Depeche Mode live in Oslo

Going to a concert of a band you used to listen to sometime like 15 years ago (even if back then I was on the ‘haters’ side) is one fantastic emotional roller-coaster. This is maybe the thought that followed me for the entire duration of Depeche Mode’s concert at Telenor Arena in Oslo. Prior to this, there was an opening band called Big Deal, but after the first two songs in which they didn’t show energy enough to warm up the first row in the crowd, I minded my own business of sorting some ticket for a friend and helping people find each other. So they were a little deal for me that evening.

When the lights turned off and the small flashlights showed the way the artists should walk on stage, I did get a good amount of goose bumps, followed by a big smile when I saw Dave Gahan entering the stage via a neverending pirouette and happy to look at the remaining 3 original DM members in flesh and bones. My enthusiasm shrank a lot when I saw that there are 3 keyboards on the stage, besides the drumkit. I quickly understood that if I am to rate the stage show of the artists, I can’t give them more than a 2. Later on it turned into a 3 due Dave’s constant dancing and ass shaking.

But if you ignore the static part of their show – afterall, their music is not based on guitar solos and fast headbanging tunes – then there’s plenty to enjoy. They have pretty skilled designers for their light show and the projections chosen for various songs. They must have melted the hearts of many by projecting puppies during ‘Precious’. And I really liked the live effects added to the musicians’ movements, especially when they were switching insanely quick between live images.

Dave Gahan’s voice sounds great and he knows how to get the crowd wrapped around his little finger by allowing them to sing famous chorus parts and then directing their ‘Ooooohhh’s. Or simply by taking off his jacket, followed by his vest and exposing his tattoos. Martin Gore can also sing the band’s ballads and the acoustic moments that he’s performing only with one of the keyboard players are quite touchy. That is, if you don’t focus on his outfit and try to figure out whether he is an alien or a character from the Wizard of Oz. But yes, the ballads are working great with his vocals.

The first part of the concert was well balanced between old hits and new songs that I personally never heard prior to the concert. But 2-3 songs before the comeback and all 5 after the comeback were some of the band’s biggest hits and that’s when the whole crowd in Telenor arena turned into a fantastic sight. I was dancing like crazy during ‘I just can’t get enough’ and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I saw that hundreds of people were doing the same. This is the perfect concert spirit. I also smiled when one guy managed to climb the stage and started happily waving at us until the security guys took him down in a rather harsh way (or so it looked from where I watched).

The intro of Personal Jesus was nicely mixed and kept us in a bit of doubt for a while. Enjoy the silence was more or less the highlight of the evening and I never thought that Never Let Me Down Again can be such a perfect concert end. It got even better with lovely company after the show and a fantastic display of nature’s beauty during a heavy snowing session long after midnight. Perfect to, once more, enjoy the silence.

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2013 Caliban Session – Oslo Edition

2013 Caliban Session – Oslo Edition

‘Caliban Sessions’ is a yearly tradition centered around Duplex Records and Petter Andreassen’s Caliban Studios and their parties that took place at John Dee or Garage or So What! for the past six years. In 2013, the Oslo concert of the session actually managed to fill the big Rockefeller stage with old and new friends of the studios and with a lot of happy faces willing to see the impressive amount of bands that were due to perform for the evening (10 bands, that is). The night was a very interesting mix of genres and sounds, thus bringing together crowd types that wouldn’t usually attend the same kind of concerts.

I was dead tired after a mad Friday concert in Bergen and a long train ride back to Oslo, reason for which I missed the first 2 bands and I only caught a last long solo of the third band (which I tend to believe was called Last Heat). That song ending was rather impressive so I made a personal note on checking out their music. Then I started looking for some familiar faces. Together with them I watched Sweden, a band so proud of their name that they even wear the national flag over the keyboards. But we all soon decided the music was not the most entertaining and we didn’t mind that each band only played max five songs.

If memory serves right, next on stage came Egil Hegerberg with his guitar and performing as Bare Egil Band. While I certainly missed a good deal of the ironies and jokes in his lyrics, I surely had a good laugh when he started singing about Bergen, the city where they had performed the night before and where I happened to be as well. And he actually described my impression of the city. He also kept the fun level elevated by singing about the Nord Fjord or oil drilling and asking the crowd to sing along to words he’d continously change.

Luckily for my lack of sleep, the next two bands were two explosions of energy: The Dogs and Blood Tsunami. First one is another of Kristofer Schau’s projects, an old style ‘garage’ sound band who doesn’t sing about the happiest of subjects. But the music is so rough that it doesn’t allow the band members to stay still for too long, all culminating with the singer’s intense expressiveness and the way he acts the lyrics. I’m yet to see a boring show of this dude. The metalheads in the crowd got their special treatment right after this, via Blood Tsunami, the thrash metal death squad from Oslo. They play their music hard and fast and few seconds in their gig you’re expecting the crowd to go bananas. Then you realise you’re in Norway and the guards wouldn’t let you have too much fun anyway. But I can also appreciate their intervention during an argument about to turn into a fight.

Once the fast metal riffs get silent, El Doom & the Born Electric take the stage. They’re groovy and progressive and have very interesting guitar parts that represent good show off moments for their guitarists. I liked their show much better this time than few months ago, when they were much too static on stage. I hope they’d always perform at least like this.

The crowd started packing up in front of the stage as soon as the Black Debbath members started tuning and fixing their guitars or bass or drums during the short change over. The band treated them with a nice surprise from an older album and then, making sure that everybody is very involved, sang about the statue park in Ekeberg. The time for the third song was used on presenting their newly launched rock quiz book and asking us to answer some questions in the book. Black Debbath ended the show by explaining once more how often we should change the kitchen cloths.

Without changing too many of the band members from the previous band, Thusla Doom started rather soon and the sound made by the enthusiast crowd showed how much they are actually loved. They are full of charm and they already announced to fully play the “She Fucks Me” EP, so the night was already arranged to have an awesome end. To me, it had to end after the first song when some dead drunk dude missed the stairs and landed on my leg instead and ruined the rest of the night. But, despite all the personal issues, I find Caliban Session a highly entertainment musical event where you get to experience a bunch of artists in a short time and I keep my fingers crossed for them to be able to fill Rockefeller, year after year.

CONCERT COMBO IN COPENHAGEN

The last weekend of September 2013 meant a trip to Copenhagen, initially booked to go to a new Leprous concert together with a bunch of awesome music enthusiasts whom I meet here and there in Europe for concerts. And not only. And mainly for Leprous concerts. The venue where the event took place, Beta 2300, offered a combo ticket for both the Leprous concert and the Orphaned Land and support acts the day before. Sounded good. It sounded even better when Leprous has announced that Vulture Industries will be their support act for this part of their tour, meaning I’d end up seeing this band three times in two months. Absolutely no reasons to complain, since I don’t think there’s too many current bands in Norway who top the live performances of neither Leprous nor Vulture Industries.
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We skipped the first band of the first evening due logistic reasons and arrived sometime during the second show by the French band Klone. We saw a bit of the show, then went around to check the merchandise and figure out where things are around the venue and what the beer choices are, and the concert seems to end in no time. There’s talent in the musicians and the music sounded pleasant, but it didn’t seem to be catchy at that moment in time. They deserve another chance though. A really cool surprise came from the next band though, Bilocate, having its origins in the big supplier of metal music, the country of Jordan. Leaving the joke aside, I remember shaking my head in approval many times. Their music is like a rollercoaster as it walks you through a very interesting mix of doom/death and Oriental sounds, but dwelling enough in what specialists might also call progressive. The voice is good, it sings beautifully or growls the hell out of your brains. There’s a lot of surprises in the way they build the songs, nothing seemed boring, all has a proper atmosphere. So, thumbs up and they’re already added to my playlists.
Orphaned_land01Orphaned_land02Orphaned_land04Orphaned_land05
I have heard a bit of Orphaned Land’s latest release, ‘All is One’, yet, I am more familiar with the previous releases. And I got a feeling of inferiority when, during each song, whether old or new, the crowd around me would know the lyrics and sing along or jump or clap and know just about every beat. I should have expected it though, considering the amount of tshirts and hoodies with the band name. I heard many good stories from other friends who attended their concerts before and I can only agree with them. The band from Israel is very charismatic, has so much groove and intensity in the sound and, above all, is really acting like a warrior for peace. I usually like the friendly atmosphere at metal concerts, but when the main act is telling you how we all are brothers, and despite the idiocy of the politicians and the media, a band from Israel is able to share a tour bus with one from Jordan and travel the world in peace and good mood, we should all just do the same. And after that, it really feels like a brotherhood. We also got to hear some jokes during the time one of the guitars got fixed and it turned out that the singer is not actually JC. But he still has his charisma. Unfortunately, I left after the first half of the concert so I don’t know how much hotter it got in the small venue, but it’s always uplifting to see such an enthusiast crowd. Even if it is so difficult to swim through it towards the exit.

Saturday begun sometime after noon with good mood, good food and stories that were harder and harder to believe by the time we got to the venue. Once there, we started continuing the beer inspired debates until we got interrupted by drum noise, about 15 minutes prior to the expected concert time. We all thought it was a soundcheck, but it sounded too familiar so I decided to run to the stage and to actually realise that Vulture Industries had started their performance. They chose to do so with ‘Lost Among Liars’, a song for which they recently released a video and which feels a tad lazier than the avalanche of madness that they delivered for the rest of their performance. Wearing their classical dirty worker uniforms with mandatory suspenders and mainly bare footed, the five Norwegians have slowly acquired the interest of most of the audience by offering us the last drops of energy they spared for their final show of the tour. No compromise were made and after, the warm-up ‘ballad’, the band’s singer, Bjørnar E. Nilsen decided the scene is too small for all five of them so he started wandering among the crowd and singing straight into their faces. At some point, during one of the pretty dancy parts of their melodies (I’d guess it was Blood don’t Eliogabalus), all of the band members left the stage and followed the singer through the crowd. They have to find a way to take the drummer with them as well. Anyways, it’s not only the crazy actions and expressions that this band is good at. They do have some of the most interesting songs I heard lately and their recently released album, The Tower, is a piece that shouldn’t miss from your collection. There’s so many beautiful guitar parts, there’s a lot of groove in the bass, there’s very interesting drumming parts with nice, even unexpected tempos; all of them are backing up some very special type of vocals that can do just about anything they want, from clear and beautiful singing to dark and mad growls and to macabre psychotic whispers. A voice that also held us a very inspired speech at the end of the concert, saying that the CD is for sale for those who liked the music but as well for those who hated their music, since it makes a perfect present for a person you hate. You can watch the final song, including the inspiring speech, here

After finding out that I know the bartender’s brother during one of my 50 requests for a glass of water, it was time for Leprous to take over the Danish stage to perform an extended set. I already saw the band’s new bass player and I knew he would do a great job, but I didn’t know that the drummer they are using for this tour, Baard Kolstad, a drummer I saw playing solos in the middle of the night on the main street of Oslo. This practice brought him some serious skills, but it took me a while to get used to how hard he is actually hitting the drum kit. It was quite impressive to see him doing it for the duration of the whole concert.

I feel like I’m always saying the same thing about every new Leprous gig that I review, but I can’t do anything about this feeling: each show simply is above their previous one. They are a very hard working band, they have invested more and more in their image and stage appearance and for this Coal tour they brought along a pair of TV screens and their own lights that build the exact atmosphere the band desires. But there’s not much time to actually understand what the purpose of the visuals is. They are disgusting, intriguing, sad, depressive, fast, colored…but the band itself is too interesting to watch and your attention has little time to perceive anything else. Leprous is still a young band, after all they started making a name more or less three years ago. And I have a big dose of respect for them for managing to have their second headlining tour in such a short amount of time. They probably attract more and more fans through the fantastic energy that emanates from their show. When they headbang, it looks like they’d soon break into pieces due the force they put in their moves. By the end of the show, their clothes are more wet that if they had spend time outside in the rain. Plus, they also have a fantastic way of rearranging the songs live and adding some of the coolest passages ever. Dare You, a song from their first album, is a good example of such a live refinement. With each tour it makes me curious to see how far they go with the rearrangements. In a way, I can’t wait for their next tour, mainly because of this reason. The only improvement I’m expecting is the re-introduction of the song ‘White’ in their playlist. I know I have the support of other members of the audience for this one.

So, if you haven’t seen these bands live, keep an eye on their websites and make sure you don’t miss their future tours. They’re worth every cent or dime or øre or pence or whatever you use as currency subdivision. In the end, here’s a clip filmed during the Leprous performance in Copenhagen

Dark Bombastic Evening – the 5th ritual

Dark Bombastic Evening 5

During my first visit at Dark Bombastic Evening event, in 2012, in the heart of Transylvania – the fortress of Alba Iulia, I decided that this festival has to become a yearly tradition. Mainly because of its simplicity and friendliness, two features that almost no other musical event have offered with such generosity. Both the 2012 and 2013 rituals of Dark Bombastic Evening have treated me with insane doses of good music, good mood and great company. In a location that might be the size of your backyard, if you have room for an ok sized stage, a couple of equipment boxes around it and then about 3-4 hundred people in front of it, then you have the festival area. Alba Iulia FortressA bit further away there’s some space for tents and for the bricks oven where big pots filled with local specialties are most likely to provoke an instant hunger and an unforgettable orgasm for your taste buds. But what you will surely lack in your backyard are the 300 years old fortress walls that were built in a Roman style and that add a very special charm to the whole experience.

Life at DBE5I am not sure whether to focus more on the musical events at the festival or on each of the small details that made it all so special. But starting with the latter, I think the detail that should be ranked way high is the fact that for three days you feel peaceful. There’s hardly any human behavior originating from Pandora’s box. I’ve never seen a festival where the security team is so invisible despite the flashy yellow/orange colors on their vests. And despite the fact that they rarely bother to be around the stage, the artists are much safer than if you put them in a glass box. Not to mention the overall safety feeling, so rare at public events, but here it felt like you could misplace anything of value and there’d be high chances you got it back. There’s so much respect and politeness on square meter that it’s almost surreal. People are more preoccupied with being happy and headbanging like crazy on the rhythms of some music that many of them never dared to dream to see live. Everyone has the chance to go and stuck their nose on the stage if they want. All these things are never offered by any of the bigger size events I attended, so, if it sounds unreal to you, it’s simply because you haven’t witnessed it live. Bonus: you get local food. No ‘everything tastes the same’ fast food. It’s all being mixed and packed and spread and baked in front of you. It might be a tad odd for foreigners at first, but I only heard good feedback about it. There’s a local cheese pastry, eggplant salad, gulas and can’t recall what else…As for drinks, there’s nobody ripping you off with festival prices. The area already has a bar that is functioning within a room inside the fortress walls, so the drinks menu (printed in the shape of a vinyl) is pretty complex and the beers had such a price that a Norwegian declared they are too cheap. Everything is cheap compared to a 10 EUR beer in a bar up North though, but the point I’m insisting on is that the alcohol price was not raised by 100% just because it is served at a festival. Yet, I hardly saw anyone dead drunk at the concerts. This doesn’t mean they weren’t lingering somewhere out of sight though.

Crowd at DBE5The ‘actual’ festival lasts for 3 days now (compared to last year when there were only two), but there’s some sort of a day 0, which took place on Wednesday and it offered a big fire around which people gathered to tell a story, play some guitars and watch a documentary. I missed this opening night as I only left Bucharest on Thursday morning and I drove for about 6 and a half hours to get to Alba Iulia. That meant I also missed the trip organised that morning to the Rosia Montana, a mineral rich area which is subject to a big environmental issue surrounding gold(?) mining. I recall I was so dead when we arrived at the hotel that I instantly fell asleep and woke up when the first band was supposed to begin. After eating and preparing everything, I left for the RYMA area (the name of the festival location) and I actually managed to get there in the middle of the first act, since everything seemed to have been delayed. And so the musical journey started.

The Serbians from Ana Never were the festival openers, and while the post-rock style flowing from their instruments was pretty pleasant (and it was cool to watch the drummer’s own way of living the show), I didn’t stop to pay attention for more than few minutes. But it was also because I was starting to spot familiar faces and went round hugging people and saying some hellos, shaking some hands and making new acquaintances. Another cool thing about this festival is that, by the end of the last evening, you more or less had the chance to speak to everyone in the area as everyone is a friend of a friend of a friend you already know. I even got to meet a guy who biked all the many kilometers from Bucharest to Alba Iulia, a road that forces you to cross the Carpathians. That was pretty brave.

Zero live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Up next it’s time for French melancholy performed by Zero. A very uninspired name if you want to lookup some info about the band (at least more than it’s provided on their facebook page, called, obviously, killhimplease). It was interesting to see none other than Alcest’s Niege behind the drum kit with some gigantic drum sticks and doing a rather good job. He even kept silent for the whole show, allowing the singer to present us his very pleasant harsh vocal skills. Once the French trio was done, another trio took its place on stage, this time a German one – Electric Moon -who brought with them a wave of psychadelic sounds that I initially disliked (or didn’t understand), but by the end of each song I realised I was stuck in one place staring at the stage. Even if they were only three on stage, it felt like they would be able to convince the fortress walls to break into pieces due to the explosions in their music. Hats off for their skills and I should queue as much of their stuff as possible in my playlists. The only minus from my point of view was that the band members (except the drummer, who didn’t have much of a choice) rarely faced the crowd. But then again, you must really be into your own world to produce those sounds.

Aluk Todolo live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Aluk Todolo‘s concert took place around a light-bulb hanging in the middle of the stage, light-bulb emitting a light whose intensity fluctuated according to the intensity of the guitar sounds. Overall it built an occult atmosphere to match the ‘style’ associated with their music. A music that would have been a good prelude to any malefic scene in a dark movie which is about to summon some demons. They did obsessively repeat their stuff and I couldn’t really digest the whole concert until the end. Maybe since there was a complete lack of evilness in the air and it didn’t feel right that they tried to change that. But whatever was in the air at that hour, it probably froze in agony during the last performance of the evening, another French band by the name of Dale Cooper Quartet. Their dark jazz that seriously transposed you in a Twin Peaks like set of images, wondering what giant would jump from behind the stage, was like a trip in time. Dale Cooper Quartet live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5 But a mysterious trip constantly backed up by a saxophone that was about to rip your soul apart with its sounds. I admitted the beauty of their dark music, but I sincerely was not at all in he mood for it, so I spent a lot of their concert catching up with some friends. I realise now that the music would have been perfect if me and my friends would have stayed in some big red armchairs with glasses of whiskeys in a hand and a nicely flavored cigar in the other. Those would have been some serious talks.

Alba Iulia Fortress gate

Friday started rather early with the beloved sounds of construction workers moving iron bars and starting cars whose engines make more noise than all the drummers at the festival. But that at least allowed for an early breakfast and another sleep reprise as I had difficulties being alive at 9AM. Later on I took a trip with my mum and we crossed through the main alley of the fortress, took photos, went further on to a big street full of outdoors bars, had lunch and a lemonade, then off again to to festival area. The second day of the festival was baptised ‘experimental evening’ (the previous one was ‘instrumental evening’). I admit I love experiments. I fell in love with a lot of the ones from last year, and, by the end of the evening, new passions emerged. The first one was in the shape of three pretty Swedish ladies by the name of Promise and the Monster. Promise and the Monster live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Three heavenly voices supporting eachother in beautiful harmony, surrounded by a bunch of microphones in order to capture the soft sounds of the acoustic guitars, of the clapping and of the various types of bells. The girls convinced almost everyone to sit on the grass and let them lead their dreams under the hot afternoon sun, giving everything a hippie like feeling. It was the kind of sound that, whatever dictionary you use, you end up picking the word ‘beautiful’ to describe it.

Sieben live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Once the Swedes received their dose of applauses and left the stage, one elegant man and his violin took over. Apparently he was called Sieben. Apparently he’s been around for a while and to my biggest shame I never heard his music before. I was seriously mind blown after a couple of seconds. I think one of the things I love most about live concerts is when musicians put passion into what they do. This guy put his own passion, transmitted it to you, made you feel passionate about his performance and then fed on your passion, only to return it to you in this vicious circle. He would wave his bow out in the air like crazy while he’d madly sing into the microphone. He would dance around with the violin in order to reach all his pedals and buttons used to record small pieces that he would loop on the background in order to build a rhythm section for each song. He would sing (and what a lovely voice) and scream and whisper into the violin microphone in order to obtain the background choirs of each song. And he would talk to us so nicely in between songs and keep us entertained. He would even play a Joy Division cover. He was simply amazing and, even if I seen this kind of ‘live song building’ using recorded loops, I’ve never seen it done with so much passion and dedication. Hats off to Matt Howden and his talent.

Parzival live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Luckily, a friend of mine stopped beside me before the next concert and told me I’m about to see what Dark and Bombastic really meant. Else I would have probably been shocked by the Russian-Danish-German combination that goes by the name Parzival. They are described as playing ‘epic martial’, and I still have no clue what martial actually means when it comes to music, but it certainly has a military/medieval touch to it. And it sent me back to a lot of the Russian choirs and songs we had on the radio when I was little. I admit I was a tad shocked by the style of music. Especially since I associate it with about 100 people who must play together in order to pull it off. But they did it with two percussionists (wearing black masks with red towels like on top of their heads), a keyboard player, a guitarist and a vocalist. Oh, and what vocals skills that man had. He really is the definition of epic considering the deepness and the intensity of the sounds of his voice. Once again, he, alone, sounds like an entire male choir. Another mind blowing moment. Besides, I love percussion parts in music, and considering this band only had two big ass percussion sets with some cymbals attached, I was in a musical heaven.

Electric Orange live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5They were followed by another psychedelic electric band, this time Electric Orange from Germany, but I seriously couldn’t focus much on that concert, as I didn’t really figure out much of the funky decorations laid on the drum set and on the percussion set. My brain was stuck at the previous two ones and was eagerly anticipating the upcoming concert Besides, I needed food so I took a break to taste some of the local goodies. Yumm! Then I planted myself in front of the stage in order to get a good angle for the photos. To my surprise, my mum showed up at the festival area and I was really happy to finally show have her seeing me ‘in action’ with my camera. And seeing the performance of the Russians from Theodor Bastard. I learned about this band because of 2012 edition of DBE and I fell in love with their stage presence and the voice of their singer, the beautiful Yana. Even if there seemed to be some tiny issues during the soundcheck and some nerves arose on stage, by the time the show started this was professionally left aside and good mood took over from the first second. Fedor, switching between playing his body-less guitar, the percussion drum or hitting the gong, is constantly smiling and jumping around as often as the rhythm allows. One of the guys on stage is responsible to play some sort of wooden xylophone,Theodor Bastard live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5
a long wind instrument and plenty of smaller percussion elements, while Yana herself plays few different types of flutes. The whole combination of sounds is some of the freshest things I heard lately. Including the fact that when Yana’s beautiful voice stays silent, it happens we hear Fedor rapping. The crowd loves them so much that they were not allowed to leave the stage and had to perform an encore. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t be under the spell of the genuine music that didn’t really allow your body to stand still.

Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5

Right after the show, on the wall behind the stage I saw the shadow of a woman that was dancing and I went running there to take some photos. It turned out that the crazy gang of Vulture Industries together with the even crazier gang of Happy Gorilla Dance Company needed to film shadows moving on the walls. So they sat two big light sources on the grass and decided that everyone should move backwards as they’d pass between the lights and the wall. But it would have been too boring to just walk backwards. So they used their imagination. And I swear by any gods that those people don’t lack imagination. I had always liked them, but now it was another moment of that evening of falling in love with beautiful madness. Little Vader Also with the mini Darth Vader who ran around the festival area the whole day and was photographed by everyone. He also participated in the shadow dance on the walls and was a really sweet addition to the whole deal.

And also the trees live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Once the Russian spell was broken by the silence between two concerts and the shadows on the walls dance, it felt like the night was over. Even if the stage was taken over by the British post punkers from And Also the Trees. They were elegant on stage and they performed elegant music. As British as it could get. Poetic and polite, but unfortunately too calm after the cozy and pretty rhythms from before. The singer had also the kind of voice I’m deeply impressed by and, had they performed in another context, I’m sure they would have gotten more of my attention. As you can see, this little festival has almost too many goodies to offer for a mortal to digest them all. Especially when most of them are novelties to you.

Glaciation live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Saturday started so lazy that I even managed to miss the first band of the day, Heretoir. I heard their blast beats from outside the fortress walls, while passing by a wedding ceremony that tried to entertain the participants with sax and trumpet. I should have told them to come to the festival for better music. But then I realised it’s the metal evening and Romanian culture is too scared of things that are easily labeled as satanists. But that only leaves more place for the rest of us. The first act I witnessed was also from France, was called Glaciation and it contained members of the first day project, Zero, including a guest appearance of Niege from Alcest. This time on vocals. A raw style of black metal which, despite the passion and the intensity of the singer, didn’t convince me to stay around the stage for longer than I needed to take some photos. But I did come back and didn’t move too far from the front area of the stage for the duration of the next two concerts.

In Vain live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Both Norwegian bands, In Vain and Solefald. Since the bands share a lot of musicians and played right after eachother, it almost felt like the same band with two different styles. First, In Vain with their progressive sound and a fantastic skill at building songs that are so rich and varied it’s almost confusing. They have clean vocals, they have mad and mean melodic growls that demand your respect, they have riffs, In Vain live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5they have sick drumming, they have peaceful bits and ballad like sections. And despite the big differences that seem to arise even within the same song, they have a fantastic skill at building unitary pieces that in the end make perfect sense. Even if they already had two skilled singers on the stage, they felt the need to invite a third one, for one song. Of course, he is another member of Solefald.

Solefald live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Speaking of sense, there’s way less of it in the Solefald appearance. I think you need to know a bit about the band’s background and ideas in order to comprehend their show: the uniform worn by Cornelius Jakhelln at the beginning of the show; the political references in the songs (why would anyone state that the USA don’t exist?); the salmon dance combined with black metal growls; the ballad to the sun and the mythological references; the fact that the band formed many years ago in Romania, in Constanta. And the fact that before their last song, Cornelius said there’s gonna be a surprise at the end of it and we should think about our location. And they ended with a cover of Darkthrone’s Transylvanian Hunger. That brought them some big dose of applauses. I have mixed feelings about the show. And it’s not at all tht I didn’t like it. I just didn’t know how serious to take them. When I saw them live at Inferno festival, they had a person painting mountains live as the show went on. That added a touch of seriousness. And Cornelius jumped way less from one end of the stage to another. But here, at Alba Iulia, they seemed in another dimension. Alas, it was fun to watch and I can rarely complain about people having fun (up to a certain limit). Plus, they had a certain cuteness that contributed to ignoring the wtf factor of the show.

Solefald live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5

Dog Show at Alba Iulia

Altar of Plagues live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Apparently, this cuteness was contagious as it made me leave the festival area and go on the other side of the wall (I wished it was as cold as your mind makes you think it might have been) and visited a dog show. It had a lot of sweet puppies and never seen before dog breeds, so I ended up spending most of the Altar of Plagues playing with dogs. Then I realised that someone told me it’s the band’s last show so I hurried back to catch some of it and to see how a guitar can make history by being broken to pieces in the middle of musical passion. There was also a lot of passion in the intensity of the headbangers gathered in front of the stage. Maybe if I ever come to appreciate the music of this band, I’m gonna regret not being into the right black metal mood at this last show of theirs. I was a tad melancholic at that point I guess. The dark doom of Esoteric didn’t help much with the mood at the beginning of their show as all I recorded was the slowness of the rhythm. And then, after talking to some friends about the skills needed to keep such a slow pace, I actually started appreciating the process that took place on stage. Even if the music had some sort of slow motion feeling, it was impressive that the band made you live it at a very high intensity. Esoteric live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5I didn’t figure out the magick behind this, but I certainly enjoyed trying to figure it out. As soon as they stopped singing, I installed myself in front of the stage as it was time for the main reason I came to the festival: the Turning Golem project (aka Vulture Industries together with the Happy Gorilla Dance Project). Another fast change over (I think DBE is working with the fastest stage technicians on the planet)…then darkness and some background tunes…

Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5And so the madness starts. Vulture Industries members, wearing the same blueish uniform top, enter the stage, as the singer is being accessorised with his own…chained golem that got pulled all the way to the front of the stage and had to stand there enslaved for the duration of the first song. His ‘master’ climbed on a box so that he appeared even more impressive that he usually does during a performance. The first song ended by forcing the golem to get his well paint-coated body to good use and break the bricks laid on a table on the side of the drumkit. The stage is then invaded by a person dressed in an orange suit, carrying a small video camera and a big flashlight that is annoyingly directed into everyone’s eyes while the results are filmed and played on the backdrop (in a somewhat distorted way). Once the orange alien is gone, the attention shifts towards the white robe standing on the left side of the drum kit as it slowly starts moving and points to the text projected on the backdrop. It might be that she’s showing us the lyrics to the songs, who knows. But we surely know she’s absolutely amazing on stage after she gets in the middle of it and starts dancing. For a while, she faces the crowd with her left side, depicting another golem with very dry skin. And then she turns around…and there you have a lovely lady in a white dress. DSC_2655This was such a wow effect. And she kept on doing it until the end of the song when she started trembling like jelly until she collapsed on stage. After this, she started laughing madly while following the singer around and imitating his moves. And the crowd was also asked to imitate some of his moves for the duration of the next song. Then the bricks-breaking golem decided to rebel and moved closer to the center of the stage. Then everyone made a circle and started moving around the singer (everyone means the two golems and the three other movable musicians on stage). Then the woman climbed on the bricks table and started screaming, after releasing the golem from his chains. The golem picked up the heavy chains and, after a terrific dance, he got control over his previous ‘master’ and chained him. Then the chained Bjørnar crawled to the front of the stage and performed the end of the dramatic song while stretching his arms to the crowd and showing us all the suffering and pain he’s going through. Then he collapsed on the stage and everyone else left. Then they came back. This time the guitarists had no shirts and they stood on each side of the stage while a blinking eye was projected on each of their naked backs. Then the singer stood up and delivered the last epic part of the show, while the male golem went to the side of the stage and started dancing around a barrel that was set on fire. I have no clue what happened to the woman at that point. Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5I was somewhat exhausted myself from trying to watch everything as well as taking pics of it. Then it was over and they took a low bow and gathered countless amounts of aplauses from a thrilled crowd. The magic was over. What an honor for us to be offered the chance to see it for the first time. And to actually listen to a lot of songs from the band’s upcoming album, songs that have never before been performed live. Nor heard by anyone for that matter.

The last band of the festival were the Irish doom act Mourning Beloveth. And with all the respect to everyone who loves their music, my brain could hardly understand any musical combination that would enter my ears at that point in time. I only saw golems and only heard the Vulture Industries theatrical dramatic sound. It was like trying to figure out what hit me. So I decided instead to start saying goodbyes and go towards the hotel as I would have had to wake up in some 4-5 hours to drive back to Bucharest and then to catch flights back to Oslo. It was a rather good moment to return as I witnessed some funny off-festival band moments, but I’d much rather respect people’s privacy and not say a word about them.

Short or long, this is my side of the story about Dark Bombastic Evening 5. For now, I only managed a short set of pics with Turning Golem and it can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151510092936734.1073741837.641126733&type=1
There’s plenty of photos to come and probably they will all end up on http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto
But until then, in the hope that you enjoyed what you have read, I invite you to witness at least one of the events organised by Donis Art. Especially any future editions of Dark Bombastic Evening.

In a classical style, I end my story with the biggest thanks that can be expressed on a PC screen and address them to Doru who amazes everyone with his level of energy and dedication to make everything work perfectly for everyone. The same goes to each of the people involved in making DBE a reality and to the security team who should give lessons to each security agency that works with concerts. Thumbs up. Hats off. Peace out!

A later edit: here’s a short clip with moving images from the festival, and after watching it, I feel that I should add up few more thousand words. But I’d best stop here and let you enjoy this:

Meshuggah – Oslo concert review

While not being the most innovative band when it comes to live shows, Meshuggah is one of those live acts that cannot get old. Not yet at least. And this was one of the reason to see them live for th X-th time when they performed at Rockefeller in Oslo sometime in May.

There were two opening acts. Next life and Kong. I arrived at the venue during the Next Life gig and while initially I didn’t understand a thing out of their music, after few minutes I went close to the stage and I might not have closed my mouth for a while. The Norwegian trio performs some sick prog/thrash ‘stuff’ and they’re somewhere in the 10th gear, while their technical level has chances to soon beat half of the lineup of any modern day metal festival. They’re a band whose evolution I (and you) should keep an eye on.

Kongh acted as some sort of transition element after the initial Next Life violence. They play some softer sludge/doom kinda like metal, with songs that sounded like ballads to my ears. But I didn’t spend much time looking at their show, so it wouldn’t be fair to make too many comments on it.

The evening ended with the Meshuggah classical kind of chaos. A well organised chaos (well, except the stupid moshpit that seriously makes no sense at their concert). I don’t recall if the stage props include more than two huge banners with images from the new album and the backdrop, but I do recall the psychadelic light show. Which brought a lot of smiles due the fact that there’s a clip on youtube where you see how the lightguy handles that. The live experience of the result makes you appreciate the videoclip even more.

The kind of energy transmitted from the stage is hard to describe with words. The singer, Jens Kidman, puts to work all his anger and insanity, plus each vein on his face and neck, in order to reflect the pissed off attitude of the songs and to kick your ass to seriously give things a second and a third thought. His vocals are probably the best sounding non melodic ones ever.

Kidman is perfectly sustained by some of the tightest guitar, bass and drums playing machines on this planet. They are able to create some sort of musical reality of their own, so ugly in its distortion, yet so appealing in its perfection. The headbanging moves actually become some sort of body banging with this band and it’s incredible that even this seem to be sinchronised down to few milliseconds.

I’m running out of praise words for this band, so instead of writing long odes tot he guitar solos and super-awesome drumming and groovy bass lines, I recommend you go to a Meshuggah concert yourself. At least once. And find a place with a good view. Then just enjoy the chaos.

Svalbar trip

My passion for witnessing live events has so far brought me a lot of insane experiences in a wide variety of places, each of them with its own flavor and memories to cherish for life. But until few weeks ago I never thought this hobby would fly me all the way to Svalbard to cover an album release in the that land of far far away, where sun shines at 1AM and people spend a long time remembering when they last heard of anything being stolen. This happened due the fact that the Norwegian thrash/black/death metal band CLAYMORDS decided to pack their instruments, invite a photographer (that somehow turned into a team of three people with cameras of all types) and two pole dancers and fly everyone and everything to Longyearbyen.

We took off on a Friday and once I started noticing the white triangle peaks coming out of the clouds and realising that we are actually approaching Svalbard, the ‘real’ world was instantly forgotten and all I felt was that kind of childish excitement at the moment you see the presents under the Christmas tree. We landed on one of the shortest landing stripes ever (or at least it felt like that), made everyone feel pretty special on their way out from the plane as we were waiting outside with cameras ready to document each step of the five band members and then we were taken to our rented apartments by the nice crew at the Svalbar bar, the same place that hosted the concert.

The rest of Friday was used to find out how cheap the alcohol is at the local Liquor store and how you can only buy it if you have your boarding card with you. If you are a local, you have a certain quota that is carefully watched by an old man and noted in his green book. And if you already bought your wine quote for the week, you simply can’t get a new bottle until the next one. If you choose not to spend money on booze, it seemed like you can choose between the remaining 5 shops with winter/sport clothes or 2 with souvenirs and furs. But the advantage of a place with only one supermarket is that you can stand by the entrance and handle concert invitations to whoever passes by. The band’s vocalist, Nils Ivar, probably managed to attract a lot of the crowd through this and also by topping random people on the streets and offering the same invitations.

Saturday was fully dedicated to waking up after Friday night party, setting up the dancing poles, taking down one of them, rehearsing the dances, setting up the stage, painting the backdrop, connecting cables, taping them, setting up cameras, charing batteries, sound checking, putting on makeup, improving the German accent, napping or just looking busy when needed. 10:30PM was the time when the Northernmost metal concert ever started. Actually, the Northermost pole dance ever started with the two talented girl from Bergenpole dance performing daring moves that were paid back by many ‘oooohhs’ and ‘aaahhs’, applauses and whistles. Once the dancers ended their intro, Claymords took over the stage and stayed there for about three songs beyond the original playlist.

Initially it all was a tad shy. The crowd was not allowed close to the stage as the pole dancers would return later during the show and they needed a certain area to be people-free. But Nils Ivar Matilla wasn’t comfortable only in the company of his bandmates (or maybe it was because there was hardly any room for him on the stage), so he spent most of the time walking through the crowd or climbing on the couches and he slowly managed to bring people closer and closer to occupy the empty place in front of the stage, turning the whole place in seriously the hottest spot in Svalbard for the duration of the last songs. People were headbanging like crazy, raising gheir fists and horn in the air as if they knew the songs since forever, the musicians would hardly find a free empty square centimeter on stage to do some cool move with the bass or guitar, while avoiding hitting another band member and we the photographers were sweating like hell trying to capture all the madness. I don’t think the band would have minded to be paid a huge amount of money after the concert, but I’m pretty sure that the amount of applauses and cheers from the people gathered at Svalbar were worth much more than money can buy. It was so surreal by the end. And it’s impossible to describe how it felt to saw the sun rising from behind the clouds, few minutes after the concert ended.

I walked with my video camera through the crowd in the bar and asked what they thought about the concert, and by the people’s reaction it really felt like the band could have played few more concerts and it’d be as successful. They really loved it and I gathered a bunch of big smiles as proof for that. So, I can only conclude that the release of Claymords’ ‘Scum of the Earth’ album must have been one of the most genuine metal releases ever and I don’t think there’s an appropriate word in the dictionary to express how it felt to actually be there. This review will not debate the music on the album, I will let you either read other reviews or offer your ears a metal treat with the Northernmost released album.

The concert night turned out to be pretty long (provided you can define night a time when the light outside is brighter than during a full day in Oslo), so I think most of us found their pillows somewhere between 6 and 7AM, after trying various beverages and even the local kebab shop. It was a pity that the weather on Sunday didn’t allow a snow-scooter safari, so we ended up discovering a bar that has one of the biggest variety of beverages in Europe (if not in the whole world), after having had visited some of the old mining sites and encountering a reindeer in the middle of the city.

Monday saw us back in the plane and on the way back to Oslo. It was sad to leave that place. It was weird to come back to noise and warmth and people and cars and worries and sirens. But now we have plenty of videos and photos to put together in order to offer you the visuals of such a magic weekend. Stay tuned!

Greatest show on Earth, as it is in Hell

Full photo gallery can be found at http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2013/hell

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

I can’t remember exactly when in 2012 I saw a poster of the band Hell announcing that in February 2013 we are invited to attend the greatest show on Earth (as it is in Hell, obviously). It didn’t take me long to buy plane tickets, book a hotel and a concert ticket. It sounded too special to be missed, and I cannot congratulate myself enough for the investment I made. An investment in some of the most awesome live experience ever. I still haven’t found the proper superlative to use for describing how the greatest show on earth turned out. Luckily, the venue in Derby also hosted a bunch of guys with video cameras who captured every moment of the madness and sooner or later a DVD will be available for the whole world to watch.

The whole Saturday in Derby should have been captured on video, I’d say. After locating my hotel and where the Darwin Suite/Assembly Rooms venue was located, I headed to the ‘The Outstanding Order’ pub which was a cool mix of regulars watching sports on the big screen and a way more numerous amount of Hell tshirt bearers (one of the reason to gather there was the fact that they were serving a 6.66% potion brewed especially for the event and called The Devil’s Deadly Weapon). Seriously, at most concerts I go, there’s a certain percentage in the audience wearing the band’s tshirts. And then a big number with classic Maiden, Slayer, Metallica etc (call classic what you want here) and then some neutrals. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen something close to 90% wearing the main act’s logo on their clothes. And out of the remaining ones, a certain part was the kind to make you turn your head on the street: a Jesus Christ costume with the adequate thorns crown; a non JC costume, yet an adequate crown and face paint; crown, red contact lenses and face paint; only face paint. An interesting bunch of folks, nevertheless. Oh, and not to forget the one who had a 666, Hell style, tattooed (or well, drawn at least) on top of his skull.

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

Before entering the venue, we (the photographers) were handed a letter warning that there will be BIG pyro effects on stage and we are not outside the 4 meters safety range (or so), hence we are not covered by insurance. And something else about mortar gargoyles. But prior to facing the dangers of being so close to Hell, we were treated ‘normally’ by the two opening acts, A thousand Enemies and Winterfylleth. The first one, a local melodic hard rock metal band, with good potential and stage presence and the second one, a black metal act from Manchester, but less convincing on stage due their lack of black metal ‘look’. But very interesting music wise, since I never heard a black metal British product. With all due respect to the young musicians, I was so thrilled and excited about the main act, that I could barely focus on their performances for more than a couple of songs.

I was probably packed with adrenaline by the time they dropped down the big curtain hiding the pedestal with the 666 labeled drum kit, the background with Hellish drawings on stained glass, the huge band logo, the ramps leading up to the drums, the organ, the gargoyles and the countless other details one hardly has time to notice and that built the perfect church of Hell for that evening. Before everything turned dark and two silhouettes covered in black robes stepped on the stage with torches and lit some big candles, we had a spokesman who wisely invited all the sinners and fornicators of all present nations to make their choice for the night. The answer was loud as Hell! And as obvious as that.

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

The rest became quickly an unforgettable legend. At least for those present at Darwin Suite. It’s hard to imagine the amount of work behind those 100 minutes that we witnessed. Besides the setup of the stage itself, the directing of all the pyro effects, the stage movements, the costumes, the lights, the sound, the…everything. Probably everyone backstage at that concert deserves a round of applauses. Yet, we only got to see the final product delivered by the British quintet: David Bower – Vocals, Kev Bower – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Andy Sneap – Guitar, Tony Speakman – Bass and Tim Bowler – Drums.

The vocalist deserves a 10 pages review, and then you’d need 5 more to fully try to evoke the theatrical aspect of such a show. It’s in the way they picked the clothes and the face paint and the contact lenses. Then the way there’s a thorns crown worn by the singer. The way the guitarists do synchronised head banging, body bending and small jumps. They even turn into fakirs for a short moment when they had to ‘spit fire’. But most of the show is stolen by Dave Bower’s art of acting. He’s good at it. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. He probably manages to make everyone in the crowd feel like at least once they established eye contact with him. After that, they are bound to follow his every move. Whether he kneels on stage, whether he points up, down, left, right, whether he comes dressed as a priest, as a plague collector or as a demon walking on stilts covered in black fur and wearing massive horns on his head and a trident in his hands. And the trident spits fire and sparkles and it’s being rotated in the air so that the white sparkles fill the stage. On the next song he’s back to his normal size, goes up in the pulpit where his face is lit in green and from where he spits more fire from a big cross he’s holding. The same pulpit was used to throw out more fire out of a gigantic Bible. Actually, I believe that everything Dave held during the show ended up spitting fire or sparkles. Except a red whip. He only used that to, well, whip himself and then threw it in the crowd for one of the dedicated fans to go on the tradition.

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

He must have made the Swedes present in the audience really happy when he borrowed their flag and wrapped his chest in it. But overall he made everyone happy with his performance. Everyone I talked with after the show was mind blown, even if they had seen the band live before. Actually it felt like everyone in the band just set new standards for what a high quality show means. I’ve previously seen metal shows with way more pyro and way more stuff happening on stage, but they were all on those big stages and you ‘share’ the band together with 50.000 other people. I never saw such a majestic event together with so few other people and I doubt any full stadium will ever beat the familiar feeling you get by being part of that evening’s crowd.

Let’s try to say a bit about the music, which the band didn’t compromise at all. We didn’t miss any of those catchy solos, we didn’t miss the creepy playful intros on songs from Human Remains. We didn’t miss new materials either. Actually some old and some new, since, as far as I understand, at least one of the ‘new’ songs was previously heard live. But we got to hear Darkhangel, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Disposer Supreme. For me, Bedtime was also a first audition and for everyone it was the ending tune of the evening. Tune dedicated to the band’s previous frontman, Dave Halliday.

I don’t know if my words have even remotely managed to tell you how impressive the performance was. But I know for sure that if this is how it is on Hell, then may it always be like that on Earth! It’d be a much better place!

Here’s some of the photos I snapped during the gig, more to come on my page, andreutza.biz/zenphoto

Stone Sour and Audrey Horne, live@Rockefeller, Oslo

Stone Sour live@RockefellerBefore the stage was to be well handled by the Iowa based Stone Sour, Rockefeller was first the host of the Norwegian hard rockers from Audrey Horne. A band with a lot of good mood and drive once they begin their performance and whose classic rock beats was well received by the numerous audience. They will probably never win an award for being too innovative in the genre, but they sure have some nice ideas in going out of the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern. We got a mix of nostalgic and dynamic songs, with pretty classic drumming and guitaring, but the plus of the band is their stage presence. All the musicians are part in various projects and have touring experience, and that can be seen when the two guitarists meet up to play a solo face to face or when the singer entertaining the crowd through screams and talks and no less, by jumping off the stage and singing while climbed on the fences that mark the photopit. If you’re a fan of the genre, I’m pretty sure the songs become catchy pretty quick and I guess many were happy with the choice for tonight’s support act.

The main act went few levels up though. Everything from lights to sound and to music was meant to build an incredible rock show. And above all, Corey Taylor’s voice. This is the reason I started listening to Stone Sour and this is what made the concert such an incredible experience. A simple backdrop and an immense drum kit is what we see while we hear the intro of Gone Sovereign, the opening song on their latest release, House of Gold & Bones (part 1). After that, we are treated with an explosion of classics that quickly raise the temperature in the huge hall by several degrees. Hell & Consequences, Made of Scars, Blotter, perfect combo to get most of the hands up in the air and continuous cheering.

Taylor know how to get the audience wrapped around his small finger. Despite the fact that sometimes he’s somewhat close to rude. Like, for example, spilling a glass of water over the mobile phones and cameras of the people in the first row, or, later during the show, directing the crowd to do some ‘ooooooooooooo’s and in the end showing them the middle finger. Yet, we hear a big ‘I love you’ from a woman in the audience, statement to which he replied that, unfortunately, he’s married. But he also is generous in telling the crowd how much they rock and asking them to sing along and simply gesturing for more applause. I admit that during the comeback, when he played a bit of an Alice in Chains song and then Bother, followed by Through glass, I got big goosebumps when more or less everyone present would sing along. Especially since the other band members had left the stage and only Taylor was singing, accompanied by his guitar.

After watching Corey Taylor’s show for a while, I focused my attention on the band he plays with and I did really enjoy when my eyes stopped on the drumkit. Besides pounding the cymbals and toms with as much power as he had, Roy Mayorga fools around a lot with his sticks and it’s fun to watch how oddly he bends his hands in order to kick the hi hat or some cymbals. The guitarists are tightly holding on to the rhythms, not going much to very extreme riffs, simply working together to get the best out of each melody. And all these is really well sustained by a mad light show, such as a band of their caliber should have on tour.

It all ended on the rhythms of 30/30-150 and Taylor stated that since this is part of a two year long tour, Oslo will most likely see them again soon. I can only recommend you give them a try, next time they are in town!
Stone Sour live@Rockefeller

Motorpsycho – The Death Defying Unicorn live@Opera

I simply love it when the Oslo Opera house is holding non opera shows. It’s a place where I witnessed special shows from Ulver and Vreid and this 2012 November evening, my eyes and ears were fully captivated for 90 minutes by one hell of a mad show put up by the three Norwegians in Motorpsycho together with gues musicians Ola Kvernberg, Kåre Chr. Vestrheim and Ståle Storløkken plus a bunch musicians from Trondheim Jazzorchestra and Trondheimsolistene (if I got those info right). These folks were responsible for handling a wide range of brass and strings instruments (trumpets, violins, bass, etc).

One advantage of the Opera is the seating, especially those at the balconies where you really get a cool full view over the entire stage and you can say you fully digest the show from there. Then, its acoustic. Probably also thanks to a talented soundguy, but the sound of each instrument and effect and voice were so clear as you could easily focus on whatever you enjoyed best in the madness of stimuli goinng inside your ears.

Madness is actually the word I associate best with Motorpsycho, a band who’s been around since the beginning of the nineties. First times I heard them, I didn’t make any sense of their tunes so I simply gave up my attempts. I don’t know if it was a live show or some more ‘normal’ song who caught my attention later after that, but ever since I am simply fascinated by their live performances. They have a way of making a perfect disorder in their music, full of rhythm and yet, atypical. Feeling that hasn’t left me when I briefly browsed through the songs of their latest release, ‘The Death Defying Unicorn’, release on which the band also collaborated with today’s guests: Ståle Storløkken on keyboards/organ, jazz violinist Ola Kvernberg, string group Trondheimsolistene and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. And today’s event had the same name as the album, so one could easily figure that it might be fully performed on stage. What you couldn’t predict though, was the stage setting. There’s some carton waves in front of the stage, the orchestra people wear sailor tops and hats, the band musicians look like magicians, Storløkken wears a white robe while standing behind his countless keyboards and all I could see of Vestrheim was a tall pointed greenish hat. And a gong by his side.

The show is opened by a guy dressed as sailor who quickly announces that Motorpsycho will perform the album and what we’re about to experience is nothing less than a sailor’s tale. Ah, now the decor makes sense. Lots of applauding, main hall lights turn off, stage lights turn on and, surprise. A transparent material is hung from the ceiling in front of the musicians and a wild show of lights is projected on it (projection that will follow all the way through the end, getting less wilder and even funnier, in the shape of some flying fish, and then wild again, depending on the music).

The music is rarely leaving you time to realise how many songs you’ve been through. Actually, they didn’t even stop between songs, making everything flow nicely from mad sea storms, to peacefully visits in the harbor inns, then back to sea and starting all over again. I guess the fact that all the artists collaborated on the album itself, and it wasn’t just orchestra quickly learning the band’s metal songs, it never felt like two opposite teams trying to overcome the others. It was a perfect harmony between the two, except the fact that Motorpsycho music is anything but harmonious. Yet, there were lovely slow instrumental moments when you could just close your eyes and think of, well, unicorns afterall.

At the end, the band got a well deserved portion of applause and an extra one when they came back for a final bow. I also bow to them since they actually played that show twice, in the same day, with only few hours distance between them. And they didn’t seem to be sparing any energy while guitaring or drumming, which I believe was the case with the first show as well. It was a lovely evening that allowed me to discover this album in a ‘complete’ manner, assuming that for the live shows they got to fix whatever musicians consider ‘oh, I should have done this better on the album’. But at least now I’ll have the right imagery in the back of my mind whenever I put it on play again.

Gotthard live in Oslo – concert review

Even if they’ve been around since 1992, I only discovered Gotthard’s music this year at Graspop festival and I quickly fell in love with the voice of their current frontman, Nic Maeder. That’s why I gladly decided to go to their Oslo show, held at John Dee venue, but I was less glad today before the show as the day before I attended few other insane concerts and the amount of headbanging made it impossible for me to move much on Sunday. So I witnessed the Gotthard concert from way back, stiff like a plank of wood and very annoyed by that. Plus I also missed the first band, Gotham Saints, a Norwegian-Swedish mix of glam metallers. But I got in just in time for the opening tune of Gotthard, ‘Dream On’.

I was glad to see a pretty active Oslo crowd, who bothered to lift their hands in the air, sing along and applaud often. But then again, the singer has a lot of charm and energy and easily gets the audience to do ‘Oooohh’ and ‘Aaaaahs’ in any way he wants. He gets good support by the two guitarists and the bass player who do a lot of faces towards he crowd, inciting them to applaud or to sing, or they simply come forward and play a guitar solo in a fancy way, enough to trigger even more intense applause. They’re really cool to watch, even if after my Saturday’s concerts, where each band was trying to break a bunch of musical rules and patterns and would come up with a unique sound, Gotthard’s solos and rhythms felt kinda dull. I don’t mean to say they make bad music, yet, if it hadn’t been for the lovely voice, I’d simply have considered it another hard rock band that is cool live and that’s about it. But since the taste is a subjective matter, I’d much rather focus on enjoying the whole live experience and most of all, of being glad when a band succeeds in being so acclaimed by the Norwegian crowd.

The playlist probably followed the pattern of most other shows they played, trying to cover most of their discography but also to promote their 2012 release, ‘Firebirth’, with some decent time dedicated to a very intense ‘Hush’ cover. Like they did at Graspop, the ballad ‘One life, one soul’ was dedicated to the band’s original singer, Steve Lee, who died in a motorcycle accident almost two years ago. Then the sound gets a bit heavier with some of the tunes from the new track, especially with the presence of a double necked guitar during the rhythms of ‘Give me real’. Each song is a good example of good band communication and chemistry, as the smiles are always present and the guitar duos are often and done with good mood. Another funny moment of the show was when they announced ‘Mountain Mamma’ as the next song, yet the singer had to stop his colleagues as they were playing the wrong song intro. It’s obviously a rehearsed act, but it’s efficient in building a good mood. ‘Mountain Mamma’ was followed by ‘Right on’, songs during which the guitarist, Leo Leoni used a talk box to modify his voice and make robotic sounds and speak oddly to the Oslo audience.

They left the stage after ‘Right On’ and I’m pretty sure there was a comeback, but it was really frustrating not to be able to even clap nor sing along, so I just left and hope to make up for the missed fun next time I see them.

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