Friday, July 29, 2011

First Day At HBOA - Spreading the Astral Word and then some....

The first day of the festival was good. I await the arrival of Patrik and the boys with great anticipation to show most of these groups how to sing! I gto to meet some great people and spread the Astral Word to every person I met. Everyone and I mean everyone gets the pitch. No exceptions. I'll add photos to the blog later when I have time to transfer them. Anyway, I digress....

I didn't watch every band but there were some highlights. Crystal Viper from Poland started things off. The lead singer has a great voice and isn't too hard on the eyes either. Their drummer sucked though and the crowd really was wondering why he'd do a drum solo during a 35 minute set.

Then Striker from Edmonchuck hit the stage and, Man!, did they ever rock. Highligjts of their set were Roadwarrior, The Keg that Crushed New York, The White Knight, and Terrorizer. I got my two albums signed by them at the signing session. Great guys from a GREAT band. I told them to watch for Patrik's son's band, Tuck (From Hell). People call this "The Garden Party" because of this festival's small crowd and appeal. Well, everyone knew that the Garden had started when Stiker hit the stage. Energy galore spewed forth from this youthful band. There drummer, Adam, was a complete animal. Long may Stiker rock!

Tokyo Blade was one of those bands I never got around to collecting. But they have a new singer that reminds me of Johnny Gioelli of Axel Rudi Pell. Great stuff. I was hanging out in the campground but when they hit the stage, I could here that their NWoBHM songs were well structured and I just had to see them. They were the shit as well, giving a great performance. I bought their latest album.

Baron Rojo was a disappointment because they kept blowing fuses on the amps and lost momentum during their set. I had a great conversation with a guy from County Killarney in Ireland that went till the wee hours. Then it was time for some well deserved rest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Astral Queen.....and Arrival at the HBOA Festival Grounds.

Tonight before I get into about arriving here in Germany, I have to write about a very special person - The Astral Queen, Tina.

Tina is a very special dedicated person who started the Astral Doors MySpace page a while back. Last year, she took on another project - starting and running the Astral Doors Fanpage on Facebook. I can't say enough about Tina. She is the one person who keeps all of us - fans and band members alike - grounded and motivated here in the Astral Kingdom. Her dedication from somewhere in the deep woods of Michigan is exemplary.

Tina is like a mother to the boys in Astral Doors. She also keeps us fans in line. Because Nils Patrik Johansson is such a perfectionist when it comes to music and quality and sound, Tina lives up to this standard and keeps the content top notch on both the MySpace and Facebook sites.

The quality of the streaming audio is great and the songs are rotated periodically to keep awareness at its peak. Therefore, Tina gets my nomination as THE Astral Queen, and virtual band Mom on the net because she has never seen them play live. I think there is a certain injustice in this and that something has to be done about it. Someone who works this hard deserves to see Astral Doors. Anyway, she has amassed quite a collection. Her well wishes to yours truly on this trip were a blessing and I am glad she is spiritual maintenance guru of the Astral Kingdom.

She describes herself as someone simple who likes to drink beer and listen to Metal. She takes pleasure in the small things in life and you can just feel the radiance and positiveness coming through in her messages when she posts. In  reality, she is so much more than that, as the publicity machine of Astral Doors would not amount to much, if not for her. I raise an "alkoholfreies bier" to your health Tina!

Well, I got to Germany this morning and I am at the Schlesswig-Holsten Hotel in Elmshorn. The hotel has a great billiards room. The room is nice and I caught some shut eye because I was really tired after the flight. This was a day of getting oriented and gaining useful information for getting around. I took a taxi to the festival grounds which run around 26 Euros which I thought was a little much since another taxi company had offered me a rate of 15 Euros, but I couldn't get their phone number to work with Skype at the hotel. The scariest thing was having the driver texting and speaking on the mobile while driving at 200 kph on the Autobahn! Now that is Heavy Metal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There were a shitwack of people already there camping out in anticipation of tomorrow. I ran into Taylor from Edmonton and Kieran from Ireland. They had the Canadian and Irish flags flying at their campsite. I also met Valentina and Martin from Montreal. Valentina is from Venezuela so today, I have spoken English, some French, some Spanish, and lots of broken German. But how else are you going to improve? The people at the camp ground are really nice, relaxed and the beer is flowing. Part of the Canadian contingent I met is from Edmonton and they ran into the guys from Striker today. I must meet this elusive group again.

The conversation took a turn to Blind Guardian tonight. I mentioned how well Astral Doors was treated when they toured with Blind Guardian in the fall of 2006. When I spoke with Nils Patrik Johansson in Borlange last fall, he conveyed to me how much respect the whole band had toward Blind Guardian. So tonight I have been listening to their MySpace streaming audio and I must say, I am impressed. They are epic and quite medieval.
Lots of different influences in their music. Until tomorrow folks......

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Astral travelling at Trudeau Airport in Montreal.

KLM 627 at Trudeau
I am at the Montreal Airport waiting for KLM 627 to depart to Amsterdam.  There is an hour delay of the flight. I got Astral Doors going on my Shuffle app for iPhone. It is "Time to Rock." The airport is very busy today. I got two cartons of smokes at the duty free. Canadian smokes taste the best by far anywhere. Maybe it is just what we are used to.

I then went to an Airport Bar for a .5 beer. Man, what a rook. $7.69 for a Molson .5! Not only is it like paying $8 for Coke, it is positively the WORST de-alcoholized or non-alcoholic beer on the market.

"Evil is Forever" now paints my ears with reminders of what happened in Norway. Acts like this make me wonder about how we are doing as a planet..... Not very well.

I read Nils Patrik and the boys held a private listening session of 6 songs of the new album at Bang Your Head. The reaction was, supposedly, good. According to Patrik, this is a return to strictly the Classic Rock format of the first two albums. I do hope they don't lose the intensity of the third album, "Astralism.". To me, this is the best album. But, I don't regret the latter albums like New Revelation and Requiem of Time. These may have more "power metal" influences, but that music goes hand in hand with what AD does and certainly forms part of what defines them.

It brings about a certain uneasy feeling when the words of "London Caves" end up applying to western society - in this case, Norway. There are no exceptions to terrorism.

"Praise the Bones" really rocks and beings me back to the reality of the present. Power and control of Patrik's voice just blows me away. What makes me sad though is that AD has not hired another guitarist. I know this is a bone of contention both within the band and the fans. It certainly won't affect the studio scenario. But it definitely puts the pressure on Jocke Roberg to round out the sound in a live  environment.

Until later, they're going to make the boarding call. Lionheart takes us out......

Monday, July 25, 2011

Clearing the head for a trip to see Headbangers' Open Air

Well, here it is Monday afternoon in the Gaspé in Quebec. This is a pretty isolated to be travelling to see Headbangers' Open Air from. My divorce has been maddening with several things presenting themselves at the last minute before leaving. So tomorrow, July 26th, I will drive 6 and a 1/2 hours to the Montreal Airport then board a KLM flight to Hamburg via Schiphol in Amsterdam. It looks like everything has been coming together and I will be prepared for my flight. I have all the information I need to:

  • Make my train conncetions to Elmshorn in Germany from Hamburg International.
  • Book into my hotel.
  • Get to the site of the Metal Festival.
  • Make my way back at night. 
  • Know the running order of the bands and who are my priorities to see.
Just found out Fates Warning is playing and this is welcome news. Jim Matheos is a wicked guitar player and I dig Ray Alder's vocals. This will be a first. I don't have a lot of their albums but enjoy most everything in the progressive metal genre.

Meeting up with some friends from the Canary Islands whose parents have a house here in the Gaspé was great. This gave me the chance to brush up on my Spanish prior to seeing Baron Rojo and Tierra Santa. My buddy is the principal double bass player with the Tenerife Symphony and his wife, Carmen, plays viola.

My German is a rusty at best, but did have the chance to do some adaptive retesting with Rosetta Stone. The most important thing I need to say is, "I'm sorry, I don't speak German very well."

I am looking forward to seeing my Astral Doors friends as this who I am here to see front and center. It is hard to pick out what t-shirts of rock bands to bring when you have over 200. I seem to missing one of my Astral Doors t-shirts because I now only seem to have four. When I went to Sweden to see them at the CD Release in Borlange, there were 2 shirts that were graciously left for me in my room in advance by Nils Patrik Johansson and then I bought another three at the gig. Needless to say, I will be replacing it and buying every one and then some. I pray they have an Astral Doors Baseball Cap:)  So Patrik, Johan, Ulf, Jocke and Joachim, get prepared because I am so looking forward to this! Next update...time permitting...prior to flight.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Some thoughts and a Eulogy for Noway - seeking meaning within music.

As I sit here this morning, Saturday July 23rd, I have read the most complete article yet on what happened in Norway. Having been around Scandinavia a couple of times now, I have come to understand how open the societies of the Peninsula are. The people are great. The political expressionism and free thought breed creativity like the constant barrage of great music that comes from these countries. Bands like Astral Doors, Evergrey, Jorn Lande and many others are so much more than what they seem. On the surface they say one thing, but once inside and listening to the lyrics, the courage to tackle subjects considered taboo by others emereges from these bands.

We can find hatred and radicalism anywhere. We can see how disturbed people develop deviated opinions outside the norm easliy throughout history. The number 1 ranking of Norway when it comes to press freedom comes at a price - when political expression transcends the verbal to acts of the unspeakable.

I don't know what to say, except that my heart goes out to the families that have lost so much, and to a country that holds freedom of thought in the highest regard - to what end in the future remains to be seen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Listening to Shotgun Symphony, Live at The Firefest 2010.

Back in the 90's I was listening to Shotgun Symphony from the third studio album on. I discovered them after In The Line of Fire was released in 1997. Forget the Rain was also outed earlier that same year. People have said, they sound like Styx. Well, since I never listened to Styx other than on the radio, I didn't think so. They had a particular fresheness and professionalism about them. They were slick. Fans rave about that first album and tour. I got to see them in 99 at the Gods of AOR at Maxime's in Wigan. They were previewing Sea of Desire and I got my Japanese import copy of the 1995 album, Live in London, signed there. When 2002 came and the Gods had moved to Pennington's in Bradford, Shotgun got to play their show set plus did a "warm-up" gig on the Thursday night (correct me if I am wrong, please.) I saw both shows and was absolutely head over heels with this band.

Backstage at the Gods, the band was really nice and I got to chat with them briefly. There was a connection between them and another band called Prophet. Stephen DeAcutis did a project with the guys from Shotgun called "Intruder." I was also listening to Russell Arcara at the time. Yah, some dude in Canada gets totally into the Jersey circuit superfluously! Far-fetched but true! The crew at the Gods 2002 filmed Shotgun Symphony and it was supposed to be released as a DVD,but alas, it never happened. I managed to get my hands on some footage from 1993 at Jilly's in Manchester in 2008.

The new Live album from 2010 is a replay of the original album in concert plus a tune from Sea of Desire to close out plus a new brand new studio track, "Can't Get Over." The crowd just goes nuts when they come on. Maike Maino has lost none of that great tone despite being 8 years away from music.

Shotgun Symphony had an edge. This is best expressed through the song, You Gotta Believe In Me, off the new Live at the Firefest album. Man, I wish I could have seen them in 2010. I do hope this was filmed as well, as I would kill to get a hold of something more recent and professional from this remarkable band.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Astral Doors Mythology and I.

There was a fantastic period kind of epic piece that was written by Astral Doors Fan Criar Thrakenwill between 2003 and 2006. It brought to life a medieval story where each of the guys in Astral Doors had an avatar within the story. I don't know what happened to it but it appeared to have been lost for a while. Well just before the band posted on the news on April in the news section on the official website that it had been recovered, I had posted a link to the Astral Doors FB Page and perhaps the Fanpage too, of where I found an archived old copy of it on the net.

In attending the November CD Release in Borlange, I went on a walkabout my first morning. I took pictures around the City and got a feel of what it was like. When I walked by the Mission Kyrkans, the first thing I thought was - this is the home of the Astral Friar. Then I put my mind to it and seeing the link between Astral and Travel and Friar and the spiritual connection I have to the music, I thought it would make a good picture in an Astral Friar video I put together.

So this July, the Astral Friar goes Pentecostal Bound to partake in 21st Century Medieval (Sorry couldn't find a Youtube link for this one)! Headbangers' Open Air in Hamburg July 28th to 30th. It is pretty exciting as the days pass. I am glad I am going to have a week in the Hamburg area because I will get a feeling for it. When I went to Borlange, it was for 36 hours, in and out. Crazy, you're gonna say, dedicated I say. The music keeps me whole, motivates me, and pays ultimate respect to the forefathers they are influenced by. Here are 5 guys with short hair, except for Nils Patrik Johansson, who don't fit the image, but create and craft Classic Hard Rock Power Metal for the love of the music. And they are very, very good at it. That kind of dedication needs to get picked up by more people, radio stations, and the press.

So, come one and come all Bastard Sons and go Far Beyond the Astral Doors with a music tourism trip to see this great band deliver the goods.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Going to Headbanger's Open Air 2011 in Germany!

Well, I thank God for the music of Astral Doors. Seems like I won't be able to go see the European tour because I will have cancer treatments to do. But my life goes on. The AA movement gives me all the support I need emotionally, and music does the rest. I am very glad I am ahead of the game.

Today, I booked to go see Astral Doors at the Headbangers Open Air Festival from July 28-30. This will be awesome. Booking a trip such as this is always fun and informative as you coordinate and multitask your travel arrangements on the net.

Their music never grows old and is always fresh. This is the legacy of a group of individuals who chose to make music, not image. I leave this blog for those who love to travel to see great bands. The Holy Grail search for the ultimate live act is always satisfying as long as you don't set expectations too high. You gotta enjoy the journey and trip out to music along the way, whether it be MP3, CD or Radio.

Germany is an awesome country. I have been learning a little German these past couple of years as I try to pick up a fourth language. I will brush up again with Rosetta Stone software before going. The Germans really appreciate that someone knows a little of their language, as most countries' people in Europe do.

So, I fly out of Montreal the 26th via KLM getting into Hamburg the 27th.  The festival goes until the 30th and then I got until the 2nd to check out the local sights. I'll be staying at the SH Hotel in Elmshorn about 20 minutes away via transit. I am so stoked. Ich mochte zum Headbangers Ball Open Air im Deutschland gehen!