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.

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.
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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:

Festival experience

If you ever thought that the life of a rockband is only made of drinking, playing music and then hanging out with all the naked babes around, you might wanna wake up to the reality of the current time and date. Now there’s a lot of hard work involved in those 30,40,50 or 120 minutes that your favorite act is on stage. Of course, some bands have it a lot easier when they are surrounded by a swarm of staff/crew who does most of the things for them. But below is what I experienced during a trip to Hellfest festival in France, together with a band famous enough to fill the two tents of the festival, but not famous enough to have an army of roadies to work for them.

It started Friday morning. Wake up 5AM, leave for the airport so that you are there sometime 6AM. Check in, waste time, go to the flight. Catch some sleep.
Land in Paris, Charles de Gaulle, a place that looks like you’re part of the Jetsons cartoons. Wait for luggage, meet the others, wait for the special luggages (instrument cases) together with another band who has plenty of instruments to pick up. The bag with the cymbals doesn’t arrive though so extra time is spent going to the SAS office, asking for it, getting it delivered. There goes probably half an hour if not more. Our group consists of 4 band members, the road manager, me as journalist and the sound/tech guy who actually arrived from Lisabon and he’s waiting for us outside
Once the luggage issues are solved, we exit airport, go to the car rental office, they handle in some papers and send us to the garage. We get one of the two cars delivered, start loading up some stuff in it. The big van is not ready though. We wait. They change the small car as well since it didn’t have a full tank. Big van gets delivered after lots of waiting. There goes some more hours, most of them at the expense of the nerves of the road manager who always has to go around with her printed papers and agreements and sit and talk to people to eventually get to the desired result…After we get out of the garage, there’s also an extra hour – I guess – just to circle around Paris and be on our way to Nantes.
We drive for what, 4, 5 hours? I’ve lost track of time. Reach Nantes and find the hotel we were booked by the festival. We were supposed to be 8, but we were only 7. This confuses the hell out of the girls at the reception who hardly spoke English. And this brings plenty of joy to the road manager’s patience skills. The confusion was of epic levels when we found out breakfast is not included, so then we had to pay for it for two nights. Dialogue was something like
“So, you are only seven? Does it still mean four rooms?”
“Yes, we still need for rooms. But only seven breakfasts”
“Seven breakfasts and four rooms. For two days?”
“Yes, two days”
“But then you only pay for seven breakfasts?”
“Yes”
“And three or four rooms?”
….
They calculated it wrong anyway and had to be corrected. Whatever. We finally had a place to drop our stuff in. 5 minutes later we meet at the reception.
We try to figure out the transport to the festival area, but it turns out it’s only by cab and not covered by the festival, so we end up driving there ourselves.
Luckily at that hour there was hardly any traffic. We followed the signs for Artists and eventually reach a point where a guy was guarding the way. The driver rolls the window down and when asked says ” We are Band X from Norway”. The dude is confused, looks at the printed mails, starts talking in his walkie talkie, comes back to check again the band name…Probably not too used with bands driving in by themselves. Plus we didn’t have anything but those printed mails to show who we were. It’s probably a bad idea to have the accreditation thingy be picked up after two control zones, rather than having it somewhere on the way, and then it makes the life of those control people much easier. But it was somewhat fun.
At the festival area, the manager gets our wristbands and fixes everything with a designated hostess.
Despite the fact that it was specified in the contract, it turns out that the festival ran out of shuttle buses for us for the next day. And then it again takes a while to debate and fix something. All in all, the time is somewhere past 8PM, Twisted Sister has switched places with WhiteSnake and there goes my main point of interest for that day. We get to walk inside the festival area, watch a bit of some shows, buy food, have a drink and 11:30 PM we all gather and drive back.
Next morning awaits with the French breakfast: croissants, bread slices, Nutella, Fruit Jam 1, Fruit Jam 2, Honey, Cream Cheese, Normal Cheese (luckily very non smelly) and cereals. And no meat. But except the cream cheese and regular cheese that tended to vanish really soon, everything else was a sugar bomb waiting to be spread on the bread.. I recently found out it is common for the people there to eat such things for breakfast. Oh well. Energized and in good spirit we get a (paid) shuttle to drive us to the festival. A bit more crowded on the way, but we still get there in good time, get a designated room to drop our stuff and to change and then start exploring. I think most of us actually went for a more decent food in the backstage area and then everyone went to check out the stage. Not to forget, we found a bottle of wine on the table in the room. It was a festival wine. Probably fertilised with lots of remains from the festival goers.
At festivals, there are pretty tight schedules. If you, as a band, play at 4PM, then you can start loading in at 1PM maybe, but at max 3 you need to be ready to get your shit on stage. It’s more or less that as soon as the previous band ends playing, they start packing their instruments and pedals and whatever, someone pushes out the drumkit and then the reverse process starts: the drumkit that you have set up is being pushed on the stage, banners are set up, cables are plugged, things are tested, a soundcheck is done. In case you understood that the band members are the ones who do these actions, then you’re wrong. First, there’s a stage manager guy who supervises everything. Then there’s a lot of local festival crew who helps with the drumkit (the drummer only sets up his own cymbals and adjusts everything to his size). There’s a lot of actual stage people who take care of cables and such details. And then there’s a huge amount of work from the band’s own sound/tech guy. His actual job on the stage starts from the moment the load in begins. He already has a big list of requirements from the band on how he should set up the various channels. A lot of these requirements have been sent to the festival in advance. And now his job is to talk to the local techies to see that everything is in place as per the request, and to get an overview of how stuff looks like. Then he goes around and checks the cables and all the set up. Then he runs back behind his sound board and starts doing soundcheck. And every now and then he runs back to the stage to adjust a bit of this and of that. Not to mention his focus during the concert and his big contribution to actually removing everything from stage and making sure no piece of equipment is left behind.
Once all preparations are made and each detail is taken care of, it’s time for action. Intro music, people on stage, crowd cheerings, lights, photographers in the pit, black metal, spikes, crowd surfing, and so on. For about 50 minutes.
Then you’re done, say goodbye to the fans, leave the stage, greet your mates, wipe the sweat off your face, go back on stage to pick up your stuff, put it in boxes, take some photos, pack some more and then go back to the dressing room. Then we went to the artists restaurant to use our food coupon and we can’t really complain about the quality of the food. It was funny to see that every Norwegian a the table ended up with a burger, while the rest of us had anything else but burgers. Once we turned into happy stuffed pigs, we left to watch some more of the shows from that day. It all culminated with KISS on the main stage and to my excitement I found a great spot to photograph the band for the entire duration of the show. Now I only need the time to go through those photos, hopefully before the year ends. 
We had a shuttle back to the hotel booked at 2AM. We got thrown out of our changing room at 1AM, so we spent a while in an idle state, with the legs on the guitar cases and the asses on the chairs we took outside the room. Close to 2AM we go to the main entrance/exit and one of us calls the driver. She says she’s on the way. We start waiting (or go on with it, as it was our main activity for the last hour or so). We see another Norwegian band who had been waiting for way longer and they were quite exhausted. Then we witness a lot of other bands coming out from the festival area and being picked up, but our bus is not arriving. We call again, she’s still on the way. Thank God. Which way now, it’s a mystery. A guy responsible for stuff find a shuttle bus for the other band who had been waiting for like forever. They’re jumping in instantly. He also disappoints us even more saying that he heard from shuttle bus drivers that they’d be there in 10 minutes. That happened 40 minutes ago. It looked like transport that evening was not their main success.
Eventually our white van arrives and we find out from the driver that it all got messed up due some superstars at the festivals. They even needed police escort (not sure if on their way in or out). I think after this point everyone must have felt asleep. I seriously can’t remember how I got to my hotel room. Early alarm the next day, the same sugar bomb breakfast, we check out, split in two, as a part of us have an earlier flight and they have to leave in good time. The rest of us drive back to the festival to drop a person, then we driver back to Paris for some more 4 hours or so, with stops on the way and small sightseeing moments when the driver would misunderstand the Tom tom. Deliver cars, checking, meet the others at the gate since they leave from the same area, get checked for drugs like every other metalhead who passed the security gates. Gotta love French stereotypes. Then fly to Oslo and have the whole trip ending with the discovery of the festival wine bottle that got broken into many many pieces inside a big boot. It must bring a special flavor next time those boots will be used on stage.

Tuska 2013

The below review will be official on Eternal-terror.com website. This is just a preview

Tuska 2013

My third year in a row at the outdoor metal festival in the Finnish capital only managed to add to the list of awesome memories that make me love this event so much and wish to return there every year from now on. Even before reaching the area I was way too happy seeing how the festival went down from 4 to 3 stages, thus making the schedule way more relaxed and convenient for everyone. Of course, it might also be caused by the fact that another big festival realised it might be a fair idea to set their dates at the same time as Tuska and so they stole some of the crowd that weekend, but all in all, it led to a fantastic musical experience. With only 1 minute to walk between the two main stages and two more in order to reach the indoor stage, Tuska logistics functioned rather well so that mainly everyone could enjoy any of the shows on the main stages. As it is an all age festival, the area where the alcohol selling bars are located has age restricted access, thus making it easier to avoid beer and other sticky liquids being thrown at the crowd in front of the stage. Also the price you pay for each drink includes a two Euro ‘tax’ that you get back once you return the can or the glass. So there’s rarely any throwing. Being an all age festival leads to really cool sights in front of the stage, as it’s not often you get to see 14-18 year old kids running in a mosh pit or starting a wall of death. It’s encouraging to think the metal future is in good hands.

Another thing I love about this festival is that they don’t seem to try to empty your wallet by all means. Of course, unless you plan to drink all day, but that’s another story. Strictly talking from the point of view of food and non alcoholic beverages, you have the choice of going for expensive warm food (provided you manage to figure out what’s what and are brave enough to taste it). But you can also have a sandwich for 2-3 Euros and a bottle of water for 69 cents inside the local ‘super market’ (aka a big trailer with shelves full of bottles, snacks and sandwiches. And some ice cream). Besides this, you are allowed to enter with your own plastic bottle, provided it is sealed. Inside the festival grounds you can refill it with fresh cold water, therefore you don’t really feel obliged to continuously pay insane amounts of money for everything you want to consume. At least this is the feeling I get at bigger festivals.

Being located pretty close to the city center, it makes it easy for everyone to reach the area by bus or tram or subway. Most concerts end by 10 or 11 PM and then it’s again easy to catch some mean of transportation back home after the shows, unless you wanna keep on partying at one of the many Tuska after parties in town. Me and my friends only made it to one of these shows on Saturday, but due to the state of tiredness I was in, I didn’t manage to comprehend what was happening on stage so I am not going to write anything about that concert.

Tuska’s 2013 lineup gathered a bunch of more or less famous Finnish bands (Nightwish, Stratovarius, Wintersun, Stam1na, Lama, Lost Society, Amorphis, etc) plus a bunch of cool names from abroad, a lot of them being Nuclear Blast signed acts: Bolt Thrower, King Diamond, Kreator, Ihsahn, Testament, Soilwork, Leprous. The festival also offered an EMP stand for signing sessions and it was incredible to see the size of the queue for the Nightwish one. By now, I am starting to get familiar with the guards that stay with us in the photo pit at each stage and have a good time chatting and joking with them prior to the concerts. One of them even wrote us a sign saying that due the big amount of photographers, only the first 8 are allowed in the pit if they pay 100 EUR/each and don’t come in with a lens bigger than 50mm. We were too many and overwhelmed him.

The first band of the festival is always a pleasure for me to witness live and this was no exception – Leprous, a very quickly rising Norwegian progressive band, who recently released a new album which represented most of their 25 minutes set. Initially it seemed that everything was in slow motion as the intro was a soft keyboards/drums/voice solo, but once the two guitarists and the bass player showed up, the speed lever was pushed to the max and the leprousians barely stood still. I still haven’t figured out how they do it, but I am more and more impressed each time I see them live (the amount has reached about 15 by now). With the regret that the show lasted to little, we went back to the heat and daylight and watched a bit of TesseracT, who replaced The Dillinger Escape Plan on short notice. Only saw a bit of this concert, but I recall loving the instrumental parts and wishing there’d be almost no vocals to interrupt. But I’ll surely check more of this band from now on.

It was interesting to catch the show of the Finnish disbanded death metallers Abhorrence. I didn’t know about them prior to the festival so it was rather interesting to hear the mix of Swedish classic death metal sounds with Finnish origins. On the down side, you can see the band is missing stage practice since they had their shy moments. But the performance was quickly forgotten once Wintersun took over the main stage of the festival. They are highly adored by the crowd and each cheer and raised hand combines perfectly with the insane amount of energy on stage and mixes in a rather impressive concert. Personally I never got fully caught by the band’s music, but if I get the chance to see them live, I can’t refuse it. They’re simply great and the epic metal that they compose seems to work much better when you have the audience in the picture, and not just as a sound coming from the speakers. I ran to catch a bit of Dreamtale’s show at the small stage and I was welcomed by a great mood on stage and a very good attempt at epic and melodic power metal. Riffs o plenty and high pitched vocals were a good recipe to get the place rather full and to entertain the audience.

The five Leprous members return on the secondary stage (called Inferno), this time as backing musicians for the Norwegian black metal legend, Ihsahn (former Emperor singer). Ihsahn’s musical experience is probably the main reason that he managed to compose such insane combinations of black metal parts with all sort of elements from different genres, adding some interesting standards to the world of progressive music. There’s still his classical Emperor voice in most of the songs, only with more melodic backup and a more stylish look on stage. He’s a guitar master and at times it feels that he forgets about anything else and it’s only his guitar that exists in the universe. I must add that compared to other Ihsahn shows I have seen before, this time it felt more compact all together, a sign that all the musicians have somewhat leveled up when it comes to playing live in this formation.

Back on the main stage to finally watch again the British death metal legends going by the name of Bolt Thrower. Despite the fact that they don’t seem to have any recent releases, only re-masterings of the old albums, the band enjoys a fantastic response from the crowd and by the smile on their faces it is obvious they are in for some good fun. Even the Finnish afternoon sun show its face to enjoy the gig and make the band members’ faces look very pink by the end of the concert. A concert rich in moshpits and good music and certainly a band to keep on watching live when possible.

Amorphis took over the second main stage and to my disappointment, I think I only knew the tunes from one of the songs they chose to perform that day. But then again, I have seen Amorphis many times, so maybe it’s ok that they fully change the playlist, especially when they’re on home ground. No matter how often I see this band and how good or bad the show is, it’s always a great fascination to watch the singer Tomi spinning his never-ending dreads and how much power is projected from that little man. But the fascination ended quickly as my stomach was desperately asking for food. So I left after few songs, ate a bit, and then went back to the main stage to finally witness King Diamond live. I don’t want to insult any of the King’s fans, but I believe that if you haven’t grown up with his music, it’s hard to start enjoying it now, in the era of a youtube full of cat videos and noises. But I give him the credit of a very cool show. For the first part of the concert, the front of the stage was decorated with a fence, while in the back there were stairs on each side of the drums, stairs used by the musicians to perform various solo parts and actions. The show was spiced up by a lot of characters, mainly of the female kind, all of them busy being slaughtered, giving birth, being scared, looking macabre and so on. Unfortunately, the sun was also pretty keen on the show, and it stayed with us all the way to the end. I believe that such bright light takes away at least half of the impact and the grotesque of the planned scenery that supports King Diamond’s music. But at least it helps with cool photos.

DAY 2

The fact that Tuska is such an awesome festival is highly enhanced by the great company I always have in Finland. I stay with some dear friends of mine, who always happen to host a lot of folks for the weekend and we end up having some crazy times from the moment we wake up until we leave to the concerts area. And even on the way, we ran two days in a row into another cool bunch of people that I know from other festivals in Norway. And then we encountered plenty of other crazy Finns, so each day we ended up with our own silly and funny mini parties in the festival area, making the whole experience quite unforgettable.

Musicwise, the second day of Tuska begins with Lost Society on the main stage. A lot of people in my group said we have to go and watch them and few seconds within their set I understood why. A bunch of teenagers wearing some normal tshirts and vests and caps have seriously rocked the place for 50 minutes. The style of thrash metal performed can easily stand up to big albums of its genre and it was such a pleasant surprise to hear and watch them perform. It was love at first sight and once we were done photographing, I went in the middle of the crowd to watch them and to also enjoy the crazy circle pits that formed during the show. I can only copy the intro of the band description on their facebook page and recommend anyone to check our this wonder: “17, 18, 19, 19. No, that’s not today’s lottery numbers, but the age of the band members of Finland’s most promising contemporary newcomer combo.”.

In comparison, the Danes from Black City had a very very pale show on the secondary stage and we didn’t spend much time watching them. We mainly sat and gossiped about Lost Society and then went to see Soilwork on the main stage. There’s plenty of good energy once the guys enter the stage, but I’m always fascinated by the moves of their bass player. He’s so entertaining (besides having some cool tunes coming out from the actual bass). I didn’t watch more than few songs though, as I had to run for an interview with a fantastic Finnish band called Oranssi Pazuzu. The interview finished just in time for me to catch We Bread The Butter with Butter, whom I expected to be way sillier, considering the band’s name. I was not sold to their deathcore style and to the amount of electronic elements in the music, so after I took a cool pic of the singer in the air, I went to purchase some warm food.

My plan was to eat the food during Stam1na’s show and not photograph it, but when I saw the inflatable giraffes and palm tree on stage, I decided to put the food down and go into the photo pit. Man, what a cool silly show. They sing in Finnish so the music doesn’t really stick to you (unless you speak the language), but the Hawaiian stage setting was one of the most genuine I’ve ever seen for a metal show. The singer was wearing a surf costume, the guitarists were half naked and had straw skirts, everyone made sure the hair was wet at all times and made very cool effects when headbanging, and most of all, everyone had way too much fun on stage. Such a pleasure to watch them.

Time to somewhat relax with the serious and dark black metal show from the Americans in Von. One again, the sunlight sort of took away the deep feeling of their music, but, nevertheless, it was such a pleasure to watch this band which is thought to be the first American black metal one and their history goes all the way back to 87. The deep and dark riffs worked best whenever I decided to close my eyes and just enjoy the sounds from the old days. Time for more legends on the main stage, this time from Germany and from the realms of thrash metal – Kreator. It’s not easy to decide which instrument to pay more attention to, since all musicians play them in full force and with insane speed and accuracy. The band got very good responses both on old and new materials and did a fantastic job at setting very high standards for the main act of the day, Bay Area thrashers Testament. Both bands had really awesome backdrops, inspired by their latest releases and adding up to the epicness of their performance.

It is hard to review a Testament show. The guys know their roles on stage and they know them too well, so you can probably only talk about them using superlatives. Especially if you, like me, decide to mainly look at Gene Hoglan’s performance behind the drums and wonder if he has any backup arms or legs to make it through the whole duration of the concert. A concert that feels so flawless, hence it doesn’t leave room for too many words about what happened on stage. What happened in the crowd, well now, there’s another story. Chuck Billy seriously enjoys the sight of mosh pits and walls of death, hence spending a lot of time in between songs to arrange the crowd and direct their madness in a good old thrashy style. The monitors on each side of the stage offered insane images and I’m pretty sure a lot of the kids at that concert left home with very happy memories. And maybe with some twisted ankles or so.

Prior to Testament, I also watched a bit of a Finnish punk like legendary band called Lama, but I admit it wasn’t too entertaining to watch such old men performing punk in an unknown language. So I will not comment much on that performance. I was dead tired by the end of the night and even if we went to an after party that evening, all I recall right now is the awesome feeling of laying my head down on the pillow. And the pain of waking up next day, but that’s another story. Also today has brought some cool intense shows on the indoor stage: Urfaust and Dark Buddha Rising. Both of them are really good at building up a dark atmosphere, and while Urfaust managed to do that with only a guitar and a set of drums (and that is an impressive sight considering how overwhelming the music gets), Dark Buddha Rising had a lot of members on stage (even if the main show is put up by their vocalist). There was a lot of occultism in the music of both bands and I keep wondering if this has anything to do with the smell of that thing that gets burned in the churches when the priests are going around to bless the masses.

Day 3

I decided to be very lazy on Sunday and go rather late at the festival, especially since I have no joy in watching/hearing Amaranthe’s Barbie style music. I still caught a bit of their show though, just enough to support my current opinion on the band. It was much more enjoyable to watch the Barbe-Q-Barbies, a girl-only band with pleasant appearances, listenable rock music and good mood throughout the concert. Back on the main stage, I was very impressed with Battle Beast’s performance. I knew the band with their previous singer and they have some impressive heavy metal grooves. The new singer actually lives up to the expectations and, despite her small and fragile look, she pulls off an amazing powerful voice and has a great presence to fit the music. They are very pleasant to watch and listen, I just had to do it from far away as my feet demanded that I sat down.

I stood up again to go and photograph Stratovarius. Maybe not the most exciting live show ever, but Timo Kotipelto’s vocals don’t really fail (in the power metal style) and there’s a contagious good mood on stage. Especially when you realise that the corners of the keyboards have rubber ducks on them. It is quite nostalgic to hear the keyboards intro for Black Diamond and the party in the crowd for ‘Hunting high and low’ was a joy to watch.

The main stage had only three acts today. Now that’s so relaxed and it actually allows you to enjoy everything until the end, rather than being dead tired (drunk in some cases) by the last band, which is also the 6th on the main stage and the 28th for that day and the 130th for the festival. Anyways, the main act of the day was Nightwish. A band with a recent history full of changes and controversies and who, at the moment, is performing with Floor Jansen on vocals. After watching a youtube clip of her performing with the band in the US, I instantly fell in love with the way she sang and decided I have to see them live with this lineup. And I finally got the chance.

I am not familiar with the band’s latest releases, but the old ones are pretty much the ones that introduced me to metal so there’s a lot of nostalgia in hearing those songs live. Floor’s stage presence is beyond ‘wow’. She’s got the balls it takes to lead a band with such a name and to do it perfectly on their home grounds. She is gorgeous, she’s doing crazy headbanging, she uses the few Finnish words she has learned. I am convinced most of the crowd was sold to her and the band has gained back their fans and their fame. Once you decide to release yourself from Floor’s spell, you start noticing that many other things happen on stage. Crazy cool drumming from Jukka Nevalainen, silly star shaped sun glasses worn by Marco Hietala, sick surroundings for Tuomas Holopainen’s keyboard set (a lot of huge metal pipes stuck together). There were a lot of pyro effects, plenty of projections on the backdrop, meant to fit the mood in every song. A lot of the time the band was joined on stage by Troy Donockley with his bagpipes and flutes and other unidentified instruments. I constantly ran from the front of the stage back to my friends who had their own headbanging party. I actually filmed one of these walks and you can watch it here and see how much fun the people had during the concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sscGP9ZrWPI

Lately, I rarely listen to female fronted bands. But the Nightwish experience at Tuska reminded me why I loved their music so much at the beginning and I couldn’t think of a better band to end the fantastic 2013 edition of Tuska. I’m already so looking forward for next year in Helsinki, but until then I have about 5000 photos to go through. Stay tuned for the photo galleries.Amorhips at Tuska 2013

Bolt Thrower live@Tuska 2013

Bolt Thrower live@Tuska 2013

Bolt Thrower live@Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Ihsahn at Tuska 2013

Headbanging at Tuska 2013

Dreamtale at Tuska 2013

Dark Budda Rising at Tuska 2013

crowd05

King Diamond at Tuska 2013

Kreator at Tuska 2013

Leprous at Tuska 2013

Leprous at Tuska 2013

Lost Society at Tuska 2013

Crowd at Tuska 2013

Moshpit at Tuska 2013

Nightwish at Tuska 2013

Guards at Tuska 2013

Amorhips at Tuska 2013

Wintersun at Tuska 2013

Von at Tuska 2013

Testament at Tuska 2013

Testament at Tuska 2013

Stratovarius at Tuska 2013

Stam1na at Tuska 2013

Stam1na at Tuska 2013

Stam1na at Tuska 2013

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.

Hoist! Interview

Hoist! Promo photoBy a very lucky accident, the promo version of Hoist!’s ‘Ami Noir’ album fell into my hands and I had a long period of time during which I couldn’t stop listening to the beautiful madness and combinations of jazz and blues with a touch of punk and metal. There’s plenty of genuine stuff emerging from Norwegian musical scene, but for some reason Hoist! was the most fresh, yet full of contrast and managing the hold on to a very old and classic sound at the same time. I guess the easiest to understand what I mean is to try to listen to them for yourselves, either by checking out for their video releases on youtube or visiting one of their official pages: http://www.hoistnorway.com and https://www.facebook.com/hoistnorway
February 2013 means the release date of their first full length album, ‘Ami Noir’, an album magically produced by Oz Fritz, who previously worked with ‘special sounding’ artists, such as Herbie Hancock, Tom Waits, Primus, Ornette Coleman. But until then, I had the chance to sit down for a chat with the two voices of Hoist!, Marita Røstad and Stian Leknes and be introduced to their world full of music and emotions. So many emotions that they get a biker crying and admitting he had the most beautiful piss ever while listening live to one of their songs. Enjoy the lecture!

Me: When did all begin with Hoist!?
Marita: We found out that we wanted to play some of my songs at the rehearsal (we had played together before, in another band) and it worked out quite well. After that we decided to make more songs together, and suddenly we had enough for the album.

Me: Was it just the two of you or all of the band?
Marita: All of us.
Stian: It was actually six of us who did that. Kristoffer came in when we actually had the project started. But more or less all the songs we had from the very beginning ended up on our first album.
Marita: We did a demo in a studio in Trondheim once we had some songs ready, and we contacted Oz Fritz with that demo to ask if he wanted to produce our album.

Me: Why did you choose him?
Marita: We have heard his work on ‘Mule Variations’ by Tom Waits, and we love that sound.
Stian: I guess we were basically listening through different albums, looking at who the producer of the engineer is. ‘Mule Variations’ stood out as one of the best sounds and we saw that Oz Fritz had done that, and he also did Primus and Iggy Pop and lots of other stuff. I called Prairie Sun, where the album is mixed, because we figured out he worked there a lot. He happened to be there that day, he told us to send over some songs for him to check out. We had a new phone call the day after and he told us he loved it. He suggested we worked in France, at ‘La Fabrique’, the studio where we ended up recording the album.

Me: So you all travelled there?
Stian: Yea, all seven of us. And he flew in from the States because since he’s based there.

Me: Wow, quite an international collaboration there.
Stian: I guess so. It’s also mixed in an American studio, so…
Marita: It was certainly the most suitable place to record it.
Stian: The whole experience was really awesome. The building is an old factory for army clothes, for the French army in the 1800 or something like that. The story is that they used to make red uniforms but after a while they figured out that the red colour is not really that good. People can quickly see you and shoot you. So instead or changing to blue or green, they just shut off the whole thing. Typical French.
Marita: Then Herve and Isabelle, a married couple, they bought it and made a studio.
Stian: It’s a huge complex with huge rooms and really great to work in.

Me: So, this style of music is something you did before coming up with the Hoist! idea?
Marita: I write most of the songs and then we all somehow define the direction of the music.
Stian: Actually the band existed already to do ‘The Earth Died Screaming’. a Tom Waits celebration concert. So this probably helped shaping the style of music. This started out at Trondheim Jazz Festival in 2008. We were basically the same people as now, except Kristoffer.
Marita: I guess we wanted to eventually do our own material, and not only the tribute concert, so that’s why we started working on our own songs.

Me: This obviously means Tom Waits is a big inspiration for you. What other names would you think of as inspirations?
Marita: I’m also very influenced by Nick Cave and PJ Harvey.
Stian: There’s way more than that. I don’t think you can label us as strictly a Tom Waits-like sounding band. I guess it’s a big mix, and I guess that’s why it works when there are so many different musicians in the band coming from such different backgrounds – like me and few others coming from metal, a couple of us from the rock scene and the others from the jazz scene. I think this shines through in the music.

Me: Is it only you Marita writing the whole of one song? Or you are responsible for the main idea and then everybody contributes?
Marita: We kinda vary this from song to song. But on most of them, I come with what I have already written, take this to the band and they do what they want to do with the material. There’s some instructions from me as well…But that’s how you end up with some parts that are really grind core and then some of them are pure jazz and so on.
Stian: I think it’s also what Kristoffer said when we were in France – the reason that the music comes out as original as it does is that neither Marita nor anyone else hasn’t put too much lead on anything. Everyone can do what they want.
Marita: We actually want people to do what they like to do, so that we get the music to be kinda special and original.

Me: How did you get the two brothers to split between drumming and percussion?
Stian: That was hard actually. It happened when we played ‘The Earth Died Screaming’. Originally we had another drummer, Stian Lundberg, but he started doing some other stuff, so I called Alessandro to ask if he can do the drums for the concert in Drammen. He was busy that day, so I thought to call his brother. It happened that they were sitting in the same car so I heard Alessandro in the background wondering why I’m calling his brother for. So it was actually a coincidence that Daniel could do it that day.
Marita: He played really well. After the first gig with him, we decided we really wanted him to stay.
Stian: Alessandro was already playing percussion with us, so he just stayed with that and Daniel took over the drums part.
Marita: It works really well now. Everyone got used to it.

Me: I personally love those percussion parts and they fit so well, they are played at such right times.
Marita: Our sound engineer always says that Alessandro is the glue in the band.
Stian: It’s about small things that actually make stuff stand out from the ordinary. He’s not really a percussionist, he’s never done a lot of percussion before.
Marita: But it’s the way he plays the drumkit. It’s kinda percussion like.
Stian: And when he does percussion it really sounds special, so everyone just likes it.

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Me: More stuff about the new album…so who is Ami and why is she or he or it black?
Marita: It’s the French for ‘Dark Friend’. We never thought about it as a name actually. We thought about having a French name on the album, since it was recorded there. We had different suggestions and it actually happened while we were recording.
Stian: One day we were sitting on the couch, listening to ‘Dark Friend’, and she asks what dark friend would be in French. And then we had ‘Ami Noir’. So we confirmed with the French guy if it was ok.

Me: Who’s writing the lyrics? Only you?
Marita: No, we both are.

Me: Any particular themes or ideas you try to put in them? Is there a concept in this album?
Marita: It has turned out to be one actually. I hadn’t quite realised how dark the lyrics were until Oz said it.
Stian: When we were talking about the album titles, Oz suggested we’d call it ‘Songs in the key of death’. The opposite of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs in the key of life’. He said that all of our songs are basically about death. I guess the theme in the lyrics ended up kinda being death.

Me: There’s certain characters in your songs. Are they based on real ones or mainly imagination? Like Rosemary for example.
Marita: It’s not easy to explain. It’s based on a person, yet it’s not.
Stian: I think that when you write something, you end up putting some influence from a real character or from within yourself. Then you twist that around and do whatever you want with it and end up with fiction based on reality.
Marita: Me and Stian have discussed this and I must say that I kinda want people to read what they want to. I don’t want a special interpretation.
Stian: It can be a long discussion about art, debating if the author should explain anything or leave people the freedom of seeing what they want.

Me: Even if the album is not out yet, you went touring around Norway this year, right? What kind of reactions did you get from the people?
Hoist promo photoMarita: It was quite overwhelming at some places, people started to cry and such. Probably a good emotional reaction.
Stian: Overall, the response was pretty good for the live shows.
Marita: Usually people are reserved at each concert, wondering what kind of music this is, especially when one song starts like one genre, and the next one as another genre and so on. After a while, they start to really get into it.
Stian: We have a good memory from Tromsø. We played at Bastard Bar a couple of times. The first time we played there, there were these two guys from a motorcycle club, as one of the owners is a motorcycle club guy. They came to the door, standing and wondering if they’d come in and pay the entrance fee or not. When they walked in, we were playing something with a jazz touch in it and they decided that “naaah, this is not our thing”. But then we burst out into something else and made them say “oh, but this is punk. We can listen to punk”. A bit later on “No, this is not punk either”. So they thought we just had our thing, our kind of journey in our music.
Marita: One of them actually started to cry.

Me: Wow, you made a biker cry.
Stian: Hehe, yea, that’s pretty good. One of them was also telling us this story. He went into the toilet, right behind the stage. He was standing there pissing listening to our song called ‘Unchained’ and that was the most beautiful piss he ever took. Now that’s a good compliment.

Me: How easy is it to manage seven people on the tour, compared to the usual four, maybe five?
Stian: I guess that’s my task, I’m some sort of administrator. But they’re a good bunch of people and we get along most of the times. There’s, of course, like in every band, some small arguments, but it’s been mostly going smooth. We have all been friends for many years now and that helps. We had some time issues here and there, some like to sleep more than others and such, hehe, you know, it happens with every band.

Me: You earlier said that a couple of people have jazz background, some have metal background and so on. Does it mean you studied together or?
Marita: Me and Kristoffer have studied jazz in Trondheim. Daniel has also studied in Levanger, so now he owns his own music school in Trondheim. Alessandro went to a highschool for music and he studied classical piano actually. And went on to metal drumming after that.

Me: So it’s actually a mix of self-educated musicians and people who did take music lessons?
Stian: Yea, I’m self-educated for example.

Me: Really? You had no training for your singing?
Stian: I am studying now, but I study esthetics related to music.

Me: Does that affect your stage moves in any way?
Marita: Hehe. But that’s also a thing I wanted. To have many different backgrounds.
Stian: I actually think that if everyone has musical education it can be a drawback. Not in all cases, but it can be an advantage to mix various backgrounds.

Me: Out of all the instruments that you are using, is there any that you find harder than the others when it comes to integrating it in the music or so?
Stian: We never particularly struggled with any of the instruments.
Marita: We kind of know now that if you just give it time, things would fall into place. People work at different speeds, like for instance Magnus finds out right away what he wants to play on his bass. But the drummer needs to try out different grooves and different things first, but I think that’s an organic process.

Me: So you don’t find any challenge overall?
Stian: No, not really. Probably the hardest thing at the beginning was to figure out how we’re gonna do it vocally. Who’s gonna sing what. But everything fell into place pretty quickly. And the album is recorded mainly live, or everyone together at once.
Marita: It’s only the choir and the organ sections that were added later.
Stian: We did these in a little church right down the street from the studio. The owner came with his dog and unlocked the church doors for us. We even rang the bells so we have the genuine bell sound for the song ‘Room 123’. It’s a church from the 1500 or something like that.

Me: So far you have a video released online. It is for the song ‘Splinters’. What on Earth is that clip about? How did the idea for it come up?
Marita: Everything is Snorre Hovdal’s (Dispenser Media) idea. He was the director and we never saw the video until it was done.

Me: Do you understand anything out of it?
Stian: I think I understand it. But I think it’s open for interpretation. But it is about deception and mainly self-deception.

Me: But there will be a new video?
Marita: Yes, for ‘Time will come’. It will be out around the release date of the album, now in February.

Me: Any future touring plans?
Stian: We have two release concerts, one on February 7th at Internasjonalen in Oslo and one the next day at Blæst in Trondeim. We are working at the tour right now, so you have to wait a little while before we announce anything. We’d love to play as much as possible. I think in a month or so we will have the touring planned.

Me: I hope you get your music to more and more people, since it’s so beautiful and needs to be heard.