Erik, Celine and I cycled to the club – it is the Netherlands, after all, and cycling is what people do. There was a sizeable queue outside. We established that most of the crowd were not interested in or had probably never even heard of Obsidian Kingdom, but were there for an indie band called The Boxer Rebellion. As the smaller contingent, we had the neat upstairs room, which at a push could probably accommodate 200. Spectators drifted in and out but at its peak, there were around 80 or 90 in the room, which wasn’t bad as these bands had played about 40 kilometres away the previous evening.
Most were there to see Obsidian Kingdom. They appeared first. Now to my shame I didn’t recognise them, in spite of having seen them a year ago at ProgPower Europe and having reviewed this year’s excellent album release “A Year with No Summer”. A bit of introduction would have been nice, but it wasn’t to be, and the band set about their spooky and dark bass-driven progressive metal with aplomb. The set continued in its measured and moody way. Elements of Pink Floyd came through, especially in the nicely delivered vocals. Sampled trumpet was played and added atmosphere. I found myself mentally obsessing about the keyboard player and his hood. I wondered if I should raise my hood in sympathy, but eventually his hood fell down and stayed down. Art imitates life and all that. The keyboardist clearly had attention issues and held up his musical instrument for us all to see. The pace stepped up to some metal and roll, and the lead man jumped into the crowd, guitar and all, before we returned to that hypnotic, bassy, lingering, proggy thing. It wasn’t totally clear to me what Obsidian Kingdom were about but I loved the way they took time to build up and allow us to absorb their passages. I very much enjoyed their performance.
Four beards started playing a kind of hippie prog. Intronaut told us they are from California, but musically this wasn’t going to any place other than some anonymous prog collection. The beards conveyed no personality. The music was bland and cacophonous but not in the name of experimentalism. Much adjustment was going on so maybe the band twigged this themselves. The drummer provided momentum and tapped away merrily but it all seemed out of phase. The man on guitar, who bore a passing resemblance to the former tv wit Richard Stilgoe, provided growls and what were supposed to be haunting vocals in the style of Novembre. They came across as an unfathomable whine. The output was beefed up, but it was no more comprehensible or engaging. Here was another band who didn’t see it fit to tell us what they were playing, but they did finally produce something which I quite liked with an industrial-sounding line which promised menace and atmosphere. As with Obsidian Kingdom, there were traces of Pink Floyd about this. Highly technical prog heaviness prevailed, but with poor sound quality. It all progressed to a frenzied head of steam but I still didn’t like the whiny vocals and it was all very patchy. I found Intronaut difficult to listen to, and with the lack of human interaction it was as if they were playing to themselves.
Tonight’s headliners were Shining. For clarification, this is the Norwegian lot, not the extreme Swedes. Now this was how to start: rock n roll, movement, saxophony, fun and smiles. Like a whirlwind the quintet ripped the place apart with pumping energy. Visually the band was arresting with a couple of dodgy haircuts, and black shirts. What is it with Norwegians and back shirts? The keyboard player, who was guilty on both counts, indulged in frantic head-swinging and brought his counterpart from Leprous to mind. This was punkish, military, tight, and then the singer would swap his guitar for a saxophone and blast out a jazzy tune in the midst of all this mayhem. The singer was additionally the CRR – chief rabble rouser – and roused rabble enthusiastically. The guitarist launched himself into the crowd like an aeroplane taking off. Pow – bam, Shining brainwashed the audience with this hyperactive display of turbulence and non-stop action. The CRR played with his audience between songs, and during songs as he shook hands with the audience during his insane saxophonic interludes. The guitarist specialised in violent movements. The clean-looking drummer’s poundings signalled the sounds of military intervention. It wasn’t all frenetic but when it wasn’t, I didn’t find it so interesting. Sure, there was Beatles-type echo surrounding the CRR’s voice, but the return to militaristic punishment was most welcome when “The Madness and the Damage Done” was announced as the final song. Moshing accompanied the metal rock n rollery, and those insane sax outpourings. It was a fitting end to a thoroughly entertaining set, an enjoyable evening and the prelude to the cycle ride back to fellow writer Erik’s place – check out his blogs on this concert and other metal subjects on: http://erikprogtricolor.blogspot.co.uk