Slottsskogen goes progressive 2010

Since a weekend in Oslo is pretty much equivalent of a bus trip to Western Sweden and some food drinks there, plus my current favorite band played at this festival in Gothenburg, plus I don't mind a change in the concerts locations, I found myself in a bus towards the Swedish city on Saturday morning. The 4 websites I previously checked announced rain, so I picked some boots to help me keep my feet dry which turned out to be quite useless for the warm day. With some instructions from locals and the nice tram driver, I ended up at Villa Belaparc, the location of the free event. I was worried when I stepped off the tram since all I could see were trees and a highway. But then I heard the music and found the place rather close to the stop.

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Knight Area
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / www.studiorock.ro

The place is something like a big restaurant by the side of a lake in the Slottsskogen park (I assume the park is called that, since I found it on all maps). I didn't go inside, but outside the tables are spread all over near the lake and the big house, and felt like a cozy place for a summer afternoon. There was a big opened tent covering the stage and the area where the crowd would stand, few bars to purchase drinks or snacks and probably cooked food by the plates I noticed in front of some people. Nevertheless, a rather different setting for a metal concert, being it progressive or not. Plus the Villa was by a big lake that was covered in that green stuff that ducks are mad about and it looked pretty spectacular in different lights of the day.

I caught few songs of Lone Star Retractor, a Swedish band playing Genesis tribute but I only spent few minutes actually watching them and taking few photos. It was interesting to look at the guitarist who had a double necked guitar which actually was a bass and a guitar. Then I went around to get familiar with the place, ran into the guys from Leprous and was more entertaining to have a chat with them, so I can't really remember much of what I heard, nor recognize any Genesis tunes. The next band on stage were the Dutch guys from Knight Area. It didn't catch me much from the beginning, it felt a bit dull. But with each song the band put up more and more interesting riffs of old school progressive metal and the ending songs were really cool. And it was fun to watch the vocalist performing duos with the bassist, while he himself had a portable keyboard hanged around his neck. Yet, his voice was a total turn off for me considering how high girly pitched it ended at times. The entertaining part of the concert were a bunch of Dutch guys in the crowd, wearing the band's t-shirt and waving a huge flag over the audience.

The 3rd band of the day was also a local one, Simon Says, who seems to have been around for quite a while now, since the 90s, even if they only have 3 albums out so far. I admit I enjoyed their 70s sound, and got excited about the acoustic guitar parts turned into a nice mix of sounds backed by the keyboards, electric guitar and not least a great soft voice for such music. The guys seemed really passionate about their music and that was easily transmitted to the audience. An interesting element that they had in the concert was some sort of ball that was used on the chords of the guitar for a different kind of vibrations on the long notes. Or more to say, lack of vibrations, yet it made the sound more constant. I personally haven't seen that before.

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Leprous
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / www.studiorock.ro

Up next, my reason to relocate to Sweden for this festival: Leprous. An outstanding band from the city of Notodden, in Norway. They only released an album so far and have a demo in their repertoire. But a new album is due to come out in September, so the 1hr and 15 mins of concert was a mix of _Tall Poppy Syndrome _ and the album to come. How promising that sounded. They already have a style that adds together in a pretty genuine way elements progressive metal with somewhat darker metals and jazz. The vocals are not at all what you mainly hear in the prog industry and many bring up Opeth when they want to compare the band with some other. Yet, their music is more alive and friendly, despite the depressive lyrics and dramatic interpretation. Another thing I like about this band is their way of taking the work they do very serious, even if it's not a huge event. They put some promotional photos on their website wearing certain outfits and they wear these outfits live to create a band image. The 8 strings guitars, which they have learned to use and incorporate into their own sound after being the backing band for Ihsahn, allow them to bring something extra in the fore mentioned combination of styles. A photographer I was sharing thoughts with after each concert was really impressed by the bass performance and my 5 stars still go to the drummer who, despite his young age, is able to continuously change the rhythm and hit every piece of the battery quite frequently. The audience responded very well to their music and a guy next to me headbanged like crazy most of the concert, even if he admitted he didn't really knew the music, but he liked the little he previously heard. I guess the guys in the band were also overwhelmed by the crowd's reaction after the concert, if I managed to read their faces correctly. My absolute favorite song of theirs is called 'White' and because I got to hear it live, I was already in heaven (and still am at the moment I type these).

Last band of the day, Airbag, to my surprise another Norwegian progressive band. After the intense Leprous sound, their tunes felt really lazy. That doesn't mean bad at all. It was a journey bringing up the sounds of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and maybe even their fellow Norwegians from A-Ha, mainly based on guitars and strong melodies. The same photographer that I spoke to mentioned the fact he considers the guitarist to one of the few who can really perform well the Genesis sound. I probably know too little of Genesis sound, but the guy was talented and making nice melodies with his instrument. They also only have one album launched so far, called Identity, so their whole set was based on its songs. And even if it's probably not the most original composition ever (I really felt like I was hearing Pink Floyd most of the times), they were good enough musicians to make it less important who plays such beautiful tunes. They were also loved by the crowd, despite the fact that for the first songs they kept begging the sound guy for lower guitar volume. But, even if I might be a bit subjective, I didn't feel the same enthusiasm as during and after the Leprous concert. Yet, it was great to see two new Norwegian bands so successful in the neighbor country and especially delivering such good music.

Thankful words go to the organisers of the event and for the fact they have it for free and film it so we have a DVD to watch afterwards. And to each performer on the stage, plus the enthusiast presenter who introduced each member of the band and made everyone of them sound so special. I'm looking forward for small joyful events like this one, since they're 1001 times more cozy that big crowded festivals.