Interview: Max Ater

Born and raised on the coast of Southern Maine, 25 year-old pop/country phenomenon Max Ater has quickly taken New England by storm with his powerful voice and lyrics. No stranger to the stage, Max spent his teenage years honing his skills at open mics, community theatre, and at fairs and festivals throughout the state. In 2012, he gained state-wide attention for his performance at „Maine’s Got Talent!” scoring first place with an original song. With the support of friends and family, Max took his original music throughout New England and quickly built a loyal fanbase. In 2013, he released a self-produced EP Up ‘Till Now, debuting his talents not only as a songwriter but for production as well. A few years later, Max was grand champion of Maine’s Soundoff 2016 competition.

Teen Art Out: Before anything else, we would like to know how it all began for you.  What turned you to music in the first place?

Max Ater: I turned toward music in high school after finding a knack for producing music on my computer. I’d always loved writing so when I found my voice, I put the two together and quickly found a real passion for the craft. A couple years later, I started to perform my music at open mics around Maine and then fairs and festivals. I realized fast that performing live was a rush I really wanted to chase.

Teen Art Out: Does your new EP Small Town have a recurring theme? Is there a planned connection between the songs?

Max Ater: There wasn’t any planned connection between the songs but throughout the process of writing this record, I definitely started to hear a story emerge. Each track draws from elements of my life here in Maine and I think that naturally ties this record together.

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Teen Art Out: Is there any artist with whose lyrics/music you can relate and who also inspired you?

Max Ater: Working on this new record turned me towards some really great artists that not only inspired this latest EP but I know will to continue to impact me. Artists like Thomas Rhett and Keith Urban, both of whom write and record a really unique mix of Pop and Country. I spent a lot of time over the past two years studying their style and choices. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with the writing style of John Mayer and his ability to take really big ideas and break them down into incredible tunes. That’s a challenge! Very recently, I’ve been deeply moved by the music of David Gray.


Teen Art Out: You are creating a really nice combination of pop and country music. What builds the country part? Is it your own instrumental composition?

Max Ater: I spent a lot of time with Karl Anderson, the producer of this record, simply talking about how we wanted to approach the production of these tracks. The initial demos lacked any solid country vibe and that was on purpose because we wanted to build around a foundation of pop. My focus was on discovering the melodies, usually early on behind the piano. The country vibe is due in large part to the live drums that session drummer Jason Hartless tracked. He brought liveliness into the production that balanced the heavier elements of pop.

Teen Art Out: In what way did your hometown inspire you? It seems to be one of the „main character” of your current music and upcoming EP.

Max Ater: Imagery is essential to me as a songwriter. Every song I write has a setting, however disconnected from the final lyrics, that I always come back to for inspiration. To be honest, I don’t fully understand why my mind chooses the setting it does sometimes but it ends up being a powerful lyrical palette. My hometown of Bath, Maine is perfect for this. It spans the spectrum of rural and urban living and of course, the people are a beautiful inspiration as well! At the same time, I’ve never thought of being inspired by Bath as a choice for me. I was born and raised here.

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Teen Art Out: What do you have in mind when writing the lyrics for your songs? What is the main purpose you want to achieve?

Max Ater: My goal has always been to find that balance between lyrics I truly connect with and lyrics that connect with others. Taking big ideas and sifting out their most relatable form is what songwriting is all about for me. There’s no other feeling in the world quite like finding the right words and being able to share them through music.


Teen Art Out: On another note, would you ever consider writing for someone else?

Max Ater: I’ve considered it, but have yet to have the opportunity to do so. If the chance arose, I’d be more than happy to give it a try.

Teen Art Out: Which do you think would be the challenges that this would imply?

Max Ater: I think it’d be a matter of confidence. Writing lyrics is a deeply personal experience for me and learning how to open up like that for another artist would be a challenge but I suspect a very fulfilling one.

Teen Art Out: Is there any song that you wrote just to let your emotions out and which is so personal that it won’t see the public light?

Max Ater: Of course! I have tunes that would seem absolutely strange to others but they helped me process and recover from tough times along the way.

Teen Art Out: If you could use only one instrument for a song without changing your musical style, which one would it be?

Max Ater: It would have to be piano! I’ve written a majority of my tunes behind the keys. I think it offers the widest array of possibilities for me when it comes to capturing my style of music.

Teen Art Out: Should you describe music in three emotions, which would those be?

Max Ater: Hopeful, Powerful, Heartfelt

Leprous, Agent Fresco, and 22 in Bucharest – Review

We all know why we gathered on 6th September in the lovely Quantic Pub, on a warm autumn evening. To witness the expression of art in its best progressive form. To forget about everything that upsets us and enjoy the beauty of three amazing bands. To remember that even if the summer is gone, we still have places to be and people to see. As some would say, just a regular night with Leprous, Agent Fresco and 22.  The show started according to schedule, with a modest audience. I knew nothing about 22 before the show. I actually found out they are going to play one day before. A prog-rock band from Norway which turned out to be a big influence in both Leprous and Agent Fresco’s careers. They define their own music style as an eclectic, energetic and stadium-appealing progressive rock outfit, which I can’t really speak against. Unfortunately, they only played for half an hour or so, but they killed it! So much energy, so many positive vibes and such a good and clean sound. It’s easy to tell the similarities between these three bands, as 22 made a perfect introduction to what was there to come.  As a personal opinion, I think they got less audience than they deserved. I did come with some expectations regarding Agent Fresco. I discovered this band by accident while listening to some Leprous and immediately fell in love with them. Their music is both complex, being a mix of many genres, and cinematic with a hint of soul and many „math moments”. On stage, everything sounded even better. Arnor’s voice is just impressive and clean.  The atmosphere was surreal, as their music is straight genius. We all got to enjoy both famous songs as Dark Waters and Pyre and other less know, like See Hell and The Eyes of a Cloud Catcher. As the songs kept coming, the volume of the people inside the venue increased. There is something about Agent Fresco, almost magical, that sends good vibes and makes you feel confident, but not like moving a mountain confident,  just „life is short, enjoy it” confident.  It is definitely a band I am eager to see again and if you don’t know about them, listen to them and buy their work cause its worth it. Leprous is a band that doesn’t need any introduction anymore. A band that grew in a few years more than others did in decades, and became, easily, one of the most influential progressive metal bands. Their approach of the genre is one of a kind, psychedelic, with heavy drums, both distortion and clean sounds on guitars, melodic piano parts, and Einar’s incredible voice.  On 6th September, they came, they saw and they conquered our hearts. As I said many times before, one just can’t have enough of this band or their music. Every show is a journey, every song is a rollercoaster of emotions, states of mind, thoughts, and feelings. This journey started with a beautiful cello intro, followed by „Bonneville”, the first track from „Malina”. It’s a bit funny but still impressive to see how the audience reacts to Leprous concerts. It the beginning, everyone has a „hit me with your best show” face and they slowly grow to be speechless, gazing with big eyes, singing every word, pouring love and respect, as the band goes through many stages and songs. On stage, things stay the same, as the guys are chill and quiet in the first moments, then they lose their minds and everything turns into a live piece of art. One hour and a half passed like five minutes for me. The transitions from the older songs like „The Flood” to “From the Flame”  shows us the band’s ability to pass from heavier metal sound to a song with more of a sensitive note, making the whole show flow like a wave. You know it’s gonna disappear but you always hope it will come back. I think the best you can achieve, as a band, is when your music goes deeper than the hearing. When you feel it in your bones when Einar’s voice is sending chills down your spine when Simen’s bass rhythm vibrates through your whole body and Baard’s drums follow the heart beats. You can clearly see how every member of the band gives 101% up there, enjoying and working at the same time.   Because we were such a good audience and the first SOLD OUT show from the tour, the band spoiled us with “Angel”,  a Massive Attack song.  As everything comes to an end, so does their journey, when the sound gets more serein but still imposing and everyone gets sad because they know it’s coming. Besides the great music, we got to see some very cool video projections and a nice „light-show” that completed the concert, along the way.   The guys played both songs from their latest material and some old songs, for the old Leprous fans. It was a show to remember and definitely one to repeat. For everyone out there that is a Leprous fan and did not get the chance to see them, wait no minute longer! It’s a must! As a gift for us, after the show, all the bands came for a small talk, some pictures, some autographs, and many smiles. Big congrats to the sound team, because they did a great job, as always. Another thing that made me happy was the merchandise area which had various goodies and many clients. I really enjoyed the organizing part, as the concert had a very friendly vibe with no golden circle pits, no excessive rules and so on.      

Interview: Jason Hartless

You have started playing and touring at a very early age. How do you now look back to that time?

I was very lucky to have parents that were very supportive and a father that understood the business and guided me into the direction to get me where I am today. It’s really crazy to look back and to think I was only 14 years old when I toured for 3 months opening for Motley Crue; but I got my feet wet with touring very early that it has allowed me to walk into many gig and touring situations without having to audition.

You have attended music classes at Berklee College of Music. How do you see the need for formal education in the music industry?

I am a Music Business major and I feel that it is extremely to have the proper education in an industry that is as fast paced as the music industry. In the age of DIY musicians try to compete with each other, the artists that are making money are artists that have industry professionals behind their career knowing the ins and outs of the whole machine that is the music industry. So learning the real tricks of the trade helps me build my career in other aspects of the industry.

How scary a moment was to decide to become a full-time musician? Were there people around you discouraging you?

I started messing around on my dad’s drums when I was about 6 months old; once I was about 3 years old, I really began to play the full kit and jamming with musician friends of my dad’s. By the time I was 5 years old, I began to play professionally around Detroit doing cover gigs and really found a love for the instrument. I really began touring North America around the age of 12, its funny because I have been playing music my whole life, so I never really even thought about it as a job; I really didn’t even realize that this was my career until I had been doing it professionally for a long time hahahaha.

What are some of the best drum songs out there?

Hmmmm That’s a hard one, each song created has such a different vibe and groove that it is very hard to pick the best parts.

Being a session musician, you have been involved in a lot of diverse projects. Is there still some style you would love to experiment with but haven’t had the chance?

I am always listening and working on different styles that what happens is I get really into a certain style for a while and try to learn as much about that style as possible, and then move on to something different. After a while I end up revisiting a style and work on that more. So its always about getting better and learning new stuff.

You are also a managing partner of Prudential Music Group. Can music and business coexist, or do they take parts from each other?

Prudential Music Group is a music conglomerate that houses 2 record labels and a publishing company. We are very happy to be distributed through Sony RED/Orchard for many years. As a musician and as a business executive, it really helps allow me to look at the industry from both sides and really allows me to be as ethical as possible when working out deals between my company and artists because I understand the value of artists work. I have always been a fan of the commercial aspect of the industry and figuring out what music and product would appeal to the consumer because if there is no consumer appeal, there is no business.

With Rouge Records, you are re-releasing vinyls. In an industry many claim to be dying, why go into record and vinyl sales?

Well the vinyl industry has been growing each year; vinyl sales were up 19% the first and second quarter in 2018, so the consumer want is increasing. Vinyl is really the only physical format that is really selling these days and I believe it is a combo of people from 40-60 years old that want to relive the joys of rebuilding their vinyl collection, plus the millennial generation wanting have a more kinesthetic experience listening to music. Plus, in the age of streaming, we are able to generate revenue quite easily due to the prices that vinyl is at these days, however the downside is manufacturing costs are very high. The big plus doing in the vinyl industry, we are headquartered in Detroit, MI, which Jack White just opened Third Man Pressing in the heart of downtown, so we partnered with them to press all of our vinyl.

If we look at big rock festivals, particularly in Europe, the headliners are the same as 10 or 20 years ago. It would seem that there are not that many younger bands able to „rival” the greats. What do you personally make of that? 

The biggest issue that I see these days is the oversaturation of the number of bands; plus, the amount of DIY bands that think that they are „make it” by putting their music on iTunes. It is very strange because I have been having this same discussion with a lot of colleagues lately. As you pointed out, when you take a look at the bands headlining festivals, arenas, theatres, stadiums and amphitheatres, most of those bands were headlining in the 70s and 80s; other than a few newer country and pop artists. Looking ahead 10-15 years, most of those 70s and 80s bands will be retired, so the real interesting questions are, „who will be filling 2,500+ cap rooms in 2030?” „Will there be enough artists that can keep some of these venues open?”. It will be a very interesting topic that will become more relevant as soon as more artists retire.

You have also been involved in educational videos and school programs. What would you say makes a good teacher, particularly a good music teacher?

A great music teacher exposes students to different musicians, different styles and different music. I approach my teaching to really teach the student work ethic; I don’t hold hands and will call a student out as soon as they play something wrong. It might sound harsh, but really a job as a teacher is to give them the info, let them give the info a try, and then tell them when the info is wrong. This very much how my teacher of many years, George Dunn, taught me. It teaches musicians to think on their own, and when you hold hands in a lesson, the student doesn’t get to fail and learn from their mistakes.

When you step outside the studio or concert hall, what are your favourite things to do?

I am a huge hockey nut. So, I am always at Detroit Red Wings’ games when I am home from the road.

Moonspell – “Lisboa Under The Spell” DVD Review

On February 4th 2017, a piece of history was written in the dark book of Portuguese gothic metal act Moonspell. Lisboa Under The Spell was recorded that day at their show in Campo Pequeno Arena and it was released as a live DVD not so long ago, on August 17th via Napalm Records.

Here is Moonspell’s statement: „We are thrilled to announce the release of our brand new live DVD/Blu-ray/3CD live album, entitled ‘Lisboa Under The Spell’! It was recorded live on our breathtaking capitol city of Lisbon and it’s nothing short of an epic trek of more than three action-packed hours! We have played ‘Wolfheart’‘Irreligious’ plus ‘Extinct’ in full, invited a bunch of guests, summoned our biggest strength to be up to the task, and it feels awesome to unleash a long-awaited live release from MOONSPELL. This edition will be full packed with amazing material, bonus CDs from the shows, a in depth documentary about the band, top sound, dramatic flair and a human picture of thousands of Portuguese witches and wolves under the spell. A great document of what we are on and off stage. Don’t miss out and visit Lisbon through the eyes of MOONSPELL fans and the genius work of director Victor Castro.”

Before diving into the actual details, I must say that, in my humble opinion, the title of this DVD sums it up pretty nicely. I have seen Moonspell in a live concert twice and it felt indeed like being under a spell. From my point of view, frontman Fernando Ribeiro is one of the most charismatic figures in the metal scene. He is simply a mountain of passion on stage, always knowing how to connect with his audience. He never leaves blank spaces during their performance and he manages to make you feel like being a part of the show. You would think that after 25 years of performing on stages all over the world, one might get tired of doing the same thing over and over again, but not these guys. The force of connecting with everyone, the feelings driven by their music, the passion for performing are still there and they are doing a hell of a great job, hopefully for many years to come.

I am by no means an expert when it comes to videography, but Victor Castro managed to direct and create a very interesting and detailed documentary and he also managed to feature the lives of these five artists outside their comfort zones, meaning the stage, showing us a glimpse of their everyday lives, since we sometimes forget that the people we usually cheer for during shows, are also… regular human beings. The lightshow and the color scheme are well-chosen, the sound is accurate and pleasing, decors change accordingly and the audience is explosive. I do believe those 4000 fans were very lucky to be there.

And thus the show begins with the first act, Wolfheart, their debut album from 1995, played in its entirety. I am pretty sure this was a treat for fans of early Moonspell and also a delight for those who couldn’t be present at past tours. I don’t want to give away too much, but I have to mention the Vampiria moment. This whole album is a work of art, but Vampiria seems to be one of those performances that can put one in a trance and Fernando’s voice… oh boy. From this act, Napalm Records released a video of Alma Mater, one of the songs that can shake you to the core and I can only imagine how special it is for the Portuguese audience.

Act II follows with another favorite of Moonspell fans all over the world and that is Irreligious, their 2nd album released in 1996. Raven Claws brings the lovely Mariangela Demurtas on stage, singer of Tristania and also wife of Moonspell guitarist, Ricardo Amorim. I really loved the way Fernando presented her: “born Italian, but the owner of a Portuguese heart”. Who says these guys can’t be romantic? But enough with the cutesy things, since the following tracks are some of the forte points of this whole show: Mephisto, Herr Spiegelmann and, of course, Fullmoon Madness. A mix of fire, strength, mystery and the most delightful madness, will take over you while enjoying this part of the concert. Napalm Records also released a video for this act, featuring Herr Spiegelmann, with a very special moment as you can see below. This song was inspired by the book The Perfume, written by Patrick Suskind.

Act III is represented by Extinct, their tenth full-length album released in 2015. The pace is changing, shifting into a more modern Moonspell sound, but nonetheless, a very catchy and intriguing chapter of this band’s history. I remember there were a lot of upset fans back in 2015, who disagreed with the adopted changes in style, but I am pretty sure this album grew on them in the meantime. I was hooked on it since the first listening session and I believe this album was a successful musical exercise, proving that Moonspell is capable of bending the rules, adding new elements to their music, while still remaining on the same track that gained them notoriety throughout the years. Being capable of such changes only proves a great deal of growing up as an artist. Moving on, there are a few surprises featured on this act as well, but I will let you discover them on your own.

All in all, this DVD is very enjoyable to watch and if you are a Moonspell fan, you will surely treasure it. To be performing for 25 years is really not something to be ignored, especially in this difficult metal scene. Moonspell managed to gift us a show to be remembered. It all ends with Fernando voicing some of his thoughts after the show has ended, but you will have to check it out by yourself. Having said this, I am looking forward to their journey and hopefully to another concert since they have released their concept album 1755, on November 3rd 2017. Fingers crossed!

DVD & Blu-Ray:

I  ROCKUMENTARY – band documentary by Victor Castro

II WOLFHEART SHOW – full album played live

  1. Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)
  2. Love Crimes
  3. Of Dream And Drama
  4. Lua D’inverno
  5. Trebaruna
  6. Ataegina
  7. Vampiria
  8. An Erotic Alchemy
  9. Alma Mater

 

III IRRELIGIOUS SHOW – full album played live

  1. Perverse Almost Religious
  2. Opium
  3. Awake!
  4. For A Taste Of Eternity
  5. Ruin & Misery
  6. A Poisoned Gift
  7. Raven Claws (Feat. Mariangela Demurtas)
  8. Mephisto
  9. Herr Spiegelmann
  10. Fullmoon Madness

 

IV EXTINCT SHOW – full album played live

  1. All Gone From The Wild (Intro)
  2. Breathe (Until We Are No More)
  3. Extinct (Feat. Carolina Torres)
  4. Medusalem
  5. Domina
  6. The Last Of Us
  7. Malignia
  8. Funeral Bloom
  9. A Dying Breed
  10. The Future Is Dark

 

V  MAKING OF – show day

 

VI GALLERY – live and backstage pics

 

Get your copy here:

https://www.moonspell.rastilho.com/highlights/

https://shop.napalmrecords.com/moonspell-lisboa-under-the-spell-deluxe-box.html

Review by Cristina Țurlea

Beyond The Black – “Heart Of The Hurricane” Album Review

Two years have passed since their last release, but time has come once again for German symphonic metal act Beyond The Black to dive straight into the Heart Of The Hurricane! No, not literally, don’t worry. Heart Of The Hurricane is the name of their new album, that will be released very soon on the 31st of August via Napalm Records.

Image result for beyond the black heart of the hurricane

Here is a statement from the band regarding their new material: “Can you feel the thunder? After a turbulent phase in the short history of BtB, we can say that we came out stronger than ever! Witness to that is our first single “Heart of the Hurricane”, which takes you through a sonic thunderstorm to be reckoned with! We absolutely cannot wait to unleash this storm upon old and new fans alike, as we are sure that this new chapter will take us on a beautiful journey through dark and light!”

And indeed I can totally agree that it has been a journey through darkness and light, as they said. This album is very energetic, even though it possesses a gloomy atmosphere that resounds through the lyrics, contrasting with the overall heavy sound of the songs, that will just not let you stay still.

From my point of view, I would divide the album in two parts: the first part would be represented by some more catchy tracks with fresh elements added to the sounds that we were accustomed to and the second part is the one that stays true to what we have heard on previous albums. Is this bad? Is this good? Nonsense. I believe this is the right recipe for a varied, dynamic album that will surely please both old and new fans of the band.

Hysteria opens the album with a burst of energy, setting the course for what will follow next and that is Heart Of The Hurricane, the first single released for this album. Somehow this one gives me the feeling of a run towards a dangerous adventure, from where one will get out as a different, stronger person. Wisely chosen as a first single, it has the catchyness that I was mentioning early.

Through The Mirror has a more mellow start, gentle piano notes accompanied by Jennifer’s low vocals, creating an empowering contrast that will surely give you goosebumps. I noticed that the Mirror seems to represent a theme for this album, as we will see in the video for the next song and maybe even towards the end of the album. I don’t know, it might be just a coincidence, but it fits perfectly, metaphorically speaking.

Million Lightyears is next and it made me extremely happy to hear the lovely, clean voice of Chris Hermsdörfer on this one, since he is not only a very talented guitarist, but the man can also sing wonderfully! I just love how their voices entwine.

Song For The Godless has such a kick-ass, mighty sounding, somewhat medieval intro and it immediately made me think of In The Shadows. You will be listening to a madly awesome guitar solo on this one. I just need to say that the whole atmosphere of this track is simply uplifting. The first slow track makes an appearance, Escape From The Earth, featuring a very gentle Jennifer, in an emotional scenery, that reveals a burdensome transition from the previous tune. What will follow, is a return to the roots for sure! I was actually curious if/when this will happen during my listening session. Beneath A Blackened Sky has some serious symphonic vibes mixed with majestic choirs. Headbanging incoming during the chorus, be warned. The mentioned vibes continue in the next one, Fairytale Of Doom, a track that made me think of Amberian Dawn. It’s a powerful song for the broken-hearted, with a well-chosen name and a favorite of mine. Much potential in this one I see! Nerd alert. Moving on, Chris makes a vocal appearance again on My God Is Dead, but with some cool growls this time, sending shivers down the spine. I feel that Jennifer’s voice could shatter one’s heart during the chorus, being so expressive, pouring all of her being into the song. Dear Death and Freedom are two pieces with fast riffs and beats, making one feel like on a rollercoaster. As far as concerning Scream For Me, I do believe this one would be a favourite for the public, if performed live: slow start followed by a bombastic chorus. And it’s time for the ballad, Breeze, piano and choir driven, lead by the gentle, but powerful Jennifer, who is simply amazing when it comes to ballads, managing to reach straight into your soul with her singing style. I declare Echo From The Past another favorite of mine. I find it hard to explain, but it’s just one of those songs that sticks to you and you love it from start to end, with no questions asked. It clicked with me probably because it has all the ingredients needed for an awesome tune: impact, balance, a lovely, subtle orchestration in the background, sustaining all the instruments together with the vocals in a neat equilibrium. The album ends with Parade, a fit conclusion after the journey made through the spectrum of feelings that were pinpointed by the previous tracks, encouraging one to be true to his/her self, no matter what.

Do listen to this album with an open mind and I guarantee you will fall in love with it. It clearly shows that teamwork, precision in the details, a lot of passion and perseverence will set you on the right course. Beyond The Black managed to deliver an album showing a great deal of variety, worthy of one’s collection.

Tracklist:

  1. Hysteria
  2. Heart Of The Hurricane
  3. Through The Mirror
  4. Million Lightyears
  5. Song For The Godless
  6. Escape From The Earth
  7. Beneath A Blackened Sky
  8. Fairytale Of Doom
  9. My God Is Dead
  10. Dear Death
  11. Scream For Me
  12. Freedom
  13. Breeze
  14. Echo From The Past
  15. Parade

 

More info about the band:

www.facebook.com/beyondtheblackofficial

www.beyond-the-black.com

www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

www.instagram.com/beyondtheblack_official

 

Pre-order Heart Of The Hurricane:

https://shop.napalmrecords.com/beyondtheblack

 

Review by Cristina Țurlea

Varna Mega Rock 2018 – Nightwish, Apocalyptica, Glenn Hughes, Kamelot

For two days (18-19 August), Varna Mega Rock attracted thousands and thousands of people with an unbeatable line-up of Kamelot, Glenn Hughes, Apocalyptica, and the big headliners, Nightwish. The festival is a very special one, so close to the beach, which was enjoyed by fans and bands alike. The weather was good, with a nice breeze blowing.

The first night was very exciting, starting with local acts Krossfire (who brought Romanian singer Aura on stage for a special song) and Kikimora. Then it was time for Kamelot, who absolutely killed it. They didn’t have to go so hard, and yet they did that!! They made sure the public was not standing still for a single moment. There were times I thought they were over-doing it with the Hey! Hey!, but they gave it their all and got the same from the public. Their setlist was as inspired as always, mixing the old classics with songs off their new album. Very special mention for „Here’s to the fall”, a very emotional ballad where the public joins in with their cell phone lights.

Many people were left wondering how Kamelot was not headlining the day. But they soon got the answer when Glenn Hughes got on stage. Best known for his bass and vocal work with Deep Purple, he is a legend of music and it felt like an honor to be able to see him. In a very purple hippie outfit, he impressed us all with his voice and moves, with energy, with dedication. Unlike Kamelot, he did not have to try to rile up the crowd. You just knew he came to do his thing and his many years in the music were showing, having the public eat out of his hand. He was humble and friendly in a way that made you forget just how big he was. He kept saying that it wasn’t the public who came to see him, but him who came to see the public. Of course, Smoke on The Water was the highlight of the performance.

All in all, a very strong day, great music, impeccable organisation. The latter was only true, however, for the first day. On the second day the gates were supposed to open at 4:30 and at almost 6, the stage wasn’t set up yet. The Nightwish screens and pyro were still being set up. I was allowed in the venue and got to see what was happening, but unfortunately, the hundreds and hundreds of people waiting had no idea why they were left outside for two further hours. Delays are bound to happen in the music business (not that I understand how the truck didn’t get there a good two days after their previous concert, which was 4 hours away). However, the way organizers deal with it is problem. I feel like they could have done a better job communicating with the people, both online and offline. Moreover, it would have been nice to distribute some water to the people waiting for hours outside the gates, ready to run and wait some more hours in the front of the stage.

Because of this huge delay, the first 2 bands had to be cancelled. I felt sorry for them, because they were there, dressed, prepared, ready to hit the stage, and they couldn’t. They had made plans and relied on the idea that they would share the stage with Apocalyptica and the mighty Nightwish.

However, the day started with Apocalyptica, who blew my mind. I have no idea how I hadn’t seen them before. Absolutely incredible and slightly insane show of energy for cello players. This time they were playing Metallica by Four Cellos, a fully instrumental show, but one where the public came in to fill the lyrics of the most famous Metallica songs. Huge show by them, definitely worth seeing again.

Finally, the Nightwish intro! We are doing this! What a show that was! Celebrating 20 years of activity, Nightwish are coming with Decades, a compilation album showcasing their most essential songs. While Greatest Show on Earth or Ghost Love Score were sure to be in the setlist, I loved hearing Dead Boy’s Poem, Come Cover Me, Elvenpath. Their show was a masterpiece of vocal and instrumental prowess, energy, joy, great music, and, of course, FIRE! I appreciated that the stage was high and far enough for the first row not to feel extra scared of being burned alive, even though giant flames were going on in front of them, giving off tremendous heat.

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, night and outdoor

Other highlights of the show were I Want My Tears Back – a song where the public is always invited to dance and jump – or Slaying the Dreamer, which is just pure insanity. Song after song, we were show why they are the greatest. Compared to the previous Nightwish concert, I felt the Varna crowd a bit … quiet, especially when the band „left the stage” before the encore and they were mostly followed by silence. But with Ghost Love Score as an encore, the public revived to scream and dance and marvel at how amazing Floor’s vocals are.

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All in all, I am very happy with the fest, but it is also so because I did not wait for hours in the sun. They had a decent selection of food and drinks and the queues were not bad. The line-up was absolutely incredible, so I am sure that all fans will only remember the great feelings, that they got to see Kamelot, Glenn Hughes, Apocalyptica and NIGHTWISH!

Let me know when the next edition of Varna Mega Rock is, because I am coming!

 

Rockstadt Extreme Fest 2018- Review

After four days and four nights of extreme metals and some not so extreme but still around, I finally found my words. I wish I could but I have nothing bad to say about Rockstadt Extreme Fest. I truly believe that it is one of the best metal festivals, if not the best, we have in Romania. Everything was flawless, from my point of view.
The info point was much appreciated and also that liitle flyer with the map and the schedule made things a lot easier for many of us.


The location of the festival is just stunning, surrounded by mountains, close to the beautiful city of Rasnov, but at same isolated. Being at the base of the citadel, it allowed us to take short trips, to visit the surroundins, the cave, the city, and, of course, Râșnov citadel. One thing that was difficult to take was the temperature difference. During the day, you could’ve gotten a nice tan by only walking around the are, while during the night, if you were not drunk enough, you needed a long sleeve, a hoodie and a jacket.

About the pricing system, there was some waiting, but most of it was at the entrance. It’s hard to let hundreds of people in through only three checkpoints, while there were others trying to get out. Other  than that, I understand the food bar was a bit crowded, and that is pretty much all. Personally, I never stood more than five minutes for a beer or anything to drink. For tokens, tho, the line was always busy. The food was very good and eveyone appreciated the longdrinks, shots and the others alcooholic drinks the bar served.

I didn’t sleep in the camping areas but I think there some things worth metion. First, in spite of the all complaints, I think the price was really cheap, for what you get. Both camping areas were clean, organised, had security, so only the people with those special bracelets could get inside and some of the nicest bathrooms I saw, regarding the live show. First, there were separate spaces for women and men, and both areas had showers (in containers, with sinks and mirrors) and very clean toilets (from what I’ve heard, there was someone who came once in a while to clean them). I am sure everyone appreciated that, especially the girls. Still, the one thing that kept the campings from perfection was the lack of shade. Of course, the area was surrounded by forests so there was plenty outside the campnig.

Also, two bands were not able to perform but the organizers dealt with the problems in such way it was not even noticeable and everything went on schedule.

Every  night had an after-party where people had lots of fun. It was interesting and satisfying at the same time to see hundreds of metalheads dancing on metal/rock/pop, dubstep and many others genres. I think that says a lot about the maturity of the audience, being able to have fun no matter the music. Last night had a special edition of ’90 tunes, which was a real blast, with people dancing on the stage, everyone jumping around on songs like Captaion Joe (and actually doing the dance), la isla bonita and so on. It was quite an end after four days of extreme metals.

I think that other things that people appreciated were the concrete sidewalks, the ”charging area” for those who slept in tents and had little access to a power source for their phones, and the organizers attetion for preventing the „mud”, the classical mud we’re used to at this event. Fortunately, the weather was on our side and we received four full days of sun. There was also a pretty generous merchandise area, with a wide range of t-shirts and CD-s.

About the concerts, I think every band brought something different  and unique on the stage. Though I appreciated every person  that got up on the stage, I didn’t got to see all of bands (but I’ve heard most of them). Regarding the show, the sound was almost flawless, with small exceptions, but overall better than what I got from a festival so far.
Because it would take many pages and much time for you to read them, I will stick to what I think were the best live actions. I will also be a bit cliche, but most of the headliners slayed the stage. WASP came with so much energy and power, it shocked everyone, and I am so grateful I got to see a piece of music history along with some other thousands of people. Powerwolf put on one hell of a show, even without all their fire toys, kept the audience alive with energy and enthusiams, while singing about werewolves and vampires in their homeland. Some people complained about the sound not being high enough. I think it was more than decent. Amorphis was impressive in a… different way. Their music has lots of soul and feeling, so it was more emotional, to say so, with songs like Silver Bride and House of Sleep. One great thing about Amorphis. Their live performance is so close to the recoreded version, it hurts. Obituary is not my cup of tea but people described the show with some big words.

 

In the last night, InFlames ended the festival with a show to remember. With a full Wacken stage set, with lights, led screens, projections, light pillars and fireworks, everything was insane. It was late, after four days of boiling during the day and freezing during the night and everyone enjoyed every second of the show. There was a great communication with the audience, the guys smiled all the time and were obviously excited to be there.
I will also mention Septicflesh here because they had a show that impressed me beyond any expectation and I think they deserve to be close to the headliners.  Their music is more than fascinating and seing them live really brings everything to a whole new level. You can’t help but feel their music.
Other bands I really enojoyed from the main stage were Dirty Shirt (which I saw before but never get tired of), Brujeria, which were totally crazy, with their mexican vibes and funny attitude combined with the hard guitar riffs and drums. GoatWhore had an interesting sound and Belphegor made a really nice show.
Fleshgod Apocalypse finally managed to get on the romanian shores, after being robbed and having to cancel their concerts, including the one from the Indoor Rockstadt. Man, they killed that stage. First, their costumes, make up, attitude were basically yelling that was going to be good. Their mix of classical, renaissance sound combined with extreme drums and guitars, alongside the beautiful opera voice of Veronica  and the deep powerful vocals of the leadsinger just takes you to a very interesting trip through „space and time”.

About the second stage, first band that got my attention was W3 4R3 NUM83R5, which was also the first band I got to see from all the festival. I knew some songs from them but never got the chance to see them performing live. Pleasant surprise. The sound was very good, some nice djent, lots of energy, great communication with the public.  Also, Sur Astru was a very interesting experience and I think these guys are going places. Impure Vilhelmina and The Thirteenth Sun had pretty good shows but I would enjoy more to see them in separate shows, as I think they could do even better.  Gutalax was at least fuuny to watch, and they had show people kept talking about.  As for the main stage, the sound was nice and clean and every band played according to schedule, no events, just more crowded by the day, which was a good thing.

As I said before, I wish there was something even remotely bad about this festival, but it isn’t. I talked to people that never missed an edition of REF and they said this festival is just getting better and better, more and more professional. I asked some that came this year for the first time and they were surprised. As for me, I shall never miss a year of Rockstadt Extreme Fest. Congrats to everyone who puts tons of  effort, every year, into making this, the best metal festival from Romania.

Kamelot brought their Shadow Theory to Bucharest

Kamelot! Kamelot! Kamelot! – Can you tell it was a great show already? August 16th, Quantic Open Air, Kamelot brought their latest album, The Shadow Theory, to Romania.  Photo Gallery here

The day started with Crossing Eternity with a short set, but that definitely got them many new fans. The singer said „Bună seara” and I was so impressed by his Romanian only to have him speaking Romanian afterwards because … he is Romanian. A Romanian – Swedish- German band, they worked amazing together. They only have one album out, but it’s worth checking out. Good energy on stage, worked the crowd, got them to cheer. They didn’t have an easy task, but they delivered. Hopefully we’ll get to see them many more times in Romania.

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Before Kamelot we were kind of worried because there weren’t that many people and the Golden Circle space was a bit too large, and by that I mean it was 70% empty. Luckily, by the time Kamelot came on stage, more people had joined and people got up from the tables so it didn’t look suspiciously empty.

I was happy to see just how many people came with Kamelot T-shirts. Glad to see so many fans. Kamelot are a band with such a long and complex history, it’s hard to define them exactly. I have friends who are huge fans of Kamelot because it was what they were listening to in high school. I have friends who have only come aboard the Kam train after the last album(s). That is, though, what makes the band so special. They know who their fans are and they do an amazing job of mixing the old with the new. After all, they have gone forward and forward for years (since 1991), put out 12 albums, and yet they are fresher and more exciting than ever.

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The show started with a single from the new album, Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire). They gave us more new songs (Ravenlight, Amnesiac) and some throwbacks that just cannot be left out of their setlist (Rule The World, The Great Pandemonium, When The Lights are Down, Karma). I personally think they have even better songs on The Shadow Theory that they are not playing, but this is just me being picky and wanting to hear them live.

For this show, Kamelot were joined by Lauren Hart of Once Human, who came in and out to feature on different songs. She has such an incredible and versatile voice, going from clean vocals to growl. When she gets the chance to shine, she fills the stage.

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Song after song, the crowd was going wild. A very special moment was during Here’s To The Fall, a very emotional ballad Tommy dedicated to his late grandfather. The song is so beautiful and showcases more of what he can do vocally, and the crowd had a part in it raising up their lights.

Towards the end, we got to hear Forever, one of my favourites. It is always a great moment in the setlist because the band stops the song for the crowd to chant different versions of oooOOOOoooO with them. Tommy Karevik on stage is electric and has a magnetism few people can ever dream to achieve. He can command a crowd with just a look. He told us what to do and we did it. Definitely not as well as he did it, but we cannot all be world-class singers.

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The band had such a great energy. When talking to other fans, Thomas was referred to as „the one making atmosphere on stage” and everyone loved seeing Sean and his signature braids being extra energetic. Both Thomas and Tommy were constantly coming off stage to be closer to the fans, raising thunderous roars from the crow. Oliver was, as always, the master of the keyboards (because he’s worth it). Any band that has a keyboard solo wins my heart forever. Last but not least, a very special shout-out to Alex Landenburg, who stepped behind the drums while Johan is recovering and is doing an amazing job.

All in all, a great show! I did lose my voice at the end of it, so you know I screamed. It wasn’t just me! The crowd, though not huge, was very loud and very supportive. We all cannot wait to do this all again!

Artmania Day II – a line-up no one expected but everyone enjoyed

Artmania needs no introduction to us, rock/metal enthusiasts. With such a long tradition, it has become a highlight of every year, bringing people not just with its great music, but with its specific atmosphere. As the years went by, many famous bands got up on the stage from the center square of Sibiu. This year had a progressive twist no one see it coming, but overall Artmania can’t go wrong so people were still excited. The charm of the festival consists not only in the musical acts, but in the cultural activities and the attempt to promote culture, which is very much appreciated. Thus, it gathers all kinds of art lovers, no matter the form of i.

This year I was one of them. Unforunately I didn’t manage to get there on the first day, due to some external factors but I surely enjoyed the second one. From what I’ve heard, Haken and Mogwai did some pretty good shows, though there were some sound issues.

The second day started pretty good with Distorted Harmony, a progressive metal act from Tel Aviv. Now, you don’t usually get to hear (good) metal from Israel, but these guys got it big time. Their enthusiam and positive attitude one stage is just fascinating. Although they have been pretty settled in the progressive metal scene for a couple of years now, the guys were quite nervous on stage, but still gave everything they had. It was one of those shows were you see how much the artist works to be there for you. Even if they were the first band and played around 7 pm, they had a generous audience. Their setlist included songs from all their metarials, from Utopia to Chain Reaction and A Way Out. Distorted Harmony is a balanced mix of old progressive metal, Dream Theater style, and modern some modern influences. You know, a nice mix of djent and clean vocals. Overall, I am waiting to see those again, pretty soon.

Zeal and Ardor were definitely the surprise of the festival. A band I knew nothing of became, easily, one of my favs. First thing you see when the lights come on is the number of the lead singers. Three, to be more exactly. So you can already tell it is going to be at least interesting. After they start playing, everything changes. I mean, don`t judge a book by its cover but I thought I am going to listen some classical progressive metal with a twist. Instead, I got some avant-garde metal, which was already a „wow”, but later I encountered some spirituals sounds and black metal. Now picture that being sung by three different voices. It was real party there, split in two main moods, chilling and calm based on blues and soul vibes and energy blast. The setlist had songs from both Devil is Fine and Stranger Fruit album. This show had a strange but satisfying feeling, like when you don’t know what you are watching but you can’t help no to like it. Favorite songs were definitely Devil is Fine, Baphomet and Don’t You Dare. I really hope I will get to relive this experience.

Leprous are simply … Leprous. We know and love them. A band that grew in a few years more than others did in decades, and became, easily, one of the most influential progressive metal bands. Their approach of the genre is unique and psychedelic, with heavy drums, both distorsion and clean sounds on guitars, melodic piano parts and Einar’s chilling voice. A Leprous concert is more like a journey. It starts with excitment and a drop of caution, leaving the public wondering about what is going to happen next and where they are heading. Then it slowly grows into popular songs, on well-known territories and the audience goes crazy. Another thing I noticed, regarding the audience, was the fact that people were feeling every tune. I sw some girls crying during the song „From the Flame”, but it was that satisfaction and fulfilment crying, when you close your eyes so you can hear the music better and then you smile. I think that is the best a band could get while they play live. If your music goes deeper than the hearing, you won. Leprous’ music is a rollercoaster of emotions, moods and states of mind. As their journey ends, the sound gets more serein but still imposing and everyone gets sad because one does not simply gets enough of these guys. The gig from Artmania won everyone’s heart. Besides the great music, we got to see some very cool video projections and a nice „light-show” that completed the show, along the way. The guys played both songs from their latest material and some old songs, for the old Leprous fans. It was a show to remember and definitely one to repeat.

After a short break of soundchecks, Steven Wilson, the most expected artist of Artmania, came on stage. To be honest, I never called myself a big fan of him or Porcupine Tree but somehow, the show got my attetion pretty quick. I guess never judge a book by its past musical materials. When it ended I was just „wow, what did I just see?”. It was definitely more than a regular show, it was a whole new musical experience, a complete one. Everything from the sound, lights, videoprojections to the messege sent and the public-artist bound, was perfect. Of course, we all know Steven Wilson is famous for his meticulous planned shows, but when you get to see it, things are totally different. The setlist included songs from Porcupine Tree, like Lazarus and Sleep Together, but also some pieces from his solo albums, To The Bone, Hand. Cannot. Erase. and The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) being the most famous. After Leprous left me emotionally „unstable”, Steven Wilson made me smile, laugh, cry and opened a liitle door inside of me, to a better understanding of what music can do to one. Every song and every word makes you feel something different and takes you to another worlds. As I was talking to a friend after, I told him this show „was definitely from another planet”. Wilson’s voice is both tandem and straightforward and overwhelming. All the musicians that were on that stage gave 110% of what they had and we will stay grateful for those hours for a long time.

This year, Artmania Festival was full of surprises, with a line-up no one expected but everyone enjoyed. From time to time, some change won’t hurt. The organisation of the event was nice. I really enjoyed the fact that the square was opened for the public during the day, so everyone could enjoy the city, even if they were not a part of the festival. Sibiu is definitely a charming city, full of culture, so it was perfect for the specific of the event. Another thing that impressed me was the fact that the promoters tried to organise some meet and greet with a part of the bands. Congrats for that, they made some people very happy. We can only thank the promoters and to all the staff, for what they did. See you next year, Artmania!

Adelina Sahlean

Flip Out – Live out your childhood dreams

I don’t know about you, but ever since I was a kid, I found trampolines exciting. Developing a passion for (watching) gymnastics sure helped with that. So, you can imagine, that when I found out about Flip Out Glasgow, I jumped at the chance (pun intended) to check it out! After all, the biggest trampoline arena in the world! Come on! I plan ahead, take a friend and off wee go. Excitement levels through the roof.

More than a week later and I am still pumped about it. It had so many trampolines to choose from. Surely enough, it had twice that for kids. I was looking at it with envy that I did not have that growing up. Even in the cafe, looking at all the arcade games and pool tables I could not help but think just how amazing it would have been to have a birthday there. Trampolines, games, slushies, burgers.  That would have definitely made me the coolest kid on the block. No wonder it was filled with kids. Now I see it from the parents’ side who just get to chill for a few hours while the kids go crazy and use up all their energy.

 

It’s equally fun as an adult, getting to spend some time a lot of energy (for real, it’s quite the workout). Perhaps it is more fun because there aren’t that many parks or adventure places like this to cater to adults. I did discover however that I am much more of a coward than little kids are. Where they were jumping from high blocks and fearlessly backflipping into foampits, I was trying to calculate angles and make sure I would be able to do it. Obviously, it was all very safe and all very soft. Try once, try twice, courage will come.

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I loved that I could choose from different trampolines and games. Just as we entered the „grown-up” section, there was trampoline basketball. Sounds fun, maybe if I can jump and jump, I will be able to shoot some hoops. Wrong. I sucked at it just as badly as I sucked at normal basketball. But this was 10 times more fun. Having to let go and just jump takes some courage, especially when jumping from considerable heights. The moment your recoil from the trampoline is some cartoon-ish now what moment, but it is sooo cool. So freeing and fun and just through and through an amazing experience.

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For those of us stronger, there is also an area with a Ninja warrior course. I went on half of the easy one and decided to let others there and I returned to jumping and jumping.

Barely moving, we made our way to the exist in what was a great experience. We truly had fun and enjoyed the day. I would definitely come back.

For more details, find them on: https://www.flipout.co.uk/locations/glasgow/ or https://www.facebook.com/flipoutglasgow/