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.



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.

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.
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

Tuska 2013

The below review will be official on 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.


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:

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


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

Greatest show on Earth, as it is in Hell

Full photo gallery can be found at

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

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

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

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

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

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

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

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

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

Hell live in Derby

Hell live in Derby

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

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

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

Here’s some of the photos I snapped during the gig, more to come on my page,

Stone Sour and Audrey Horne, live@Rockefeller, Oslo

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

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

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

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

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

Gotthard live in Oslo – concert review

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

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

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

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

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 . 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!

Dark Bombastic Evening – review of the 4th Ritual

Photo gallery for the below review is available here.

The number of festivals held in Romania is slowly increasing every year, but as far as I notice on the web or through news from my friends, they follow the same pattern: rent a huge space, bring ‘big’ bands that sell your tickets, cage the participants within some fences and tell them to have fun there, there’s hardly any interaction between fans and artists, the crowd is offered the classical piss draught beer, everything is on the run and so on. I was ‘warned’ by my friends that DonisArt events build up to a different kind of experience, but my imagination was way far from what I was about to experience during the three August days spent in Alba Iulia, with the occasion of Dark Bombastic Evening festival and its fourth ritual.

We arrived there Thursday afternoon after an interesting start of the day, involving some pigeon shit and few hours spent with the car in a service. But driving through Romania through Valea Oltului can be rewarding as it offers some pretty landscapes and cool, narrow and/or steep driving sections. The hotel we stayed at, Transilvania, besides missing a letter in the name and some basic comfort related details, offered us a friendly stuff and comfortable beds for a good rest. It was also located pretty close to the Ryma area, the place where DBE took place. This Ryma area is a part of the Alba Iulia fortress, a place that played some important roles throughout Romania’s history. As I am not writing the review with the purpose to give a history lesson, for those of you interested, you can maybe start reading a bit here – – and then use the search engines’ power in order to find out more. Overall, it is a fantastic location for such a festival as it contributes to the authenticity and the coziness of the atmosphere.

I have no idea how many participants the festival had. I noticed an impressive number of people who came from abroad. But my amazement was quite obvious when I realised how ‘big’ the stage and the festival designated area were. Yet, it worked perfectly I’d say. There was place for tents all the way in the back, a place for the ‘kitchen’ where we would be served some really tasty authentic foods (I so had enough of festival fast foods prior to this event), a climbing wall, an outdoor bar, a bunch of tables, a stage, a merch stand and even few parked cars. Inside the fortress walls at the Ryma spaces there was place for another bar, an artists area and an art gallery that I personally forgot to visit. Yet everything was reachable within thirty seconds of walking. It was that small and I hope you can imagine how special the two evenings become under such circumstances. Wherever you walk you most likely run into a familiar face. And if not, after few hours of moving around, every face becomes familiar. Old acquaintances blend with new ones, there’s a certain friendliness floating all over the place and most of all, a lack of stress that I rarely felt in Romania. Even the guards somewhat managed to ‘hide’ their presence, meaning that I never felt them threatening in any way like it might happen at concerts. I actually didn’t notice any of them in front of the stage, another thing that I never experienced before.

Besides the multitude of bipeds in the area, we had the company of some local(?) stray dogs who occasionally added their barks as effects to whatever was performed on stage. Plus, next to these performances that I will try to summarise below, we could admire all sorts of acrobatic performances (jugglers, slackline, one wheeled bikes), kids fighting with wooden swords or brave folks trying to reach the top of the climbing wall. The best thing was that you didn’t need to relocate at all in order to admire the show. When it would be dark enough, some small balloons carrying candles would be sent out in the air, hopefully offering some entertainment to the Alba Iulia citizens who filed complaints about the noise in the fortress. I was really sad to hear that one of the only two events hosted by the fortress and that must generate a lot of income for some of the locals, is treated with so much hate. Oh well, let’s focus on the nice memories of the weekend, mainly the music on stage. And the friendliness of the staff who always had a good joke to tell and a smile on their faces. Which is a big plus for a festival in this country.

The ‘noise’ would start each day at four PM, each band getting around forty five minutes on stage then fifteen minutes for the instruments change and set up and all. The fourth DBE ritual was opened by the Scottish band Falloch and their Folk, Atmospheric and Post Rock mix, but due some previous running back and forth to/from the fortress, I missed a part of their show so I only got to notice little of the atmosphere they might try to build, but I must say that the music was, occasionally, way too badass for the softer and clean vocals. But then again, I heard too little of it to fully remember what happened on stage. After a short while, the stage was taken over by one of the many Swedish bands in the festival’s schedule: Isole. They brought along over twenty years of experience and music and a very dark/doom metal that felt like perfectly belonging to the fortress walls. Slow tempos and very long songs, whose depressiveness was quite ruined by daylight, yet it allowed you to focus more on the skills of each musician (one of them being a member in Loch Vostok, a band that will visit many European places pretty soon on their tour). All in all, I found it to be a pretty direct and fanciness free doom that’s worth checking out.

I only recently discovered the Finns from Oranssi Pazuzu and their psychedelic black metal (one of the band members called it cosmic metal, but since that description is taken, we left it to psychedelic cosmic metal). But they are rather catchy, for me at least. They have such odd songs and riffs (one guitar player occasionally uses a lightbulb over the chords) that simply get stuck to your brain. I dare you to fully listen to the song ‘Komeetta’ and take it out of your head afterwards. The band’s name seems to translate into the expression ‘exorcist cosmos’, which suits pretty well the evilness transmitted through their music, a music that at times felt able to even darken the sunlight. I believe the band regretted a lot their stage uniforms involving very thick black coats/hoods, considering everyone in the crowd was boiling and wearing only tshirts. But they did offer an intense performance and probably made some new fans right away. Another small break and time for Alcest, a French band that is ‘on the wave’ right now, playing countless of concerts and festivals and gaining more and more attention in the press. They had played DBE the previous year and, despite their busy schedule, they decided to make the effort to play Alba Iulia once more. They were very loved by the crowd as far as I noticed, and I was glad to finally experience live the interesting mix of black metal and some soft, cozy harmonies, that I lately found described as dreamy post-romantic blackgaze.

Next, we would be taken towards a more atmospheric and post black metal music, spiced up with jazzy influences, with the help of the Germans from Lantlôs. As far as I understood, it was their first live show. It started feeling like the music would get darker and darker, impression enforced by the two bands that followed. The music was not easy to digest at all, as it certainly has a genuine way of combining elements that end up sounding so ‘noir’ and heavy and like nothing you (or maybe I) heard before. It has a certain melancholy and monotony, yet, strangely it doesn’t feel repetitive. I guess they need some congratulations for managing to obtain this. All this was followed by even more slower rhythms coming from the Finns in Unholy, a project that was formed back in the nineties, but kept on splitting, hence, there’s not that many chances of seeing them live. Even fewer, if none, in the future. And I feel bad for not bothering to understand more of the bizzare mixes and sounds on stage, but my stomach was demanding its rights so I had to spend time filling it up with food and taking a little rest for the day.

I returned to watch more Finnish dark music, from Dark Buddha Rising. As it started to get dark, the atmosphere was well built in combination with the bloody show offered by the singer who poured ‘blood’ all over his body using some slow, adequate motions. Their silhouettes were perfectly matched with the DBE fiery logo projected behind the drums. Their music totally requires a certain mood or state of mind to comprehend. I saw people who were simply adoring it and a lot of the audience was simply wondering ‘wtf?’. Don’t think I heard anything in between about the band’s sound, that most likely feels like a neverending repeating riff for an untrained ear. Because, at the times when I did try to figure something out, I realised that the repeating riff actually comes with something new after a little while. And then something else new. So I totally put a new name on my list of ‘bands to be explored’, and maybe one day I might either comprehend or simply just hate this. We’ll see.

The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation was one of the day’s highlights in my program, as I liked the sound of their ‘sister’ project, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. But TMFDC is based on live improvisation putting together elements of noise, jazz, experimental and ambiental music. I must admit that the live experience was not as cool as expected. It’s the kind of concert I’d much rather enjoy in an opera hall or so, and I’d prefer more ‘action’ instead on the stage. The whole band is kinda static and they prefer to play ‘in the dark’ and have you focusing on a projection on the background. They had small problems with one of the laptops, hence the show was a tad delayed, but they probably couldn’t cut it shorter as the movie would no longer make sense. By the time they ended, the energy felt kinda low all around, and luckily the night was revived by the Icelanders from Sólstafir and their boundaries breaking blend of metal, rock and a dark rock’n’roll like sound. Equiped with their stage ‘suits’ reminding you of some wild west characters, performing mainly from their latest release, Ljós i Stormi, having to cut their set off by one song, the band offered the most energic gig I witnessed. I say this because I never saw the guitarist called ‘Gringo’ moving from his spot, nor the singer doing so much changes in the way he interprets the songs. Another important change was during the song ‘Fjara’ where the choir was replaced by a sweet pan flute played by Gadinet from Negura Bunget. I guess the late night atmosphere combined with the energy on stage was a perfect winner for the end of the DBE’s first evening and made me count quite plenty of Sólstafir tshirts in the audience, the day after.

The night ended with an afterparty ‘around the corner’, still in the Ryma spaces but not in the area where the stage was located, where a bunch of people would headbang and jump and dance on the metal rhythms played by the evening’s DJ, using his vinyls (as far as I read prior to the event). I was surprised that they used more ‘commercial’ tunes, as last year the music was chosen more in the underground direction, but as long as people had fun, it must be all that maters. This was, again, a chance to sit down with old and new friends and enjoy a drink and some jokes. This led to a slow morning the next day but it was well worth it. Due the insane heat outside, I only left the hotel to eat lunch with some friends in a pub close to the festival area, a pub whose owner has a rather weird conception about business and how he should handle a multitude of customers at the same time. Hence, I’d gladly stay away from Pub13 anytime I am in Alba Iulia.

My friends and I called the second day of DBE a ‘folk day’, considering the names on the lineup. And it started as such, with the Italians from Rose Rovine e Amanti and their neofolk rock with a red rose attached to the hat. We actually thought several times that they sing in Romanian, this is how much the two languages sound alike (unless he used a special Italian dialect in his lyrics). Musically, we were treated with a continuous change between electric and acoustic guitar for the main singer, keyboards, violin and a drummer who maintained the grooviness of their songs. I was happy that they seemed to set a good mood among the audience, setting the right state for the bands to come after them. The first one in the series was the Romanian – Italian mix going by the name Sunset in the 12th House, also invited for the second time at this festival, due an unfortunate cancellation of another band. But this was rather fortunate for me as the guys had the chance to perform live songs from their first album and what a thrill for the ear this was. With two percussionists on stage, one on regular drums, one on African like ones, hand held (I can’t recall if they have a dedicated name), I was immediately sold to the grooviness of each tune. There were hardly any vocals used in the lyrics, leaving place for a sweet flow of guitars, bass and mandolin mix and an increased level of curiousity for the upcoming album. I recommend you don’t miss it. Plus, I was more than happy to see the great response from the Romanian crowd, who didn’t seem to have enough of the guy’s performance.

A bunch of musicians filled the stage for the next concert and they are playing with the name Hexvessel and bring us a psychedelic forest folk rock as far as I was informed. But irregardless of the music categorisation, they bring us beautiful music. It was fantastic to stand in front of the stage and try to visually capture what each musician does and at the same time trying to figure out the overall sound entering your ears. It felt really pretty, like it did when I shortly listened to some tunes prior to the festival. I saw people dancing and clapping with enthusiasm between songs. It was the band’s second performance at the festival and I’m pretty sure they had a great time both on stage and also among the Romanian audience. They kept smiling as long as I saw them on stage and, even if they couldn’t release their newest album at Alba Iulia, I was told they played some of the new compositions that, like the entire setlist, sounded fantastic.

Fantastic (and more than that) is one of the words to describe the next performance on stage. I somehow missed the name Coulisses in the list and thought that the next performers are called Isobel & November. They started as a duo on stage, with one guy on keyboards and a bearded guitarist in front of the microphone. When he started to sing, I felt like hypnotised. It’s been a while since I heard such an awesome voice that simply leaves me with my mouth open and unable to move away from the stage. The duo played few more songs, quite intimate and dark, folkish sounds. The keyboard player switched to drums eventually, keeping a soft and surprising back rhythm for the lovely voice and the guitar. After a while, the guitar and its carrier left the stage, making room for a cool drum solo, after which the other people in the band came up on stage, taking over the bass, the drums (the previous drummer went back to his keyboards and/or guitar). The singer also came back and all of a sudden the music switched to a bit more psyched (apparently country and goth) music. Extremely beautiful stuff, usually starting softly and cozy and ending up in a madness of sounds during which Per Erik (the singer) seemed to go berserk. He didn’t even bother to replace the broken string on his guitar. So, actually what happened on stage was that Coulisses is another project of Per Erik’s, but as they didn’t have a lot of material for a full concert, they combined their set with Isobel & November. Actually, this was the first live appearance of Coulisses as far as I understand and I am more than happy to have been able to witness that. It was the biggest and most beautiful surprise of the festival for me. Not to mention I always had to move back and forth as the light kept on changing during their set, making it for more and more interesting photos as well. Another mention about this concert is that for one of the songs, everyone in the audience was called ‘pussy’ and so were the band members. That was because it was dedicated to the ‘Pussy Riot’ scandal, in order to show the solidarity with the imprisoned musicians.

I don’t even recall when I was done with the eating process, but pretty soon it was time for the Russians in Theodor Bastard. I had listened to their ethno trip hop before and I found it rather beautiful and full of emotions. The live experience raised the beauty to even higher standards. The darkness had surrounded the stage so their pretty singer was interpreting and gracefully dancing under various colors dictated by the stage lights. Her voice was simply beautiful from one end to another and they even got to play an extra song, that’s how much the crowd and Doru, the organiser, loved it. Once again I saw a bunch of people dancing in front of the stage or along the walls and benches. There were such good vibes in the air going from and to the stage that I somehow wished that concert would end the evening and would last for few more hours. Yet, it had to stop and the Russians had to leave the stage to make room for the Poles in Job Karma. A duo presenting their ambiental computer music (as all I noticed on stage were two laptops and a bunch of cables) with a heavy accent on visual images projected in the background. With all my respect for the artists’ work and ideas, I was too tired at that hour to watch anything on a screen and I simply can’t spend more than 3 minutes looking at people playing music behind the computers. Hence I took a small retreat in the ‘party’ area of Ryma (quiet at that time) and enjoyed the silence and an encounter with some familiar faces.

I returned later to the main stage to have a look at the Danes from Of the Want and the Moon and check out the sound of their neo folk tunes which felt quite shamanistic at times. It seemed like there’s plenty of beautiful, almost magic, music coming out from the speakers but my level of tiredness didn’t allow to focus for too long, so I just had to put them on my ‘to listen to’ list. I sort of regret not being able to enjoy their music live, but after so many lovely moments during that day, I guess I was allowed. I do hope to see them live again on a better day. The last show of this incredible festival was delivered by The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensamble. The albums that I listened from this Dutch project are full of mystery and a dark, intense ambience, which they try to replicate live and combine with a set of moving images that play on the background. There’s a bunch of instruments either working together or allowing one of them to stand out and let you discover its beauty (the trumpet sounds were hypnotising). I was sad that they didn’t have a drummer on stage (unless he was well hidden behind all the tall supports for PCs and such), but glad I got to experience them live. Probably a god choice for the final show as the music invited you to retreat in a corner of your mind and enjoy the silence around you. Yet, my brain was feeling as if it’s about to shut down, so I spent a big part of the show trying to find someone to walk back to the hotel with. I was too tired to even think of the idea of catching a cab.

I think there’s many other words that can be said about this festival. And about each of the bands. Probably someone with more and deeper knowledge of these underground genres might have succeeded in giving you a better picture of what the two days in Alba Iulia have offered us, music wise. For me, it was a lovely treat. I’m glad to have discovered new bands and re-experience the ones I already knew from before. But most of all I am glad for the two days of openness and friendly atmosphere. I believe the best ending for this review is to send big thanks to Doru and everyone in his team involved to make this event happening and running so smoothly. I heard rumors that maybe this might be the last DBE edition. It would be a real pity if this is the truth, yet, people who got to attend the events are probably left with some amazing memories and stories to tell over and over again. But with or without this festival, after having experienced such an event, I believe that the words on DBE’s page footer ( state the truth – ‘Underground will never die!’ Amen!

PS: Many thanks to Andrei who helped me with some pieces of advice about what I wrote in the review

Tuska festival 2012 – Day 3 review

Full photo gallery can be found here

Being organised quite close to the city center and populated areas in Helsinki, Tuska festival has a different curfew than any other I’ve seen. Friday and Saturday the ‘noise’ has to end at ten PM and Sunday at nine, making it possible for everyone to get their rest and have the chance to go home at decent times for the next working week. Thus, Sunday only leaves room for three bands on the main stage. The first of them was a Finnish act I’ve known for a long time now and I always wished I’d see live- Apocalyptica. Everyone was telling me how cool they are live, but nobody actually managed to explain how cool they really are. There’s one drummer on stage surrounded by three guys playing cellos… Way atypical for any metal concert. And the cellos are not played in a boring style by sitting on a chair and moving the bow left to right and back (except when you interpret ‘Nothing Else Matters’). But other than that the cellos are treated like some bigger guitars which need to be leaned against the ground for support. Yet, they are constantly carried around and strummed in various ways to make the show entertaining. Add some headbanging, the crowd singing famous Metallica lyrics, guest singer Tipe Johnson (even if they had less guests than I expected considering they were playing their hometown where they could have invited at least half of the people on albums), giant amounts of energy on stage culminating with one of the cello players climbing by the drum kit and hitting the cymbals himself. Well, there were a lot of small moments that added to the feeling of a very special show and to my promise that I’ll see these guys again. And again.

After Apocalyptica, a quick trip to the tent Inferno stage to watch one of the US thrash reprises of the day, performed by Ohio’s Skeletonwitch. Entertaining as far as I stayed. A lot of furious headbanging, restless guitar riffs and mad growling. I think the band was doing a brave attempt at fitting as many songs in the setlist, so that fans get the best value for the paid ticket. Nice of them, but I don’t know how well they succeeded on that heat. I left after a little while to go back to the second main stage, which brought up another band I was looking forward to seeing live: Baroness. They seemed to have started with a bit of shyness mixed with huge smiles on everyone’s face, but the impression of shyness vanished instantly once the psychotic intro ended and the band jumped into their incredibly built songs. They have a tendency to start somehow lazy, but by the end of the song the rhythm gets so intense, the riffs so mind blowing, the solos so passionately played that you feel as if you’ve taken several new unknown drugs. I guess, I never tried any, but that must be the feeling of perplexity left by such music. Besides, it’s always fantastic to watch when musicians get so involved that they crawl on the floor to play the guitar and do all sorts of mad playing, just because they got so much into the show. Despite the intense sun and the need to hide in the shades, it was hard to move too far away from the stage where they played.

More American old school thrash has made its way on the main stage once Baroness was done. This time originating from New Jersey area and going by the name Overkill. With a history of sixteen studio albums and countless live appearances, the band leaves no doubts that they love being on stage. Even if at times they raise some doubts by pointing the middle finger intensively towards the crowd or photographers, I later found out it’s not at all a sign of disrespect, but rather a local habit. The band’s latest album was released in 2012 and I think few songs from it were played as well, but the best reactions from the crowd came when hits with history were performed. I later on went to the band’s signing session, found the explanation for the often used middle finger in photos, but also noticed how the band’s vocalist takes his time to talk or take pics to everyone who comes by for an autograph. Very nice and friendly of him (and the rest of the band).

The last act on the second main stage was supposed to be also from US and perform some crazy grooves, but since their singer was imprisoned in Czech Republic few days prior to Tuska, Lamb of God were quite forced to cancel their appearance on Finnish grounds. We all wish Randy Blythe well and quick solving of the case, but meanwhile we have to enjoy the fact that music goes on. The organisers came up with a local replacement, a famous name that entertained a lot of European stages playing under the name of Finntroll. There’s great fun to be had on the rhythms of viking metal, and while the band is not the most intense on stage (out of those from the same genre), the crowd went crazy pretty fast and I admit that standing in one place was not an option during this show. Your legs gained a mind of their own and somehow started dancing. There was another act in the Tuska perimeter, yet they didn’t perform on any stage. I don’t recall if I saw them prior to Finntroll or Baroness, but I surely have to mention them. Ramin kuntopolku. A two piece band, going around with a loudspeaker and their drumkit (aka bassdrum, a snare and a hihat), setting it down on a random place, performing 15 seconds grindcore songs and starting quick small moshpits or wall of deaths. That’s what they did at Tuska at least. Outside the festival, they apparently have this kind of short concerts in all possible and impossible places. Men’s toilets, elevators, in the back of supermarket, at the gravelpit or on a bridge crossing the highway. I found this using google and I recommend you the funny lecture:

The end of 2012 edition of Tuska was marked by Ministry’s performance on the main stage. I earlier heard very small bits of their music and decided it’s not too interesting, so I had absolutely no idea who this band was and how it looked like. I noticed a rather pimped up microphone stand and pretty weird costumes in the audience, culminating with a huge dark wolf like mask which puzzled the guard and probably boiled the one who was wearing it. Yet, when the band’s singer Al Jourgensen appeared on stage, I lowered the camera and stared at the stage in a state of immense awe, only having the expression ‘WTF’ crossing my mind. If you are also in the list of people who never saw them, have a look at the photos gallery to see why. Tons of piercings and tattoos, vampire teeth and a golden front tooth, a tall magician hat… Quite an appearance overall. It sounded as if the band went through various style changes since not all the songs had the amount of industrialism that made me easily lose interest in the band. So I think I even registered decent guitar parts, but all in all the mood was easily killed by the repetitive dance like parts. Hence, when I met my friend and she suggested we head home, I gladly accepted her idea and said my final farewell to Tuska 2012. I also took the occasion to say a classical ‘I’ll be back’!

Tuska festival 2012 – Day 2 review

Full photo gallery can be found here

Not the easiest of mornings in the Finnish capital, yet I managed to make it by 13:30 to the festival grounds to watch the performance of the Finnish hard/heavy rock (former death metal) band Amoral, as I was going to have an interview later on that day and it would have made my life easier if I got to ‘know’ them a bit by watching them perform. I liked the show. You could see that the band had just returned from touring on other continents as they had a good energy and would always make the scene look crowded. They warmed us even more by the intensive use of pyro effects and all in all made a good impression for such a young band. I was also impressed by the vocalist’s abilities to perform songs that were obviously from the band’s ‘death’ era and then come back to sing some very nice and clean, melodic parts. Actually, upon writing these lines I realise I got to the festival in time to even catch the beginning of Anaal Nathrakh show and to get to see how their singer surprisingly emerged from the middle of the crowd and climbed through the photographers to get his place on stage. Then they started blasting their way though a very extreme and powerful mix of black and death, but with very annoying (for me) industrial parts. Not sure if the annoyance came from how the sound was right in front of the stage or simply the way those parts didn’t feel right, but they certainly made me leave before the three songs allowed for photographing.

I had no idea who Mokoma was and why they’d be on the main stage (and didn’t get the chance to check before the festival), but heck, what a nice surprise it was to discover the Finnish thrash/death legends. Another band whose verse I couldn’t understand, yet, when they are so passionately interpreted by many in the audience, they feel just about right. What it also felt right about Mokoma was the purity of their metal. They didn’t seem to bother much with fancy extreme stuff, they have nice clean-singing parts in the songs and everyone in the band would constantly headbang or move around, giving the impression of a good mood among musicians. Later on, on the other ‘main’ stage, another band was to take me by surprise. This time the Dutch band Textures and their technical mix of just about everything, a mix that manages nicely to jump from soft, melodic moments to mean and intense screams touching death metal and metalcore boundaries. You hardly have any time to get bored with a pattern, as the band already switched to something different. Besides the interesting music, they have a certain stage-appeal and it was fascinating to stand by the side of the moshpit formed in front of the stage and look at how much energy the crowd gets from the musicians on stage. And also watch the musicians jump high in the air and play the guitars in all sort of ways. Textures show was one of the absolute highlights of the day.

The mad show was followed by even more madness on the main stage, when the Brits from Napalm Death came around with their grindcore and the vocalist who seems to suffer from the most intense form of ADHD when on stage. Their show must have been the classical mix of brutal drumming, catchy riffs and insane screaming, but as I had an interview scheduled during the time they were on stage, I didn’t stay to watch much of it. But honestly, photographing Napalm Death is one of the most demanding acts for me. I probably need to revise my technique. Anyways, once I was done with the interview, I had just the right amount of time to go to the tent stage and watch Battle Beast, a Finnish heavy metal, female fronted band that I discovered at 2010 edition of Helvation Festival. Their singer, Nitte Valo, has a voice to embarrass half of the males in the genre and both her and everyone else in the band has gained a lot of stage confidence and skills at going wild on their instruments while they manage to headbang and interact with the crowd. A very pleasant surprise to see them evolving in such a short time and fingers crossed that they keep on the good path.

Once again, I had to give up some of the previous show in order to catch another highly recommended one, from the Finns in Insomnium. Their songs had a certain epicness in their intros and bridges, pretty angry growlings in the style of death metal, and despite the band’s quality show on stage, I guess the melodic death metal was feeling a bit too soft compared to the heavy metal that I just witnessed in the tent. But I give them the fact that there’s some nice catchy riffs scattered all over their songs. Once Insomnium was done, we relocated to the main stage to see live one of the bands I used to listen at the beginning of my ‘metal’ lessons – Sonata Arctica. A band that I loved so much until I saw my first bootlegs with them, moment after which I stopped listening to the band. I was very curious to see this show and to my surprise, I was not at all disappointed. Tony Kakko is a talented frontman who’s never tired to pose and make everyone feel included in the show, but most important, I think I caught him in a good day for playing live. He sounded more than decent, the songs I recalled from the older albums were not ruined by useless failed screamings, so I managed to enjoy them. And even if power metal hasn’t been at the top of my playlists lately, I’ll go back to trying out Sonata Arctica’s releases.

When I moved back to the Inferno tent to watch Swallow the sun, it was surprisingly packed, but I believe it was also because of the weather that seemed to offer more decent quantities of rain. But it could as well be because of the band, since I noticed most of the people cheering and enjoying the doom death mix played on a stage drowning in smoke and on which the band members would interpret the music by adding some ‘ritualistic’ gestures at the times when they wouldn’t play guitars or bass. The singer, same as for Barren Earth, showed once again how fantastic his vocal skills are and he easily convinced me not to go and watch Behemoth and rather stay in the tent and enjoy more of the mystery and atmosphere that the band tries to create on stage. Yet, I left before it ended since I was supposed to attend the only show of the day on the smallest stage, another Finnish surprise by the name of ‘For the Imperium’. It felt again that the band on stage didn’t bother much to stay in any musical genre. Nor did they actually bother to stay much on stage. The singer ended up in the middle of the crowd (probably starting a moshpit), the bass and guitar players kept going forward on some big monitors placed in front, yet on the sides of the stage. Probably the drummer would have moved as well if he could. I honestly have no idea when the first few songs passed. It felt like I had been there for 5 seconds, since there’s absolutely no moment to be bored at the band’s show. I also can’t recall much of what they actually sounded like (except that I felt like recognising 20 different styles), so now I have to give them some proper listens on my computer, to make up my mind.

Last band for Saturday on the main stage were the Swedes from Sabaton. While they are really cool with how they keep on moving and being happy on stage, plus they almost always have pyro effects, I really can’t watch a full Sabaton show. There’s intensity in their songs, I give them that, but there’s one annoying thing: I can’t tell the difference between songs. So, I enjoyed my photography moments, even capturing Joakim Brodén’s picking his nose for photographers, but both me and the rest of the gang was more than happy to end the day and go somewhere for a beer. And what an epic beer that was, since it somehow materialised in several bottles of cider for me, but most of all, in very painful jaws caused by stupid jokes in the range of Arnold famous quotes.

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