Headway Festival
Day 1: Carthago, Loch Vostok, Zero Hour, Freak Kitchen
April 4th 2003, P60, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

By Andy Read


CARTHAGO

Cathago GirlsWith the increasing success of the splendid Within Temptation and After Forever, there seems to be no shortage of operatic Goth Metal bands springing up in the land of daffodils. Opening for bands like Fates Warning, Omen and Vicious Rumors, Carthago, have been around for a while. Musically there's enough high-pitched vocals to keep fans happy. However Carthago takes a slightly unusual twist, with heavy progressive influences and not just one, but two female vocalists. The problem I have with Operatic Metal is that the vocals all get a bit samey after a while. But with Margreet van Duyvenbode and Stella de Ruiter competing for attention, there's plenty of variety both visually and musically. Their 40-minute set did keep me interested, especially with some good harmonies but the songs didn't really linger in my memory.

LOCH VOSTOK

Loch Vostok Now, Progressive Death Metal doesn't generally sound that appealing to me, but by the end of this set my opinion had been firmly changed. Formed from the ashes of melodic metallers Mayadome, Loch Vostok had driven for 20 hours to get here and from the off, it was clear these Swedes were damn well gonna enjoy their slot.

The focal point of the band is former drummer Alvaro Torres, who has now taken over the guitar and vocals. Constantly changing from growly death to melodic hard rock style, he is a great big personality at the front of the stage. Behind him, the band pumps out some top-notch, Prog-tinged metal. It was a lot to take onboard in one listen, but imagine the combined power of Metallica, the melodic death of In Flames and the Prog of say Fates Warning and it certainly seemed to get a good response.

Named after an underground lake in Antarctica, I would say that Loch Vostok is a band that certainly don't deserve to remain underground for too long.

ZERO HOUR

Zero Hour'It's great to see so many people here tonight,' said vocalist Erik Rosvold. 'You get more people at a barbecue than a metal gig in the States.' Well on the strength of this performance, all I can say, is that America's loss, is Europe's gain.

The music of Zero Hour is made up of dark, brooding melody; aggressive, staccato riffing, and an urgent, emotional intensity. Combining the complexity of say Watchtower and Spiral Architect, with the melodic appeal of Fates Warning or early-day Queensryche, Zero Hour produce pure Progressive Metal of massive proportions. Signed to The Lasers Edge label they're currently recording album number three.

I hadn't heard more than a few samples from this bunch before but I must say that the intensity of the performance and the quality of the musicianship on show was truly spellbinding. Drummer Mike Guy in particular was awesome, while Rosveld - with a very unique, emotional delivery - is a vocalist from the top drawer. The set consisted of Stratagem, The Subterranean and all 15 minutes of Demise and Vestige from their recent Towers of Avarice album. We also had Awaken from their self-titled debut, plus three new songs yet to find a name - but which, on a first listen, more than did the business.

If, after seeing a band live, you want to go out and buy their album, then they've done their job. As I write this, my copy of Towers.. is happily spinning on my hi-fi. A job well done!

FREAK KITCHEN

Freak Kitchen 'When in Rome do what the Romans do'. So of course when Freak Kitchen are in Amsterdam what better way to serve up the crowd participation bit, than to get people to sign along to a belt of vibrators playing the guitar!!! I kid you not - but more of that later.

These Swedes are one of my favourite bands at present. No surprise therefore, that chance to see them play live was the main reason for my journey from the UK. Thankfully, this splendid trio did not disappoint in anyway. In a set just short of two hours, head chef in the Freak Kitchen Mattias IA Eklundh dished up dish after dish of tasty musical morsels.

If you haven't come across this band yet (shame on you) then FK sway from power pop to thrash metal with everything in between. Metal? Certainly. Progressive? Not in the pure sense of the word. But managing to combine so many different styles in a high energy, high impact melodic feast, should appeal to anyone who appreciates music that stretches the boundaries.

However the main selling point for me is the way that Freak Kitchen rock out with a sublime sense of melody. The opening trio tonight of Porno Daddy, Silence, and the awesome Nobody's Laughing should get any rock fan dribbling at the mouth. By the time we reached the closing threesome of Propaganda Pie, Vaseline Biznizand the intense Everything's Out Of Control, my appetite had been fully satiated.

In terms of performance you couldn't fault the high energy assault, especially that imposed by eye-catching, bare-chested bassist Christer Ortefers .... compete with a hat for every song and taped over nipples! The between-song banter of Eklundh meanwhile added true personality to the live show - with, of course, a heavy spoonful of humour. For the encore he strolled on stage with a belt full of silver vibrators strapped to his chest. When held next to his guitar each slender tube made a different sound which the crowd were obliged to sing along to in response. Surely a new trick to impress friends at a party - only if you have the necessary equipment of course.

Anyway, you go to a live gig to be damn well entertained and Freak Kitchen damn well entertained me tonight. Freakin Brilliant!

    

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All photos by Andy Read for DPRP © 2003.

 

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2003 DPRP