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

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European Progressive Assault Tour – Review of the first show, Oslo, Norway

It’s not easy to explain the joy of ‘discovering’ a band, seeing them live at the beginning when they’re still a bit shy and sober on stage and slowly see their evolution by attending show after show, both their own release concerts or as support band during a long tour. And now, I get to see them as headliners of their own tour. I am talking about the Norwegians in Leprous, who never cease to amaze me live and overcome themselves with each performance I witness. The joy is even bigger when the support acts chosen for this tour (or well, at least for the Oslo concert) are so brilliant that each moment of live music from a quarter to nine til one AM is just breath taking. So, before trying to put them in chronological order, I recommend you take all necessary actions for you to attend at least one of the shows headlined by Leprous, supported by Ørkenkjøtt, Loch Vostok and Persephone. This is the list of upcoming shows.

The starting band at John Dee show (the Oslo venue), was a Norwegian duo called Aiming for Enrike and formed by the Leprous drummer, Tobias Ørnes and Simen Følstad Nilsen on guitar. They launched their debut album, ‘Mao Miro’ (name inspired by two cats, as far as I found out this evening) and the album itself, as well as their live performance, is an epic musical journey in an experimental progressive world that might just embarrass a lot of famous instrumental duos. Both musicians are very talented and few minutes after their tandem started, I noticed how everyone in front was moving to the rhythm and the applauses just got more and more intense with each song. I even heard someone who mainly came to see this band and then the others. The guitar comes with such catchy sounds, backed up by a pile of wisely used pedals and the man behind the minimal drum kit pulls off a mad increasing explosive tempo. If you want to check them out for yourselves, their sounds are available here http://soundcloud.com/aiming-for-enrike . It’s a pity they don’t get to play as openers for the rest of the European shows and I’m sure Persephone has a lot of work to do to set the intro band standards as high as these two did tonight in Oslo.

The Swedish neighbors have toured together with Leprous before (but both as support acts for Therion) so they seemed quite comfortable to take over the stage and start performing their progressive songs, both old and new, as their latest album, ‘V – The Doctrine Decoded’, had the same release date as the Oslo gig. The thing that stood out the most for me, as it did the first time, is the unexpected changes in their rhythm, especially when it brings up very harsher and aggressive sounds and riffs, something in the lines of death metal. These riffs are quite abundant and Loch Vostok has found the right balance in blending them with the keyboards, so that they don’t fall in the category of yet another one of those prog bands out there who follow the same patterns. Some might obviously not like the harsh parts, but I found them nicely fitted with Teddy Möller’s pleasant vocals and most of all, perfect to put in evidence the crazy drummer they have on stage, Lawrence Dinamarca. The minus of the Swedes is that they were the least intense, stage show wise. But the next two appearances compensated enough for this.

Back to local acts, Ørkenkjøtt (translated as Desert meat) and their ‘Ørken’ metal, a very refreshing and original mix of metal styles with oriental sounds. The sound needs a lot of exploration, especially since the album that they are singing from, ‘Ønskediktet’ is a concept album meant to take you to a special Ørken Universe.In this sound you discover groovy slow parts, brutally kicked away by rough, almost devilish, growlings; somehow old-fashioned guitar riffs, slow and soft, building up to pure insanity that messes with your ears. I almost wish they don’t release a new album too soon so I get to chance to experience these songs live few more times. But what makes Ørkenkjøtt’s show unforgettable is what the guys actually do on stage. First, the decently sized singer comes up wearing a white prophet robe (they sing about a prophet in one of their songs, afterall). The guitarists and bass player wear face paint and sparkling stuff which might raise a few eyebrows in the audience.Eyebrows that would quickly turn to a surprised expression when they witness the show: the guitarists are most of the time standing on the monitors and leaning towards the excited front row audience, then they run to switch places, then they stop in the middle of the stage for a duo solo, then one of them runs to the other guitarist’s side to play a solo together there, then they shake someone’s hand or cheer a beer with the crowd in between songs. Or during. Meanwhile, the ‘prophet’ does a mix of dramatic gestures and headbanging, switching between the two(?) microphones and the megaphone. For the comeback, he impersonates Randy Redneck, main subject of the song, displaying not the best part of his body, but going insane by the end of the show when he’s rolling and kneeling on the floor. It’s a performance that makes you sweat just by trying to follow everyone on stage.

But it’s a must that you save some energy for the main act of the evening, Leprous. They are coming up with a newer (yes, I saw it a couple of times before) own show. It starts with some monitor projections which, if you take too seriously, should better remember not to eat before the show. Then the whole light show seemed a bit darker than usual as they are using some small lamps placed on the floor, lamps that add up to the dramatism of the whole concept. The only thing I find unchanged is their stage uniforms. Else, they somehow found room for even more jumping and headbanging and making it seem like the presence of five of them could easily fill the space needed for a whole orchestra. They played a lovely mix of songs from their current two albums, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ and ‘Bilateral’, but most important they treated us with two new songs. Ah, is the album out yet? They sounded too good to be true. Especially the first one that had so much groove and intensity in it. But, in case I didn’t make it obvious, intensity is the main ingredient of a Leprous show. They arrange the songs and the passages between songs in such a manner that when Einar Solberg is done with his vocal parts, every standing man on stage seems suddenly plugged in and going crazy as if they just started their show. They even have small choreography parts in which the headbanging and stage moves are synchronised to the rhythm, making the whole experience quite epic. Besides, their singer left the stage several times to go and sing directly in the crowd’s face, a well appreciated gesture. I think that tonight, for the first time, I experienced a Leprous comeback. And what an experience that was. Finally a band who cares about its tired audience and offers them the chance to sit down during a lovely ballad. That was quite a sight and it created a very special emotion throughout the ending song, ‘Acquired Taste’. Another special detail about the Oslo concert was the presence of a trumpet player during several songs from ‘Bilateral’. I have no idea if they will have the trumpet for the whole tour, and if not, I guess I can only be happy to have had it as a live presence.

I’m trying not to make this review much longer, as I could probably go on for few more pages about how intense and crazy and cool and awesome each performance was. But instead of extra words on paper/screen, I insist again that you go and catch one of the shows on this tour. It’s an experience that should show exactly what live music should be about: unleashed passion and talent and the artists’ dedication in giving their best as payback for your presence in front of their stage. Don’t forget earplugs!

Graspop festival 2012 – Day 2 review

Photo gallery (didn’t have the DSLR with me, hence poor quality pics, but still some fun ones) here: http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto/2012/graspop
Some of the videos I filmed can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBA61B5F1CD21FA03

Saturday started with good weather and fresh Dutch stroopwafels which taste fantastic when warm. Highly recommended. Another driver from Eindhoven to Dessel and we’re just in time to attend Heidevolk’s concert in the Metaldome. I only knew a song from Heidvolk, but it was enough to make me want to see them live since they sing about being Vulgaris Magistralis and riding on a mastodon. The impression wasn’t far from the reality of the concert. It was a fun experience as everyone around me knew the lyrics (sung in Dutch) and danced to the songs. Or crowdsurfed when appropriate. It really was an awesome day starter, even if I have small regrets for missing Russell Allen on the main stage as he performed with Adrenaline Mob. Alestorm and While she Sleeps were two gigs during which we decided to fix personal stuff, such as food hunting and beer tasting. And finding a good spot to see a bit of Primal Fear. I didn’t occupy the spot for too long though as I didn’t enjoy too much of the high pitched parts of the songs. Plus, it was such a lovely weather outside, neither too warm nor too cold (the clouds were moving so fast that you never had time to freeze nor to cook). It was quite enjoyable to sit on the grass and look at the people passing by in the silliest of outfits, but being happy altogether. This is the best thing about metal festivals. I always encounter happy people. Quite drunk as well, but overall there’s a feeling of genuine happiness that I hardly find anywhere else.

Back to music, time for Death Angel in one of the tents. I really liked their headlining show at Inferno festival in 2011 and was looking forward to see them again. It lacked a bit of the fascination of them playing the main stage of a festival, but they still put up a good portion of thrash with the classical guitar solos played wonderfully by Rob Cavestany. I took a short trip at the end of the gigs to see what The Spudmonster is about and, as it would have been no time to enter the tent and get to a point where I can see the stage (I’m 1.60!!), I had a good laugh watching on the screen how the band invited the crowd on stage and the security guys had no idea how to handle the situation. But it all seemed to end well and in good terms.

After this, the main stage was occupied by one of the bands that many people grew up with and, back in the days, I would never thought I’d get to see such a name live. Thin Lizzy. Although, by now, the variety of music out there might leave them way behind when it comes to songs complexity, Thin Lizzy were surely innovators in a lot of areas and many of today bands own them a little bit of inspiration. Live, I didn’t find it a very outstanding performance, but it was way too cool to see people pass their fifties in front of the stage dancing and jumping around and even having tears in their eyes when the band performed some slower songs. That was fantastic. After Thin Lizzy, I joined my friend who really wanted to see Eluveitie, folk metallers from Switzerland. The band does have what it takes to make a cool live show. They do have stage presence, various decorations around the microphones, plenty of instruments to spice up the folk rhythms and most important energy to pass along to the crowd who is continuously on the move. But I guess this just wasn’t my best weekend for folk metal since I felt like leaving after few songs to check out a bit of All Shall Perish. I only got to see it from the point when the singer directed a wall of death and it seemed like hell broke loose in the tent after that moment. And I noticed some folks getting out of the tent without tshirts and soaked in sweat. They must have had a good time inside.

Trivium was a good moment to go around the metal market of the festival where the variety of tshirts with funny texts grows bigger each year. Happy I didn’t bring the card with me I left the place only with some pics on my camera and with the same amount of Euros in my pockets. They do have some nice stuff there, I admit, but for reasons unrelated and uninteresting for the reader, I had to stay away from stuff. So I went back to the cool stuff that we all went to Graspop for: music. This time more old school thrash metal from the eighties – Exodus. I think that if they kept on playing, they would have actually brought the tent down. The crowd was mad and didn’t stop jumping or moshing for the entire performance. Not to mention singing and/or screaming along the lyrics. Even the singer, Rob Dukes, admitted this is one of the best (if not the best, I don’t remember exactly) shows of his life. He told the crowd that they were completely insane, which probably made them willing to go even more crazy in the pits. It must be quite special to be up there on the stage and see thousands of people reacting like that to your music. At the end of the show, the band got a little kid from the audience on stage and he got to play one of the guitars. That was also an awesome gesture which probably will leave great memories to the kid and his parents.

Megadeth was another moment of relaxation for the day. While I respect their influence in the world of metal, I completely lost respect for their main man after starting to read more and more of his idiotic declarations against certain parts of population. Especially when you sing a song saying you love all the world. From where we stood, the wind would hardly allow us to hear the vocal parts, so we had some sort of instrumental Megadeth on the background, until we relocated to the tent to see a bit of Fear Factory. We saw even less than expected since there were some problems that delayed the start with about ten minutes, then, after one song, the power in the PAs went off and it was silence in the tent while I was going out. So I can’t comment much on this show. Afterwards I met my friends in the Metaldome where, with thanks to the Leprous guys, we got a nice spot to watch their show. And what a show the guys put together. I’ve seen them live countless time and they haven’t yet ceased to impress me with the amount of energy they put in each note they sing. I also like how their songs seem to always change a bit live (or maybe I just notice different things that I didn’t pay attention to earlier). The Leprous guys performed some songs of their own and after that they were join on stage by the Emperor legend Ihsahn, who just released a new fantastic album Eremita and performed a few songs from it, combined with older classics, all of them performed incredibly skillful. The biggest disadvantage of the show was that it was scheduled at the same time as Twisted Sister, a band I so wanted to see live again. Hence, with big regrets, I had to run after two Ihsahn songs, but it was just in time to catch ‘Burn in Hell’ and the mighty ‘I wanna rock’, which the band manages to play without showing any sign of boredom after so many years of performing it live. It’s always cool and entertaining. Dee Schneiders is a magician when it comes to making the crowd laugh and scream with all their strength that they want to rock. As far as I’m concerned, they could have just went on with it for half an hour more and it would have still been cool.

I went on rocking on the meaner symphonic beats of Dimmu Borgir but after seeing their show with orchestra and choir in Oslo, it’s no longer as majestic to watch them live. They’re skilled musicians with experience, but the intensity was not the same. Plus, everyone was talking that day about Pennywise and I felt like I should go and watch some of it in the other tent. I am ashamed of not knowing Pennywise from before since what I saw in the second Marquee was fantastic. Almost everyone was dancing and singing along and it was way overwhelming to be in that crowd. And too hot as well, so I went outside to watch from the screen (together with hundreds of folks who would still sing and dance) and I got a lot of goosebumps when the band played their own version of ‘Stand by me’ and their ‘Bro Hymn’ when everyone would sing along the ‘ooooohs’. It was really fantastic and now I can only hope I get the chance to see them again, this time better prepared.

The surprise headliner of the day was Limp Bizkit. Everyone I spoke with wondered why are they on a metal festival schedule, yet I was surprised by the number of people going towards the main stage when the concert started. A lot of them knew the lyrics to the songs and started dancing and ‘hip hop’ing with each tune. I didn’t bother to go too much forward as I didn’t find the music especially appealing. The light show seemed intense from the distance and Fred Durst enjoyed being on stage. So, despite the fact that I didn’t stay for the concert, I am glad if people enjoyed it and had a good time during the lesser metal moment of the day.

Leprous – Bilateral release concert

I had listened to the full album few weeks before its release concert on September 14th at club Blå, in Oslo. But not all of the songs were new to me. I either heard some of them live even more than one year in advance or as recent online streaming from the band. Leprous has chosen to perform some unreleased ‘Bilateral’ songs live during their 2010 tour with Therion and Loch Vostok. Listening to some youtube videos from that time and comparing to the final product on the CD in 2011, I can only say it was a brilliant idea. While the main music line and vocals seemed to have stayed the same, there’s so many tiny details in the instruments that were refined, building up to an album that should be a musical lesson for 2011. I’ve pretty much fallen it love with every song I heard live prior to the release. The final release only filled in the gaps with even more thrilling tunes blended with the ‘familiar’ ones, whose evolution was rather interesting to follow. I recall how surprised I was to hear ‘Forced entry’ at a concert in August 2010 in Sweden. And how impressed I was by how it got perfected on the recording.

The release concert was my 10th Leprous concert (without counting the ones when they support Ihsahn), so I also think I witnessed the evolution of their stage show, from 5 people who would hardly move away from the 1 square meter around their pedals to a full blast of energy that can be harmful for your neck or feet at times. But they have kept the same funky outfits idea (vests, bowties, red shirts or pants) and I think this is working very well in the direction of building a certain band image. For this concerts the band has chosen to fully perform ‘Bilateral’, following the tracks’ order from the album. What was new to me were the two monitors on stage where they had some projections, but I was too captivated by the rest of the show (combined with my attempt at taking photos) to actually recall more than an image of the album cover and some rather gross motion pictures before the music started. Nor did I notice if they were on for the whole show.

Anyways, the song bearing the album title is really fit for a concert opener, as well for summarising the whole album – a journey back and forth between two musical sides. From calm, mellow parts with soft singing and backing vocals to a drumming bonanza, with outstanding rhythm shuffles from Tobias Ørnes Andersen, backing up the tight, yet groovy, guitars of Øystein Landsverk and Tor Oddmund Suhrke and the bass of Rein Blomquist, while Einar Solberg’s voice does a great job at keeping the screamed words very melodic. After an entry so full of force with the first three songs, it’s time for the special guests to come up on stage: Ihsahn who sang some parts on ‘Thorn’ and Vegard Sandbukt who plays some mysterious sounding trumpet on the same song and later on, on ‘Painful Detour’.

A slower moment is brought by Mb. Indiferentia’s six and a half minutes, although it’s probably not the easiest song vocalwise. Finally then it was time for the song I was so looking forward for: ‘Waste of air’. It starts so intense that it’s almost breath taking and then it seems to slow down only to trap you into a very inspired blending of instrument sounds, a blending that slowly builds up like a tension up to the explosion of the scream ‘You are a waste of air’. A very noticeable detail about this song is the special ‘dance’ that the guys came up with, lowering and raising their bodies along with the music, mainly climbing on the drum stand and ending up with a jump from there. Speaking of climbing, another detail I recall from the concert is that the bass player was very fond of some speakers located back on his side of the stage and he kept climbing on them, making room for the others to go wild in front of the drum kit.

The final 4 songs bring up more of what makes this album so versatile: some rap-like idea during ‘Mediocrity wins’, beautiful slow vocal parts, nifty guitar solos, polyrhythms and catchy grooves on drums and a bass line that while not aiming at being fast, is so tight and smoothly synchronised to enhance everything else in the music. A plus goes to Tobias Ørnes on drums who used his computer to bring up some effects and it’s probably not the easiest thing to do while you have to keep track of your timing and beats.

After the album was fully played and the deserved applauses were offered by the audience – which was quite international as far as I herd, I personally having a friend from Denmark over for the concert – the band took to a short break and came back to perform several songs from ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, their previous release. I was surprised that they started with the album title song, which I never realised until then how groovy it actually was. They also played Passing which always tricks the crowd with its dramatic silence towards the end. It was followed by ‘Dare you’ if I remember correctly and to our disappointment the show ended here. But the people had their chance to hang around with the band members, even if they had to leave for USA early in the morning for supporting Ihsahn at the ProgPower festival.

Leprous is going to play together with Amorphis in November/December 2011 and January 2012, so if you have a chance to make it to any of these shows, do not hesitate to go and catch them live. It’s an awesome concert experience and a high quality way of spending an evening.
A full gallery of images from the concert is available here.

Southern Discomfort 2011 review

Kristiansand, a city of a bit over 80.000 people, located in the South of Norway, is the host of Southern Discomfort, a two days (9th & 10th of September 2011) indoor festival with great headliners and awesome mood among its vistors. Being hosted by not very big venues (Kick, with a capacity of 700 and På Hjørnet, smaller than that), you feel like everyone there is your friend and makes the evening hours pass by really quick. Of course, the good music on stage contributes a lot to this impression. 2011 had Arcturus as headliners and it seemed to really have attracted people from all over the places since it’s quite a desired live show by many and the band hasn’t been on stage too often lately. Since I had some foot problems, I could only attend the first night of concerts.

Festival openers were the Stavanger founded band Tristania, led by the two beautiful voices of Mariangela Demurtas and Kjetil Nordhus (ex Green Carnation, a band I personally regret very much that its activity ended). Musically, they convinced me to give their songs another try. I must have listened to only mellow stuff of theirs so far, because I was surprised at times by the roughness of some song parts and the interesting combination of clean male and female voices with the growlings of the guitarist. They get a minus though for the lack of stage feeling for their female guitarist. I guess it was overall well compensated by the bassist and mainly by Mariangela’s performance. But I hope they get to play more often together so the show gets to be more compact.

A little break and the surprise of the festival comes on stage – Manitou. Surprise meaning that this band had only released an album so far, in 1995, after which they called it quits. But now, after 16 years, they come back on stage and who knows, maybe they’re here to stay. Both the music and the show felt rusted at the beginning. Except the drummer and bass player, the other band members looked like they were not quite certain what to actually do on stage. I guess a long break in performing live was rather obvious. But after I went to grab something to eat, I returned to an almost different show with the same actors. The energy was at different level, musicians were more comfortable with their roles and it even made the music more captivating. I’m sure that, as I said before with Tristania, more shows together would make them look great on stage.

The long awaited show of the evening managed to fill the venue quite a lot (at least compared to my 2010 experience) was finally ready to start. We faced a decent sized drumkit behind which Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg (Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Mayhem, Ulver, many more) was well hidden while delivering some interesting blends of all sort of rhythms at very various paces. And I think that because he was so well hidden, he was the only one probably wearing ‘normal’ clothes. Everyone else on stage had certain outfits and/or makeup, completely appropriate for the band’s less common type of show. The keyboard player, Steinar Sverd Johnsen, kept reminding me of The pirates of the Caribbeans, the guitarist, Knut Magne Valle, was wearing a full array of pirate-like blouse, rags and trousers, the bass player had a monk robe and ICS Vortex, the singer, was the perfect picture of a patient in a mental institute: a leather strait jacket, with one girth going over his crotch, a mask over the face and a pair of vintage goggles. They even had a screen with projections behind the drummer but the action on stage was so fascinating that I totally forgot to look at what they might project during the show. It was a mixture of weird moves, silly faces, headbanging, freak metal – like a friend of mine called it, brilliant solos and a versatile voice that covered a surprising wide range of sounds. A complete theatrical idea to match the interesting music performed by the Norwegians. Even the fact that a rather drunk fan managed to run on stage for few seconds seemed like part of the crazy arrangement. It was a great live experience and I’m really hoping to see them live again, since now I had to leave before the end. The setlist, for those curious what Arcturus had prepared: Evacuation Code Deciphered, Ad Absurdum, Nightmare heaven, Deception Genesis, Alone, Chaos Path, Demon painter, Painting my horror, Master of Disguise, Kinetic, Shipwreck Frontier Pioneer and Raudt og Svart.

I left because I wanted to catch the first show on the second stage before the incoming crowd would make it impossible to enter the venue or take photos like it happened last year. Unfortunately the two venues were not perfectly synchronised, hence Leprous probably started on time on the smaller stage while the shows on the main stage lasted longer than initially announced. Leprous, also a Norwegian band, has recently released a really amazing album with the title of ‘Bilateral’ and I was so thrilled to see the new songs performed and also to see them live with the new bassist. He was unlucky for a while with the local equipment though, but he did a good job at overcoming the problems. The band’s performance was at full intensity for the whole duration of their set and made the stage seem even smaller than it was, since the guitarist kept climbing on one of the monitors due lack of space to move around. The young Norwegians perform with seriousness and tightness and what they perform is by no means easy stuff. This combination quickly gets the crowd impressed with what they see and hear and most of the audience ended up applauding with enthusiasm. I probably wasn’t the only one regretting that it only lasted for 45 minutes or so.

Time for the last act of the festival for me, Soxpan, a local Kristiansand band whom I eventually found out was formed by ex Green Carnation members. They have been around since 1997 and categorised as industrial rock/metal. Soon after, they disappeared from the musical scene, to return few years later with some scattered live performances. But unlike previous bands, the break was not as obvious in their chemistry. Instead, they came up with another ‘weird’ show. First sign of that was that the drums were not facing the crowd. Then a megaphone and 1 or 2 other devices placed next to the microphone. Then the band’s outfit with black clothes, red suspenders, a cow themed guitar strap and black brazing eyeglasses for everyone. It was funny that the drummer wore them backwards to give the impression of actually facing the crowd. Musicwise, a mix of electronic sound, rock’n’roll and hard rock was the impression I recall during the concert. But since I was at the end of my energy levels, I could hardly concentrate on the sound and make up my mind of the music quality. For sure it wasn’t bad for the crowd since they were really entertained and still had the resources needed to dance and scream.

Regretting that I miss the second day of Southern Discomfort, which offered concerts from Devil, Goatlord and Vesen, I headed back to Oslo with a lot of great memories from Kristiansand and with the hope that this festival will keep on bringing great shows each year.

Leprous&Therion in Netherlands

Quickly after Therion has announced their European shows and especially the support acts (Loch Vostok and Leprous) I bought myself tickets for their Dutch shows. Which were also the opening ones of the long series of concert throughout the old continent, including Russia towards its end (unfortunately, the support bands will no longer play the concerts after Poland).
First of the two concerts was held in Tilburg, in a venue with very long and varied concert experience, hence with the possibility to offer an impressive sound and stage effects. The second show was in Northern Holland, in Groningen, this time in a smaller venue called De Oosterpoort, yet still technically great and more cozy this time.

The shows are opened by an approximately 30 minutes performance by the Swedes from Loch Vostok. I never heard them before and I haven’t made up my mind yet if I will again. They don’t have a bad music, but the main issue I spoke with my friends about is that they have too much of everything in it. It wasn’t easy to tell if it was still the same song they played after a little while, as they tended to have long ones, with a wide mix of genres. But individually, they seemed talented at playing their instruments so there is a lot of potential there. The first concert was really static, probably due emotions, but still, it didn’t catch me much. The drummer was the only one moving continuously and looking like a Speedy Gonzales. The second evening though, they seemed to have gained some confidence and started to be more alive on stage, adding some headbaning and moving around a little.

Up next on stage, after instruments change that look as if they’ve been rehearsed, considering the speed they take place at, we get to see the Norwegians from Leprous. I have already written a more comprehensive review of their last concert before this tour, and I recommend you read it here for more details about the band and their music. But few words about the great concerts they put together in Netherlands: they also started a bit shy, but once the crowd got into the mood for them and they warmed up with a brand new short song and one released on their current album, everybody on stage seemed more relaxed and added a lot of body movement to their fantastic instruments playing. Especially on the second night, I give them a lot of applauses for the energy they showed and I am really happy to have heard so many people in the crowd cheering for them after their short set (also about 30 minutes).

Again, quickly pick up instruments from stage, set up the last bits of Therion settings, all goes dark and booom, an epic start with the title song of the band’s latest release, Sitra Ahra. From the very first seconds your ears are thrilled to hear the lovely soprano voices of Lori Lewis and Katarina Lilja and you know you’re in for a great evening. Or well, greater than it already was. Everyone slowly enters the stage during the intro of the song and they all have certain outfits, making the show a complete treat. Christofer Johnsson wears his round glasses and joben, Christian Vidal, the new Mexican Shredder from Argentina (as I heard around me) dressed with leather clothes and single sleeved top (attached with pins), the girls have beautiful dresses, Lori wears a veil and Kat a nice head band with a big flower, making her devilish looks more complete; Thomas in black, his long cape and a belt-buckle with a big T; Snowy with his wrist bands with sort of knives on the sides. I didn’t notice much of the bassist, Waldemar Sorychta, nor of the drummer, Johan Kullberg since they were hidden in the dark.

The playlist is a journey through Therion Discography after Vovin. The band tried to bring novelties from previous tours, yet keep hits that have always made the crowd go mad, such as To Mega Therion and Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah. Each song is full of acting, some rehearsed, some just improvised fun from the band members: Thomas licking Kat’s neck, a dramatic dialogue between Lori and Thomas during Siren of the Woods, Lori playing very affected behind her piano, Thomas wearing a red and black mask for Harlequin, Snowy always coming in front of the stage to get people to applaud, raise their hands, jump; all band members shake people’s hands every now and then, point at familiar faces in the audience. And speaking of audience, it was really impressive to see people in their 60s dancing and being so happy at those concerts. No idea if they are Dutch fans or parts of the band’s friends/families, but they were a genuine surprise for such a concert. It’s true that Therion probably doesn’t have a fan base with many members under 20 or 25, but I wouldn’t have expected that.

Since they are so many on the stage, I can probably fill pages with details that I remember. And then ask my friends to write some as well, because I am sure I missed a lot. But I can mention a surreal long melodical scream from Thomas during Abraxas, Christian Vidal’s fingers on the chords of his guitars making you wonder if he actually has about 10 on each hand. Also his facial expressions when he puts all his passion in his solos. The drummer and his kit are way up in the back of the stage and you can hardly see the person behind all those cymbals. Yet, you can surely see a huge tom to his right, tom that is almost vertically positioned. And of course, you can hear his tight playing and incredible amount of fills used in the songs.

I have made some videos at these two shows, I placed them in a playlist on youtube and I think it’s probably better if you try to notice the details yourself, make an impression and go buy a ticket to a show close to your city. Knowing how serious Christofer is about his work, I am sure he doesn’t settle for any low quality, hence probably all concerts of the show will offer a high standard show, both from Therion and from the two young support bands. I will personally see them again in Romania and if it had been possible, I would have seen every show and most likely wouldn’t get bored.

Leprous & Wintergrave live@Skuret, Oslo

Skuret is a tiny bar in Oslo used a lot by those who study various instruments or musical related stuff at NISS (Nordisk Institutt for Scene og Studio), since they get to play there either for free or for very little money and practice their compositions in front of the crowd. Thus, any concert held there should not raise anyone’s expectations to some bombastic show since there’s simply no room for that. The scene can force bands with too many members to face each other, instead of the crowd, so they avoid a guitar/bass neck punch in the face. That is why, on one hand, I personally love the place for the cozy feeling of such ‘intimate’ concerts and for the fact that you actually get to see the display of skills and talents required to make your music sound really good in a place with maybe limited technical possibilities than a big concert dedicated scene. And on the other hand I feel sorry for not seeing the ‘complete’ performance as it would be on a bigger surface.

Skills and skilled people is pretty much what Saturday evening brought on the scene. After passing by earlier the day and found out the first band goes on stage at 10, our guests from Finland, my flatmates and me relocated to the bar about 20:30. We had to wait a bit longer though, until about 11, not that this was a problem at all since you either run into band members and can chat with them about this and that or just sit at the table and set new standards for multicultural silliness. After some sound checks, the guys from Wintergrave finally take their places on stage and if I got familiar enough with the song, they kick start with their impressive song “Scattered Mind”. The name Wintergrave might make you think you’d experience some pathetic tragical music filled of dark, sad moods, vampires&co. How wrong you’d be. The young band (formed in 2006 and with only one EP released so far, “Final Termination”) pours into your ears a mix of black metal (think Emperor or the orchestral Dimmu), thrash bits and very melodic keyboard tunes. All of them backing up an incredible and intense vocal performance that keeps them in the range of black metal and makes you think in terms of ‘Wooow’, everytime the young singer starts growling. Their songs are hardly ‘static’ in the terms of repeating the classical verses-chorus-verses. Every few minutes they attempt something new and then return to the main pattern for a little while, maybe making the music too hard to digest at a first hearing since you forgot where it all started. But as long as you keep in mind that the songs you’re hearing only come from a debut demo and the upcoming album, you are quite certain they are going to learn quite quick how to refine their music.

by Tini Lorey


It was quite sad that Wintergrave stopped playing, since I really enjoyed their performance. But knowing there’s one great treat in tonight’s program, I got over it quickly. After setting up the instruments on stage, few more sound adjustments, the guys from Leprous came on stage dressed in their classic by now ‘uniforms’ based on a mix of black and red as colors and fancy accessories with regular clothes. I was surprised to see the amount of people gathered in front of the stage (for a place like Skuret, that is) and they kicked in with a tune from the soon-to-be-recorded album. And altogether I think they have actually played 4 songs from this album, 2 of which were totally new to me and make me wish the album would be released like yesterday, since it sounds so promising, with shorter and very melodic songs. So far, the band has released a Demo album, ‘Aeolia’ and a full length one, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. From the reviews I read and from my own personal impression, the latter is an incredible musical composition. The band is very daring when it comes to their music, yet very serious and professional. They put together a lot of progressive elements that end up sounding very bold and original. There is no time for dullness or for moments that you feel you’d skip in their songs, waiting for that good guitar solo at minute X. I can’t make up my mind if there’s anything in particular that stands out in their music, or it’s the music altogether that stands out. In order for me to get hooked up by a band is to like the voice. There’s no doubt that Einar Solberg’s voice managed to do that (and it’s worth mentioning he has been playing keyboards and backing vocals in Emperor since 2005). He can nicely switch between very melodic passages to intense growling, all of them while he skillfully tweaks his keyboard buttons for finding the right tune in each moment. Then you have guitars. Who, always elegantly, either work together to increase the intensity of a solo or a moment in the song, or one of them keeps a steady tight rhythm while the other dwells into a restless riff, but never insisting long enough to give you the feeling of useless showing off. All is played mainly on 8 chords, since the band has had the experience of backing Ihsahn and that has really helped improving their mastery when it comes to extra strings on their instruments. Then there is Halvor Strand’s bass and there are Tobias Ørnes Andersen’s drums. They work so well together at accentuating the rhythms of their songs and live is quite delightful to watch both of them, since they play with a lot of passion and efficiency, creating a perfect symbiosis. None of the components of the drumkit gets any rest at all time, as the drums are accurately reinvented – compared to the album version -to keep the intensity of the songs yet, managing to add a lot of cool spices into them. Besides, they don’t want to stand out thus ruining the overall feeling of perfectly blended instruments.

The above comments are both for the music on the album and for the live performance, especially this one that was a final rehearsal before their tour. I have had the luck to see them many times live, either as backing band for Ihsahn or with their own shows. I think the serious manner in which they treat their work is very obvious as their appearance on stage has greatly improved, making them very captivating for those who haven’t heard or seen them before. They play tight music with a lot of personality and much more relaxed attitude (read confidence) than the first time I saw them. They will soon start touring Europe as support band for Therion and I strongly recommend to anyone going to those shows not to dare to miss their act. It will show you how young people have found the courage to bring fresh music in the old by now world of progressive and how perseverence and seriousness blend together makes you an artist able to quickly impress the audience. For Romanian fans, they will play on 22nd of November at Arenele Romane, so do your best to be there!

Here’s a clip filmed during the show. Blame the poor light for its darkness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3Gw7AeTvPw

1001 Watt festival – 2010 Edition

Photos from festival have been published here

This festival actually started back in 1999 as a small event that grew very fast for the next 4 years and was able to bring up pretty big names in the small city of Skien, in Telemark Norway, 2 hours by bus from Oslo. Then the festival took a break until 2009, and working its way up towards a great event with a 2010 edition full of nice surprises and headliners such as Ram-Zet and Sirenia. It was held in a location called Katakombene, part of the local cinema center and which is occupying the space of an old local brewery (Lundetangen Bryggeri). The name of the place suits it very well, it’s easy to feel like inside some catacombs. Candle lights, round ceilings, iron gates, long tables, local beer, cheapest food I ever saw at a festival, all these contributed to a good atmosphere and mood among the attendants. One thing I noticed and it was a very pleasant surprise was the amount of youngsters performing with 7 or 8 strings guitars and 5 or 6 strings basses.
Playlist from CommunicThe stage was not a big one, considering it had to fit the size of the cellar, a big complaint – from the photographer point of view – goes to the lights arrangement. The sound was way better than I’ve seen in places like this one and the greatest thing to praise is the niceness of the organisers and festival staff. They had a bunch of smiles to share at all times.

First day of the festival, Friday, started with last year winners of the festival talents contest, Onymf. Very young band members, all around 16 and playing together for about 3 years. They guys are surely on the right track, both with their musical ideas and performance. There’s certainly a lot to work on – the dramatical show of the singer was totally ruined by some hand gestures for example – but will happily check them in few years to see how they have evolved by then. Wild sideAn explosion on energy was brought on stage by the next performers, Wild Side, with their leather clothes and glam rock music. One of the starters of this band is ex-Pagan’s Mind guitarist Thorstein Aaby, who unfortunately died few years afterwards. Alas, this fact has nothing to do with their style. They performed their only release, Speed Devil, which has the sound of one of those many 80’s albums in the range of Mötley Crue maybe. The stage show though, with the singer who kept interacting with each band member or lifting the microphone stand over his head, was very entertaining for the crowd who screamed really loud ‘We want more!’. A nice moment was when the drummer stepped up and asked everyone to sing happy birthday for one of the band members.

They crowd got more great music though. The next band on stage were the talented Nottoden group, Leprous, whom I’ve already seen live many times (either by themselves or as backing band for Ihsahn) and they’re getting better by each performance. And after each of these performances, I only heard superlatives used together with the band’s name as they easily impress the audience with the quality of their progressive music, its original composition and mixture of elements. And not to forget the accuracy of their style. Original are also their stage outfits based on combinations of red and black, ties, vests and tshirts. Their show got a bit delayed due some technical problems and I personally couldn’t hear the keyboards all the time from where I stood. But other than that there were about 40 minutes of awesome tunes and musical skills. Which made the crowd scream again that they want more, and to my surprise, they reacted to some of the song intros/names from “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, meaning that their music is getting more and more familiar.

Good music continued to be performed by Triosphere, a band who, in 2009, received the award for Metal Album of the Year from the worlds largest independent music organization “Just Plain Folks Music Org.” in the USA, competing with over 80.000 artists in all genres around the world. The band has a female vocalist, Ida Haukland, who is also the bass player and who did an incredible job with both of her responsibilities in the band. Surprising to hear what a powerful voice comes out of that little woman. They only have two albums up to the moment, and I’m willing to check them out as the songs seemed rather complex and balanced, nicely developing from one end to another, blended with speedy guitar riffs, making the power metal they are playing quite catchy at times.

The night was ended by another female fronted band, Ram-Zet, and their extreme or avant-garde metal. My personal level of tiredness was quite high during their concert, so I didn’t manage to see more than 2 songs. But I didn’t get impressed by what I saw, hence the choice to go for some nice chats backstage. Their music is a tad weird for my taste – I actually read or heard something like they call it “schizo” metal – and the range of vocal sounds makes it even more weird. So I won’t say anything else about their concert, since it wouldn’t do any justice to them based on what I paid attention to.

Day 2 had again the session of 1001 Watt talents, but I missed it. So the day started with a really nice surprise, another band from Telemark region by the name of Wintergrave. They are also pretty young, have been around for some 3 years, but the music they played was mind blowing. It’s a black metal taking you back to older albums of the genre, but spiced up with thrash like growls and progressive keyboards and guitar riffs. The vocalist is very talented and I mainly concentrated on listening his growls, rather than paying attention to what the others did. The band introduced their new bassist for whom this was the first show and I hope he gets over his shyness quickly so that they can make a compact show in the future.

The second band I mainly came for at this festival were the progressive guys from Illusion Suite. During the first song I was a bit disappointed with the sound, but it quickly changed to a great experience. I only heard the band few weeks before the festival, but got easily hooked up by their album, “Final Hour”, a 2009 release, with nice melodies supporting a very pleasant voice that goes from dark tones to soft melodic ones. Even if the main feeling is a Dream Theater inspiration, they don’t lack heavy metal or power metal bits, but I really liked the continuous variation of speed in their songs, without overloading the music with so much variation. It was surprising to realise that the backing voice belonged to the drummer, and not to a recording and it was quite a touchy moment when the singer left the stage, the drummer stood up and sand a very slow part of a song.

After two really great opening shows of the day, I was thinking I would have happily change the order of the bands so I could get more songs from the first two. I still had it after the performance of the Danes from Iron Fire and another reprise of power/speed metal. The show was catchy and energic though, the guitarists and bassist moving all over the stage and playing solos together and the vocalist kept talking to the crowd in between songs. Before the concert, the organisers did a very nice gesture for a fan of the band and allowed him to go backstage and talk to the guys. The fan was so enthusiast and I think the band was a bit overwhelmed by his words. The music was again, something you have heard before with Helloween or Gamma Ray, so it didn’t have anything special in particular, but that was compensated by the band’s good mood and scene show. A nice gesture from their side was to dedicate a song to the ex Gotthard singer, Steve Lee, who recently passed away in an accident. The song was called ‘Still Alive’.

Staying in the progressive range, we watched the daring trio Communic. One bassist, one very tight and skilled drummer – who scared the hell out of me when he tried his snare bass backstage – and the guitarist/vocalist, who have released 3 studio albums until now. The voice is quite an outstanding one, that can cover lots of styles and I can agree with those saying it reminds, at times, of Warrel Dane of Nevermore. Their music is rather technical and well supported by the double bass drumming especially as most of their songs have fantastic dynamics and seem to give very few relaxing moments for the musicians. I liked the atmosphere created by their music and the crowd was very enthusiast during their performance. I also noticed the fact they (2 out of 3 at least) had stage uniforms with the band name on them but also one’s initials and last name written on them, plus most of the concert, both the bassist and guitarist seemed to compete on who makes the funniest face.

The festival drew to an end with a melodic goth metal performance from Sirenia and a charismatic stage presence of its singer, Ailyn. I haven’t been too much into female fronted bands lately, and I can’t say they have changed my mind, but I have no regrets having had seen them live. It was a great performance, I liked how it sounded overall, I was surprised by the lack of bass as instrument on stage (it was imitated with the use of a guitar) and I liked the mix of nice female parts with really heavy growls and great intense choirs. The band had some die hard fans in the audience and they could sing the lyrics and cheered all along the concert. At the end, I would still have liked to see more of the two opening bands, but I can understand the choice of the organisers and I’m pretty sure it was a very pleasant evening for those present in the crowd. And for me, as I had a bonus of funny moments with the vocals of various bands warming up for the shows or just messing around with various strange noises in the backstage. All in all a nice ‘small’ festival (compared to others I attended at least) but it would be great if they could keep it going, support and promote very talented musicians like they did this year. Videos from the 2nd day (forgot about my video camera on the first one) can be found here.

Slottsskogen goes progressive 2010

Since a weekend in Oslo is pretty much equivalent of a bus trip to Western Sweden and some food drinks there, plus my current favorite band played at this festival in Gothenburg, plus I don’t mind a change in the concerts locations, I found myself in a bus towards the Swedish city on Saturday morning. The 4 websites I previously checked announced rain, so I picked some boots to help me keep my feet dry which turned out to be quite useless for the warm day. With some instructions from locals and the nice tram driver, I ended up at Villa Belaparc, the location of the free event. I was worried when I stepped off the tram since all I could see were trees and a highway. But then I heard the music and found the place rather close to the stop.
The place is something like a big restaurant by the side of a lake in the Slottsskogen park (I assume the park is called that, since I found it on all maps). I didn’t go inside, but outside the tables are spread all over near the lake and the big house, and felt like a cozy place for a summer afternoon. There was a big opened tent covering the stage and the area where the crowd would stand, few bars to purchase drinks or snacks and probably cooked food by the plates I noticed in front of some people. Nevertheless, a rather different setting for a metal concert, being it progressive or not. Plus the Villa was by a big lake that was covered in that green stuff that ducks are mad about and it looked pretty spectacular in different lights of the day.

I caught few songs of Lone Star Retractor, a Swedish band playing Genesis tribute but I only spent few minutes actually watching them and taking few photos. It was interesting to look at the guitarist who had a double necked guitar which actually was a bass and a guitar. Then I went around to get familiar with the place, ran into the guys from Leprous and was more entertaining to have a chat with them, so I can’t really remember much of what I heard, nor recognise any Genesis tunes. The next band on stage were the Dutch guys from Knight Area. It didn’t catch me much from the beginning, it felt a bit dull. But with each song the band put up more and more interesting riffs of old school progressive metal and the ending songs were really cool. And it was fun to watch the vocalist performing duos with the bassist, while he himself had a portable keyboard hanged around his neck. Yet, his voice was a total turn off for me considering how high girly pitched it ended at times. The entertaining part of the concert were a bunch of Dutch guys in the crowd, wearing the band’s tshirt and waving a huge flag over the audience.

The 3rd band of the day was also a local one, Simon Says, who seems to have been around for quite a while now, since the 90s, even if they only have 3 albums out so far. I admit I enjoyed their 70s sound, and got excited about the acoustic guitar parts turned into a nice mix of sounds backed by the keyboards, electric guitar and not least a great soft voice for such music. The guys seemed really passionate about their music and that was easily transmitted to the audience. An interesting element that they had in the concert was some sort of ball that was used on the chords of the guitar for a different kind of vibrations on the long notes. Or more to say, lack of vibrations, yet it made the sound more constant. I personally haven’t seen that before.

Up next, my reason to relocate to Sweden for this festival: Leprous. An outstanding band from the city of Notodden, in Norway. They only released an album so far and have a demo in their repertoire. But a new album is due to come out in September, so the 1hr and 15 mins of concert was a mix of Tall Poppy Syndrome and the album to come. How promising that sounded. They already have a style that adds together in a pretty genuine way elements progressive metal with somewhat darker metals and jazz. The vocals are not at all what you mainly hear in the prog industry and many bring up Opeth when they want to compare the band with some other. Yet, their music is more alive and friendly, despite the depressive lyrics and dramatic interpretation. Another thing I like about this band is their way of taking the work they do very serious, even if it’s not a huge event. They put some promotional photos on their website wearing certain outfits and they wear these outfits live to create a band image. The 8 strings guitars, which they have learned to use and incorporate into their own sound after being the backing band for Ihsahn, allow them to bring something extra in the fore mentioned combination of styles. A photographer I was sharing thoughts with after each concert was really impressed by the bass performance and my 5 stars still go to the drummer – Tobias Ørnes Andersen – who, despite his young age, is able to continuously change the rhythm and hit every piece of the battery quite frequently. The audience responded very well to their music and a guy next to me headbanged like crazy most of the concert, even if he admitted he didn’t really knew the music, but he liked the little he previously heard. I guess the guys in the band were also overwhelmed by the crowd’s reaction after the concert, if I managed to read their faces correctly. My absolute favorite song of theirs is called ‘White’ and because I got to hear it live, I was already in heaven (and still am at the moment I type these).

Last band of the day, Airbag, to my surprise another Norwegian progressive band. After the intense Leprous sound, their tunes felt really lazy. That doesn’t mean bad at all. It was a journey bringing up the sounds of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and maybe even their fellow Norwegians from A-Ha, mainly based on guitars and strong melodies. The same photographer that I spoke to mentioned the fact he considers the guitarist to one of the few who can really perform well the Genesis sound. I probably know too little of Genesis sound, but the guy was talented and making nice melodies with his instrument. They also only have one album launched so far, called Identity, so their whole set was based on its songs. And even if it’s probably not the most original composition ever (I really felt like I was hearing Pink Floyd most of the times), they were good enough musicians to make it less important who plays such beautiful tunes. They were also loved by the crowd, despite the fact that for the first songs they kept begging the sound guy for lower guitar volume. But, even if I might be a bit subjective, I didn’t feel the same enthusiasm as during and after the Leprous concert. Yet, it was great to see two new Norwegian bands so successful in the neighbor country and especially delivering such good music.

Thankful words go to the organisers of the event and for the fact they have it for free and film it so we have a DVD to watch afterwards. And to each performer on the stage, plus the enthusiast presenter who introduced each member of the band and made everyone of them sound so special. I’m looking forward for small joyful events like this one, since they’re 1001 times more cozy that big crowded festivals.

For some vids I took, checkout this youtube playlist . And the sorted and edited photos are here.

Leprous Interview

Leprous, prog metal revelation from Norway
posted here

Leprous are a new name on the progressive music scene. The 5 young guys come from Norway, maybe not the most usual place of origin for this kind of music. So far, they released 2 demos and one full length album, and they took their time to record the latter. And, in my personal opinion, they used that time wisely.

Leprous, a new name on the stage of progressive music. The young 5 men band is coming from Norway, maybe not the most usual place of origin for this kind of music, yet with an astonishing result. So far they released 2 demos and one full length album for which they took their time to record it. And in my personal opinion the time was used wisely.

I had the honor to interview them in Oslo, Norway, few hours before their performance on the stage of Inferno festival, together with Ihsahn, and it was the first time they’d play live songs from Ihsahn’s newest album, ‘After’. They were an enjoyable company, full of good mood and I have no idea how the 90 mins just flew by so fast.

Could I have a short description of the band from you? Who are you, how did the band form and how did it evolve since 2001 up to 2010?

Leprous was founded in 2001, typical youth band. Only Einar and Tor Oddmund and 3 other guys who are not part of the band anymore. We played almost something like punk in the beginning. It was a punk band called something else, then we came up with the name Leprous and then started to play a bit different and tried to define the music into something metalish.

Are the demos still available?
We have some copies, CDs but not on the market.

What made you change that direction?
We were all inspired by metal. We are from Notodden and of course we were inspired by bands like Emperor as all the metalheads from Notodden. We just developed. We haven’t set a plan of what kind of music we were thinking of playing, we just came up with some songs. Few years later, the current bassist Halvor joined and he brought some new influences. He was listening much to prog. And then a couple of years later, Øystein joined.

We recorded our first demo in 2004. That demo is metal with too much stuff in it.. We were not that good to arrange songs. We were just playing them. It was recorded with Ihsahn and he was like a godfather for it. We used his studio even if we didn’t spend very much time doing it. We got very much help from him. It would have sounded much worse without his help. In 2006 we recorded 2 tracks length album demo which was a very instrumental thing. Better than Silent Waters but still…

Musicwise, it was kind of everything we could think of in one song, in every song. If we had one riff that was in the same key, we would be like ‘yea, this has to go in this song’ so we had a song with very many themes. I think we are better at composing and arranging the music now.

2 years later we recorded Tall Poppy Syndrome and Tobias has recently joined the band and finally the band is working really good together.

How is it going with rehearsals? Are you all living in Notodden?
Nobody really lives in Notodden. 2 of us live in Oslo, Einar in England and Tor in Aker and the bassist lives in Kristiansand. But we have rehearsal room in Notodden and one in Oslo at Tobias’ school. This implies some sacrifices when it comes to rehearsing, but actually I think we’ve been much more efficient in making songs now than before. Einar comes here every 3rd or 2nd weekend and then we rehearse here and we’re very much more efficient in making the songs than when we used to rehearse every day. This is a different way of working. You need to make good use of the time. It might be a good thing to have all the time in the world, but like this you are forced to be creative fast.

You also need to practice the songs you play with Ihsahn, and that’s not the easiest thing in the world. How do you manage that as well?

The first way around, we pretty much abandoned Leprous for like 6 months. We didn’t play at all, we just wanted to grab the opportunity as fast as possible. We practiced a lot.

After the first concert in March, last year (2009), Leprous became a much better band. I think we learned a lot as a live band from playing with Ihsahn because everything has to be much more tight. We learned to play a lot faster because we have songs that go in a slower tempo but with Ihsahn the songs go like <automatic gun noise> . It was a good experience for Leprous.

How would you describe your music? Where do influences come from? I read a description in a review characterizing you as the child of Opeth with a Norwegian mother.

We’ve been compared to Opeth before, yea. But I don’t believe we’re a copy by any means. Opeth is way more heavy and gloomy than Leprous. We’re maybe a bit more melodic. We probably have an Opethish production. It is typical when you have some growling and some clean vocals, people think ‘Oh, Opeth’. And of course, everyone in the band has listened to some Opeth so probably influences come from them.

Our music doesn’t sound like Ihsahn but of course we get influenced from playing with him. We started using 8 strings now because of the new stuff. That gave us a great opportunity to try something new.

Also we can blame a lot of progressive bands like King Crimson, new stuff like Porcupine Tree (newer than King Crimson at least, as they are from 1989 or so). Mars Volta, Shining (the Norwegian one). And especially Tobias and the bassist are into jazz. Hence you can explain the jazz bits in our songs.

How does one come up with the name Leprous for the band?
It was completely random. We kinda had like a brain storm and we were like 16 years old and actually I think it was Einar who looked up in a dictionary and said ‘yes, this word’. We got so used to the name that we didn’t want to change it. Even if it’s a typical death metal name rather than a prog name.

Is the current music the one you had in mind when you started the project?
No, we never imagined we’d get so serious. We’ve always been quite ambitious. Tor never considered it just a hobby, always thought it could be bigger. I think it’s important to have a goal like that, or else you wouldn’t succeed. But I wouldn’t have expected the music to develop the way it did when we started. When we make songs it’s like everybody in the band contributes to how it ends up. We don’t have a plan like ‘now we’re supposed to make a song that sounds like this and then we make that’. We just come up with ideas and put them together. We try not to have too many rules when we put a song together. But we are better at saying like we don’t want to use special riffs anymore. Before we always used almost everything made by any of us. But now we are more open in at least wait to use it in another song because songs sound better on the whole.

Yea, that makes your music not to sound very loaded with too much stuff
Exactly, I guess that’s the way we are maturing. And even though we have like a lot of dynamics in our songs, with slow and hard parts combined, we can like hear what’s not Leprous. Even though we’re open for pretty much anything.

The lyrics on this album are rather depressive. Are they based on personal experience or do you pick something to match the music you write? And how does your music writing process usually go? Do you have lyrics ready and come up with a song for them or the other way around?
Tor: I think the lyrics come from my wish to criticize certain values I don’t agree with. I just write the lyrics without thinking about music. When we’ve made the music then we try to make the text fit and we change this or that word to match the rhythm. The meaning of the lyrics is set by me, I can decide how it looks on the paper, but Einar uses it in another way. Maybe he uses different parts of the lyrics in different parts of the songs. But still, when we print the lyrics it would look the way I meant it to be so he just interprets the lyrics in his way. I think it is funny to see how he interprets the lyrics that I made in one way and then sounds completely different. And then he asks ‘is it ok if I use this here’ and maybe for me it doesn’t make sense and we have to find a different way. On Tall Poppy Syndrome, the bassist Halvor wrote 50% of the lyrics but now it’s Tor Oddmund who mainly writes. It was going so slow with Halvor so they told me ‘Tor Oddmund, make something’, somebody had to write something.

When it comes to everyone’s musical personal taste, what would you mention?
Einar: Jazz, one of my favorite bands is Porcupine Tree, I love the way they combine progressive rock with pop and metal in a very clever way. They are a very good live band as well. I also love Shining, the Norwegian band, very innovative. Mars Volta I love a lot of classical stuff, jazz like I said.

Tor: I’d probably say the bands that we said earlier that we were influenced by, a lot of the ones he just said. Shining, Porcupine Tree, Mars Volta, Opeth, Emperor…

Did you like Emperor before you started working with Ihsahn? Einar, you’re the one who worked with him right?
Einar: I worked with them some years ago, but I loved them as a kid and I got the offer to join them as a session musician and it was quite big for me at the time.

Tor – I don’t think I listened to them when we started playing, but I learned about them. You need to get used to that kind of music. It’s not many people who love it the first time they hear it, especially when you are very young. Probably many people who don’t listen to metal, they think that Emperor is something like Judas Priest, something you can’t tell a difference form any other rock bands.

Back to musical preferences.
Øystein: I guess I go how everybody goes, with some phases that you listen to this or that. When I started listening to metal it was Iron Maiden, just Iron Maiden, 30 albums. And now I listen to a lot of jazz these days. I find a lot of metal to be boring and not too creative.

Tobias: I listen to a lot of Norwegian contemporary jazz.

How do you think the album was received? What kind of critique did you get for it?
90% really good. We got really good reviews after it was released and maybe just about 10% that would be below 8 out of 10.

What would be the song that you’d call as main song?
On myspace I think we have ‘Passing’ like the first song. That’s the hit song. But when we ask people we heard them mention every song.

(I was whispering ‘White’ to them). It’s so funny because we were discussing before we were out playing the 3 concerts tour and we decided not to play it because nobody would be interested in it. But at every concert when we told the crowd that we have one more song, everyone was screaming ‘white, white’ so everybody wanted to hear that. But you’ll hear it on our next shows. It’s so long and we have to cut two other songs to make room for it.

And which song do you like to play best live?
Tor: I think I like some of the new songs best. Like ‘Dare you’. It’s fun to play. It sounds very hard, but it’s not.

Einar: Live I like playing ‘Dare you’ or ‘Not even a name’ since it is quite easy to headbang on. The things I play are not particularly advanced and I’m not singing all the time so I’m finally able to do it.

Tor: Another thing I like with ‘Dare you’ is that you can bang to it but it’s not like 4/4, not a standard so you have to headbang in a different way that nobody can follow. And I like to be able to bang my head even though it’s not natural.

You mentioned something about new songs. So is there a new album in the making?
We are nearly finished with all the songs actually.

Do you plan to have it ready before the tour with Therion starts?
We are aiming for that but I’m not sure if that’s a realistic plan.

But will the crowd get to hear it?
Yea, they’d get a taste probably but not as many as at the concert from Skuret because then we just tried out several songs. Normally we don’t play 4 new songs at a concert.

That’s also another reason that might make us wait, because it’s nice to play in front of an audience before you decide about the final form of recording a song. Maybe you want to change something. For example the Tall Poppy songs we had them for ages before we recorded them and they went through many many changes. Major changes. ‘Passing’ went through 4 major changes that sounded completely different. It wasn’t the same song. The chorus was like double speed or something. ‘White’ is actually our oldest song in the album. We made it right after Aeolia. That’s why probably ‘White’ is more like the older songs, it’s more rock, more straight forward than the other stuff.

So altogether how long did you work on the album?
2 years. Because we recorded Aeolia. We could have been much faster, but our drummer quit and Tobias replaced him and we needed some time. And we didn’t have anything to force us to record a new CD or press us to make songs. Now we have to come up with new songs for the next release. Back then we only made songs when we found it appropriate.

And now that you are leaving on tour and to festivals this summer, will you put the recording on hold?
No, not on hold but we need to sort some things out before we enter the studio. We need to sort out the label situation.

Will you work with Ihsahn again?
We haven’t talked about it. It’s nothing officially decided.

About the coming tour..
I am quite excited to see how we’re going to be received by Therion fans. It’s at least thousand people per concert, so probably we can reach some of them, even if Therion is more in a gothic like direction.

Recently, a metal Norwegian band, Keep of Kalessin, participated in the local Eurovision final. Would you do it if you had the chance?
I don’t know if we’d fit in and if we’d be able to make a short enough song. One riff on the song. It’s not that I have anything against it, I respect the work they do there, it’s just not us and our target.

You have an American label. How come you ended up with a contract over the ocean instead of Europe?
We just sent the album after we recorded it. Sent it around and we got good response from some European ones but we were not that satisfied. It took so long by the time they replied and this other label replied very fast and showed their interest at once. We found out they could do their job and went with them.

Any words for the fans who are going to see you live?
Come to our show (in Bucharest). We are going to play White. We promise.

We are looking forward for concerts where the crowd is not very spoiled with metal concerts, like the Norwegians are. For example, we are sorry to miss Therion’s show in Lithuania because they don’t get so many chances for concerts and the people show it differently at concerts.

NOTE: For our Romanian fans, at the time of the interview the concert in Romania hasn’t been yet confirmed but there’s chances for a concert with Therion and Leprous that shouldn’t be missed.

For more about the band, checkout their website at http://leprous.net/