Metal Messiah EU Tour 2012: The Difference / Sandstone / Tim Ripper Owens (07/09/2012 – Kuurne, Belgium)

On the 7th September 2012 Tim Ripper Owens started his Metal Messiah Tour. Booked by the Belgian organization Metal Mission, the tour was kicked off on Belgian soil. Support comes from the Northern Irish Heavy/Progressive Metal band SANDSTONE. Tim is, like Blaze Bayley last year, getting assistance from guest musicians for this European tour. There’s also local support, in this case from the Progressive Metal band THE DIFFERENCE.


Doors: 19h30
THE DIFFERENCE: 20h00 – 21h00
SANDSTONE: 21h30 – 22h30
TIM RIPPER OWENS: 23h00 – 00h30


Upon arrival at about 19h15, there weren’t that many people yet, though THE DIFFERENCE was doing its soundcheck. While waiting for the gigs to commence, I had the chance to chat with Stevie, Sean and Dan of SANDSTONE. Very down to earth guys, in for a laugh, also to cool down on being nervous. This was their first gig on the European mainland. Previously they’ve had their share of gigs in Ireland and the UK.

The venue itself is large, but not the entire capacity was used, contrary to how it was during the several Frostrock editions, the last dating from December 2011. No edition is planned for 2012. In any case, it was a bit awkward to see the space being closed off like that, but it made the place more sociable, even if the sound was a bit blaring (if that’s a correct term here). In addition, it was already quite loud as well. Was that too compensate for this or…? That detail aside, the band’s performance was very solid. This was the third time I saw them at work (first being in 2007 – see here -, the second time at Alcatraz Metal Festival in 2009 – see here). That same year, 2009, the second album came out: “When Light Uncovers Grey”. I didn’t have that one, but I do have the debut, “Lost In Mass Confusion” (2005).

The songs that were played were heavy, groovy, intricate and well-performed. Gert, the vocalist, used his throat in various ways (clean, vibrato, growling), whenever the songs demanded this change. The music was indeed Progressive, with nice clean moments. The heavier outbursts were proof that THE DIFFERENCE hasn’t toned down. On the contrary, they seem to have improved their style a lot. The set was solid and told me I needed to add “When Light Uncovers Grey” to my collection, which I did that same moment. In short, THE DIFFERENCE delivered the goods.

The Darkest Of All Times
Dying In Vain
Inner Turbulence (instrumental)
Darkest Soul (new song)
No Man’s Land
Dolor Aeternus
Caught In The Middle
The Awakening

Pictures can be seen at this location.


Next to hit the stage, for the first time ever in Belgium and Europe (or the European mainland), were SANDSTONE. The soundcheck was actually quite short, but hilarious. First the drums and man, did Brian Doherty hit his kit! That by itself was like, you don’t need to play, just let Brian give a show. 😉 Guitars and keys were tested very rapidly, but not as fast as the microphones: “one, two, one, two.”, this for each microphone. No, wait, Dee (guitarist) also sang a little. A small humourous touch, I’d say. And then the band left the stage.

On a sidenote: I got to know about this band when in 2009 LMP re-released the band’s second album, “Purging The Past”. See the review here. It was a good album, but what the lads presented on the follow-up last year, “Cultural Dissonance”, was even better. This I also reviewed. See here. And so this confirmed that someone in Belgium had to book these guys some day. Sooner rather than later. Seeing how they were chosen for the Tim Owens’s tour and of course playing in Belgium, made me very excited. I could not afford to miss the gig.

When the guys then finally started their set, you know this was going to be a very entertaining gig. I don’t know how many of the present people in the crowd know/knew SANDSTONE, but I’m sure there are now more people knowing them. It was apparently hot on stage, as vocalist Sean McBay was indeed suffering from the heat after a few songs. But with that leather coat, it’s no surprise, hehehe. His voice was good and got better with each song. Having two guitarists on stage helped to make the sound fuller. Dee is said to have joined the band about six months ago. He’s also in charge of the small keyboard parts.

The band played songs from all of their albums. In the setlist below I indicated with * off which album the respective songs came. I only have the last two, “Purging The Past” and “Cultural Dissonance”. However, since I’ve got so much material to listen to and come accross new stuff on a regular basis, it’s hard to know the songs by heart, though I do recognize the melodies and stuff, but can’t name those songs. And that’s the case with several bands I have in my collection, even with bands whose music I like a lot. The band’s debut album, “Tides Of Opinion” will be in my possession soon enough. It was also interesting to hear “On Fire”, which is, as guitarist Stevie told me, the band’s oldest song. It was never released, but recordings exist of it. Let’s hope they’ll put it on their next album, then… and not as a bonus track.

Other than that, I can say the Belgian crowd loved what these Irish brought. There was a great vibe, lots of energy, lots of positive feedback. The band as well, especially new guitarist Dee, helped in putting on quite a show, while Stevie remained rather humble and bassist Dave even more, often covered from view by the active Dee.

Son Of Carthage **
Leaning On An Arrow ***
Happy Birthday **
America *
Building Castles *
Fingerprints **
Sleep ***
Trick Of Mind ***
On Fire (never released, oldest song of the band)

Pictures can be seen at this location.


Tim Owens is no unknown artist in the world of Metal. He gained experience in JUDAS PRIEST, replacing Rob Halford. With them he made two albums, “Jugulator” (1997) and “Demolition” (2001). I heard a few songs from the first at the time of release, but I wasn’t really convinced. Tim also was involved in WINTERS BANE, CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED, YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN, and more. For example, ICED EARTH, where he also recorded two albums: “The Glorious Burden” (2004) and “Framing Armageddon” (2007). The first was alright, though nothing special compared to the previous ICED EARTH releases. In my humble opinion. “Framing Armageddon”… I was sceptical about it at first, but as I took the time to listen to, I found it was actually very good. Tim’s singing was much better, the music and vocals also formed a better team, so to speak. I’m not familiar with Ripper’s work outside of ICED EARTH (and the few JUDAS PRIEST) songs. The gig in Kuurne would be an excellent occasion to see the man with the powerful pipes at work in the region, instead of e.g. at a festival like Graspop.

Many had come to see Tim Ripper Owens, as the venue became a bit more filled when he and the band were to play their set. I expected lots of own songs, completed with songs from bands in which he used to sing. However, the set consisted mainly of songs from his former bands and only a small handfull of own songs, completed with a few covers. The set also began a little earlier than 23h00, so I missed the first and perhaps also second song. They started with “And…You Will Die” (BEYOND FEAR), although that song stood much lower on the list. After that several JUDAS PRIEST songs followed (“Burn In Hell”, “The Ripper” – perfect for crowd interaction – and “Victim Of Changes”). The DIO classic “Don’t Talk To Strangers” was also played, since Ripper is the frontman of DIO DISCIPLES. While it was well played, I have to say the band played it a little too enthusiastic. Especially drummer Claudio. Each has his own style, but when you compare how Simon Wright played the song live… more with the music, not just throwing yourself at it.

The only ICED EARTH track played was the ballad “When The Eagle Cries”. Not the best track and why only one? Why no stuff off “Framing Armageddon”, for example? WINTERS BANE was also represented through “Heart Of A Killer”. And then the set was a good 45 minutes old. Around 23h45 I found the time right to head home, as fatigue was creeping in. It was great to have seen the Ripper do his thing, clearly sponsored by Monster Energy (cap, tattoo, shirt). 😉

And…You Will Die (Beyond Fear)
Burn In Hell (Judas Priest)
The Ripper (Judas Priest)
Victim Of Changes (Judas Priest)
Don’t Talk To Strangers (Dio)
Scream Machine (Beyond Fear)
When The Eagle Cries (Iced Earth)
Diamonds And Rust (Joan Baez)
Blood Stained (Judas Priest)
Heart Of A Killer (Winters Bane)
Beyond The Realms Of Death (Judas Priest)
The Mob rules (Black Sabbath)
Hell Is Home (Judas Priest)
Human Race (Beyond Fear)
One On One (Judas Priest)
Starting Over (Tim Ripper Owens) (bonus)
Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath) (bonus)

Pictures can be seen at this location.


Long story short, kudos to the people from Metal Mission for organising this event, for getting something else than Extreme Metal to this part of Belgium. 😉 Especially since my favourite genres are Power Metal, Heavy Metal and alike, although I have nothing against the extremer versions of this divine music, it’s just that at some point there’s too much of it. THE DIFFERENCE was solid, as ever. SANDSTONE, the main reason why I attended the gig, were awesome! It must be said, these guys make great music and finally the European mainland can/could witness it with their own eyes and ears.  Seeing Tim Owens at work was a very nice experience, as I’ve never seen him at work before. Another evening well spent, in other words. 🙂