Wizz’s Helloween Ball (27/10/2012 – Lotenhulle, Belgium)

Sunday, November 11, 2012 : 0 Comments

Wizz Wizzard, the man behind the Belgian 80’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band WIZZARD annually organizes his own Wizzfest, each time in March. This event aims to bring together (mainly) UK bands and Belgian talents and thus offers diverse mix of music. For certain reasons, the music has to match, though a few extremes don’t hurt. Next year, 2013, will be the fifth edition. To make it more special, it will be an international bill, with bands from other European countries, instead of focusing on the UK alone.

That aside, Wizz has been playing with the idea of having a smaller event later in the year, hence this Wizz’s Halloween Ball. Less bands, same venue, and give other bands the chance to show themselves. For this first edition, five bands were assembled. The original line-up looked like this: POWERSTROKE, GITARON, EXIT STATE, SIREN’S CRY, WIZZARD. Of course Wizz’s own band would also play, for obvious reasons. But as the months passed by, the bill was adapted. GITARON apparently split earlier this year, so local upcoming talents RULE 9 had the chance to open the fest.

Schedule:
Doors: 18h00
RULE 9 (BE): 18h30 – 19h00
POWERSTROKE (BE): 19h30 – 20h00
EXIT STATE (UK): 20h30 – 21h15
SIREN’S CRY (AU): 21h30 – 22h15 (?)
WIZZARD (BE): 22h30 – 0h00 (?)

 

Upon arrival at about 18h20, there weren’t that many people at or in the venue yet. Most were of course IN the venue, as the weather is changing so rapidly, frost has come early this year. Also, it’s the time of year when you can go to several concerts and thus have to make a choice. Or if you can’t make it due to work… So, RULE 9 opening the fest. I had never heard of this band before, couldn’t find anything website-related or even a Facebookpage. I have now, when writing this report. RULE 9 seems to be a young band, age and founding related, don’t have any recordings out, but posted one song on their ReberbNation account. Their songs are fully instrumental and range between Rock and Metal, but they play it calmly and with dediction. You could see they enjoy what they do. The setlist also had DIAMOND HEAD’s hit “Helpless”, but the guys played the METALLICA VERSION, which was nice to hear, although I do think they shortened the song a little. The mics weren’t on, it seems, and the band made no announcements in between songs, something they should have done, even if they would only present the band. Still, all things considered, this was a nice opener, good to “break the ice”, as they say.

Setlist:
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Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Next band was POWERSTROKE with their pounding Groove Metal. I had seen the band about 3 times before, two times when they participated in the Wacken Metal Battle finals and once at Alcatraz Metal Festival in 2010 (see here). Back then I had bought their debut album “Once We Were Kings”. They released the follow-up in January this year (2012) under the title “Awaken The Beast”. I’m not familiar with that one (yet?), but that can change, of course. Fact is that, like the previous time, this quarted again delivered the goods and put on a very good show. Matthys has a powerful, rough, growling voice, but also threw in some cleaner parts. Still, his growl is typical for this band’s sound. There were some sound problems for guitarist Frederiek Nuyt, who solved this by quickly changing his guitar. The song itself didn’t suffer from it, which goes to show how good these guys are. So, in short, another entertaining performance.

Setlist:
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Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

And then it was time to welcome EXIT STATE. I have seen these guys perform at Wizzfest 2011 (see here). Back then they managed to surprise me in a positive way and were one of the best bands on the bill. And although I liked their tunes, my preferences lie elsewhere. Still, it was nice to see this band back at work in Belgium. The band itself was formed a few years ago and they put out their debut album “Death Of A Rockstar” in 2010. Several gigs and much inspiration later, album no. 2 comes out in 2011: “Black Veins”. Again the band stays true to its course: accessible alternative Rock with clean vocals. Melody and powerful guitar- and drumwork go hand in hand and the lads are masters of the art, it seems. In addition, since last year, lead guitarist Adam Stephenson left and was replaced by Matt Harris, who showed at Wizz’s Helloween Ball he is very much capable of doing what he must do. However, truth be told, the ending solo of one particular song (“I know Where You Are” I think it was) did sound sloppy. Other than that, there was a good crowd interaction, the crowd loved ’em. In addition, bassist Phil Ireland couldn’t make it, so Luke Appleton (FURY YK, ICED EARTH) stepped in as replacement. EXIT STATE have a new album in the pipeline, set for release in 2013.

Setlist:
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Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Before WIZZARD would finalize the fest, the Austrian melodic Progressive/Power Metal SIREN’S CRY had the chance to present themselves. SIREN’S CRY is the brainchild of guitarist Pillip R. Porter, who also plays in DIGNITY (they have a new album coming out soon). He founded SIREN’S CRY back in 1999. With that line-up a demo was made in 2002, but never saw the light of day due to various circumstances. After several years, in 2003, SIREN’S CRY was put on hold as only Phillip remained. In 2006, a new line-up was established, this time with a female vocalist (Katie Joanne). The style, it seems, would then also be different (as you can imagine). In 2010 and 2011 a new bassist and drummer were attracted, the last one being Frederic Brünner from DRAGONY. They had their debut album “Legends” re-released in June 2012 by Limb Music Products. You can find the review here. Katie Joanne is featured in one song.

That aside, back to SIREN’S CRY. They self-released their debut album, “Shattered Horizons”, earlier this year. Wizz’s Helloween Ball was their second gig on Belgian soil. The previous evening they played in Brussels, sharing the stage with AZYLYA (BE), HELIANTHA (FR) and EARTHLIGHT (BE), all female-fronted bands. How the response was over there, I can’t tell, but I reckon it was good, seeing which other bands were on the list. SIREN’S CRY stood out in Lotenhulle due to their music (which you could see as a mix of, for examples, DREAM THEATER, FAIRYLAND, EDENBRIDGE, LABYRINTH, DARK MOOR, KAMELOT and similar), which was heavier, more bombastic than the stuff that is usually booked by Wizz. Hence the reference to the day before and even a festival like Metal Female Voices Fest or Prog, Power and Metalfest in Mons (each year in April, next year 12-14 April), for example.

Another reason why the Austrians stood out was because they came after EXIT STATE, so the contrast was big, too big for several people. This caused some problems in connecting with the crowd, though there luckily were a bunch of enthousiasts. I was happy to see them at work, too, especially since this was their first time in Belgium (second gig, but still). Trying to remain open-minded in Metal (yes, one cannot like it all, but there’s not a lot I don’t appreciate), SIREN’S CRY was right up my alley. Not all songs were straight-forward, the Progressive influences came out at some point, though it took a little while. That’s also the case on their album (which is very good, I must say!), one song is more Power Metal, the other more Progressive. The melodic input remained high, although Phillip’s guitar dominated enough. Nice to see how there were some Funky bass moments. Seeing bassist Sören Skupien wear his flat cap on stage added to the atmosphere, the decor/scenery on stage.

As enjoyable as it all was, perfect it was not as minor issues popped up, be them technical or not, but… sometimes the keys couldn’t follow the guitar or the singing (clean and with operatic touches) was some times not spot on. There’s no such thing as perfection, but technical issues can indeed influence the band’s performance. I can relate to that. Still, all things considered, I was/am a happy Metalhead.

Setlist:
Intro
S3v3n
Oratory & Sins
Draconian
Desert
Controversial
Serpents (encore)

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

And last but not least, WIZZARD. What else do I have to write about this band that plays 80’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal? I’ve seen them a few times already (see here and here). The idea now was to record a few songs at this ball to be featured on the upcoming album “Tears From The Moon”, which is set for release in 2013. Obviously the band also played some of the new stuff that will be part of the tracklist. This time, too, the band adjusted their stage a little, using more space, putting the drums much higher and setting it between two ramps for both guitarists. Something several bands have done before, but the first that comes to mind is SAXON. It sort of upgraded the band’s image and popularity. Not that it’s needed, as WIZZARD is well-known in this area of Flanders. But for this occassion, why not? Maybe they’ll use it at next year’s Wizzfest, as that is recorded on video, so it will certainly look cooler then.

The setlist consisted of the usual songs like “Vampires In The Valley”, “Reflections From Hell”, “Crazy Wizzard” and so on. The playing was again very solid and you could feel the band had prepared themselves for this. Sluize (rhythm guitar) was his cool self, as usual, while SMB (lead guitar) stole the show with solo moments. D-Troy was his modest, felt comfortable at the side, while Steve felt like the fish in the water up high on the drums, surrounded by what I think was a new kit (with several bass drums), a little like Vinnie Appice, though not as extravagantly.

At some point, however, one must be cautious for the typical syndrome: seen a band a few times, seen it for a long time to come. I don’t have that yet with this band, but there are some who can’t entertain me  live anymore, even though on CD they make great music and are very skilled musicians. However, I am looking forward to “Tears For The Moon”. 🙂

Setlist:
Demons And Bad Witches
Desire
Reflections From Hell
Crazy Wizzard
Vampires In The Valley
Six Feet Under Ground
Insanity
Tears From The Moon
Renunited
Motorhead Musik
Break Away
Raised On Rock

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Long story short: this first Wizz’s Helloween Ball was good, very entertaining. Sort of like Wizzfest in mini version. Variety that suited my taste (Power Metal!) and brought something new on the plate of the überloyal followers of Pastor Wizz. At some point, it feels like Wizz is the Fred Phelps of Lotenhulle. For those unfamiliar with Fred Phelps, he runs the Westboro Baptist Church. This is no comparison to take seriously, of course. One must admit that the whole thing is damn well organised, with a crew divided into one for tickets, one for booz, and one for the stage to help with the setting up and breaking down, so everything happens smooth and correct. It was another entertaining event for all who were present. Cheers!

More info at https://www.facebook.com/events/326504080726593/
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