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.:Festival Reviews:.

19/03/2011 – WIZZFEST (Lotenhulle, Belgium)

Wizzfest (website) is a small festival that takes place each year in a very small town (in Belgium) called Lotenhulle. 2011 is the year of the fest's third edition. It thanks its name to the band WIZZARD, of which Wizz... Wizzard is the frontman and founder. And like before the band itself is to perform, next to 9 other bands. I didn't make it the previous times, though I was aware of the 2010 edition. So I set myself the target to be present on the next occasion. And so it happened. I met Wizz briefly when he and his band played with GAE BOLGA and SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH back in October 2010. WIZZARD's 80's Hard Rock and Heavy Metal were very pleasing to the ear and very entertaining as well.

Lotenhulle is, like I said, a small town and luckily I had my gps to guide me to the venue. I think I now know the way without that device. Now, since Wizz has lots of contacts in the UK, also from playing there with his band, the bill consisted mostly of English bands, some returning, others playing there for the first time. BLAZE BAYLEY, with the man himself fronting it, was headliner. And it was, to be honest, superb from Wizz and his crew to have booked this Metal veteran to come and play at this local festival. Dave Chipchase aka DJ Chippy from Radio Teesdale, where he presents the Metal Gods Rock Show, was asked to once again host the show and announce each band before they hit the stage.

Wizzfest logo

This year's booked bands were:

SPOONEYE (BE) - www.myspace.com/spooneye
LIME SHARK (UK) - www.myspace.com/limesharkmusic
VISITOR (UK) - www.myspace.com/visitoruk
EXIT STATE (UK) - www.myspace.com/exitstate
CAMBION (UK) - www.myspace.com/cambionuk
WIZZARD (BE) - www.myspace.com/wizzardbelgium
NIGHTVISION (UK) - www.myspace.com/nightvision1000
LOST INSANITY (NL) - www.myspace.com/eghttpwwwmyspacecomlostinsanity
FURY UK (UK) - www.myspace.com/furyuk
BLAZE BAYLEY (UK) - www.myspace.com/blazebayley

All of them however were preceded by mr. Mick "Kiss The Guns" Ball, who warmed up the already present crowd by means of a drumsolo. It is said this Brit has suffered 4 heart attacks and to work on his condition, he decided to play drums. Of course, practice makes perfect, but kudos to him for kicking new energy into his life by doing this.

Playlist:

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MICK BALL
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And so the stage was prepared for the young band SPOONEYE, consisting of 4 young fellows. The band was formed in 2003 by two members who were then 13 years old. Their music is described as alternative and experimental in vein of TOOL, DEFTONES, A PERFECT CIRCLE and so on. What do you get? Clean vocals, rocking guitars and of course powerful drums. The guys have good ideas and the music is very listenable. There's not that much of a crowd yet, but the present people are enjoying the tunes, having a drink meanwhile. Most folks are expected to arrive later, of course, as is always the case with such an event. While SPOONEYE is a young band and its members are as well, it was a bit of a stand-still performance, but nothing that cannot be improved/changed as experience grows and times goes on. The setlist was quite diverse, with calmer songs as well. For an opening band, these guys are alright.

Playlist:

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SPOONEYE
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LIME SHARK was the first of the British invaders. It's a Rock band, of course, but one with a Progressive edge. The forming took place several years ago and since then the guys have shared the stage with bands like WISHBONE ASH, WAYSTED and TOKYO DRAGONS. At Wizzfest, only 3 members were present, but that didn't hinder the band at all, I had the impression. Vocal duties were shared between Tony Bodmead (vocals, guitar) and bassist Paul Watson. What stood out from their performance is the listenability, but foremost the grooves these kind played. Their set too was diverse in terms of rocking songs and calmer directions, which helped to keep the attention from start to finish. However, was it the experience, the self-control or did these guys play it a little too safe? In any case, first class musicianship and worthwhile show.

Playlist:

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LIME SHARK
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And then, at 17h00, it was time for some extreme Metal. VISITOR came on stage, ready to thrash the place. Their mix of Thrash, Groove and Metalcore (however small) was nicely split in two. The first part of their set was mainly brutal, destructive and to the point. The second part allowed for more melodic interventions and this surely helped to after all leave a positive impression, else one could have considered the set a little too much of the same aggressive actions. Vocal duties were divided between vocalist/guitarist Jim Foster and drummer Tim Marland. Guitarist Gaz Hayden provided backing vocals where needed. Style-wise you get cleans and low screams, albeit that the extreme vocals were done at their limit, as if shouting loud enough. The interaction with the crowd happened very smoothly, showing a sympathetic band too. VISITOR too played a solid set and especially the drums amazed me, almost like Animal from "The Muppet Show", in terms of stamina, activeness. The music, as a final point, is indeed comparable to THE HAUNTED, LAMB OF GOD, PANTERA, MACHINE HEAD and so on.

Playlist:

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VISITOR
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No continuation of the extreme sounds then, as EXIT STATE deliver a crossover dish of Rock, Metal, Punk and even some Poppy tunes. Or you could just call 'em an Alternative Rock band. The groove, the funk in the songs is just so catchy and sticky you cannot stand or sit still. Frontman Roy Bright also came across as one very charming lad, who manages to capture the crowd's attention as if he's been doing it since his birth. Due to the mix of influences, it's obvious their set was very diverse and never boring. Be it the vocals, the playing itself, the stage presence, ... But let's not forget the bass playing of Phil Ireland, for he too helped to keep things rolling and entertaining. EXIT STATE is currently working on a new album, called "Black Veins". In any case, they surely were a highlight at Wizzfest and I hope they'll come back next year.

Playlist:

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EXIT STATE
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As each band started at the hour, CAMBION took their places on stage at 19h00. This was their second time at Wizzfest, having played there last time as well. CAMBION is said to play old school Metal with modern influences. Names like IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA and TRIVIUM are mentioned in the description. I heard none of it, at least no in terms of old school. The songs were more Groove Metal or even Nu-Metal with Thrashy influences. Or as one could call it: Modern Metal. Vocals were a mix of screams and cleans, the cleans supported by clean music, the screams... when things were going rougher and more aggressive. Which is logic, at least with the songs CAMBION plays. And wild it was, as there was not much of a stand still. Even the drums were hit as violently as the riffing came rushing out of the speakers. Vocalist/guitarist Elliott stood there with lots of self-control and confidence, as if he had just conquered this place and dared anyone to took it from him. The crowd loved what these guys brought, but then again, this kind of Metal is very popular in Belgium and with the younger fans. Or perhaps it's because CAMBION played a solid set the last time that people were happy to see them again. In any case, I think they can get far. On a sidenote, there were some position problems with the bass drum, but that got corrected rapidly, so the lads could continue their set.

Playlist:

Intro to...
Paralyze
Yourself To Blame
City Of Ember
Illuminati
Torn And Dismembered
Salem
Jester
Living Lies
Death March
Roots (SEPULTURA cover)

CAMBION
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The Hard Rock / Heavy Metal formation WIZZARD, who's behind the organization of its own fest, this time didn't headline but took on a lower profile, letting others get a well-deserved spot higher on the bill. WIZZARD is a band I got acquainted with last year and specifically in October, when they were opening for SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH. There was GAE BOLGA in between, but still... Anyway, I liked what I saw and heard back then and thus another band was added on my fictional list of bands I want to see perform again. That time was then fixed as being 19th of March 2011 at... Wizzfest. The band has a new release out, the EP "Reflections From Hell" and it was for sale at the fest, with other merchandise. The gear was set up quite rapidly and it didn't take long or the first riffs were played. Like before the band recorded the fest and would, in connection, record a live DVD with the same title, "Reflections From Hell", which is due for this coming summer on Metal On Rock Productions, who also filmed the fest. Like before and because WIZZARD is from the area, the masses present had a great time. I did notice some nervosity with Wizz, the vocalist, but that's probably due to the entire organisation of the fest and the knowledge that one has to perform well because it's being put on tape for a specific release. But they all managed well and this was another flawless gig. The new songs went down easily and truth be told, 30 minutes are far too few for this band. They could easily have gone on for another 30, but that would have jeapordized the playtime of the remaining bands.

Playlist:

Intro
Reflections From Hell
Out Of Control
Crazy Wizzard
Harleyse
Vampires In The Valley
Reunited
Desire
Motor Head Music

WIZZARD
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NIGHTVISION was the first of the remaining bands. This British Rock band knows how to groove and how to groove hard. They occupied the stage with great confidence. The vocalist, Dave McKee, played with the mic, the audience. The guitarist, Bolda, (mis)treated his instrument to get it rocking with such ease, it's as if the guy had been doing it for over 10 years. Maybe he has, I don't know. Bassist Dean Hocking at some point even threw in some slapping, while drummer Daryl Hocking kept things under firm control from the back. The music was so catchy that a few people even danced to the songs. But that's also due to the booz. The mix of Hard Rock, Punk and groovy guitarwork came thundering out of the speakers at a high volume. I would say too high, especially at the time they played (21h00). Or in other words, the difference between WIZZARD's volume and NIGHTVISION's was big. Thankfully there's something like earplugs, but I doubt that many people had them in. NIGHTVISION may only have one guitar and this may suffice in most of the songs, but there were moments when I thought a second guitarist would have been needed. Dave's voice can't always carry a song and when melody is needed, he falls short if Bolda's powerful guitarwork is activated. In any case, NIGHTVISION are a band to check out, though for me personally it's not the kind of band or music that made me think "bis! encore!".

Playlist:

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NIGHTVISION
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LOST INSANITY then with its female-fronted Rock, playing stuff from Rock 'n' Roll to Hard Rock with old school influences. This band, being around since a few years, consists of 2 women and 2 men, respectively on vocals and guitar, and bass and drum. Typical for a LOST INSANITY show, at least that's what I gather from what happened, is that singer Patricia Boehm changed clothes a few times, depending on the song. Coming onto the stage in a dress to represent Mrs. Rock 'n' Roll in the same-titled song, to later go for something more casual or even Marylin Monroe-like. That changing did go quite smoothly, while the band carried on to not have dead moments, but the last change took a little too long, judging by the others reacted and tried to carry on with playing to avoid those dead moments. Some dirty dancing moves were delivered as well, all in the context of the show. One guitar is enough, Peggy knows how to provide the appropriate rocking riffs, while Ronny delivers the supporting beats from the back, assisted by bassist Leon de Bree, forming a solid combination. Size doesn't matter, as Peggy is not the tallest of the band, but she played with confidence. Like WIZZARD, LOST INSANITY was recording a live DVD there. The crowd definitely liked this change in style and show and thus was very clear in offering their appreciation.

Playlist:

Mrs. Rock & Roll
Got You
White Rabbit
Changes
Feels Like Home
Blow Me Away
Money
Bad & Nasty

LOST INSANITY
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FURY UK took to the stage before BLAZE BAYLEY was to put an end to it all. This trio also came to Wizzfest for a second time. They have been around since 2002 and released three album so far, the last being "VR" from 2009. It is said that they're one of the fastest growing and most exciting old school Metal bands in the UK. They've already shared the stage with bands like MOTÖRHEAD, UFO and ICED EARTH. And toured Switzerland and Greece while supporting BLAZE BAYLEY. This year they'll support SAXON on their upcoming tour. And so, anticipation was big, for talk went around about this band being impressive and all. Vocalist/guitarist Chris Appleton sure is a showman, but also a good singer. Entertaining the crowd, singing out of full chest and paying guitar as if no effort is needed... Bassist Luke Appleton shares the show aspect, as he walked around the stage, came to the front, and went into battle without fear. Drummer Martin McNee pounded his way onwards and so completed the Heavy Metal sound and picture of FURY UK. For the band did justice to their name and delivered an energetic and powerful performance with dito songs, but also knew when to slow down and then accelerate again. Here as well, the crowd remembered them from last time and thus it seemed that everything went very smooth. That is, the band knew the place and crowd, the crowd knew the band, so the atmosphere was more familiar. Nevertheless, go see this band when possible.

Playlist:

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FURY UK
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Last but not least there was BLAZE BAYLEY, fronted by the man who once fronted IRON MAIDEN. Food for discussion, but even if I'm not fond of his IRON MAIDEN period, it is without question clear that the man's solo material (first as BLAZE, then as BLAZE BAYLEY) is very much worth checking out, each and every album. I thus also acquired these, save for "Blood And Belief", for Blaze knows how to make solid Heavy Metal. Especially the last two releases, "The Man Who Would Not Die" (2008) and "Promise And Terror" (2010) provide powerful tunes that can stand the test of time. I didn't stay the entire show, for it was becoming late (or early, depending on how you look at it) and I still had some time to spend on the road. So after about 4 songs, I left the premises. On a whole, it was of course great to finally see the band perform on Belgian soil and not at a great festival for once. So, thank you, Wizz, Ivan and co. for booking the band. On the other hand, and as good as these musicians are, I was under the impression that Blaze and co. have played better shows. Were they, or Blaze, a bit tired from the flight or other circumstances? Mind you, they gave what they could and Blaze threw himself at it, but somehow it lacked a feeling of invincibility, if you know what I mean. Sure, they're not 20-30 years old anymore, but that's not a valid reason to consider. Maybe it was my being tired that influenced my opinion. Still, I'm glad I could finally experience the gig and hope to redo it on a next occasion.

Playlist:

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BLAZE BAYLEY
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2011, the year of the third edition of WIZZFEST. Last year was more diverse in terms of styles and nationalities, this year lay the focus on the UK. This largely based on the contacts Wizz has in the UK, as stated in the beginning. Wizzfest is a small fest and I prefer those to the bigger ones like Graspop, Wacken, Bloodstock, ... since you get a better view of the performing bands, you don't have to pay high prices, etc.. But there's the downside of not having enough ventilation and cigarette smoke stays hanging in the air, in your clothes, hair, and so on. It hurt my eyes a few times and going outside was the only remedy. There will be a national ban soon (July), so that problem will/should be solved. But back to the music. The majority of UK bands was actually a unique selling point for Wizzfest. Where else in Belgium would you see these bands at work, save for BLAZE BAYLEY perhaps? Furthermore, the bill was quite diverse and allowed people to hear a broad selection of heaviness: from radio friendly, yet rocking nevertheless, to ballsy, aggressive tunes that are usually only played late at night. I had my share of fun, saw several unknown bands (to me) at work and I can only say: bring on edition no. 4, maybe then with more national acts like DYSCORDIA, THURISAZ, OCEANS OF SADNESS, SERPENTCULT, ANGELI DI PIETRA, IRON MASK, MAGIC KINGDOM, AZYLYA, SCUTIGERA (*cough* ;-))... We'll see how things develop and what surprises Wizz and co. have in store. Quality will be assured, no doubt.






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