Day 2: Day Six, Atmosphere, Morgana X, Sahara Dust, Bumblefoot, Sun Caged, Prototype, Pain Of Salvation
April 5th 2003, P60, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Few bands can have taken the musical journey from
Punk to ProgMetal but that’s the trip that this young, Dutch band has taken.
Together since their early teens, they released a couple of Punk albums as Peanuts
before changing direction and name. There are sadly very few young bands
playing ProgMetal and bounding onstage like the latest Nu-breed popstars, I
must admit it was a joy to watch this young band deliver a short, four-song set
with an amazing sense of energy, confidence and conviction. Singer Robbie van
Stiphout in particular was a breath of fresh air in his youthful delivery –
although the rest of the band do need to try a bit harder to keep up with him.
Opening track Day IV was my favourite, with its crunching Evergrey
riffs and clipped melody. The band is currently in a studio recording their
debut album. Most definitely ones to watch.
Starting off with a long-instrumental, it was a
good seven or eight minutes until the vocalist came onstage – not really a
great way to make an impact on a largely new audience. And to be honest, things
didn’t get much better when he did arrive. The music was really a stale version
of Dream Theater and the onstage performance was similarly in need of a
bit of bite. The set ended with an interesting version of Eleanor Rigby
but overall it was all a bit underwhelming.
Most Impressive Newcomer Award for the
festival must go to this Dutch band. Having just received a copy of their demo
CD Misunderstood I was rather looking forward to this. And I’m
delighted to say, that the promise shown on the disc is taken several steps
forward with the live show. Mixing ProgMetal (think Pain of Salvation
and Enchant) with PopRock (think Marvelous3), Morgana-X has created
something refreshingly new in a sound that has great crossover potential.
Playing all four songs from the CD plus two new ones they are certainly much
heavier in live setting although it was the delightfully melodic but more
restrained Eternal Life that stood out in particular. The centre of
attention is frontman Eddy Borremans - mixing a bit of soul,
with plenty of power and emotion, he put in a really confident, high-energy
performance that helped win the band many new admirers. The debut album can’t
come soon enough.
The great thing about this festival was that it was
clearly an ego free zone. Every band had the full light and stage show and the
sound was superb from beginning to end. The second Dutch band plying Operatic
Goth Metal, Sahara Dust (now known as Epica) have been getting a lot of
attention recently - mainly because of 17-year-old mezzo-soprano Simone Simons.
Floating inside a slight, silk top, she certainly makes a very appealing
picture and the light show for this band was by far and away the most effective
of the weekend. However young Simone needs to quickly have a few lessons in
basic microphone control. With it constantly held to her lips, her voice
sounded horribly distorted throughout. With many bands now well established in
this genre, newcomers have to have that something special. Sahara Dust still
have some developing to do.
Image Rocky-era Sylvester Stallone playing Frank Zappa, on
a guitar shaped like a foot, with a script written for Mike Myers? Welcome to
the wonderful world of Bumblefoot. Never heard of the bloke? Neither had I. But
I can assure you, he managed to put on one of the funniest shows I’ve ever
Bumblefoot (a.k.a. New York guitarist Ron Thal) can best be
described as an alternative-rap-metal-artist combining intense Hendrix-tinged
metal with humorous lyrics. Fans of groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers,
Mr. Bungle or Primus should certainly investigate further with a mix
melody and angst-ridden rock clearly having a fair few admirers in Holland
already. Clearly a top-notch guitarist, what kept me entertained for an hour
was the man himself. If dry humour is your scene, then if he ever gets fed up
with the guitar, I’m sure Bumblefoot could always make it as a stand-up
comedien. I wouldn’t buy his records, but I’d certainly go and see him play a
gig again. An absolute nutter!
They've yet to release an album, but the fact that
the hall was packed for the arrival of this Dutch ProgMetal band shows the
interest they have been attracting over the past couple of years. Their
constant gigging and two well-received demos has won a deal with Lion Music and
a recent tour in support of Evergrey. Their debut album, produced by
none other than Arjen Lucassen (Star One, Ayreon), will be out in the first week
Formed three years ago by ex-Within Temptation
drummer Dennis Leeflang and Marcel Coanen (ex-Lemur Voice), they are
musically very much in the Dream Theatre school of complexity – an
ever-changing cacophony of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums with unpredictable
rhythms and moods. The set list picked the best from their demos and tracks
from the forthcoming debut album. Secrets of Flight is still my favourite,
while a new track Home showed a growing maturity in the sound. There
was also a welcome encore in the shape of Queensryche's Eyes of a
Stranger. By this time, it was clear the whole band were really enjoying
themselves - and by the warm response so were the audience. Sun Caged - a band
that will be getting a lot of attention this year.
This was the
band's first ever European show but to be honest this probably wasn't the best
audience to put them before. Formed from the ashes of aggressive thrashers Psychosis
this American four-piece have released two self-promoted albums, Cloned
and Trinity and are currently seeking a label for their third.
Combining their former aggressive elements with a few new progressive ones
their set was a fair mixture from their career past and future with an encore
of Cold Is This Dawn from their original incarnation. Far and away the
most straight-ahead heavy band on the bill, I could appreciate what they were
doing but they were a bit static on stage and it didn’t really hit any buttons
PAIN OF SALVATION
A band never afraid to
tackle difficult political issues, considering the world situation at the time
of this gig, it was little surprise to me that Pain of Salvation should come
bounding onstage in bright orange Dutch football shirts with the legend ‘No
War’ emblazoned across the front. It looked great on stage and, hell, I just
wish more bands would wear their hearts on their sleeves (or shirts!).
This is a band that I must admit took me a long
while to really warm to. It wasn’t until last year's superb Remedy Lane
opus (my album of the year) that it began to click. I revisited their back
catalogue with a fresh mind. Now only Entropy still gives me a hard
A band that can be very complex,
both in terms of its message and delivery, I was a bit worried beforehand how
it would all work in a live setting. Fear not – seeing Pain of Salvation live
takes their music to another level. Playing before a healthily full venue, this
was a full-on visual and musical feast – a real show – that was just a pleasure
to witness. It wasn’t one of those gigs where I was at the front getting into
every riff and rhythm. It was one of those gigs where you just stood, watched,
listened and let the whole experience bring a smile to your face.
The whole band is full of energy and the
musicianship was able to ride high on another excellent sound and light show.
Daniel Gildenlow really bares his full soul. One moment leaping around in
anger, another crouched down on the floor in despair and another leaning
against the mic’ stand in confession. I honestly can’t tell you what songs they
played - I was enjoying myself too much. A great way to end, a hugely
the first Headway Festival, was the brainchild of Sun Caged drummer
Dennis Leeflang and attracted a healthy crowd from as far away as Iceland and
Israel, as well as the UK. Set in the centre of a town on the outskirts of
Amsterdam, the modern 650-capacity P60 club was perfect for the event with
excellent lights and sound plus the handy distraction of being surrounded by
good places to eat. There were plenty of chances to mingle in the three bars
and café, where an interesting addition was the chance to see workshops from some
of the musicians. So thanks to Dennis for the idea and the hospitality. Bands
have already been booked for next year. For anyone into Progressive Metal it
would be well worth the trip
All photos by Andy Read for DPRP © 2003.