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.:Concert Reviews:.

02/10/2010 – WIZZARD / GAE BOLGA / SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH (Oudenaarde, Belgium)

My last concert was Alcatraz Metal Festival on the 7th of August, 2010 in Deinze, Belgium. As my focus lies on reviews/interviews, live shows are a nice extra, but they also require you to be able to get there and more importantly, find a spot in your agenda. I could have gone to several shows so far, but travelling up and down each morning and evening to and from work makes it hard to go to gigs and not feel exhausted afterwards. Hence the calm weekends, in which I try to catch up with reviews. That's also how I missed BLIND GUARDIAN on 25/09. But as it goes with gigs, there's plenty more fish in the sea.

And so, on the 2nd of October, the same people behind the Alcatraz Metal Festival, i.e. Alcatraz Concerts, booked a show in the town of Oudenaarde (Belgium, obviously) in a small venue called Zaal Breughel. The pub next door is also called like that, so no worries in finding the entrance. And so I started riding to Oudenaarde with my GPS nicely indicating the route. About half an hour before the first band was to hit the stage, my GPS said i had arrived at the indicated street. It was dark, not many cars on the road. So I stopped at a local pub, asked for directions and saw many older people surprised of a young fellow entering their sacred hide-out. I followed the indications, asked in another pub where Zaal Breughel was. They sent me back in the direction whence I came. *sigh* I parked my car a bit further, walked the last tens of meters and saw John Berry, the drummer of GAE BOLGA, one of the bands that would play that evening. Thank the (Metal) gods for that. Zaal Breughel, it turned out, is a very small venue, with room for, say, 100 people? The pub next-door is so small and the name is shown in a blue ball on the window. Which confirms my earlier searching: Zaal Breughel is hard to find.

WIZZARD (BE) - www.myspace.com/wizzardbelgium
GAE BOLGA (BE) - www.myspace.com/gaebolga
SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH (USA/SVN) - www.myspace.com/sjsofficial


The doors opened at 19h00, the first band was to play at 20h00 and that was the hour of WIZZARD. Upon arrival these Hard Rockers were sort of warming up and ready to envelop the present crowd (of about 40-50 people, I gather) in a wild and entertaining stream of heavenly music. This was my first WIZZARD gig and not that much is known about the East-Flandrian band, save that they've been around for three years now and keep it old school, something I have no objections to. Also, in terms of albums or releases in general, I'm clueless, as their website (or MySpace page) don't indicate anything on that level. Consulting the main man, Wizz, leads to this: they've got one demo with the old line-up, but a new demo is in the pipeline. More about that below. As a result, nothing by WIZZARD in my collection, else I certainly would have bought an album or two. WIZZARD is also the band behind their own Wizzfest (www.myspace.com/wizzfest), which held its second edition earlier this year. Next year they're will be a new edition with BLAZE BAYLEY headlining. Regarding their performance at Zaal Breughel, I can only be positive. The line-up changed a bit as vocalist/guitarist Phil aka Wizzard discarded the guitar and concentrated only on vocals, so a new guitarist and bassist were brought in: Sluise (guitar) and D. Troy (bass). Together they brought a nice setlist consisting up both midtempo and uptempo tracks, here and there with the added grooviness and Blues-influences that makes such music perfect for live performances. Lead guitarist SMB was the most active of the bunch, though in the end it's the music that matters. Drum veteran Steve DC hit the skins as if time never managed to have an affect on him. Vocalist Wizz also sang the lyrics with enough power and passion to make this entire experience more than worthwhile. Furthermore, a word of thanks and/or kudos to the folks behind the pa. They also contributed to the good sound, obviously.

WIZZARD have a new demo in the pipeline, called "Reflections From Hell", from which they played the title track as well. This is a midtempo rocker with a melodic chorus. At some point you do get a heavy riffing moment, which makes it perfect for your headbanging needs. Other than that, I can only say that WIZZARD kicks ass live. I wonder how they sound on CD, but I guess I'll have to ask the band or Wizz himself for that. Needless to say, the evening started very well and the young lads from GAE BOLGA were going to have to get out all of their weapons to keep the crowd's attention. Now, in such a small venue with the bar being very closeby, people could AND enjoy their beer or other beverage AND enjoy the music.

Playlist:

Trouble Time
Standing Ground
Crazy Wizzard
Reunited
Break Away
Desire
Poteen
Out Of Control
Reflections From Hell

WIZZARD
2010_10_02_3143 2010_10_02_3127 2010_10_02_3167


See more pictures of WIZZARD at this location.

Second band of the evening were the old school Thrashers of GAE BOLGA. Their Metal is fast, aggressive, destructive... and fun! It's not the political kind of Thrash, rather takes on the lighter side of life. Inspired by Thrash and Speed Metal of the 1980s (WHIPLASH, ASSASSIN, S.O.D., DESTRUCTION, etc...) GAE BOLGA is a ruthless and vicious weapon in this day and age of modern productions. Here as well it was my first live experience with this band, although I reviewed their demo EP "Drink 'till Death" last year. The least you could say was that it sounded raw, like in the olden days. The band has a new album ("Violent MetalStorm") coming out in December and logically new tunes were played in Oudenaarde, as a pretaste to what's coming. And it was a long pretaste, since from the 8 tracks, only "He's Not Gay" was the old one, but the crowd enjoyed cheering "Thrash him anyway!" from the chorus. The rest is to be found on the upcoming release.

As raw as the band sounded on CD, and this then makes it only listenable on those specific moments, they sounds much better live. At least, they did so on that wonderful Saturday evening. From start to finish, the energy level was high, the velocity even higher (John Berry pounding on the drums as if possessed by a demon, vocalist Danny Copperwire screaming as if his life depended on it, and the two guitarists also giving their all with very nice riffwork) and the crowd loved it like no one else. Moshpits, crowdsurfing, headbanging... you name it, GAE BOLGA put a spell on the fans. A clear sign that old school Thrash/Speed is (still) very much loved by young and old. The new songs, as far as I could make an impression, sound nothing more than great. Again, this is based on the moment's experience. How the result will be on CD is to be heard in December or perhaps a little later. Let's cut this short: GAE BOLGA is a band that stands its ground live very well. They present a fun show, no serious stuff, just full speed entertainment. Amongst this speed, the element that did catch my attention in terms of variety... indeed, the drums. JB didn't play at 200 km/h all the time. He did play some slower stuff now and then, so as not to make each song sound like a whirlwind. WIZZARD convinced me and GAE BOLGA followed suit. Full stop.

Playlist:

Thrash-Assassination
Cemetary At Midnight
He's Not Gay...
Bolga Banger's Ball
Pray For Death
Blood Of The Demon
Mutants Will Reign
Violent Metalstorm

GAE BOLGA
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See more pictures of GAE BOLGA at this location.

Last and certainly not least: SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH. To make it easy: this is a coverband formed by HELSTAR vocalist James Rivera and the band METALSTEEL from Slovenia. At least, that's the European version. On their way to Germany they made a short stop in Belgium, thanks to the good contacts with Alcatraz Concerts. HELSTAR has a new album coming out very soon ("Glory Of Chaos", early November) and this was played the entire evening, mixed with other songs, of course. METALSTEEL is a very young Heavy Metal band with excellent musicians, who released three albums so far, all self-releases. Be it the guitarists, the bassist or the female drummer, each knows his/her instrument well enough to play the various songs by JUDAS PRIEST and BLACK SABBATH. Because that's where the name comes from. James told us they would be playing BLACK SABBATH songs, but only from the Dio period, also in memory of Ronnie James Dio. One more word about the female drummer, Dasha: seems like the lads from Alcatraz Concerts and perhaps Filip in general, have an eye for such bands. The previous example was GUNSLINGER from the UK, who played at this year's Alcatraz Metal Festival. Her name was Cat and she too very well knows how to hit the skins.

Songs that were played were "Judas Rising", "Nightcrawler", "Neon Knights" (which KALEDON covered on its "Chapter 5: A New Era Begins" album from 2008),"Children Of The Sea", "Mob Rules", "Heaven And Hell", "Eletric Eye" and many more. Of course, when commemorating Dio you cannot avoid his solo material, so classics like "Holy Diver" and "Don't Talk To Strangers" were added to the setlist, too. James even had a HELSTAR song added: "Run With the Pack" from the band's debut album, "Burning Star" (1984). I'm only familiar with the band's last two outputs, but let it be clear that METALSTEEL feat. James Rivera aka SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH did a splendid job. As enjoyable, entertaining and more the show was, it wasn't perfect, but that was probably because we all were having fun with it: James, the band (especially the ever-smiling bassist), the Metalheads in the crowd who left no opportunity untouched to cheer, sing along, headbang, etc... One of the few trivial faults were, for example, "Don't Talk To Strangers" being played too wild during the calmer moments of that song. And James putting the wrong accents/emphasises in some Dio-related songs, but like I said, such details were trivial when considering the performance as a whole.

To make the setlist even more varied, the band played METALSTEEL's song "Heavy Metal Is Our Religion", a typical Heavy Metal hymn in vein of IRON MAIDEN, GAMMA RAY, FREEDOM CALL, etc... You can check out a video of the song at this location.

With this diverse setlist, James showed he can master not only aggressive material, but also more melodic songs. So, whenever you get the chance to see this European version of SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH, do not hesitate. It's very much worth it. All the absentees were wrong not to come.

Playlist:

Judas Rising (JUDAS PRIEST)
Steeler (JUDAS PRIEST)
Neon Knights (BLACK SABBATH)
Children Of The Sea (BLACK SABBATH
Nightcrawler (JUDAS PRIEST)
Mob Rules (BLACK SABBATH)
The Green Manalishi (JUDAS PRIEST)
Holy Diver (DIO)
Grinder (JUDAS PRIEST)
Die Young (BLACK SABBATH)
Metal Gods (JUDAS PRIEST)
Don't Talk To Strangers (DIO)
Heaven And Hell (BLACK SABBATH)
Hell Bent For Leather (JUDAS PRIEST)
Electric Eye (JUDAS PRIEST)
Heavy Metal Is our Religion (METALSTEEL)
Run With The Pack (HELSTAR)

SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH
2010_10_02_3475 2010_10_02_3470 2010_10_02_3477


See more pictures of SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH at this location.

I don't go to that many concerts, mainly because writing is my main focus. Having a dayjob also puts a break on the number of attendable shows, so I have to be selective. Even if I missed BLIND GUARDIAN and STEELWING on the 25th September, I know that that show would not have made me as happy and content and whatever other positive word you can put here as the three bands that played on the 2nd of October in Oudenaarde, i.e. WIZZARD, GAE BOLGA and SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH. So, kudos to everyone involved, from Alcatraz Concerts (who booked the bands) to the bands themselves. This was, as subjective as it may be, one of the best gigs I attended in recent years. No doubt at all about that. Of course, as I had a great time, this also affected the precision of my photographic input, for which I want to apologize. To err is human and since the venue was much smaller than at Alcatraz Metal Festival and thus the lighting not on the same level as in August, the result is different. But let's stop here. I had a great time, many other people in the room (rough guess, 100 maximum?) as well and I believe each band also had its share of the fun.




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