Review by Sloof and Michiel
Pictures by Geert Lippens
Lay-Out by Stefan
Our annual trip to Mons can be considered as a hit. The weather was good, the company was excellent and the bands were all ready and willing to give the best of the best. This fifth edition of PPM festival featured a series of highlights, although the turnout was not that spectacular. It’s a little weird because the bands that were scheduled were promising, the price for a ticket was very moderate (3 days of metal for only 75€ in advance) and the location of this indoor event is very easy to reach with public transport. Anyway, I do hope that PPM will continue the next coming years as the formula is outstanding! Friday was the opening day with 7 bands, and the next two days offered us 13 bands each. A huge task to fulfill, but due to the presence of two Metal To Infinity reporters this should be a feasible assignment.
PPM 2014 – Day 1
A fanfare opened the first day followed by MONUMENT from the UK. Their traditional Heavy Metal has a lot of similarities with Iron Maiden, and vocalist Peter Ellis seemed to be a huge Bruce fan. Their enthusiastic set contained songs like ‘Fatal Attack’, ‘Rock The Night’ and ‘Crusaders’ and afterwards I spoke with a few members who were very satisfied with their performance. A great band to open PPM, that’s for sure! KELLS was next, and this French band mixes nu metal with modern influences and symphonic themes. They just finished the recordings of their fourth album and the black haired tattooed fury Virg was really impressive! The sound was great and this unknown band made a positive impression. After female aggression, it was time to please the ladies with FURYON and frontman Matt Mitchell. Their album Gravitas of 2010 is still playing occasionally as the quality of the songs is top notch. Furyon knows how to entertain a crowd and this gig was just brilliant! Songs like ‘Disappear Again’ can be considered as milestones in UK history.
KELLS - FURYON - EPYSODE
My personal highly anticipated band of this year’s edition of PPM was EPYSODE. Their album Obsessions ended on first place in my personal top 20 of 2011 and ‘Fantasmagoria’ ended on seventh position in the list of 2013. Unnecessary to say that I might be considered as an Epysode fan. Well, my expectations were a little too high, I guess. I can’t say that the gig of Epysode was bad, but it was a little too fragmented. I missed consistency and cohesion, although we were overwhelmed by the massive production. At some moments, there were 10 people on the stage, so there happened so many things at the same moment. Perhaps that was the stumbling factor, as it was a little too chaotic. Guitar player Samuel Arkan (ex-Virus IV) did a great job but couldn’t avoid technical problems that caused a few sound problems. Songs like ‘Morning Rose’ just need a perfect approach and that was the disturbing factor. Let’s say that we want a second chance with Epysode, as this band is simply too good to settle off on this gig only. They also played a Happy Birthday for the keyboard player Julien Spreutels followed by the track ‘The Arch’.
PAGAN'S MIND - PAIN
The next band was PAGAN'S MIND, originated in 2000 and they were also present on the first edition of PPM, 5 years ago. The PPM gig was the first show they did in 2014 and the crowd just loved it. Songs like ‘Walk Away In Silence’ and ‘Eyes Of Fire’ were executed with great bravura and this Progressive monster was justified to play on this indoor event! I’m personally into the progressive style but bands like IN EXTREMO are necessary to prove the contrary. Their Folkish attitude and medieval melodies are mixed in a very visual show. This German band was capable to get the PPM crowd go crazy. There was a huge moshpit with a few hundred participants. Respect and esteem for this frenzied mob! Headliner of day one was Pain, the band of mastermind Peter Tägtgren, who is also involved in Hypocrisy. PAIN is the industrial/electronic version of Peter who’s mainly writing about contempt, drugs, dejection and death. The band solved all odds and reigned over Mons! A great band to end this first day of PPM, and around 1 o’clock we were glad to hit the sack.
PPM 2014 – Day 2
Saturday started with the violin version of AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ around 11h15. The first band that day was the winner of the Metal Battle Alliance: MURDERSET PIECES. They surprised us all when vocalist Nick Lamote walked the stage with a mask on. It was all really vivid and lifelike but only a pity that he removed it after the first song. That’s a bit too fast, as the impact and surprise effect wasn’t fully elaborated. Twin brothers Tom (bass) and Tim (drums) Selleslagh played a perfect rhythm section, although the bass was a bit too high in the mix. Songs like ‘My Right, My Hate’ and ‘Last Hope’ were executed well, although the sound wasn’t perfect yet. Stefan Segers of Dyscordia joined the band as a guest vocalist for the track ‘The New Black Death’ and afterwards, the band told me that they were happy about the gig. I wish them all the best at the next coming concerts like Dokk’em Open Air and Rommelrock! What I don’t understand is why people don’t show up for the first bands on a festival. Isn’t it all mentioned to explore new talent, to start to learn new bands? Murderset Pieces played for about 50 people and that’s a missed opportunity for the band, but also for those that paid for their ticket.
The next band was BURNING CIRCLE from Serbia. I don’t know any Metal bands from that country, and I guess that Burning Circle won’t change that a lot. The music wasn’t coherent, as it was like every member of the band was trying to have his own personal spot. ‘Dies Irae’, ‘Gargoyle On a Belfry’ are songs that have technical skills but it wasn’t executed like it should be. When you think you’ve seen everything, GRENOUER from Russia, Saint Petersburg, shows up. They are signed to Mausoleum Records, and owner and CEO of that label, Alfie Falckenbach was also attending the gig. Having already 7 albums on their discography, I forced myself to check them out with a neutral and objective mind, but I didn’t succeed. After four songs, my willpower was reduced to a minimum. I have nothing against gays, lesbos or whatsoever, but Andrey Ind, the vocalist of the band tested my endurance. This was freaky, weird and not according to my interests, so we’d better skip them.
Luckily, TRIOSPHERE from Norway jumped on the Alpha stage, and they really made my day! The aggressive tunes mixed with outstanding vocals by Ida Haukland were a real delight! Tracks like ‘Trinity’, ‘Human Condition’ and ‘Marionette’ were executed with full force and because they were playing at a ‘Power Metal Festival’, they brought us a stunning version of ‘Gunnin’ For Glory’. Great show, great band, and a first highlight on PPM! I turn a blind eye to the technical problems at the start of their gig. Definitely worth mentioning, the track ‘The Sphere’ of their upcoming album was a good introduction. The band also introduced us to new drummer Kenneth who played his first gig! Mission accomplished!
SERENITY was the next band that had the difficult task to surpass Triosphere. Well, they didn’t succeed at all. The female vocalist Clémentine Delauney was headbanging like hell, but her voice wasn’t really in the mix. Georg Neuhauser (male vocalist) was also very enthusiastic, but the songs had no balls or power. Never expected that the Eurovision Song Contest was scheduled in Mons this year… Not my cup of tea, but for those that are into fairytales, fantasy and dreams, this band is worth checking out. Due to the departure of 2 members of Equilibrium, they had to cancel their PPM attendance, which resulted in a replacement by The Black Tartan Clan. Bagpipes, naked chests and an “One for all, All for one” attitude resulted in a very energetic performance.
TRIOSPHERE - BOREALIS
THE BLACK TARTAN CLAN is without any doubt the most Breton of the Belgian bands. Their attitude, their Folk tainted with Punk and Metal was consumed well and they succeeded in creating a perfect vibe in the Lotto Arena. Borealis from Canada was the next band and they surpassed my expectations from the very first beginning. Matt Marinelli is a gifted musician with an exceptional voice. The way they bring their music can be considered as real art. Twin solos with Michael Briguglio, excellent tracks like ‘Watch The World Collapse’ from their second album Fall From Grace are masterpieces that need to be cherished. Normally, EMERGENCY GATE was going to perform after SERENITY, but they switched to a higher position, which was a good move. Their show was, like expected, furious and vehement! Emergency Gate kicked off their European tour which is going to take them all over Europe (The day after PPM, the band played in Moscou as a support act to Masterplan), Asia (with gigs in China, Japan and Korea) and Australia (as a support slot for Finnish metalband Children Of Bodom). During the Nova Festival in Austria, they will also welcome special guest and friend Haddaway to perform their hit single ‘What Is Love’ live. In September they will also release their new album ‘Infected’, so it looks like the Emergency Gate train is rolling at high speed! Some moments, I had Five Finger Death Punch in mind, and every member in Emergency Gate can be proud on their achievement, as they all played with 100% dedication.
Another band that might be considered as a personal favorite is MASTERPLAN. They had a major change in line up, but the spine of the band is still present: Roland Grapow (ex-Helloween). I have to be honest and mention the bad sound of their gig, which was a setback of course, but despite this technical issue, the band succeeded in creating a perfect vibe in the venue. ‘Spirit Never Die’, ‘Crimson Rider’, ‘Keep Your Dream Alive’, they all passed the revue and I just loved it! After Masterplan, we were able to see EVERGREY live! Tom Englund has a very unique voice and he has the skills to touch you with passionate songs. Besides a gifted frontman, he and his band are also capable to create an unique atmosphere with limited resources. A few red and blue lights have more income compared with a complete lightshow. Evergrey was, like expected, huge! After this gig, it was time for rock’n roll and fun with RAGE. They were welcomed like Gods and they played their set with so much bravura and enthusiasm, they totally brought home the bacon. ‘Great Old Ones’ from the Soundchaser album, ‘Down’, ‘Firestorm’, they were all played with so much passion and dedication. The drums of André Hilgers were HUGE, the guitars of Victor Smolski reigned and the throat of Peter Wagner was convincing. At the end of the show, they were all so pleased about the people’s reaction that it became a real tribute for fans and artists.
EVERGREY - MASTERPLAN - RAGE
AMORPHIS from Finland was the next band who recently changed their musical style from Death/Doom into Modern and Melodic Metal. Tomi Joutsen is the frontman with the endless dreadlocks and he surprised me all the way. What a voice, what a charisma! Songs like ‘Nightbird’s Song’, ‘Skyforger’, ‘Black Winter Day’, ‘Silver Bride’, ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Narrow Path’ were brought like it was this band their final live show. Inconceivable, gorgeous, splendid! I guess that I’m going to listen to these songs the next coming days to relive the moment! Being one of the biggest Gothic-Doom metal bands with Anathema and Paradise Lost, is a task that might be hard to accomplish. But MY DYING BRIDE succeeded to create a funeral atmosphere in Mons. This band from Halifax, UK has a very charismatic frontman Aaron Stainthorpe in their lineup and although the tempo of the songs is rather slow, the gig remained intense and inspired! It was a worthy ending of day 2!
PPM 2014 – Day 3
Like an annual tradition, the second winner of the Metal Battle Alliance was scheduled to open the third and final day of PPM. Existance was the name of the band and they are from France. Well, after the gig of EXISTANCE it was obvious why they won this contest. What an energy, what a dedication! They really started the festival in best condition! Some moments, I had Tokyo Blade in mind, as the songs evoked the same impression. These similarities are a compliment to the band, by the way. Tracks like ‘Steel Alive’ and ‘Dead Or Alive’ from their debut album have the properties to bang your head and raise your fist in the air! Another French band was scheduled, and AMON SETHIS' vocalist also had a mask when he started the gig. It’s like Ramses II was risen from the grave. ‘Isis, The Breath Of Life’ was one of the tracks they played, but although they planned to create an Egyptian feeling on stage, I must admit that it didn’t had the same effect like e.g. Nile. After 2-3 songs, boredom was lurking, and although I’m always looking to find peaks, I must say that Amon Sethis didn’t convince me all the way. Next band on the bill was FIREFORCE who got a second chance after last year’ debacle. The stage was really amazing: the Belgians created a war scene including trenches, sandbags, shells and also two smoke spewing animals on top. I don’t really know the link between the war scene and the animals, but it made quite an impression. Tracks like ‘Born To Play Metal’ and ‘Coastal Battery’ were interspersed with new material from the upcoming album ‘Deathbringer’, scheduled to be released on May 23rd by Limb Music. Keep an eye on this one, as it’s going to hit us hard!
The band SUNBURST from Greece played their third gig in Belgium and they hit the nail on the head. They are influenced by Dream Theater and Nevermore and their set was one huge highlight. In my opinion, a guitar player needs to be able to lift a band and songs, well, this dude did! If you are not familiar with the music of Sunburst, check out this link and you will be astonished: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE0Ht6NfnLc . I have to admit, I still get goose bumps when I think about it again. Let’s conclude that a new Malmsteen is born, but I also have a remark: do you have to tune your guitar after each song? RAVENSCRY might be considered as the next generation Lacuna Coil, but after watching the show, I can only conclude that Giulia Stefani had a nice dress, and it was time for a beer. Andorra is another unusual Metal country, but with PERSEFONE, they send their emissaries! The band is going to tour Taiwan, China and Japan in 2014 and their core was received very well by the PPM audience. It’s good that the organization is broadeningtheir horizons, as only Prog and Power is too limited.
SUNBURST - MAYAN - EXISTANCE
The Swedes from DRAGONLAND started with a really nice into and they delivered what was expected! Great Power Metal with a lot of melody and presented by a talented vocalist named Jonas. This is traditional heavy metal with a lot of potential and a cool stage act! VANDEN PLAS from Germany is a kind of ‘love it or hate it situation’. If you like the vocal cords of Andy Kuntz, you will adore this band, but unfortunately, not everyone is pleased with his vocal capacity. What I thought became reality, as weariness occurred after a few songs… Tracks like ‘Postcards to God’, ‘Holes In The Sky’, ‘Far Off Grace’ and ‘Frequency’ were played with a technical intellect, but they can’t be mentioned as a highlight. MAYAN from Holland played next and their sophisticated metal on the new album was quite an achievement. I hoped that they could bring songs like ‘Human Sacrifice’ in best condition, and they did. The setting was huge, at some moments, there were 10 people on stage and they all banged their head off. Mark Jansen, Henning Basse, Ariën Van Weesenbeek and Laura Macri were in big shape and they made my day. This band is ready for the next level as they lift metal to great heights! Great that PPM proposed us to this Dutch talent!
FATES WARNING - FINNTROLL
Speaking about talent, FATES WARNING was the next band and they did what I expected. Greatly talented guys, fantastic songs but after all the violence and manslaughter of Mayan, I needed this resting moment more than ever. Fates Warning is extremely talented, I was glad to see them live, but they were one of the bands, nothing more…Normally, Royal Hunt was going to play at this year’s edition of PPM, but for some reason, they had to cancel and were replaced by FINNTROLL. This band knows how to party and their Folk Metal songs fit perfectly with a few beers at the same moment. Finntroll is a guarantee for success and fun, but they don’t add anything extra. It was fun, it was great, and I guess that most things are said about this gig. THERION is totally diverse. While Finntroll is aiming on entertainment and amusement, Therion is focusing on quality. Mastermind Christofer Johnsson is a freak when it comes to perfectionism and that reflected also the gig. Everything was executed like it should be, the stage was crowded and Therion fans had a great time. Closing act of this year was SAXON, but we’ve seen them already so many times that we decided to skip them. Saxon are partymakers and they have a repertoire to turn every gig into a feast for Metalheads.
THERION - SAXON
We can conclude that PPM 2014 was a great edition with many talented musicians, and we hope that we can come back to Mons next year. Rumors are spreading that the location might change in the future and Charleroi could be a possible spot. Let’s wait and see… Moments to remember: Triosphere, Sunburst and Borealis.