to "Near Death", which plunders through your speakers like a bulldozer taking down a house. It's like a steam train plundering through the landscape, while in the back the guitars are riffing on, how amazing!! In those last minutes I must have been banging my head so much, that I saw stars flickering in front of my eyes, when the music stopped. My freaking goodness, that hurts. The power is so immense. "Remember Me" contains some surprising mood changes. It really feels like an adventurous ride. Just check out the flashing guitar work here. It will really blow your mind. There are also some moody pieces of rest in here to catch your breath. "Backwards" is about hidden messages in some songs. It was some kind of hype in the eighties. However, I didn't discover anything at all in this song. VULTURE is not the band that would do that. I only hear some pure all destroying power in this song. Title track "Easier To Lie" is next up. Like all the aforementioned tracks, this song contains more complexity, than those on the debut album. Therefore, it sounds much truer and better for all the die-hard thrash fans among us. Those fiery and squeaking riffs are so intense. What follows next is a song, that METAL CHURCH couldn't have done any better. "Alter Ego" is next and once again the double leads sound incredible. There is some really flashing axe work in "Kicked From Both Sides", that will definitely lead to even more bruises than before from kicking. The guitar salvos are uncountable and therefore it's one of the highlights on this album for sure. "Greater Cause" that follows next sounds a bit darker, although once the riffs are starting the song, you simply can't stop banging your head, believe me. "Forgive Us" closes the album with yet a lot of brutality and more complex structures, until the song dies out slowly. The time has come to push the 'repeat' button again. After this release, the band splits up in 1994 and no further releases ever see the light of day, not even a demo tape or something. The booklet of this album contains some nice pics, live and posed band photos and the lyrics to all the songs. There are rumors going on, that a certain Donald Trump posed for the front cover of this album, but we never found out if these rumors are true or wrong. VULTURE consists of Rick Ritman on vocals, Marcel 'Mac' van der Heyden on guitars, Pieter Oosterman on guitars, Ed van Savooyen on bass and Dirk Bruinenberg on drums. Website: https://www.metalwarriorrecords.com.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

VULTURE-Flight Of The Vulture (Metal Warrior Records)
We have arrived at the early days of VULTURE. These two CD's will offer you demo material plus some more bonus goodies, like live stuff, a Christmas carol and the unreleased mini LP from 1989. This jam-packed collection cleared all the shelves from the VULTURE storage and contains all the material there is available. The front cover pictures a fleshless skull, lying in the desert, while a vulture flies over it. I bet, he ate all the flesh and left it behind like that? That is what a vulture does. Beware, because you will end up fleshless as well, when the vulture is hungry. Well, back to the music now, if I may. CD one contains thirteen demo tracks, divided over four different demos and seventy minutes of music, while CD two contains all the rest in twenty-five minutes and six highly enjoyable songs. The first demo is released in 1984. It's called "Save Your Neck", although that's an impossible mission when you start with an opener like "Deathwish", a speedy neck breaker in the premier league. The riffs are being hammered into your brain and the guitar solos will get plenty of space to impress. Well, if that one didn't impress you, then you must be deaf. "Heavy Metal Violence" contains a lot of vicious guitar breaks. This isn't violence, this is music. It's good and loud with a lot of variation and the first steps to success for a band that unfortunately only released two albums. This killer song also includes a great speed change. The slow introduction of the final song, called "Vulture", which includes a spoken word part, is again something really different. It's more or less the biography on music of this bird, a vicious predator, just like the band with the same name, believe me. The vulture is ready to fly out after this. The second demo is released in the same year. After a mysterious and ominous intro, which slowly contains more and more guitar sounds, the rumbling starts again. The band takes off in sixth gear with the mighty "This Is The Place". It immediately shows the progression that the band has made within a year time. The structure of the songs on this demo will really make the difference. There is a good intro, there are speed changes and it all sounds so much more professional. The band has grown a lot in just a few months. Just listen to "Don't Push Us Down" and you will know what I mean. And believe me metal brothers and sisters, you simply can't push a good and solid metal band down, that's impossible. Another excellent example is "Slough Of Despond", which starts off like a slow instrumental song, but once the speed changes are there, there is no one holding them back anymore. Another violent ear attack follows next. "T.F.J." is from a completely different category. It's fast and rough and the drummer really gets applauded by his amazingly brutal drum beats. These are not just ordinary drum beats, that is what they call drum torturing. "The Circle", which is also on the 1985 demo, closes this second demo, called "Breathtaking". On the cover you will see a man strangled in chains. Obviously, they take their demo titles pretty seriously. Warning, when the circle explodes near the end, you'd better wear earplugs before you end up with some serious hearing problems. It's 1985, when the "Chained 'N' Shackled" demo comes out. Hear the high pull outs of vocalist Rene 'Tiger' Debets in opener "The Samurai". I bet, he is chained and shackled as well, while singing these high notes. Drummer Richard van Leeuwen starts up the "Seduction" that follows next. The songs may sound less extreme by now, although they are much deeper and more structured. "The Circle" was re-recorded for this demo. This time it doesn't end with a big bang and some icy high screams. The fourth and last demo is called "Wings Of Fortune". It contains two songs and it was released another year later. "Sands Of Time" offers the sound that later would be the blueprint for their unreleased mini LP. Again they put more in-depth to their sound and they are a lot more in control, however the guitars still cry and the speed regularly goes up like never before. The best is saved for last here with an amazing speed version of "Savage Cry". You will definitely ask for more after so many amazing guitar licks. And you will get more on the second disc. It won't last that long maybe, but it contains the holy grail for every VULTURE fan out there, the previously unreleased mini LP, which was planned for a release in 1989. It would contain four songs that did not end up on any of the demos, so they were in fact brand new songs. "No Turning Back" is definitely one of the best songs here. It's loud and thrashy and it contains some amazing MALMSTEEN type of guitar licks, which makes it an amazing opener you can only dream of. "Not Six But Seven Dead" is perhaps the ultimate and most well-known VULTURE song. I don't know about you, but it shows up well with the volume button at ten. Influences of for example FLOTSAM AND JETSAM ("Desecrator") are close by. "Soldiers Sacrifice" is next and it builds up a certain tension, which cracks once the guitar solo rushes in. Wow, this is really amazing. "Symbol Of Fright" brings out the best of the band as well. I really start wondering why these four songs never saw the light of day on a plaque of vinyl in 1989? It could have changed the future of VULTURE, if the EP would have been successful. Next track is "Not Six But Seven Dead", which is captured live. It's unclear to me where it was recorded live, but it shows that the band really nailed it that night. The last part is a radio session, also recorded in 1989. It's the VULTURE version of the Christmas carol "Jingle Bells" which contains a mix of thrashy guitar riffs and doomy vocals. Afterwards, the two albums have been released. These demo recordings are well worth checking out, believe me. All the demo covers are printed in the booklet, including some more never before seen pix, taking care of an amazing overview of this Rotterdam thrash outfit. All in all, it's a really must have item for every devoted metal head out there. The musicians featured on this two CD set are Robert Soeterboek on vocals, Marcel 'Mac' van der Heyden on guitars, Ed van Savooyen on bass. Andre Tolhuisen on guitars, Dirk Bruinenberg on drums, Rene Debets on vocals, Jan Zwager on guitars and Richard van Leeuwen on drums. For more information and to order the VULTURE stuff, go to; https://www.metalwarriorrecords.com.
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

YOUSTN-True (independent)
YOUSTN, we don't have a problem with your debut album, over and out! That's the short version of the review of this debut album by the new Dutch outfit YOUSTN. The album contains eleven tracks, worthy of about fifty minutes of music that is soaked in the sound of the seventies. Opener "Love Me True" could very well be on the later version of DEEP PURPLE. The "Strange Kind Of Woman" type of intro is breathtaking. Responsible for this comparison is the keyboard player Dick Franssen, who is also playing in ALQUIN. It rocks and the keyboards receive a prominent place in the sound of YOUSTN. Not that there isn't enough room for guitars, but with a talent like that it would be a shame to put him in the back ground. The band composes real music, not dominated by a sound from a computer or some of that digital thrash, that you hear a lot in rock music nowadays. These guys really know how to play their instruments. We heard about the band, because there is another well-known member present, namely drummer Eddie Claessens, who was in one of the latest reincarnations of VANDALE. Anyway, back to the music on this album now. Check out the magic happening in a song called "Wicked Lady" for example, in which the band shows their skills in a very impressive instrumental mid-part. The song title is easy to sing along to and the song has got a catchy vibe as well. We actually learned about the band, when they supported VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS. They really blew us away. Their sound is laid back sometimes and not always that heavy, just check out "Voodoo Lounge" for example. The high quality of the music certainly makes up for it. "Twisting Words" is the longest track and therefore there is a lot of room for a lengthy instrumental part. It sounds like one spontaneous jam to me, including some old school Blackmore-type of guitar licks. It's raw and full of virtuosity. "Emma" has some references to AEROSMITH's "Dream On". At least, it contains the same emotion and therefore, it becomes a really nice ballad. Next up it's time to rock again in the more casual "Below Zero", which will get all you rockers involved. All in all, this album contains the best of both worlds and it displays a lot of variation in music styles. In "Defeated", I hear a DIO type of rhythm and beat going on and the vocal parts will hit you right in your soul. The speed change in the instrumental part takes you to a different world, where the musicians start an impressive intermezzo, in which they show their muscles. And muscles they have, when the song evolves into something completely different and it's almost like you are in a different song. The guitar solo is wild and exciting and even raw, just the way I like it. "Start Your Engine" is for those rockers among us and it contains a lot of loud guitar work. They started up my engine for sure. "Lift Me Up" has got that typical seventies feel and it's almost like the hippie time has relived here. "Brainwashed Child" contains enough guitars to make it sound pretty heavy and stomping again. The last song is actually a cover of the old ALQUIN classic "Wheelchair Groupie", with some amazing high screams of vocalist Ward Axe. It's the crown on this magnificent debut album of YOUSTN, which will take you back to the days, where musicians still know how to play an instrument and to write a decent song. It is really "True", just like the title of this album tells you. YOUSTN consists of Dick Franssen on Hammond organ and keys, Eddie Claessens on drums and backing vocals, Marcel Notermans on guitar and backing vocals, Harrold Nabben on bass and Ward Axe on vocals. For more info, go to: https://www.youstn.nl and https://www.facebook.com/youstnband.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE: January 15, 2023:

Diggeth-Zero Hour In Doomtown (No Dust Records)
Fourteen songs, together worthy of sixty-five minutes of groovy music are pressed on this silver colored disc. Clearly, these sixty-five minutes represent one of the finest moments in the Dutch metal scene of 2022. And we earned some worldwide recognition in the scene. DIGGETH is a threesome from the Eastern part of the Netherlands. Founded in 2004 and presenting their fourth full-length album here, in my opinion it is filled with only winners and no fillers at all. Just judge for yourself and enter this Doomtown at your own risk. The band calls their music "metal 'n'roll", which is a very good description. I suppose younger metal fans might want to categorize this as "stoner rock". The short, creepy spoken-word intro of "Freak Flag" is exactly what this song needs to make it special. It's a warning that you're entering a world where freaks will possibly cross your path. The sound you'll hear is down-tuned, doomy, groovy, heavy and soaked in pure whiskey. However, throughout this CD the band proves that there is much more than meets the eye. Diversity and variety are definitely definitions that come to mind, when listening to this album. Well, let's explore doomtown a little closer, because "zero hour" in the sense of the album's release has passed and I'm thinking that many people may want to get their hands on this. DIGGETH presents a good mix of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY in their early days, mixed with the right dose of CANDLEMASS, CATHEDRAL and PANTERA. Other influences are less recognizable, but in general it's a good mix of different groove styles. The constant pounding drums of Casper in opener "Freak Flag", in combination with the heavy, swampy, dusty, groovy riffs of Harald and the heavy chugging, grinding bulldozer bass riddles of Pebbles are incomparable. "Soultwister" is a bit more accessible and easier on the ear. The songs that follow each other have a kind of a natural flow, and they're arranged in a specific way. The variation in styles and different themes give the listener the feeling that they're not constantly hearing the same speed or sound. This is a major fault that many bands tend to make nowadays, in my opinion. "Last Man Standing" is slow, doomy and feels like a tasty syrup entering your soul. On the other hand, there is also an ominous sound to be found here. The message is not positive when there is still only one man standing. The last doomy lines that Harald sings will definitely touch your soul and probably remind you of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY once again. "Acardiac" contains some distorted vocals. It's definitely the same rolling steam train, but it has gained more speed, while flashing its way through your speakers. The song also includes a brilliant guitar solo and it's the perfect song to lose some sweat. Title track "Zero Hour In Doomtown" is also an up-tempo rocker with axe work that will possibly please the THIN LIZZY fans among us. "Lights Go Dim" contains some recognizable Zakk Wylde type of pull-outs and some gratifying mood and speed changes. The rhythm is perfect to bang your head up and down, so please let yourself go, I'd highly recommend it. The title of the song will hammer into your brain every time, you will hear it. The spoken word part fits perfectly well here. "Stetson Hat" starts off in a rather surprising way, although the heavy sound returns pretty fast, when the song is speeding up. It might remind you of a Southern Rock anthem, which would be the case if you add a doomy twist to it. I actually like the spoken word part in the middle very much. It's an essential part of the song. I'm even thinking of buying a Stetson hat after hearing this one. "Walkin' Man" has a steady beat and a traipsing rhythm. It cuts the CD in half and it has got a smooth Southern rock vibe to it. And after this you're still not getting home. I must admit that the best is yet to come. "For The Sake Of Rock 'N' Roll" could easily have been written by MOTORHEAD for that matter. When you hear the first notes, you'll catch my drift right away. MOTORHEAD has always stated that they play rock and roll and this piece from DIGGETH is a pure MOTORHEAD rock anthem to me. Then it's time to shout your balls off during the very first single taken from this album. Just scream and shout "Wuda Cuda Shuda" as loud as you freaking can. Don't mind your next door neighbors. Even better, just ask them to join you here to create more volume. It also gives Harald the chance to show his soloing skills with some guitar playing. It's finger-licking good and fast. And what about the bulldozering bass parts of Pebbles near the end? It sure feels like she's pile-driving her bass into the swampy grounds. The bass beast has lost her mind, so you'd better beware and don't get too close when this lady is in a mood like that. Anyway, keep swinging to the second single taken from the album, which is called "Bonafide", a great song to start your party. Make sure you have enough booze in the house and don’t forget to light the BBQ on time. "Stand Straight" is the song in which many of the rockers out there will recognize the riffs that turned "Walk" of PANTERA into a cult rock anthem. You will almost sing the words to it, when you didn't notice that it's the DIGGETH make-over of this amazing song. There is a slower part in this song though, so pay close attention. The woodchopper drum beats of Casper here are mind blowing, too. "The Riff That Killed Elvis" isn't just funny title alone, but these sure are some killer riffs. It's an instrumental track in which the musicians give themselves some time and space to jam and create a riff that could even kill the biggest rock icon in the world. And just pay some special attention to the last song, that almost clocks in at a mighty ten minutes, which deals about "5 Stages Of Grief". It's a masterpiece, containing many mood and speed changes. It starts with an upbeat, happy tone, then slowly descends into a more moody atmosphere with sensitive guitar parts. When you are able to create a lengthy piece of music like that, which clings to your mind and doesn't let go, you are simply beyond the stage of being an average rock band, as far as I'm concerned. Because of the diversity, the sixty-five minutes of music are over before you know it. Zero hour in doomtown are gone and you have absorbed so many impressions that it's impossible that they've completely entered your mind after only one listening. Every time you hear this album, you will be blown away again for sure. The intensity with which these songs are played will make you push the repeat button over and over again. This album will grab you by the throat and it won't let go, no matter how hard you try. In the end you can only admit that it may have even better than having sex. That's the impact this album has on you. And in a live situation, the songs are getting even more intense and better, in my opinion. Believe me, I’ve been there. DIGGETH gave me goosebumps in places where I didn't even realize it was possible. Don't say we didn't warn you. And in the meantime just don't stop diggin'... For more info, go to: https://www.diggeth.com or https://www.facebook.com/Diggethmusic. DIGGETH is Harald 'Big H' on guitar and vocals, Natasja 'Pebbles' on bass and backing vocals and Casper 'The Chief' on drums.
(9,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE: September 18, 2022:

BURNING-Scourge Of Humanity (independent)
A gloomy green light shines through a hollow eyed skull and these eyes seem to be burning. This is the poison green vinyl edition of the new vinyl album of BURNING, worthy of eight brand new tracks. The first track is called "Black Pope" and for which they also shot a new lyric video. If you don't know this band yet, you ought to be ashamed of yourself and get yourself a copy of this album right now. BURNING may not have been active in the eighties, but their music sure stands tall in relation to that glorious century. Prove is given in this particular song. You will be under the illusion that the NWOBHM era has never been away, although the church organ adds some distinctive influences of doom metal to it. The song is heavy yet catchy enough to get it right from the start. The guitars cry and that's the way I like it. This and the up-tempo speed will most definitely give me that NWOBHM feeling. The speed change in the middle gives it a more doomy atmosphere (think of BLACK SABBATH for example), which I also hear back in some of the other tracks. By the way: did we ever have a black pope? I don't think so. "Keep Me Safe" turns up the speed by a notch and there is even some space for a nice guitar attack, which is good. The songs are catchy and will be hammered into your brain at once to not let go. It feels like you've heard it before, though it sounds different. That's why you get a good feeling. Remember the early eighties, when you listened to a new vinyl record and you loved every second of it? Well, you will get that exact feeling here. "Leatherface" has some influences of BLACK SABBATH (or the latter OZZY era), because of the heavy riffs and ditto vocals. I even hear some influences of "Over The Mountain" (OZZY) in the first riffs. The raunchy guitar sound reminded me of Brad Gillis in his OZZY days. Also, the sound of a horse at the end simply can't be topped. I know for sure, that the real 'Leatherface' from 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' would absolutely adore this song that BURNING wrote about him. "Bodyfarm" on the other hand gets very close to the NWOBHM sound that I spoke about earlier in this review. This is probably because of the input by former IRON MAIDEN guitar player Dennis Stratton, who plays a guest guitar solo here. It's always great to capture a celebrity on your album and Dennis Stratton is a true legend in every way. His solo is just that little bit of extra that this song needs. The B-side starts off with title track "Scourge Of Humanity", which is another catchy song. I hear some tribal drum beats and the guitars hold that BLACK SABBATH type of magic again. I definitely hear some links to their previous release "Paul" here, but this one sounds a bit heavier, in my opinion. The odd one out here is strictly for connoisseurs and my own personal favorite song. It is called "Follow The Crowd". This duet of vocalist Hugo Koch and female singer Rita Bakker sounds really different. Koch's voice is pretty similar to Ozzy's, especially in the very first lines. The speed is also different and the vibe is surely different, too. There is a certain progressive touch to it, which makes it darker than the others. The speed change in the guitar solo is really incredible and I hear more influences of Zakk Wylde in the guitar sound, which may remind you of "Children Of The Grave". The next song "Taking Out The Thrash" is more speed metal orientated and once again it's totally different than what you've been hearing so far. It also has a bit of hardcore and punk twist to it. It definitely would be very good food for Koch's other band, RUMBONES, a Dutch RAMONES tribute band. Finally, album closer "You Are Invited" grabs back to the well-known music style of BURNING, which is a great hard rock song with a very catchy vibe. BURNING has put themselves in the premier league of the Dutch heavy metal scene with songs like that. Their heavy NWOBHM type of songs with a catchy vibe and some adventurous sidesteps will never annoy you and that is exactly what you get on this album. BURNING consists of Hugo Koch on vocals, Harm ten Hoove on guitar, Renee Knegt on guitar, Mas Prevoo on drums and Daan van de Craats on bass. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/burningmetalband.
(8,7/10- Toine van Poorten)

DEAFEN-Leading To A Fall: The Anthology (Metal Warrior records)
We already wrote a review about the mint green vinyl release of DEAFEN, called "Leading To A Fall", released on Metal Warrior Records a few months ago. The double CD version contains bonus tracks and a lengthy live section with twelve songs captured live in Bodegraven in 1991. Here's the full review of the vinyl version. The bonus songs on the double CD version of this release are reviewed in the enhanced section. "Leading To A Fall" is the title of this magnificent compilation album, which contains the "Deafen" EP, the demo "Violators Of The Lost Wisdom", the demo "Beyond Death" and the seven inch demo single "The Lost Tape" plus a nice booklet with some amazing pictures, flyers and a band biography. It's a great compilation for those metal heads, who want to have a good taste of Dutch thrash metal. The songs on this album are in reversed chronological order, so this album, printed on mint green vinyl, starts off with the most recent EP from 1991. Opener "Convicted" is a lengthy track with a spacious intro, but it also has some blazing riffs, high-pitched vocals, fast drum beats and innovative song structures. Better tighten your cervical muscles, before it's damaged for life. In this first song, you will definitely hear influences of the early METALLICA and/or EXODUS. In "Graveyard Birthday", the guitar sounds rawer and dirtier than ever and this band from the area of Oss proves that they belong at the top of the thrash metal scene with their exciting sound. Their high quality songs match very well to many other bands from the international scene. What a damn shame, that almost right after this EP, they pulled out the plug. The polka beats continue in title track 'The Leading To A Fall", which has a lengthy instrumental mid-piece. The EP closes with the faster "Prophecy Of Mort-Main", which is a bit darker, in my opinion. The band line-up on the EP is Ron van Herpen on guitar, Gert-Jan van Vugt on bass, Cees Rovers (ex-HEXENHAMMER) on drums and Jan Loeffen (R.I.P. - 2020) on vocals. DEAFEN has shared the Dutch stages with international acts such as DEATH ANGEL, SODOM, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES and TOXIK and from the low lands bands like MESSINA, L.W.S, THE GATHERING, PARALYSIS and CIRRHA NIVA, to name but a few. The four songs on this compilation are part of an EP (on CD), that actually would be a full-length release, but due to the lack of interest from the record label, this never happened. Now many years later, you simply don't understand this decision and the sound of DEAFEN is respected so much more. Side A closes with the first song from the 1988 demo "Violators Of The Lost Wisdom", called "Confused Crystal", recorded in 1988. Your neck will surely hurt after banging on this one. The B-side continues with the title track from this demo and it really shows the strength of this band. They played a good dose of fast and filthy speed and thrash metal and besides that, the band was also capable of putting a nice progressive touch to their sound. Just listen to the beginning of this song. It makes this band really outstanding and more exciting than the average band in this genre. Holland has had a very rich thrash metal scene. What to think of for example MANDATOR, JEWEL, L.W.S, PESTILENCE and MESSINA, who were also highly active in that particular time frame. The mood changes in this song sound quite impressive as well. On this demo we hear Richard Timmers on drums instead of Cees Rovers, by the way. Next in line is the "Beyond Death" demo from 1987. Title track "Beyond Death" starts off with a horror type of spoken word intro and right after the intro, the ominous guitar takes off, which is the early beginning of the band. I just love the guitar solo here. During that time DEAFEN played at club Dynamo in Eindhoven, where they supported SATAN'S LOUNGE BAND. This may not ring a bell to you, but when I tell you that this was the nickname of ANTHRAX and one day before playing at the Dutch Monsters Of Rock at the Willem II stadium in Tilburg, it will come back to mind, I guess. "Curse Of Mind" is on next and you will definitely hear the difference between this early work and the songs from the latter EP. Influences of METALLICA and EXODUS are still there though. I also remember this song from one of the episodes of Vara's Vuurwerk on Dutch national radio. At that time, they even supported TOXIK on their World Circus Tour. "D.E.F." is the last song on the album and it includes another horror type of spoken word part. This is the first song that they wrote for this demo, one year before they decided to change their name into DEAFEN and after they were called SATAN'S ARRIVAL and MORGOTH. The start of a new beginning, before they called it quits in 1994. On this demo, the band was operating as a five piece outfit with Geert-Jan Rikken as second guitarist. The band's legacy is caught in bits and pieces on this album release, because a lot of the original material is lost and gone. The final two songs are from the original seven inch, also in the color mint green and it's being referred to as "The Lost Tape" and from a 1993 demo. The band consisted at the time of former MESSINA drummer Richard Zopfi and guitar player Erik Derijks. DEAFEN marches into your living room with "Redialing Dreams" and Richard sets the speed here. Just march along with these real warriors of thrash metal from Oss. The most brutal and fast ear attack is called "Vacant Obsessor", which is a speed monster of the first order. It made me think of METALLICA's classic "Metal Militia". Afterwards the band falls apart and the band members return in bands such as RATTLESNAKE SHAKE, PAZUZU, T-NAILED, THE DEVIL'S BLOOD (!!), ASTROSONIQ, ZOON, RRRAGS and MOLASSESS. What about a reunion, I hear you say? Well, actually this almost happened, however in 2019 Jan Loeffen became terminally ill and passed away in 2020 and the flame went out. This was the end of an era, which actually led to the final fall of the band. DEAFEN will never be forgotten though and prove is given on this amazing compilation album. It's a true killer and it will surely satisfy your hunger for some glorious Dutch thrash metal.(*)
Well, let's see what else this double CD has to offer. First of all, we are treated to a previously unreleased track from the EP session, which is called "Torment Of Existence". This four and a half minute song starts with an introduction of keyboards, which gives it a totally different twist. When the polka beats and the guitar riffs take off, it feels more connected to the other tracks. The "Violators Of The Lost Wisdom" demo has been added in its entirety on this compilation disc, which means that also "Prophecy Of Mort-Main" is there. At the end of this first CD, you will find the "Swallow It" demo recorded in 1994, which contains three songs that are also not on the album. In comparison to their previous demo, released a year before that, we see an almost dramatic change in music. The fast and furious METALLICA type of riffs and songs are gone and has been replaced by a more solid MEGADETH type of thrash sound. Just listen to the next two songs and you will know what I mean. "Vacant Obsessor", recorded in 1993, almost feels like a million lights years away from "Off You Go', recorded in 1994. Same goes for "Dealin' With The Feeling". You simply got to chew on these songs a little bit longer, before swallowing it. Finally, in the last song, "Constructive Welfare" the band adds a good dose of VOI VOD influences, moving away even further from their old sound. Don't get me wrong. It doesn't sound bad at all, but it's just different. I really liked the VOI VOD-ian song structures here. The second CD contains a live show of DEAFEN, recorded in Bodegraven 1991, where they played with THE GATHERING. Clearly, you will hear the influences of METALLICA here. Just listen to opener "Redialing Dreams", which is a nice flashback to better days. The new song "Convicted II" already showed their fascination for MEGADETH. It's striking, that this live show contains the previously unreleased track "Torment Of Existence". What a nice surprise, in my opinion. Another band that belonged to the top of the extreme heavy metal is VENOM. They are honored here with a cover of their classic song "Seven Gates Of Hell". "Frozen Connections" continues in the same underground type of atmosphere, which could have been written by the keepers of the key of the seven gates of hell themself, the way it's being performed here. This is followed by "Convicted part I", the part that got on the EP. "Iron Dogs" is also a cover. This time they put EXCITER in the spotlight with a song from their stunning and phenomenal debut album 'Heavy Metal Maniac". The extensive set list continues with "Downstairs Community", "Prophecy Of Mort-Main", "Don't Blame The Dog" and set closer "Graveyard Birthday". The puzzle is almost complete now and only two pieces are still missing, which is put right after the live show. First, you will hear 'Never Mind The Gap" from the 1993 demo and after that is the storming 'Swallow It", which is the title track of their 1994 demo. It definitely sounds VOI VOD influenced again, but it's closer to their earlier work than the other three songs that we heard on the first CD. DEAFEN wrote a nice chapter in the book of Dutch heavy metal history and their thrash metal deserves a lot of respect. DEAFEN consisted of Jan Loeffen on vocals (R.I.P. 2020), Ron van Herpen on guitars, Geert-Jan Rikken on guitars, Gert-Jan van Vugt on bass and Richard Timmers on drums during the first demo years in 1987. This is also the line-up, that we hear on the live recordings here. Geert-Jan leaves the band in 1988 and the band continues as four piece outfit then. Cees Rovers pounds on the skins in 1991, which is the year they release the well-known EP. He was replaced by former MESSINA skin beater Richard Zopfi on the last two demos, captured on these two silver discs. I highly recommend to buy this essential collection of DEAFEN recordings. For more information on DEAFEN, go to: https://www.facebook.com/Deafen.nl or order your copy now at Metal Warrior Records: https://www.metalwarriorrecords.com. (**)
(8,5/10* // 8,6/10**- Toine van Poorten)

EAR DANGER-Still Going Strong (40 Years Of EAR DANGER) (Big Bad Wolf Records / Headbangers Records)
40 Years of EAR DANGER! Hip, hip hooray! This calls for a big celebration. It is the year 1981, when the band was founded and this is a re-recording of their first demo with the line-up of today. What a nice idea. Eight songs from the old days played with the equipment of today. A throwback in time for all the tape traders among us, who still have fond memories about these amazing heavy metal songs, worthy of about thirty-five minutes of highly essential Dutch heavy metal. In the eighties, tape trading was the way to gain interest and get in touch with bookers and club owners. It was also the way to get your band promoted all over the world, by means of sending cassettes to heavy metal fans abroad. And of course this re-recording starts with the most well-known song from that very demo, "Beelzebub's Friend". Need I say more? This is a true classic of its kind and well-worth buying for this song alone. It's catchy, it's heavy and it has a real underground feeling. And although the song titles may refer to some kind of death or black metal band, EAR DANGER sounds like a true heavy metal band is supposed to sound. Just have a listen to the amazing "Give 'Em Hell", which is another anthem with a catchy vibe. Or what about "You Need Warmth" with the high vocal pull outs and great guitar work. The acoustic version of "Still Going Strong" is subtitled as 'the Winterfest Edition' referring to a gig at the Heavy Metal Maniacs Winterfest, where the equipment failed during the band's gig and they had to continue their set with instrumental and acoustic songs. The B-side of this album contains the "Storming The Gates" EP from 2018, which finally receives a well-deserved place on vinyl this way. It makes this compilation very diverse. "Wave The Flag" starts off as a melodic version of the old school MERCYFUL FATE. Just check it out and you will get my point. The song is loud and heavy and the speed and mood changes are great. The hammering and pounding rhythm of title track "Storming The Gates" lifts up the heavy metal level here even more. When this was released the first time, it was already one of my favorite songs from the EP. The dynamic start does the trick, I guess. Also there is a hidden catchiness in this song, which urges you to shout along to it from the first time on. And then those pounding beats and riffs, I just love it! "Blood On The Beach" is a song about the war. (Quote from Monty Python: "Don't mention the war, I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright"). It features an original news bulletin from the German invasion in Europe. And once again there's the catchy vibe of the chorus, which will definitely appeal to the fans, I guess. That bloody war did waste a lot of blood on the Dutch beaches and it's an honest tribute to all the warriors of that time. "Wall Of Shields" marks the end of this reworked version of the demo and the EP.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

ELEGY-Lost (No Dust Records)
This album has been released in 1995, but it actually never came out on vinyl before. ELEGY represented the best of the best in the Dutch progressive power metal in the eighties and nineties. These highly skilled musicians from the area of Eindhoven had a large amount of supporters. However, they never received the success that they aimed for. This really has got to change and what a wonderful opportunity to introduce the band a bit closer to you on HHM. The music on "Lost" is best to be described as powerful heavy metal with a good dose of progressive metal. High pitched vocals, neo classical guitars, firm drum beats and speed and mood changes are the main ingredients here, plus lots of great guitar licks of course. It would be too easy to say, that ELEGY are the Dutch brothers of DREAM THEATER, simply because their music sounds so much more diverse. Also, over the years, their music went through a musical evolution, which only made their position stronger in the international scene with every album. In the beginning of their career I would have said, they were perhaps influenced by YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN in a way. With these two bands in mind, plus a good dose of FATES WARNING, maybe you will get close at the music style presented on "Lost". These are probably the heydays of ELEGY. The ten songs together will bring you a lot of variation. The album starts off with the title track "Lost", where you will hear the adventurous start and some FATES WARNING type of song structures. Biggest eye catchers are the high voice of Eduard Hovinga and the guitar work of Henk van der Laars and Gilbert Pot. "Everything" continues with a more catchy character, but because of the high pitched vocals it's probably less accessible for the average metal heads out there. The guitar work is truly breathtaking. "Clean Up Your Act" is fast again and the instrumental part sounds really adventurous. I hear influences of Friedman and Becker in the guitar parts and of course the progressive elements are all over the song. "Always With You" could very well be a MALMSTEEN track, while the guitar part isn't inspired by the Swedish six handed guitar king at all. After four up-tempo songs, the A-side of the vinyl version of "Lost" closes with "Under Gods Naked Eye", which is a sweet ballad and simply can't be missed on a metal album back in those days. The B-side starts off with a short instrumental track, called "1998 (The Prophecy)" and the spotlights is again on the guitar, which is accompanied by a carpet of keyboards. In "Spirits", you will experience the more progressive side of ELEGY. Speed and mood changes are the main ingredients here and the adventurous character will remind you of their early material. "Crossed The Line" has got a bit more rocking atmosphere to it. Just hear the amazing high vocals of Eduard in this song. He is definitely one of the most gifted singers in this particular genre. Influences of Midnight (CRIMSON GLORY) or James Labrie (DREAM THEATER) are definitely there, although the high screams of Nick Holleman (POWERIZED, METHUSALEM, VICIOUS RUMORS) would be a good reference here as well. This is possibly my own personal favourite song, however this could change day by day, as you will probably know. When the next song, "Live It Again" takes off, the atmosphere is about to change. This ballad type of song has more room for the keyboards. Maybe it's even dark and spooky as well, if you like, but it sure is another outstanding song. The progressive side of the coin is up there again. Finally, the album closes with the fast and heavy "Spanish Inquisition", which always appears, when you least expected it (Monty Python). This killer track captures the best in progressive power metal, one has got to offer. The line-up here is; Eduard Hovinga on vocals, Henk van der Laars on guitars, Gilbert pot on guitars, Martin Helmantel on bass, Gerrit Hager on keyboards and Dirk Bruinenberg on drums. After this, ELEGY released five other albums under various line-ups, yet always providing the same high quality. We're glad, this album didn't get lost in space and it was finally released on vinyl by No Dust Records. The album includes a promo picture of the band and the inlay holds lots of pictures from the vaults of ELEGY plus all the lyrics to the songs. It's an essential buy for every metalhead with a heart for high quality progressive power metal.
(8,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

HIGHWAY CHILE-Locked Up Live (No Dust Records)
Try to beat HIGHWAY CHILE, when it comes to playing live shows and you won't succeed. Even in times, when the whole country is in lockdown and everybody is staying at home, this band knows to find a spot to set up their gear and play a live show that consists of sixteen songs in seventy minutes. Nothing can stop this band from performing live for their fans. In their line-up, there has been one major change. Gert Nijboer stepped out of the band to focus on his other band, AUGUST LIFE, and he is replaced by Ben Blaauw, who previously played in HIGHWAY CHILE and HELLOISE for many years. Besides songs of HIGHWAY CHILE, the band also throw in some HELLOISE songs for the same price. Musicians of that caliber can do that, which makes the whole trip down memory lane complete for every devoted metal head, in my opinion. In reality, the show is much longer, but these seventy minutes have been saved for future generation on this exclusive live CD, recorded at my hometown Breda on September 18, 2020 and produced by Jack Nobelen, formerly HORIZON. Usually, I am there, but at this specific occasion we were on vacation, which is bad timing I know, because we missed a true killer live experience with only great melodic metal songs. Place of duty is at de Graanbeurs, which I visited many times back in the days. After an epic "Intro", the band kicks off with the ultimate opener "Highway Chile Is Coming To Get You", which is a great moment of recognition. This is a good start to perform a steaming show, like always. The twin guitar attacks are a warning that the band is coming to get you at this very moment. "Jesse James" is another classic tune, which follows right hereafter. He's one of the gang, armed with pistol and this cowboy has always been part of the HIGHWAY CHILE live shows around the different clubs and halls in Holland. One of the songs, in which audience participation is a must for that matter, is called "Carol". No matter what happens, the audience needs to shout out the name of this lady of the dark room, who steals your love away. That first riff is really amazing, don't you agree? The band is at full speed and one classic after another have been performed here. The sound quality is amazing, by the way and the good mix of HELLOISE and HIGHWAY CHILE songs is being welcomed by the crowd, that knows every song by heart. "For A Moment" is from the HELLOISE days and obviously bassplayer Marchell Remeeus is keeping the song at a constant speed. His low bass sound is thundering on like a steam train, followed by his tandem mate Ernst van Ee on drums. "Gates Of Heaven" is a fast speed monster. I don't know, if it was exactly a quarter past eleven, when they played this song live tonight. Due to their long and fruitful career, they now dig deep into the vaults of the HIGHWAY CHILE legacy with "Going Blind". It's great to hear the old material played with a fresh mindset. Obviously, HIGHWAY CHILE is one of the most successful metal bands from the low lands and the end is still not in sight. 'Hard Life" is taken from the book of HELLOISE. It was composed at a time, when the scene was ready for something new to give the music a new impulse and HELLOISE did just that. They picked the right time and the right moment to release the first album and therefore these songs have become timeless. Such nice thoughts come back to my head with songs like that. "Keeper Of The Earth" is an up tempo pounder, in which the guitars get a very prominent place. You can leave that up to Ben Blaauw and Martin Mens to fill up this space. In this particular song, the band also welcomes back guest player Gert Nijboer as additional guitarist, who will torture his six string beast in the next three songs. "Run Away' is another heavy pounder with a strong and steady beat. "Poison" is pounding even more outrageous, as the title already suggests. It feels like a toxic virus is being spread out over the hungry audience tonight. Clearly, they had to wait far too long to attend a gig anyway. Bassist Marchell starts off the sing-along song "Fever", which is the moment that the audience can clear their throat and sing along to the chorus. "After The War" is a relatively new song, however a real new single is up next, called "My Booze Is Metal Infused". You simply can't stop singing along to it, when they play it live. It's so easy on the ear and it's about the giant whiskey barrel that the band puts up on stage every time they play live. The positive vibes of the audience float into the barrel and so their booze is metal infused. It may sound simple and it's a true 'feel good' rock song that keeps the party going pretty easily. Halfway up there's a little "Whiskey In The Jar" moment, which makes the circle go round. The reactions to this cheerful track are really amazing. The very last moment is for "Dreaming Of Heaven" tonight and of course the band has to return on stage for an encore. "Headbangers" is the perfect song to close this evening of heavy metal with friends, don't you agree?! After seventy minutes the party is over, but I suspect that the evening went on for a long time to come. You can argue about the absence of classic headbangers, like "Bite In Anger" or "Rock 'N' Roll Blitzkrieg", but then you just don't get it. This is the real deal for all the fans. HIGHWAY CHILE likes to reflect their enthusiasm to the audience and always delivers a great show, also in these hard times. What more could you wish for? HIGHWAY CHILE is: Martin Mens on guitars and backing vocals, Ben Blaauw on guitars and backing vocals, Marchell Remeeus on bass guitar and backing vocals, Ernst van Ee on drums and Stan 'The Man' Verbraak on vocals. Website: https://www.highwaychile.nl or https://www.facebook.com/highwaychileband.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

IMPACT-The Lost Tapes (Headbangers Records / Big Bad Wolf records)
After the release of the original IMPACT albums and a live CD, there was still something on the shelf, which asked for a proper release. At least sixteen tracks never saw the light of day in any shape or form. These songs have now been put together on one CD, which got the magic title "The Lost Tapes". The sixteen songs, worthy of a full hour of pure hard rock, will really touch your soul. Some of the material was meant to be on their third (unreleased) album and written in the nineties with Ernst van Ee on drums. "Calm Before The Storm" is the original working title of the album and I think the final result is not bad at all. Sometimes, the band sounds quite different than before, but they never lose their solidity. The riffs in "Damned" are great and I would like to compare it as a very powerful RAINBOW in its heydays. The stomping heavy rhythm is a very good start, in my opinion. The prominent place of the keyboards in "On The Rampage" is really amazing. It's a lot heavier than for example a band like RAINBOW or DEEP PURPLE, but it works just fine here. What a great surprise to hear their version of "No More Heroes" of the STRANGLERS. This protest punk song is perfect to let off steam. I think, it would also sound great in a live situation. The song is dedicated to Dave Greenfield, one of the members of the STRANGLERS. The guitar work is excellent, too. "Are We Divine" has got a slightly punky touch to it as well and the firm drum rolls have got the signature of one of the hardest hitting drummers in Holland, Mr. Ernst van Ee. He sounds really marvelous. I just loved the great guitar work in "Jezebel", which has got some DEEP PURPLE influences, especially in the slower parts. The song is quite firm and heavy, however because of the groovy beats and riffs, I also hear some influences of LED ZEPPELIN in some parts. The next song, called "United" leans, as far as influences go, more towards PICTURE (with Shmoulik Avigal) or RIOT and THE RODS. Man, what a power! "Why" on the other hand has got a much slower beat and it sounds more experimental. It's not that straight forward or aggressive, which has always been the trademark of IMPACT. Instead, influences of Y&T and BLACK SABBATH (DIO era) come to mind (the more melodic songs), which feels really different. The song is heavy and takes care of the necessary variation on this great compilation album. The drum parts are not that powerful at all, yet it fits very well to the experimental input of this song. "Crown Of Thorns" proves once again, that IMPACT has got many different faces and they like to try things out. The groovy touch of the staccato type of riffs and the repeating beats even made me think back of the early dark grunge days. These thoughts got stronger with the short instrumental mid-piece, although the guitar solo is quite heavy. The next song "Unleashed" has got a magic speed and mood change halfway through. That must be the moment, when they unleash all their secrets, I guess. It's definitely one of the highlights on this album, as far as I'm concerned. "Misanthrope" starts much slower and closes with an all destroying bang. "Redemption" on the other hand could very well have been written by BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. The instrumental part contains bits and pieces from "The Star Spangled Banner", yet the doomy and heavy beats have many influences of the band of ZAKK WYLDE, especially in the second part. The six bonus tracks start off with "Believe The Believer", which grabs back for sure to the Ozzy days of BLACK SABBATH or maybe even the days of BLIZZARD OF OZZ from the madman. What a great song and thank God it was pressed on a silver disc right now. The voice of front man Thierry Plisson made me think of the latter work of that bat biter again in "Midnight Is Alright". It's even topped by a Jake E Lee type of guitar solo. While in "At Close Range", again with an OZZY kind of vibe, it's time to put Ernst van Ee in the spotlight again with his amazing powerful drum beats. What really strikes me, when listening to these lost tapes, is the very high sound quality. The latter sessions might be a little bit less impressive, but it's the exclusivity that counts here. "Making Money" sounds catchy and rocks and in "Airplay" you can hear some VAN HALEN type of screams from Thierry. The drums were played by Ed Warby in these two songs. He is another drum hero from the low lands. The final song is called "Next Generation' and this could have been another attempt to score a (hit) single. You can definitely sing along to it in the chorus. The booklet contains a biography of the band and some great pics, plus all information of the releases of the band so far on CD. There is also an announcement of an LP, called "Ten Songs To Impact", so when this comes out, you'll be the first to know. For now, I'll give this one another spin or two, because I just love what I'm hearing right now. The first ten songs would originally be on that third album, which was mentioned here before with Ernst van Ee on drums, Thierry Plisson on vocals and J.J. de Werk on bass and guitar. On the first three bonus tracks we hear Rob Schoof on bass, next to Thierry and Ernst and the guitars are played by Peter Magnee. The two songs, that follow thereafter have Jean Schimmel on guitar and the bass parts are by John van Wissen and the drums are by Ed Warby. On the very last track we hear Thierry on vocals (as long as Thierry lives, there will be an IMPACT!), Andre Borgman on drums, Gert Jan Hogerbrugge on guitar and Rene Haakmeester on bass. An essential buy for all the fans of Dutch heavy metal and the band IMPACT in particular. Go to: https://www.facebook.com/impact.rockband.
(9,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

LAYERS OF DEVOTION-Flood Of Violence (single; stream only)
Once in a while there is room here for a review on request and this is one of them. "Flood Of Violence" came to my attention by the guitar player of LAYERS OF DEVOTION. The band has been put together by band members from PESTILENCE, DOWNCAST COLLISION, CARACH ANGREN and EMBERS OF OBLIVION. This first single is very heavy and dark and it may appeal to those, who dig the sound of ARCH ENEMY, because that was the first band that came to mind, after hearing it for the first time. The dark and sober sound of the bass guitar may direct you to a more doomy direction and the vocals will also give you that feeling. When the song evolves, the more aggressive elements start to take shape as well. It's the power of Monica Janssen to be able to do all kinds of everything with her voice, that the songs starts in a doomy way, but suddenly changes into a heavy thrash kind of metal track. She even knows how to teach children how to grunt without destroying their voices. Here she proves that clean vocals, loud shouting and guttural grunting vocals belong to her skills. Not too many other singers could do that, in my opinion. And definitely not put all these varied skills in one single song. Maarten also knows to show some variation in his guitar playing. The rhythm parts are in service of the song, while his solo part shows that his input is really essential for the natural flow of this great song. As a matter of fact, the guitar solo in this song reminds me of ARCH ENEMY in a way. The brothers Amott were quite well-known for their amazing guitar solos, which became their trademark. This is also the case in "Flood Of Violence". The melodic guitar licks give their brutal thrash sound a different meaning. It makes them outstanding from the big heap of other thrash bands that I hear nowadays. While most bands constantly hammer their riffs into your brain and never know to add a decent guitar solo in a song. The steady drum beat and bass parts are there right from the start, which gives this song a lot of variation. It ranges from doomy dark metal to a more thrash metal mid-piece, which is injected with a more melodic part near the end. It's kind of difficult to write a review on demand, especially when it's nice weather outside and the song is dealing about a flood of rain, which has been pouring down on us. The world will drown. You better be warned. Therefore, I'm glad that I've discovered this nice piece of music. More! More! LAYERS OF DEVOTION consists of Dominic Bellekom on bass, Monica Janssen on vocals, Maarten Gitaar on guitar and Michiel van der Plicht on drums. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebanPHApKE
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)

LOVELL'S BLADE-Deadly Nightshade (No Dust Records)
Eleven 'easy-on-the-ear' songs, worthy of fifty minutes of solid hard rock are on "Deadly Nightshade", which istopped by the recognizable voice of Pete Lovell. The loud rocking guitars and the beasty drum beats will give you a high energy boost for sure. Opener "Running Out Of Time" will easily bring you in the right mood. The album is a worthy successor to their previous releases. There is plenty of room for loud guitars, yet it also contains a lot of melody, wherever needed. 'Drivin' Me Crazy" got a slow and groovier AC/DC type of sound. It's more melodic than these Aussies but it has that same powerful groove that I like so much. The sensitive "Mystery" is not a sloppy ballad at all, although I hear more emotion in the vocals and even in the guitars. The catchy vibe is still there. "The Cries Go Unheard" is a fast rock song. The intro alone is worth buying the album. The power of this song is so f*cking amazing. Just start banging your head to it and your day is already a big success. The drums have that typical sound of a machine gun. This is the metal face of LOVELL'S BLADE and I can tell you, that the blade is still as sharp as a dagger, so don't cut yourself! "Still So Lonely" is the obligatory ballad on this album. It contains some VANDENBERG type of choir vocals, while in "Kalashnikov", I hear a lot of influences of THE CULT, because of the vocals and the dynamic atmosphere. Remember "Electric" and "Sonic Temple" of THE CULT? There is a lot of variation on this album, yet the stomping beat and the heavy riffs are there every time. The keyboards in this particular song have been played by Edgar van Eersel, by the way. Don't be afraid of the next song, which is called "Scared". It won't do you any harm. It just a bit more laid back and it even contains a mouth harp, if I hear it right. "It's Not Criminal" has got a very catchy atmosphere. It could easily become a crowd's favorite, when playing live. The guitars receive a prominent place here and that's the way I like it. "Distant Glow' has got that groovy AC/DC type of rhythm and beat again. It's followed by the powerful and fast "Dead Of Night", that is really easy to sing along to. It's definitely one of the highlights on this album for me because of that. The harmony vocals may remind you of VANDENBERG in a way. It's reprised after a short stop at the end of the song. Last but definitely not least is another highlight of yours truly, which is called "Generator". I hear some VAN HALEN influences in the choir vocals. Well, there you have it. Time to push the 'repeat' button again. LOVELL'S BLADE delivers a great new album, especially concerning the sad times, that Pete went through. The music kept him going and we're glad that he did, so both thumbs up for "Deadly Nightshade" and LOVELL'S BLADE. The band consists of Pete Lovell on vocals, Mike Ferguson on guitars, Andre Wullems on guitar, Noel van Eersel on drums and Patrick Velis on bass. For more info, go to: https://www.lovellsblade.info or https://www.facebook.com/officiallovellsblade.
(8,4/10- Toine van Poorten)

MARTYR-Planet Metalhead (Pt78 Records)
Founded in 1982 and one of the longest existing heavy metal bands in Holland for that matter. Check. They have been included on one of the ultimate heavy metal compilations of Metal Massacre with "En Masse (Stand Or Die)", "Metal Massacre VI" to be exact, next to POSSESSED, HIRAX, NASTY SAVAGE, HALLOW'S EVE and HADES, to name but a few. They performed at the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival, Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air, some of the leading underground heavy metal festivals for true metal believers. Check. They have played live shows in Japan. Check. They even did three tours and recorded a live album there, called "Live in Japan". They supported some great names in the scene and build up a steady fan base, which earned them a well-deserved place at the top of the Dutch heavy metal scene, Check. They even shared the stage with the likes of LIZZY BORDEN, MANILLA ROAD, SAXON and ICED EARTH, some prominent names in this scene. Do they have a true metal anthem in their extensive back catalog? Yes, they sure do. "Speed Of Samurai" is a well-known metal anthem all over the world. In fact, MARTYR is a true heavy metal institution, which makes me very proud to be a Dutch citizen. This time, they've got another special surprise for you. They created a special planet, where every true metal head wants to be and they named their new album after it. It's called "Planet Metal Head". What a crazy idea, but I really like it and I want to be there, too. This ten song album is worthy of around fifty minutes. It starts off with the sound of a piano and a child's voice singing. This ominous sound holds on, until the guitars start playing. The first punch in the face is the hardest. "Raise Your Horns, Unite!" gives me that great heavy metal feeling and a whole lot of energy. I constantly want to raise my horns, yep it's that contagious. The powerful vocals of Rop van Haren surely add some dynamics here, next to the pounding drums and explosive guitar riffs. At the end of the song, the piano sound from the beginning, will round it off. You definitely feel, that you will conquer the world after this. The child"s voice is some kind of flashback to opener "Into The Darkest Of All Realms", which also has child's voice in the beginning. "Demon Hammer" continues and after an energetic start, there is a nice mood change in the middle. The input of acoustic guitars is reduced to a minimum yet it gives it a little touch of sensitivity. The speedy heavy metal song "Children Of The Night" is up next. It starts off with a King Diamond type of maniacal laugh of Rop and then it's time to tighten your neck bolts, before banging your head. This is the way true heavy metal is supposed to sound. The high pull outs of Rop, the dynamic guitar licks, the constant fast pounding drums, this is the music of planet metal head. The Fiery "Fire Of Rebellions" sounds exactly as the title suggests, including some war chants and a good flow of energy. The spoken word intro is just that little bit of extra, that it needs. While in "No Time For Goodbyes", the band turns the speed back a notch and the voice of Rop is getting very close to some of the giants on planet metal head, like Geoff Tate (QUEENSRYCHE), Midnight (CRIMSON GLORY) and Warrel Dane (SERPENT'S KNIGHT / NEVERMORE / SANCTUARY). The twin guitar solos however are even more exciting. What an amazing song! This is on my list of highlights for sure!! Next up, the band presses the pedal to the metal in "Metal Overdrive", which is beefed up with demonical voices and screams. This is exactly what the fans want to hear: speedy and energetic metal. "La Diabla!" starts off with a short choir, before the band moves away in the fifth gear. "Diary Of A Sinner" is exactly what you would expect of a MARTYR song: a steaming rhythm, high screaming vocals and of course the explosive guitar licks, that are being hammered into your brain right away. "Church Of Steel" is another splendid song, which deserves a giant compliment. I hear a lot of early QUEENSRYCHE influences and I get goosebumps all over. The somehow distorted vocals are not annoying at all. When the speed change is there, the distortion is gone and the song will immediately grab you by the balls to not let go. The powerful guitars are also truly mind-blowing indeed! It took me a few spins, before discovering the beauty of CD closer "Wings In A Darkened Soul". I hear influences of QUEENSRYCHE and CRIMSON GLORY at the same time. The vocals of Rop are very different, however as the song moves on, it slowly comes over you like a warm blanket. Life is good on Planet Metalhead and I'm sure that this will be another giant step forward on the ladder of success for MARTYR, if there still is one. MARTYR stays our Dutch pride and glory and there's no doubt about it. MARTYR consists of Rop van Haren on vocals, Rick Bouwman on guitars, Geoffrey Maas on guitars, Vinnie Wassink on bass and Rick Valcon on drums. For more info, go to; https://www.martyronline.nl or https://www.facebook.com/martyronline.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)

MOONROCK-Mindless Creatures (Classic Metal Records)
It's 1999 and we turn back the time for our own convenience. Heavy metal is a filthy word for every non-believer. However, there are still metal warriors, that wont accept that nu-metal is the new hype. It is that very year, when former HARPO, PICTURE, HAMMERHEAD, HORIZON, MOVER and THE RODS vocalist Shmoulik Avigal put together an outfit, called MOONROCK, together with guitar player Dani Shetrit. They record twelve songs and call their demo "Mindless Creatures". They didn't bury the hatchet. They kept the flame burning and had a strong believe in what they were doing. And they were right, you will see. Finally, after twenty-three long years, people with a good taste in music will re-discover the amazing sound of MOONROCK and they will be blown away by the songs that are being compiled on this CD. If you already liked the voice of Shmoulik (and who didn't), then you will be astonished, because after listening to these twelve 'mindless creatures', my conclusion is that this is by far the best vocal experience that Ive heard from Avigal. The music of this band shows a lot of variation. Opener "The Shaman Song" is heavy and could well compete with the work of METAL CHURCH or THE RODS, whereas title track "Mindless Creatures" contains a lot of BLACK SABBATH influences (Tony Martin era, but with that well-known DIO type of rhythm to it). And in the next song "Sins Of The Father", you could replace the name of Tony Martin to Ronnie James Dio, mainly because of the powerful beats of the drummer. This song has got a more epic kind of feeling as well. Clearly, the amazing voice of Shmoulik is the cherry on the cake here, believe me. In "The Master", I hear some TITAN FORCE influences, mainly because of the similar song structures, that take me back to their classic "Master Of Disguise". Shmoulik's voice is well-matched to the high class singing voice of The Tyrant, which is a giant compliment for that matter, because Harry Conklin is one of the greatest metal singers in my book. And also Shmoulik is an excellent performer who is so much more than just a singer. "Hell And Back" is on next, which moves again in the direction of the Tony Martin era of the SABBATH. The powerful tone of "Feels Like Home" has some influences of that other great vocalist, Ronnie James Dio. It's one of the purest metal songs that you can think of. It starts off with a nice guitar introduction and when the emotional laden voice of Shmoulik and the hard and powerful drum beats are setting in, your mind will be blown away to eternity. "Terror' sounds dynamic and it has got a very groovy sound. It matches very well with the title of this song. All in all, the album is one huge throwback in time to the days, when hard rock was still an underground type of movement, while nowadays everyone seems to call themselves a hard rock or heavy metal fan because they like RAMMSTEIN or VOLBEAT. I hear some influences of RAINBOW playing WHITESNAKE ('Still Of The Night") in "My Own Man", can you dig that? Check it out, the guitar solo is really all destroying. And another classic rock anthem unfolds itself in "Screaming Out", which may appeal to the old school SCORPIONS fans and the solo will simply blow you away again. In "Believe It's Yours", there is a nice speed twist halfway through, which makes it even more adventurous. The catchy feeling is present in almost every song. Just let the singer repeat a part of the chorus several times and you're going to sing along pretty fast, because it gets highly recognizable. After the first notes in "Rebel Heart", you will immediately think of SAVATAGE in their heydays. The guitar work, the riffs, it's the Oliva brothers all the way, but when Shmoulik's voice appears, the resemblance is gone. Obviously, MOONROCK has been influenced by many old school bands, but they're definitely no copycats for that matter, simply because they have created a face of its own on these songs. The incredible shredding parts are faster than the speed of light. The final song is called "Jekyl And Hyde', in which guitarist Dani will shred a few more solos. Obviously, this is the last chance to impress, but I guess I'm sold already. There is not much that can top this solid rock album, simply because their old school metal has been influenced by the biggest names in the scene yet with their own characteristic input, which simply can't be denied. The album was created in a time, when rock and metal were a filthy word. However, these musicians believed in heavy metal and they created a magnificent piece of art, that all true metal adepts out there must hear. The four bonus tracks on this release will possibly bring you even more delight, because they are from the band VISION, that Shmoulik formed with Tom Jude on guitar. The music style is perhaps a little different though. Think of YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN, at least that's what you would think when listening to opener "Wrong Side Of Love". It's catchy metal with some fast and melodic guitar work. The tempo goes up in "Damn Dark Night", which is another catchy rock song. "Falling In Love" contains a bit too much of the repetitive lyrics, yet it's a good solid ballad. The CD closes with another great pounder with a catchy edge to it, called "Changes". Check out the guitar work by Tom, you won't regret it. If traditional hard rock or heavy metal with some very impressive vocals is your thing, then you should not wait any longer and get yourself a copy of "Mindless Creatures" by MOONROCK. You won´t be disappointed. The band line-up on "Mindless Creatures" is: Shmoulik Avigal (vocals), Eric Klaastad (bass), Dennis Monroe (drums). Dani Shetrit (guitars) and Kenn Distin (keyboards). Website: https://www.facebook.com/MoonrockUSBand.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

MORGOTH / SATANS ARRIVAL-The Demos (Dark Age Records)
DEAFEN from Oss and the surrounding area recently released a double CD, called "Leading To A Fall" on Metal Warrior Records. In case you wondered, where this came from, you must dig a little bit deeper into the vaults of DEAFEN. There you will discover two other bands, called MORGOTH and SATANS ARRIVAL. The demos of these bands have been compiled on one disc now. The SATANS ARRIVAL demo is from 1984 and the MORGOTH demo is from 1986. These two demos have been put on one CD by Dark Age Records and the seven songs together are worthy of almost twenty-five minutes of pure heavy metal. Opener "Evidence Of Power" will appeal to many hard rockers for sure. Great riffs, solid vocals, amazing guitars and on top of that a steady drum beat. Mix THIN LIZZY and RIOT together and you will get the exact sound, which is also the title track of this MORGOTH demo. The riffs in "Attack From Above" are straight from the book of heavy metal. This is exactly what most bands sounded like in the eighties. And although the CD cover looks quite extreme and would refer to a death metal band, their sound leans a lot towards heavy hard rock rather than heavy metal. So don't get fooled by the horned devil figure with sharp claws holding a tombstone in a graveyard. I hear a lot of influences of PICTURE and VORTEX here and the guitar solo is truly amazing. "Fist Of Fury" is an instrumental tune and there are even some acoustic guitars around. The THIN LIZZY-type of guitar parts are very much worth to listen to. Demo closer "Heavens Torture" is fast and loud, yet still far away from the heavy metal thrash attack that DEAFEN had in mind after MORGOTH disbanded. It has got a more PICTURE kind of approach and it's definitely one of the highlights here, as far as I'm concerned. In the early years of MORGOTH, the band operated under the name of SATANS ARRIVAL. However, due to some conflicts about the name and a few other issues, SATANS ARRIVAL became MORGOTH. "Arioso Conspirito" is a short instrumental piece on guitar, like a classical introduction to the next two heavy songs. "Mandrake", sung by Ramon, is a steady rock song. His vocals remind me of Jurjen Tichelaar (VORTEX) in a way. The heavy guitar and fast drum beats give it all the power that it needs. The best song on this three track demo is saved for last. Clearly, this is a headbanger of the first category. "Urgent Warning" has Erik de Vocht on vocals, who has a much higher voice and is a good match, in my opinion. The best part is at the end, when Ramon and Erik share the double lead vocals during the guitar solos. It's very interesting how this band develops from a bunch of school friends into a serious outfit containing two members of this very early line-up, that would become DEAFEN a few years after. Gert-Jan Vugt and Richard Timmers would later on shock the Dutch thrash scene with this band. More about these guys in my CD review of DEAFEN, earlier on this page. The line-up of SATANS ARRIVAL and MORGOTH is Ger-Jan Vugt on bass, Richard Timmers on drums, Ramon de Veer on guitar and vocals and Erik de Vocht on guitar and vocals. This trip through time is very much worth the wait. The CD inlay shows the original demo cassettes and contains a short biography as well.
(8,4/10- Toine van Poorten)

PESTILENCE-Exitivm (Agona Records)
The new PESTILENCE album is a fact. It consists of twelve brand new compositions, worthy of forty minutes of death and thrash metal, which will tear your soul apart. Better fasten your seatbelts, because after the rather bombastic intro "Omnibvs", it is going to be a bumpy ride. The intro could very well be used for a dark adventure film or a fantasy or horror movie. You just feel that something terrible is about to happen. However, the ride isn't scary at all, when "Mrbvs Propagationem" takes off in the fifth gear. What an amazing power. The blasphemous fast drum beats must have been played with very well-trained iron muscles, otherwise it would be impossible to explode in this kind of pace. "Deificvs" has a VOI VOD kind of vibe, which I like a lot. It's slower, but a lot heavier than the opener for that matter. "Sempiternvs" sounds brutal and intense and vocalist Patrick definitely gets rid of a lot of frustration and anger this way. The Corona pandemic and the world we're living in right now must have been a consistent factor here. After browsing through the CD booklet and seeing the band wearing some Venetian plague masks, I think that I'm not far away from this conclusion, but hey it's only a thought of yours truly. I also love the great guitar work very much in this one, by the way. The dark riffs will give you this ominous feeling for sure. The speed and brutal aspect go together in "Internicionem", which starts with some sinister and rather dark sounds. You will also hear the technical influences back from the "Spheres" album here. This vibe will continue in the amazing "Mortifervm", which is on next. It's aggressive, yet there's enough room for some skull splitting hard biting guitar licks. It's a never ending flow of hard and biting violent ear attacks, which reminds me of SLAYER in their heydays with a bit more technical tricks at times. Especially the way that Patrick (or should I refer to him as Patrizio?) barks his vocals into the mike is almost equivalent to the way that master Araya does it himself. After that, the steam train of brutal riffs moves forward to "Dominatvi Svbmissa", while in "Pericvlvm Externvm", the guitar work is the biggest eye-catcher here, next to the hard and biting vocals. The drums will introduce you to "Inficiat", which contains some mighty fine guitar licks. The technical side of PESTILENCE stands out well in "Exitivm", which breathes the "Spheres" vibe with a brutal undertone. It's a very worthy title track. "Immortvos" is pressing the pedal to the metal one more time to let it all out. All in all, I think, that "Exitivm" sounds more brutal than its predecessor. It's definitely less technical, but I guess there is a lot of frustration and anger on here. In closing, the band carries out "Personatvs Mortem" at the end. The sound of ravens will soon gnaw the raw flesh off the bones of that particular person, who has passed away. They already circle around the graveyard, where he will be buried soon. Or does my imagination run away from me? PESTILENCE are raging on like nothing has happened in life on "Exitivm" and I'm glad that frustration can lead to such a wonderful and powerful release like this. The line-up on this album is: Patrick Mameli on vocals and lead guitar, Joost van der Graaf on bass, Rutger van Noordenburg on lead guitar and Michiel van der Plicht on drums. For more information, go to: https://www.pestilence.nl or https://www.facebook.com/Pestilenceofficial.
(8,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

PICTURE-Live And Rare Demos - Anthology (Classic Metal Records)
I guess, that we have everything that PICTURE ever released in our collection. Well, that's what I thought, until I saw this amazing four CD compilation box released by Classic Metal Records in Brazil. Are you looking for the chicken with the golden eggs or the needle in the haystack, the holy grail, don't look any further, dear PICTURE fans and metal fans, because here it is. Four CDs, compiled with the lost material from radio live shows, demo material to rare recordings. It’s all there and more to make sure that the real fans don't have to miss a thing. This is like the box of Pandora and what is in there is simply too much to mention. Obviously, we will do our best to give you a good overview of all the goodies in this massive box. Every band line-up is being represented here, whether it is with short snippets or an almost complete live show. For the real PICTURE fan, it is all too good to be true and you will feel like a kid in a candy store. A trip down memory lane, that starts in the late seventies and finishes off with the last recordings in 2008. This is some Dutch heavy metal history to the max, compiled with lots of love for the legacy of this legendary band. I guess, we are all familiar with the history of the band, so I will strictly focus on the music on these four silver discs. The first CD are the demos from 1979 - 1981 with some very rare tracks that never saw the light of day, unless you have these demos. There are nineteen songs here, worthy of almost a full hour. "No More' is of course from the first album, but how about the next song "Deep In Me", isn't that a beauty for your PICTURE collection? It's a short firm rock song, that would fit very well on that particular album. Same goes for the fast rocker "I'm Going Alone". My main question would be 'why these songs were never used on any album', because they rock like hell. This first demo feels like digging in a goldmine and finding back pieces of solid gold for the fans of PICTURE. "Why Did She..." is also a dirty rock song, which could be compared to "Get Back Or You Fall" or something. Aarrggghhh, my brain surely hurts after hearing great demo material like that. How could they possibly hide all these beauties for us for so long?? "I'm Going Back" is a bit more rock and roll minded maybe but it's definitely an up tempo rocker. "I'm A Drinker" is at the same speed as "I'm Going Back" and for a nanosecond I thought I was listening to a reprise of that song. I remember they played it on their early live shows too and some recordings of these gigs are here in my collection, mainly the shows with 'partners-in-crime' VANDALE. "Jingle Bells" is of course a metal version of the Christmas carol. Can you imagine how my neighbors reacted, when I was playing this in the summer for my review? They must have thought I was completely going insane. It's a cool metal tune and besides that just a whole lot of fun. The last song from that first demo is called "Nightmare" which is the only slow song here. It's also on the 1979 demo and the speed change is really mind-blowing there. This song sounds so much better now. "The Blame Is On Us" is also relatively 'new', but I do recognize it from their live shows with VANDALE, if my memory serves me right. Clearly, it already shows the fascination for bands such as URIAH HEEP and DEEP PURPLE. It's followed by another version of "No More", that we heard on the first demo. The last song on this demo is "My Gun Shoots", which is another fiery and hot rocking song. Next is "All My Life" and this raw recording is possibly from one of the rehearsals in 1980. It's a mid-tempo rocker which is not complete, but you'll get a good idea of it. "Bombers" and "You Can Go" are taken from a compilation album, called "Hard Rock Live". According to the information here, it's from their slot with TED NUGENT. What a great memory. The band is in its heyday and you can almost feel the magic on these recordings. "Rocking In Your Brains" is one of my favorite songs from the early days, but unfortunately this radio broadcast from 1981 in Steenwijk contains only the last few seconds. Then another highlight and personal favorite of yours truly is the song "Little Annie", which was reissued on the album "Wings". The sound quality of these recordings may not be perfect, yet it is a real treat. And there is a third song, too which you may not be familiar with, called "Blown Away". You'd better watch out before you are getting blown away by the power on this one. The final 'unreleased' song here is "Watch Out", recorded live at de Bonkelaar in Sliedrecht 1981. This is the place that they call home, if you would ask my opinion. PICTURE breaths de Bonkelaar and de Bonkelaar has got PICTURE tattooed on its foundation. The sirens make my flesh crawl. The sound of the 'bombers' flying over Sliedrecht is truly amazing, before PICTURE attacks de Bonkelaar. All these recordings are with Laurens 'Bakkie' Bakker on drums, Rinus Vreugdenhil on bass, Ronald van Prooijen on vocals and Jan Bechtum on guitar, by the way.
CD two contains eighteen songs, worthy of seventy-seven minutes of different live recordings, starting off with a broadcast from the best Dutch metal show in Holland 'Stampij', hosted by Hanneke Kappen (WHITE HONEY). These recordings are from Steenwijk 1982 and first song is called "Funky Town". The skull splitting guitar solo of Jan at the end and the song "Get Back Or You Fall" are truly amazing. The next two songs are with Sammy Shmoulik Avigal on vocals, recorded in Sliedrecht (where else??) in 1982. 'Lady Lightning" and "Lousy Lady" are both taken from that incredible third album "Diamond Dreamer". After a short jump in time, we have arrived in December 1983 at the radio show 'Countdown Cafe' in Hilversum with "The Blade". The line-up of PICTURE here is Pete Lovell on vocals and Chris van Jaarsveld and Henri van Maanen (stepping in for Jan Bechtum) on lead guitar. The next recordings are from the Earthquake Festival in Kaatsheuvel (April 30, 1983) with Jan Bechtum on guitar. Chris was already part of the line-up and Henri would take over Jan's position later that year. On the bill are HIGHWAY CHILE, VANDALE, KILLER, TRANCE and of course PICTURE. Obviously, the Dutch heavy metal was very well represented there and it's these small villages, usually in Brabant or Zuid-Limburg where festivals like that took place. Shmoulik had left the band and the fourth album was possibly just released. After the lengthy intro, "You're All Alone" sets the night on fire, followed by "Tell No Lies" (from "Eternal Dark"), "Diamond Dreamer" and "The Hangman". Next are one new song ("King Of The Light") and two songs, that you won't hear that much live, namely "Flying In Time" and the mighty 'Power Of Evil". "Lady Lightning" is up next and then it's time for another new song, called "Every Day's A Weekend". "Hot Lovin'" has got that nice AC/DC type of rhythm to it and the audience gets a chance to show their singing skills in this one. The band completes their set with firm versions of "Battle For The Universe", "Bombers" and the amazing heavy "Message From Hell". Obviously, it feels like you're stepping into a time machine, which will bring you back to your youth, it's that freaking fabulous.
We have arrived at the third CD now. I can be very short about it. This is the complete reunion show, recorded in Sliedrecht, on March 5, 1988. If I remember it right, EMERGENCY with Pete Lovell on vocals was the support act that night. PICTURE returned in their original line-up and they were hot as hell. The show started with a new song, called "My Brain Is On Fire". The fans didn't really know what was going on, but they would discover that this was a night to remember, mainly because from there on, it was some kind of greatest hits live jukebox. "Get Back Or You Fall" (one of my personal favorite songs), "Rocking In Your Brains", "Night Tiger", "No More", (crowd favorite) "Bombers', the ballad from the first album "Fear", "You're All Alone', "Spend The Night With You", the unknown "My Gun Shoots" and the amazing double song "Rock And Roll' / "Under Your Spell', its all there. "Little Annie" was being played as well. It did show up from time to time, yet it wasn't until the album "Wings", that the song was actually recorded in the studio. "No, No, No' is there in a lengthy version, because it contains a bass and a drum solo. After that, the band jams their way to a cover of the DEEP PURPLE classic "Mistreated". They finish with 'Heavy Metal Ears", which certainly marks a wonderful night to remember. It's nice to have this in good quality now, because the tape I have of this show was worn out for years already.
On the fourth CD you will find all kinds of everything. It's not always that heavy maybe, but definitely PICTURE related. The fourteen tracks are worthy of seventy-two minutes of various bands and projects, like CHANGED, a project of Jan Bechtum with Jouke Droogsma on guitar, Mark Maas on drums, Ytsje Droogsma on vocals and Benno Niemeijer on bass and Jan Bechtum on guitar. Musically, I would compare this to WHITE HONEY, the band of Hanneke Kappen, when judging it to only the one song here, called 'Silent Suffering". JAN BECHTUM'S PICTURE is on next with two songs, recorded in 1996 and 1997. "Circles' is a heavy, instrumental track and "In Your Face" features Shmoulik Avigal on vocals, next to Bechtum on guitar and Jan Adema on bass and Mark Maas on drums, both from Shmoulik's band. Later on, the vocals were taken over by Michel Zandbergen and the songs from 1997 are "In Your Face" and two reworked versions of the PICTURE classics "Lady Lightning" and "Nighthunter". EXIST and ROSSLYNN are bands, that Ronald van Prooijen founded in 1997 and 2005, both with Appie de Gelder. The songs from EXIST are "Beware", "8 Hours", "Hours From Home" and "Daily Star'. "Beware" has got a catchy edge to it and although it doesn't sound that heavy, it has some amazing guitar work and steady drum beats. The keyboards make it very progressive and bands like DREAM THEATER and GENESIS come to mind. Especially in "8 Hours", I would also like to add the name of RUSH to this impressive list of progressive metal giants. The guitar solo is so much heavier than expected. There are some real brutal parts in "Hours From Home" and maybe I would even refer to a band such as WATCHTOWER here and there, yet with that progressive and melodic feeling to it. EXIST is Ronald van Prooijen on vocals, Appie de Gelder on keyboards and guitar, Tom Bongers on bass and Edgar Cotay on drums. In "Daily Star", you will hear the last progressive outings from EXIST. ROSLYNN is presented with three songs on here, starting off with "Good Night", which is more keyboard related, including a nice, melodic intro. Just listen to the crystal clear voice of van Prooijen and the great guitar riffs of de Gelder in a totally different environment. This is highly enjoyable stuff for connoisseurs, but perhaps a bit too soft for PICTURE fans that only like their music very loud. The mood change gives it that progressive feeling that the more adventurous music fans would like to hear. The rich keyboard sound is never far away in this song. "Running Up" has got a catchy feeling and it's ready to sing along to. "Finally Found You" is a ballad type of song and very sensitive and soft, like it should be. ROSLYNN is Ronald van Prooijen on vocals, Appie de Gelder on guitars, Kevin Bongers on drums, Ton Bongers on bass and Wout Lock on keyboards. The final song is a recording of the crowd pleaser of the many PICTURE shows with Pete Lovell, "Fill Your Head With Rock". The great riffs and catchy chorus simply make it a nice song to play at a big rock festival. And they played many of them. Try not to sing along to this pounder, recorded on Sweden Rock 2008, you simply won't succeed. My final conclusion would be is that you simply must buy this amazing box as a PICTURE fan or a (Dutch) heavy metal fan in general. The booklet gives you all the information, that you need, the lyrics to the songs, lots of pix and there's even a poster included. Buy it or be sorry later!! I can only reward this box with the full score. For more information, go to: https://www.pictureband.nl or https://www.facebook.com/PictureTheOnlyPage or https://www.classicmetal.com.br.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)

REMAIN UNTAMED-Remain Untamed (Headbangers Records / Big Bad Wolf Records)
As an introduction to their brand new album, I thought it would be nice to introduce the first CD of REMAIN UNTAMED to you. The five songs on this debut album are worthy of sixteen crossover thrash hardcore songs, which will make you jump for joy. The album starts off with title track "Remain Untamed", which shows exactly what this band is all about. Dynamic, powerful, bold drum beats, sharp riffs and wild shouting vocals. Hardcore is some kind of music style, which asks for an aggressive expression to make your message crystal clear to the listener. You don't do this with a whispering voice, you need to shout and scream from the top of your lungs to reach out to your fans. In "Final Sacrifice", the energy is dripping from your speakers. Just listen to the bone hard bass lines, that hammer on so loud that the strings have a hard time. Ernst must have listened to the early years of Lemmy a couple of times, I guess. The band comes right to the point with their statement, which feels like a punch on the nose with a bloody hot poke. The short tracks will really keep you focused and right now we have already arrived at the third song, called "Loudmouth". I must admit, that I'm definitely not a connoisseur of the hardcore genre in general, but I hear some possible influences of the warrior sound of GODDESS OF DESIRE. I hope that I'm not saying something stupid here and that I will get someone from the hardcore police at my doorstep, because that was not the intention of this comparison. Unfortunately, I only have references to the heavy and/or extreme metal in my vocabulary. These are essential for the Dutch heavy metal history and that's the reason why I give some attention to this band. "Renegade" is on next. It's another short explosion of aggression that you can't escape from that easily. It's right there and it grabs you by the balls to pull them off without hesitation. I just love the great guitar work in that one. "Evolution Of Evil" closes this debut CD, which contains some of the purest hardcore songs and lyrics you can easily shout along to after listening to it once or twice. REMAIN UNTAMED consists of Stein Steenman on drums, Vinnie Schram on vocals, Patrick Mosch on guitars, Ernst van Baak on bass and Hans Boekraad on guitars. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/remainxuntamed.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)

REMAIN UNTAMED-New World Order (Headbangers Records / Big Bad Wolf Records)
After their debut CD, this is the second REMAIN UNTAMED that will probably get your attention by the fabulous drawing on the cover. Any comparisons to either the band or their fans are just based upon fiction. From my point of view, it tells the story of the world we're living in today. It's the evolution of mankind transforming from monkey into a strong human being. However, we're slowly downgrading to a giant flock of sheep that is only interested in what is happening on the screen of our smartphones rather than what's going on in the world. The color change on the CD cover may also refer to this evolution theory. On the left, there's the safe green color, which slowly turns over to yellow and finally to orange and red on the far right. That's the point where we are today. Falling off a rock is not the worst thing that could happen to you, however downgrading the evolution theory will possibly lead to some serious accidents. I think, that the text on the inner CD tray says it all: "One Eye Is King In The Land Of The Blind". However, that's only my own personal opinion. Well, I guess, that you are more interested in this band from the area of Haarlem. On "New World Order", they present seven songs, worthy of twenty-five minutes of heavy hardcore. It starts off with "The Beginning", which is a one minute instrumental intro. In "Retaliation", it's already payback time. The song contains some fiery metal riffs, topped by some aggressive and brutal vocals. And of course the song title is perfect to shout along to and pumping your fists high up in the air. "No Pain, No Gain" is definitely more hardcore related. It has more speed riffs, a lot of biting and barking vocals and some fast drum beats. The instrumental part is really great and this might be the start of a giant mosh pit in front of the stage, when playing it live. It has caused yours truly a lot of neck pain though. I'm just an old school head banger and it's really hard to keep up with the maniacal riffs and solos. I just loved the instrumental start of "Rise Or Fall" and although I hardly have any memories about what is after that, because I was dragged away from the giant mosh pit at once. I think, it will be a public's favorite during their shows. "The Same Mind" turns up the speed a notch and I must admit, that I just love the dynamics in songs like that. This one could be categorized as a wild basher for sure. Just listen to the next speed killer, called "Infected By Hatred", which crosses all speed boundaries. I also love the aggression that's in there. It's really cool to play a song very fast and when you have a certain message to tell, you also must have the right state of mind and that's what I hear back in this song. All their anger is pressed into two minutes, so just try to beat that. The last song is the relatively lengthy "New World Order", which is the title track of this album. It's another example of a song that has got a story to tell. The way it is been done by REMAIN UNTAMED will possibly remind you of for example S.O.D or NUCLEAR ASSAULT. Anyway, I really loved what I heard and I was absolutely flabbergasted by the album cover right away. I'm also convinced of the power and the skills of these musicians here. Five guys with a message to the people, done in a way that fits them like a glove. That's the strength of a band like REMAIN UNTAMED. They will please many hard rock and hardcore fans with this fantastic crossover album. Well done, guys. REMAIN UNTAMED consists of Stein Steenman on drums, Vinnie Schram on vocals, Patrick Mosch on guitars, Ernst van Baak on bass and Hans Boekraad on guitars. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/remainxuntamed.
(8,3/10- Toine van Poorten)

REVIVER-A Thousand Lives (Remedy Records)
The Dutch band REVIVER exists for a long time already, but they stood for a red traffic light for about seventeen years. I guess, it was broken or something. Anyway, they are back and stronger than ever. Their new album is called "A Thousand Lives!" and it contains ten brand new tracks and forty-five minutes of melodic power metal. The opener is a true metal ear attack, that goes by the name of "Kill The King" and the band unleashes some brute force indeed here. JUDAS PRIEST fans must check it out, while the slower spoken word parts will probably appeal to the fans of IRON MAIDEN. The hard and biting guitar work, powerful vocals, steady drum beats and lyrics will most certainly appeal to every true metal head on this planet. And guess what? This album is recorded with the same line-up from 2005, after their hiatus. No wonder, they sound that solid and steady. Title track "A Thousand Lives" contains the very high-pitched vocals of Patrick van Maurik, who also sings in BLACK KNIGHT nowadays. Judging by his vocal skills, you can imagine why more bands want him in their ranks. "The Fearless" has got that typical IRON MAIDEN kind of rhythm, if you know what I mean. The riffs in "Heads Of The USA" are even more powerful and don't forget the mind-blowing twin guitar parts. The catchy drive here makes it very easy on the ear. After four hard and powerful knock out punches, they take back some speed in the ballad "You Belong To Me" and they handle that pretty well, too. You won't need a hanky to dry your tears, yet you will definitely feel the emotion in Patrick's voice. You know for a fact that many bands owe their biggest success to a good ballad. They simply reach a much bigger audience with more sensitive songs, so it seems. The contrast couldn't be bigger, when the speed devil "Our Voice" follows next. The guitars cry and dive down to your ears like a bomb. It's a real pleasure to hear these double leads, as you don't hear them that often anymore, but REVIVER brought them back to life. Patrick's high pull outs really stand out in "Shelter From Sorrow", besides the furious axe work of Tom Heemskerk and Fred Mantel. The intro of 'Into The Tomb" has some progressive elements (think of DREAM THEATER), while I would like to refer to QUEENSRYCHE (the good old days!), when listening to the vocals. The tribal drums gives it a more alternative touch. "Prisoner Of Faith" has got a nice flow and more amazing guitar work. "Tell Me" closes this album, which starts off with more influences of the mighty PRIEST. I have to admit, that I was not too fond about the slightly distorted vocals here, but QUEENSRYCHE fans will probably have another opinion about it. I think. it's a bit too experimental for a true metal band like REVIVER, although it doesn't do any harm to the quality of the song. The steady beats and machine gun riffs are killer again. "A Thousand Lives" is a solid comeback album, which will please many true metal believers out there. REVIVER consists of Patrick van Maurik on vocals, Tom Heemskerk on guitar, Fred Mantel on guitar, Stefan Brederode on bass and Tom van Veenhuijzen on drums. https://www.facebook.com/revivertheband
(8,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

IAN PARRY'S ROCK EMPORIUM-Brute Force (Metal Mind Productions)
I don't think, I will have to introduce IAN PARRY to you. He was the vocalist for bands like HAMMERHEAD, VENGEANCE, RENEGADES, CONSORTIUM PROJECT, AIRRACE, MISHA CALVIN, AYREON and ELEGY, in no particular order and also a well-respected solo artist for many years now. "Brute Force" is another chapter in his thriving career. The album contains eleven tracks and is runs for about forty-five minutes. Opener "In Isolation" is heavy and fast and influences of ALCATRAZZ, JOE STUMP and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN are passing by, neo-classical melodic hard rock, topped by the highly recognizable voice of Ian. Just listen to the guitar solo, that is introduced in this song, Yngwie couldn't have done it any better or in a more traditional way than here. "Darkest Secrets' shows the craftsmanship of the many big names on this album. However, the strongest of it all is the fact that the songs cling to your mind so easily. They are catchy and because of the heavy touch, it doesn't sound mellow. Clearly, the band didn't stick to one style alone, there is a lot of variation between all the songs, while melodic power metal is the main ingredient here. It is powerful and compact and there are no long dull intermezzos or intros here. "'Til The Day I Die" on the other hand sounds more melodic and fans of FOREIGNER, SURVIVOR or BON JOVI might dig this a lot, without any attempt of being a copycat here. Maybe it's the choir vocals that made me draw this comparison. The guitar work is truly mind-blowing, next to the steady beat, which is on next. "My Confession' is a bit more experimental and it goes beyond the paved path in all respects. Just have a listen to the short instrumental piece that gives it a progressive character. Song title 'Brute Force" continues and like it already suggests, it contains some amazing guitar work of former ELEGY band mate Patrick Rondat. ELEGY fans will directly get my point, I guess. "Fairytale" is a ballad type of song, which has some fabulous guitar work. The emotion in Ian's voice can be felt through your speakers. The Spanish guitar receives a more prominent place at the end, which is followed by the fast and heavy "Lethal Injection", which contains heavy pounding drums and ditto guitar riffs. "Rings Of Fire" sounds melodic again and it is the perfect song for Ian to highlight his vocal capacities. "Dreamworld" is funky and airy, yet I also hear some progressive influences here. 'Where Do We Go From Here" closes the album and this is the second ballad with some emotional vocal parts. I also hear some acoustic guitar parts. Don't wait for any speed or mood changes here, because they are not there or did I spoil the surprise now? The bonus track is a tribute to the late QUEEN vocalist Freddy Mercury, called "One Vision". What a fine tribute song to this great rock singer. The Rock Emporium of Ian Parry consists of Ian Parry on vocals, Kris Gildenlöw on bass, Patrick Rondat on guitar, Luca Sellitto on guitars, Allan Sørensen on drums, Bob Wijtsma on guitars and Jeroen van der Wiel on piano and organ. Also appearing on the album are a handful of guest musicians on guitar, drums, bass, keyboards and vocals. Ian proves to be one of the most talented rock singers in our country and thumbs up for him! For more information, go to https://www.ianparry.com, https://www.facebook.com/ianparry.rocksinger or https://www.facebook.com/RockEmporium.
(8,1/10- Toine van Poorten)

SECOND HELL / SKULLCRUSHER-Metal Deadness (Anti-Goth)
Recorded in the mid-eighties and finally released on CD. Two Dutch thrash metal bands for the price of one, nine songs, worthy of forty minutes of pounding metal. The first five songs are from the band SECOND HELL. "Prophets Of Hell" is starting this hellish metal ear attack with an underground sound, which has a lot of influences of VENOM for that matter. Was it recorded at the Silvox Studio or in hell itself, which is the remaining question after listening to these songs?! The flesh ripping guitars of Mark and Vyron will most likely put a smile on the face of the creatures that worship the all-destroying metal mayhem like this. Their intense sound gets me in the right mood and if this isn't underground enough, they turn up their gear a notch with 'Trench Devils". Think of pentagrams, goat skulls, crosses turned upside down, abandoned cemeteries and coffins, that's what this "Metal Deadness" compilation is all about. A label from the USA captures these two Dutch bands that play as if the news is out that the Armageddon will take place tomorrow. It's a real miracle that the drummer didn't need a new drum kit with each song. He must have destroyed them all. "Homicide" is extreme and contains the meanest guitar work imaginable. The dark death growls sound macabre and filthy. And besides that, the drums rattle on. On top of it all, the song also has some maniacal laughs. Just listen to "Face The Truth", which is ultra-fast and brutal. The last song is called "Assignment To Kill", which takes me back to the greasiest days of VENOM or bands such as POSSESSED in their heydays, including the horror type of laughs. SECOND HELL takes this assignment quite personally and kill my poor eardrums and I can't thank them enough for that. The underground sound of the eighties rules like never before and they prove that on these first five songs here. The next band is called SKULL CRUSHER. They present four skull splitting songs that are less extreme, although still very blasphemous. Just listen to the battering drums. I would call that extremely violent in my dictionary. Opener "Decent From the Cross" may not be heard during the mass of a Catholic church service, I think. Their music is a bit more technically and a name like the German band WARRANT comes to mind. "Hallelujah" would be perfect to praise the devil or worship the horned hoof, yet it's not suitable for other religious outings, although the title of the song would suggest otherwise. Even your rosary will smell like garlic after hearing this. The speed of these songs is high and there's no room to take a deep breath. The instrumental break is mind-boggling and the speed of sound will really blow you away. "No Boundary For Hell" continues with some slower beats. This song grabs back to VENOM in a way. Alwin Besselink plays some amazing guitar parts here and this is definitely one of the highlights here for me. I'm an old VENOM freak myself and songs like that make me think back of the early days of these disciples of the rotten underground sound, that couldn't sound more evil than these three cardinals, who opened the gates of hell for us. The speed change at the end is the cherry on the cake for me. Some skull splitting and monstrous evilness is being spread out here. The compilation album closes with "Massacre". More human bodies are being sacrificed to satisfy the hunger of these four Dutch musicians. This is how the soundtrack of the slaughter of human kind would sound like. I'm glad that this finally saw the light of day. It's available on CD and on vinyl and I heard that this compilation was even released on picture disc, although I didn't find that piece of metal hell yet. The CD booklet doesn't give you any information at all, yet it contains a live pic of SKULL CRUSHER in action. The amazing band logo was designed by THANATOS front man Stephan Gebedy and the drawing on the cover was done by Wim Baelus, an underground metal adept, so now you will know enough, I guess. And while Alwin curses out the last demons from his guitar, I will write down the band members of both underground disciples. SECOND HELL consists of Mark Staffhorst on guitars, Vyron Lymberopoulos on guitars, Peter van de Veen on drums, Robin Buenk on bass and Evert Dekker on vocals, while SKULL CRUSHER consisted on Jeroen Mousset on vocals, Alwin Besselink on guitar, Benno Hummelink on drums and Jeroen Besselink on bass. "Metal Deadness" is perhaps an unholy release for that matter, but quite essential, I think.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)

VANDENBERG-The Complete ATCO Recordings 1982-2004 (HNE Recordings Ltd./WEA International Inc.)
CD 1: VANDENBERG-Vandenberg
VANDENBERG is obviously the name of the guitarist that the whole world knows as 'the flying Dutchman' or the former axe man of WHITESNAKE, Adrian Vandenberg. The debut album of VANDENBERG is now included in this extensive boxset, containing the first three albums and a special bonus disc with demos, live tracks and other bonus material. I have seen VANDENBERG live on stage many times in this particular line-up and even with Peter Struyk on vocals. They never let me down. The band line-up was Jos Zoomer on drums, Bert Heerink on vocals, Dick 'Motorhome' Kemper on bass (ex-TURBO) and of course Adrian Vandenberg, who released one album with TEASER. Before that, he played in several other bands, such as DARLING and THE JAAP DEKKER BOOGIE WOOGIE SET, to name the most important. The demos for this first album already showed a very promising start and "Back On My Feet Again" is the very first song that I ever heard of VANDENBERG, which was somewhere around 1982, when this album was released for the first time. However, the first steps to success were made as TEASER and later on when changing the name into VANDENBERG. Adrian turned down an offer of David Coverdale to join WHITESNAKE. He wanted to give VANDENBERG a chance and started writing songs. The final result is this debut album and one of the most important albums in the Dutch rock and metal scene, as far as I'm concerned. The album contains nine tracks, worthy of about thirty-five minutes. Mind you, we are talking about thirty-five remarkable minutes that would change the life of so many hard rock and heavy metal fans out there. Ballads, heavy rock songs, fast tracks and catchy rock songs find a good mix on this album and some songs even reached the international charts. VANDENBERG presented itself in a spectacular kind of way. The talent of these musicians was huge and as a team VANDENBERG was unbeatable. Let's go through these nine rough diamonds to refresh your memory a bit. Let's start with "Your Love Is In Vain". What immediately will strike you is that their sound has been inspired by the FREE and BAD COMPANY and that the singer actually can sing. That wasn't always the case with Dutch bands, such as most metal magazines try to tell us. VANDENBERG is different and Bert Heerink really proves to be a marvelous singer. This song is easy on the ear and really gets the album going. It captures the blue print of that well-known and very recognizable VANDENBERG sound. "Back On My Feet" is one of the oldest songs and in my opinion one of the most important tracks here. Because of this, all the fans embraced the band as hot newcomers. "Burning Heart" was well received by those people, that liked the more commercial songs and it eventually reached the (inter)national charts. Just listen to the fast double bass drums of Jos and the enormous power, next to the high guitar notes in the solo by Adrian himself. "Wait" is another catchy song and very easy to sing along to. As long as I remember, it has always been on the list, when playing live. It was introduced by an acoustic guitar solo, which was sometimes a bit difficult, when they had to perform this one for television. The acoustic guitar intro shows the fast finger picking of Adrian and the electric guitar solo in the middle part is being played at breakneck speed! "Burning Heart" became the big hit single of VANDENBERG and it was also the ballad on this debut album. The second hit single would be "Different World". Yep that's right, another ballad. The media is so damn predictable. I am not saying that it's a bad song at all. On the contrary, I like it a lot, because it has a lot of emotion and is topped by another great guitar solo. It's one of the better ballads and it certainly marked the big success for VANDENBERG here and abroad. "Ready For You" was the opening song for the live shows. Sometimes, they used the intro tape of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" before that and when the first riffs were played, the crowd went completely bonkers. Just listen to the high quality drums of Jos Zoomer. The constant double bass beat and the new fashioned tom drums, which he always used. Some people disliked it, but Jos really knew how to play them, which really makes the difference for me. The solo is also played with a lot of power. It would have been the perfect opener for the album, in my opinion. "Too Late" has got a great riff and it is catchy enough to sing along to. The wonderful drive gives me some kind of energy boost for a couple of moments. At the end, you can actually hear that train coming towards you at full speed. There is nothing that is going to stop that damn thing. What an amazing song! "Nothing To Lose" sounds slightly commercial and again it has got that very catchy feeling. While in the beginning of "Lost In A City", you will hear the remarkable chemistry between the band members. Once again, your thoughts might go out to a faster BAD COMPANY song here. The guitar solo is a real treat to the ear and I even hear some Michael Schenker influences lurking in the background. I always loved the drum intro in the final song, which is called "Out In The Streets". It is so damn powerful and fast and my poor eardrums just love it for sure. Maybe that's why it has become one of my personal favorite songs. I guess, I have been playing this debut album a zillion times or more. Their glorious career all started from there, which would last for two more albums. During these days, the band supported for OZZY OSBOURNE, KISS and MICHAEL SCHENKER among others and headlined some shows in the USA with QUIET RIOT as supporting band. Adrian never stopped believing in VANDENBERG and I was extremely happy to hear, that VANDENBERG is back in business again with a total new line-up. This re-release is a very nice overview of those early days in the band's blooming career. Still, it could have been so much more, when they would have added a bonus track to it of for example the long lost "Help Me Through The Night"? Anyway, who knows this song will see the light of day in the near future or whatever. It's been almost forty years ago, since the album was released for the first time and I still remember all the lyrics word for word. Obviously, "Vandenberg" - the album - made a major impact on me as a true hard rock and heavy metal fan. The same can be said for "Heading For A Storm" (2nd album) and "Alibi" (3rd album), by the way. The albums have played a very important role in my youth and I relived these beautiful days in about forty minutes all over again. What more can I say? This is an essential buy for every devoted music lover or Dutch heavy metal adept.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)

CD 2: VANDENBERG-Heading For A Storm
"Heading For A Storm" is the second album of VANDENBERG in chronological order of this boxset. It's 1983 and the band is in their heydays, when they tour with OZZY OSBOURNE and the MSG. Need I say more? The album would be crucial for their career, and with a natural born talent like Adrian Vandenberg, things actually get a lot easier. The band is touring Japan, the UK and the States after this album and they become a major player in the hard rock and heavy metal scene. Next to the Netherlands, the band is easily gaining worldwide fame. This album is surely part of that. The name VANDENBERG is on everybody's lips. For the album cover, they used a painting of Adrian, who studied art academy in his teens. This multi-talented guitarist shows his skills here with his pencils. Sharks floating or flying (whatever is applicable) over a highway through a deserted dessert. I think, they go back to the ocean hiding for the storm. But hey, let's not wander off and talk about some serious music here. On the album there are twelve tracks with a total playing time of about fifty minutes. It starts off with the feel good song "Friday Night", which speaks for itself. The weekend is approaching, so get your dancing shoes, sing along and party. Actually, "Heading For A Storm" sounds much more polished than their debut album. They wanted to write some hit singles for this album, which turned out very well. The break is very nice and the guitar licks sound absolutely fabulous. The drums are loud. Jos Zoomer has always been well-known for his extraordinary staccato drums, which fit just perfectly to their sound. Just listen to "Welcome To The Club" for example. If you would do that on a regular drum kit, it just wouldn't have the same vibe and be that perfect. The chorus is very catchy and Adrian sounds like a melodic Michael Schenker here. The peeping sound in the solo makes you aware, that not everything is as polished as that. Besides that, it's also raw and heavy, just what a good song needs. "Time Will Tell" has got that typical VANDENBERG vibe in the chorus. You simply need to sing along to it, no matter what. The adventurous guitar solo is the cherry on the cake. It peeps and cries and it's there when you least expect it, just like the Spanish Inquisition. Nudge, nudge, say no more. It's quite a heavy outburst for such a catchy and polished song. The ballad became the big hit single on this album. I must admit, that "Different Worlds" got hold of me more than "Burning Heart", when it was released. Many people will probably disagree with me, but the emotional voice of singer Bert Heerink really touches the deepest of my inner soul, every time, that I hear it. Surely, this is not the only highlight here. When Adrian starts the acoustic guitar solo, which is already amazing, but then the electric guitar part comes rolling in… The whole world around me seems to disappear and a spark of sunshine comes back into my life. It's that magic feeling, music can do to you. The song is from the same high level as for example a band like FOREIGNER, who were the masters in writing sweet voiced ballads. Even thirty plus years later, I still get the shivers all over my body. Probably, that's why "This Is War" sounds so damn powerful. The guitar solo is typical Adrian with some nice fills and a dry and clear sound. In fact, the choirs are very catchy and polished, which works really well. Just listen to the staccato drum fills at the end. It seems to come from a machine gun. "I'm On Fire" has always been one of unknown tracks here. Just listen to the steady drum beat of Zoomer and the stunning bass parts of Dick 'Motorhome' Kemper. The guitar solo sounds like it has been played by two guitarists instead of one. The second guitar solo feels like Adrian is stealing seconds to make it last longer, until they pull the plug. When Heerink is singing the vocal lines, Adrian is playing the solo fills and gives you that 'wow, what a killer solo' feeling. Title track "Heading For A Storm" is next. It's a pity, that they didn't do more with this song, as it surely has the potential of being another hit single. It also has a nice sing along part in the chorus. Zoomer shows his skills in "Rock On", which is another feel good tune, that many of us will probably relate to. Just imagine yourself screaming out the words 'Rock On' during a live show. It's as easy as that, but you must have the guts to use a simple statement like that. The staccato drums bang out loud and the band rocks at its very best here. "Waiting For The Night" closes the official album, which starts with an acoustic guitar part. When the drums are there, it's time to bang your head. The harmony vocals appear and the guitar solo has the well-known Vandenberg licks. Zoomer ticks away another round on his drum kit and the waiting is now for the first reactions of the press and the fans. We already know that the fans loved it and this also might have been the moment that former DEEP PURPLE shouter David Coverdale started to listen to our Flying Dutchman with different ears. I think that this album really caught his attention. You will never know for sure which song did the trick or at what particular moment made him pick up the phone and ask if Adrian was available to be a member of WHITESNAKE. In general, this album marked the international breakthrough for VANDENBERG. Back to this re-release now, as we still have three live bonus tracks to review. I wish, they would have also released one (or more) live album(s) that marked each VANDENBERG album at a certain time frame. For example: one from the very early days, one from this particular time and one from the latter days. Anyway, one can always dream about it, can we? The "Oh Fortuna" theme by Carl Orff has been used by many bands back in those days, like PRETTY MAIDS for example. OZZY OSBOURNE has been the most well-known artist and it was the intro tape for his live shows. Even VANDENBERG used it for a while and it has been captured here very nicely as intro to the perfect opener in the early days: "Ready For You". It features the bashing drums of Jos, the fast guitar riffs by Adrian, good bass riffs of Dick, the powerful vocals of Bert and always that very catchy VANDENBERG sound. The drum intro makes your flesh crawl. Adrian plays some improvisation parts before getting back to the riff that fans will recognize from the next song "Lost In The City". A very powerful opener with a stretched out guitar solo from the man himself. The last track is called "Too Late", a raw rock song to the max. The live songs have been recorded live in Houston, TX on March 3, 1983. It feels like this monster sound has been put down by a four-legged drummer. Man, what a great power! The guitar solos are flawless and clearly, this is one of Holland's best rock bands ever. No one could keep up with the level of VANDENBERG, no matter how hard they tried. The CD booklet tells their story by Malcolm Dome and contains many nice pics, also from the covers of the Japanese singles, taken from this album. A marvelous album by super heros, that always stayed with both feet on the ground. And even after the monstrous success of this album, they got back on their feet again. Website: https://www.vandenbergrocks.nl
(9,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

CD 3: VANDENBERG-Alibi
The evolution goes on and so did VANDENBERG on their third album "Alibi", worthy of almost forty minutes of high quality hard rock. They sound less raw than on their previous albums, yet the rather polished American heavy rock delivered again ten of the most amazing songs. It's catchy, where needed and it stands tall all the way. Just take opener "All The Way" for example. The intro of a busy street with traffic passing by will direct you to a song that is hundred percent VANDENBERG, because of the recognizable voice of Heerink and the high-skilled musicians that sound fresh and melodic yet with a heavy touch. The guitar solo of Adrian contains those elements that connoisseurs will recognize immediately. It's just these little things that will turn this opener into a fresh classic tune. It's melodic and catchy at one point, yet with a heavy beat to it. The intro of "Pedal To The Metal" starts off with the sound of an old timer, that won't start that easy. It points at something that moves ahead at full speed, which is not the case with the speed of this song, yet it will stick to your mind for sure, I guess. The harmony vocals, the rough riffs, the easy on the ear chorus, the steady and heavy beat, it's all there, which are main ingredients for a hit single. The heavy beats are there too, yet it sounds so much more American than the debut album, just listen to it to hear the difference. That album cried out loud to be hit record. One of the two ballads here stole my heart right away. Regardless you like Bert's voice or not, "Once In A Lifetime" sounds absolutely right. His great vocal skills, mixed together with the excellent guitar work of Adrian, lift the song up to almost perfection. It's still one of the most outstanding tracks on this album, as far as I'm concerned. After a ballad, it's a good choice to continue with a rock song. They follow this procedure quite smartly with "Voodoo", an up tempo track with ballsy riffs and the well-known harmony choirs, which gives it that typical VANDENBERG sound and the status it deserves. I still remember that song being included in their live shows that particular period of time. And if this heavy rocker is not heavy enough for yours truly, then you'd better tune in to the true speed monster "Dressed To Kill", which would be perfect on the first album rather than on this third release. It sure adds the necessary variation here. The firm beat on "Fighting Against The World" is still there, which was on the B-side of the original vinyl release in 1985. It still feels like yesterday, when hearing the explosions in this particular song. A big eye catcher on that vinyl release is the red sunset by the Maya temples with the crocodile crawling from under the paved road. The Aztecs would get a heart attack, when witnessing this for real. I guess, this could only happen in the mind of Adrian Vandenberg. The song is a heavy pounder with some experimental parts. It proves, that Adrian was trying out some new things, gently and without disturbing the listener too much. Because of that, you really have to listen to "Alibi" very closely to get the picture. The second ballad on the album is also the most successful one. "How Long" reached the charts again, after the success of "Different Worlds" and "Burning Heart". It has that typical catchy VANDENBERG sound and the guitar solo is the cherry on the cake here. In "Prelude Mortale", Adrian proves his skills in a few seconds and obviously, he's an outstanding guitar player. It's like Eddie van Halen in "Spanish Fly" for example. All he needs to do is one minute to shine and then it's on to the next. Those little gems lift this album up to far above average, I think. "Alibi" on the other hand is a catchy rock song, so take your chance to shout along to the lyrics. Make sure you have an alibi, as you can never be sure. "Kamikaze" is another experiment, if I may call it that way. It's the first instrumental VANDENBERG tune, next to "Prelude Mortale", which reminds me in a way of "Into The Arena" of that other guitar genius, Michaeel Schenker. Just listen to the guitar sound of Adrian and catch the similarity between both. It's a good album closure, which shows that not only the recognizable voice and the guitar sound of Adrian are responsible for the sound of VANDENBERG. It's the band that makes it unique. What would the future bring? We all know the answer by now. Adrian travelled around the world with WHITESNAKE and the other band members are still involved in their own musical projects. In 2014, Adrian formed the bluesy hard rock outfit Vandenberg's Moonkings with front singer Jan Hoving (ex-Stonefly) and 2020 sees the reincarnation of Vandenberg 2.0 with vocalist Ronnie Romero (Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, among others) and a self-titled comeback album. However, in my opinion, Vandenberg 2.0 has got nothing at all to do with the original VANDENBERG, which is a shame because they put Holland on the map. In the meantime, Ronnie Romero has been replaced by Mats Leven (YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, CANDLEMASS, etc.), alongside new members Koen Herfst on drums (EPICA, DORO, etc.) and Randy van der Elsen (TANK) on bass guitar. The line-up of VANDENBERG was: Adrian 'the flying Dutchman' VANDENBERG (or Adje Vandenberg for intimate fans) on guitar, Dick 'Motorhome' Kemper on bass, Bert Heerink on vocals and Jos Zoomer on drums.
(9,6/10- Toine van Poorten)

CD 4: Demos, Live & Bonus Tracks
The most interesting CD in this four CD boxset has seventeen tracks and is worthy of approximate seventy minutes of demos, live tracks and bonus material. Every VANDENBERG fan will probably know (or own) all the material that has been compiled on this disc, yet it's a great experience to have everything on one CD, I can tell you that much. Let's give you more details about it. It might not be a secret that the demo recordings are a bit rawer than the songs that ended up on that amazing debut album. They had just changed their name from TEASER into VANDENBERG and in "Back On My Feet Again", you will still hear them count before they start playing. Actually, this was the very first song that I heard of this new outfit. It would be unfair to say that it changed my life, but it definitely opened my eyes, when I discovered the talent of this band. "Ready For You" has always been the perfect openings tune for their shows. The lyrics also describe their eager to be on stage and play before a live audience. It's the second song here. The love for the acoustic guitar has been captured in the intro of "Nothing To Lose". Strangely, "I'm On Fire" never made it on any official album. The chorus is rather catchy and the slower pace makes the song heavy at the same time. In my opinion, it would easily stand tall among all the other classics on that debut. The outstanding guitar solo is very much worth checking out, in case you don't know it. The disco type of drum beat near the end, gives it a quite experimental touch. The drum intro of "Out In The Streets" is slightly different than on the original album. I have always liked the powerful sound of this particular track a lot. Another song that didn't make it on any album is called "Out Of Cash". In my opinion, it would fit very well on the second album for that matter. It lacks that catchy and recognizable VANDENBERG sound maybe, which doesn't make it a bad song at all. Clearly, it's an outstanding track and I am glad that it ended up on this compilation disc. Same goes for the ballad "Help Me Thru The Night", which starts off with a really beautiful acoustic guitar intro. The song builds itself up to an excellent guitar solo, which is the absolute highlight here. To be honest, it doesn't have that magic feeling, that songs like for example "Burning Heart', "Different Worlds', "How Long" or "Once In A Lifetime" have. The emotion just isn't the same here and it's too lengthy to fit in the four minute concept, which made the band huge. However, this seven minute song is still really great and it will surely touch your soul. Next up is the 'stereo edit' version of "Burning Heart" and you can tell the difference right away. Also "Once In A Lifetime" has been added here in the 'special mix'. The latter being quite different in some parts, when you listen to it carefully. Just spot the differences in the original version. Same goes for the so-called 'mono edit' of "Burning Heart". There's never enough of a good song, they must have thought. After the demos and the special mixes and edits, there's also a live section. On stage is where the real magic happened, I think. I have seen the band a numerous times and their live shows were always truly amazing. Why did they never release a proper live album? "Ready For You", the great opener is directly followed by the drum intro of "Lost In The City", which brings me back to my youth and some great memories come alive. "Friday Night" is from their Japanese tour. That video tape would have been perfect for a live album and I think that a lot of fans would have been very pleased with that. Clearly, it does exist as a bootleg album, but still it's a missed opportunity from my point of view. "Welcome To The Club" is also from that same tour. The last two live songs are from their US tour, where they played with OZZY OSBOURNE and KISS. This makes me a very proud Dutch citizen. "Roll Through The Night" and the ballsy "Too Late" have been recorded in Houston, Texas, 1983. The very last track here is another version of "Burning Heart". It's this song that made the band so well-known, not only in Holland but even worldwide. This is the 2004 unplugged version. Well, that sums it up pretty much, I think. Everything that is available of this band has been compiled on four discs. And although this is a great overview, it would have been nice when some previously unreleased stuff would have been used in this box as well. Or perhaps that unreleased official live album, that we've all been waiting for such a long time? Anyway, this is definitely a must for every devoted VANDENBERG fan out there, and there are many of them. Go to: https://www.vandenbergband.com or https:// www.facebook.com/vandenbergband for more information about the band of the Flying Dutchman.
(9,4/10- Toine van Poorten)

In closing, this four CD set is an essential buy for all fans and people who just discovered the band. In this box, you will obtain all their official albums, including some bonus tracks and extras. For the real connoisseurs, there is not that much new stuff to explore, except maybe a few songs on the fourth disc. A bonus live CD would have been a welcome addition here or maybe even a DVD. Musically, there is nothing to wish for. The high quality hard rock of this band has proven its strength until far across our borders. We can be proud of the Flying Dutchman and this is definitely a must-have in your collection for that matter, I think.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

VORTEX-Horrible Dolls (vinyl single) (Gates Of Hell Records)
On the sleeve of this seven inch by VORTEX, called "Horrible Dolls", I see dolls without any eyes wearing a VORTEX t-shirt, a metal bat with sharp teeth dressed in a red cape and a bald doll, representing vocalist Jurjen Tichelaar, with a striped VORTEX shirt. These creatures seem to fly around lost in space and perhaps they will visit you in your worst nightmare. The band released the single as a tribute to the late guitarist Martjo Brongers. It's the 2020 version of this track, that was originally released in 1984 on the "Open The Gate" album. The video clip that accompanies this song is definitely worth checking out, when you've got the time. However, I suggest to listen to this seven inch single first. It sounds very clear and yet really heavy. It's definitely the sound of VORTEX that we love so much. The dolls will definitely haunt you in your sleep, but the music will keep you awake. The horror type of children laughter at the end of this song is very appropriate. On the B-side of there is a live recording of "The Curse", recorded at Dokk'em Open Air in 2019. It starts off with some JUDAS PRIEST type of guitar riffs. You can almost feel the magic on stage here. And who else could sound as evil as Jurjen with his gloomy horror type of growls?! What a nice bonus for the fans of VORTEX. Raw and unpolished, just like the band is meant to be, in my opinion. Get it, while it is still available or be sorry later. VORTEX consists of Martjo 'Whirlewolf' Brongers on guitars, Jurjen 'Thundervox' Tichelaar on vocals, Orion Roos on guitar, Harm ten Hoove on bass and Henk Bosma on drums. For more information on VORTEX or the latest news, go to: https://www.vortexheavymetal.com or https://www.facebook.com/vortexheavymetal.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)

VORTEX-Metal Bats/Open The gate (Metal Warrior Records)
Metal Warrior Records has released the first two VORTEX albums on CD and vinyl, in exclusive packages and with bonus tracks and amazing inlays and artwork. What a great way to pay honor to this true metal band from Groningen and surrounding area. And it's particularly a tribute to the late Martjo Brongers, someone I still miss a lot, every freaking day. But hey, let's stick to the music here. The first album contains six tracks, expanded with three bonus tracks, worthy of about forty minutes. The album starts with two of my all-time favorite VORTEX songs. First there is this the up tempo "Gotta Get Away", which is a great workout for your toncils in a live situation. Raise your fists and just shout as loud as you can 'gotta get away', which gives you a good feeling. I really love this song and it somehow reminds me of JAGUAR every time I hear it. The raw energy gives it a great NWOBHM vibe. The cat noises and the howling wind in the beginning of "With Witches Help" is the perfect introduction to this amazing song. This song was usually the start for some fireworks on stage. It also has space for the drummer to do a lengthy drum-intro. The shout outs of Jurjen turn this guy into a real hero for me. The amazing high screams are definitely my cup of tea. "Rolling To The War" is powerful and yet another classic in my book. Can you imagine what will happen to you, when hearing these songs for the very first time? It's a knock-out punch after another, that you will receive. Title track "Metal Bats" contains more red hot guitar licks and it has got an amazing speed. It's truly a good choice to make this song the title track. The comparison to this (metal) bat surely is a point of recognition and the band's trademark all through their career. The next two songs are characteristic for the two main band members. Mind you, VORTEX has always been a band effort of five young people, but people tend to refer to guitarist Martjo and singer Jurjen first, especially during the early years. "The Curse" has definitely got Martjo's trademark all the way. It's a very strong composition with lots of space for the guitar players, who deserve to be in the spotlight. The guitar sound has always been very important for a lot of bands and I think in this particular song you will hear the perfect example of such an amazing guitar solo. Don't you agree? It goes on and on, until someone pulls the plug. You'd better agree, otherwise Jurjen will speak out a terrible curse over you. Or should we send band roadie, pyro technician and stand-in stunt man and monster of duty Eggo out to get you? You don't want that to happen. Obviously, VORTEX has always been the effort of more people than just the singer and the guitar player. And even their long term roadie deserves a prominent place in their story and on stage (at times). In "Alienation" Jurjen is in the spotlight and he will scream his lungs out. He is expanding the borders of what is possible and what is not. Of course the idea is that Jurjen sounds like an alien here, but I think that an alien would immediately start the engine of his space ship and move to another galaxy, when hearing these inhuman screams. The growl before the guitar solo will make your neck hairs stand up. The distorted vocals after that might be even scarier. The riffs near the end contain some PRIEST influences, like in "The Hellion" from the "Screaming For Vengeance" album. Not strange at all, if you know that Martjo was a huge JUDAS PRIEST fan. Next up, there's the bonus material, which starts off with "Land Of The Late" as a ballad-type of introduction. VORTEX and ballads is not such a successful combination and soon the guitars will switch to another storming thunder blowing over the north in the land of the late. These are the demos for the "Dutch Steel" compilation album, released in 1984. Not to be confused with the triple LP box, that was released years later with the same title."Mercenary" is from that same session and it contains a JUDAS PRIEST type of riff and a more boogie rock structure, which fans of MOLLY HATCHET would even like. The double leads are worked out very well, too. Every guitar player gets an equal share of the cake. The last song called "Nightmares I Have Not" has the high screams, the mighty riffs and the steady beats. It's what you want to hear of VORTEX. This is a demo recording from 1983. If you have a good look at the colorful artwork of this debut, then you will probably see that this metal bat is not just the little bat that you regularly see flying around your house, when the evening falls and the daylight has faded away. This is a vicious predator with bloody red eyes, a true vampire and a serial killer with sharp claws, hungry fangs and thirsty teeth. It's a true monster, spreading his wings around a skeleton that is sitting in front of it. His wings must have been huge and strong. The name of the band has been made out of fleshless bones that this vampire killer must have left behind somewhere in his dark bat hole. The newer artwork contains slightly less color and looks even more frightening than the original artwork on the cover of this true metal album. The CD booklet contains some great pics from the old days, lyrics from all the songs and part one of the extensive liner notes, written by yours truly. It's part of the worthy tribute to this true metal outfit. VORTEX consisted here of Martjo Brongers on guitars, Jurjen Tichelaar on vocals, Berend Stegeman on guitars, Peter Nes on bass and Steef Molenberg on drums. For more info, go to https://www.vortexheavymetal.com or https://www.facebook.com/VortexHeavyMetal.(*)

This is the second VORTEX album released by Metal Warrior records, available on CD and on colored and black vinyl, including bonus tracks and great inlays and artwork. What more can I say, that isn't said before about VORTEX? "Open The Gate" is the second album after that already amazing debut album. You can tell that the band has gained a lot of experience. Just lend your ears to opener 'Open The Gate". It needs no further introduction and the first riffs tell you that you're dealing with the truest old school metal bands that you can think of. Add to this the amazing video clip and the memories about their live shows, when the stage was full with headbangers singing this song together with the band. That's what I call CULT in my book. Let's go through the other songs as well, although you probably know them very well. Just listen to the immense guitar work and stunning bass guitar attacks on "Soul Killer", which rips your freaking soul apart. The dark brown voice of Jurjen will surely give you the creeps. Their horror type of songs always had a dark twist over it and on stage, they used this very well. That's the strength of a good metal band. "Bastards" shows the influences of bands, such as JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN. The double leads, great riffs and drum beats will hammer this song into your brains. "Horrible Dolls" is another magnificent song, which is catchy in a certain way. That song got on a special tribute single, dedicated to Martjo Brongers, who sadly passed away in December 2019. A great tribute and the review can be read on these pages as well. "Growing Power" has got a very steady and driving beat, which is another trademark of VORTEX. Drummers that are able to beat the sh*t out of their kit. Most of the time they are hidden in the back, but to be heard the best upfront. "Massgrave" isn't a song about partying all night long, I can tell you that much. The guitar solo in here is exploding in your face. The all destroying power comes out at once and it hits you at full force. One of the most outstanding songs from that first album, next to the opener, is "Beauty And The Teeth". It shows the high class heavy metal quality of this band. Especially the instrumental mid-piece gives you the idea that you're listening to a lengthy progressive part of for example RUSH or something. Can you imagine a mix of true metal with progressive parts? Clearly, it turns this song into one of the highlights here for sure. How different is the next song, called "Glory Gone"?! Should we call this a ballad? It's melancholic enough to call it that way. Just feel the emotion in Jurjen's voice. You can almost hear his pain. This song is quite intense and it's complete the other side of VORTEX, that you may not expect, yet it's still heavy as hell. "Get Out" is the final song from the original album. It's a fast rock song with once again the spotlight on the furious guitar parts of that amazing guitar tandem. The way Jurjen demands you to "Get Out" will make you take your coat and leave before some terrible things are going to happen. The bonus track here is the demo version of "Metallic Dawning", which is the title track of one of their demos. The maniacal laugh of Jurjen says it all. The band was having a good time, when recording it. The gate on the CD cover is definitely a different one than the one from the video clip in this lovely place, called Bourtange. This is the huge mouth of a monster, which has the name VORTEX in big capitals up above. A great drawing that fits the title of the album very well. The CD booklet contains the lyrics to all the songs, tons of great live pix and it includes part two of the extensive band biography, written by yours truly. The two CD's are also available in an exclusive cardboard box in honor of the 35th anniversary of the albums. It's well deserved and a fantastic way to pay honor to this legendary cult metal outfit from the north. VORTEX consisted here of Martjo Brongers on guitars, John Roffel on drums, Jurjen Tichelaar on vocals, Jan Klemens on bass and Berend Stegeman on guitars. For more info, go to: https://www.vortexheavymetal.com or https://www.facebook.com/VortexHeavyMetal.(**)
(9,5/10 (*) // 9,5/10 (**) - Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE November 05, 2021:

AUGUST LIFE-The Broken Hourglass (EP) (No Dust Records)
With only one album in the pocket, AUGUST LIFE presents their tales from the past, live memories and a pre taste of their up-and-coming new EP "The Broken Hourglass". At first sight, these six songs are not enough to call it a full-length album, although it's lengthy enough to give the fans value for money in these hard times. The sand in the hourglass stops running after about twenty-eight minutes. The title track sounds pretty amazing and there is so much happening, that you really must listen to it more than once to get the picture right. This song is exclusively recorded for the EP and will not be available on the new full length CD. It simply has got it all: the sound of the sea, harmony vocals in the background, a furious start with fast guitar work, horror laughs and speed changes that constantly occur. It has some progressive touches (think of DREAM THEATER, VANDENPLAS), it tastes like metal (NEVERMORE, SANCTUARY), yet it's a lot more than that, because I also hear influences of bands like VENGEANCE, ALCATRAZZ and RAINBOW. It's a solid combination of different musical styles, which takes you by surprise and overwhelms you, and before you know it, you are addicted to this sound. It's groovy and it's dark, especially the portions including spoken words. The four live songs were recorded in 2019 at Bel Air Breda, Netherlands and this is surely the coolest joint in my hometown. Those four songs sound incredible, starting with "Coming Home", where vocalist Bryan Ketelaars sounds like a mix of John Jaycee Kuijpers (PRAYING MANTIS) and Klaus Meine (SCORPIONS) in their heydays. Aside from the studio recordings, the band sounds very tight during their live performances as well. They really impressed me live on stage and they were able to capture that on this CD. The band has already shared the stage with the likes of TYKETTO, THRESHOLD, PRAYING MANTIS and TYGERS OF PAN TANG, to name but a few. Check out "Dead End", in which Bryan's voice sounds a bit rougher and where the mind-blowing guitar riffs of Gert Nijboer (THE DUTCH DISCIPLES, ex-PICTURE, ex-HIGHWAY CHILE) dominate. However, there is always plenty of room for keyboard parts, which are an essential part of the AUGUST LIFE sound. "Turn Back Time" is a fast rocker with enough space for Gert to do his guitar exercises, while "New Eternity" is one of my own personal favorites. It exhibits influences from RAINBOW and ALCATRAZZ, and Bryan sounds like a younger Graham Bonnet. And he can take that as a huge compliment. The alternate version of "Nevermore" contains piano and cello parts, instead of loud guitars. You'd better be prepared, because this sounds a lot different from the other music that is being delivered here. You will hear Rene Kroon on piano and Jaqueline Hamelink on cello. The EP is produced, mixed and mastered by the freaking fabulous Jack Nobelen (HORIZON, SAVAGE, STILETTO) at Jack's Place Recording Studio (Meerle, Belgium) and co-produced by Gert Nijboer and Bryan Ketelaars, so I think you have very little to worry about sound-wise. AUGUST LIFE sets the new standard in the Dutch progressive metal scene of today. They already proved their strength on their debut album "New Eternity" and now they do the trick again on "The Broken Hourglass" EP. AUGUST LIFE is Gert Nijboer on all guitars, Bryan Ketelaars on lead and backing vocals, Hans in 't Zandt on drums and backing vocals, Ronald Pieterse on bass and backing vocals and Gerald Vos on keys, Hammond, guitar and backing vocals. For more info, go to: https://www.augustlife.nl or https://www.facebook.com/augustlifeband.
(9,1/10- Toine van Poorten)

BLACK KNIGHT-Tales From The Darkside (Pure Steel Records)
What a great idea to re-release the "Tales From The Darkside" CD of Dutch heavy metal pioneers BLACK KNIGHT with three live bonus tracks on this magnificent album. It will definitely gain more attention to this great band, that still stands proud after all these years. The fifteen songs are worthy of a bit over seventy-five minutes of some exciting metal. The CD cover is slightly different than the original artwork. The live songs were recorded at different locations and years and various line-ups. This will surely please a lot of fans. We will get back to these live recordings later on and first focus on the original album, which starts off with some groovy riffs and the pounding drums by founding warrior Rudo Plooy in "Story Of The Day". It's a fast ear attack, that gives you a very good idea of what BLACK KNIGHT is all about. The song is wild and pure and it will get your adrenaline pumping for sure. Did you ever witness a flashy kick-off like that? Just listen to the bashing drum beats in "Beware Of The Blind", topped by the amazing high vocals of Pieter Bas Borger. This is the ultimate classic metal song. The high pull outs are truly amazing, while the double lead guitar parts will stir up the level of excitement up even more. After this, the band slows things down a bit in the semi-ballad "Irish Boy", which is a lengthy, melodic and very epic track. However, there are some furious and rather surprisingly speed changes in here with influences of "To Be Demon" by LOUDNESS, which is one of my favorite songs of these Japanese kamikaze killers. The guitar work contains the same aggression that Akira Takasaki likes to express in his playing. It sounds as sharp as a knife and it's definitely one of the highlights on this album. The high-pitched vocals of Pieter Bas will even make your thoughts go out to Minoru Niihara for a short while. "Excavated" sounds brutal, next to the high shouting of vocalist Pieter Bas. "Rival" has always been one of my favorites. Just listen to the high screams, accompanied by the fast rhythm section. It's the perfect example of the main ingredients of a BLACK KNIGHT song. I think, that you will all agree with me, that this is what heavy metal is all about. The introduction to title track "A Tale From The Darkside" starts off like a ballad and once again I hear some amazing and exciting speed changes, which turns it into a high class head banger. Later on, there's a star role for drummer Rudo, who beats the crap out of his drum kit and it feels like his drum sticks are made of pure solid steel. Guitarists Gertjan Vis and Romke Boschma are both in the spotlight during the intro of the awesome track "Profound". The vocals of Pieter Bas are really mind-blowing and at the same moment when you think a ballad is about to take off, the black knights will pull out another surprising speed change. The twin guitar part is really excellent and it shows the high quality of this band. The keyboard parts have been played by Roberto Bosch, by the way. "Pay For The Black Knight" sounds epic and it surely belongs on my list of highlights. The official album closes with "Warrior", which contains some serious groovy riffs of this well-talented band. The Dutch equivalent to metal warriors JUDAS PRIEST, MAIDEN and SCORPIONS (old school) is a good way to describe the sound of BLACK KNIGHT. However, there is a lot more to meet the eye and we have now arrived to the exciting live bonus tracks. It starts off with a stunning live performance of "A Tale From The Darkside", recorded at The Mix in Uithoorn in 2007. It sounds even more epic, because of the great vocal performance by Pieter Bas and the heavy guitar riffs of Gertjan Vis and Bas Poot. Then we go to 2016, when the band plays live at the P60 in Amstelveen. The guitar players back then are Jelle Boersma and Machiel Kommer (ex-SEVENTH SEAL), while Ron Heikens plundered the bass guitar, instead of Hans Heider. The songs taken from that show are "Warrior" from the album and "Legend" from their new album "Road To Victory", released in 2020. The triple metal attack that closes this re-release CD has also been recorded at the marvelous P60 in Amstelveen, during their show with JACKAL in 2017. They capture "Beware Of The Blind", the amazing "Rival" and a relatively new song, called "Primal Power", which also got on their new album as a studio version, but this time with David Marcelis on vocals and Ruben Raadschelders on guitar, next to Machiel Kommer. It all sounds pretty powerful and highly enjoyable, especially if you were at this gig, like yours truly. It adds another dimension to this great re-release, which has become a must-have for every devoted metal head out there. BLACK KNIGHT consists on this album of Pieter Bas Borger on vocals, Gertjan Vis on guitar, Romke Boschma on guitar, Hans Heider on bass and Rudo Plooy on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/Black-Knight.
8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

DEAFEN-Leading To A Fall (Metal Warrior Records)
"Leading To A Fall" is the title of this magnificent compilation album, which contains the "Deafen" EP, the demo "Violators Of The Lost Wisdom", the demo "Beyond Death" and the seven inch demo single "The Lost Tape" plus a nice booklet with some amazing pictures, flyers and a band biography. It's a great completion for those metal heads, who want to have a good taste of Dutch thrash metal. The songs on this album are in reversed chronological order, so this album, printed on mint green vinyl, starts off with the most recent EP from 1991. Opener "Convicted" is a lengthy track with a spacious intro, but it also has some blazing riffs, high-pitched vocals, fast drum beats and innovative song structures. Better tighten your cervical muscles, before it's damaged for life. In this first song, you will definitely hear influences of the early METALLICA and/or EXODUS. In "Graveyard Birthday", the guitar sounds rawer and dirtier than ever and this band from the area of Oss proves that they belong at the top of the thrash metal scene with their exciting sound. Their high quality songs match very well to many other bands from the international scene. What a damn shame, that almost right after this EP, they pulled out the plug. The polka beats continue in title track "The Leading To A Fall", which has a lengthy instrumental mid-piece. The EP closes with the faster "Prophecy Of Mort-Main", which is a bit darker, in my opinion. The band line-up on the EP is Ron van Herpen on guitar, Gert-Jan van Vugt on bass, Cees Rovers (ex-HEXENHAMMER) on drums and Jan Loeffen (R.I.P. - 2020) on vocals. DEAFEN has shared the Dutch stages with international acts such as DEATH ANGEL, SODOM, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES and TOXIK and from the low lands bands like MESSINA, L.W.S, THE GATHERING, PARALYSIS and CIRRHA NIVA, to name but a few. The four songs on this compilation are part of an EP (on CD), that actually would be a full-length release, but due to the lack of interest from the record label, this never happened. Now many years later, you simply don't understand this decision and the sound of DEAFEN is respected so much more. Side A closes with the first song from the 1988 demo "Violators Of The Lost Wisdom", called "Confused Crystal", recorded in 1988. Your neck will surely hurt after banging on this one. The B-side continues with the title track from this demo and it really shows the strength of this band. They played a good dose of fast and filthy speed and thrash metal and besides that, the band was also capable of putting a nice progressive touch to their sound. Just listen to the beginning of this song. It makes them really outstanding and more exciting than the average band. Holland has had a very rich thrash metal scene. What to think of for example MANDATOR, JEWEL, L.W.S, PESTILENCE and MESSINA, who were also highly active in that particular time frame. The mood changes in this song sound quite impressive as well. On this demo we hear Richard Timmers on drums instead of Cees Rovers, by the way. Next in line is the "Beyond Death" demo from 1987. Title track "Beyond Death" starts off with a horror type of spoken word intro and right after the intro, the ominous guitar takes off, which is the early beginning of the band. I just love the guitar solo here. During that time DEAFEN played at club Dynamo in Eindhoven, where they supported SATAN'S LOUNGE BAND. This may not ring a bell to you, but when I tell you that this was the nickname of ANTHRAX and one day before playing at the Dutch Monsters Of Rock at the Willem II stadium in Tilburg, it will come back to mind, I guess. "Curse Of Mind" is on next and you will definitely hear the difference between this early work and the songs from the latter EP. Influences of METALLICA and EXODUS are still there though. I also remember this song from one of the episodes of "Vara's Vuurwerk" on Dutch national radio. At that time, they even supported TOXIK on their World Circus Tour. "D.E.F." is the last song on the album and it includes another horror type of spoken word part. This is the first song that they wrote for this demo, one year before they decided to change their name into DEAFEN and after they were called SATAN'S ARRIVAL and MORGOTH. The start of a new beginning, before they called it quits in 1994. On this demo, the band was operating as a five piece outfit with Geert-Jan Rikken as second guitarist. The band's legacy is caught in bits and pieces on this album release, because a lot of the original material is lost and gone. The final two songs are from the original seven inch, also in the color mint green and it's being referred to as "The Lost Tape" and from a 1993 demo. The band consisted at the time of former MESSINA drummer Richard Zopfi and guitar player Erik Derijks. DEAFEN marches into your living room with "Redialing Dreams" and Richard sets the speed here. Just march along with these real warriors of thrash metal from Oss. The most brutal and fast ear attack is called "Vacant Obsessor", which is a speed monster of the first order. Afterwards the band falls apart and the band members return in bands such as RATTLESNAKE SHAKE, PAZUZU, T-NAILED, THE DEVIL'S BLOOD (!!), ASTROSONIQ, ZOON, RRRAGS and MOLASSESS. What about a reunion, I almost hear you say? Well, actually this almost happened, however in 2019 Jan Loeffen became terminally ill and passed away in 2020 and the flame went out. This was the end of an era, which actually led to the final fall of the band. DEAFEN will never be forgotten though and prove is given on this amazing compilation album. It's a true killer and it will surely satisfy your hunger for some glorious Dutch thrash metal.
8,5/10- Toine van Poorten

STEEL FORCE-Make Way (No Dust Records)
Sometimes you discover a rough diamond and you want to show it to the whole world. People who like melodic hard rock will be very pleased with this CD album of STEEL FORCE, which contains fifteen songs and seventy-five minutes of obscure and awesome hard rock from the low lands. STEEL FORCE derived from Baarn, in the area of Utrecht, but they have been playing live all over Holland throughout their career. The vinyl version of the album contains only ten songs, as the demos are left out on this marvelous looking silver wax edition. So make way for this rough diamond and discover the strength of this Dutch band. It starts off with "Queen Of Dreams", which contains some influences of for example band like VANDENBERG, GILGAMESJ, EMERGENCY, ZINATRA and HELLOISE. The great vocals and harmony vocals and ditto twin guitar work are surely the biggest eye-catcher here. Oddly enough, this very talented band remained unrecognized in our country for many years. "I'm Coming Back" is a bit faster and it even has some catchy lyrics, where you can sing along. It's the perfect song to play live, like when they supported DEF LEPPARD in 1987 at the Noorderligt in Tilburg for example. It must have been a huge privilege to support this big British band. When I'm listening to "Valerie", the vocals of GILGAMESJ singer Frank van Stijn come to mind for a second, which is huge compliment, as far as I'm concerned. This ballad type of track is performed with a lot of passion. "Waiting For The Night" on the other hand has some musical references to HELLOISE. It's catchy, it's up-tempo and it has some classy guitar licks. Besides that, it's very keyboard dominated. "Voices" is definitely one of my personal favorite songs, because of the plenty guitar solos. It’s also quite fast and furious and just the way I like it. Same goes for title track "Make Way" actually. This very catchy song will catch your attention right away. All in all, there's something for everybody, which makes this album so special. It's an adventurous ride without a dull moment. Sometimes the band will impress you with their high speed and energy, but there's a lot more to enjoy. In "Still In Love With You", they also prove that they are able to play a good tender ballad as well. And tell me, what is a good hard rock album without a ballad? Right, you know why. The guitar part is surely not inferior to "Different Worlds" of VANDENBERG, which made that band world famous. Why this didn't happen with this song is another mystery. "Then Came Rock & Roll" must have been a crowd pleaser on stage, I guess. "Your Love Has Grown Cold" contains some raw guitar parts, which makes the song above average without any doubt. "Can't You See" closes this amazing album. It's another fiery rock song with some nice progressive swings and the awesome innovative drum fills, which reminded me in a way of the late RUSH drummer Neil Peart. It's one of the killer tracks on this amazing release. The fact that these songs stick to your mind, when listening to the next five demo tracks, feels like a warm bath after a hard day at work. The demo tracks are "Can't You See", "I'm Coming Back", "Still In Love With You", "Waiting For The Night" and "Then Came Rock & Roll". They do not differ much from the original songs, by the way. I hope, that you are ready to discover this amazing band, too. STEEL FORCE consisted of Marcel Geven on vocals, James Andriese on lead guitar and vocals, Gerard Schmitz on guitar and keyboards, Jeroen Hillen on bass guitar and vocals, Dick van Duivenvoorde on bass guitar and vocals and Hans van de Oever on drums and vocals. Additional drums are being played by Serge Meeuwsen and additional vocals by Dennis Andriese.
9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE February 13, 2021:

METHUSALEM- Masters Of The World (independent/Wayland Management)
METHUSALEM's new EP contains four brand new songs, worthy of twenty minutes. If you like traditional heavy metal with references to for example VICIOUS RUMORS, HELSTAR or LEATHERWOLF, then you're listening to the right EP here. In opener "Thunderstorm", all of these influences come together in sharp as dagger riffs, flashing solos, powerful screaming vocals and loud choir vocals. This is how heavy metal is supposed to sound like; energetic and dynamic. Because of the highly recognizable voice of Nick Holleman, the reference to VICIOUS RUMORS is never far away. For example, listen to the great riffs in title track "Masters Of The World", where the melodic parts have been very subtle added to the massive groovy riffs and fast bass drum beats. The solos are top notch material too and it gives the song a lot more beef. "Immortal" has got that very accessible chorus that you want to sing along to. It sounds powerful and yet it"s quite catchy as well. 'Fist-in-the-air' heavy metal, as I would like to call it. A band like HAMMERFALL also comes to mind. The drum outro fits perfectly well in here. Speedy riffs are starting the EP closure "Frisian Metal Warriors". It would make bands like ENFORCER or EVIL INVADERS look pale. This Frisian anthem can only give you a warm feeling and it also makes you proud to be a metal warrior, no matter from which part of the country you are. Four great songs, which proves that metal is still alive in the low lands. METHUSALEM have been on a short hiatus and these four metal anthems are showing that they're back with a giant bang. Responsible for these four true metal tracks are Nick Holleman on vocals (POWERIZED, SINBREED, ex-INDUCTION, ex-VICIOUS RUMORS), Dennis Hoekstra on guitar, Dirk Jan Veenstra on guitar, Wilco van der Meij on bass and Jort Visser on drums. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/methusalemband or http://www.methusalemband.nl.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE January 21, 2021:

BACK OUT-The Anthology 1983 - 1985 (Metal Warrior Records/Headbangers Records)
The rock and metal scene from the area of Brabant has been quite rich. Not only the amount of bands from that region and the good musical quality contributed to that, but they were devoted and extremely driven to being the next big thing. BACK OUT are one of the real high flyers from this scene. The band already started out in 1971 and I wonder how they sounded back in the early days. Recently, their material from 1983-1985 has been compiled on (black) vinyl, like in the good old days. The eleven tracks, worthy of about forty minutes have been released in a limited quantity of 300 copies only. It's a real trip down to memory lane. From the first notes on, you will be thrown back in time to the roaring eighties, when bands like PRETTY MAIDS, ACCEPT and JUDAS PRIEST ruled the scene, which is a very good feeling. It's the days of my youth and songs like "All Nite In White" would have really been my cup of tea. It's a fast pounder with ear splitting guitar solos and some heavy rhinoceros stomping drum beats. I always loved fast songs like that and it's a good way to keep you focused. I can't stop thinking of this other classic "All Night In Red Light" by Dutch metallers EXCITER, when hearing this amazing opener. The dynamic sounding "Fire!" is on next and the guitars are crying loud in this pounder. However, it's the high screaming vocals that are getting everybody's attention. And I just love these aggressive biting riffs, starting off in "Victim Of Sinn". This speed monster will surely put your neck muscles to work, when banging your head to the rhythm of it. Most of these Dutch bands from the eighties had a very recognizable sound, which made them outstanding from all the other international acts. They also sounded very authentic and real. They played heavy metal straight from the heart and that's what put them on a higher level. This is a good example of such a monstrous metal anthem, as far as I'm concerned. "Moonshine Liqeur" will definitely make you long for a zip of this alcohol boost. It reminded me of IRON MAIDEN's "Drifter" in a way. "R.I.P." starts with a fiery guitar solo, that really sounds too good to be true. It's a monster shredding piece and it's the perfect introduction to the fast rock song that is next. It's one of the highlights on this album for me. Side A closes off with the lengthy "In Trouble", which has some melancholic vocal parts. I hear a lot of ballad type of influences of somebody like Udo Dirkschneider here. Although this isn't exactly a typical ballad, I think we can surely categorize it under the section of a power ballad. The guitar solo is very sensitive and melodic. The more you listen to it, the more it grows on you. Drummer Hans van der Steen is knocking on "The Gates Of Hell" with his furious drum beats on Side B. Better knock first, before you go inside is the device. And Hans is a great knocker for sure. There's a nice speed change in "Ratts", which will turn this speed racer into a slow snail. Although be aware as the snail turns out into a cheetah again very soon. I like these nice twists in a song. "She Is Evil" is about your first girlfriend who has been cheating on you and is now telling some filthy lies about you. Everybody will recognize this, I think. She's no good for you, may she burn at the stake. You can feel the aggression in this song. While "Lost In Time" has a lot of great axe work. Obviously, guitarist Tiny van Stiphout has become an important defender of the faith on this excellent compilation album. The songs on these five EP's show the very best of the Dutch underground metal scene and it's no wonder that a band like BACK OUT is part of that as well, because this is the sound of the Dutch underground metal scene. The album closes with "Thunder And Lightning", another fast rocker, that will make you bang your head one more time for sure. Pure metal heads will have something to explore on this long player, because the high level of musicianship in combination with the good written songs is outstanding. BACK OUT really belongs to the top of the true metal scene from the eighties, in my opinion. Although they never reached the status of for example PICTURE or HIGHWAY CHILE, they still wrote some ultra-cool songs, which has been put together on this vinyl compilation. BACK OUT consisted of Hans van der Steen on drums, Mart Manders on guitar and vocals, Gerard Berkers on bass and mastermind Tiny van Stiphout on guitar and lead vocals. To buy the CD, go to: http://www.metalwarriorrecords.com or http://www.headbangerszineandgigs.nl. For more info, go to to their FB page at http://www.facebook.com/Back-Out.
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

BAD HABIT-The Demo Years 1986 - 1991 (Headbangers Records)
When you're familiar with the hard rock scene from the low lands and especially Tilburg and surrounding area, then you might have stumbled upon the name of BAD HABIT a couple of times. Their demo material from 1986 to 1991 has now been compiled on a silver disc and the twelve songs are worthy of fifty-five minutes of some great hard rock. I still remember opener "Come Together" very well, because it was played a lot at the Dutch national radio. It is a fast banger with some raw guitar licks, including a raunchy guitar solo. Check it out, you will be amazed. That's exactly the reason why Vara's Vuurwerk picked up on this song and it surely belongs to one of the highlights, as far as I'm concerned. Despite the raw edges, there is also a catchy feeling to it, which makes it easy to sing along. The next song "Warriors" is taken from the same demo and it's the longest track here. It's being introduced by a beautiful guitar intro, followed by a familiar 'fists-in-the-air' beat. It has some nice mood changes and an acoustic middle part. The song builds itself up slowly and a reference to IMPACT would be rather appropriate, I think. The epic introduction to the guitar solo is really marvelous. It proves that the band definitely created some top notch material. The demo was released in 1987 and it is in that very year, that they also supported SAXON. Their 1989 demo contains four tracks, which kicks off with "Kick That Habit". It has a great melodic feeling. The guitar work has some references to GILGAMESJ, another great melodic hard rock band from the Netherlands. "Tell Me Why" on the other hand is a slower track with some sinister and dark guitar riffs. "On And On" is the so-called obligatory ballad. It contains more magnificent guitar work and it has a sensitive kind of feeling. Back in those days, Dutch hard rock bands were well known for their melodic input and great ballads. This song definitely belongs to the better ones, in my opinion. Well, enough said about ballads now. If you want to hear more power, you're at the right spot. "Running Fast" has got some great fast riffs and loud bashing beats. This song contains some speed changes and stunning bass parts, which are completed by a lot of great guitar licks. It's the year 1991, when the band release a new demo, which starts off with one of their most brilliant songs, called "Just Let Me Be". It has a lengthy instrumental part, which really makes the difference, as far as I'm concerned. The band recruited a new singer called Arthur Verschuuren on that one. Their melodic rock sound remained, yet the focus is definitely on the instrumental part here. In "Fairchild", the AC/DC (or VENGEANCE) type of stomping beat shows, that we're dealing with the more catchy side of these melodic rockers from the low lands. SAXON fans will be thrilled about this one, too and the guitar solo has much in common of the early days of this magnificent band. The song even has some MEGADETH influences ("Peace Sells, But Who's Buying") although in a more melodic way. "She's on Fire" is next up and once again it shows the high quality of this band from Tilburg, As a bonus, the band's early stuff from 1986 has been added on this disc as well. It shows the more underground sound of BAD HABIT in a short but very powerful track, called "Power". These are the early steps of a band that already proved to have the potential to write some good songs. "Different Worlds" is another ballad type of song, which has got nothing at all to do with the VANDENBERG classic, by the way. The guitar work is absolutely mind-blowing here. The instrumental introduction to last track "I Don't Need You" shows that we're dealing with some very gifted musicians. Once again, there is another great speed and mood change at the end of this song. It gives you the chance to rock out one more final time, before the song ends. I hear some influences of UFO ("Doctor Doctor") in the fast parts. It's not strange at all, that this band showed up as support act for MANOWAR, RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW, ANNIHILATOR, DEEP PURPLE and GLENN HUGHES, to name but a few. In 1994, the band recorded their album "Fool's Paradise" and in 1997, they played their final live show in their hometown Tilburg. The booklet, that comes with this fine release, contains a whole lot of great pictures and a biography. BAD HABIT consisted of Wil Uytdewilligen on vocals, Ronald Westland on guitar, Marcel van der Wouw on bass, Johan van der Sande on drums and Rob van Gestel on guitar. On the 1991 demo Arthur Verschuuren is the band's new vocalist. Arjen de Groot played on the 1987 demos and was later replaced by Frans Cronenburg in 1991. If you like some good high quality melodic hard rock, then this CD is a must'have in your collection. It's stuffed with twelve fine jewels from the demo years of BAD HABIT. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/rockbandtilburg and http://www.headbangerszineandgigs.nl.
(8,3/10- Toine van Poorten)

PICTURE- Live In Sao Paula (2cd/dvd or blue-ray) (Classic Metal Records)
PICTURE are not only the most well-known Dutch heavy metal band, they have also attained a cult status in South America for quite some time now. Next to KISS and BLACK SABBATH, they were very huge in Brazil in the roaring eighties. Not bad for a band that has got nothing at all to do with the beloved highlights of carnival or samba. Brazil is also one of those countries, where a lot of people are truly dedicated to hard rock and heavy metal. It must have been a great adventure for these folks to have had the band's original line up back there in 2019. PICTURE's live show in Sao Paulo, recorded and released in a three disc package, contains two live CDs and the entire live show on DVD or blue-ray, whichever is preferable. Seventeen songs will take you back to the early days of PICTURE, which is exactly what the Brazilian fans wanted to hear. Whereas a lot of reunions only consist of one or two original members, with this release we are graced with the full line up from the first two albums, including a second guitarist called Appie de Gelder, who also adds some keyboarding skills to give their sound another boost. The booklet, included in "Live In Sao Paulo" contains a very lengthy interview with the band (in Portuguese, so you may need to conduct some translating), but of coyrse the most important part is the music. Besides de Gelder, PICTURE's awesome sound is dominated by the brutal and fact drum beats of Laurens "Bakkie" Bakker; the highly impressive guitar riffs by Jan Bechtum, who is nicknamed "the Dutch Ritchie Blackmore" for obvious reasons; the stunning bass parts by Rien Vreugdenhill; and last but not least, the outrageous voice of Ronald van Prooijen. This band, who supported the likes of SAXON, TED NUGENT, and APRIL WINE in their heyday, is now a legendary live band themselves. The proof is evident on this double live album, which shows they have lost none of their power since the early days. Two songs from their recently recorded album "Wings" are on this release as well, to promote the newer material. Obviously, they start off with a classic, "You're All Alone", with which the crowd sings along. And the audience participation continues with another song from the very first album, "Get Back Or You Fall". Just shout along to the title of the song and you can't go wrong. It's as simple as that. Riffmaster Bechtum starts "Message From Hell" from that amazing "Diamond Dreamer" album with the late Shmoulik "Sammy" Avigal on vocals. It's one of my personal favorites from that classic album. "Night Hunter" is also taken from that album, therefore, it holds the same status. The old demo song "Little Annie" was added to "Wings", about forty years after it was written. There's a leading role for Bakkie here, who lifts it up to a higher level, as far as I'm concerned. Also, one cannot help but to be aware of those sharp guitar riffs, which is the trade mark of PICTURE. Altogether it's a killer track with that good ol' traditional metal feeling to it. "No, No, No", a speed monster taken from the second album, "Heavy Metal Ears", affords a leading role to bassist Rien Vreugdenhil. "Night Tiger" is also from that album, which possesses the same forceful vibe, although less speedy, but it sure rocks the hell out of you. And that's exactly what the Brazilian fans want to hear. "Eternal Dark" might be PICTURE's most successful effort ever. The song was covered by HAMMERFALL and it receives a special introduction, before Bechtum starts the first riffs. The Brazilian crowd is not afraid to pick up the new songs as well, because "Live by the Sword" is a relatively new track from the album "Old Dogs, New Tricks". It is introduced by some tasty guitar parts, and the crowd knows exactly what to do, singing along to it word for word. Then, the title track from the second album "Heavy Metal Ears" closes the first CD after forty-five minutes. The enthusiastic audience begins the second CD, and PICTURE continues on with "Diamond Dreamer", a classic from the album with the same title. Just listen to the high pull outs of van Prooijen in "Line Of Life" from the "Wings" album, which is presented here live in South America for the very first time. People, who are waiting for Bakkie to step in the spotlight, are elated, when the band pushes into "Unemployed". It's a fast rock song - the perfect way to display extraordinary drum skills with its short yet heavy drum part. The crowd goes absolutely crazy when the band cranks out their most famous track, "Bombers". As the icing on the cake, Vreugenhil steps into the audience for his bass solo. This is a very glorious moment of musicianship, that you just have to watch. He is surrounded by his fans and Brazilian friends and you can't get any closer to them. When "Lady Lightning" makes her way to the setlist, the audience is already in ecstasy. It is also during this song when band members are introduced to these wild Brazilian fans. Check out the outrageous guitar licks of Bechtum here, heavenly, once again. The first encore , "The Hangman", shows the band at full steam. It gives viewers and listeners the opportunity to headbang one more time. The show closes with another track from the first album that the band released forty years ago,"You Can Go", the perfect song to wrap up this treasure of a show. Although I'm sure that the party continued backstage in Brazil until late hours. Classic Metal did a marvelous job recording and filming this show, and it's an genuine reflection of what happened on that fateful night, when PICTURE traveled to São Paulo, ten thousand kilometers (or 6,500 miles, if you like) from home. What an adventure this must have been and definitely one to remember forever. Our thanks to PICTURE and the Brazilian audience for that! For more info, go to: http://www.pictureband.nl; http://www.facebook.com/PictureTheOnlyPage/ and http://www.facebook.com/classicmetalrecords/
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE October 11, 2020:

ATTILA-Solace (Mosh Over Records)
It's so good to know, that even after the darkest days, a band like ATTILA is able to get back on their feet with an album like this. Herbie Vanderloo's wife Miranda passed away in 2018 at the age of fifty-three. The album tells the story of this difficult period of time regarding her illness and her death afterwards. This results in some amazing songs and a document that will most likely contribute to the process, where Vanderloo can work things out after the hard struggle he had to go through. How brave is it to create a record around such a miserable time?! We will of course focus on the musical part only, that they've put down on this silver disc. Their sound is still revolutionary and the band is not willing to walk on the paved path. While listening to "Solace", you will discover that ATTILA has got a very unique sound that they've made it their own and the patent, that they have, only goes for ATTILA. In opener "Mouth Of Madness", the band continues where they left off last time. Obviously, they are way ahead of time and that's what I like so much about them. The guitar work is firm, the rhythm section is tight and adventurous and the songs are extremely innovative. Just listen to the silent force and marvelous bassist Arjan Michels, who sounds as solid as a rock. The album is worthy of approximate seventy minutes and also includes some bonus tracks recorded in 2017 and 2018. All in all, we're treated to fifteen songs that will make your heart beat faster as a die-hard ATTILA fan. "Bed Of Nails" is the perfect song and tied to the artwork of the CD. The composition is really amazing with a touch of blues in the beginning, a surprising speed change and a freaking fabulous guitar solo, like only Vanderloo can perform it. I think, it will definitely make it on my list of personal favorites. "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" is a quite heavy track with some thunderous drum beats by Ton Holtewes, who's always juggling with the many different rhythms, that the band uses. Try to avoid the very first notes of this song, because Arjan is really torturing his bass guitar there. The beast is being unleashed for a short moment and I just love it. "Ejam" is an instrumental tune, in which ATTILA shows their craftsmanship and even there, they manage to surprise us with some amazing mood changes and the supernatural and extraterrestrial guitar work of Vanderloo. It's fast, furious and hardly can not be compared to any other guitarist, although references to SATRIANI or VAI will be called for in this one. That's what I like so much about this band. They are so much themselves. They live in their own world and they won't be guided by any other band in this scene. They create their own plans and their own recognizable sound and that's the way they want it and why they are so special to me. You may discover some HENDRIX type of guitar work in the beautiful "Evil In Me", where you may even sense more emotion than average in the voice of Herbie. It's also where the band decides to take a much different road. Right in the middle, the song explodes into an instrumental part, that will knock you off your feet for sure. Somehow my mind goes out to a band like MILITIA or WATCHTOWER or maybe a more progressive band like DREAM THEATER in their early days. "Wailing Wall" is being introduced by TV preachers and it sounds slower and darker with an angry explosion near the end. Title track "Solace" is on next and it would be rather strange, if this song wouldn't have some exciting moments and another terrific guitar solo. Maybe you will even discover a catchy moment as well. In "Hollow", the band goes again in the opposite direction of what any other band would do. A reference to VOI VOD might be right here, although VOI VOD sounds a little bit heavier. "Numb" gives Herbie some time to show his skills again. The CD closes with "Oblivion", in which the HENDRIX type of guitar influences are back again. Welcome to a more psychedelic seventies sound of ATTILA. Slowly, the speed goes up and there is that mighty Vanderloo-climax, as they like to call it in the area of Amersfoort. What a killer album. And if this isn't enough, there are more beauties in the bonus part for you. "Religion Kills" is recorded live in Amstelveen in 2017, and these are some high quality recordings. The song is taken from the magnificent "Triad" album and it's a real speed monster. "Demon Inside" is one of my own personal favorites from that same show with the stunning bass parts by Arjan Michels. "Mescaline" contains more fast fretwork of Vanderloo, so how fast can you probably get?? The last live track is called "Deathracer". It's from the CD presentation of the "Weapons Of Extermination" album. It was recorded live in Hoogland (near Amersfoort) in 2018 and I was lucky enough to attend both gigs, where these recordings have been made. The very last song shows another side of ATTILA. It's called "Funky Street" and was recorded live in 1994 with Arthur Conley on vocals during the "TV Babies" album release show. Fans of MOTHER'S FINEST, 24-7-SPYZ and/or LIVING COLOUR will sure love this funky piece of music. It sounds amazing and so much different than the sound, that we heard before. "Solace" is a definite 'must-have' for every hard rock and heavy metal fan, that likes a lot of variation and some high class and first class quality music. ATTILA is Herbie Vanderloo on vocals and guitar, Arjan Michels on bass and Ton Holtewes on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/attilanl.
(9,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

ATTILA-My Dyin' Friend (download)
Herbie Vanderloo, the guitarist of ATTILA wrote a song for his friend Willem Michels, who passed away at the age of sixty-three, just one day after his birthday. Willem was the drummer of WELLS FARGO, a band from the surroundings of Amersfoort. He was being called the fourth member of ATTILA, which he never was, as a matter of fact. Vanderloo called the song "My Dyin' Friend" and it's available from the band's website. The song is worthy of four and a half minutes and it describes his feelings. The lyrics are beautiful and very well chosen, in my opinion. The song is honest with a lot of sympathy for his friend, yet so pure. It's not too emotional, because the conclusion is that we will all meet again somewhere sometime. It feels like a song of hope, instead of grief and sadness alone. All in all, it comes straight from the heart and that is what it's all about. There is even a guitar solo at the end, one that only Vanderloo can play it. After all, we're dealing with metal heads saying goodbye to each other. It's a last farewell. What a way to say goodbye to a dying friend. It's really as pure as life and death itself and an essential purchase!!!! Buy the song and support the band at: http://www.Attila.nl.bandcamp.com.
(8,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

BLACK KNIGHT-Road To Victory (Pure Steel Records)
BLACK KNIGHT belongs to the longest existing Dutch heavy metal bands. "Road To Victory" is the title of their new album, which contains eight ballsy rockers, worthy of about forty-five minutes. The band blasts away at full speed in title track "Road To Victory", which sounds like the ultimate marriage between HAMMERFALL, PRIMAL FEAR and VENGEANCE, to name a few. It's great to hear how hungry for metal this band still is after so many years. The songs are quite catchy as well, but I wouldn't categorize this as easy on the ear, because there is too much happening here. The album sounds very diverse, which makes this release a very tasteful bite for every devoted metal head out there. Just check out the Teutonic metal moves in "Legend" for example. The spoken word part fits just perfectly in here, which is a smart move. It gives the song that underground approach that it needs. And how about these JUDAS PRIEST type of riffs in "Pendragon"? They really did a great job in this heavy pounder. The heavy drum beats are very powerful and the PRIEST type of riffs will drill this song into your brain for sure. "Thousand Faces" has some amazing high vocals and might remind you of TITAN FORCE for example, which I absolutely adore. "My Beautiful Daughters" has got that catchy VENGEANCE vibe again, plus some IRON MAIDEN influences in the rhythm parts. The harmony choir vocals match very well in this fast rock song. The best part though is the instrumental piece, where the band improvises with some nice twists. The high-pitched vocals afterwards sound really great. "Crossing The Rubicon" is on next and I just love the first JUDAS PRIEST type of riffs. It's is a lengthy epical kind of song, which shows the high class, that BLACK KNIGHT puts into their music, next to their enormous power. Prove of it is also given in the next song, called "Primal Power". Rudo 'Thunderfoot' Plooy has no mercy for his poor drum kit, what a power!! The guitars are absolutely mind-blowing. Metal heads that are into the early ACCEPT stuff will like this for sure. For the original version of the album closer we have to dig deep into the BLACK KNIGHT vaults, because "The One To Blame" originally saw the light of day on a demo cassette in 1986. It was being refurbished for this album. It's the cherry on the cake for the long term fans of this great band. BLACK KNIGHT really surprised everybody with this amazing new album, which sounds heavier than ever. Both thumbs go up for this release, which will direct these guys to the road of victory for sure. BLACK KNIGHT consists of Rudo Plooy on drums, David Marcelis on vocals, Gertjan Vis on lead and rhythm guitars, Ron Heikens on bass guitar and Ruben Raadschelders on lead and rhythm guitar. Guest musicians on this album are Machiel Kommer on lead and rhythm guitars, Anneleen Olbrechts on backing vocals and Dana Raadschelders on backing vocals. For more info, go to their website at: http://www.blackknight.nl.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

BODINE-Anthology (The Complete Album Collection plus bonus CD) (Pseudonym)
It's pretty easy, where to start this review. I almost can't describe the state of euphoria I'm in, when hearing about this anthology box of BODINE, because next to VENGEANCE, VANDENBERG, SLEEZE BEEZ, PICTURE, MARTYR and HIGHWAY CHILE, they belong to the highest rank of the Dutch heavy metal and hard rock scene. Although you can divide the musical career of BODINE into two different parts, the feeling remains the same. The debut album was recorded with different musicians and a different sound and music style than the other albums. It's soaked in blues rock and hard rock riffs, while the following two albums are more straight forward metal. All in all, every album has the same high quality and I still like to listen to each one of them, time after time. The fourth album is comprised of some demos and outtakes, jingles and an interview. The booklet tells the story of this great rock band, so let's take a closer look at the four albums in this box and the impressive career of BODINE. It's 1980, when the band release their album "Bodine". The red sleeve has an eagle type of bird printed on top with the band name right down below. The lettering has a real metal kind of vibe and the blueish with red color surely refers to a firm hard rock band. And you're right about that, because these first ten tracks rock quite hard. The album is worthy of thirty-eight minutes and starts off (in my opinion) with the best song and also the most well-known BODINE track here, "Rock Rosetta". The first riffs remind me of the good old school sound of STATUS QUO, however the raspy voice of Jay van Feggelen gives it a more MOLLY HATCHET kind of approach right after that. Very striking is the hard hitting Gerard Haitsma on drums and the raw guitar sound by Rheno Xeros. Also, let's not forget the stunning bass parts by Armand van der Hoff, as BODINE just wouldn't have sounded the same without his input. "Backstreet Crawler" is a typical bluesy track with a steady beat and it will definitely appeal to the average hard rock fan. The slow paced sound makes it quite heavy, too. Then there's the fast and heavy "Freight Train Runnin'" and alongside "Rock Rosetta", which both ended up on the "Hard 1" sampler, next to bands like KIX, BLACKFOOT and RIOT, to name but a few. You must admit, that there was a southern rock kind of feeling going on in the sound of BODINE at that time. Also check out "Gonna Get Back", the ballsy rocker, which is on next. "You Don't Give Me Love" is an exciting slow ballad type of song, which is being stretched out and beefed up with some excellent guitar work. They don't make them like that anymore. "On The Lookout" is another up-tempo pounder, which is one of my own personal favorites. "New York City Streets" is a very nice example of the fine teamwork between Jay and Rheno. These two musicians turn it into another nice highlight, which is a good example of the great songs that they composed for this album. "Oh Wee Baby" is an airy song, which makes a good balance between the firm and the more radio friendly songs on this album. The guitar solo can't go wrong, because every good rock song needs one. This is no exception to this golden rule. The guitar solo in the slow "Foggy Fantasy" is the cherry on the cake here. It's another fine mix of hard rock and blues, just like WHITESNAKE and the FREE created them in the early days. The CD closes with "Shooting Dice", which rocks very hard and gives me a high energy boost every time, I hear it. It actually carries the sound from their second album. The first steps on the ladder of success have been taken and many would follow thereafter. However, it didn't go without any (line-up) changes. Jay van Feggelen's vocals were the perfect match for their bluesy sound with southern rock sidesteps, but BODINE was bound to move on to a heavier sound on their second album, released one year later. The "Bold As Brass" album changed my life and it's one of the ultimate Dutch heavy metal albums of all-time. Jay left the band and his place was taken over by Axel Langemeijer, also known as 'Mad Man Axel'. The band also hired a second guitar player, namely Arjen 'Iron Anthony' Lucassen. This second album contains eight tracks and is worthy of thirty-seven god-shaped minutes, starting off with "Rock Machine". Axel's voice is much higher and very suitable for this type of heavy metal. Next to that, he's a real stage animal and a song like "Rock Machine" works really well on stage. Guitarist Rheno Xeros has grown a lot too, since the first album and BODINE has become the ultimate rock machine and they are ready to roll. I guess, that they delivered what the heavy metal community asked for at that very moment. BODINE presented the raw high screaming vocals, a solid guitar wall and a drummer that hit so hard, that the walls of every venue, where they played, would immediately collapse. The sound effects at the beginning of "Heavy Rain" are just what this song needs. Rain, thunder and lightning create the right atmosphere and give this heavy metal anthem just that little bit of extra to make it special. However, what could go wrong, when somebody like Alfred 'Big Al' Lagarde is the producer of this album? "Aragorn" has always been one of my favorite songs, mainly because it usually finished with a guitar solo by Rheno Xeros on stage. On the studio album, you can hear him ripping out some venomous guitar licks. "Heavy Metal Heart" gets very close to the sound on the first album. I think that the hoarse voice of former singer Jay van Feggelen would fit in here quite nicely. When I listen to these songs, it gives me some kind of a melancholy feeling. I think back of the days, when seeing the band live on stage so many times. It also makes you realize, what an impact this album has had in your life. I get the shivers running down my spine, when listening to the spoken word intro of "Wildfire Queen", which is one of the best Dutch heavy metal songs ever, in my humble opinion. Then there's the pounding drum beats that hammer on in your brain, topped by the high screaming guitar licks. Such a power! It feels like a supernatural force took over, creating something magical and hard to believe, that this is the work of five Dutch musicians. "Pumpin' Iron" reminds me a little of VENGEANCE and it contains a lot of dynamics and power. The double leads are really amazing here. The rough and raunchy rocker "Breaking Out" is on next, which is called "Jailbreak Musings". The CD closes with a real classic from their live shows. "Regular Rocker" is the perfect song to get the crowd going. The guitar riffs by Iron Anthony are like a steam train and drummer Gerard Haitsma is also at full steam. Add to this the astonishing guitar licks by Rheno Xeros and you will have a real rock classic in your hands, which easily stood the test of time after thirty-nine years. This makes you proud to be a hard rock and heavy metal fan and it will feed you with a high dose of adrenaline. The third album is very important for a lot of bands. Armand van der Hoff is being replaced by Jeroen Bos on bass guitar and with this line-up, the band recorded "Three Times Running". Did I play this record to death? Nope, I'm still alive, but what a monster album this is. Eight songs, worthy of almost fifty minutes of high quality heavy metal is the name of the game. Opener "Shout" is a true killer and the ultimate live song. Just imagine the crowd shouting 'Shout, shout loud', as loud as they freaking can....wow! The guitars constantly cry and obviously it shows the more metal type of sound of BODINE. "Battlefield" is a warrior song and these five warriors are armed and ready for sure. It's catchy in a way, although it also has an unbelievable wall of sound with guitars, bass and the amazing pounding drums by Haitsma, who beats his drum kit like he wants to kill it. One of the most brilliant songs on this album is "Black Star Rising". As a matter of fact, it belongs to my all-time favorite BODINE songs. This is exactly what the band stands for. The amazing guitars, the power of the great voice of Axel and the hammering drum beats of Gerard, backed by the stunning bass parts of Jeroen Bos. This rhythm tandem could't be beaten. This is not about shouting as hard as you can and when you hear the double leads, you must admit that BODINE created metal art (with a capital A) here. Just check out the incredible and instrumental "Below The Belt". It gives you an exciting feeling for over six minutes and builds itself up to an amazing highlight of wild and raunchy guitar licks. The band is really nailing it and after this, the same happens to "The Force", which is a slower track with a lot of power. The wild solos in "Hard Times" seem to come from everywhere, together with the crazy, hard drum beats by Haitsma. BODINE is really at its very best on this album and their live shows were pretty amazing, too. "Rampage" sounds dynamic and powerful and BODINE couldn't be topped back in those days. Their live shows were as intense as their studio performance. The official CD closes with "Free Kick" which is actually the solo spot of Haitsma. He's really one of a kind and during the live shows you could easily leave him alone for ten minutes or something to entertain the people with his drum skills. The CD closes with a bonus track, namely the single version of "Shout". It's a bit shorter than the original. The fourth album in this box is a fifteen song bonus CD with demo tracks, outtakes, a jingle and an interview. The first six songs are demo tracks from the first album, starting with "Shooting Dice", a short but nice blues rock song. The blues and rock sound is dirty and raw here and just check out "Gonna Get Back" and the mighty "Rock Rosetta". In "Backstreet Crawler" and the amazing "Find The Road", you can hear some influences of The FREE. Wasn't Paul Kossoff's solo project also called BACK STREET CRAWLER? Why this song, that also contains a surprising speed change near the end, never got on the CD is not quite clear to me. While "On The Lookout" is a firm version of that great rock song. Then there are five alternative outtakes of "Freight Train Runnin'" , "You Don't Give Me Love", "Foggy Fantasy", "Gonna Get Back" and "New York City Streets", which sound slightly different than the original recordings. Usually, the instrumental parts are a bit longer than on the album. The jingles have been done by Alfred Lagarde and they are introductions used for radio airplay. "Rock Doctor" is a demo version, which unfortunately also didn't make it on the album. The disc closes with a nine minutes interview. They explain the name of this fourth CD, which received the name "Bodinism". You will exactly know why, after hearing the interview, as I won't reveal the secret here. Anyway, how did it all go wrong in the end? Maybe the cancellation of the American gigs with ACCEPT was the reason. I dunno. Fact is, the fourth album never saw the light of day, although if you look on You Tube, you will be able to find a song called "Mephistopheles", which is a demo for the fourth album. However, there were many bad things going on. Iron Anthony left the band and joined VENGEANCE, who's star was raising faster and faster. Former PICTURE guitarist Henry van Manen joined the band, which received a little life injection once again, but it didn't lead to new material and live shows. Jeronimo and Haitsma rocked on in NIKI BUZZ M-80. Check out the "Maniac's Revenge" album and you'll find their name and music there. Rene Rijsdijk (Rheno Xeros) disappeared from the music scene and Axel ' mad Man' Langemeijer became the new singer of ATTABOY and THE GROOVT CHAMBER ORCHESTRA. He sadly passed away in 2003 at the age of forty-seven. In 1992 the band announced the return of BODINE with Gerard on drums and Jeronimo on bass. Together with Robert Soeterboek on vocals, Erik van der Ven on guitar and Oscar Holleman (ex-VENGEANCE) on guitar, they rehearsed in his studio. Jay van Feggelen, who wrote the lyrics for the songs, took over the lead vocals of Robert shortly afterwards and a few shows were being played. The fire went out for good in 1993, but their legacy will remain forever and ever. The story, photographs and discography, it's all in the extensive booklet that comes with the four CD's in this box. And you'll also get a poster of their show at the Paradiso, together with SEDUCER. Unfortunately, at the CD presentation in Utrecht, only Jay van Feggelen showed up. He's still a great singer and he made the ball start rolling again. We are very thankful to him and his former band mates for creating such awesome music. The addition of a few live songs or the aforementioned (demo) track "Mephistopheles" would have made it even more interesting for the fans, but it's still very much worth buying, because BODINE simply was one of a kind. If there ever would be a reunion, I think they will easily sell out every show in Holland, if only for old time's sake. But I guess that will never happen.... That's why I highly recommend to buy this four CD box and play it very loud. Go to http://www.regularrocker.nl for more information about BODINE (currently under construction, so please be patient!!) or http://www.centertainment.nl for more information about this amazing box.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

CRETIN-The Demos 1988, 1989 & 1990 (Headbangers Records)
The three demos of CRETIN from Eindhoven (de gekste) are compiled on this sliver disc, released by Headbangers Records. Their thrash metal style sounds authentic, fast, mean and has some nice mood and speed changes and some explosive guitar eruptions. The CD contains ten tracks and is worthy of forty-five minutes and within this period of time, the band crawls out of the obscurity and gets into the picture of a bigger public. Opener "The Train" is a plain thrash song, which has all the aforementioned ingredients. However, CRETIN isn't afraid to make some interesting sidesteps as well. Think about some funky twists or more rap type of vocals in "Proud 2 Be". Something that was a bit more common in the late eighties, like for example a band such as 24-7-SPYZ, that also played a combination of rap, funk and metal, which may sound odd on paper (or on your monitor screen, in this case), but obviously works rather well. You just have to have the nerve and give it a go. "Sick World" is another great song, that shows the variation in styles that this band had in them. Their music never gets dull and this is what definitely lifts them up above average for me. A lot of thrash metal bands tend to write one song and play it ten times on their album, but then with different lyrics. "Short Cut" is another good example of how well this cross-over combination of rap metal and thrash metal works. The beginning of this song is quite fast and powerful and when the twist is there, it moves into another direction. "Foul Play" is a more violent ear attack for those, who like to jump around a bit more. Watch out that the light is not hanging too low in your room or you might hit your head on it. "Hazardous" has some amazing axe work and the vocals bark a bit louder than on the first songs on this album. "Maniac" will take care of chaos, not only in the real world but also in your room. This song asks you to go wild on it and it's a pure speed monster with fast drum beats and other maniacal rhythm. The bass parts in "Microwaves" remind me of one of my personal favorite bands in the cross-over style, which is MUCKY PUP. "Sabotism" sounds a bit more extreme and with "Nut On Vacation" the music grabs back to a fast thrash metal sound again with some exciting twists. Eindhoven, Dynamo, thrash metal, CRETIN, it all gets together on this compilation of demos from the underground scene, which came out of the vault, while the music is still hot and there are still a lot of bands from those days, that need to be explored a bit closer. CRETIN is one of them and I think that Headbangers Records did another excellent job here.
(8,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

DARK WIZARD-Evil Spirits (Golden Core Records)
Let's go back to the very early days of DARK WIZARD. There have been more compilations of this band and this one contains the first two albums in their entirety plus some bonus material. All together it's good for sixteen songs and the full eighty minutes of music, that fit on one silver disc. The booklet has many amazing photos from the early days with some awesome shots of their well-known horror show. You will have to find out for yourself, as we will focus on their music in the first place. The second album is called "Reign Of Evil" and was released in 1985 and produced by BODINE drummer Gerard Haitsma. The CD starts off with this second album. All the recordings have been remastered by German metal wizard Andreas 'Neudi' Neuderth (TRANCE, MANILLA ROAD, ROXXCALIBUR, etc), except for the 2019 song that has been added here. Neudi also wrote the liner notes for the album, by the way. Back in those days, the band consisted of Berto van Veen on vocals, Tony White on drums, Kees Reinders on bass and Marcel de Groot on guitar. "Mortal Agony" already shows that DARK WIZARD was a band strictly for the connoisseurs among us. High-pitched vocals, the horror type of lyrics and the exciting speed changes have been the trademarks of the band. Just have a good taste of "Choice Of Lie" which proves that there was indeed a Dutch answer to MERCYFUL FATE in our small country. The voice of Berto was not always high and screaming, but if you listen to the guitar sound then you must admit that the FATE has definitely has put their mark here, which is a huge compliment because they sure are one of the top players in my book. "Judgement Day" is a bit slower, but the groove is still there in the evil riffs of Marcel. I can also hear some influences of that other metal band from the northern part of our country. I mean VORTEX of course and singer Jurjen Tiggelaar, whose voice shows some resemblance to Berto's and besides that, they both sang about the same horror kind of topics. The choir vocals at the end give it a rather sinister atmosphere. "Master Of Time" continues with some great riffs, that will probably remind you of the mighty BLACK SABBATH. The title track of this nice package is on next. "Evil Spirits" contains a few of those fabulous speed changes. The title is well chosen and it represents exactly what DARK WIZARD is all about. Their music really gives you the chills. And if the evil lyrics won’t do the trick, then their music definitely will. "Coming Out Of The Sky" is a fast headbanger with some flashing guitar work. The speed change really splits the song in half and the second part being the evil part in which the KING DIAMOND / MERCYFUL FATE ghosts wanders around. For me, it's one of the highlights on this album. The first riffs of "Death Struggle Killer" could very well be on "Mob Rules" by BLACK SABBATH and they can take this as a huge compliment. Check out the amazing guitar solo here as well, which is absolutely mind-blowing. Title track "Reign Of Evil" closes this second album, after which things became rather quiet for DARK WIZARD. On this compilation, we go back in time one more year with the 1984 release "Devil's Victim". The line-up of the band remained the same, except for the guitarist, because Hans Pol was the six string puller on their debut album. This EP has five tracks and it immediately launched the band into the Dutch metal scene. The amazing album cover features an old skeleton faced figure with long grey hair holding a blood dripping sword in his hand, which isn't exactly "Mr. Nice". Opener "Trip To Doom" has some mighty fine riffs and the dark vocal lines are food every headbanger among us, who will be really excited here. "Big Typhoon" is one of my personal favorite songs. The guitar solo, fast drum beats and the typical way the lyrics have been sung, turn this into a fantastic song. "Poisoned Whiskey" is a speed monster with more fast drum beats, which is exactly what we want to hear from a metal band. "Mr. Nice" continues and it has the phrase 'wine is fine but whiskey is quicker', which you can also hear in OZZY OSBOURNE's "Suicide Solution". The influences of BLACK SABBATH and OZZY OSBOURNE are not very far away, I guess. The debut album closes with title track "Devil's Victim". These two albums are well-known in the scene right now, I think. The bonus tracks are a different kind. Just listen to the 2019 penned song "MH17" recorded with Kees Reinders on bass and vocals, Tony White on drums and Marcel Hop on guitar. The song deals about the aircraft disaster that happened with the Dutch plane, 219 innocent people were killed. The dark bass tones, the slow pace, they all mark the sober atmosphere of this song. The CD closes with two restored live songs from a 1983 live tape. It shows, that the band is at full steam and hot to be rocked during their live gigs. The two songs are called "Paradise" and there's the amazing sounding "Zombie" with its icy horror screams. Feel the power they spread around during these shows. What a shame, there isn't any footage available of their entire horror show from the early days, which would make the legacy of this amazing band complete. The artwork of the CD is absolutely perfect. The skull has got the artwork of the two album sleeves projected in his eyes. If you are still searching for the band's first two albums on one CD, now here's your chance to get them.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

HANDY-KEPT-Handy-kept (EP) (Headbangers Records)
Do we need to take this serious? The answer is yes, because when you're my age, this band must certainly ring a bell to you. Influenced by bands like ANTHRAX and S.O.D., Mike van Rijswijk and Andre Verhuysen joined this hilarious fun metal band HANDY-KEPT in the 1980's. Their one and only demo is now being pressed on CD and it will also be released on vinyl for the real adepts somewhere in 2021. The band has had many line-up changes, but the last known line-up has recorded these four songs. The Aardschok writers left the band by then and HANDY-KEPT consisted of Martin Verberk on drums, Raymond Tabak on bass, Eric Veenstra on guitar and Henri Serton on vocals. Bart van Lenten and Matt Verschoor did the artwork and lay-out for this fun metal four track EP. "Total Thrash" is a fast and furious killer thrash metal attack, that will make you turn this sucker up to eleven. It sounds like NUCLEAR ASSAULT on speed. "Badmuts" sounds like fun and it's indeed a whole lot of fun. Who would possibly write a song about a 'badmuts' or a bathing cap in English?!? Nobody would even think about it, but HANDY-KEPT did and it was a national hit. Well, at least in the area of Eindhoven it was. To be quite frankly, people say, it was a huge hit in club Dynamo and there were rumors that they hit the jackpot there. It was actually a song that the four band members liked....probably or maybe not. Judge for yourself. Many years later, it's still fun to listen to it. The most amazing track must be "Foodfight", which you may recognize, because the guitar parts have been taken from the TV series "Pippie Longstocking" ("Pippie Langkous" in Dutch). Anyone, who hears this tune will recognize it immediately. It's a smart move to use it in a song. "Die Stylle" closes the EP, which is worthy of nine minutes and four songs. You won't get bored easily and people who like a good mix of BAD NEWS and MUCKY PUP, topped by a sauce of S.O.D., know what to do now, if only for old time's sake. FRANK ZAPPA once asked himself a question: does humor belong to music? The answer to this burning question would be 'yes' and prove is given here. For more info and upcoming releases, go to: http://www.headbangerszineandgigs.nl
(7,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

HIGHWAY CHILE-The Great Anthems (independent)
What a great news! HIGHWAY CHILE didn't just distill a full barrel of metal infused whiskey, but they also released a brand new song to promote the selling of this exclusive moonshine. The barrel has been brought out on stage and the fans will be able to shoot their heavy metal power into the barrel, so the whiskey can receive the label, that it is metal infused. Isn't that a good reason to write a song about it and play it during the live shows? Yes, it is indeed and as a matter of fact, it is a great idea. The band carries the barrel all over the freaking country and during every show, all headbangers show their appreciation to the great shows that they put together. During their recent shows, the band also played this new song "Metal Infused" live on stage. It's on this three song CD single in the studio version and in a live version recorded at the Alfred Lagarde tribute show, that they played in Zoetermeer, together with PICTURE. The song is catchy as hell and when I heard them playing it during a sound check at café Bel Air in Breda, I already hoped that they would play it and release it on CD. My prayers have been heard and here it is and I just L-O-V-E it. Just listen to the studio version and you'll sing along to it all the way, when the live version is next. It's that catchy. I like the fact that the band inserted a part of "Whiskey In The Jar" of THIN LIZZY (or METALLICA for the youngsters among us) in the song as well. It just wouldn't be the same without a reference to this song. To make the joy even more complete for every HIGHWAY CHILE fan, they've added a live version of their classic "(We Are)Headbangers" from that very show, including the guest vocals of original singer Armand Vanderstigchel. As a true HC fan, your heart will start beating faster and the adrenaline will flow through your body and then you will know that it's alright. This is the real deal, new stuff with a link to the past of these amazing Dutch metal pioneers and whiskey lovers. This is heavy metal to the max. Quick buyers can also order a t-shirt of this whole whiskey campaign. Last but not least, you can put this silver disc in your PC and watch some pictures, have a look at the song lyrics and watch a live shot from a show at the P60 in Aalsmeer in 2019. It looks ultra-cool. HIGHWAY CHILE consists of Stan Verbraak on vocals, Armand Vanderstigchel on vocals on "(We Are) Headbangers", Martin Mens on guitar, Ernst van Ee on drums, Marchel Remeeus on bass and Gert Nijboer on guitar. Breaking news is that Gert Nijboer has unfortunately decided to follow his heart and leave the band. He will now focus on AUGUST LIFE and his DIO tribute band, the Dutch Disciples, in the future. I'm sure, that HIGHWAY CHILE will miss him after so many years of hard work. However, they will always going to get you, so you'd better get this metal infused three track single, before it's too late. Latest update: The place of Gert Nijboer is taken over by Ben Blaauw and long term fans of the bands HIGHWAY CHILE and HELLOISE will definitely remember his name, I guess. Welcome back, Ben!
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

IMPACT-The Flag (Headbangers Records)
The missing link is there, the recordings of "The Flag" are on this new release of Headbangers Records. The album has been put together with five bonus tracks, that will make your IMPACT discography complete. The red colored artwork and the band logo in the middle simply asks to be explored. The fifteen songs are worthy of a full hour of excitement. This Dutch band always knew to touch a soft spot with me, especially since their contribution on the "Metal Clogs" compilation. Opener "No Sleep" is a cool pounder with fast drum beats, clear vocal lines, amazing guitar parts and lyrics that stick to your mind pretty easily. Same goes for the fast "Eat Your Heart Out", which is food for the masses and IMPACT knows exactly how to deliver the goods. Their music is straight forward and easy on the ear, which was quite essential for the Dutch metal scene back in those days. It also touches people. "Symbol Of The Flag" turns the speed down a little, but the music is more intense and there's also a heavy beat. Just check out the amazing guitar work, which is really excellent. I hear some influences of HELLOISE ("For A Moment") here and there, but there's nothing wrong with that. It still is a real IMPACT classic in my book. "Straight To The Top" is a nice singalong tune. Throw your leather and pin studded fists in the air and just scream the lyrics to that one. The songs have a very catchy vibe, yet it's also quite heavy. The speedy riffs of Peter Magnee are responsible for the heavy sound but the melody remains as well. Check out "Save My Life", which captures the same vibe. The heavenly guitar part is the cream on top here. It's easy on the ear and still pure heavy metal. In "Missing Persons", the band presses the pedal to the metal, so it's time to bang your head again. The guitar solo is about to split your skull in half, while the drum beats are thundering and hammering brutally in your brain. "Titanic" tells the story about the giant ship, that sank after hitting a giant rock. It was the ship that couldn't sink (so they said) and many people lost their lives. Better listen to this song, instead of looking to the movie, which is based upon a more romantic story. My personal favorite song comes next. It starts off with some thundering drum beats, which might remind you of "Hot For Teacher" by VAN HALEN and goes on, as the song progresses. "Rocking In The Name Of The Lord" is one of those songs, that made the name IMPACT immortal, at least in my perception. "She Fascinates Me" contains more old school VAN HALEN vibes, without putting an essential mark on their music. "Streetwise" is a nice rocker, that closes the regular album. However, there's more to enjoy here. First, there are three songs, that didn't make it on the original album and which is recorded in the same line-up, including Mark Tan playing keyboards and Michael Heemskerk on acoustic guitar. "You And I" is the first and the band did a new video clip for it in 2013. "Red Tape" contains some mind-blowing guitar licks, which absolutely lifts it up to high above average. Clearly, and if my hearing doesn't give up on me, both songs have a female voice in the background. Unfortunately, I haven't found any information about it. "Absolutely" is a very fine rocker, while "Symbol Of The Flag" is one of the two remixed songs, which captures Andre Borgman on all instruments, Ruud Schoof on keyboards and Thierry Plisson on vocals. It's a slightly different version than the one that got on the album. The bonus section closes with "You And I" in a different version than the other one. I guess, this was serious attempt to obtain a hit single, which could have been the case if the music scene wasn't so short sighted in general. Grab this limited package (500 copies) while you can, because it's another fine compilation of this great metal band from Holland. IMPACT (on the album "The Flag") consists of Jan Hartman on drums, Thierry Plisson on vocals, Rob Schoof on bass and Peter Magnee on lead guitar, stated here as John Doe. Ed Warby played all the keyboard parts. For more info, go to the FB page of IMPACT: http://www.facebook.com/impact.rockband or buy it at Headbangers Records at http:// http://www.headbangerszineandgigs.nl
(8,3/10- Toine van Poorten)

MARTYR-Fire Of Rebellions (single) (PT78 Records)
This single contains two tracks and almost twelve minutes of MARTYR mayhem. This legendary Dutch metal band took the Corona time to record two songs and show the world that they're still out there, after that magnificent live album recorded in Japan. The silver disc comes in a cardboard box, which has been covered with the heads of a few angry, big teethed monsters. The songs here are called "Fire Of Rebellions" and "No Time For Goodbyes". MARTYR is rocking it out loud on the first track and the band sounds tender and melodic on the second track. After the spoken word intro, the band bursts into "Fire Of Rebellions", for which they also recorded a video clip. This is actually the second single, which they released, the first one is the second song here. There are a lot of familiar faces to be featured in the video clip. This heavy pounding song has got a very catchy hook and contains a lot of influences from the old school METALLICA sound ("Black" era), not the least because of the vocals by singer Rop van Haren, who sounds very different on the second song. His very impressive pull outs made me decide to make the comparison, which is meant as a huge compliment. Also, the fiery guitar salvos will most definitely turn a smile on your face. However, the second song came to me as a very positive shock. If you didn't know any better, you would think that you have just discovered a new, previously unreleased old school QUEENSRYCHE song, as this reminds me very much of a song like for example "Roads To Madness". It has got the same vibe, the same pace, the same style and the same class and yet, it's so different. Sometimes, Rop's voice is getting very close to Geoff Tate's in his heydays and at the end of the song I even hear a bit of Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin (JAG PANZER, TITAN FORCE, to name but a few) in it, as well. This song sounds so much more melodic and once the guitars are starting to cry, you will realize that this one is a very special MARTYR track. These two songs will possibly get on the new album as well, which is now being scheduled for release at the end of this disastrous year 2020. It will cheer up many people, I guess. There is always light at the end of the darkest tunnel, as you can see. MARTYR did a very fine job here and I think they have pleased many fans with this two track single. It will make the wait for the full-length album so much easier. We can lose one battle with this metal WAR!!! MARTYR consists of: Rick Bouwman on guitar, Rop van Haren on vocals, Geoffrey Maas on guitar, Vinnie Wassink on bass and Rick Valcon on drums. For more info on the band and to order the single, go to: http://www.martyronline.nl.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

METAL POWER-The Ultimate EP Collection I-V (PT78 Records)
We're very proud to be the defenders of the faith. Presenting you the best of Dutch metal and all the underground bands from 1980-1990. There are a few ultimate Dutch heavy metal compilation albums, like "Metal In Rocks", "Holland Heavy Metal", "Metal Clogs", "When The Hammer Comes Down" and of course the outstanding "Dutch Steel" release. However, there was also a release of five EP's back in the old days and these five rough diamonds, which have been going up in value significantly over the years, are now being compiled on one double CD. It's called "Metal Power" and the rich underground scene has earned itself a place on these two silver discs. Some of these bands are very obscure and rare and only a few climbed out of the underground and established a place in the premier league of the Dutch heavy metal scene. Each band has got its own explicit sound and that's what makes this compilation so very special. Not one song will sound alike and there are so many different bands to choose from, that contributed their stuff on this sampler. Some bands have put their one and only weapon on this compilation, which can be found on the internet, so there is a lot of very nice stuff on here. It's worthy of twenty songs and one hour and a half of Dutch metal mayhem, waiting to be played really loud. Originally, it has been released by BACK OUT guitar player Tiny van Stiphout, who did a really excellent job here. We owe him eternal thanks for these five heavy metal gems. Initially, there wasn't so much interest in these vinyl EP's and story goes that many were thrown in the bin by him. Now they see the light of day on this two CD set. The first CD starts off with Tiny's own band, BACK OUT and the song "Burn Like Hell". BACK OUT is hailing from Brabant, the area of Deurne, to be exact. Their fast hard rock style perfectly represents what this compilation is all about. Great hard rock and heavy metal from Holland and Belgium (or the Lowlands, as they refer to in their bio), so they fit in nicely here. BACK OUT consisted of Tiny on guitar and vocals, Gerard Berkers on bass, Paul van Heughten on drums and Mart Manders on guitar. What a great start. FRESH MEAT is on next with "To Hell By Mistake (Part One)" and after the intro, they will take you by surprise with their fast rhythm parts. There are some progressive parts in the lengthy instrumental part of this song, which makes me very curious. However, after releasing this song, they seemed to have vanished into thin air and nothing has been heard from them ever since. SHELTER continues with "Low Spirit", not to be confused with the American hardcore outfit of the same name. This band found their shelter in Helmond and consisted of Ronald Kooy on bass, Chris Snellen on drums, Henri Cremers on guitar and vocals and Frank Pietersen on vocals. This fast rock song has some nice moments and ideas, but nowadays they may sound a bit outdated. I'm aware of the fact, that these songs were originally written and recorded in the mid and early eighties, so they definitely rock, if you take that into account. Especially the guitar solo is very impressive and it lifts them up to above average, as far as I'm concerned. DISTORTION also never reached the fame that they aimed for, but their rendition "Kick It Out (Of This Place)" has got a great powerful riff and a high pace. The band came from the same place as BACK OUT and this threesome consisted of Wim Hoeben on drums, Willy Lenssen on bass and vocals and Christian Terheyden on guitar. The final vocal pull outs sound rather impressive. I must admit, that I really like this kind of underground stuff with a NWOBHM vibe to it. EARDANGER is next and this is one of the bands that came out of the underground scene and launched themselves into the premier league of the Dutch heavy metal scene. Their contribution here starts off with a pretty heavy riff, which could very well be from BLACK SABBATH, it's that heavy. "King Of The Midnight Fire" sounds truly amazing. This band of Matt Verschoor and Dick Vijgen shows a band that was destined to make it and their sound really makes the difference here. It is easy on the ear and a newer version of this song got on their "Full Blast At Last" album, released twenty-seven years later. The band is still active and sounds better than ever nowadays. Besides this great rendition of EARDANGER, I think that the ATOMIC ROCK song "The Spy" will make another great impression to all metal heads out there. The band also hailed from Brabant and was on the amazing sampler "When The Hammer Comes Down", done by that same Matt Verschoor of EARDANGER. This is how you like your metal, I guess. ATOMIC ROCK consisted of Peter Verstegen on bass, Edwin Schotman on drums, Rob Hellemons on guitar and vocals and Tom Verstegen on guitar and vocals. Later on, the band played as a JUDAS PRIEST tribute band under the same name. SCUM is not only the name of a legendary rock venue in Katwijk, but it was also the name of the next band, hailing from Raamsdonkveer. Their song "Steel From The Rich" starts off slowly, but then the band presses the pedal to the metal. They consisted of three members from a band called WILD HEAT and the guitar solo here is really skull splitting. Another great song with a little humor in the title as well, because they sing about steel (the metal) instead of steal (take away) from the rich. SCUM was Riny van Rodijnen on bass, Hans Heijmans on drums, Emil Kierczak on guitar, Henk van der Kieboom on guitar and Hans van Nieuwamerongen on vocals. Then we arrive at ANWAR and their rendition, called "Battle With The Beast", which starts in a more epical way. The warriors are about to pull their weapons to kill the beast. Tiny was also a member in this band and they had a killer sound, in my opinion. The beast has definitely lost the uneven battle with these wild animals. SPOILER is another good example of how heavy metal is supposed to sound. The band came from Sliedrecht and they ask us only one question: "Are You Ready"? Well, we are always ready for great songs like that. High siren type of vocals with fast beats and great guitar work is what you will get. It's amazing and it sounds really awesome. SPOILER is definitely one of the true winners here. The band consisted of Jack Wandemaker on bass, Henk Mijnster on drums, Rene Vane on guitar, Willem de Wit on guitar and Ton Melkert on vocals. The last song on this first CD is for BACK OUT again. Tiny's own outfit that pounds it out "Kiss My Ass". It's a great way of closing this first CD with some real heavy metal. The fart noise at the end of the song is some kind of warning, that it's time to have a listen to CD two, I guess. The second CD starts with the band JAILBREAK from Amsterdam. They started their career as BREAK and supported RAVEN one time. Their furious heavy sound will certainly astonish you on "Oh Lord" and it's a shame that after this, we didn't hear much from this band anymore. They released two demos and then disbanded. JAILBREAK consisted of Wim Vandenoord on bass, Dick van Aarle on drums, Giel van Osch on guitar, Ron van den Bosch on vocals and Hans van den Heuvel on guitar. That last one may ring a bell to some rockers, because Hans is a rock journalist, who worked for many music magazines, such as OOR. Hans moved on to a band called SICIL, who supported DEF LEPPARD and URIAH HEEP. The metal sound of Heavy metal band BLACK SUN from Amsterdam sounds fast and raging, while the guitar parts contain some influences of Hendrix. "Der Stuka" is a real classic underground metal song. Some band members continued their career after BLACK SUN in other bands. They consisted of Michael Schulze on bass, Henk Mulder on drums (JEWEL, SWORD), Jeroen van Aken on guitar, Marcelino Arconada on guitar (VILLAIN, GERMANE) and John Slats on vocals. RED DRAGON from Tilburg has the brothers Jacobs in their line-up. The vocals remind me a little of Walter Lavent from SAVAGE. The song that they capture here is called "Captured" and no, I don't make things up. RED DRAGON was really an outstanding band with some SAXON influences in their sound, although they sounded more melodic. RED DRAGON consisted of Rene Jacobs on guitar, Kees Jacobs on keyboards, Huub Jacobs on bass and Ben van Gerven on drums. In 2006, the band reunited for a one off gig with Bart Jacobs on drums. ALASKA wasn't just the name of one of Bernie Marsden's outfits, but it also was the name of this band from the very south of our country, Maastricht. Their song "The Voice Of The Metal God" sounds very epical and slower than average, but I must admit that I liked it a lot. RFB comes from our region, Tiel to be precisely and they have the magnificent Rob Orlemans on lead guitar, cranking out the rocking "Finding My Way Back Home". There is already a touch of blues in his guitar playing. Today he's considered as one of the big names in the boogie blues scene in Holland, where he played with the likes of MICHAEL KATON for example. He started his career in RFB however and Fred Hillebrands plays the bass and Ben Spitsbaard the drums, who also played in MARTYR for a while. The underground scene sometimes also had this typical 'underground' sound, like the band PHASER. This rough sounding version of "Still Rolling On" is a fast rocker with some great hooks. This band from Eindhoven rages on at full speed and it contains some nice mood and speed changes as well. PHASER consisted of Baptist Knaven on bass and backing vocals, Eric Jan Staals on drums, Tijs Scheerder on guitar, Rob van Lierop on guitar (later in HARDWARE) and Alex on vocals. Another band, that is high on my list of personal favorites comes from my hometown Breda and is called SCARLET ANGEL. This two piece band contributed "Livin' Wild" to this compilation. The raw guitar riffs are killing and slaying. No wonder, this amazing track also ended up on "Metal Madness Volume 1". R. van Ginneken is the vocalist and Mark Hagenaars (guitar) was also a member of VENGEANCE for a short period of time. The next band is VILLAIN (not to be confused with the Carl Albert's, ex-VICIOUS RUMORS, outfit) from Amsterdam and they thunder on with "White Snow". We also hear Marcelino Arconada on guitar, who played in BLACK SUN. The high-pitched vocals are from Fred Pieters, who later joined HOT LEGS. Besides Marcelino and Fred, the band consisted of Bas Voogo on bass and vocals, Jaap Dales on drums and John Staal on guitar and vocals. Another band that really became bigger than most of the bands captured here is PROUD EXISTENCE, who are being "Blindfolded" here. They are very well-known, because of their album "The Trial" and it's a shame that this band from The Hague disbanded after the release of this masterpiece. The song was also on their 1983 demo. PROUD EXISTENCE consisted of Ron van Dijk on bass, Rene Vletter on drums, Coen Petri on guitar, Ben Bijl on guitar and Alex Roest on vocals. Listen to the amazing guitar solos, which are full of excitement and power and clearly, this song is on my list of highlights here. The high pull outs of the singer will really give you an eargasm, believe me. Last but definitely not least, there is AXEL from Belgium with "Sweet Burning Angel", that later on changed their name into DAYDREAM. They close this great compilation that show us how the underground bands sounded in the mid-eighties. AXEL was highly active in the scene and released a lot of albums. Two demo and unreleased albums have been released on CD in 2015 by the Lost Realm label, please check it out. This limited CD edition of "Metal Power" is released in a quantity of 300 copies only and remastered by Rick Valcon, the drummer of MARTYR and RArecordings. The grim reaper with his scythe will be recognized pretty easily, as he was also on the artwork of the five EP's. He can now find his way to more listeners on this great compilation album, which captures the sound of the Dutch underground metal one more time on CD instead of vinyl. Every metal head with a warm heart for the Dutch underground metal scene knows what to do now. Buy the freaking thing.
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

MYRIAD-Maior Quam Vita (Headbangers Records)
MYRIAD was founded in 1988. They released five demos and a compilation of their material has now made available through Headbangers Records, which is called "Maior Quam Vita". The band plays a combination of progressive and technical thrash metal. This release shows the craftsmanship of these five musicians and there are also moments, on which you can bang your head and mosh around in your room. There is plenty of variation on these fourteen songs that have been captured here, which is worthy of seventy-five freaking minutes of some amazing doomy and progressive thrash metal. The CD starts off with the five track demo "The Well", recorded in 1992, after they had recorded two demos prior to that. The band became a well-oiled machine and "Down To Earth" (1989) and "Cadances" (1991) already received many positive reactions from the public. "Neo-Mental Jam Event" is exactly what you would expect from these five doom progressive thrashers. They provide a nice combination of progressive sidesteps, that are waved into the fast polka beats. Back in those days, ANACRUSIS (US) was a big example for the band and you can hear their influences in this song quite well. In "Hope Instead Of Despair" MYRIAD sounds a bit darker and rougher, but the general starting point is never too far away. Title track "The Well" sounds even more extreme and the balance goes a lot to the thrash side of the scope. The riffs however stay very inventive and prove is given in the instrumental track "Myriad Of Orizons". The demo closes with "Ommadawn", where they throw in some doomy parts as well. It gives the song a somewhat depressing kind of sound, but it also expands it and makes it even more adventurous. A year later, their experimentation continues with the release of a new four track demo, called "Naturalism". The progressive influences show up in opener "Collective Subconsiousness", next to some psychedelic influences maybe. I hear some old PINK FLOYD influences in the dark sounding vocal parts in "Thoughts". Next to the furious riffs, it's a combination, which has not much been explored, but it works just fine for MYRIAD. In "Byronical Hero", the band takes care of some firm beats and more explosive riffs. The sound gets darker though and the influences of ANACRUSIS are getting bigger. Judge for yourself in one of the band's most well-known tracks, called "Back To Nature". After this, MYRIAD released a fifth demo, but it never saw the light of day before. From this demo, we can now have a nice taste with "End Of Memory", which is taken from that "Deprofundis" demo. It's another fine example of the dark sound of MYRIAD. Right after that guitar player Harrie van Erp will leave the band. Vocalist Danny ('Bidi') becomes a booking agent and he was able to book some club shows for this American band. Sadly enough, Danny passes away shortly afterwards. It's 2018, when Alex contacts Kenn Nardi of the cult outfit ANACRUSIS to do the vocal parts for the new recorded versions of "Thoughts" and "Back To Nature", which he does. The result is on this silver disc. How cool is it to record two of your songs with Kenn Nardi on vocals?! The dark and sober sound remains and the band sounds fresher than ever, especially the drums are more innovative and it's a real shame that Bidi can't hear these recordings anymore. In 2018, MYRIAD records these two songs one more time, but then with vocalist Tim de Meijer of the band IZAH. Initially, Tim joined the band for one show at a festival, called the Bidi-Fest, in honor of Danny 'Bidi' van Drongelen. The re-recorded versions with Tim are closing this compilation album. MYRIAD consists of Harrie van Erp on guitar, Lex van Wanrooij on drums, Danny 'Bidi' van Drongelen on vocals, Frank Verraes on guitar and Ad van Osch on bass. For more info or to buy the CD, go to Headbangers Records at http:// http://www.headbangerszineandgigs.nl
(7,7/10- Toine van Poorten)

RANDOM-Shout It Out - The Untouched Series Volume 4 (No Dust Records)
The band that caused the most fuzz in the history of the underground metal would probably be RANDOM. I will explain later on, in case you didn't get the whole story. All of their songs have been compiled on this sixteen track CD, which also includes four live tracks and some of the purest heavy metal, you can possibly find. The band existed about eight years from 1984 to 1992 and the CD is worthy of about fifty-five minutes of highly essential heavy metal. The sound is crystal clear and the album starts off with the demo from 1991, called "The Payback’s A Bitch". I hear someone who is trying to tune in to a radio station and ends up listening to RANDOM's "Stone Cold Fever". I wonder, what radio station this must have been. References would be PICTURE or SAVAGE (with Walter on vocals), although this opener is indeed a 'balls to the wall' rock song with a firm beat. Fast and frim drum beats, heavy riffs and a singer who can scream very high and has got a powerful voice. It's all there. "On The Loose" is on next and Bert Verschoor's voice is a natural cross between Walter Lavent (SAVAGE) and Schmoulik Avigal (PICTURE, HAMMERHEAD, THE RODS, GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME, AVIGAL - R.I.P. 2020). It's a typical 'shout your balls off' song and guitarist Peter Both delivers a fantastic guitar solo to spice it all up even more. A band like ACCEPT easily comes to mind here. "Shout It Out" might be a pretty average title, which a lot of bands would use or used, but it doesn't do any harm to the great riff that starts this song. And once again you can scream your lungs out on this one. The harmony guitar riffs are quite nice in this one. The guitar solo sounds even better, especially because it’s so rough at the end. "Stinkin' Bitch" is a short tongue-in-cheek song and fits in here perfectly. This is the down to earth Dutch mentality of the band. They stand firmly with both feet on the ground and they just want to have a good time and play some loud music. You got to have some fun at times as well. On we go with "Big Fat Lady Cat", which is a classic stadium rock killer that would have sounded perfect at every huge open air festival. However, RANDOM never reached that status though, although the potential was there to make it big time. Unfortunately enough, they didn't get much further than the demo status. The song has got a very high commercial level indeed. "Free Lickin'" is a furious guitar eruption by Peter. Just play it loud and listen to the notes go from left to right through your speakers. He's really going out of his mind here. This song is like some kind of intro to the fast and furious sounding "Down And Out". The intro of "Back To The Roots" could very well be on any SAXON album and I also hear a lot of MOLLY HATCHET influences, because of the raspy vocals of Bert. Think of a song like "Back To The Rock" (JOSHUA), but that's as far as my comparison would go, as these two bands have got nothing else in common. The next three songs are from the "Dolce Vita" demo from 1989, starting off with title track "Dolce Vita". I hear some influences of VENGEANCE, meaning that it's very easy on the ear. It's perhaps a little more melodic, but the guitar sound is really divine and outrageous with another leading role for Peter. "For We Are Strong" is certainly one of the nicest tracks here. It proves that RANDOM knew how to write great and finished rock and metal songs. The instrumental part is great, the song is catchy, it has a good dose of melody and it could very well compete to all the other heavy metal bands in our country. Why they never reached a higher commercial level is still a complete mystery to me. Just listen to "For Heaven's Sake" for example. It has got an 'easy on the ear' vibe, a good guitar solo and it's easy to sing along to. Why wasn't this picked up by a bigger audience??? "Don't Play With Your Life" could very well have been a single, if you would ask my honest opinion. It definitely has got a lot of hit potential. Last but not least, we have arrived at the live part, which has been included here as a bonus. There are four songs from a live show in 1989 at the no longer existing venue of the Noorderligt in Tilburg. Those were the days. RANDOM shared the bill with ALLIED FORCES, JEWEL, REVELATION, STRANGER and DEAFEN on March 25th and it's really cool to hear some songs from that show in very good quality. They start off with a fast song for fast guys, namely "Stone Cold Fever". "One Night Stand" was not on the demo. I guess, this one night stand wasn't good enough to give it a moment's thought. Here's a short memory of what might have been a nice lady, never to be seen again after one hot night. All laughs aside, this song is definitely a hot rocking song and good enough for a night out in the town. I just loved the riffs of "Come And Get It'. It's one of those riffs that a lot of bands used in the eighties and it's as pure as it can be. The CD closes with one more song from that same gig, which is called "Lightning Strikes Again". It's another firm rock song with some references to the early Y&T material. Old school heavy metal fans will be very delighted that this material finally sees the light of day. One thing is still missing here, which is the single "Knocking On Doors" / "Stars Won't Freeze", appearing on many wants lists worldwide. That is what the fuzz is all about. This single however was never officially been released and only lives in the imagination of many fans, because there was some artwork posted on the worldwide web. The artwork of the single is also printed in the CD booklet, next to many great live and promo pictures of the band, which looks very similar to the cult album of "Heavy Metal Heroes", released on the British Heavy Metal Records in 1981. Guitar player John Hoekwater still has a lot of fun, when people ask him about this hard to find and very obscure ultra-rare item. The music that does exist from this band is on this silver disc, so don't look any further and be surprised. Unfortunately, their very first demo recordings are sadly missed here (songs like "The Tyrant", "Steal The Night Away" "Bang Or Burn", "Power Crazy" and "Childhood's End", to name a few). I think that all Dutch metal fans will have a great time with this album. RANDOM consisted of Peter Both on lead guitar, John Hoekwater on guitar and vocals, Bert Verschoor on vocals, Bert van Dijk on bass and vocals and Bram van Beest on drums (R.I.P) and vocals. In the very last moments of the band's career Bram van Beest had to step out of the band, because of health problems. He was replaced by Rico Göbel (ex-LOST GRAVITY) but this couldn't prevent the band to end their career a few months later. Some band members teamed up with each other, when the band split up and you can find their names back in bands like SHEBANG and SEVENTH SEAL, but I think that I can say, that RANDOM was the most successful of them all. Prove is given here on "Shout It Out" and now you know why this band was so successful in the underground scene.
(8,7/10- Toine van Poorten)

ROYAL FLUSH-Royal Flush (independent)
You may have your doubts about reviewing this CD or not. I think, you should really step outside your comfort zone, because there sure is a direct link to VANDENBERG. ROYAL FLUSH is fronted by ex-VANDENBERG singer Bert Heerink. If you're narrow-minded, please go on to the next review, no offence. However, when you're a true hard rock and heavy metal fan and also interested in what musicians like Bert Heerink are doing today, then you've come to the right place. ROYAL FLUSH is Bert's new band and if you liked his collaboration with KAYAK and BRAINBOX, then you will definitely like this stuff as well. Ten songs and a playing time of about fifty minutes are on this CD, which is released independently. Why? Isn't there any label that would be willing to release good quality stuff like this? I don't know. Fact is, that this band creates high quality rock, topped by the very recognizable voice of Bert. Opener "Shoot The Moon" will most definitely appeal to the fans of both KAYAK and VANDENBERG. It contains some great guitar work, but it has a slightly progressive sound to it as well. The background singers may sound a bit too much for some of you, but the sound gets a lot fuller by it. It's a surprisingly good up-tempo song, which would be a good show opener in a live situation. "It's Strange" slows things down a bit and you will immediately notice the high class musicianship of the band members. They prove that they can put down a very solid symphonic and progressive sound with some catchy edges to it as well. Some songs are also quite radio friendly without sounding too commercial. "Throw The Dice" is directly linked to the band name. There is some gambling involved in playing poker and in rolling the dices. The chorus of the song is easy on the ear and has got that catchy feeling that I was talking about. Once you will hear it, it simply doesn't let go. The flashing guitar solo of Joop Wallerbosch spices up the song and gives it just that little bit of spirit to lift it up to far above average. VANDENBERG fans will really like this a lot, at least the old school fans do. "Dance With The Sun" adds a melancholic touch to the album and it will really please the KAYAK fans, I guess. And once again the guitar solo is the cherry on the cake here. It gives this ballad type of song a more crusty bite, which is exactly what it needs. The subtle input of Peter-Jan Kleevens on the keyboards matches very well to the sound of the waves in "Oblivion Ocean". The background singers prove that the combination of different musicians works perfectly well and it also shows how beautiful the music of ROYAL FLUSH is. The VANDENBERG type of sound returns in "The Painter", which is a great pounder indeed. It may be not be as heavy as some of the VANDENBERG material, but it gives me the same feeling. "Keep Me Out" is one of the more heavy songs on this album. Just check out the incredible guitar work of Wallerbosch, who is really freaking out here. It gives the sound of ROYAL FLUSH more balls, which never gets too cheeky in addition to a massive guitar attack or an impressive vocal performance. The keyboards are the introduction of "If Battle Is Breaking Out", where the band moves back to their symphonic roots. The song is slightly bombastic as well, but the warriors and soldiers in the field won't mind, I guess. "Don't Go" is the obligatory ballad here and you can leave that up to Heerink. His voice is really perfect for a sensitive ballad like that and mixed with the emotional guitar solo of Wallerbosch, it's indeed one of the highlights on this amazing album, as far as I'm concerned. "I'm Crazy" closes the album and the band rocks it out one more time and presses the pedal to the metal. This might be one of the most radio friendly songs from the album and it sounds truly amazing. I would like to call it 'feel-good' music. It's not heavy metal or whatsoever, but it simply puts a smile on your face. Also it's done with a lot of class and style and that's exactly what I like. If you dig a band like SURVIVOR or TOTO or any of the bands mentioned in this review, then you will have a good time with ROYAL FLUSH. Hopefully, they will present this album live on stage as well someday. ROYAL FLUSH consists of Bert Heerink on vocals, Joop Wallerbosch on guitars, Peter-Jan Kleevens on keyboards, Arno te loo on drums and Arco Bommer on bass. For more info, go to: http://www.royalflushmusic.com.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

USURPER-Evilution (No Dust Records)
All hell is breaking loose on this USURPER album. Who would have thought that this thrash metal band was left for dead after their debut album, better think twice. The band has risen like a phoenix and comes with, what can be referred to, as their best and most evil album. The eight songs on "Evilution" sound as heavy as hell and the guitar riffs are absolutely divine. Who could ever think that a band could come up with a sound like that? USURPER was founded in 1987 and after thirty-three years, they unleash the beast that was lurking inside themselves for many years. It had to grow and to mature, but now it's full grown and ready to strike. It has become a blood thirsty hell machine right now. And if their sound doesn't grab you by the balls in the flashing opener and title track "Evilution", then you're even tougher than I thought. It's a killer song with some mind-boggling guitar work. Clearly, it has to compete with more speed metal drenched trash attacks, like "Midlife Christ", which is next. It sounds like a raging bull reacting towards a red flag. Better search for a good hiding place, if you want to survive this one. The filthy riffs and guitar solos in "On The Edge Of A Dream" sound more than satisfying, which is no wonder with three guitarists in your ranks. Stijn Bogers, Menno Gootjes (from FOCUS, but he also played in bands like THRENODY and MOON OF SORROW) and Boudewijn Molendijk. The riffs are soaked in evil spilled blood and remind me of the good old days of VENOM. It's that pure and intense. The vocals are by badass shouter Patrick Harreman, who also pulls the four big bass strings. There is also a very surprising speed change here. A song like "Cold Lake" even includes some doomy parts. More than that, it doesn't sound dark, it sounds pitch black to me. It doesn't get any darker than these doomy rites, which have some industrial beats as well. It feels like the sun will never ever shine above that cold lake. Play it loud at night and it will scare the shit out of your neighbors. It will give them the chills and leave them speechless forever. That lake is not cold, it's freaking frozen with a dark, thick layer of ice. I didn't know that there were such deep frozen lakes in the Netherlands. Would you dare to go there? It's the sacred ground, where only the USURPER adepts dare to go. On the B-side of this blood red marbled vinyl record, the band starts off with "Kill M Allah". I can feel a riot coming up and all the more reason to turn up the volume. The brutal growls, topped by thrash kind of riffs are entering my room. Has the praying hour in the mosque already started? Steady, thundering drum beats are accompanied by stretched out guitar parts. The drums on this album were done by a computer, by the way. Anyway, they did one hell of a job here. The riffs in "Century Of Entitlement" are bone hard. SLAYER could have been an influence here. The band presses the pedal to the metal in "Master In The Shadows". If you can come back with a sound like that, you must be heard by hordes of metal heads out there. This comeback album, thirty years after the release of the debut album, is too good to be ignored. If you think that the drums didn't thunder enough yet, then you better sink your teeth into this chunky thundering piece of pure thrash. These masters will let you obey their laws. The brand new album closes with "Religion Of Pieces", another nine and a half minute violent thrash attack, which contains more industrial elements, but it also has the most brutal vocal outings on the album. It's recorded on the thin line where SLAYER meets MINISTRY. Obviously, USURPER is not for the faint hearted, but for those who love their metal bone hard and uncompromising. The true believers in the Dutch thrash scene are starting an evilution and this is the soundtrack of it. Of course No Dust Records has made the album available on CD as well, but the vinyl is for the die-hards in the scene. Welcome back USURPER, this was more than worth the wait. The evilution is now, f*ck the rest.
(8,7/10- Toine van Poorten)

VANDENBERG-2020 (limited deluxe edition with guitar picks, coasters, sticker and postcard, also available as red vinyl) (Mascot Records)
What would happen if you took the best of RAINBOW and WHITESNAKE, then put it in a metal bowl and stirred firmly? I think, you would get a great taste of the new VANDENBERG album. It came falling down on us, like a shower from a clear blue sky. It was like the Spanish inquisition, when you didn't suspect a thing. After Adrian Vandenberg put his VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS on ice, it was time to resurrect VANDENBERG and prepare for a more international approach. Singer Jan Hoving was quite busy with farming and Adrian felt like he had to move on. Spreading his wings and touring outside the Netherlands was impossible with Hoving behind the mike, so Vandenberg found himself a new singer, who could also handle the stylistically heavier songs on the new album. He found the perfect shouter in Ronnie Romero, who has already worked with RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW, LORDS OF BLACK and THE FERRYMEN, to name but a few. Koen Herfst and Randy van der Elsen completed this line-up and the 2.0 version of VANDENBERG was born. The result of this collaboration can be heard on this new album Vandenberg 2020, which contains ten tracks and is worthy of about forty-five minutes of fresh metal anthems. From the first notes on, you will get a very nostalgic feeling, because the drum parts will surely remind you of RAINBOW's "Lost In Hollywood". The song is powerful and catchy and if you like it like this, then this album will have a lot of good material for you. "Freight Train" has got the soul and the vibe of VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS. Some touches of "The Fire" from the "MK-II" album could be recognized here and there. The guitar solo sounds outstanding and recognizable. The sound of Adrian simply can't be topped. Just check out the amazing axe work in "Hell And High Water" for example. It's a mix of Ritchie Blackmore, Paul Kossoff and Michael Schenker and of course Adrian's own very recognizable sound, that made him world famous. The groove in this song is very intense, too. It possesses the right dose of power and catchiness. "Let It Rain" could very well end up in the charts. The catchy vibe is there, and I'm guessing this ballad type of song will certainly appeal to many fans out there. "Ride Like The Wind" contains some Eastern influences, which remind me of RAINBOW during their Ronnie Dio days. Ronnie Romero's vocals are flawless, but at times they could wield a little bit more emotion, as far as I'm concerned. "Shout" is definitely a throwback to his WHITESNAKE days for the Flying Dutchman. It's definitely not a simple copycat, because there is a strictly VANDENBERG touch to it, which makes it a perfect fit on this album. This is also a fact for "Shitstorm", which is not strange at all, because this song, like "Skyfall", was recorded with Rudy Sarzo on bass and Brian Tichy on drums. And it's my personal favorite song from the album. It reaches back to the days of WHITESNAKE, when Adrian was not yet in sight to become their guitarist. It really goes back to the early days of this amazing outfit, the Moody / Marsden days, so to speak. The song "Light Up The Sky" will place a smile upon the face of those of you, who liked the groove of the previous two songs. Then it's time for "Burning Heart 2020", which is a song that cannot be missed here. It's the biggest hit single of the first VANDENBERG line-up. The CD ultimately closes with "Skyfall", the second track that was recorded with Sarzo and Tichy. Once again you will feel the WHITESNAKE vibe right from the start. I must admit, that I first had doubts of using the name VANDENBERG for this band, because it has got no real connections to previous work, aside from the fact that Adrian Vandenberg is the guitar player. If you set out a quest to hear songs with the same vibe as on "Vandenberg", "Heading For A Storm" or "Alibi", you will not succeed in your search. These albums were made during another time, with different musicians. This is the new sound of VANDENBERG. It's the 2020 version of a band that once started out under the same name. It has been a long wait and I guess that they were lost in a vast city, but VANDENBERG is out in the streets and back on their feet again.
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

VENGEANCE-Power Of The Rock - Anthology 1983-1998 (Pseudonym Records)
Previously we wrote a lengthy review about the four CD box of BODINE here and this time I have an even more extensive review for you of the nine CD box of VENGEANCE. When browsing through the rich history of this band that was always knew to throw in a great rock party on stage, you will surely hear the evolution of this band, while listening to their extensive back catalogue in chronological order. It’s then, that you will see the many faces of this band that never really got the respect that they earned so much, besides in our own country. The earliest line-up of the band was founded in 1983, but it will take another year, before the first single saw the light of day. I still remember being in café De Bruine Pij in Breda, when Leon came around to promote their demo for the first album. We will start this review with that debut album, which contains nine metal songs, worthy of forty minutes of indestructible hard rock. "Down And Out" is a great opener and once you've heard it, you can sing along to it word for word. I guess, that was the biggest strength of VENGEANCE. Who didn't sing the words 'desperate love on the highway' in the roaring eighties? I know that I did and probably a thousand times or more. I think that every song on that album, which is simply called "Vengeance" has got that same catchy and accessible vibe to it. Their sound is very easy on the ear and ready for radio airplay. Just listen to "Tonight, Tonight", which is about partying, beautiful ladies and having a good time. It's catchy rock with a metal sauce on top of it, because the guitar parts, played by Arjen Lucassen (ex-BODINE) and Oscar Holleman, are really loud, although not as heavy as for example a band like PICTURE or HIGHWAY CHILE. VENGEANCE is more radio friendly, like for example a band such as VANDENBERG. This didn't make them less interesting, because their live shows were highly entertaining and unforgettable. "Get Out" is another fast rock song that I totally forgot about after so many years, but it all comes back to me for sure. This catchy song has the amazing vocal skills of front man Goewie, topped by the great axe work of Holleman and Lucassen. Perhaps Goewie wasn't the best singer of them all, but he sure was the best front man. When Goewie entered the stage, the crowd went completely wild and it felt like one big party. "You Took Me By Surprise" sounds catchy and rocks at the same time. It's the second single taken from that album, backed by "Death Ride To Glory", which never made it on any record, but it has always been a crowd's favorite. The band really earned fame with the next song "Metal Days" and also on stage. In the earliest line-up of the band, Leo van Breemen was the second guitar player, but he was soon replaced by Lucassen. While drummer Matthieu Oligschlager only played on the first album and left afterwards. "Destroyer" starts off with some nice guitar work and when the AC/DC type of riffs of Holleman are flying around, the party is complete. The guitar solos are actually going beyond that and just check out the amazing guitar eruption in this song. I'm sure you will be amazed. Next up is the very first single from that album, "Prisoners Of The Night". The loud guitars have a prominent place here and I like it a lot. The flipside of the first single is called "On The Run". It starts off with a typical VENGEANCE kind of riff. Riffs like that became the band's trademark and put them on the map of the Dutch rock and heavy metal forever. The evil spoken part in this song definitely shows their metal influences, next to the catchy heavy rock influences. It's 1984 and the rules of what's being considered metal and what is rock were totally different then. Clearly, VENGEANCE was definitely a metal band in 1984. Nowadays, we would call it heavy rock or maybe even hard rock. The song "Vengeance" closes the album. It's another good example of how heavy this band really was. Also, check out the instrumental part with the crying guitar solo, which is extremely heavy. The name of the band has been established and the reviews were absolutely raving.
I think, when the second album was being released, everybody realized that they were the next big thing in the Dutch metal. "We Have Ways To Make You Rock" is one of the many VENGEANCE slogans, which became quite legendary for some reason. The band was pictured on the CD cover as a classical ensemble with violins and a double bass, but when you turn it over, you know that you're dealing with a heavy rock band and loud guitars. Again, there are nine tracks on this album, worthy of almost forty minutes of heavy rock. I think (if I speak for myself), that this is really their best album ever. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that during that time, I happen to catch the band live quite a lot and it's still stuck inside my head. The album starts off with a classical music ensemble for a few seconds. After that, Lucassen and Holleman plug in their guitars, Jan Bijlsma grabs his four string bass guitar and Goewie climbs behind the microphone to get the party going. John Snels replaced Matt Oligschlager on drums. "She's The Woman" is the very first song here and another public's favorite to be. The giggling lady at the end makes it really perfect one hundred percent. When listening to this album, you will hear a very impressive band. Maybe the compositions are not as easy on the ear like before, but they definitely have more class and a lot of quality. The band is ready to strike and there's no doubt about it. Choirs have been used, like in "Dreamworld" and the instrumental parts are much longer. It's not only about having fun and party all night long anymore, but they wanted to reach a wide audience. Check out the all-destroying guitar part and ditto riffs in "Power Of The Rock". They are ready to kill and destroy. The metal fans were really overwhelmed, because their sound contained so much more power yet it grabs you right away, which is more or less a win-win situation. One of the best VENGEANCE tracks in my opinion would be "May Heaven Strike Me Down". First, it starts out as a ballad and the party-like chorus afterwards makes it a rather weird combination. One that only these five guys could do it. And it works remarkably well. Next to the high quality heavy rock songs, the band still knows to throw in a great a party, everywhere they go. After all, that's their trademark. Check out "I'll Come Running" and "Second To None" and get the party started. Later on, the band implemented another slogan as well, which is 'we have ways to make you rock'. Well, they did for sure. They also didn't forget the golden rule, that every rock album should have a good ballad. For this album, it's "Only The Wind", which may sound a bit cliché, but it was a small hit after all. "Love Lies Bleeding" is another fast rock song, followed by album closer "We Shall Rock", which is about unity, where rockers (especially back in those days!) definitely could relate to.
After that album, the show is over for Holleman. He got involved in a serious car accident and there was no future in the band anymore. He started his own recording studio and got replaced by former RANCID guitarist Peer Verschuren. I already knew Peer quite some time, because he was living in the same city, as I did. Therefore I am extremely proud of what he did archive. The third album "Take It Or Leave It" was a big success. When referring to the album cover, the band rolled the dice and thit the jackpot. This nine track and forty minutes rock album starts off with the sound of a casino. Opener and title track "Take It Or Leave It" is a typical VENGEANCE song and very catchy one indeed. "Code Of Honour" might not be their most well-known track. It's still quite heavy with some very colossal heavy riffs. The children's choir here is moving in a different direction though. "Rock 'N' Roll Shower" feels like a giant party within a space of four minutes and starts off with another great guitar riff. In fact, it was so catchy, that Henk Westbroek used it as the intro tune for "Vara's Vuurwerk". Yes, there was still room for a decent heavy metal show on the Dutch radio in the eighties, but those days are gone. This song became some kind of a cult hit in the Dutch metal scene. Party rock songs alternate with the more heavy material on this album. Just listen to the riffs on one of my personal favorite songs "Take Me To The Limit", which has the blazing axe work by Peer. You even hear some violins in this song. Not really the first instrument to think of, when referring to VENGEANCE or any other type of hard rock or heavy metal band back in those days. Anyway, they just did it and I think it really fits in here quite well. "Engines" is on next and although it's a brilliant rock song, it wasn't played live on stage very much. It's an instrumental, in which drummer Snels and both guitar players show their skills. Another personal favorite of mine is next, which is "Hear Me Out". This song is really loud and when they played it live, it was always so crazy to sing your heart out and yell 'hear me out'. "Women In The World" isn't a typical ballad, but it does start off as one. Later on in the song, there's a change and it's getting more up-tempo. "Looks Of A Winner" is a real feel-good song in many ways. When you win, you have friends, money and status, but what if you lose? There's no question about that though. VENGEANCE is a real winner and they could justify the statement that you have to take it or leave it. They are here to stay and delivered an album to be really proud of. The album closes with another party rock song, called "Ain't Gonna Take You Home". Once again, they did something out of the box and used a horn section to beef up the song and create a real party atmosphere. And guess what?? It worked and they simply got away with sidesteps like that.
The feeling was good, so VENGEANCE could start working on a fourth album. I think that I am not in the wrong, when mentioning that "Arabia" is probably the most successful song and album ever of this band. The line-up remained pretty stable with the exception of Peer Verschuren, who left the band. He was being replaced by another speed monster on guitar, Jan Somers, who surely knew how to handle the job right. "Arabia" contains twelve tracks and is worthy of fifty-five minutes. Clearly, the band has grown a lot in this magic album opener. Do I still need to explain or can you figure this out for yourself? The title track alone shows a pretty different side of this band, that was ready to spread its wings. I think, that a lot of people will agree with me that this is one of their most well-known tracks. Also, the party rock kind of atmosphere never really disappeared. Just check out the amazing track "Broadway - Hollywood - Beverly Hills", if you know what I mean. It screams 'Hello, America'. The sound is absolutely one hundred percent VENGEANCE and it shows a pretty mature band. Just listen to "Call Of The Sirens" for example, which clocks at over six minutes. It has much more depth, although it still contains all the well-known VENGEANCE elements. "Wallbanger" is a raw rock song with a catchy attitude and definitely another pure VENGEANCE song. "The Best Gunfighter In Town" is telling a story and it also has a great riff. The wild west meets the low lands in four minutes. This great track is followed by one of the highlights here, the absolutely amazing "Castles In The Air". The great start, the mood change, the party feeling, it's all there and more. It sure rocks very much and it’s on my long list of personal favorites for sure. Next up is the ballad, the one that is obligatory on every good rock album, do you remember?!? "If Loving You Is Wrong" is definitely one from the heart: slow, sensitive and very emotional, yet it still has the highly recognizable VENGEANCE sound. After that, it's time to keep on rocking again in "Children Of The Streets". "Just What My Doctor Ordered" is another great rocker with some funny lyrics. "That's The Way The Story Goes" is a nice straight forward rocker, in which the fascination for a great rock band like ROSE TATTOO is being translated into a ripping version of "Bad Boy For Love". What a perfect song for a party animal like Goewie! It was also occasionally performed on stage at their live shows. The last banjo rocker is another typical VENGEANCE song. "How About Tonight" contains elements from jazz, some country banjo fiddling and some loud double bass drums. It marks the end of this amazing album, which has a different running order on the vinyl album, by the way. Anybody fancy some line dancing? I guess not. "Arabia" has opened many doors and expanded their career outside our borders tremendously.
How different things would be after that. VENGEANCE was on the right track and heading to the top of fame and fortune, when frontman Goewie left the band for personal reasons. He was replaced by former AIRRACE / HAMMERHEAD singer Ian Parry, who was technically a marvelous singer. Joined by Arjen Lucassen as lead guitarist, they recorded "The Last Of The Fallen Heroes", which was released in 1994. The band had opted for GOTTHARD singer Steve Lee first, but since Ian was a very well-known singer in the Dutch hard rock scene, he just had to fill the gap, that Goewie left behind. Jan Somers also left the battlefield. The fifteen tracks on this album, which is worthy of a full hour of rock and metal songs, shows us a band that believes in the magic of survival, however it would be a hard and bumpy ride. Opener "Wings Of An Arrow" has many references to their hit single "Arabia", which is really what the fans like to hear and it sounds like a great song to me. "Blood Money" is next. Another thing that will strike you here is that the band went for quality and moved their party rock image in the background. The melodic rock and metal songs are more serious and the band rather focuses on the music now. "Outta Control" is a firm rocker and in "Trouble In Town", the old VENGEANCE sound is lurking around the corner. The song is still very easy on the ear and light-hearted and although the band was reduced to a four piece outfit, they still sound like five people. The obligatory ballad is next and I can still recall that "As The Last Teardrop Falls" was a quite successful song. This feel-good song could very well have been written by a band like FOREIGNER for example, although the choir vocal would have been so much bigger, but it works this way as well. One of my personal favorites from this album is "The Last Of The Fallen Heroes", which they also played live a lot and got a good response from the audience. Same goes for the firm rocker "Hold On Tight" and "Keepin' Up With The Joneses". However, the band created a much broader range of music styles, because a song like "Funky Little Lady" has got some funk influences for sure. "Football Crazy" is another firm rocker and probably meant to attract the attention of football fans from all around the world. "Edge Of Time" and "Outta My Head" are some good rock songs. The bonus tracks here are "One O' Nine" (109), which is a good rock song, an alternative version of the ballad "As The Last Teardrop Falls" and a demo version of "Trouble In Town". The band changed direction a little on this album, which provided a secure future for a while.
However, three years later in 1997, a new album, called "Back From Flight 19" sees the light, which marks the return of Goewie, who dealt with his addiction and on guitar there's Oscar Holleman, Peer Verschuren, Arjen Lucassen and Jan Somers. The band has matured even more here, however the typical VENGEANCE sound is still there. It contains eleven tracks and carries fifty minutes of some good melodic rock. "Planet Zilch" is the mighty opener, which has the recognizable vocals by Goewie and it's a worthy follow-up to the previous album. Just listen to the amazing riffs in "Follow A Trend". The music scene has changed a lot and so did VENGEANCE. I guess, in that perspective the result is a good and solid melodic rock album, on which their sound received a new boost. They didn't follow a new trend, but bent their music to the sound of the nineties. Check out the guitar work here, which sounds really cool to me. Not all songs will be approved by the old school VENGEANCE supporters though. "Dreamulator" is quite a good rock song, however I think that "Dark Side Of The Brain" may sound too experimental for some of you. It's groovy, it rocks like hell, yet it's very different. If you're not open-minded, you probably may not like these new influences at all. I'm not arguing about the musical qualities of these musicians one bit. They have definitely proved their skills, but it's the musical direction where they are heading to. "Loaded Gun" has some DEEP PURPLE influences, while "She Said" next to the distorted vocals, contains some influences of LED ZEPPELIN. I even hear some influences of the BEATLES lurking around the corner. I wonder, who was responsible for this, but I guess that we all know the answer to that question by now. Just listen to the mandolins in "Lonely Girl", which is the point where the BEATLES meet LED ZEPPELIN, if this would be an option. To be honest: would you expect that at all from those party animals, that once were rocking and rolling all night and partying every day long? I see this more as some kind of a blueprint of what later on became Lucassen's outfit AYREON. "Live Or Die" is also different, although the band still rocks it out firmly. Just check out the great Hammond organ in the faster second part of "PG16", which also includes some fuzzy guitar parts. The lengthy "Flight 19" closes this album, which clocks in at over eight minutes.
Of course the career of VENGEANCE goes on, but not on Pseudonym Records and therefore the story ends at the year 1987 in this box. However, there are three bonus discs with demo versions, alternative versions and live stuff to complete this very impressive overview. The first disc is called "Power Of The Rock 1". It contains eighteen songs, worthy of seventy-five minutes in a slightly different version than on the regular albums. First we're in for a real treat with three 1983 demo versions of "Down And Out", "Straight And Fair" and "Metal Days". The most interesting song is "Straight And Fair", because this was previously unreleased. It's a fast, raunchy rocker with the screaming voice of Leon upfront in the mix, accompanied by some hot guitar licks. This is really great material and I'm glad that it finally sees the light of day. "Metal Days" is being played pretty fast here, by the way. "Death Ride To Glory", which was definitely a crowd's favorite in the early days, is on next. Check out the amazing guitar work. "Tonight, Tonight" is captured live at the Zopo in Horst in 1985. The biggest part of this first compilation disc with VENGEANCE goodies is being reserved for demo recordings that were laid down on tape in 1985. "Dreamworld" is a great starter, followed by a passionate and wild version of "Power Of The Rock". Besides these classics, we also hear some yet undiscovered rough diamonds, such as "1,000 Girls", which is a raunchy rocker or "She's Got The Looks", that has a killer guitar part. It's very up-tempo and both songs would fit amazingly well on one of their earlier albums. It's a shame, that they never ended up there, but these diamonds in the rough make it even more interesting for the fans to purchase this nine disc compilation box. "Trouble" is the demo version of "Only The Wind". It's the same song, but with a different title and different lyrics. "I'll Come Running" is next and "We'll Make It Through The Night" shows a different face of the band. I guess, that the fans will immediately take it under their wings. "Serious Crime" is not another undiscovered track, but in fact it's a new version of "Love Lies Bleeding", which received another title and different lyrics. Same goes for "She's The Woman", which is also different than the original version from the album. But there's a lot more to be discovered in this rich box of Pandora, so just wait and see. I'm on cloud nine, when they crank out a stunning version of "Crazy Horses". Old folks like me will know that this song was originally recorded by THE OSMONDS, who sometimes sounded extremely heavy, well at least in the roaring seventies. The single version of "May Heaven Strike Me Down" and a live version of "Death Ride To Glory" at Countdown Café in Bos & Duin, Soest 1986 are closing this very impressive first bonus disc.
Are you ready for "Power Of The Rock 2"?!? The second disc contains twenty songs and runs for seventy-five minutes. The CD goes on, where part one left off and there are two more songs from Countdown Café with rock giants Kees Baars and Alfred Lagarde. "Down And Out" and "Tonight, Tonight' are sounding really awesome and I still remember this very well. They have been carved in my metal mind with a razor blade made of steel. Next up is a section of demo songs, recorded in 1987 of "Rock & Roll Shower", "Take Me To The Limit", "I Said Nonono' (a.k.a. "Ain't Gonna Take You Home") and the short VANDENBERG influenced song "Don't You See". Maybe it's the use of the acoustic guitar that makes me draw this comparison. More demo songs are next with "Women In The World', "Code Of Honour", "Take It Or Leave It', "Hear Me Out" and "Love Child", the latter being another alternative take of "Looks Of A Winner". It's very nice to hear these songs in its original format, before they reached the grooves of the wax. The next song "Rock 'N' Roll Shower" is another demo and also a bit different. The demo of the instrumental "Engines" follows thereafter. Then there are some short outtakes of the VENGEANCE tune for Vara's Vuurwerk, the radio show of host Henk Westbroek. "Ain't Gonna Take You Home" continues this second compilation disc with the single version. After that, more demo songs are coming up with "Children Of The Streets', "Cry Of The Sirens", "Memories", "Castles In The Air' and "That's The Way The Story Goes" from the album sessions of "Arabia".
The third and final disc "Power Of The Rock 3" contains another eighteen tracks, worthy of another seventy-five freaking minutes of VENGEANCE mayhem. There are more amazing goodies here, like live versions, loads of demos and alternative versions, starting off with the party metal track "Wallbanger' and the ROSE TATTOO cover "Bad Boy For Love". I guess, that will really get the party going.... These songs have been taken from the 1988 demo. It continues with "Arabia", the rocking "How About Tonight", the ballad "If Loving You Is Wrong", the melancholic sounding "The Best Gunfighter In Town" (No, not the TED NUGENT cover "Just What The Doctor Ordered"!) and another awesome and unknown track, called "In The Cavalry". Obviously, there's a lot of variation in your VENGEANCE metal meal and we’re not even at the desert. Two live songs are next, taken from that amazing Aardschokdag in Arnhem, where they rocked the house with WOLFSBANE, LEATHERWOLF, CRIMSON GLORY, FLOTSAM & JETSAM, HOUSE OF LORDS and QUEENSRYCHE. Those were the days. There's "Dreamworld" and "Take Me To The Limit". By then, it's the year 1989 and VENGEANCE couldn't be stopped and they were top of the bill in the Dutch hard rock scene. That same year, they even appeared at Parkpop in The Hague, where about 3 to 400,000 fans attended the festival grounds. From that very gig they included "Rock 'N' Roll Shower" and "May Heaven Strike Me Down" here. What a wonderful treat! If you're not that keen of live recordings and rather prefer the unreleased tracks, then you'd better fasten your seatbelts because there are four previously unreleased tracks coming up and I'm not kidding you. They are all killer! First up there's "Big Fat Car", then "What The Hell Is Going On" and "Lonely Rider" and finally "Rock 'N' Roll Man". The songs were recorded in 1994 and they capture the band in optima forma, as far as I'm concerned. The alternative version of "Dreamulator" is really beautiful, by the way and it may remind you of some of the early DIO material. It's the prelude to the very last song on this expanded box set, which is a blasting cover of THE OSMONDS song "Crazy Horses". And then the only thing you want to do is to listen to it all over again, because it's that interesting and entertaining. So I would say, get it while it's hot and still available and enjoy the amazing music of VENGEANCE in their Pseudonym days. After that, they recorded more stuff of course, but this is by far the best and what you want to hear from them. I can only reward this with nearly the full score and I think that everybody will agree with me.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE September 27, 2019:

ATTILA-Attila (re-release) (Mosh Over Records)
These are great times for the fans of ATTILA. The next two compilation discs have been released a few months ago, containing all and everything that was stored on a dusty closet shelf in the hidden vaults of this excellent Dutch power metal band. During a clean-up, everything was digitalized and put out on CD, which sounds really awesome. The first double CD starts off with the well-known self-titled album. The band creates a sound that sometimes moves away from the usual paved path, while at other times it's very loud or easy on the ear. Opener "Time, Time, Time" sounds quite catchy and maybe SAMMY HAGAR would be a good reference here. However, in "Motel Of Fear" some song structures are a bit more extraordinary than most other bands in the Dutch metal scene. The original album was released in 1990, when heavy metal and power metal was as dead as a doornail, but ATTILA played on. Just listen to "Running Man" and that amazing guitar explosion at the end. This band was just not ready yet to give it up and they had too much fun, which reflects in their music. The fifteen songs on this first CD of a set of two is worthy of sixty-five minutes of adventurous power metal. The next song "I'm You" sounds daring and definitely not like any ordinary metal band. It's very experimental with complex rhythms and small side-steps, which makes you feel like you're in some kind of a monstrous rollercoaster ride and you actually don't know where it's heading to. It might even take you to another dimension that you didn't know of before. That's what ATTILA is all about and what made them very popular in the underground scene. I think that fans of WATCHTOWER would be really thrilled when listening to their music, while AC/DC fans might have a harder time, although ATTILA could sound pretty much straight forward as well. "Bloodvows" starts with acoustic guitars and has some nice slide guitar in the solo section. It sounds very different and yet it's so much ATTILA. The band is not afraid to experiment and their music has no boundaries. "Judge, Jury, Executioner" contains some heavy guitar parts again, but also some very sensitive sounding acoustic parts. It all blends very well together and the natural flow of this song takes care of everything else. These guys are simply not afraid to try out something different and a good example is the CREAM cover "Sunshine Of Your Love". We all know the song very well, but you have to listen to this very carefully. It's a lot faster and when the band steps on the gas, your mind will be totally blown away. Is that really the slow classic of Eric Clapton??? Yep, that's the one and it sounds like the band has been chased by a bunch of wild Indians on the prowl. And have you ever heard a song that starts with a (short) drum solo? It definitely happens in the wild intro of "Hellheart". But wait, the band can sound tender and sweet as well. In "Victim Of Society", they take back some speed to give the listener time to catch their breath. Not for long though, because the band takes off in the fourth gear in "1989", which has some Y&T influences as well. "For Those Who Died" is up next and it starts with a short snippet from a World War II movie, in which people are executed. The guitar part in this one will really rip you apart, I guess. And if this doesn't do the trick, you really will be impressed by the wild shredding of Vanderloo in "Deadline", which is next. These guys are very gifted musicians indeed. If you are able to play so many different music styles like that, you must be a musical genius. Why did this band never reach the highest ranks in the Dutch metal scene? I really don't know. Probably their excellence killed them in a way. They were too good for the mass of people and that's why they stayed in the underground scene, where they were crowned like kings. And while listening to these old recordings, I can only bow very deeply for these three heroes from the area of Amersfoort. Just listen to these magical moments in "1Life2Live", where the guitar solos are exploding from my speakers. "Love Or Blood" is next and CD one closes with another adrenaline explosion, called "Burning Paradise". It demonstrates once again how odd and utterly cool they are. "Attila" is such an amazing ride, yet this is only just the beginning, because the second CD contains a show, recorded at De Kelder in Amersfoort in 1991. Nowadays this place is called Fluor. Fifteen songs and a full hour of exciting metal will keep you nailed to your chair. Hey, what the freaking hell is happening there?!?? Yes, the band is also able to display their crazy studio gimmicks on stage. They don't ask any questions, they just do it. Listen to the explosive version of "Time, Time, Time". If you already had a good time with the "Attila" album, then you will definitely have a blast with this enhanced live CD, because the band takes their incredible sound to the stage and it sounds really amazing. The production is great and the band is being captured very well and as true as they are on this silver disc. Just crank up the sound of "Motel Of Fear". It will make your mind go crazy. The band plays some kind of a release party, because many songs are from the "Attila" album, including a nice surprise. "Running Man" is also taken from that self-titled album, but they refer to it as a new song. The announcements are short (who needs long stories, anyway?) and the band lets the music do the talking and sound very powerful and exciting. "Judge, Jury, Executioner" is even more dynamic than on the album. Bassist Arjan introduces the next song, called "1Life2Live". When the notes are starting to flow, it's like he's getting in a trance and he won't get out, until the last notes are fading away. He's fully in the spotlight here with his stunning bass parts. The ballad-like yet still very powerful "Victim Of Society" is being captured here in a lengthy version. "Love Or Blood" follows next and gets the flame going. "1989" contains some fiery and amazing guitar work and with the speed of a bullet train, the band explodes into "Deadline" right after that. "For Those Who Died" is next, which is followed directly by "I'm You" with its experimental speed changes. It's quite obvious, that once these guys are in a certain flow, they can't be stopped. The fast CREAM cover "Sunshine Of Your Love" is also being played live. For all musicians out there, please don't try this on stage, you will possibly fail. Herbie starts "Burning Paradise" with a burning finger hot guitar lick. A short 'Ajuu' (bye bye) closes the show. The band is in excellent shape tonight, but there's still a big surprise at the end of the show. They play a finger licking good version of Y&T's "I'm Lost", including some insane drum parts by Ton Holtewes. And as second encore, we are treated to a stunning version of "Flight 105" taken from the "Triad" album. What a killer track that is and you can read more about it in the next part of this review, where we focus on the re-release of "Triad". ATTILA certainly knows to impress very much by coloring their musical pictures far outside the regular box. I really like that a lot. ATTILA consists of Herbie Vanderloo on vocals and guitar, Ton Holtewes on drums and Arjan Michels on bass. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/attilanl.
(9,3/10- Toine van Poorten)

ATTILA-Triad (re-release) (Mosh Over Records)
The re-release of "Triad" contains nineteen songs and seventy-five minutes of masterly power metal on one CD. Once again, ATTILA proves that they are not like any other ordinary band, when they take off with a song chopped into six different parts. It's called "Myth Of The Ancient" and it starts with "Flight 105", which was also one of the encores on the self-titled live CD. This song consists of twenty-five plus minutes and only bands like EMMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER, GENESIS, YES, RUSH and PINK FLOYD would top that in their heydays. The progressive influences are there somehow, but it is carefully tucked away. The second part is called "Entering The Fourth Dimension" and it gives the band members a short time to be in the spotlight and show their skills. The speed in the songs is quite high and the band shows that heavy metal is definitely still alive. The album was recorded in 1989, when it was not so cool anymore to play (heavy) metal. Clearly, these three 'not like any other' musicians from Amersfoort still had the strength to go on and record an album, that stood tall in a world where music changed as quickly as new underpants. In these particular six parts, there is even a song which consists of two parts. What were they thinking? Anyway, be prepared for "History Of The World Part 1" and "History Of The World Part 2" played back to back. In the last part "Prisoner Of Wisdom" you will also hear some distorted vocals. And the guitar licks of Herbie reminded me a little of IRON MAIDEN. Next up is one of my favorite songs, called "Caught In The Game". It has got a slightly catchy hook and some immense and great guitar work. The speed monster "Religion Kills" is not just a great song, it also has a very firm statement. "The Hunger" will really amaze you with its fast speed changes and amazing guitar work. "Lost In The City" has got that magic catchy vibe and as a matter of fact, it's an excellent choice for a video clip. It's up-tempo and easy on the ears and very easy to comprehend for the average metal fan. "Man Eater" contains some unlikely speed changes again, which made the band so different from the rest. "Triad" marked the start of a band, that was about to evolve themselves and become one of Holland's finest metal bands. The colorful sleeve design already made you curious about their music. "Bite The Bullet" has got a more crusty bite and will most certainly please every headbanger among us. The album closes with a song called "Cry Of The Innocent", which is a short and subtle instrumental track, including some amazing guitar work of Vanderloo. The best part however is saved for last. The live recordings are comprised of six songs that have the power of a nuclear plant pressed into twenty-four minutes of bonus material. And of course the songs have been recorded live at their second home at De Kelder in Amersfoort and this time in 1989. The band is introduced and one second later they burst into "Bad Reputation", which was on the B-side of their "Myth Of The Ancient" demo cassette. It's followed by "Violent Streets", the title track of their 1988 EP. Next up there's the ballad (or so they call it here) of the "Triad" album "History Of The World Part 1", which is directly followed by "History Of The World Part 2". The band can't be beaten at live shows. These three musicians have always been very eager to play a good show and give a full one hundred percent and more. And I can assure you that this is still the case, even when it's thirty years later now. "Call Of The Challenger" is also taken from the "Violent Streets" EP. "Legions Of Justice" rounds it off, which is one of their early songs from the first ever demo, recorded in 1984. Just check out the guitar work by Herbie and you'll get some idea why this band has got such a prominent place in my heart. It's the third part in the Moshover Records re-releases of the ATTILA collection and definitely a real 'must-have'. ATTILA consists of Arjan Michels on bass, Ton Holtewes on drums and Herbie Vanderloo on guitar and vocals. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/attilanl.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

ATTILA-Bed Of Nails (EP) (digital download)
Finally, ATTILA is back. After the re-releases on Moshover Records, it's time for a little preview of the new full-length album "Solace", which will be released in November of this year. The digital download contains two songs, worthy of ten minutes of ATTILA fame. If you have followed the band H.A.T., you will already know in what direction this goes. Solid rock with many speed and mood changes, just like in the good old days, is to be heard in opener "Bed Of Nails", including some outrageous guitar work by Herbie Vanderloo, that follows right after the amazing thumping bass work by Arjan Michels. And there's no ATTILA sound without the miraculous drum work by Ton Holtewes of course. This is the good old line-up of ATTILA, so what else would you expect from these giants from Amersfoort? It's great to hear that the band has kept its remarkable sound over the years and they still belong to my personal favorite bands in Holland. Take for example a song like "Evil In Me". At first, you think you're dealing with a laid back rock song with some HENDRIX and ROTH influences in the lazy guitar sound, but then the switch comes and a furious guitar part follows, which brings it to a smashing punch line. It's simply not of this planet, what Vanderloo does here. You will be amazed, just like me! What a nice foretaste of things to come. I am really looking forward to hearing their new album and if it will sound like this, it'll be another classic in their fruitful career. ATTILA is: Ton Holtewes on drums, Arjan Michels on bass guitar and Herbie Vanderloo on guitar and vocals. Website: http://www.facebook.com/attialnl.
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

DIGGETH-Gringos Galacticos (PT78 Records)
This band calls their music metal 'n' roll, they originate from De Achterhoek and they call themselves DIGGETH. Although not rooted in the eighties, they sound eighties, which is enough to make it to these review pages. Their album "Gringos Galacticos" is a fact, and if you thought that NORMAAL would be the only band from the Achterhoek, you'd better think twice. Ten tracks and forty-five minutes of groovy riffs, heavy beats and a rocking rhythm are on this brand new album that starts with the catchy sounds of "Spaceship Earth". Every rock fan will surely love to hear the rawking sound, that these three guys are presenting here. Their biography writes that a mix of LYNYRD SKYNYRD, BLACK SABBATH and METALLICA will come very close to the sound of DIGGETH and I must admit that they are pretty accurate with that description. Just listen to these SABBATHIAN riffs in "Worship The Sun". The song doesn't become another doom classic and it rocks more in the SKYNYRD kind of way, and that’s the strength of DIGGETH, I guess. It never gets too extreme and it always rocks like hell. "Worship The Sun" is one of the first singles taken from this album, by the way. "Let The Ancient One Sleep" has been written in the swamps of de Achterhoek and probably ZZ TOP would perform this one exactly the same way. It has got that well-known southern rock vibe, that a song like that needs. However, in our country it would be called a heavy rock vibe, which sounds at least as dirty as the southern rock of ZZ TOP and LYNYRD SKYNYRD. "Three Gringos" continues, which starts off a bit slower. Because of the dirty guitar work, your mind will probably go out to ZAKK WYLDE's previous outfit PRIDE & GLORY or his present band BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. It's as slow as syrup, yet heavy as hell. If you want more speed, just tune in to "Keep On Diggin'", one of the first singles from the album. You'll have to have a race certificate to cope with the speed there. In a live situation, the high-octane fueled music of DIGGETH will give every festival visitor an extra dose of adrenaline, like on the album. The band has been building up a great live reputation over the years, whereas they shared the stage with bands like SLAYER, MICHAEL SCHENKER, MEGADETH, SACRED REICH and PHIL CAMPBELL, to name but a few. "In The Wake Of Giants" rocks the house and before you know it, you are in the spell of the "Voodoo Mother", which sounds swampy again. It's a bit slower, but it has that same guitar sound in the solo that will make your mouth water. "Straight-Shooter" will hit you right between the eyes. It’s another explosion of adrenaline with the taste of whiskey and the smell of tabacco almost literally coming through your speakers. Same goes for "Unshackled" but then with a slower pace. The foundation and groove are exactly the same. The solo in "Unshackled" will make you grab your air guitar right away. I've got mine standing in the corner here and I had a great time with it. Especially the furious sounding speed change at the end of the song is really a very nice surprise. Title track "Gringos Galacticos" will close the album. I decided to put on my space outfit as well and make the trip with these three gringos of the galaxy. With the album "Gringos Galacticos", the band has a lift off that will definitely bring them to a higher level. Have a safe trip into the galaxy of metal 'n' roll guys, you definitely belong there and prove is given here. DIGGETH consists of Alco on bass, Casper on drums and Harald on vocals and guitars. For more info, go to their official website at: http://www.diggeth.com or FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/diggethmusic.
(8,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

FINAL HEIRESS-In The Shadows Of Pain (Sonic Age Records)
When you talk about the Dutch metal scene, you may not necessarily think of FINAL HEIRESS. However in case you do, you are very lucky because their songs have recently been compiled on a fantastic CD, containing ten tracks and worthy of about fifty minutes. When I first saw the artwork of CD, which is totally in blue and has a drawing of an ice queen setting on a throne, I just knew that this would be something really special. FINAL HEIRESS was founded in 1981 under the name HIGH PRIESTESS and in 1982, they supported VANDENBERG, a very big name in the scene at the time. They renamed the band to AVALANCHE in 1984, but since it already existed, they changed the name into FINAL HEIRESS in 1985. As AVALANCHE, they played some support gigs with PICTURE and HIGHWAY CHILE. Once the band was called FINAL HEIRESS, they supported names such as PICTURE and VENGEANCE. The album starts off with the fiery "Burning Brains", which has the sensitive vocals of Jan Palenstijn, who gives their sound a very melodic touch. Check out the guitar parts and riffs during the subtle speed change in the middle, followed by an amazing guitar solo. "Flags Of Convenience" is on next and this instrumental song has some breathtaking guitar parts, which proves why they were categorized as a metal band. The guitar solos go on and on and it shows the variation, that they put into their music. In "Cry From The Undertow", Jan shows once again how sensitive his voice can be, which perfectly matches with the melodic sound of the band. However, "Look Around" has got a much different approach. It contains many great old school guitar riffs and some nice speed changes here and there. Also be prepared for the high pull outs of Jan, which is really cool. "Mystery" follows next and it's a nice combination of great guitar work and the very recognizable voice of Jan, which became some kind of trademark in their music. "The Omen" exists of two different parts, namely "The Omen (Version 1)" and "The Omen (Version 2)", which is played back to back here. It's definitely one of the highlights on this album for me. Just listen to the enormous power that Jan puts in his voice. The scream near the end really comes from the tip of his toes. Jan's career started out in SAD IRON, but I think that he felt more comfortable in the melodic angle. The two songs from the single that they released are also being captured here. "Twisted By Rules" is the first. Be prepared for a surprisingly speed change at the end of the song, which results in the guitar solo in this song. It's because of this particular single, that the band reformed after they called it quits in 1988. It's 2011, when they join together at the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival and play an unforgettable performance there. Paul van Rijswijk (ex-HAMMERHAWK, EMERALD) plays lead guitar. The band went to Spain in 2013 for a festival and in 2015 they appeared at the amazing Dutch Steel Festival in Zwolle, a once in a lifetime experience, that I will never forget. "Watchful Parasites" continues this awesome overview of songs that were being stored on a shelf somewhere, waiting to be released. I'm glad that it finally happened, because the band's legacy is very rich and the songs are simply too beautiful not to do anything without it. And I must admit, that Jan Palenstijn is one of the most friendly people that I've ever met. His scrapbook from the early days, which he brought along to Zwolle, was simply too good to be true. It contained pictures, flyers, cuttings from newspapers and magazines and the whole history of AVALANCHE and FINAL HEIRESS was in there. Of course this CD can't do without the wonderful ballad "You're In My Heart", which is a true statement. It proves, that there is so much more incredible music of this band that never saw the light of day. Many different line-ups carried the name of the band over the years. The one you hear on this CD is Jan Palenstijn on vocals, Michel Molenaar on guitars, Piet van Bodegom on guitars, Michael Willemsen on bass and Sicco Swen on drums. On the last three songs and "Look Around" the bass parts are being played by Jaap Kramer. If you see the album, just buy it, you definitely won't regret it. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/FinalHeiress. (8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

GERMANE-All Time Highs - The Untouched Series Volume 1 (No Dust Records)
Well, this is really a nice surprise. Feed yourself with a full hour of GERMANE songs, the band in which LOVELL'S BLADE and PICTURE guitar player Andre Wullems used to play before he joined PICTURE on their "Traitor" tour in 1985. These fifteen tracks have been recorded in 1984-1988, the years when we were still young. In this review, we slowly go back in time, meaning that we start in 1987 with the first three songs. On the cover of the CD, you will read 'No Nonsense Hardrock' and that's exactly what you get here. "Society Girl" starts off with a very pleasant catchy sound, which may remind you of bands like for example EMERGENCY or ZINATRA. The guitar licks are really breathtaking and it definitely lifts the sound of GERMANE up to a higher level. The evolution of GERMANE is perhaps comparable to the story of HORIZON. Once the years pass by, their music became a bit more accessible. "Back To The Future" is a great sing-along tune with a catchy chorus and more phenomenal guitar parts. When speaking of HORIZON, "Movin' Down The Line" would fit very well among the classics on the "Master Of The Game" album and HORIZON fans will definitely like this. The axe work in "Keep Movin' On" is finger-licking good and it perfectly spices up the melodic sound of the band. The next two songs are from the well-known "Metal In Rocks" compilation. You will recognize "Back To The Future" from the first four songs. When listening to it again, I also hear some influences from the melodic PICTURE years. "She Tells Me Stories" is a great pounder and the flashing axe work will make your mouth water again. Also check out the beating drums at the end of this song. "Strangers In The Night" has got nothing at all to do with ol' blue eyes Sinatra. It's a feel-good rock song from (R)oc(k)tober 1986, just like the other two rock songs. The sound is crystal clear and perfect to start a rock party. However, there is more than meets the eye. Just tune in to the magnificent "The King", that will make you poised on the edge of your seat the whole time. It's melodic, but it also has got a great epic atmosphere. It displays the other side of GERMANE. The obligatory ballad shows itself in "You And I", which could have been a classic back in those days, as it's that good. I start asking myself why this never happened. The very emotional vocals of Thijs Hameleers give it a true ballad kind of atmosphere. WHITESNAKE couldn't have done it any better. Dutch bands were always good in writing and performing heavy metal songs and this one is another good example of it. After this, we have arrived in 1985 for four songs. When listening to "Armageddon", it's quite obvious that this sounds so much more metal than their earlier material. High-pitched screams and wild guitars will reach my room and it sounds awesome. "Movin' On" is another good example of how heavy metal should sound. It shows how talented this band really was and what a shame that this compilation only sees the light of day thirty-five years later after these songs were originally penned. Better late than never and I must admit that I'm glad that the fans now are able to discover the sound of this amazing Dutch metal band. Just check out "Princess Of The Desert" and you'll get my point. "Mother Earth" is a great song and I would describe it as hard rock with a progressive twist. I even heard some PINK FLOYD influences here and there. The overall sound is also good. It's old fashioned hard rock with an adventurous twist and it never really gets too far away from the paved path, so both thumbs up for one of the highlights on this album, as far as I'm concerned. The last two songs are from the earliest line-up of GERMANE, the one where it all started in 1983. "On The Loose" sounds catchy and you will realize that there is more in the world of Dutch hard rock and heavy metal than VANDENBERG, VENGEANCE, BODINE and PICTURE. This magnificent overview closes with the balladesque "Hold Back The Night". The CD comes with a booklet, including some great pictures and a good overview of the various band line-ups over the years. The foreword is written by Andre Wullems and it contains a brief story of GERMANE. The original line-up consisted of Paul Bruijn on drums, Ronald Schouten on vocals, Gerard Struif on bass (R.I.P.) and Ruud Ruitenschild on guitars. It evolved until the line-up of 1989, when the band decided that it was over an out. Back then, the band consisted of Paul Bruijn on drums, Andre Wullems on guitars, Peter Wullems on bass, Dino Arconada on guitars and Johnny Beijer on vocals. Gerard Struif (bass) and Thijs Hameleers (vocals) have sadly passed away, but the legacy of GERMANE will live on and on now. No all-time lows on this one, just all-time highs and it's a must have for every devoted fan of solid melodic Dutch metal and GERMANE easily stood the test of time.
(8,6/10- Toine van Poorten)

HARBOUR OF SOULS-Doomsayer (EP) (Big Bad Wolf Records/Headbangers Records/HLP)
HARBOUR OF SOULS hails from Goes in Zeeland, the Netherlands. Their music style relates to the metal in the years 1980-1990 and therefore this band is interesting enough to be reviewed on the Holland Heavy Metal website. The band started out in 2010 as a studio/solo project of singer Martin de Jong, which soon developed into an energetic live band. After "Mountain Of Fire" in 2015, it's now time for their second EP, called "Doomsayer". The incredible artwork already caught my attention right away and the music is even better. Five songs, worthy of twenty-five minutes of steady old school metal are on the album, starting with "The Iron Never Lies". From the very first guitar riffs on, you will immediately start banging your head. Their mix of IRON MAIDEN, BLACK SABBATH and THIN LIZZY sounds very cool and I think it's a safe deal to call this hard rock, nothing more and nothing less. And that's the music that I grew up with. After listening to this song for three or four times, you already start to sing along to it and that's the way to do it. Title track "Doomsayer" is on next and singer Martin comes very close to the sound of Bruce Dickinson (IRON MAIDEN / SAMSON). Can you also discover any doom metal influences here? Yes, indeed you can and in the second part of the song, you can even hear some BLACK SABBATH influences in the riffs and rhythms. However, the nice speed changes will bring the band back to their heavy IRON MAIDEN kind of approach at the end of the song. There is a lot of power here, that will easily make you turn up the volume of your stereo set for sure. "Queen On Her Throne" has got that well-known AC/DC and VENGEANCE kind of beat. The innovative drum parts of Richard van Leeuwen (ex-REBELSTAR) are definitely part of the biggest ear-catching moments on these songs. He sometimes plays those well-known Neil Peart- like bits, that you will recognize out of thousands. Their music is very catchy, yet it also has a lot of heavy influences, that makes it great to listen to. The mighty lead guitar part in this amazing song is a good example of it. It proves that we're dealing with some very passionate musicians here, playing this kind music just because they love it and not because they want to earn money from it. Just listen to the heavy doomy intro to "Ministry Of Power". It will really blow you away. A twist of speed will take you to a more heavy IRON MAIDEN type of sound in the same song. Add to that the nice Peart kind of drum parts by van Leeuwen and your mind will be gone again. I bet you started singing along to it?! I did, simply because the repetitive song title makes it cling to your mind pretty easily. And near the end, I also recognized a short piece sounding like RUNNING WILD's "Under Jolly Roger". Oh, those early days. "Victory" closes this EP by HARBOUR OF SOULS, which is another great pounder that you will cherish at once. The old school hard rock of HARBOUR OF SOULS will turn back the clock for sure and take you back to the mid-eighties, when it all happened for many old school rock and metal freaks, like me. And I simply can't get enough of listening to this great music, which makes me relive my youth over and over again. And also in a live situation, the band can deliver the goods with a good mix of own penned material and some exciting covers. Believe me, when I say that we are going to hear more from HARBOUR OF SOULS in the very near future. In the meantime, I'll give this one another spin or two. HARBOUR OF SOULS consists of Martin de Jong on vocals, Daniel Suykerbuyk on guitar, Bram Pelgrim on lead guitar, Robert van Hoften on bass guitar and Richard van Leeuwen on drums. For more info, visit their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/Harbourofsouls or go to http://www.harbourofsouls.com.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

H.A.T.-H.A.T. (independent)
We totally forgot about this one and during one of their live shows, we obtained this album at their merchandise boot. Enough reason to spend some words on this sixteen track disc, which runs for the full eighty minutes. Thank God for the long playing time of a CD. There are many songs on this album, that I recognized from the recently reformed ATTILA gigs. And when you take a look at the line-up of H.A.T. you can tell that this is ATTILA, operating under a different name. I simply love their music, because they are masters of singing, playing and thinking outside of the box. And it's not any different here. They just do what they want and if you don't like it, pack your bags and go, no questions asked. The music remains five star rock and metal and the album starts with "Demon Inside". It's raw and uncompromising and if you like the majestic guitar work of Herbie Vanderloo, then you are at the right address, because he has a prominent place in the sound of H.A.T, next to the strong and tight rhythm parts of Arjan Michels and Ton Holtewes, without whom these incredible songs are simply impossible. "Bed Of Nails" is a special song I guess, because this is the only song, that has the lyrics printed on the gatefold album sleeve. By the way, I need to warn you that unpracticed guitarists must not try to copy the speed of the guitar solo at home, because they will end up crying themselves to sleep for the rest of their life. "Walk The Talk" has got that typical ATTILA kind of sound, that I like so much. I'm unable to give it a definition or description in words, but it touches you right from the start. Topped by the incredible guitar work, this is another fine example of the outstanding quality this band carries out. It's very technical and the standard of the song is exceptionally high. I would almost say that this music makes you think, before you hear the excellence of it. It may not grab you by the throat immediately, but it sure will catch your attention right away. Just listen to "Para Mundo" for example. There is nothing catchy or fancy about it, but to me it sounds like haven on earth, because it's all so well thought of. "Two-Faced" sounds very different, but once the speed change is there, it's just another first class H.A.T outing. "Dog On A Leash" is on next. I know 'cat on a leash' by GAMMA, but it would not fit in the world of H.A.T. to copy something from another band, as they do everything a little bit different. The song is groovy and pretty much straight forward and of course this song has got nothing to do with the GAMMA song. "The Smell" is another classic in the making. Oh man, that guitar solo, we want more!!! The jazzy influences in "Para Oriente" will surely take care of enough variation and keep the listener focused. Not that they actually need it, because their music is adventurous enough, because of variety of styles and influences. And did I mention the heavenly guitar solos already?? I guess, I did....several times. Just pay attention to the one in this song, which has a lot of VAI and ZAPPA influences and it sure tastes heavenly. In the song "Time", I am starting to wonder, where Vanderloo found all the inspiration to write such amazing songs. To me, this is from a f*cking genius and this also goes for his band mates, too. "Love Or Blood" has more great speed changes. Ton and Arjan turn this one into another rollercoaster ride of rhythms, which are very hard to catch up when you're not experienced. "Last Mile" is the mile you walk before the death penalty awaits you. I guess, that's why it sounds a bit darker. "Drastic" is a demonstration in shredding by Vanderloo and Arjan Michels easily takes the lead as well for a short time. These guys are not afraid of doing something weird. Check out another heavy chunk of guitar mayhem in the awesome "Sick And Tired". Where does this title come from? I would never get sick and tired of a song like that. "Fruit Of The Poison Tree" is eatable, but only in tidy sized chunks. Don't get addicted to eating it. Once you've tasted it, you want more. It's just like the music of H.A.T. Fans of ATTILA can dig in blindfolded. I wonder why they actually changed their name to H.A.T, as the line-up of is the same and the music fits like a glove to the fans of ATTILA. "Words Spoken In Anger" also has that slightly jazzy vibe at times. The very last song is approaching now. Are the eighty minutes over yet? I guess so and time flies, when you're having fun. The next song is called "Nasir Ramez", which is quite tasty with a cool beer. The song is instrumental and it's a very worthy closure of another amazing (the first one) H.A.T. album. I realize that this has been already released in 2014, but I'm glad that I found out about it. This album is an essential buy for those, who dig music that comes straight from the heart and isn't meant for the masses. This one is strictly for connoisseurs, the fine tasters, the ones who are privileged to have witnessed the early days of this band, that has its roots in ATTILA. H.A.T. consists of Herbie Vanderloo on guitar and vocals, Arjan Michels on bass and Ton Holtewes on drums....Now I get it: H(erbie). A(rjan). T(on)....(lol).
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

HORIZON-Master Of The Game (No Dust Records)
Someone has finally released this marvelous masterpiece on CD. And label boss Henk van Delden of No Dust Records couldn't have done it any better. Two CDs with the album and the three demos and one bonus CD for the one hundred lucky people, who bought this exclusive limited three CD box, including an amazing live show from 1985, which gives you a good overview of the live quality of this band. I've got number 076/100. Thirty-one songs and one hundred and thirty minutes of some of the finest Dutch hard rock (which is over two freaking hours!), that will make you wish for the early days in your youth. And it will also make you very proud that your hometown is Breda, because that's where HORIZON was resided. Three CDs stuffed with lots of musical goodies. Well, let's start with the remastered CD version of "Master Of The Game". When realizing, that I can still sing along to every song almost thirty-five years later, then you will know the enormous impact this album had on me, when it came out. "Rock This Place" was the opener of the many live shows and it's a perfect song for that and a very worthy opener to start the CD. The screaming guitars (as mentioned in the lyrics) are from the maestro himself, Jack Nobelen (ex-HIGHWAY, ex-SAVAGE, ex-MARTYR), who is a true hero in this scene forever. His guitar playing is really awesome beyond believe. The HORIZON and SAVAGE material has been wanted very much in the tape traders' world, because of Jack's gorgeous guitar work. Also the remarkable and highly recognizable voice of Shmoulik Avigal has been a very important part in the catchy sound of HORIZON. The massive drum beats by Arthur van Loon closes the song. The power and the strength came from the catchy songs and the skills of the musicians in every line-up of the band. Just listen to "I Need Your Love" and you will start singing to it right away. The impressive high pull outs of Shmoulik will turn this song into something special. Title track "Master Of The Game" starts with a VANDENBERG type of guitar intro. VANDENBERG could very well be compared to HORIZON in a way. Amazing vocals, melodic guitar licks, that can't be topped by anyone else and catchy songs that will please any metal and rock fan pretty easily, including a steady rhythm section, which lifts it up to the highest level they can reach in the Dutch hard rock scene. "Thank You" is the ballad here, that can easily compete with songs like "Different Worlds" and "Burning Heart", except this one never got in the charts for some unknown reason. A good ballad needs a sensitive guitar solo, that is played with a lot of feeling and Jack just knew how to do it like no one else. "Piece Of Mind" has always been one of my favorites, because of the raw guitar work of Jack. "Runaway Guy" is another good example of that and just listen to the beautiful keyboard sound here, which is played by Cor Lievers. "Dreams" is easy on the ear and Jack Nobelen seems to have granted the patent for that. It's such a shame, that a huge hit single didn't happen. HORIZON just knew how to record a timeless song. Just listen to the mighty "Rock & Roll Mind" with the masterful guitar piece of Jack. It's Smoulik's turn again to steal the show in the magnificent "Guardian Angel", including some mind-blowing axe work of the master himself. "Desert Fire" closes this masterpiece. It's a more up-tempo song, which comes very close to what Shmoulik did with PICTURE back in 1982. This song is definitely a top-notch highlight, in fact one of the ten highlights on this album. There are no fillers here and I would say differently if it was, but it isn't. The CD is of some remarkably high quality. By the way, from this first album the band released two singles, namely "I Need Your Love" b/w "Master Of The Game"), that came in a cover that looked exactly the same as the album. The second single was the ballad "Thank You" b/w "Guardian Angel", that was released in a colorful sleeve with a rainbow drawn on it. Both singles were released in 1985, but unfortunately a hit single didn't happen. The best way to hear the evolution of HORIZON is when you listen to the second CD. The first demo of the band was recorded in 1983, when the first album wasn't even released yet. The blueprint for the sound was there and the band sounded slightly rougher in a way. "I Need Your Love" starts off and "Rock & Roll Mind" already shows their ability of playing some classy melodic hard rock. "Thank You" is a song that you would fall in love with right away, if you like the more sensitive and melodic rock side of HORIZON. However, "Rock This Place" remains one of my own personal favorite HORIZON songs and they are at their very best here. "Master Of The Game" is taken from the 1984 demo, which is such a heavy and powerful song. It's no wonder, that they named the album after this song. In 1986, the first cracks appeared in the career of HORIZON. Shmoulik left the band and also took away their recognizable sound. It's very difficult to replace someone, who has firmly put his mark in the music. Still, the band found a magnificent new front man in Peter Struijk and Giovanni Pileri became the band's fifth member on keyboards. The powerful sound remained and when you listen to "To The Top", it's quite obvious that Giovanni was appointed a more prominent role, although Jack's brilliant guitar work is never really far away and he knows to impress a lot with his amazing axe work. The music however became a lot more melodic and a good example of this new direction is "Forever Lost", which sounds catchy and dynamic, but it's definitely very melodic, too. "It's Not Right" has a typical VAN HALEN kind of approach. Just check out the guitar solo here and the closing of the song, which really shows some resemblance to this mighty American band. "You" is another fine example of how radio friendly the band sounds at that time. Are you ready to sing along to it? Anyway, it's 1987, when HORIZON recorded their last demo, which starts off with "Piggy Wiggy Girls". Once again there's another line-up change and Peter Struijk is replaced by Peter van den Elshout. As a matter of fact, he was only hired as a temporarily singer to ensure the continuation of the band. Giovanni Pileri is also out and he is replaced by Pieter Straatman here. This song has a very catchy vibe and would have been very suitable for national radio. The sound of the band came very close to for example ZINATRA. The movement of hair metal was quite huge back in those days and the looks and sound of HORIZON started to lean towards that particular type of music a lot. "Passion" is another serious attempt to obtain a hit single, in my opinion. "She's Hot" is the final song and the axe work of Jack lifts it up to a much higher level. Comparing to the older material, you can hear a very big change in the music of HORIZON. Still, it's great to hear their evolution though. Well, the best is yet to come and especially when you're one of the lucky people to obtain the three CD set. The bonus CD consists of nine tracks and forty minutes of live footage from 1985. It starts off with the magnificent "Rock This Place", which is the perfect opener, don't you agree? As a matter of fact, the complete album passes by, except for one song, "Runaway Guy". The next song "I Need Your Love" is definitely very radio-friendly and it also has got that catchy feeling. Bass player Marc van Reusel will introduce you to the amazing "Master Of The Game". The introduction and breaks between the songs are short. HORIZON has always been very professional and they played until the last man standing was brought down to his knees. They didn't come for a discussion with the audience and neither give a long speech or make any statement. They just wanted to give the people a good time and rock them all night long. "Guardian Angel" has always been a crowd pleaser and this one says it all. The live version of "Thank You" really gives me the chills. Even after almost thirty-five years, the way that Shmoulik sings this classic tune, touches my deeply in my soul. "Rock 'N' Roll Mind" is next and again it makes you long for the wonderful mid-eighties even more, when hearing a song like that. "Piece Of Mind" has that wonderful speed change in the middle, turning it into a complete different song, at least it feels like that. The duel between the keyboards and guitar is on next and to me, this is one of those magical moments that happened during the live shows of HORIZON. "Desert Fire" follows and it also has a very lengthy intro. Just hear the enthusiasm of the public, when the band is introduced by Shmoulik. It’s like a small intimate rock party and I'm glad to have been part of it many times. The live input closes with "Dreams". Two hours of HORIZON fame has been passing by without even realizing it. This will stay in my CD player for many days to come, I promise you that much. HORIZON wrote rock history by playing at the well-known Aardschokdag in Zwolle, where they opened for SAVAGE (the British band), TOKYO BLADE, METALLICA and VENOM. Can you dig that? Did you see those names??!! They also played at the Earthquake festival in Kaatsheuvel, which was very memorable too, featuring bands like KILLER, M-80, MAMA'S BOYS and PRETTY MAIDS. And they also did the 'Heavy Heroes tour' with HELLOISE, to name a few of the highlights in their rich career. Jack Nobelen has got his own studio, called Studio Jack's Place and still plays in the cover band STILETTO. Shmoulik worked with JACK STARR in an outfit called GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME and in his own band AVIGAL. He also teamed up with THE RODS for a short period of time and recorded the amazing "Heavier Than Thou" album in 1986. Marc and Arthur unfortunately left the music scene. The overview that is presented here is massive and complete and it's exactly how I wished the band would be remembered, when putting out this box set. All other re-releases are bootlegs or fake, in my opinion. This is the real deal. The three CD box was sold out pretty fast but you can still obtain the regular edition from No Dust Records. Next to the three CDs, this box also contains a poster, a "Master Of The Game" coaster, a bottle opener and an extensive booklet with all the lyrics and a nice detailed biography, which is worth every penny. HORIZON were masters of the game and it's sad that the game is over for them. Maybe there's still time for a reunion after this release?? You may have dreams, don't you?! In my thoughts, they still live on, forever and ever.
(9,9/10- Toine van Poorten)

LOVELL'S BLADE-The Nightmare Begins.... (Stone Cold Records)
LOVELL'S BLADE is the new band of Pete Lovell, after he left PICTURE to make room for original singer Ronald van Prooijen. I guess that these were hard times, because Pete made sure that the legacy of PICTURE was put forward in an incredible way. The gigs I witnessed with him as front man were incredible and mind-blowing. When he left, he created a new band and he took two other PICTURE members with him. Both guitar players Andre Wullems and Mike Ferguson joined him in his new outfit LOVELL'S BLADE and they released a new album, called "Stone Cold Steel", not long after the resurrection. The band was completed by Noel van Eersel on drums and Patrick Velis on bass. Their brand new album is called "The Nightmare Begins" and the twelve songs on this are worthy of fifty-five minutes of powerful metal. Opener "Make My Mark" will really make your day. It's catchy, powerful and has a lot of melody as well. Pete's vocals are very recognizable and I think that it sounds more powerful than a lot of fans would expect. It's the perfect opener to start the show. "Gonna Get Rough" is a good warning upfront, because this one is definitely sounding raw, rough and ready, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great catchy rock tune for which the band did a promo video (what a good choice!), so you'd better check this out, too. Title track "The Nightmare Begins" is groovy and ready to sing along. I wish there were more nightmares like that, because the steady rock sound goes on and the powerful riffs are great. "Slippin' Away" contains a lot of groovy riffs in combination with the sensitive vocal lines, which is a good combination in my opinion. "Nothing But The Truth" confirms that the overall sound is much heavier than on the previous album. The melody remains but the riffs are louder and the guitars receive a more prominent place. Pete's voice is still very powerful and rough, where needed and it even gets more sensitive in the ballad type of parts. The songs rock from the start and a song like "Take The Long Way Home" will do just fine in a live situation. Satisfaction guaranteed, I think. I just love the guitar solo of Mike here, which reminds me of Brad Gillis (NIGHTRANGER & OZZY). "Behind The Curve" is one of those songs, which will be hammered in your brain forever. Once you've heard it, you will sing along to the chorus the next time you'll hear it. "Tangled Web" is the first short moment of rest. It might even appeal to some of the latter BEATLES fans, which the band can take as a compliment. It's a nice little song to dream away. Which can't be said of the very firm rocker "Against The Grain" with its double leads and a hard hitting Noel. The very distorted vocals in "No.1. Suspect" makes this song much heavier and groovier than it already is. The steady beat feels the groove and on top of it all, Andre adds another great guitar solo. One of the highlights on this album is definitely "Alien Dictator", which starts with some science fiction-like sounds. And just pay some attention to the powerful drum beats, the grinding riffs and the amazing guitar solos here. The last song is called "Promise Me Pain" and with a title like that, I expected at least a beautiful ballad to round things of. None of that at all, the band bashes on firmly, as they started off. "The Nightmare Begins..." is a great album, which shows that Pete and his band are still rocking it out loud at their very best. Some songs still have a certain catchy feeling, but Pete also dares to walk beside the paved path. He showed us his craftsmanship as a song writer and musician and LOVELL'S BLADE prove that they belong to the top of the Dutch metal and rock scene. This album will put them there for sure and it's a place where they belong. If you already liked their "Stone Cold Steel" album, this will surely be a good addition to your collection. Go to: http://www.lovellsblade.info or http://www.facebook.com/officiallovellsblade for all the information about this band. LOVELL'S BLADE consists of Pete Lovell on vocals, Noel van Eersel on drums, Andre Wullems on guitar, Mike Ferguson on guitar and Patrick Velis on bass.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

MAESTRO-On The Run (EP) (Big Bad Wolf Records /Headbangers Records)
Are you ready for four more MAESTRO tracks? I bet you are, because the "Can't Stop Thinking About You" EP was already a great pre-taste of things to come. The recordings on this new release took place in 2009 and it contains four songs, worthy of twenty minutes of traditional hard rock. This four tracker starts with title track "On The Run", which contains a lot of power and melody, and it could very well appeal to the fans of THIN LIZZY and some fans of the good old BON JOVI stuff. There might even be some GOLDEN EARRING influences here and there. The song starts off in a more melodic and AOR kind of way, but it evolves into a nice pounder. The melodic sound continues in the beautiful "Going Back Home", which contains some mind-blowing vocals of singer John Jaycee Cuijpers (PRAYING MANTIS and THE DUTCH DISCIPLES), who will touch your soul one way or the other. John has been a special guest singer back in those days, and his vocals remind me of another marvelous Dutch rock singer, namely Frank van Stijn of GILGAMESJ, especially in the high pull outs. I know the demo version of this song with Stacey Rober on vocals, which already sounded very promising. Next to this, there are the great guitar solos by Marlon van Balen and Orion Roos, which contain so much emotion that you will be amazed. This version really blows me away. "Force Field" shows that the band is also able to crank out a really powerful song as well. And guess what? It's here in two different versions. First off, we hear the 'normal' version of "Force Field", which is followed by an instrumental version. The normal version is really amazing, however the instrumental version sounds very heavy. The guitars keep on playing and it's like the perfect headbanger from the eighties. MAESTRO has presented us another great four track CD, which maybe even surpass the previous release. It's very good to hear though that songs, written ten years ago, easily stood the test of time. What a fine release from this band from Groningen. MAESTRO consists of Orion Roos on guitar, Marlon van Balen on guitars, Rene van Zonneveld on bass, Pepijn Gros on drums, Kloos Elzinga on keyboards and John 'Jaycee' Cuijpers on vocals. Go their page on FB at: http://www.facebook.com/maestromelodicrock.
(8,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

MARTYR-Live In Japan (PT78 Records)
MARTYR and JAPAN have got a good chemistry together. Did you know that in Nagasaki you have the shrine of the 26 martyrs? But this is different. How cool is it for a Dutch metal band to play in the land of the rising sun??!! There are not many, but these legendary metal heroes did it and they also recorded a live record there. I know about the fascination of guitarist Rick Bouwman for Japanese metal and when you think of MARTYR, their most well-known track "Speed Of Samurai" pops up right away. When you saw the pictures of their trip through Japan, it's quite obvious that MARTYR are true heroes there and the chemistry between the Japanese metal fans and this heavy metal band from Holland worked remarkably well. This reflects itself in these amazing live songs that they recorded there. The shows in Osaka were recorded live and ten tracks, including an 'unpronounceable' intro are being captured here in a steaming live environment, giving you roughly fifty-five minutes of live footage with a true historic value. We can be proud of this, because MARTYR rocked the house and they represented our country in an incredible way. Just push the 'play' button and let these songs take you away to one of the steaming hot sweaty rock clubs in Osaka, Japan. Loud guitars, medieval choir vocals and church bells are starting this rock adventure, which will lead you to the first song "Into The Darkest Of All Realms". The tension is building up slowly and after the intro, the band will explode in fiery riffs, wild screams and uncompromised heavy metal. This really gives me the shivers all over. Frontman Rop van Haren urges the Japanese fans to throw in a big party, because the band is ready to lift up the roof tonight. After two minutes, he's got the audience moving along and go crazy. The reward is a flashing guitar solo of Rick. The pounding drums and groovy rhythms are superior and very powerful. The band is in perfect shape, but hey, aren't they always like that?! "Infinity" sounds even more dynamic and the first punch is the hardest. "Snow And Fire" contains some high screams of Rop, who knows to deal with these Japanese rock fans very well. He eats them raw like sushi and he even throws in some Japanese words to thank them for their support. That's the way they like it. The band blasts at full speed and I bet that a lot of heads will go up and down during this one. After all, the Japanese fans are very polite and introvert, but once they crawl out of their shell, they are some serious kamikaze killers. The intro of "Afterlife" gives the band a chance to catch their breath, before taking off in the fifth gear. The fast guitar work will certainly please all the Japanese metal fans, because they love guitar heroes that fly over their fretboard with a lot of speed. And they're at the right place, as far as Rick and Geoffrey concerns. Just listen to their impressive guitar work in "Inch By Inch". You will definitely get the house rocking with a song like that. "Unborn Evil" sounds a bit different. It has got darker lyrics and the atmosphere changes a little in this song. However, many Japanese fans are real omnivores though and they shout even harder. "Art Of Deception" is another fast song and the crowd goes totally insane now. I can feel the bass drum pounding in my stomach, which is a good sign. You must feel the power of a live album and I think that MARTYR has captured these magical moments in Japan really well. It's like you're in the middle of the freaking pit. Then the band is getting ready for that one song the crowd has been waiting for a long time, which is of course "Speed Of Samurai". It starts off with an amazing guitar intro. Remember that enormous guitar explosion of the Japanese SNIPER in the song "Fire" from their live LP or one of the many solos by true Japanese guitar heroes, like Kyoji Yamamoto (BOW WOW) or Akira Takasaki (LOUDNESS)? Well, this matches very well here. Also, the guitar solo in the middle of "Speed Of Samurai" is just unbelievable and I have no word for it. Even after so many years, I still get the chills all over when listening to this killer song. I wonder if the stage remained empty in Japan, because in Holland the fans are all over on stage during this particular song. MARTYR pleases the fans one more time with an amazing version of "Monster". I hope the monster is not Godzilla, because it caused a lot of destruction. Actually, the monster they have been releasing is a giant MARTYR, that has made our country very proud. When the show is over, there's still some time to take a picture with the Osaka audience, before the band continues their road trip to spread the word. And the word is heavy metal for forty years already. "MARTYR Live In Japan" came with a golden obi for quick deciders (yes!!), all others have a red one. It's the music that counts though. I guess, that these five hard working musicians carried a bag full of memories back to Holland. They arrived in Japan with their gear and a few bottles of Jägermeister and they returned with a whole bag of experiences, memories and dozens of new fans. Next time I will ask them, if I can carry their bags. Japan is such a beautiful country and I think that this won't be the last time that MARTYR invaded Japan. I hope not, because they really deserve it. MARTYR consists of Rop van Haren on vocals, Rick Bouwman on guitars, Geoffrey Maas on guitars, Vinnie Wassink on bass and backing vocals and Rick Valcon on drums. Go to: http://www.martyronline.nl or http://www.facebook.com/martyronline for all the latest information about this amazing Dutch metal band, that easily stood the test of time and has spread their wings to Japan on this amazing live album.
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

MOTHER OF SIN-3 (Big Bad Wolf Records/Headbangers Records)
MOTHER OF SIN is presenting their new album, which is simply called "3". It contains twelve tracks, worthy of about fifty minutes. Their melodic power metal sounds very powerful and in opener "Black Rain", your thoughts will probably go out to rock giants, such as HOUSE OF LORDS, DOKKEN, EVERGREY, SYMPHONY X, NEVERMORE, STRATOVARIUS or STRYPER for example. What a great start and they will definitely attract the attention of many classic hard rock fans. "Human Nova" moves on, which contains some flashing guitar parts, next to the vocals of nobody else but Eduard Hovinga (ex-ELEGY). The melody is never far away in their songs. Just listen to "Changes" with the amazing vocals of Eduard, who sings with a lot of emotion, while the crying guitars will do the rest. Next to that, there is enough power to rock the house. Have a taste of "Rise" or the heavy pounding "Sea Of Flames", which has a lot of STRYPER influences, mainly because the voice of Eduard is pretty near to Michael Sweet's, who also puts his whole heart and soul in his singing. Clearly, the band is also capable of making a lot of noise in the more firm and pounding songs. Just tune in to "Dark Adrenaline" and you will find out soon. It will definitely make your blood run a lot faster. The variation and balance in their songs is well thought-out. After these up-tempo tracks, the band takes back some speed in "The Start Of Everything", while in "The Bitter End" they put more power in their sound. It keeps the listener definitely focused. The next song is called "A Departure", which sounds pretty heavy. When the guitars start crying, it really blows you off your feet. And if you like it a bit more sensitive, then "Torn" is definitely a good choice. This amazing ballad contains a lot of emotion, which can be felt right in your soul. The vocal parts are really great here and also the guitar solos are gorgeous. Surely, it's one of the highlights on this album for me. Both thumbs up, because every good rock album must have a good ballad and this one is a true killer. "The Call" continues and the firm sound is back again. The CD closes with "Everything Inside", which has some choir vocals and spoken word parts to create a moody atmosphere. I think that every devoted melodic hard rock and heavy metal fan will be very happy with this great new album. It has got class, it has got style and it shows the emotion of a band in every way, whether it's anger, love or excitement, it's all there and more. Find out yourself, you will be amazed. They set the standard high for the Dutch melodic power metal bands out there. And the standard is high, very high. MOTHER OF SIN consists of Eduard Hovinga on lead vocals and guitar, Gerry de Graaf on drums and Peter Groen on bass and piano. Go to: http://www.motherofsin.com or http://www.facebook.com/Mother-of-Sin-198198173598294 for all the information about this melodic power metal band, that will tear up your house. Check them out, you won't be disappointed!
(8,3/10- Toine van Poorten)

OVERRULED-Hybris (Punishment 18 Records)
OVERRULED has got its metal heart in the right place. This is why they earned a place in these ranks. They're hot for old school heavy metal fans and their music is totally old school heavy metal. "Hybris" contains nine tracks of nearly forty-two minutes that blast away at full speed and won't stop you from banging your head. This is the kind of music that I liked, when I was young and that I still play every day. Speed metal with a true metal underground, very powerful and fast with some flashing guitar licks. Nothing more and nothing less. OVERRULED is exactly like that. "Pawns Of War" is the perfect opener, as far as I'm concerned. I know, that many other reviewers say that this was all done before and sure, they are right in some way. But what's wrong, when you get a good feeling from it? That's what it's all about. The music will give you a smile on your face and before you know it, you can't stop moving your head up and down. A bit more difficult for an old fart like me, but the feeling is almost the same. The next song "Burning Bridges" sounds less speedy in a way, but it still has got a very nice long instrumental mid-part, in which the guitars cry out loud. I very much liked the speed changes in title track "Hybris". The double guitars, the drum rolls, I hear a lot of influences from the early IRON MAIDEN and I mean the years before Bruce joined the band. That's the strength of OVERRULED. They're not just stepping on the gas and sometimes they also add different tricks in their music, which makes it highly enjoyable. You don't get much time to catch your breath either, because next up they fire "She-Devil" at you at breakneck speed. After that, there's a moment of rest with a short spoken word part, accompanied by acoustic guitars, which is called "Purgatory". And in no time the band throws in another speedy monster, called "Follow His Order". Just listen to the bass part by Joeri Klaassens and the lead guitar parts, that breath the old school IRON MAIDEN sound. What a killer track and if MAIDEN would still sound like that, I would be really thrilled. Besides the IRON MAIDEN influences, there is more aggression in their sound as well. It sounds much wilder and the drums are beating a lot faster, too. In "Lust For Power", they press the pedal to the metal again. I think, that every NWOBHM fan would also have a great time with songs like that. However, it will also appeal to fans of ENFORCER and EVIL INVADERS, to name but a few. The diversity in styles is huge, although it doesn't change too much in the overall sound of the band. One of the highlights on the CD, next to the opener, will definitely be "Run For Your Life", which is also on their self-titled debut album. The CD closes with "Losing Sanity". One more time, I fasten my seat belt and give my best shot, while banging my head to the speed of this song. However, in the fifth gear of this song my head almost falls off. What an excitement! I'm getting too old for this, but I simply can't do without it. It's time that these guys spread their wings and get big in Europe and then go worldwide. They really deserve it. The only thing that I hoped to find here is a version of "Faster, Harder, Louder" on this amazing album, but maybe they do it on the next one. This song belongs to my all-time favorite songs of this band. OVERRULED delivered a great album and "Hybris" will certainly appeal to all fans of NWOBHM, speed metal, thrash metal and true metal in particular. OVERRULED consists of Remco Smit on vocals and rhythm guitar, Ronald Reinders on lead guitar, Joeri Klaassens on bass and Gerald Warta on drums. Go to: http://www.overruledband.com or http://www.facebook.com/Overruledband for all the information you need about these metal heads from the Eastern part of our country.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

PICTURE-Wings (Pure Steel Records)
What can you expect from the original line-up of PICTURE, almost forty years after they released their debut album? I really don't know, although I knew upfront that the live shows of these guys are simply incredible. The artwork on the album cover of the phoenix rising in flames already looks very cool. It's like the band is about to give it a new start. "Wings" contains ten tracks, worthy of forty minutes of old school hardrock and heavy metal. I like it compact with no time and space for unnecessary fillers and they pulled that off for sure. "Line Of Life" is the opener and man what a power is being unleashed here. The guitar sound is like a sniper in the night. It kills your bad thoughts and expectations right from the start. After a very short intro, the guitar riffs by Jan Bechtum will directly throw you back to the early days of PICTURE. And when you have people like Bechtum and de Gelder in your band, you can't go wrong. Give them the right artillery and they create a metal sound that can't be beaten. Ronald van Prooijen's voice hasn't cut down in strength either. He still sings like a young god. The high pull outs are coming from his toes and his recognizable vocal sound still remained strong after all these years. Add to that the fast drum beats of Laurens 'Bakkie' Bakker and the solid bass lines of Rien Vreugdenhil, and you will know that the PICTURE sound is entering your room. They're ready to strike back with the original line-up after so many years. Appie de Gelder is a great addition for the band and prove is given in the next song. "Wings" will give you a nostalgic feeling. It has got the good old sound of DEEP PURPLE ("Perfect Strangers" era) written all over. The sound of keyboards is there as well, played by Appie. It may sound weird and PICTURE with keyboards seems like an impossible combination, but it feels like magic and really natural to me. It's the song, that Blackmore would have liked to have written after "Perfect Strangers", but couldn't. Bechtum shows that it can be done and it sounds really amazing. A familiar face has been introduced on the album after this. She's as old as the band itself but she looks so much younger, just like the rest of the band. She's a woman that never gets old. She is still in perfect shape and finally she is ready to show herself and her name is "Little Annie". People who don't know what I am talking about will say I'm going bonkers, but old school PICTURE fans will catch my drift. There are still some jewels that never made it on any PICTURE album and who knows they will see the light of day on one of their future releases or a compilation disc. I'm thinking of "Leaving Me", "I'm Going Alone", "Why Did She...", "I'm Going Back", "I'm A Drinker" and "Nightmare" from the very first PICTURE demo in 1980. Who knows what the future will bring us? For now, this is a true masterpiece and one of the highlights on the album, as far as I'm concerned. The next song "Is It Real" is exactly what I was asking myself, when listening to this album. Is it really that good?? Yes, it is and it sounds truly amazing. Just feel the drum beats of 'Bakkie' thundering in your stomach or the fiery riffs of Jan, the high notes of Ronald and the incredible bulldozer bass of Rien. It is inhuman, but real. The sound of this new PICTURE album is even better than I would expect it to be. It sounds like the album they should have made after "Diamond Dreamer", because it would fit just perfectly in that given time frame. The fast speed in "Blown Away" will knock you off your feet. It has got the power of an all destroying tsunami. The title does exactly what it tells you to do. Be honest, is this the album you would expect from a band that exists for almost forty years? This sounds like a debut album from a band that wants to make a statement. Stand back, because there is a new generation of heavy metal bands standing in line to take over the world by storm. However, this new and fresh sounding band already exists for such a long time. They are teaching the new generation a big lesson in hard rock and heavy metal, so much is for sure. "No Place To Hide" would easily fit on any of the first three PICTURE albums. It has got that same catchy and recognizable sound that makes this song very familiar, once you've heard it for the first time. I know that this is impossible but it's true. And if you think that things can't get any better than this, you're ever so wrong. Just tune in to "Empty Room" and expect the unexpected. Right from the start, the speed changes and the unearthly guitar work in this killer song belongs to my priority list of ten newborn classics to be. Riff master Bechtum is at its very best here. "Never Enough" is another song that could be on any of the early PICTURE albums and you almost start singing "We're An American Band" here, the GRAND FUNK RAILROAD classic. It's that catchy. It could easily grow to a classic of that size, if you would ask my honest opinion. The choir vocals ask for an audience participation in a live situation for sure. The AC/DC influenced beat in "Still Standing" changes to a furious heavy metal rhythm already after a couple of seconds. I really get the shivers all over my spine here. This is exactly how Dutch true metal is supposed to sound like. It's the story of PICTURE captured in a four minute song. Laurens must have muscles of steel in his legs. He keeps on pounding and kicking them drums and every time it feels like he's doing it louder and louder. What a beast! From back to forth, the album hammers one classic after another into your mind. PICTURE really makes you proud to be a Dutch metal head and it's not only JUDAS PRIEST that can make a good and solid comeback album, which contains no fillers and just winners. PICTURE does the same trick with "Wings" and they can be damn proud of it. The album closes with "Stroke", which is a very personal song telling about the stroke that Rien suffered from a couple of years ago. This news came like a flash of lightning in a clear blue sky. However, Rien is made of pure iron and steel and no one can beat him. It must have been a hard struggle for him to fight back, but he did it and I am so proud of what he has achieved. His consistency to come back has been so huge. He is the phoenix, which is PICTUREd on the cover of this new album. He blew new life into himself and PICTURE and the result is this amazing song telling you the story, as precise as possible. It must have been a great challenge, but they made something special of it. For about seven minutes you will be on the edge of your seat. The instrumental mid-piece is outstanding and I'm glad that the outcome is positive and the music brought Rien back to where he is right now. What a mind-blowing tribute to a true hero that still stands proud with his band PICTURE. Rien, we love you and I'm saying this in the name of all PICTURE fans out there. The album is a true killer and no other band can get close to the craftsmanship of these five living legends that proved there is still a future for heavy metal in Holland. What a great comeback album, guys! You really can be proud of this accomplishment. PICTURE is: Rien Vreugdenhil on bass, Laurens 'Bakkie' Bakker on drums, Jan Bechtum on guitar, Appie de Gelder on guitar and keyboards and Ronald van Prooijen on vocals. Go to: http://www.pictureband.nl or http://www.facebook.co/picturetheonlypage for all the latest information about five kings of Dutch heavy metal. Not only Red Bull gives you 'wings', the real "Wings" are from PICTURE!!!
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

SAD IRON-Chapter II The Deal (Hellion Records/Wormholedeath Records)
It may have taken them some time but their revenge is sweet. SAD IRON is back with a brand new album and let me start with the conclusion of this review. It sounds really awesome beyond believe. The artwork shows that the devil is wearing his best studded belts and holding his white Flying V to play an all destroying sound, which nobody will survive. The album is called "Chapter II The Deal" and that's why the devil is water-mouthing. It means that another human being has sold his soul to him, when buying it. A deal with the devil has been made and you can run but you can never hide, as he will always find you. Nine tracks and forty-five minutes will turn this disc into a speed metal heaven experience. The album starts off with "The Story Of Miss Betty", also known as the title track of the album “The Deal". Fast polka beats, flashing guitar licks, speed changes, fast drum beats and a loud barking Marc, it's all there and more. Take the best of MEGADETH, ANNIHILATOR and METALLICA (the era of "Kill 'Em All", "Ride The Lightning") and you will get the idea. Young starting guitar players must be warned upfront: don’t try this at home. After all, there is only Bernard Rive, who can play solos like that without wearing a life jacket or war armor. He is the speed monster, the mastermind and mister SAD IRON without harming his bandmates, as he couldn't do the job without them. The king (without a crown) of speed metal guitar has done it again. Already from the first song on, my mouth falls open with surprise and I'm really impressed. For sure, this will certainly please the many fans of their older material. "Revolution" is another fine example of how a good speed metal song is supposed to sound. Undoubtedly, you will shout along to the 'fight, fight, fight' part right away, however, that's as far as the catchy influences go. Bernard doesn't want to compromise to commerciality and he never will. His motto is full speed or nothing at all. The guitar work, that follows thereafter, is definitely top-notch material and only a musical genius would come up with ideas like that. The riffs in "Raise Hell" are unbelievable and once again you will get the urge to sing 'raise hell' at the right moment. The solo sounds incredible and by playing it (very) loud, it will raise some hell in your living room for sure. Well, my neighbors are already used to the sound of SAD IRON after all these years. "Warmonger" sounds a bit darker, but war is a dark and sober subject for that matter. The lyrics of "Now It's Dark" are not for the faint-hearted. Pussies and sissies won't like it, but the old school metal fans will eat this one alive. Check out the filthy guitar work by the master himself. The low down sound to the words 'now it's dark' are just perfect. You will get an ominous feeling, as soon as you will hear it. This is not for a schoolgirl's sixteenth birthday party. The gang choir vocals give it a brutal taste too, which is freaking excellent. "Fighting For Revenge" is another great thrash speed metal song. I'd like to ask special attention for the fine drummer on this album. Since the band didn't have a drummer, when they recorded the album, they called in the help of four legged monster drummer Marco Prij (OVERRULED and DISTILLATOR). I bet, it wasn't an easy task, but I think he did a fantastic job here. I think, that this particular song will possibly turn out to be a crowd's favorite at their live gigs. Anyway, it's time for some controversy right now. SAD IRON never had any problems with titles like "S.M." or "We All Praise The Devil" and now we can add "F.O.B." to this list as well, which means "Fuck Off Bitch". I have no problem at all with that and it matches the no-nonsense attitude of SAD IRON very well. If you don't want to hear this, just go and listen to another record. The band is as hard as life itself and this is just another expression. The song is just as cool as the title, by the way. "Murder Of Crows" is another song, that will easily be hammered into your brains. That's the strength of this band and they make sure, you will never forget them. And if this doesn't succeed, they just use a clawhammer instead, as there are more ways to reach their goal. The CD closes with "Weaponized", the last track in which the band chooses their weapons and will attack you at full speed. The IRON MAIDEN type of bass part even makes them sound more old school metal than you wished for. With 'kill 'em all' and 'seek and destroy' in the lyrics, you'll get some idea where this is leading to. Officially, there are no more songs, but there is still four minutes left. So what to do now?? Just record the 2019 version of "We Play To Kill". What a marvellous idea!! Veterans are able to share their memories from the past, while newbies will hear what amazing songs this band has written throughout their career. SAD IRON consists of Bernard Rive on lead guitar, Marc van den Bos on guitar, Björn Hylkema on bass and backing vocals and Marco Prij on drums. Marc van den Bos has been replaced by Marcel Paardekooper after the recordings of this album and it seems that the band has found a new steady drummer as well in Cor Bolt. Go to: http://www.facebook.com/sadironmetal or http://www.sadironmetal.com for all the information about the longest living speed metal band from our country. Sign your deal with the devil as well and let him take your blackened heart in exchange or you will be damned forever.
(9,0/10- Toine van Poorten)

SAVAGE-Starbreaker - The Untouched Series Volume 2 (No Dust Records)
The foreword of this band says it all. The maestro himself is writing his memoires about SAVAGE, the history of a band that could have become cult heroes. I couldn't have done it any better. SAVAGE was here, there and everywhere in my youth and the numerous times that I've seen the band playing, they always impressed me so much with their great powerful live shows. Being special proud of course, because the band came from our region and they always played just around the corner of the street somewhere, while they could have conquered the whole world, if the stars were right. But it just didn't happen. The demos of SAVAGE are well-known all over the world and especially in Greece and Japan they eat this stuff for diner. It's not strange, because they knock you off your feet from the first notes on. If this isn't the perfect metal sound of the eighties, then you're reading the wrong website. The CD is capturing the two demos of the band in reversed order. Ten cult metal songs in forty-five minutes is what you get here and I can tell you that we're talking about ten killers and no fillers, what else would you expect?!? First off, there is the second demo of 1983 and next is the first demo from 1981. Vocalist Walter Lavent has got a very powerful voice. He came from a band called MUSTANG and he was a great front man, who also plays guitar. The guitar parts are a sledgehammer blow, because Jack Nobelen is a true hero in my book. Just listen to the solo in "Starbreaker" and you know why. To me, he sounds like the Dutch Michael Schenker. The pounding drums, harsh vocals of Walter and the bass lines are keeping the rhythm real tight. With songs like that, the band are like true metal heroes to me. They sounded a bit rawer than the average metal band, but they had the same sound of for example PICTURE and later on BODINE. "Hell On Wheels" is another killer tune and definitely one of my personal favorites. Walter's pull outs remind me a lot of Schmoulik 'Sammy' Avigal, who later became the singer of HORIZON. Feel the double bass drums of Arthur van Loon in your stomach, which pounds like a steamhammer. They also created this killer sound on stage and it was by far one of the highlights in their live shows, which were always completed with the hottest covers, next to their own penned material. "Fade Away" is a very catchy track, well at least in the chorus, as the instrumental part is so raw and intense and that bass drum keeps pounding and pounding. "Love Woman" starts with another wonderful riff by Jack. As a matter of fact, in the eighties tape traders scene, all bands with Henky Backer and Jack Nobelen were very much wanted items, because they were the top of the bill guitar players, the natural born talents. Topped by the raunchy vocals of Walter, you simply can't go wrong. The song has another Schenker type of guitar solo, which will really blow you away. "Mystery Smile" is the odd one out here. It has a beautiful structure, starting off slowly as a ballad and when the speed change rushes in, you can tell that we're dealing with a band that was far ahead of their time, but somehow missed to jump on the bandwagon. Maybe that's what made them so special. They never became huge nor played a sold out show. I've seen many bands around that released some good demos and when they signed a record deal, their debut album sucked big time. Not with SAVAGE. They remained true to their awesome sound. Just check out the magnificent "Mystery Smile", which contains great power without getting too heavy. It reminds me of GAMMA in their heydays. "Wave the Flag" is the final song from the second demo and another heavy pounder. The band is captured here at its very best. And how did it all start? The best is saved for last, so it seems. Three out of four songs from the first demo are being captured here at the end of the CD. It's the year 1981, when SAVAGE released this first demo with the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP cover "Into The Arena" as fourth song. I think, it is a matter of legal rights that they decided not to put the song on the CD. Anyway, Carla Ooninckx was the first singer in the band and "Heavy Rock 'N' Roll" has always been my favorite song, next to "Hell On Wheels". This killer track represents the best in Dutch hard rock, as far as I'm concerned. Bang your head to this masterpiece and it will give you neck muscles of steel. Oh, those good old days. "Starbreaker" was included on the second demo as well, but here you will enjoy the original demo version of that magnificent heavy metal song. Last, but definitely not least, is "Speedin' Home", the song that was released on a single by the band HIGHWAY in 1982. It's a very sought after seven inch single, that definitely must belong in the collection of every true defender of Dutch Steel. It doesn't get any better than that. Don't try to do copy the guitar solo of maestro and Dutch guitar wizard Jack Nobelen at home or you will end up crying in your sleep. He did all of his stunts alone and live without a net. This band was the real deal, but it ended much too soon. Their legacy however is preserved pretty well on this CD and now you can enjoy these killer metal songs on a silver disc. There are loads of good live shows and it would have been cool, if they would have added some bonus stuff from their live shows here, but this is a great start for now. SAVAGE is: Jack Nobelen on guitar, Arthur van Loon on vocals, John van Gestel (who sadly passed away in 1983) on bass, Marc van Reusel on bass, Alex Heestermans on vocals, Carla Ooninckx on vocals on the first demo and Walter Lavent on vocals on the second demo. Walter is still very much alive and kicking in the rock scene and Jack Nobelen is the proud owner of a recording studio, next to his rock band STILETTO. After SAVAGE, he formed HORIZON. "Master Of The Game" is also released on No Dust Records and highly recommended by yours truly. This CD is a limited edition release, so grab your copy, while it's still available.
(9,9/10- Toine van Poorten)

7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH-Revolution On Hold (Suburban Music Group)
I wrote this review about the Blokhut Live festival in Rotterdam. I really liked the music of headliners 7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH, but since I'm still stuck in the roaring seventies and eighties musically, I never came across their name. Until that day, which is more or less the reason to obtain their album and start listening to their music. If you like the sound of rock dinosaurs, like RUSH and LED ZEPPELIN, you might want to do the same, because for sure there are some references to these aforementioned bands. "Revolution On Hold" is the band's second release and it contains nine tracks, worthy of almost forty-five minutes of good solid rock. The sleeve shows the propeller of an airplane, while most metal albums contain warfields, elves, kings, beautiful women or other fantasy outings. These guys do it different and the sleeve doesn't give away that you're dealing with a rock album or whatsoever. However, the music does, so just push the 'play' button and listen to opener "Bad Enough" to get the idea. The guitars are riffing like LED ZEPPELIN would do on their early albums and with the additional keyboards, it would also appeal to DEEP PURPLE or URIAH HEEP fans. This is good old fashioned and classy rock music, topped by the vocals of Andrew Elt, the former front man of SLEEZE BEEZ and GIN ON THE ROCKS. The groove is there and the beginning of this album is quite promising, I must say. "Olympus" will make your thoughts go out to ZEP and HEEP again and the stunning groove of both bands is here as well. Joris Lindner proves that he's an excellent guitar player and there is a huge role for the organ of Remco van Zandvoort as well here. "I Feel Your Pain" sounds melancholic and it's there, that the magic of bands like RUSH or even THE BEATLES comes around the corner. "Sound" is the perfect song to play on that endless road to Pittsburgh, windows open and your radio to ten. "Think" rocks more than you would believe and it takes care of some variation at the same time. 7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH has many faces and this one belongs to it for sure. Get the party started, I would say, but keep thinking for yourself. After that, it's time to slow things down a bit for "Brave New World". It sounds slightly catchy without getting too commercial. The guitars have enough space to show their skills and I guess, this song may appeal to the latter QUEENSRYCHE fans among us. "God Only Knows" is on next and again I must say that their feel good music really appeals to me. "Time" is a bit more up-tempo and it could be a public's favorite, because of its catchy character. It's made to sing along to, yet the musicians get enough space to show their skills. 7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH surprised me in a very positive way. The album closes with "Only A Fool", which has a dark sounding intro. This is Elt is at his very best and you can hear all the emotion in his voice. It’s a glorious end to a very good album. It may not cause a revolution, but it sure will give you a good feeling. 7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH consists of Andrew Elt on vocals and guitar, Martin Helmantel on bass, Joris Lindner on guitar, Remco van Zandvoort on organ and keyboards and Dirk Bruinenberg on drums. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/7mtp.nl or official website at: http://www.7mtp.nl. I think I'm going to taste their self-titled debut album as well.
(7,7/10- Toine van Poorten)

UNDER SIEGE-The Anthology 1988 - 1993 (Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records)
This one is for all the connoisseurs among us. UNDER SIEGE belongs to the Dutch underground scene and I think they deserve every respect for that. Fans of WATCHTOWER, ANACRUSIS and MEKONG DELTA might want to take this journey with me, because it is stuffed with demos, rehearsals and live material. The band started out as ERIN in 1988, but changed their name to UNDER SIEGE in 1989. Fourteen experimental songs are on this compilation disc from the years 1988-1993, worthy of an adventure trip of seventy-five minutes. It is 1993, when the band decided to lock themselves up in Franky’s Recording Kitchen to record their first pro demo, called "Gloating", which contains five songs. Opener "Gloating" shows that they are not following the paved path. Their technical rooted progressive metal is strictly preserved for those, who want to hear more depth in a song. And while listening to "Form Of Opinion", your mind constantly has to focus on what's happening here. That's exactly what UNDER SIEGE has in mind. You have to undergo their music. You'll have to get soaked into it, before you might get it. Bass solos are being accompanied by maniacal drum parts, it's all there if you search for it, so don't be afraid. These guys didn't reach out for the stars or go for the big money. Instead, they were fascinated by the technical and progressive type of metal, adored by a handful of believers that could call themselves true music fans, in my opinion. "Senseless Hunting" contains some high pull outs by front man Egbert Berenst and furthermore the band consisted of Siegfried Heitman on guitar, Marcel Heitman on drums and Sebastiaan Garritsen on bass. "Lonely In My Independence" has some maniacal vocals by Egbert, who still knows to surprise me at times with his high-pitched vocals. The lengthy tracks give the band enough space to stretch out the instrumental parts of their songs. "Seek For A Grip" includes another moment of instrumental madness after the vocals have done their work. After that, there's the second demo, which is called "Frustrated". The opener "Underestimated Life" sounds a bit darker, but it also has some nice speed changes and when the speed goes up, your head will start banging in no time, uncontrolled like the music itself. When the bass starts asking for attention, the song goes directly over into "Death Threats", a more progressive song that moves into several directions at the same time. Just check out the instrumental parts and you might get lost in a maze of impossible speed changes and progressive soundscapes. "Frustrations" puts the drums more forward. Check out the start of this song. A drummer can actually make or break a song, while dictating the rhythm to it. The drum fills are here as well. I guess, you might get frustrated at times, when the rhythm changes constantly, but Marcel knows what he's doing. "Oppressed" starts with more groovy riffs and rhythms, which sound dark. The highlight on this second demo though is the progressive "Another Day Has Passed". Next to the many speed and mood changes, there are also some spoken word parts and the band is at their very best here. The next song "Far Too Long" is taken from the live tape "Live In Enter". It's a cover of ANACRUSIS and connoisseurs will know what to expect, I guess. Just listen to the thundering drums, the hammering bass, the crying guitar and the very emotional vocals. They really did a splendid job here. The 1989 rehearsal songs "Lost In A Storm", "Judgement Day" and "Erin" have been recorded with another vocalist. Richard Pauls is his name and he was their frontman in these early days. The guitars sound a bit more thrash metal and the sound quality is also slightly different here. Richard unfortunately died in 2017 and so this wouldn't be a complete overview without him, I guess. Gerrit Knol is the additional guitar player on these songs. "Judgement Day" contains some awesome guitar work and I think it's definitely a blueprint to their later demo songs. The song is a lot more easy to comprehend, but it could make the average BON JOVI fan still cry for his mother. After this rehearsal tape, Egbert joined the band and became their vocalist. JAGGANATH had split up and he was a great addition to the band. Aldowin Besselink became the band's second guitarist, but he was only in the band for a short period of time. They continued as a four piece band and recorded the two demos and that is where this overview starts in 1993. The circle is round and I am extremely happy, that these recordings finally got compiled in a proper way. This anthology is well worth checking out. Their music has been derived in those long forgotten times, but their songs have become immortal this way. You might want to check out UNDER SIEGE, if the average heavy metal band doesn't bring you what you want to hear. I bow for the greatness of these Dutch pioneers.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

VORTEX-Them Witches (Gates Of Hell Records)
This new VORTEX album has been written a long time ago. The VORTEX vault (read: Martjo Brongers' attic) contains a lot of unreleased material and once in a while, when the northern wind blows hard around the Brongers' mansion, he locks himself up in the attic with an old cassette recorder to listen to the old stuff, that has been piled up there. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, when the rain came pouring down, Martjo told his wife that it was time to pay a visit to the attic again. And it was then, that he discovered this box with old material, that was the foundation for "Them Witches". He remembered the sessions very well and presented the old stuff to the rest of the band. They were all very excited. The material was meant to be released in 1987 and it's 2019 now, so if that isn't vintage, then I'll eat my hat. Some adjustments were being made and with the technology of today, it sounds like an album that will blow away everybody. This would shake Groningen on its foundation, but this time it was not the NAM causing trouble. This time, it's the other fright of the city: VORTEX, the brave invaders of the city of Bourtange. The people there still can't sleep well, because of the heavy pounding at the city gates. They're back and they sound even more vicious than ever before. "Them Witches", written in the mid-eighties and released in a new millennium, contains ten brand old tracks, worthy of fifty minutes. Well, people fasten your seat belts, decorate yourself with a garlic belt, because there will be witches all over the place. Their brooms are standing outside the door. Are you sure that you are ready to face these ten new witches spells? You might get second thoughts, when you see all these skulls crying and gazing at you from the cover. However, once you dare to get the CD out of the sleeve, it's time to listen to some music. Push the 'play' button and feel the thundering drum rolls of Henk 'The Tank' Bosma on the drums, who introduces you to "SpirituAlien". Did you catch that title? It's like stepping in a time machine, which brings you back to the days when it was not silly to wear your striped spandex trousers. Now your belly is falling over it and you look like an ape man, but in the eighties it still fitted you perfectly. Jurjen spits his lyrics wildly in the mike and the twin guitarists play exactly those fine solos that you want to hear in a good and heavy metal song. Mix some influences of the old school ACCEPT sound with IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST and the whole picture is complete. VORTEX is back with a loud bang and this song is only just the beginning. "Death At Dawn" brings you more twin guitar work and the ominous vocals of 'Thunderforce'. "ICU" is on next. Just listen to the metal riffs in this amazing song. It's the purest metal that you can eat. It's not strange, that many fans label this band as Dutch cult metal legends, because that's exactly what they are. The solo in this song sounds freaking fabulous and they will make you start banging your head right away. If not, the witches will haunt you, until your dying day. The dark intro to title track "Them Witches" sounds very scary, but once Martjo starts one of his majestic and recognizable riffs, the metal carousel starts rolling again. The song invites you to sing along, to raise your fist and to yell as loud as you possibly can. Pieces of tonsil cells fly against the wall. 'We Are Them Witches' sounds really magical to me. The riffs of "Gonna Hit You" will do exactly what the title promises to do. They could very well be from the "Screaming For Vengeance" album by JUDAS PRIEST. The double leads are introducing you to a part, which is made to sing along in a live setting, so I guess this may become another classic during their live shows. It's there that newcomer Harm ten Hoove will blow you away with his stunning bass playing. He is another monstrous bass player from the area of Groningen. There must be something in the water over there. Or did he fell in a cauldron of bass plundering elixir during one of them witches séances under a clear moonlight? I guess, that no one will ever know the exact truth. "Tremorial" contains an all destroying inhuman guitar solo. The guitars in "No Breath" are also breathtaking and what a coincidence. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, that falls together. The song sounds brilliant and I wonder what it would be like, if this album would have been released in 1987. Perhaps it could have saved the heavy metal scene from the downfall, when the nineties came and grunge took over. I still have nightmares from those days. "Fearless" has the band written all over. They are afraid of no one, they do all their stunts by themselves and after all these years they are still playing heavy metal, because they believe in what they are doing. And they are good in that. You always get a creepy feeling with some songs, while others are catchy and ask you to sing along and simply have a good time. The album has a lot of variation and the lead guitar parts will really blow you away. "Fivefall" is a great sing along tune. The tongue-in-cheek title of the last song "Thirst Things First" is definitely a statement of VORTEX. Be serious with heavy metal, but have a good time and a good laugh, too. This is another anthem with a great guitar solo. Who could have axed for more? So there you have it. Jump around naked around the cauldron, when singing this song and post your video on You Tube....and get sentenced to jail for probably the rest of your life. But it was all worth it in the end and it's all in the name of rock and roll. VORTEX never lets their fans down and with "Them Witches", they nailed it again. Call it vintage, call it retro, I call it true heavy metal. This album makes you proud to be a heavy metal fan. Play it loud or be banned from the metal scene, poured over with hot bitumen and dragged out of the city with chicken feathers all over your body. That will teach the non-believers!! VORTEX forever or they will send them witches at you and you will be cursed. Don't say I didn't warn you. Website: http://www.facebook.com/VortexHeavyMetal. Them Witches, uh I mean VORTEX consists of Martjo ‘Whirlewolf’ Brongers on guitars, Jurjen 'Thunderfox' Tichelaar on vocals, Henk 'De Tank' Bosma on drums, Harm ten Hoove on bass and Orion Roos on guitar. Martjo, please clean up your attic more often. Man, it's a freaking goldmine up there.
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

VORTEX-The Breath - The Demo Years (Into The Limelight Records)
I like overviews like this one. VORTEX opens their vault and empties the shelves. A compilation with demos, live recordings and pre-production recordings is the result. There was so much stuff, that they had to make a double CD out of it. The first CD contains eighteen tracks, worthy of about sixty-five minutes. And when you push the 'play' button, everything seems to turn into pure heavy metal and even your voice starts to sound like the voice of iron man. Three demos and the pre-production of the songs on "Dutch Steel" have been included here. When you hear the first riffs on "Nobody's Fool", you know that you're in for a real treat, if you have been following the band for a longer period of time. The booklet is covered with photos of flyers, live shows, logos and there is a lot of information about all the various line-ups of the band. It's a valhalla of VORTEX information and the songs sound really killer as well. It starts off with a straight forward up-tempo rock song. The horror type of atmosphere has never been far away, when Jurjen joined the band and "White" builds itself up slowly. VORTEX always knows to create a very nice show effect with front man 'Thundervox' Tichelaar and 'Whirlewolf' Brongers on lead guitar. As a matter of fact, Tichelaar has been the first Dutch metal head, that started using corpse paint and he still does, when they go on stage in 2019. That first demo was recorded in 1982, live in their rehearsal room in Feerwerd, Groningen. "I Had Enough" shows that this band is very eager to rock and trying to find a suitable musical direction. This one could very well be on any Southern rock album or maybe even on one of PAT TRAVERS albums for that matter. "Lady Speedway" rocks firmly and it's nice to see how the band evolved from a rock band into a heavy metal band. The thin line between rock and metal was even smaller back in those days and this was definitely considered heavy metal. "Je Suis Paranoide" is a flirt with the French language, but that's as far as it goes. It shows that the band was already thinking 'out of the box' in these days. Mind you, this evolved even more over the years and was only just the beginning of a long and very fruitful career. "Toedeloe" is really a favorite song of mine. The idea alone, that you would name your song "Toedeloe" deserves great respect. The first part closes with "The Beat", which is another fast rocker with mean and very dirty guitar licks. Next to rock dinosaurs Brongers and Tichelaar, the band line-up here is André Rombout on guitar, Peter de Bluts on drums and Peter Hes on bass. The second demo is called "Midnite Ridin' Kid Catchin'". It was recorded only a few months later than the first demo at the Popburo Studios in Groningen. "Cruel Duel" is the first track and the voice of Tichelaarski is one in a thousand. The band rocks the hell out of you and even with only one guitarist, they turn the place upside down for sure. Title track "Midnite Ridin' Kid Catchin'" is next and the band sounds like a cross between TRAVERS in his heydays and TYGERS OF PAN TANG. "Do It Some More" is a crowd pleaser and ready to shout along to, but I guess they won't play songs like that anymore. "Heavy Metal Pussy" is another nice example of flirting to true heavy metal, which kind of happened on this demo. Just have a listen to the last song "H.M. Is King" and you'll notice that the band is slowly evolving into a real heavy metal outfit. Those howls of Tichelaar are simply not of this world. The guitar solos are sounding more metal and less rock. It's definitely in this song, that they find the right path to follow for the future. No one can stop them now. "Land Of The Late" is the next demo. Do you hear the difference? The production, these riffs, the sound, this is how we know VORTEX, heavy and uncompromising. The demo is storming right at you at full speed, starting with "Land Of The Late". Check out the solo part in this first track and you'll notice the big difference with their previous demo. This song will also appear on the "Dutch Steel" sampler a few months later. VORTEX was hot and nobody could go around this band anymore. It's September 1983, one year later, when the band records these four songs at the Square Wave Studios in Groningen. "Mountain" is on next, which is a real VORTEX classic for the future. "Nightmares I Have Not" is another great example of the true metal sound of these hammers of the north. "Mercenary" will be on "Dutch Steel" as well, as their second rendition. On this demo, Berend Stegeman steps in as the band's guitarist under the name of 'Bommen Berend'. Isn't that amazing? Peter Hes is called 'Peter Metal Macleans' and there's Guus Boltendal on drums. The double leads here sound truly amazing and before you know it, the history lesson of VORTEX is completed and we have arrived at the two songs, which they used for "Dutch Steel". First there is "Land Of The Late" and "Mercenary" is the second one. This compilation has put Holland on the map of Heavy Metal for sure. It's November 1983 and the songs have been recorded at the Popburo Studio/Spitsbergen in 1983. The line-up is the same as on the demo. What a killer time this must have been for the band. However, there is a lot more to discover on the second CD, which contains another fourteen tracks and sixty-five more minutes. It's 1984, when the band released their next demo, called "Metallic Dawning", recorded at the Pop Studio in Groningen. "When You Go" is a raunchy track with raw guitar work. "King" is a 1984 version of "H.M Is King" from their earlier demo. Tichelaar's bloody high screams are getting one of the trademarks of the band, next to the flashing lead guitar solos. "Revert" starts with acoustic guitars. It's a ballad type of song with some emotional vocal parts and a ditto guitar solo. Title track "Metallic Dawning" is next and it starts with another amazing riff of Brongers. This will rip you apart for sure. Jack Schurer is pounding the drums on this demo. The last part of the album contains the pre-production of "Open The Gate", starting with that timeless title track. It sounds a lot different than the original version and it has John B. Roffel on drums (R.I.P.). I can listen to it all day long. It represents the true heavy metal feeling, as far as I'm concerned. It's the combination of the song, the video and music, which makes it immortal to me. But there is so much more that turns this album into a legendary release. VORTEX was the real deal in those days and "Soul Killer" was at least as good, because of the flashing guitar work and the icely high screams of Thundervox. "Bastards" sounds exactly as we know them: fast, wild and furious and the JUDAS PRIEST influences are not far away either. Their sound has a lot of variation too, because "Horrible Dolls" has a lot horror type of influences, while "Growing Power" is fast, furious and a real headbanger. Riff lovers will have a good time with "Massgrave", which has an excellent opening riff by maestro Brongers. One of the highlights on the album is "Beauty & The Teeth". They still play this song live and it is a public's favorite. "Glory Gone" sounds like a reworked version of "Revert". It closes with "Get Out" and another personal favorite of mine, called "The Breath Down In His Neck" closes this awesome sampler of early VORTEX material. John Roffel is the drummer here and Jan Klemens is plundering the bass. VORTEX unveils their early material in the best way possible here. Hear the evolution of the band and get your teeth into this high class material of one of the longest existing metal bands of Holland. And they can be very proud of what they have accomplished. Play it very LOUD!! Let VORTEX rock your world, as it does with mine and I'm still very proud of it every day. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/VortexHeavyMetal. Martjoooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE March 13, 2019:

IMPACT-Never Too Young To Rock!! (Headbangers records)
I only need to say "Metal Clogs" and your mind will directly go out to the indestructible Dutch metal legends, like FRANKENSTEIN, GILGAMESJ and IMPACT. Headbangers Records released the album "Never Too Young To Rock!!" of IMPACT, including some great bonus material, worthy of thirteen IMPACT songs of approx. forty-five minutes. There's the original album, three songs from the "Metal Clogs" compilation album and two demos. Too much to handle for an old school metal head like me and it brings back such good memories of the few times, that I saw the band live in their heydays. "Never Too Young To Rock!!" pictures a young blonde guy holding a Flying V in his hands. It matches perfectly with the title of this classic Dutch metal album. "R.O.D." is a great pounder and therefore an incredible opener here. Rock on delivery, then you have to call IMPACT. The song contains a nice mood change, next to a more bluesy part in the middle and the old school vibe shows what Dutch metal was all about these days. We're talking about 1982 here, when IMPACT was one of the leading bands in the underground scene. Just listen to "Dictator" with its fast drum intro, heavy riffs and double bass drum fills. It's some of the purest heavy metal that you can think of. "Never Too Young To Rock" is the title track of this amazing album with its undeniable SAXON influences in the opening riffs. The song is a nice opportunity to sing along to the chorus. Although it might be the most catchy song from the album, the guitar solo really knows to impress. "Suicide Mission" is fast and the guitar solo of Simon Buik is truly skull splitting. "Win Or Lose" is an ideal moment to throw your fist in the air during the chorus. Rob Struik plays the drum intro of this great rocker. The songs of IMPACT were powerful and compact and I think that a band like SAXON can be seen as one of the main influences of the band. Just listen to the riffs in "Innocent Victims" or even better the riffs in "Memories", which is another fast headbanger. It could be compared to their material on "Metal Clogs": it's fast, loud and uncompromising. It's not safe for your poor neck to bang your head to the speed of this little devil. The fast double bass drum beat can be felt in your stomach. It sounds like magic to me. "March Or Die" is a bit slower and starts with the sounds of an air raid. The ominous slow drum beats turns this war anthem into a doomy type of song about soldiers going to the war field. This album sounds killer and I think that we're dealing with a real rough diamond here. And the best part is yet to come. When I hear the first riffs of "Misanthrope", I hear one of the best Dutch metal songs of that time, captured on this silver disc. The speed and mood change leading to the amazing guitar solo are simply too good to be true. You have to hear it to believe it and this is IMPACT at its very best for me. And just when you think that this guitar solo can't get any faster than that, Simon puts it in the sixth gear (they invented the sixth gear) and cranks out an inhuman fast solo, that sounds all-destroying and mind-blowing. My poor neck hurts for weeks after this, but it's all worth it. And if this isn't enough, the next classic is on its way already. "Looking For Trouble" is another wet dream for the middle aged headbanger, like me. The vicious lyrics are spit in the microphone without any compromise. This band is looking for trouble and the fast guitar solo is short but sharp as a knife. When the trouble is over, there is only one thing that you can do and that is "Drop Dead". I just can't handle it anymore. These three songs are like pure gold to me. Help me and somebody get me a doctor, as I’m drowning in a pool of awesome guitar licks. The album is a real classic, but these three songs from "Metal Clogs" turn this release into a eargasm of the first category. There is a leading role for bass player Hans Rappard, who also played in LOST GRAVITY for a while and drummer Rob Struik in "Blackmail", which has definitely got a NWOBHM feeling to it. They give "Blackmail" a special spicy flavor. Simon also takes the spotlight in the very last song on this great CD, called "Playing With The Whip". Not only does he play a killer intro for that one, but he also blows everybody away in his guitar solo at the end of the song. I'm waiting for more, as I'm getting in the mood for so much more IMPACT right now. I think, I'll have to push the 'play' button one more time, because the forty-five minutes are over here. IMPACT may not have been the most influential band in the Dutch metal scene, but obviously they were one of the most talented bands out there. After this release, the band recorded "The Flag", which was also a killer album. The line-up of the band has changed, except for singer Thierry 'Titi' Plisson, because there won't be any IMPACT without this charismatic singer, who played a reunion show with the band at Rotterdam Rocks a few years ago. This live gig was also released on CD by Headbangers Records, by the way. IMPACT consists here of Thierry 'Titi' Plisson on vocals, Simon Buik on guitar, Rob Struik on drums and Hans Rappard on bass guitar. All songs were written in 1982 and I think that it’s amazing that this album finally saw the light of day on CD. The CD booklet contains the song lyrics and some pics, but it's the forty-five minutes of old school heavy metal, that turn this CD into a 'must have' item in every heavy metal CD collection. For more info, go to the band page on FB at: http://www.facebook.com/impact.rockband. Don't forget to check out the amazing promo video clip, that they made for "Dictator" with some amazing old school live footage. I bet, that you will eat your hat, while listening to this amazing old school Dutch metal classic.
(9,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

MOONSTRUCK-Web Of Deception (independent/HLP)
MOONSTRUCK is the new outfit of former CIRRHA NIVA vocalist Arnold Kloek (also JACKAL and AFTER DARK). In 2015, the band came together and in 2016 they released a mini CD, called "Impact". Now, two years later, their debut full-length album sees the light of day. Fans of old school QUEENSRYCHE and IRON MAIDEN can buy this album blindfolded, because the nine songs have got that old school hard rock style and for a full hour you will be infected by some high quality metal here. The album starts off with the up-tempo title track "Web Of Deception", in which you will hear the influences of the aforementioned bands. Arnold's voice is still very powerful and recognizable, yet with a lot of melody in it as well. Next to that, there is also a high dose of guitar violence in their sound to enjoy. "Dark Medicine" is on next and a touch of progressive influences mixed with the sound of MAIDEN is nicely spread out here in another up-tempo track. And you may definitely add MICHAEL SCHENKER and UFO to their list of influences. "Metamorphosis" is a lengthy metal anthem, that lasts about eleven highly enjoyable minutes. It brings the pace down a bit and sounds very balladesque in the beginning. When the speed goes up, the name of DIO enters my mind. However, this song is long and complex and there's also a more progressive RUSH type of part and an up-tempo IRON MAIDEN-like part included. It's definitely one of the highlights on the album for me. "Beyond Your Wildest Dreams" however contains more groovy riffs and it has a rather dark atmosphere. Arnold's voice still has got that melodic touch, but the music tells you a different story. The adventurous instrumental piece in the middle of this song is the cherry on the cake here. It has a lot of great guitar work, topped by the Tate type of voice of Arnold. Obviously, every song is stuffed with some nice surprises and a lot of variation in styles, which makes it a very exciting ride. "Wasting Time" has got a very catchy feeling and the appealing chorus invites you to sing along to it, if you want to. The guitar solo is quite melodic. The riffs on "The Observer Of Chaos" could very well be on any DIO related BLACK SABBATH album. It's the driving beat, that takes care of the forceful sound here. The band introduces itself closer to you in "Moonstruck", which has some Iommi type of guitar riffs. "Restless Mind" also has a great instrumental part, which proves that the classic rock of MOONSTRUCK is being played by some highly skilled musicians. Before you know it, you'll be strangled in their web of deception and you simply can’t get out that easily. But why would you want to escape from a hot bath of decent classic rock songs? The album closes with another lengthy track, called "The Assassins Blade", which plays for nine exciting minutes and includes more flaming hot guitar work. The spoken word part at the end of the song gives it a bit more strength and power, just before the break starts to a more progressive part. Influences of the old school RUSH sound can be discovered here. MOONSTRUCK consists of Arnold Kloek on vocals, Ronald Blok on guitar, Vincent van den Bosch on guitar, Jacco Boer on Bass guitar and Michel Blanken on drums. Together with the new AUGUST LIFE CD, this is a very exciting album, packed with some amazing, high quality metal songs, which hopefully guarantees a long lasting prolongation of our metal scene in Holland. Go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/moonstruck.nl. Get moonstruck in this amazing web of deception or be damned forever.
(8,3/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE February 10, 2019:

DARK WIZARD-Close In The Dark (independent)
I was looking forward to the new album "Close In The Dark" a lot by this long-lasting heavy metal band from the low lands. The CD of DARK WIZARD is one of the very last releases to arrive in our letterbox in 2018. After listening to it only once, I just knew it would be in my top 10 of favorite albums of this year and it's unbelievable but true. This silver disc brought back the true spirit of Dutch heavy metal and the eleven brand new tracks are a great continuation of what DARK WIZARD stood for in their heydays. Clearly, we can speak of a glorious comeback. Opener "Delirious" sounds fast and it has some amazing Steve Harris- or Terry 'Geezer' Butler type of bass parts and some fantastic guitar riffs. The bass can be felt in your stomach, while the drums are pounding really fast. To me, this sounds like the work of four heavy rock geniuses. And if this first song doesn't work for you, the dark and somewhat faster "The Day Is Coming" hopefully will. Just have a good listen at the guitar work that is being spread out in this one. It's simply breathtaking. The retro kind of approach will bring you back to the late seventies and last but not least, there's the subtle use of acoustic guitars here near the end. It adds a special touch to this anthem, as far as I'm concerned. In "Priestcraft", you will hear the force of the singer of the band, Egbert Berenst, who will most likely impress you with his trademark, the high-pitched screams. It's like he was hung up by his balls. Which is not the case, I can assure you, at least not that I know of. But Egbert also sounds great with his regular singing voice. The guitar licks in this one sound incredible as well. The band puts on steam at full force. During "Night Or Day", your mind will directly go out to BLACK SABBATH, whether you want it or not. That's not a shame at all, because it's done in a such natural way. The speed changes come as a real surprise and it proves the strength of this mighty outfit. Right there after is "Do Swidania", which is another rock song, that will bring you back to the thin line between occult rock and heavy metal, including some amazing guitar parts and ditto bass lines. Things are getting very old school now, when the band invites a flute player on "Blaenavon", which works very well. Think of JETHRO TULL, FOCUS, BLOOD CEREMONY or LUCIFER WAS for that matter. It sounds retro and heavy at the same time. This instrument really makes the difference and takes care of that special trademark that a band like DARK WIZARD has comparing to many other bands from this scene. In the early days, the band attracted a lot of attention with their amazing horror show and today this air of mystery comes from their music. It's the music of the wizard that spends his days and nights to work on new ominous spells. Spells, that could be used during dark ceremonies in the beautiful city of Blaenavon in Wales. And even wizards do play the flute and obviously, there's nothing wrong with that. Actually, it sounds like a natural flow to me and it certainly belongs to their music. "Close In The Dark" starts with more moody flute playing and it's very easy to comprehend, although it also contains a lot of spoken word parts. I think, that it's the guitar riffs that do the trick here. It fiddles along, giving you a good mood, while the wizard speaks out the lyrics in this song, which sounds very magical. "Red Line" is on next, which has some influences of the underestimated guys of the British doomy NWOBHM outfit PAGAN ALTAR. It sounds dark, very doomy, occult and also heavy and it still has got that vintage style, which feels like it has been recorded back in 1978. It would be cool, if DARK WIZARD would be seen on stage as well. Maybe not with the full horror show like in the early days, but with some wizard-type of horror elements implemented in their show, because that's really DARK WIZARD. The next song "Burn Away The Goodness" will possibly blow you away, because of the great riffs. The speed change introduces you to the guitar solo. "Dark Days" sounds dark and doomy and it shows that DARK WIZARD will easily impress and that they'll contain this high level, until the end of this album. There are no fillers here and it has many beautiful little diamonds from the beginning until the very end. "Running Out Of Time" is the last diamond in the rough, before it slowly fades away. It's another song soaked with a mysterious vocal line and the subtle mix of horror, doom and psychedelic influences, that could have been from the seventies. The last notes are the maniacal vocals of Egbert and after that there is a sudden stop. I really hope that the next album won't take them another thirty plus years in the making. On the other hand, I'd rather wait for another brilliant album like this one, than a monstrosity. The artwork on "Close In The Dark" is dark and an aurora borealis is hanging in the sky. I also see a fallen star and if you have a good look, you will also see the dark wizard disappear in the night. Don't stay away for too long, wizard, but please return as glorious as you did here. This sure is the ultimate soundtrack for an evening of occult pleasure. DARK WIZARD consists of Marcel Hop on guitars, Egbert Berenst on vocals, Tony White on drums and Kees Reinders on bass and vocals. Douwe Ziel plays the flute on this album, by the way. The album is dedicated to Hans Pol, founder member of DARK WIZARD, who passed away in 2016. Rest in peace, Hans - we miss you! Website: http://www.facebook.com/darkwizard.holland.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE January 29, 2019:

STEEL SHOCK-With Fire & Steel (Alone Records)
I just recovered from the debut album by STEEL SHOCK and at breakneck speed, the band released a follow up to one of the most true heavy metal albums of 2017 "For Battle To Metal". This brand new album is done "With Fire & Steel" and I think that's why the band used it as the album title. Ten brand new songs are being hammered into your brain. The true heavy metal spirit remained. When you are familiar with the band members, this doesn't come as a surprise at all. Knowing guitarist Martjo Whirewolf and vocalist Nima Metalheart for many years now, it's quite obvious that these warriors have got metal blood running through their veins. Rumor has it that these lyrics were written in blood with a heavy metal pencil. That is the way heavy metal is supposed to be in 2019. No alternative choir vocals, keyboards or anything that is getting close to modern hypes or whatsoever. Instead, these fifty minutes are packed with solid heavy metal, divided over ten new commandments of pure steel. What else should we call these songs in the modern 2019 language? So, are you prepared to receive your second STEEL SHOCK therapy?? Just hit the 'play' button and fasten your freaking seatbelts, because we will drive through all possible sound barriers and give you a full treatment for "With Fire & Steel". The spoken word intro is being accompanied by thunder and lightning. This is how I like it. The song is called "Hammer Battalion" and it will pierce your eardrums at once. Think about a combination of WIZARD, PRIMAL FEAR and ROSS THE BOSS and you will get very close to the sound of it. And if your head doesn't go up and down from excitement, then turn on your hearing device, you pussies or are you afraid of banging your head to this haunting rhythm? It just can't get any better than that. These warrior songs will make you stronger, when marching to the battlefield in the cold and pouring rain. Guitar solos are coming from everywhere. You can run, but you can't hide. You have arrived at the war field and it's hell out there. It's the hammer battalion that has crossed your path, which will stick to your mind, once you've heard it. In "With Fire & Steel" you are facing the enemy on the battlefield. It's good to know that you have heavy metal warriors like Martjo and Lijon in your army. Think about JUDAS PRIEST in their heydays here. Well, be honest, did the PRIEST ever sound bad at all? I hear influences of many great "British Steel" anthems, like "Steeler" and the spoken word part here fits just perfect in this 'stand proud for metal' song, which also includes some fiery guitar licks of the aforementioned warriors of steel. Their guitar attacks are more vicious than an axe or a sword. And if this won't do the trick, the high-pitched vocals of Nima surely will. The next song "Metal Avengers" will invade your eardrums and I think that you will sing along to it right away. It has also got some PRIEST type of twin guitar attacks, which will easily become a crowd's favorite, when playing live. These metal avengers will be thy guide and they're damn proud of it. Obviously, these guys are not bound to stick to one particular metal style only. Don't be surprised, when you'll hear some BLACK SABBATH type of riffs in "Blade Of Flames". The heat is on and they sound absolute killer. Then another icy scream leaves Nima's throat. Not many Dutch singers have the charisma of this front man with the golden lungs. The lyrics come straight from his heart and when he says that you have to kneel before him, you're already on your knees. In the wink of an eye, he will raise his flaming blade and screams another warrior anthem right at you. Hear the swords of thundering steel that are being used to create more power. They're sharpened by the riffs of Martjo and Lijon and striking deadly in each song. "Desolation Angels" is dominated by the biting guitar licks of Martjo and Lijon. It sounds even more aggressive than hydrochloric acid. It will burn the flesh off your bones and will rip your spine out. The pounding sound in "Savage Retribution" will probably appeal to many MANOWAR fans out there. "The Blood On Thy Shield" is the ultimate salute for the warriors in the field. In my perception, I translated it to the world of today. It's like a tribute to all the metal fans that like to visit the small clubs to see their favorite band. Those people, who write with passion about the many unknown and unsigned bands, that everybody should know about. And also to those, who buy the CD and the vinyl version of their favorite band, because it's the only way that they will survive in a world, where the music scene is dominated by nitwits, that spend millions of dollars or euros to so-called musicians, that create music with a computer and tour the world with a memory stick in their back pocket. It's a salute to the ones that defend their music through thick and thin. Together they are an army of soul survivors defending their love for heavy metal. I think that because of them, a band like STEEL SHOCK and many other underground metal bands for that matter are still there. The union of friendship and respect for one another is extremely high. Needless to say, that together they are an unbeatable army. They have the blood of the non-believers on their shield, but that won't hold them back from fighting until the last man is standing. The fast and loud pounding metal in "Knock 'Em Down" will tell you exactly what to do in the lyrics. Need I say more? I guess not. Well, in the next battle hymn, I'd better warm you upfront that these guys with the vicious guitars will definitely use their weapons. In "The Battle Rages On (With Fire & Steel Part II)" it's quite obvious, that the battle simply ain't over yet. The last song on this stunning second album is called "Anointed With Steel". It's time for more flesh ripping riffs, next to some thunderous drum rolls, because how could a metal ride do well without the keepers of the holy metal rhythm? Drummer E. Klipse and bassplayer Marcel Aerodyne protect the rhythm section and set out the pace and they do it proud and loud. I raise my sword to these fearless metal brothers that plunder the thickest metal threads on the bulldozer bass and pound the loudest beats on the metal drums. When the last notes have faded away, the album closes with a loud BANG. After a bit over fifty minutes, this second march to success is a true fact and there are only winners here. STEEL SHOCK will always be winners, because they believe in what they're doing and they stand proud amongst the no-hopers and wannabees in this scene. They've got the real power and the glory and this is surely reflecting in the ten great new songs here. Of course the listener is a winner too, because we don't want to hear any more fake bands for that matter. We want to hear true metal and STEEL SHOCK has set out the standard for 2019 with this album, which is hard to be topped. These five guys are bound for glory and can't be stopped. If you want to survive this true metal attack, then you'd better arm yourself to the teeth. The five legendary STEEL SHOCKERs that provide you this solid steel CD are Nima Metalheart on vocals, Martjo Whirlwolf on guitars, Lijon Knight on guitars, Marcel Aerodyne on bass and E. Klipse on drums. Website: http://www.steelshock.com or http://www.facebook.com/shockwaveofsteel. Go and find this masterpiece at your local record shop or buy it online. The artwork of this second release already invites you to buy this true metal gem. The album is produced, mix & mastered by Jörg Uken (ANVIL, STORMWARRIOR, GOD DETHRONED, GLORYFUL) at the Soundlodge Studio in Germany and they did an excellent job here. Even my neighbors like it. It's a 'must have' for every devoted old school and true heavy metal fan.
(9,2/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE January 04, 2019:

ATTILA-Weapons Of Extermination (re-release) (Mosh Over Records)
It took some time, but we can gladly say that this album of ATTILA has finally seen the light of day on CD. Not only their four track EP "Weapons Of Extermination" is there, but the CD has twelve (!!!) - yeah, you read that right - bonus tracks. Among these bonus tracks are the songs that got on the "Violent Streets" EP. Altogether, it's worthy of seventy-five minutes of some unbelievable technical heavy metal, which is not that easy to describe at times. Let's first focus on the four songs from the "Weapons Of Extermination" EP, for which they recently did a CD presentation at the Noot in Hoogland. The only song that they played that night was the opener of this fine compilation album, "Death Racer". The many speed changes and instrumental parts are exactly the way I remember this band from near Amersfoort. They aren't even trying to sound catchy, they will impress their listeners much more by putting innovative technical details in their metal sound, as that's still the foundation of their music. "Night Angel" contains some awesome guitar licks by Herbie Vanderloo, who I think has always been an underrated musician. In fact (and that's my personal opinion), the whole band has been rather underrated for that matter, because they released some killer songs throughout the years and only got credit for that in the underground scene, that really respected their sometimes strange technical outings. Did they name the song "No Respect" after that phenomenon? I don't think so, but it still is the next song here. Just listen to the awesome axe work in this incredible song. This is killer stuff. Herbie Vanderloo and bassist Arjan Michels were some of the guest musicians that played on FRANKIE WOODHOUSE's "Something In The Air", which still stands firmly on top of the all-time best Dutch metal albums in 2018. This secures them an untouchable reputation, I guess. The guitar explosion at the beginning of title track "Weapons Of Extermination" is only just the beginning. In fact, this song is one lengthy guitar explosion for that matter. Obviously, it's the ultimate highlight of this four track EP. However, there is a lot more to enjoy here. The twelve bonus songs start off with the fast and furious "Call Of The Challenger". Let's enjoy some speed changes and the furious guitar playing, while you can. Don't bother to try this at home, because this is only for the gifted and well-experienced musicians on this planet. It's one of the best bonus tracks, in my opinion. They don't hold back any challenges and they even wrote some songs about the "Bermuda Triangle". Perhaps that is where they've been hiding themselves, when they were out of the radar for a while. The guitar solo here sounds like a whirlwind of chords indeed. While in "Attila", they like to introduce the band to you. So who are these hard working lads? We have Herbie Vanderloo on guitars, Arjan Michels on bass and Ton Holtewes on drums. Well, now you know who's responsible for all these amazing songs. "Flight Of The Phoenix" is another killer track with more nice mood changes. These are all remastered demo recordings and the sound quality is absolutely perfect. Just listen to a song, like "Sad Cry" which builds itself up very nicely. This slow ballad type of song gets more power halfway through and shows that ATTILA is also capable of writing more sensitive and melodic songs. The guitar solo is fast and shows the amazing Herbie at his very best. The speed and mood changes are still there, but they are just more subtle. The beginning of "Nighttime" reminds me a little of "Blitzkrieg" by BLITZKRIEG, although I must state that I never heard any NWOBHM influences before in the sound of ATTILA, so this comparison really stops after that. Most of the time, my mind goes out to the more technical stuff of for example bands, like WATCHTOWER, MEKONG DELTA or HADES. And you'll hear some other influences as well here and there. The furious guitar licks by Herbie will definitely drive you insane and in a good way. And what about those vocals in "Southern Woods"? My thoughts directly go out to an excellent singer like UFO's Phil Mogg. Yes, it's that great. The music sounds way different than UFO though. Anyway, "Legions Of Justice" continues with some amazing guitar solos that go beyond all human comprehension. It's too technical for a large crowd, but this is truly stuff for connoisseurs. It's fast, faster, fastest and so like Herbie. "Attack Of The Natural Forces" is another ear attack, in which the band will really blow you away in a second without a doubt. The title track of the EP that is captured here among the other reworked demos, is on next and it's called "Violent Streets". Sometimes, their fast music sounded a bit thrashy at times and this worked just fine, as far as I'm concerned. "Enter The Lightning" continues with some speedy drum beats and more furious riffs. In "Fight For Your Rights", the knifes have been sharpened one more time and the band will fight themselves to a great climax. The songs of ATTILA have never been catchy. Maybe that is why they were never able to reach gold. At least, their music comes straight from the heart and it really belongs to the very finest of the Dutch underground metal scene for sure. Their technical metal contains a lot of power and they deliver some very high quality tunes. I'm glad that this original four track piece of art is finally released. "Triad" is on next and I'm looking forward to that a lot as well. ATTILA consists of Herbie Vanderloo on guitar and vocals, Arjan Michels on bass and Ton Holtewes on drums. Next to the lyrics of all thirteen songs, the CD booklet contains a lot of nice pix, which is a real 'must have' to all music fans out there, technical minded or not. Website: http://www.facebook.com/attilanl.
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

AUGUST LIFE-New Eternity (PT78 Records)
AUGUST LIFE is a collaboration of Gert Nijboer (HIGHWAY CHILE) and Bryan Ketelaars (ARMAGEDDON). With a little help from their friends, they recorded this amazing album called "New Eternity", where metal comes together with melody and strong powerful riffs. The ten songs are worthy of a bit over fifty minutes of awesome progressive melodic heavy metal. It's the world where QUEENSRYCHE, RAINBOW, SAVATAGE and DIO meet and where the musical clock will tick forever and nothing can stop this well-talented band. When I look at the artwork of this release, it's quite obvious that we’re not dealing with a regular straight forward heavy metal band, but one that likes to explore the many different sides of this genre. Opener and title track "New Eternity" already asks for a second spin. The vocals, riffs, big guitar sound and the powerful drum beats are topped by a ditto production of nobody else but Jack Nobelen of Jack's Place and ex-HORIZON and ex-SAVAGE. It's such a pleasure to listen to this. AUGUST LIFE created a song that will blow you away immediately. After the intro, you are already sitting on the edge of your seat waiting what's next. "Coming Home" has a lot of DIO influences from his heydays, including some amazing guitar work. It’s melodic yet groovy enough to bang your head upon. "Draw The Line" contains a great spoken word part, which creates a dark atmosphere. The whistling part that follows keeps the song in balance. The instrumental part holds a crown of flashing guitar work. QUEENSRYCHE fans might like this a lot, I think. Just listen to the beautiful guitar parts after the spoken word part. This could have been on any early QUEENSRYCHE album, while the guitar solo creates the more metal part in this song. "Angels Of War" starts off with a radio announcement. It's a straight forward rocker that marches out of your speakers like a wild rhino. It has this all destroying beat and an even more pulverizing guitar part. What a monstrous and vicious ear attack this is. And the rage goes on in "Immortalized". Right in the middle, there is a sudden change and a more bluesy type of ballad takes over. It's only a short stop and once you finally realize what just happened here, the song returns to the original loud bashing part. This is what I like a lot. Things are happening here that you can't foresee and can't predict. You can expect the unexpected and prove is given in this particular song. AYREON also has got some of these special moments on his albums and I guess that Lucassen is definitely on the list of influences that may not be missed here. "Unstoppable Force" is an amazing beauty. It sounds modest and it's a piece of rest for that matter, but it gave me goosebumps all over. Music has the ability to touch you deep down inside, as this one did with me. The feeling this guitar solo is being played here is almost sensible. "Love/New Life" contains an impressive instrumental part, which lifts the song up to a much higher level. And the clock ticks on and brings us to the RAINBOW type of song, called "Turn Back Time", which sounds very catchy. Maybe it's even suitable to sing along to this one. Obviously, the music of AUGUST LFE can move into every direction possible and that's what makes this album so great. And the groove goes on, too. Just listen to the mighty riffs of "Dead End", they sound really amazing to me. Would you expect some angel-like female voices at the end of this groovy riff monster? I don't think so, but I guess you'd better think twice. Another prove that you can expect the unexpected here. Anyway, before you know it, we've arrived at the seclusion of "New Eternity" with a song, called "Nevermore". This has some QUEENSRYCHE's "Silent Lucidity" influences all over and it made me silent and humble. This is a great release by some very gifted musicians. Next to Gert Nijboer (HIGHWAY CHILE, DEATHRIDERS, THE DUTCH DISCIPLES) on guitar and Bryan Ketelaars (ARMAGEDDON, AURACLE) on vocals, there are guest performances by Hans in 't Zand on drums, Rob van der Loo on bass, Peter Vink on bass, Marchell Remeeus on bass, Harry den Hartog on bass guitar, Gerald Vos on keyboards, Amelie Mangelschots on background vocals, Madicken de Vries on background vocals, Samantha Greenwood on backing vocals, Hein van Berkel on piano and Jacqueline Hamelink on cello. Website: http://www.augustlife.nl or http://www.facebook.com/augustlifeband.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

BURNING-The P.I.D. Files (EP) (independent)
Is he alive or dead? BEATLES frontman Paul McCartney was rumored to be dead. He died in a car accident in 1966 and many clues pointed into the direction that Paul has been replaced by a lookalike. The speculation that Paul is no more among us has been used for the new EP of BURNING. Their debut album received many raving reviews and the band supported bands like DANKO JONES, DIAMOND HEAD and TYGERS OF PAN TANG. The latter is not a big surprise, since BURNING covered "Killers" on their first single, "Something Lurking In The Dark". Four brand new songs were recorded and the conspiracy theory about the death of sir Paul has been used as a concept for this EP. Bronja Hoffschlag wrote some of the lyrics and they shot an incredible video for one of the tracks. The artwork was done by Marion van der Laan. The right half of the painting is Paul McCartney, as we know him from his younger days, while the left half is how he would look like right now, when the conspiracy theory was right. We will talk about the video clip later on. Let's have a closer look first at the music on this EP, which contains four songs and is worthy of a bit over seventeen minutes. The music is certainly not influenced by Paul McCartney or the BEATLES for that matter, as you will notice, when hearing the first riffs in opener "Paul". You will get the same shivers running down your spine, while listening to the lyrics and the TYGERS OF PAN TANG influenced NOWDHM music style of BURNING with ditto guitar solos. This up-tempo song definitely gives you some food for thought. What do you think yourself? Is Sir Paul still alive and what really happened in 1966?? I guess, we will never know. The doomy riffs in "On The Run" will surely make your mind go out to BLACK SABBATH, but in the case of BURNING, I should opt more for a band like WITCHFINDER GENERAL. Although I must admit that Hugo's voice has got some similarities with the voice of Ozzy Osbourne in this track. I really love the speed change in "Angels Of The Universe", which actually starts out as any other NWOBHM track, but then it suddenly gets a more slow twist. It even gets better, because it ends with an acoustic part. There is a lot of stuff happening here. The best is saved for last. The band is pounding some real loud metal in "Buried" and they're playing at full speed. The spooky spoken word part is exactly what the song needs to make it special. The riffs that follow next are truly awesome. To me, this is by far the best out of four. I love it loud and it's as simple as that. I must admit, that I had a great time with this four track EP. BURNING already astonished me with their video clip for "Something Lurking In The Dark", and I just have to review their video clip for "Paul" here too. It's a bonus for all the BURNING fans out there and I'm sure that their fan base is growing fast with this new release. A girl is sitting in her bedroom playing the records of the BEATLES. Suddenly, her eye catches two different photos of Paul on various albums. She is getting a strange feeling that something is going on here and she starts to investigate this weird situation. There are differences in the eyes and the girl is getting really upset. She cuts out a lot of pictures from Paul and uses them as evidence, that something just isn't right. I won't reveal the end and you just have to see the video on the internet. Unfortunately, we won't get an answer, if Paul is really dead or not. I hope you didn't expect that. All in all, we do like the concept very much and the theory behind it and of course the bloody good music. Paul McCartney's new album is called "Egypt Station". I'd rather listen to "The P.I.D. Files" by BURNING instead. The EP is also available on vinyl, as a limited edition of 300 copies only. Don't miss it! BURNING consists of Hugo Koch on vocals, Renee Knegt on guitar, Johnny Karst on guitar, Robin Zinger on bass and Max Prevoo on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/burningmetalband.
(8,3/10- Toine van Poorten)

EAR DANGER-Storming The Gates (EP) (Headbangers Records)
This review is a combination of the brand new four track EP of EAR DANGER, released by Headbangers Records and the expanded cassette version, which contains four rare bonus tracks. EAR DANGER has been in charge since 1981 and obviously, you can hear that in their rather mature sound. It has got a strong connection to the early days of heavy metal. It's a true flashback to the time when heavy metal was still considered underground and only for the filthy rockers. Nowadays, it seems to be more common, that you are a hard rock fan. It's fancy to wear a KISS t-shirt or walk around with the logo of METALLICA on your chest. That's not the case with these guys though and especially the driving force behind EAR DANGER, Matt Verschoor. He is cool at heart and every time when the band plays live, he chooses his weapon carefully to attack the audience, just like in 1981 when the band was founded. Nothing really changed in the life of this rocker. After thirty-seven years, he is still storming the gates fully focused. Backed by partner-in-crime Dick Vijgen on drums and three younger band members, he still conquers the battlefields in Holland by torturing the ear drums of the poor audience. If this doesn't deserve respect, then you didn't understand what I'm saying. The four tracks here are EAR DANGER at full force. They start off with "Wave The Flag", a song which contains some very strong riffs, that could even make SAXON be proud of them. The NWOBHM atmosphere is all around and you can't go wrong here. Then the brilliancy of EAR DANGER takes over and a completely unexpected speed change in the middle of the song is a fact. It sounds truly amazing and lifts the song up to a killer track, including an amazing guitar solo. What a great opener! Title track "Storming The Gates" is on next and you'll hear an army of soldiers and wicked warriors storming the gates of the enemy. It's a battle, they just can't lose. The gates will open soon, because they can't stand the force of this battering ram. The soldiers that are violently attacking the gates of the enemy are pictured on the cover of this EP. You don't want them as your enemy, I guess. The energetic riffs in this song are just perfect to bang your head upon. The classy guitar work has that typical MALMSTEEN type of sound that I like a lot, however the song itself sounds more like the brute force that a band like for example RIOT carries out. "Blood On The Beach" is about World War II and it has a spoken word part taken from a radio news report. My thoughts go out to IRON MAIDEN at first, but I think it goes deeper and it has some of the early ANGEL WITCH and WITCHFYNDE influences. ANGEL WITCH has always been the masters of gore blood stories, which gives me an ominous feeling. This song has the same effect on me. "Wall Of Shields" is totally different in a way. It has got the power of MOTÖRHEAD and it's a bit punky in the short shouts. It's absolutely in the NWOBHM style, although it has more the dynamics of a band like BLITZKRIEG. Once again the song is beefed up by some marvelous guitar work and some mind-boggling bass parts of the maestro himself. Four killer tracks, that will surely please every devoted EAR DANGER adept. This is my review of the EP release, but I suggest you should read on for more EAR DANGER songs from the special cassette release. EAR DANGER released a special cassette version of the album, which contains four rare tracks on the B-side. A real must have for every die-hard fan of this cult outfit. Just check out the overwhelming version of "Thousand Days In Sodom" from that awesome demo, that the band recorded in 2007. Lesley van Toor is on vocals here and Karina Wolf on lead guitar. I wonder what happened to her?!? The song has got nothing at all to do with the VENOM song that has the same title but it sure sounds great to me. Karina really knows to hit them strings right here. This line-up played a killer set at the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival in 2008, whereas they shared the bill with PORTRAIT, ROADKILL, GILGAMESJ, WIZARD and CLOVEN HOOF. Those were the days and great memories! I still remember that Karina was quite nervous for this gig. This particular song also got on their "Full Blast At Last" album in a different version, by the way. "You Need Warmth" is taken from the pre-production of this amazing album, which was recorded in 2010. It was also on the band’s second demo from 1983, next to their most well-known track, "Beelzebub's Friend". This version features Leon Lohman on vocals, who's got some amazing high pull outs for us in his high hat. The fast and straight forward 'Give 'Em Hell" didn't make it on the "Full Blast At Last" release of 2011 and it was also captured on this aforementioned second demo. And hell no, there is not a reference to the WITCHFYNDE song with the same title. It matches very well though with the other songs from that great heavy metal album. It's a shame that it was left out, but it's on this tape so you can listen to it again. I must admit that by listening to these old songs I get a very nostalgic feeling that makes me wish for these early days a lot. It would be really great to have those three demos altogether on one CD. I guess, that would be a wish of every EAR DANGER fan, so obviously I'm very pleased with these four tracks here. The last song is rather exclusive one, because it was recorded live on July 27th at the Little Devil in Tilburg. It captures the new singer, Sander Pastoor, in one of my personal favorite EAR DANGER songs and probably is also a true and very strong statement, "Bound By The Law (Of Heavy Metal)". Aren't we all tied to this and share the love for heavy metal?! This song represents everything that EAR DANGER stands for and therefore it's the ultimate closer on this tape and this review. Both horns up for EAR DANGER, because they have released a great EP, which proves that they still rock at full force. I didn't expect anything less. Quick deciders can still order a copy of these '100 copies only tape' with four exclusive rare bonus tracks. Just check out their Facebook site for availability. I will give this disc another spin, because it's killer stuff. EAR DANGER consists of Matt Verschoor on bass and backing vocals, Dick Vijgen on drums, Leon Lohman on guitar and vocals, Antal Lohman on guitar and Sander Pastoor on vocals. Website: http|://www.facebook.com/eardanger
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)

MAESTRO-Can't Stop (Thinkin' Bout You" (EP) (Metalization)
It's so good to see, that Orion Roos (VORTEX) decided to get MAESTRO moving again where they left off. Their material has actually never seen the light of day, at least not on CD. This has finally changed after so many years and right now we are reviewing their four track EP release, worthy of a bit over eighteen minutes. The space shuttle on the cover of the EP has landed and it looks beautiful. The booklet contains a lot of great pics, however it's the music that counts and I think that we're in for a treat here, too. Vocalist Anne Blouw has got a great voice and these first riffs already show that we're dealing with a melodic metal band here with a very catchy approach. Their sound has some influences of QUIET RIOT ("Slick Black Cadillac") for that matter. The catchy influences are also there in the title track and opener of this EP "Can’t Stop (Thinkin' Bout You)" that switches rock with A.O.R. I hear some BOSTON influences here and there, although MAESTRO's sound is not that big and more in the details. I also love the very raw guitar work, that keeps the song in balance. The guitar part, that starts "Huntin'" could very well be from Adrian Vandenberg. It sounds truly amazing and you can hardly tell the difference. It's there that the comparison stops though. The melodic rock has got a fine groove and again the guitar parts lift the song up to far above average. There are some progressive parts there, which will introduce you to an instrumental part, including a nice guitar solo. After that, MAESTRO steps into "The Time Machine". The straight forward rock is easy on the ear, yet not that catchy. There are some distorted vocal parts as well, but they fit in quite well here. The slightly fuzzy guitar part by Orion sounds excellent and I love the mood change in this song. The EP closes with the alternate version of "Can't Stop (Thinkin' Bout You)", which is fifteen seconds longer than the other version, by the way. You have to admit that this song is extremely catchy and it will stick to your mind at once. There is a short piano part added to the song as well. Their full-length album will be released in 2019, but this four track EP is a great appetizer and it will surely make the wait a lot easier, I guess. MAESTRO is back, they'll be playing some live shows in 2019 and there is a full-length album in the making. What more can you ask for? MAESTRO consists of Anne Blouw on vocals, Orion Roos on guitars, Marlon van Balen on guitars, Peter Douwenga on bass and Jahrin Kersten on drums. Website: http://www.bandmaestro.com or http://www.facebook.com.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)

MORDANCY-The Anthology 1989 - 1993 (Headbangers Records)
This is the legacy that MORDANCY left behind after the band split up in 1993. The first six songs of this eleven track compilation were recorded in 1992 and shows that MORDANCY was not just an average death metal band. They explored the technical side of death metal. Starting from the amazing bass part and the short drum solo in opener "Macabre Justice", you'll already get some kind of idea that this will be an adventurous ride. There are brutal death metal parts with the dark growls of Angelo, but also fascinating musical outings with many speed and mood changes. What a great opener. "White Magic's Kin" contains more crying guitar moves, before the evil growls are starting. These two worlds collided in the early nineties and you would hear the brutal and progressive parts at the same time. Obviously, that was something that MORDANCY understood very well. The death metal scene in Zeeland was rich and the countless bands from that scene were absolutely masters in that particular music style. I'd like to refer to bands LYCANTHROPE, PARALYSIS and GOREFEST for that matter. "Chronic(le) Agony" continues here and once again we're able to enjoy these mood changes, but the trashy side is the main focus in this very brutal sounding track. "Lonely" is another mix of the brutal sounding vocals that are spit into the microphone and the guitar parts that sometimes are trying to bring some subtlety into the song. The brutality wins though, what else would you think? But it's the suppleness these guitar players handle their instruments, which catch my attention most. The dark growls in "Unsociable" dominate the song and influences of NAPALM DEATH are close by, when the polka beats are changing in the slower riffs. It shows the band in all its brutal ways. These speed and mood changes became the trademark of the band. The last loud drum bashes sound like a thunder striking under a clear blue sky. "Violent By Nature Or Nurture" is the final violent outing of the recordings, that took place in 1992 in the studio of Jack Nobelen in Meerle, Belgium. The live songs have been recorded a year before, actually in 1991 in Hulst. The good sound quality of the PRONG medley shows the power that MORDANCY had in a live setting. The medley contains the songs "Freezer Burn" and "Decay", which is as fast as lightning. To me, their best song is "Macabre Justice" from the 1992 recording that you just heard. It closes this short but very spectacular live recording, which also contains some innovative breaks. Even the drum solo in the beginning wasn't skipped. The last part of this awesome compilation is a rehearsal of the band from 1993, recorded in Westdorpe. In "Scarred For Life", we will hear the progressive side of the band. Heavy riffs have been accompanied by some innovative breaks and more sudden speed changes. The band proves that there is enough fun during their rehearsals. Who is shouting 'homo' there??? (lol). At the same time, the impressive instrumental parts show that the band is also in a very creative mood and some parts are very promising. I am glad that this rehearsal has made it to this CD. In "Revenge", the band has added some slow doomy elements to their music. The maniacal growls remained. The fast part at the end is probably meant to let of some steam and to destroy your study room in half a minute. It rages on like a brutal storm. Two new members have joined the band by now. The bass parts are being played by Erwin van Dorsselaer and Jimmy van Landeghem plays the guitar. The last song here is called "Radical" and I must admit that their music, despite the intense brutality it still has, has made a very huge step forward. Their musical ideas were perhaps even ahead of its time. There are plenty of brutal death metal bands around in the metal scene, but not too many bands dared to put some technical progressive elements into their music. MORDANCY took their chance and this is the final result of their hard work in Terneuzen area. MORDANCY consisted of Angelo de Bruijn on vocals, Frank Schobben on guitar, Mischa Serrarens on drums, Jan Verdoorn on bass and Robert-Jan Jansen on guitar. The inlay of this fantastic compilation contains some great pics and a short interview with the band from Headbangers Zine issue #9. This CD is made to play as loud as hell.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)

PICTURE- 40 Years Heavy Metal Ears Live !! (Pure Steel Records)
What can I say that isn't already said about these living legends? Seeing PICTURE in many different formations, I always hoped that the original line-up would team up again. Not that I didn't like the other line-ups of PICTURE. On the contrary, there was always something happening around this mega metal band from the lowlands. And when the news finally came, that the reunion of the original line-up was a fact, I felt like being in hard rock heaven. The live show that they captured here has been the first one of the original line-up, recorded in Ridderkerk in 2017. Actually, it was the second show, because there was a try-out show earlier as well, which was only for people, who were invited to their rehearsal studio. I already knew what to expect, but I think that I'm not fooling you, when I am saying that this is simply the best show, that they've ever played. And I heard many people say the same thing. It was recorded live and pressed on a silver disc, so everybody can relive these magical moments, whenever they want to. Seventy-five plus minutes of PICTURE classics in a live setting, what more can you ask for? The intro tape is playing and the venue is getting ready for the rulers of the Dutch heavy metal scene: PICTURE. There can't be any arguments about the song choices, because everything you ever wanted to hear is there. When the band opens with "You Are All Alone", the magic is there right from the start. The band is not only consisting of the original members but they also recruited an extra guitar player in their ranks, namely Appie de Gelder, who already played with singer Ronald van Prooijen in ROSLYN. The guitarists share the solos almost equally and they constantly keep each other sharp with their flashing duels. Ronald's voice is in an excellent shape and the band is ready to attack. "Get Back Or You Fall" is a very nice surprise, that you don't hear that much, but you can still sing it word by word. That's the magic of the old PICTURE songs. Riff master Jan Bechtum introduces "Message From Hell" with a slow start, before cranking out the well-known riffs of this fast classic tune. Just listen to the thundering drums by Laurens 'Bakkie' Bakker. He's the driving force behind the rhythm section, together with bass beast Rinus Vreugdenhill. It's a tough job to play fast rhythms like that, but Bakkie is not afraid of anything. He even tends to play them faster and poke up the heat a little for the guitarists. He's a real wrecking machine. "Night Hunter" continues next and if you listen to these recordings, you can tell that you're listening to Holland's best heavy metal band ever and there is no doubt about it. Nostalgic feelings will go through your mind, while listening to these songs. The band is not only staying true to their songs, but the poses and strong energy are still there, like in the old days. This is the way PICTURE sounded and looked like in the early eighties. Nothing has changed as a matter of fact. It's a throwback in time and to my youth. Same power, same energy, same band, life can be very simple at times. Only this time with fifty shades of grey hair for band and their fans, but who gives a f*ck anyway?! At least, if there is some hair left. "The Hangman" contains these magic and very recognizable riffs by Jan. You can tell that it's PICTURE, right from the start. That's the power of this band. They created a sound that nobody would be able to copy. It's their own blueprint and nobody could touch it, unless you have Jan, Rinus, Bakkie and Ronald in your band. "Nighttiger" is a furious rocker with more inhuman drum beats by Bakkie. Is he fast or what? He is the night tiger himself, fast as a shark and vicious as a beast! One of my own personal favorites from the early days is the fast, wild and furious headbanger "No, No, No", and they play it faster than ever before. It sounds hot, wet and dripping with sweat. Amazing, what a great power!! I still remember that Big Al (Alfred Lagarde) introduced us to the album in his radio show "Betonuur", and the band was invited in the studio. When they played this song, I almost fell off my chair. WTF was that?!! PICTURE set the standard for real heavy metal in Holland and nobody could ever reach that same level. They blew away every fuse in my radio at the time and the shot of adrenaline that I got was one that would never ever go away. That's what music can do to you. Otherwise I would have been a freaking MADONNA fan. Thank you, God, big Al and Hanneke Kappen, that didn't happen. Anyway, the loud barking of a wild dog introduces you to "Old Dog, New Tricks" and I'm still glad that they play it in their live shows. It's from the time, when Jan Bechtum and Rob van Enkhuizen shared the guitar parts in the band. I saw some amazing gigs of that line-up. Jan's solo spot comes next. Just listen to his playing. Now you know why I keep calling him the Dutch Ritchie Blackmore. Especially the first strike of them strings could very well be on any RAINBOW album. It's the introduction to "Live By The Sword", which is another timeless anthem, that rocks my world. I am very glad that they used the original sound of the audience on this album, which was not the case on the live album, that they released in 2008. It gives you the feeling that you were there that night, in case you weren't. With a nice intro, "Eternal Dark" is being introduced. It gave the band another boost, when HAMMERFALL decided to cover it twenty years ago. They were young and their star was rising fast and they knew that this was how heavy metal was supposed to sound. If a shooting star like that covers your song, it expands your fan base really big time. The band probably didn't need that, but it also introduced the band to many youngsters who didn't know them yet, which is a good thing. PICTURE has been a great influence to many metal bands and they still are for that matter. The pumping bass sound of Rien is felt in the stomach and that's the way it's supposed to be. A riff to kill and the song is made to sing along. Once again "Diamond Dreamer" starts off with one of the riffs that comes from guitar magician Jan. It's from the time that former HAMMERHEAD singer Schmoulik Avigal was still their vocalist. Ronald however is not afraid to sing the songs that were originally intended for Schmoulik and Pete Lovell. He's an all-rounder for that matter and the perfect frontman. He easily becomes one with the crowd and your soulmate until the last notes fade away into the deep dark night. The album is called after the next song. Forty years of "Heavy Metal Ears". It's incredible and you can easily feel the enthusiasm of the people singing along to this forty years anniversary track. Forty years of PICTURE. I'd really like to go for another forty years, simply because I can't live without this ultimate Dutch metal band. "Unemployed" is another classic from that second album that set the standard for the Dutch metal scene. It's also on my list of favorite songs, mainly because of the amazing speed change in the middle of the song, where both guitarists show their skills in some flashing solos. And just listen to an amazing drum part of Bakkie that gets it all going. Has this man got four legs and four arms, just like drum octopus Cozy Powell? Also, there are the high pull outs by Ronald. What a killer track! And if you think that this is amazing, you just didn't hear nothing yet. "Bombers" will always be everyone's favorite song and you can ask any PICTURE fan from around the world. This song, taken from their first album, has got it all. It has got the fury, the riffs, the sing along part, the Blackmore-esque solo of Jan and also the gorgeous bass part of Rien, Mr. Picture himself. Remember the video clip for this song, recorded at de Bonkelaar in Sliedrecht (where else??)? Next to the band live on stage they'd mixed in some old ladies clapping their hands for this awesome performance. It's really superb and ultra-funny and just feel the energy of this amazing song. This is what PICTURE is all about, captured in five minutes. Nowadays, Rien steps off the stage during this song and mingles with the audience to do his 'bass part'. This is really incredible and every show lives up to that very moment, where the band gets one with the audience. They are the musicians, but they are also one big happy family. "Lady Lightning" is another song from the Schmoulik era and it's also the introduction song of the band. The band closes off with a lengthy instrumental interlude, before the encores will start. In the first one, the band grabs back to the very first album, released in 1980 with "You Can Go". It's one of the two songs, next to "Bombers" that got on the double live "Hard Rock Live" compilation, next to bands like SLADE, RUSH, KISS, GOLDEN EARRING, NEW ADVENTURES, THIN LIZZY, STATUS QUO, JIMI HENDRIX, RAINBOW and PAT TRAVERS. You must have done something right to be featured among these names, I guess. But there's still one more song to go. The CD closes with the killer track, "Spend The Night With You" from that second album. When the dust has settled in Ridderkerk, everybody will drive back home safely and dream about this memorable night, that will always be remembered. And if you want to refresh your memories, this release will surely make it happen. It goes far beyond all human comprehension and it simply can't be topped. Just name me another band that has played with the likes of APRIL WINE, SAXON and TED NUGENT in their early days of existence? Give me the name of the band that played at the Chicago Metal Fest in the US, Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air and next year Bang Your Head in Germany, Sweden Rock, toured South America and even played in Sliedrecht more times than every other band from Sliedrecht (if there is one?)? You won't succeed, because the only answer to this question is PICTURE. This honest reflection of what happened that night in Ridderkerk will stay in my CD player for a very long time. Just to be complete, I will give you the current line-up of PICTURE. The band consists of Appie de Gelder on guitars, Jan Bechtum on guitars, Ronald van Prooijen on vocals, Laurens 'Bakkie' Bakker on drums and Rinus Vreugdenhill on bass guitar. For more info, go to their official page at: http://www.pictureband.nl or http://www.facebook.com/PictureTheOnlyPage. The rating is extremely high, but there always must be something to wish for, even for a band like PICTURE. We love you guys and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
(9,9/10- Toine van Poorten)

RADIATHOR-Decay By Creed (No Dust Records)
RADIATHOR originates from the ashes of MANDATOR and was founded by former members of MANDATOR, DEADHEAD, THANATOS and HOUWITSER. On this album, we hear twelve old school brutal death/thrash metal songs. The name of the band might show some resemblance to MANDATOR, however this band sounds definitely twice as brutal. Because of the connection, I simply can't let this one go. The songs are worthy of over fifty minutes of very powerful, aggressive, dynamic and brutal death/thrash metal. Once you push the 'play' button, a furious ride through the old school vaults of the thrash metal scene is about to happen. There is no turning back now, when the first notes of "Corruption Of Innocence" are hammering down your brains. I just love the amazing guitar solo in this speed metal monster. What a true killer! The beautiful artwork on this CD will really urge you to buy this amazing piece of violence. The skull on the front sleeve looks very aggressive and for once, I can read the band name properly. There's no time to breath, as "Infinite Hate" follows at once with more amazing guitar licks and drum beats, which really must be heard to believe it. If you are fan of the Dutch old school death and thrash metal movement, then you don't need to look any further, because you will immediately recognize the influences of bands like DEAD HEAD, THANATOS and of course MANDATOR. It's time to switch back gear for a moment in "Time To Burn". The hour is near and you'll be burned to death by these skull splitting riffs and dagger sharp guitar solos. The pounding riffs and beats are truly amazing and perfect to bang your head upon. High screaming guitar solos also dominate "Chaotic Breed". This is just what a thrash song needs: it’s fast, it's short and it contains some amazing guitar work. Who can ask for more? In "To Deliver Death", the drummer must be possessed by the beast to deliver such fast drum beats. This is just inhuman. The melodic balance comes from the amazing guitar solo by Walter Tjwa, who formed this amazing old school thrash legion after MANDATOR split up. Sometimes, the vocals appear in pulses, which gives the song a more vicious character. You can literally feel the killer attacking his victim with a knife. Just listen to these brutal growls. This is a mass murderer at work and he is delivering death and destruction at your door, whether you like it or not. "Psychic Playground" on the other hand sounds even more extreme, especially the final screams. Is someone brutally killed or raped? There is no mercy for your poor ears and in "Hellhounds" you can bang your head to the most brutal and filthy death and thrash beats and riffs. "Corronation Of Madness" is definitely one of the highlights here and the sound of war gives this thrash song just that little bit more to become high above average in my book . Also, the vocal parts have been spit out in a pulsating rhythm, which gives it a very brutal character. The classical end is the cherry on the cake. "Capital Punishment" is short, brutal and intense and the blazing Hanneman (former SLAYER guitarist - R.I.P.) type of guitar solos in "Six Feet" are exactly what I am looking for in thrash metal song. The song is dedicated to Rene Bruggeman and Douglas van Sloten. "Toxic Rain" closes the album with the last attack of brutality. It's in a much slower pace, but the intensity is still there. There is also a twelfth song here, which is not mentioned on the CD. I'd like to call it "Outro", because it only has some slow riffs. If you wait a little longer, you'll be rewarded with more though. SEPULTURA's "Slaves Of Pain" is being covered in the last four minutes of this all destroying thrash attack. What a pleasant surprise. If you like it old school thrash metal, without any compromises, then I'd suggest to find yourself a copy of this album and don't wait not longer. RADIATHOR consists of Ralph de Boer on bass and vocals, Walter Tjwa on guitars, Matthijs van de Sande on guitar and Marco de Groot on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/radiathor666.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)

VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS- Rugged And Unplugged (Mascot Records)
To be honest, I'm actually not a big fan of unplugged CD's at all. Especially when bands are trying to be trendy and take their acoustic guitars out and show that they can play rock music without the use of electricity. There are a few exceptions here though. I don't mind listening to RORY GALLAGHER playing an acoustic tune and even with a mandolin he could really do the trick. Many blues guitarists sound indeed very impressive wireless, but in the hard rock and heavy metal scene, I'm not too fond of acoustic releases. PEARL JAM, QUEENSRYCHE and TESLA, to name but a few, lost their dignity when they played some acoustic gigs. This doesn't sound like a good start for the "Rugged And Unplugged" album of VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS but it's not so bad at all. The band has actually been chopped in half for this release. Drummer Mart Nijen Es and bass player Sem Christoffel took some time off to release a new album with their band TEN TIMES A MILLION. On the other hand, Adrian pulled the plug of his electric guitar and put his acoustic guitar on his knee to play eight fantastic songs, while singer Jan Hoving sang the stars of heaven on these acoustic anthems. "Rugged And Unplugged" has been born, containing eight tracks and worthy of about twenty-five minutes of VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS in its purest form. "What Doesn't Kill You" was quite a heavy song on that second MOONKINGS album. I was rather surprised that they performed it live in an acoustic environment during their live shows. It worked very well and the result is the opener on this CD. "Sailing Ships" is a WHITESNAKE classic that was recorded on the first album of the band. Ballads like that are perfectly shaped to play acoustic. It gives the song a special romantic touch. You can't kill a good song like that, so I really love it just because the song is so good. "Out Of Reach" is also taken from that first album and it received an acoustic make-over with a short orchestral input as well. "One Step Behind" is taken from that same album and obviously the band chose the right songs suitable to play in an acoustic kind of way. "Burning Heart", the VANDENBERG classic, may not be missed here as well. I could do with another ballad from Adrian's early days too like "How Long" or "Different Worlds", but this is the most well-known song of them all, I guess. It has been played in many different versions over the years, but this one is really one you can't do without. "Walk Away" is another song that sounds very fine in the acoustic way. The only minor detail is that I miss its power so much. It's very beautiful but I miss something here. This doesn't hold me back from listening to these eight songs over and over again, simply because they have such high quality. "Breathing", the ballad and first single from the debut album is next and before you know it, we have arrived to the very last song, which is "Sundown". This is a short instrumental tune, which proves that when you're a good guitar player, you can even surprise a die-hard headbanger and metal head with a good and very solid acoustic album. And I think that when a musician wasn't as gifted as Adrian (after all, we're talking about one of the best guitarists from Holland, next to the invincible Jan Akkerman), I wouldn't have rated this album so high, as I do now. The passion this album came about, will surely make your skin crawl. I don't need too many unplugged albums, but when it's taken at a low dose, it will really give you a good view what these songs sound like in a naked version. The next album will undoubtedly have the input of Mart and Sem again. This CD has Adrian Vandenberg on acoustic guitars and Jan Hoving on vocals. Put the lights down low, play at high volume and just enjoy it to the max. Go to: http://www.vandenbergsmoonkings.com and http://www.facebook.com/moonkingsband for all the information you want to know about the band. (8/10- Toine van Poorten)

VORTEX-The Lost Tapes Vol. 1 - Open The Gate (cassette) (Postmortem Apocalypse)
Clear the vaults and release everything on tape, that's what VORTEX must have been thinking, when releasing this 'Lost Tapes' cassette. "Open The Gate" starts this lot of pre-recordings of the full-length album "Open The Gate". It's a good start and I hope that a lot of stuff will follow in the very near future, since Martjo once told me that a lot of demos and live material have been digitalized recently. The full album is on this tape, including a bonus track. The songs are played in the same order as on the album and it's a great experience to listen to it again, one by one. Many songs are no longer included in the live set of VORTEX anymore, which make them almost new again. Take opener "Open The Gate" for example. Is there anybody out there, who doesn't know this amazing metal anthem? VORTEX will always be connected to that song. Ask any VORTEX fan to name their favorite song and they will probably mention it. When you go to You Tube, you'll be directed immediately to the amazing video the band shot at Bourtange, a fortified town near Groningen. Mark my words, the cult level of this video is so high, that it's easily one of the coolest videos ever in the Dutch heavy metal scene. The band arrives on motorcycles and plays this song in front of Bourtange and demand to open the gate. Canon balls of destruction fly in the air, vocalist Jurjen is wearing his meanest make-up and spits out the lyrics in a way, that KING DIAMOND would have wished for on his birthday. Then fireworks are exploding, while Martjo 'Whirlwolf' cranks out his amazing guitar solo. After such a loud demand, everybody would open the gates to prevent one big bloody mess. Metal fans of today that watch this video will probably think that it is a bit over the top and too much cliche. However, things were so much different back in 1986. A great image, good songs and the right skills really ensured the success of a band for a greater part. VORTEX has it all, in my opinion. They didn't just have a good image, the best looks (comparable to the likes of KING DIAMOND, JUDAS PRIEST, RUNNING WILD, etc.), they also have the skills to perform a good live show. Many times I've seen a full stage with loud singing metal fans throwing their fists in the air and singing along to this particular song with the band. It really feels like magic every time. I think, the popularity of the band has got a lot to do with the high level of respect that the band has for their fans. There's no success without the dedication of your fans. If you keep that in mind and practice what you preach (hello TESTAMENT!), it will lift you up to a much higher level of popularity, I guess. "Open The Gate" is a crowd's favorite, because it's heavy and it's very accessible. Just check out the riffs at the beginning of the song. It's catchy, it's easy to sing along to and it will cling to your mind immediately. That's the power of this song and you will relive it every time you hear it. At least it does with me and I'm listening to rock and metal for forty-five years now, so I know what I'm talking about. The song even got on British television in the TV quiz "Never Mind The Buzzcocks". I don't remember anymore what specific question was asked there, but the fact alone is already a rarity. Because of that, they reached a huge crowd in England. Anyway, we'll go on with the next track now. Just listen to the high pull out of Jurjen in "Soul Killer", which contains some PRIEST type of screaming guitar licks by Martjo Brongers and Berend Stegeman. The riffs that follow next to the solo are so recognizable back in these days. And once again Jurjen pulls out a high scream. He surely was and is one of the greatest metal vocalists in Holland. His stage presentation is somewhat hilarious at times and he's also not afraid of swaying around with an axe, when this is necessary. Better watch out during the live shows of these heavy metal heroes. "Bastards" starts off with some blazing guitar work and it has a fast pumping rhythm. The guitar solos will surely burn your ears, so be careful as they're very hot and steaming. The rather spooky start of "Horrible Dolls" fits very well to the song title. The Schenker type of guitar solo sounds truly awesome and makes me very proud that VORTEX was one of the first Dutch heavy metal bands. This is top notch material, although it didn't reach the status of opener "Open The Gate". Just check out the riffs in "Growing Power", which also contains the very recognizable vocals of Jurjen. This man is an absolute cult figure and together with Martjo they are the driving force behind this amazing metal outfit from the North. His icy high scream at the end of this song will give you the shivers running down your spine. If this doesn't sound like magic to you, then you’re reading the wrong lines. The first riffs of "Massgrave" have some influences of ACCEPT ("Son Of A Bitch"), but only in the beginning. Obviously, VORTEX presented the ultimate metal sound and they have been influenced by many big names in the metal scene. It closes the A-side of this tape (instead of being on the B-side, which is a mistake). On the B-side, we will encounter a previously unreleased track, which was recorded just in case one other song wouldn't make it to the actual album release, but more about that later on. "Beauty & The Teeth" is another classic tune in my book, for which they released a video in 2014. It's very funny and a real must in your video library. It contains the slightly horror type of vocals of Mr. (Jurjen) Tichelaar and the brilliant instrumental break has a leading role for bass player Jan Klemens and afterwards the guitar tandem plays to kill. I would even like to categorize some of the instrumental parts as progressive rock with references to RUSH and DREAM THEATER. It proves that VORTEX is so much more than just another straight forward heavy metal band. Ok, before we continue here, I'd just like to share another memory with you, to visualize the fun this band has on stage. I don't exactly know anymore which venue or where, but it must have been the period of time, when the band was helped out by the mightiest of all and most funny roadie of the world, Eggo Bosklopper (We love you, Eggo!!). He sang with the band that night and during this particular song, he showed the audience his false teeth and sang the rest of the song without them, holding them in his hands. I nearly wet my pants. This is just one of the many good memories I have about VORTEX and they're hammered in my mind forever. "Glory Gone" is really a piece of melancholy. It could be called a 'ballad type of song', but I don't think that VORTEX plays a ballad, yet it has got some elements in it. The guitar solo is from the category 'Ganzenhaut'. The drum outro of John Roffel, who passed away in 2017, fits perfectly in this song. "Get Out" is the last song on the official album and they fully step on the gas. The song contains some killer guitar solos, which get all the space they need. The best part however is saved for last. "The Breath Down In His Neck" is a previously unreleased song from the "Open The Gate" recording sessions. It's another fast track with some references to the mighty VAN HALEN, at least in the instrumental part. The alternative end is the cherry on the cake here. What more can I say, other than it's been a great ride down memory lane for every long term VORTEX fan, including myself. I really hope, that Vol. II will capture a whole lot of previously unreleased stuff and live material and this was just a warming up. The inlay of the tape contains some beautiful pics of the band members. The self-painted backdrop with a bat spreading his wings and showing his bloody fangs, that's VORTEX and the way they will always be. It’s a shame, that drummer John Roffel passed away in 2017. We will be missed a lot, since he was still very active in the music scene. The memory remains and his legacy is captured here on tape. The line-up of VORTEX on this tape is: Martjo 'Whirlwolf' Brongers on guitars, Jurjen 'Thundervox' Tichelaar on vocals, John Roffel on drums, Berend Stegeman on guitar and Jan Klemens on bass guitar. VORTEX is still alive and kicking in 2018 and I'm ready for Volume II!! Bring it on, guys, the gate is wide open here. VORTEX forever, forever VORTEX. Website: http://www.facebook.com/vortexheavymetal.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)

UPDATE November 05, 2018:

HELLOISE-Anthology (6CD) (Pseudonyn records)
How do you eat an elephant? Part by part, I guess, simply because your mouth isn't big enough to swallow it in one piece. How do you review a mighty HELLOISE box set of six CDs? One by one, I guess. HELLOISE was formed after HIGHWAY CHILE disbanded and this "Anthology" is a perfect compilation of everything, that is available of this band. A must have for every collector and music fan. Let's browse through the several CDs and take this huge musical legacy step by step. We'll start from the beginning with the album "Cosmogony", which contains eight original tracks, but this time it has been expanded to thirteen tracks with a playing time of a full hour. Title track and opener "Cosmogony" is a very catchy song with great guitar work and the stunning vocals by Stan Verbraak, who will immediately catch your attention. It has a great melodic feeling, yet with a heart of steel and that amazing appealing sound, that make it easy on the ear and ready to sing along. It's 1984, when the band got together and after thirty years their songs have easily stood the test of time. "Broken Hearts" for example sounds casual, yet it still has a heavy beat. "Run A Mile" is a lot more than an obligatory ballad and Stan sings it full with passion. If you like it more up-tempo, I guess that "Die Hard' will be your cup of tea, which includes some double leads and shows that HELLOISE had a melodic touch but also wasn't afraid to play some real firm hard rock songs. Feel the power, that is being spread out in the amazing "Ready For The Night". "For A Moment" has always been one of my favorites, next to "Gates Of Heaven". Just pay some special attention to the powerful drum beats of the Dutch equivalent of Cozy Powel, Ernst van Ee (ROB ORLEMANS & HALF PAST MIDNIGHT) and you'll get the idea. Anyway, "Gates Of Heaven" is on next, which is being introduced by a radio voice, that says it's a quarter past eleven, a well-known short piece here. "Hard Life" rounds off the album, which proves that Holland can add another name on the long list of well-talented high quality hard rock bands. It put HELLOISE right on the map. The band toured a lot in their home country, sometimes supported by HORIZON (with singer Shmoulik Avigal), at least that is what I remembered from their early days. The two bands fit very well together. HELLOISE's career lasted a lot longer though. It's a shame, that their demo songs, like "Surprise Highway" and "Today's Winners (Are Tomorrow's Losers)" aren't included on this massive package. What brings us to the bonus tracks of that first album: four singles and one flipside single, that did not get on the LP. "For A Moment" starts off and it's cut down to one minute, in comparison to the album version. "Ready For The Night" is only thirty seconds shorter and "Cosmogony" loses more than one minute. "Friend Of Fortune" was on the flipside of the "Cosmogony" single. It has a steady beat and a great guitar solo and it matches very well to the other songs. I did never understand why it was being left out on the original album. Anyway, I'm glad that it's finally on this special box set release. This first CD closes with the single of "Run A Mile", that is also almost a minute shorter than on the album. The album marked a fabulous start for these five musicians. And in my opinion, it only got better with the release of their second album "Polarity", which was released two years later. Maybe their sound wasn't much of a surprise anymore and you exactly know what to expect here. But the high quality of the songs is still there, as well as their catchy sound. The melody is playing an important role in its entirety and the guitars are still crying out loud. The second CD has eleven tracks and it's worthy of forty-five minutes. It opens with "Polarity", a great up-tempo rocker, which contains all the ingredients from the first album, so the fans will end up in a warm bath. "Destination" has some raw guitar work and it clings to your mind right from the start. The second time that you'll hear it, you can immediately sing along to it. That's the strength of HELLOISE. Fans of melodic hard rock are hooked at once. 'Give It Up" sounds faster and it has got something mechanical. After that, it's time for some fabulous guitar work in the acoustic intro, which is titled "En La Linea De Fuego ". And if you don't know what that means, just listen to the English translation of one of my favorite HELLOISE tracks 'In The Line Of Fire", which is on next. What a killer song that is. You can't deny that you're in the line of fire, because you'll constantly have to hide for the fire explosions that are trying to hit you. It makes the song stronger and very heavy, in my opinion. It's only on the second part of the second album that the band does a song, called "Helloise". This represents the sound, the brand and the name of this Dutch hard rock and heavy metal band, that earned a lot of respect and support from their fans. The band finally got its own song and a damn good as well. "See Tomorrow" is a hotspot for Ernst and his firm drum-extravagance. The power explosion of Ernst is at the end of this song, which has got a refrain that you definitely want to sing along to over and over, once you've heard it. It's the teamwork that did the trick here. The line-up of the band stays untouched, which is crucial in the story of success, in my opinion. Never change a winning team and HELLOISE picked up that lesson very well. "Pool Of Confusion" contains more great guitar work. It's a ballsy rocker with a raw feeling and isn't that the way we want to hear it?! "So Close To Love" is a romantic song and this soft touch needs to be on every good hard rock album. "Sole Survivor" continues with a good stomping beat. It has the perfect rhythm to bang your head upon. The guitar solos sound truly amazing. The CD closes with "Mystery Eyes". It's the only bonus track here. It's the flipside of the single "Destination". The logo and the artwork of the album might be simple, but it's the music that counts here and it was being picked up by a lot of more fans. Their po(pu)larity gained enormously and the band received a lot of radio airplay, especially in a great show like Countdown Cafe with Kees Baars and Alfred Lagarde. On stage, they rocked the world as support for bands like TWISTED SISTER, UFO and ACCEPT. The next step would make the band even bigger. A big show in Ahoy in Rotterdam was the absolute highlight in the career of HELLOISE. They were supported by LINE (the band of ROBBY VALENTINE) and the show included guest appearances by Patricia Paay and some guys of VENGEANCE and STRYPER. At that time nobody really did know, that this was their farewell gig for a while. Ernst decided to leave the band after the show. I guess, that we can conclude that the band was at the peak of their career. The band fell apart and each band member went his own way. We'll have to wait a long time, until something happens again in the career of HELLOISE. It's 1998, when the "A Time And A Place For Everything" release is a fact. In between, there was a re-release of the previous albums with bonus tracks, but this album marks their comeback and the reunion of HELLOISE. The album was completed with four bonus tracks, giving it a total playing time of about a full hour. When you listen to opener "Take It Or Leave It", you can hear that almost nothing has changed in the sound of HELLOISE. The grunge movement went out through the backdoor and the fans were finished with the woodchoppers outfit and baggy trousers. They were in for some good old fashioned hard rock again and HELLOISE was more than willing to fill that gap. The opener became a small hit single and "After The War" has got the same groove that existed in their previous material. The fade out of the song gives me the feeling that there is more and the groovy rhythm sounds surely amazing. This is the second single after "Madelene" and taken from that fabulous comeback album. "Tainted Love" starts off with some tasty Blackmore-type of guitar licks. The gorgeous guitar solo proves that the rock vibe is still there, although the airy atmosphere is more in the background. Obviously, the sabbatical years have matured the band. Sometimes there seems to be more profundity in the lyrics and the way the songs have been put together. "Telephone Lover" is a great straight forward rocker, so let's move those heads up and down. Just listen to those powerful screams of master vocalist Stan, who is doing an outstanding job here. The ballad "Madelene" is the so-called hit single from the album. Most of the time a ballad can open doors to a more broader and mainstream public and I think, that "Madelene" has been a good choice in that respect. A Morse code for "Emergency" starts off in this rock song with the same title. It's a false alarm, because it will rock your world indeed. "Young Rebels" is another firm rocker and as you can see, the music of HELLOISE didn't change that much. The album is definitely a safe buy, if you already liked their previous stuff. Just tune in to "Blame It On The Night" and you'll sing along to the chorus parts pretty easily. "Fallen Angel (Where Are You Now)" shows the capacity of these musicians to create a high quality piece of art. The guitar solo sounds amazing to me. "Message Of Love" sounds a bit slower and you'll hear more of that particular ballad kind of structure here. "Vicious Circle" is one of the last songs on this comeback album, which sounds like the band was never really away after an absence of more than ten years. HELLOISE has put themselves right back on the map again of the Dutch hard rock scene. The CD closes with "Carol", a HIGHWAY CHILE song, that was regularly being played in a live situation. The CD is compiled with four bonus tracks, starting with the up-tempo rocker "Glad To See You Again" that was already on the CDM version of "Madelene". Same goes for "Complete Surrender", which rocks out loud as well. If these two songs would have been on this album, the difference with the previous releases would have been even smaller. Just check out the amazing guitar solo here. Make sure that it won't blow your mind! The demo version of "After The War" and the reprise version of "Madelene" (read: instrumental version) closes the album. One of the most important things is that it has been recorded in the same band line-up. All musical differences have been put aside and the band simply went on, where they left off. Not too many bands can say that. A few years later, the band released their album "Fata Morgana". Needless to say is that they recorded it in the same line-up. This fourth CD contains thirteen tracks and runs for a bit over sixty-five minutes. For a moment, some thoughts are going through my mind. Am I listening to the right album? Opener "Secura Prologue" has been sung by a choir with a bombastic orchestra handling the instrumental parts. The song itself sounds a bit like the soundtrack album of "The Omen" or any other horror movie. When "Children Of The Night" starts, I know that it was all in my head and this fourth album of HELLOISE will turn on its ear. Not knowing that this would be their final album, if you don't count the live registration of the reunion show as a 'new' album. It's 2001 now and the grunge scene has definitely left the building and fans of hard rock and heavy metal can breathe freely again. The music still has its recognizable sound, because of the voice of Stan, who colors the songs brightly with his powerful voice, which is still in very good shape. It has survived many storms, and in my opinion Stan really belongs to the top singers of the Dutch hard rock and heavy metal scene. The two guitar players always try to play as heavy as possible, while the rhythm section is as steady as ever. Nothing has changed much over the years, but perhaps the catchy twist of the songs have been pushed backwards more. Alright, after this surprising opener, you're treated to a couple of other surprises. I think, it's a brilliant idea to cover 'Eloise" of Barry Ryan, originally recorded in 1969. The song has got nothing at all to do with the repertoire of HELLOISE, but just listen to it and be surprised and excited at the same time. The guitars (in the more quiet parts) are a mix of Blackmore and Gilmour and the breaks and mood changes are simply breathtaking. I don't think that Barry Ryan even could imagine that his song would be covered in such a heavy way, which is a brilliant move, in my opinion. "World Of Make Believe" continues and the band amazes me again quite easily. Like on their previous album, the 'sing-along' anthems have made room for great melodic rock songs with a very groovy drive. The catchy feeling is not completely gone, but a song like "The Game & The Rules" sounds more mature than ever. It is striking though, that this is the only album of which the band didn't release a single. Also a very important thing in the sound of HELLOISE must have been the addition of keyboards by ROBBY VALENTINE in the studio. "Wasted Time" is next and I hear some VANDENBERG influences in their sound. The incredible vocals of Stan, mixed with the acoustic guitars reminded me of them in a way. The guitar solo is very nice and I think that in a live situation the cigarette lighters will definitely light up here. "Wings Of An Angel" rocks furious and it has many speed and mood changes, which turns it into a real highlight for me. The guitar solo is mind-blowing and it really shows the high quality craftsmanship of the band. "Dreammaker" starts off as a traditional Greek folk tune and soon turns into a nice melodic rocker. "Mirage" is a very exciting instrumental song, in which the musicians show their skills. In my opinion, this is pure progressive rock in the best DREAM THEATER tradition and I mean that as a big complement. The keyboards are in front of the mix in "The Fugitive" and the choir vocals sound more like on their first albums. "Secura Reprise" closes the album, but there's more. On this version you'll find two bonus tracks. Listen to the masterful fast drum beats of drumbeast Ernst van Ee in "The Water", which is a killer rock song with a fast pace. It's definitely one of their heavier songs and it even contains some nice guitar extravaganza. The last track is a WHITESNAKE-type of rock song, called "Love On The Rooftop". This sounds like scary business to me. It marks the end of the four original HELLOISE albums. However, this is also where the fun starts for every huge HELLOISE fan. The last two discs are the cherry that belong to this proverbial six disc cake. The double CD "Eternity" includes all the early recordings, demos, unreleased and other additional bonus tracks, starting with the first CD that has eighteen tracks, worthy of seventy-five precious minutes. It starts with a short a capella part of "Cosmogony". The demos from 1984 are showing a much rawer and unpolished sound of the band. This will definitely contribute to a lot of excitement. Just check out the roaring guitars and innovative drums in "Gates Of Heaven". It's really lovely to hear this amazing heavy sound, including the twin guitar solos, that makes it even louder. The drums are also much more up front in the mix and it certainly lifts up "Broken Hearts" to a much higher level. Or listen to the raw version of "For A Moment", which simply rocks a little bit more. This is really a treat for the long term fans of the band. "Hard Times" continues and I really wouldn't have mind, when they had released this demo version on the original album. When I listen to the extensive instrumental parts in "Hard Times' though, I must admit that this sounds so much more adventurous and exciting. One of the songs that remains very close to the album version is "Run A Mile", which is the ballad, so to speak. I also took the liberty to obey their rules in "Play It Loud", because it simply deserves to be played out loud! "Rock Unites" is one of those amazing songs, that was really hard to get your hands on and I'm glad it's there. They also crank it out at live shows every once in a while. It's from their 1986 demo. Just listen to the lyrics and the title. It's a true statement that rock unites and besides that, it's just a great rock song. "Danger Games" is another one, that didn't get on one of the original albums. Actually, every song stands proud among these classic tunes, but unfortunately some songs were simply not found 'good enough' to be on the album. In this special box they make up an amazing set of additional bonus songs, which is enjoyed very much by yours truly. What do you think of the original version of "Give It Up", which is called "Slow Down" in the demo version? It starts slightly different maybe, but it remains a killer track. The demos from 1986 are sounding not as rough as the ones from 1984, but songs like for example "Polarity' or "In The Line Of Fire" do sound fiery like never before in demo format. However, songs like "Somebody", the instrumental "Wanted By The FBI" and "Don't Talk To Me" are demo tracks only and they have never been released on any album. Once again, I must state that those songs would have fit very well on "Polarity". "Don't Talk To Me" has some amazing guitar work. It really captures the high quality musicianship of the band. The last three songs are from the 1997 demo and called "Fallen Angel", "Emergency" and "Message Of Love". The second and final "Eternity' CD in this package has seventeen tracks and another seventy-five minutes of HELLOISE sweets that's a must for every dedicated fan and rock music addict. The special remix versions of the "Polarity" album are up first and this 2.0 version will really blow you away. The songs sound very fresh. The intro already clings you to your seat and, when the band starts playing, it's quite clear that this 2.0 version sounds a lot different than the original songs. "Destination" and "Give It Up" still stand proud and they rock harder than ever before. The longer guitar intro "En La Linea De Fuego" and "In the Line Of Fire" sound very fiery. "Helloise" is next and for this remix alone you should have to buy this box set. One more time you'll be able to enjoy "See Tomorrow", "Pool Of Confusion", "So Close To Love', "Sole Survivor" and "Mystery Eyes" in a new jacket, that fits the band very well. "Until" sounds very melodic and I really liked "A New Day" with the speed changes and lengthy guitar solo. It's a very bombastic track and a shame that it didn't get on the album. And if this whole lot doesn't really sound exciting enough to you, there are four new unreleased tracks on this magnificent release. "So Long Alhambra" sounds great and also the guitar solo in "Virtual Dimension" is absolutely breathtaking. "The Tower" is another new song with a great melodic taste. The CD closes with "Lost In A Crowd". The CD booklet contains a lot of nice pics and a whole lot of information about the band and its releases. It surely is a must have for the fans. What more can you wish for? The only thing that I can think of right now is an expansive set with live material and video clips on DVD or a live CD from the old days. Besides that, this is the Holy Grail in the land of HELLOISE. HELLOISE consists of Stan Verbraak on vocals, Ernst van Ee on drums, Ben Blaauw on guitar, Arjan Boogerds on guitar and Marchel Remeeus on bass. Website: http://www.helloise.nl or www.facebook.com/Helloise.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)

PICTURE-Every Story Needs Another Picture + Marathon (Divebomb Records)
With this compilation album, the whole back catalogue of PICTURE has been released on CD. The nineteen songs together are worthy of over seventy-five minutes of solid hard rock. From the original band line-up, we will only find back bass player Rinus Vreugdenhil. Mind you, that the sound of the band is not exactly that what you may have in mind, when you know the first two or three albums of PICTURE. Rinus has always been standing tall along the way and that's why he deserves the title 'Mr. Picture'. No matter what happened, Rinus was the man who put their name back on the map. Let's start with an overview of "Every Story Needs Another Picture" which are the first nine tracks here. It starts with "Battlecruiser", that has a lot of DEEP PURPLE influences. It's a great song and because of the evolution of the band, it's a good follow up to "Traitor" in my opinion. The first notes on "Moving Down The Line' are probably from a computer, but the high screaming vocals of newcomer and singer Bert Heerink are absolutely breathtaking. Heerink sang in VANDENBERG and back in those days, it felt like a shock to me (and many other fans) that he now teamed up with PICTURE. As a die-hard fan of both bands, it definitely felt very unreal. The keyboards by Ronald de Grauw received a prominent place in the sound of PICTURE, which also came as a real shock to a lot of fans. However, the influences of the early DEEP PURPLE, that we already heard in a song like "He's A Player" remained and actually became stronger, which I really like. For example, "Burning For Your Love" sounds very close to DEEP PURPLE in their heydays. You almost start to sing "Might Just Take Your Life" here. What else happened in the band line-up? Jacques van Oevelen (R.I.P.) is the drummer now and they found a very talented guitar player in Rob van Enkhuizen. Both came from the band ZENITH and the area of Krommenie. I wish, I could lay my hands on their single "Motorbike" from 1980, which is still very high on my wants list, but that's another story. "Stay With Me" is the obligatory ballad, which can't be missed on a 1986 release. It has a lot of VANDENBERG influences, probably because of the vocals of Heerink. The song was also released as a single. "She Was Made For Loving" sounds more or less like "Gimme All Your Loving", the 1983 million seller by ZZ TOP, but this time with the label PICTURE on it. Even a deaf man could hear that. Well, I'm a lot more open-minded, but it's real hard to accept that this is a totally different PICTURE with a more commercial sound. Instead, most of the songs have been written by Tony Acardi, who played in CATAPULT a few years. "I'm Still Flying" is an easy on the ear song with a very catchy feeling, like most songs on the album. "Stand Back For The People In Charge" has got a disco beat, that will make the cups on your table shake and rattle. Don't get me wrong, there are also some great rock songs on this album. Even if I may sound a bit disappointed here, it's just a reflection of how I felt back in those days. Today, it sounds like a good and solid hard rock album to me, but back then it was really like a stab in the back from the band that I'd loved so much all those years. When I listen to a song like "You Took My Money, You Took My Pride" right now, I really get the good old rock and roll fever again. The song starts off with a riff, that may remind you of "Nutbush City Limits" by IKE AND TINA URNER in a way, which is really great. The album closes with "No Way Back", which has a great "Allright Now" (THE FREE) riff. The stomping rhythm is like a good hard rock song is supposed to sound and the guitar riffs of Rob van Enkhuizen are more up-front again, thank god. The only question is, who's that lady on the cover of the album? Maybe Rinus will tell me the answer in the future. That completes the first album. "Marathon" start off with the single "Break Away", that I can almost sing word for word. It could have been written by VANDENBERG in those days, for that matter. It has the same beat and catchy vibe with former VANDENBERG singer Bert Heerink behind the mike. The band recorded this album in the same line-up as their previous one. Tony Acardi wrote the lyrics to some songs, but the band also teamed up as songwriters on five songs. "Vampire Of The New Age" sounds like the soundtrack of a science fiction movie, but because of the fast beat and keyboards, it turns into a nice rocker in the best GILLAN tradition. The next song is called "Money", which received some radio airplay. It's so appealing, that you just have to sing along to it. The lyrics are very real, but who gives a damn, when you hear Rob playing his guitar and torturing them strings in such an awesome way! The band was desperately in need for a big hit single, but unfortunately that didn't happen. "Desperate Call" is the obligatory ballad and the vocals of Bert Heerink show up really well here. He's an excellent melodic rock singer. Just check out "I'm On My Way", which received a lot of radio airplay. It's very catchy and it has some mind-blowing guitar work by Rob, who got a bit more space here, whereas the keyboards have been pushed in the back. "We Just Can't Lose" grabs you right away and thirty years later I must admit that the album "Marathon" wasn't that bad at all and I'm glad it got another chance with this re-release. The band has been influenced here a lot by VANDENBERG though, just check out "Don't Keep Me Waiting", which could be a potential hit single. If a band like BON JOVI or EUROPE are able to do it, why can't PICTURE do the same? "Get Out Of My Sight" is another rock song with a pounding beat, while "S.O.S." has got a more commercial sound. The intro alone must have raised some eyebrows in the eighties. There's a fast beat and the futuristic Star Wars sound of the keyboards in the middle of the song are nice. The CD closes with the single "Sarah", which received much airplay. It's a great song and spot on for the vocal abilities of Heerink. I would consider the musical qualities of the band on this album as outstanding and also the music is of a very high quality but it's not the PICTURE that many fans have in mind. The very last words in this song are "now that it's over", which is very true, because it was all over and done after this record. Rien pulled the plug after "Marathon" and it would take almost ten years before PICTURE reformed again. Rob van Enkhuizen tried to continue the legacy of PICTURE in PHOTOGRAPH, together with Jacques van Oevelen and Ronald de Grauw, but unfortunately this adventure didn't last long. Well, there you have it, the final two releases of PICTURE, who are back in business right now in the original line-up. Good news for the long-term fans, like me, because they sound like the time stood still in 1982. These two albums from 1986 and 1987 have given me some mixed feelings and now you'll know why. This was just 'another' PICTURE and every story needs one. The PICTURE line-up on both albums is Rinus 'Mr. PICTURE' Vreugdenhil on bass, Ronald de Grauw on keyboards, Rob van Enkhuizen on guitar, Bert Heerink on vocals and Jacques van Oevelen (R.I.P.) on drums. These recordings are dedicated to the memory of drummer Jacques van Oevelen, who passed away in 2016. What a great tribute to this wonderful musician!! The CD booklet contains some nice pictures (a wordplay - lol) and the lyrics to every song. Are you looking forward to a new album or some other PICTURE news?? Go to their official website at: http://www.pictureband.nl or Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/picturetheonlypage.
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: January 04, 2019]

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