Concert Review Archive

 
Fused Festival 2011

Winter in Eden, Vanden Plas, Hookah The Fuzz, After-Math, Awake By Design, Toxic Smile, To-Mera, Threshold, LoreWeaveR, Haken, Hanging Doll, Day Six, kingfisher Sky

1st - 3rd April 2011
Lydney Town Hall, Forest of Dean, The UK

Article By Andy Read and John O’Boyle
Live Photos by John O’Boyle

This was a new UK festival promoted by some of the team behind the annual Summers End Festival and the Classic Rock Society. Held in the same venue as Summers End, a highly impressive line-up had been put together to tempt those who enjoy their progressive music on the heavier side of the spectrum. A closer relative of ProgPower Europe than Summers End if you like.

You'd have thought that a line-up featuring the first ever full headline show in the UK by Vanden Plas, the first ever UK appearances by Kingfisher Sky and Toxic Smile plus Day Six, Haken, To-Mera, a headline set from Threshold and a host of promising newcomers, more than 100 people would have turned up? On the plus side, every band put in great, highly professional performances and it was a fabulous showcase for the genre.

All the bands received a good response and everyone I spoke to had a great time. Apart from running out of real ale by the Saturday evening (!!), the organisation and stage management was faultless. I just hope that a Fused II is still possible. If you couldn't or didn't get there, this is what you missed...

Friday, 1st April 2011

Winter in Eden
By Andy Read

Count Winter in Eden, north-eastern five-piece, as the first English, female-fronted, symphonic metal band that has all the right ingredients to challenge the current batch of market leaders from the European mainland. Think Delain and Within Temptation mixed with a touch of Celtic-inspired Thin Lizzy.

Where they differ from the many UK bands I've previously experienced from this genre, is that in Vicky Johnson they have a voice and front lady who does the business. To this you can add some tasty, quick-fire guitar solos, a keyboardist who isn't there simply to add colour, and songwriting not shy of utilising a broad brush of dynamics.

Not from the operatic end of the spectrum, Vicky's voice has a rare depth and passion that really appealed. There is still room to polish her stage craft, but she engaged well with a largely unfamiliar crowd. By the end of the band's time on stage, her confidence had risen alongside the response from an audience where the curious stayed to the end.

Of the seven songs played, the fact that I found the two new ones to be the most enjoyable, also suggests that this is a band with a bright future. Suffering Silence in particular impressed, with a great modern groove. Another track described by Vicky as 'being inspired by a David Bowie movie' was very enjoyable as was the title track of their debut album The Awakening. They closed with the title track off their 2009 EP, At The Edge of the World. In one way that was a shame as it was my least favourite song. In another way a positive, as it showed how far the band has already progressed.

Winter in Eden has a series of concert and festival dates already planned throughout 2011. Give them a chance and be prepared to be impressed.

Vanden Plas
By Andy Read

Despite releasing six genre-defining albums over the past 17 years, this was Vanden Plas' debut full headline show in the UK. That just about says everything you need to know about the ProgMetal scene in the UK. The fact that only 100 or so fans could be bothered to get to Lydney to see this show, says it even louder.

Thankfully whatever those 100 fans lacked in quantity they more than made up for it in quality. Everyone in the hall was really up for it and the band responded big time. The supreme professionals that they are, from the moment they stepped on stage Andy Kuntz, Andreas Lill, Stephan Lill, Gunter Werno and Torsten Reichert played as if it was a packed arena.

A full two-hours was packed with a well-chosen 'best-of' selection from every album. Personal favourites Iodic Rain and Far Off Grace were immense. An unexpected bonus came when Andy and Stefan gave an impromtu acoustic How Many Tears when the drums went AWOL halfway through. "We haven't played this live for 10 years," said Andy. That's what live gigs are all about. Hopefully we won't have to wait 17 years for a return. Simply brilliant.

Setlist Vanden Plas
I Can See
Into The Sun
Hole In The Sky
Silently
Iodic Rain
Rush of Silence
Far Off Grace
Cold Wind
How Many Tears
Frequency
Soul Survives
Scar Of An Angel
Postcard to God
Christ O
Rainmaker

Saturday, 2nd April 2011

Hookah The Fuzz
By John O’Boyle

Hookah The Fuzz Saturday's opening band Hookah the Fuzz, a band that has caused a bit of a stir, one that I was excited about hearing live, the five young confident, adept musicians did not disappoint. My friends'.. from the opening chords this band had all the ingredients, grandiose guitar sounds, confidence in abundance and the ability to tempo change at the blink of an eye. What more could you ask for'. Yes they had the songs to back this up too; which was a win, win situation for everybody.

There seemed to be no real semblance to their musical approach, which is what made their music exciting and dangerous. Their angular sound bounced around the room, leftfield perplexing some of the crowd; Si Jeffries just didn't care who was watching, whether it was 1 or a 1000 people, he just gave 110% as did the rest of the band.

Alexander Louis wandered all over the stage displaying his versatility as a guitarist, Roger Ash worked his bass as if it was a well oiled machine supported by Harwood Shing on keyboards and Ross Hawkins on drums.

Not for the first time in the weekend I found myself in the impossible position of not being able to say what the outstanding tracks were that the band played. As with LoreWeaver the band just nailed their set, perfectly'''.

I think I have just seen the future and I like what I'm seeing, but more importantly what I'm hearing. The only down side for this camper was that their set was too short; if this is the future of prog / prog metal then it is in safe hands.

Hookah The Fuzz

Setlist Hookah The Fuzz
Untitled
Girl Do Voodoo
6’s
Preachers Suck More… (than a pro with a deadline)
(D)illusion
Untitled

After-Math
By Andy Read

After-Math

If you want a personal recommendation for a new UK ProgMetal band that has the potential to bring something different and exciting to the genre, then keep an eye on After-Math.



Hailing from my home county of Gloucestershire they started life as Andonova. They were about to issue a debut EP in 2010 before a split with their singer brought everything to a halt.



New singer Estelle Iles really has brought something fresh to the party and opened some exciting possibilities for the band. Coming from outside the Prog and Metal scene her powerful voice isn't the style usually heard in the genre -; but it works. Her modern, eye-catching appearance and onstage banter are also a refreshing change. Behind her there are some carefully crafted songs which swirl around odd time signatures and rhythms laid down by drummer Mark Hall and bassist Tim Pattison. Also of note are the lovely flowing guitar solos exchanged by Dave Trapp and Steve Dawkins.



Plans are progressing for a free download album to come out later this year. In the meantime take a listen to the track Sweat Endeavor from the band's MySpace to get an idea of why I'm brimming with enthusiasm.

Setlist After-Math
Broken
Sweat Endeavour
Surface Tension
promise
this Is Not The Answer
Sanguine

Awake By Design
By Andy Read

Awake By Design

Formed in 2008, Awake By Design have been building a solid profile around the Midlands thanks to a solid debut album, Sentiment and opening slots for the likes of Apocalyptica, Anathema, Diamond Head, Sonata Artica and Pain Of Salvation. A late addition to the line-up, they seemed to be trying their luck in front of a slightly different audience but seemed to suffer here from having more of a gothic than a progressive influence.



You couldn't fault their effort and it was certainly a full-on stage show. No-one could ever accuse singer Adrian Blake of lacking in confidence, running around the crowd like a kid with an attention deficit disorder. His emphasis on the lower end of his range and the blending of hard rock melodies with a power metal heart brought more than a passing resemblance to Dan Swano's Nightingale side-project.



Enjoyable and full of energy but personally their songs weren't the sort to grab my attention.

Awake By Design

Toxic Smile
By Andy Read

Ignore the name Toxic Smile. This is heavy Prog from the former East Germany with the occasional odd ball twist. In my DPRP review of their latest album, I'm Your Saviour, I commented that musically the band produces some great moments but doesn't hit the mark every time. After this show my assessment of their songs hasn't changed but as a live act Toxic Smile were a revelation.

The suited and calmly charismatic Larry B was a wonderful frontman whose subtle charm, sense of humour and warm vocals were a joy. He was well supported by a band of excellent musicians who were a delight to watch.

Total strangers to most of the crowd, the response grew song by song. The big queue at their merch stand afterwards said it all. Loved it.

Setlist Toxic Smile
The Abyss
Change
Pride And Joy
Pyramid
Endless Cycle
O.T
Liquid Wall
Could It Be
I’m Your Saviour

To-Mera
By John O’Boyle

To-Mera I have seen To-Mera a few times now and have always enjoyed them; unfortunately this wasn't one of their best shows, something that I believe the band picked up on. The band was on the back foot for two reasons, they were without their mainstay bass player, (that can't be easy with the complexity, but the stand in coped admirably holding his own), and Julie Kiss was full of a cold, which didn't help. As cohesive as they were, they did miss their bass player.

Five piece To-Mera, the sister band to Haken, seemed to really divide peoples opinions with their very technical musical approach. This isn't straight forward music by any stretch of the imagination; it is music that's melodic at times, technical, convoluted and challenging on the ear. The band mixed fusion with metal adding jazz interludes all in the name of progressive, the set opener The Lie being a really good example of this, making it a more than an acquired taste, music you have to work with to get the best results from.

Stunning guitar technician Tom Maclean worked his fingers to the bone delivering the intensity of the music, quick runs, chugging riffs, solos, the whole gamut, (having to retune after every song), whilst Paul Westwood just kept track of the succinct time and musical changes, which was more than evident through one of my personal favourites The Glory of a New Day from the Delusions album, its heavy and dark musical framework hammering the audiences skulls one minute then Julie and the jazz tones kicked in, offering an illusion of confusement, giving it a whole differing feel before the complete madness kicked back in, which is what makes this band what they are, being exciting and impressive to witness too.

Julie delivered her beautiful, ethereal and operatic tinged vocals which were really pronounced on Then Blood, which also featured some very impressive keyboard playing by Richard Henshall, before the band sadly moved onto their set closer Inside the Hourglass, which offered a chance for the whole band to really go for it, an offer that didn't need making twice.

Julie informed the crowd that this would be the last show for a while as they were going into the studio to record their new album.

I am not too sure what the audience expected but by the reaction, it wasn't this? I got the feeling that they were a bit of an unknown quantity and people where genuinely confused by the whole set.

Setlist To-Mera
The Lie
Dreadful Angel
Earthbound
The Glory of a New Day
Another World
Then Blood
Inside the Hourglass

Threshold
By John O’Boyle

Threshold This was Threshold show number 69 for Damian Wilson; the uncrowned voice of rock, who just goes from strength to strength. This headline act being a rather fitting and compelling way to end a fine day of music.

Threshold is a band that never disappoints opening with the stunning Mission Profile which paved the way for the rest of the evenings set. The beauty of the tonight's set was that the band played a great cross section of music from all their albums.

There are no clashing ego's here, just a band that love to play to an appreciative audience and tonight that's what they were playing too. Damian is quite a story teller having an uncanny knack at being at ease with his audience, entertaining either with is vocal gymnastics or little anecdotes, he even entered the audience a few times to their amazement, to genuinely greet people whilst the band played their long musical interludes as well as to sing at times. This was an act that was more than welcomed and respected by all.

The musical interaction of the band as one would expect was exceptional, enigmatically holding peoples attention throughout, melodic tunes, high powered dexterity especially from Karl Groom who dueled with Pete Morten, whilst drummer Johanne James who powered their way masterfully through the set. Steve Anderson's bass work was second to none as was Richard West's keyboard dalliances. The boys ripped through stunning renditions of Eat the Unicorn, Critical Mass, Pilot in the Sky of Dreams and Slipstream putting smiles on everyone's face. Damian sung a very emotional version of Clear (acoustic is what Damian's voice was made for), form Extinct Instinct, which really held the audience attention being met by a rapturous applause when it arrived at its conclusion. It was obviously a personal song for Damian, which was evident by his approach and his 1000 yard stare.

All good things do come to an end with Lydney witnessing another excellent show by Threshold the star act of the day, (a day that was full of surprises from all the participants), and the last show of the tour. I couldn't think of a better place or bunch of people to have shared that experience with.

Setlist Threshold
Mission Profile
Consume to Live
Exposed
Avalon
Eat the Unicorn
Stop Dead
The Ravages of Time
Hollow
Critical Mass
Smile at the Moon
Long Way Home
Pilot in the Sky of Dreams
The Art of Reason
Clear
Slipstream

Sunday, 3rd April 2011

LoreWeaveR

By By John O’Boyle

Day three of the Fused Festival was opened by the Italian prog metal band LoreWeaveR, a band who torn the roof off the building. This was a band that I have wanted to see live for some time, as their debut album was somewhat stunning. Live LoreWeaveR are just something else.

LoreWeaveR

Barbara Rubin and co. stepped onto the stage, opened their souls and bared it to the audience, an audience that was gob smacked by what they were witnessing. Francesco Salvadeo's guitar work was impeccable, precise, convoluted and emotive as he laid down the foundations for Barbara Rubin's powerful and dynamic vocal presence.

The rest of the band followed perfectly, each stamping their personality on the music. Giordano Mattiuzzo dexterously ran his fingers over the bass frets whilst Claudio Cavalli worked the drum kit, pounding out the differing time changes, (if he wasn't entertaining with his drum kit then he was humorously working his audience), whilst Lorenzo Marcenaro nonchalantly added the depth with his keyboard interactions which added character to the music.

LoreWeaveR

From the opener Bogus through to the closing song the Sci-;fi tinged Ultraworld, (the band played the whole album bar two songs), a band just wanted to play, never missing a beat, being very appreciative of their audience. Musically the band sound like Dream Theater, (one could only imagine what Dream Theater could really achieve if they had a vocalist with set of lungs like Barbara Rubin's), with their approach, but manage to keep their originality. The whole set was filled with hi jinx, powerful presentations, aggressive guitar tones, married with stunning melodies, deft and sultry tones.

I couldn't honestly pick out a favourite song as the whole set was absolutely stunning which left me speechless, sending a shiver down my spine, which isn't easy to do. As an opening act, it isn't always easy, but LoreWeaveR set the standard for the day and for me were the band of the weekend. The reaction from the crowd was unbelievable, creating a real buzz, generating lots of interest; such was the intensity of the bands display. This is a band with a very bright future and a stunning debut album under their belt. Miss this band live at your peril.

Setlist LoreWeaveR
Bogus
Dead man walking
De rerum natura
Follow the weaver
Avoid feelings
Ultraworld

Haken

By Andy Read

Haken

If a ProgMetal band can be described as 'exquisite' then this performance was just that. Based in London, Haken's debut offering Aquarius caused quite a buzz among critics last year. Personally, having listened to the promo, its constant mad-cap, genre-hopping explorations frustrated more than it pleased. I warmed significantly to their music later in the year when I saw it performed in a live setting at ProgPower Europe. In both the album and the live setting it was the somewhat inconsistent performance of singer Ross Jennings that still had me wavering.



It may have been as simple as calming down his stage antics a little to concentrate on his singing, but in Lydney Ross not only nailed every single note but there was an added depth and intensity to his voice that captivated the crowd from beginning to end. Improvements could be heard everywhere.



The whole band is now an incredibly tight unit and they were clearly enjoying their time onstage. Two new tracks were aired and sounded very impressive. Both Conspiracy and (I think) Numbered sounded more direct and darker in mood. The band seems to have reworked some their songs to great effect too.



Haken

Many regulars I spoke to afterwards said this was easily the best performance they've ever seen Haken deliver. I've now seen the light and bought a copy of Aquarius.

Setlist Haken
Streams
Eternal Rain
Conspiracy
Numbered
Drowning In The Flood
Celestial Elixir

Hanging Doll
By John O’Boyle

Hanging Doll Another female fronted band, a highly polished band at that, which seemed to be the order of the weekend. Birmingham based Gothic metal band Hanging Doll stepped up with their rather interesting, entertaining and intense set, which worked really well. Prog metal it might not have been, but the band really new how to work the audience, coming across like old hands, the audience responded accordingly. Guitarist Dan Leddy along with vocalist Sally Holliday, who both had very magnetic stage presence, were the real focal points of the band, Dan with his rather stunning rock n roll image and Sally with her commanding style. When this was all gelled with drummer Alex Cooper, keyboard player Aryan Amoli and bassist Kev Wilson there was only going to be one result. Pure unadulterated entertainment, no more, no less, something the band displayed in abundance.

Vocally the band delivered, finding the right balance, one minute sedate the next operatic a full on attack, cleverly using bassist Kev Wilson's growling vocals to maximum effect as an when required, which offered a dark disturbing dimension to the whole set, both lyrically and musically, which was best seen on the song Hope Springs Eternal. The guitar work was raw, dirty and very catchy in its presentation; the band just prowled the stage knowing that they were pressing all the right buttons, never putting a foot wrong. Echoes of Sorrow powered out the speakers, dueling vocals between Dan and Sally coming across as a dark and twisted conversation, clever in its approach and highly memorable.

Hanging Doll

Set closer Forlorn really pinpointed what this band can achieve and are about live, summing up their music, really mixing the light with the dark. This approach is not original by any stretch of the imagination, but without a doubt it is one of the best versions I've ever seen, a very well executed and thought out set, a band I look forward to seeing again. Another band another surprise, which is what this, is all about.

Setlist Hanging Doll
Question of Faith (new track)
Sweet Retribution
Hope Springs Eternal
Iniquity
Formidable Mistake
Echoes of Sorrow
Blood Ridden Skies
Twist of a Deity
Forlorn

Day Six
By John O’Boyle

Day Six Symphonic progressive metal band from the Netherlands that is known by the name of Day Six are about the tightest most technically proficient band that I have seen in a long time.

This was a band that symbiotically played convoluted, technical, punctuated music without missing a single note or beat, each band member just feeding off the energy emitted by each other. As a unit they are obviously highly influenced by jazz and funk, cleverly adding their own twist to the mix, really shaking and rocking it up.

Robbie van Stiphout meant business from the word go, he's just a natural front man; pulling all the rock poses and contorted face expressions whilst he aggressive leathered his guitar from beginning to end. Robbie's vocals added colour breaking down the intensity of the music, passionately and perfectly aligned with his sedate and melodic end of his playing, as the phenomenal Castel Gandolfo and Lost Identity burned their way into your brain.

The band powered their way through classy tracks like Legend of the Hollow with its eastern tones, melding into your mind with chugging guitar riffs one minute, technical genius the next.

Age Of Technology hypnotically mesmerised the audience, a song that had more twists and turns than a politician evading answering a question directly. Obviously most of tonight's songs came from the latest opus The Grand Design but the band came back for an encore as the audience called for more, where they more than willingly participated, playing No One Lives Forever from their debut, a song that it would appear they hadn't played in a while.

Day Six

This was just a heads down music fest, technicians, a real musician's band, Stiphout and bassist Nick Liebregts just grinning at each other as they more than matched each others prowess note for note, fingers straddling their instruments like a well rehearsed formation team. The unsung heroes though who just nonchalantly offered that extra dimension were drummer Daan Liebregts and keyboardist Dolf van Heugten which all in all created a very enchanting and powerful set.

Setlist Day Six
Massive Glacial Wall
Castel Gandolfo
Day VI
Inside
Lost Identity
Legend of the Hollow
7th Sign
Age of Technology
No One Lives Forever

Kingfisher Sky
By Andy Read

Kingfisher Sky Over the years I've learnt that there is one golden rule to music festivals. The more of its own crew that a band has onstage, the worst its sound will be.

All weekend every band had sounded great and ran exactly to schedule. The in-house crew knew the venue, knew their kit and knew their jobs. With not just one, not just two but three of their crew busying around the stage, the omens for Kingfisher Sky were not good.

Now I've been a great enthusiast for this Dutch progressive folk rock band since first hearing samples from the glorious debut album, Hallway of Dreams. A chance to interview them earlier in the day had revealed they are a lovely bunch of guys and galls and with a strong follow-up album to promote, I was eagerly awaiting what I thought would be the highlight of the weekend.

Sadly my tried a tested theory proved deadly accurate. Despite having an hour set-up time, they started 40 minutes late. Not a good move at the end of a festival with many fans eyeing a long trip home. Then the sound desk seemed to have the volume dial stuck at 11. Totally opposite to what was needed for a band where the devil really is in the subtlety and detail of how their various elements combine. For half of the set singer Judith Rijnveld seemed to be having uncomfortable problems with her earpiece. As for the cello, I couldn't hear it.

For their debut performance in the UK this was a real shame. The setlist included all but a handful of the tracks from their two albums plus the internet single of Kate Bush's The Man With A Child In His Eyes.

Kingfisher Sky

Only for the last four or five songs was I really able to enjoy myself, and the band able to show their potential to appeal to people across the rock/metal genres. Hopefully a quick return to the UK will be able to showcase Kingfisher Sky properly.

Links
Fused Festival - Official Website

Summers End Festival - Official Website

Classic Rock Society - Official Website

 


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