Power of Metal 2011

From the moment I saw the lineup of the Power Metal events at www.powerofmetal.eu and they started selling the tickets for the final shows in Netherlands, I acquired myself entrance and plane tickets as I have always wished to see SymphonyX live. And the other bands would have been a nice bonus in the lineup, considering I knew little about them.

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Mercenary live@Power of Metal 2011 Tilburg
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

So there I was on March 18th at the Melkweg venue in Amsterdam, after some emotions at the airport. It's my second time at this venue and both times I was really impressed by the quality of sound and light shows put together there. Because at the next show, in Tilburg, even if that venue is also excellent from the sound point of view, the lights were poorer. Both places got rather crowded, even from the first acts when you could see a pack of people in front of the stage knowing the lyrics and the rhythms to headbang at. I am not going to write two separate reviews, therefore what you might read next could often be based on comparisons between the two shows. If you want to see videos from Tilburg, they are in this playlist

The Power of Metal event consisted of a series of 21 concerts throughout Europe, with the final destination at 013, in Tilburg, Netherlands. There were 5 bands performing each night, so first of all I feel like congratulating the brains behind the event who dared to put so many people in touring buses and sending them to many countries and trying to make everything run as smoothly as possible. The openers were the symphonic epic power metallers from Finland, Thaurorod, who recently got Michele Luppi as vocalist in the band. Luppi has previously worked with Vision Divine and has quite an impressive vocal range, able to follow the speedy musical line of the band's music, singing probably about mythological or fantastic themes, since their name is inspired from Tolkien's stories. They were 6 on stage, each of them full of energy, changing positions very often, doing fancy solos together or fast head banging and making me sorry that I missed them at the first show. They were really entertaining, even if the music didn't tell me too much at the first listen. But I'd gladly see them again live. Oh, and Luppi got invited on stage during SymphonyX' performance to sing a bit of a song and wow, what a good job he did.

Up next was time for the Danes from Mercenary, whose music would maybe fit as well in the range of death metal at times, but considering the amount of melodic and power metal like elements, I understand why they were a choice for these events. Less energy on stage since the singer is also the bassist so he has to spend most of the time behind the mic and playing his instrument. Also I heard he was rather sick at the beginning of the tour and he probably hadn't recovered as he wasn't allowed to drink. But applauses for his effort to be on stage and do the performance. The band has quite a long history since they were formed in 1991 and have released 6 albums until now, and they tried to offer songs from the early albums to satisfy the old fans, but the main focus I guess was on the recently released one.

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Brian McAlpin of Psychotic Waltz live@Power of Metal 2011 Tilburg
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

The series of American bands was opened by Psychotic Waltz, who just reunited in 2010 with the original band members and during whose performance I was very impressed by their guitarist, Brian McAlpin, who is bound to sit in a wheelchair and play his guitar. The level of admiration increased after both of the shows when everyone in the band, including him, spent time with the fans at the merchandise stand and tried as much as possible to talk to every single person willing to say something to them. I really appreciate when bands make the effort to reward those who support them, especially since they talked about their special merchandise offer during the show.

The vocalist, Devon Grave, has his own style on stage with certain dance movements to fit the melodic and sometimes darker passages of their progressive metal, while he supports the music - in which we get to hear some very nice bass and guitar riffs - with his powerful voice in which he puts lots of emotion. Musicwise I can't really make up my mind where they might belong, but I noticed quite a bunch of fans at both venues who knew the lyrics and were thrilled when certain titles were announced.

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Warrel Dane of Nevermore live@Power of Metal 2011 Tilburg
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

Moving along to the next Americans, this time from Seattle, we get to see Nevermore who, for this tour, had to use One Undone's Dagna Barrera as a temporary replacement since the original bass player just had to undergo brain surgery. She did a decent job on stage and I am pretty sure she was a pleasant appearance for many in the audience. Before the last SymphonyX gig, she went on stage and put condoms on each of the microphones set up. Anyways, Nervermore is another band I never got to see live and from whom I know one album and a half max. And I knew I loved Darrel Wane's voice, which didn't disappoint me at all. It is very melodic and powerful, but the downside of his performance is that he gave me the impression he's either very pissed off or sick and tries to somewhat hide under the hat he was wearing. I have to agree with my friends comments about the fact that the music, while very cool and sounding nice at times, gets repetitive after a while and doesn't seem to match the slow pace vocals. But they managed to get a pit in the middle of the crowd, or make couples hold hands during their more romantic songs. My attention ended up focusing on the very energetic Van Williams on the drums who always found time for little tricks in between two hits on his cymbals.

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Dagna Silesia of Nevermore live@Power of Metal 2011 Tilburg
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

All along both evenings we heard everyone thanking everyone else for the tour and the company, which was a nice gesture. But the best thanks I got to witness during the show in Tilburg when SymphonyX decided to play an extra song and both before this song and during it they called everyone else on stage for a big big thanks both towards the crowd but also among band members. It was impressive to see every member of the 5 bands up there on stage laughing and having a great time. But before remembering the fun moments, I must really stress out how much my expectations were exceeded. I loved Russell Allen's voice in the recordings, Michael Romeo's insane yet melodic guitar riffs, Michael Pinnella's beautiful keyboard melodies and all backed up by the perfect drumming of Jason Rullo. So when you see that they keep the same amazing quality of their music live, it just seems amazing.

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Sir Russell Allen live@Power of Metal 2011 Tilburg
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

Allen's voice was incredibly powerful and melodic and he managed to touch and keep most of the tones from recordings, even if the only moments when he stood still was when drinking water or stopping for few seconds to make a silly face towards someone in the crowd. He's an amazing show man. He made a fan really really happy by grabbing his iphone or camera and filming both himself (while singing) and the crowd for quite a while. There were jokes and interactions with the crowd between each song. For the last show, there were many many minutes in which he kept the people sining various 'oooohhh's', clapping, screaming… He just has whatever it takes to be up there on the stage and make the show perfect. Besides a super voice. Not to forget, backed up by great musicians, almost flawlessly. We even got to hear 2 songs from the forthcoming album, which sound rather aggressive and make me so look forward for it. But until then and the moment they come back to Europe, I will happily remember these two gigs in Netherlands and I am forever grateful for the chance to be in the audience for them.

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Thaurorod on stage during SymphonyX performance@Power of Metal 2011 Tilburg
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

I am trying to remember what else is there to add. There have been many other funny moments during the last show. Like for example when the Thaurorod dudes got on stage only in red thongs during 'Paradise Lost' (which Russell Allen somewhat dedicated to all the victims of the current events in Japan and Libya). Then they threw the thongs in the audience. In Amsterdam he asked for a Dutch beer and he was brought a Heineken which he didn't believe it was Dutch. There's many other, small ones maybe not as funny written down as experienced live. So I'd better just stop here and hope I was able to describe even 1% of how great these two events were.

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All bands on stage @Power of Metal 2011 Tilburg
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro