After a prolonged concert dry-spell in Serbia the things have finally started to look better. With a lot of announced gigs in the coming months, Serbian metalheads have a lot to look forward to . The news about two of the greatest contemporary prog metal acts, Orphaned Land and Leprous, visiting us in the same month seemed like a dream. Progtober, as Mjölnir Promotions aptly named this event, took place on two separate dates but at the same venue and with the same guiding idea – to provide people with two memorable progressive shows.
Neither band needs any long introductions, as they already made a name for themselves by producing quality music and providing memorable live performances. Orphaned Land are touring in support of their latest record All is One, while Leprous are supporting their third release titled Coal.
Support: The Mars Chronicles, Matricide and Klone
The doors opened just when the schedule said they would and the first wave of enthusiastic metalheads hurled in, breathing in every single detail in the stage set-up and checking out the bands’ merchandise. Before the venue was full The Mars Chronicles from France hit the stage. A newest addition to the tour roster, the guys were excited to be playing, even if in front of 50 – 100 people. Encouraging the audience to approach the stage, they tried their best to motivate the crowd. Their music could be described as alternative or post metal (regardless of my utter distaste for the term), and their musicianship paired their complex song structures with constant fluctuations of the rhythm and melodies. Combining alternative and progressive rock with technical and groove metal really works well for the guys, because it provides for a healthy dose of energy which is especially important in a live setting. I can honestly say that they were the most pleasant surprise of the evening, save the headliners.
Matricide from Israel quickly took over the stage and brought in a mood swing. Their modern death metal sound got everyone on their feet, jumping around to their fast-paced, heavy and groovy tunes. Their singer Ran Eliahou even paid tribute to Nikola Tesla showing the scientist’s portrait on his T-shirt and stating that none of this would be possible without him, in turn receiving a huge wave of applause from the audience. Their musicianship was impeccable and their sound was superb, considering that they were a support act. The accent was mostly on the guitars, but every other element was fairly distinctive.
The Israeli metalheads passed the torch to the last in the line of support acts: Klone from France. Their avant-garde, progressive sound calmed the aftermath of Matricide’s bombastic performance. Just like with the previous two acts, I had no previous experience with Klone, but listening to some of their stuff on the internet in retrospect I think that they did more than a good job of presenting the tracks authentically live. Even though Yann Ligner’s vocals were pushed a bit back in the mix the amassed audience enjoyed their performance and wholeheartedly cheered as the band “left the building.”
The stage was quickly remodeled for the headliner’s performance. The mood was set by playing a myriad of middle-eastern pop songs on the speakers. You could already glimpse the atmosphere of Orphaned Land’s performance with the audience cheering, clapping and dancing to the vibe of these tracks. As the lights slowly went dim, without a warning, the band moved through the audience towards the stage obviously stunned by the warm welcome as curious hands reached forward to shake hands with the legendary emissaries of peace. Playback of “Through Fire and Water” echoed through the speakers, and as the band joined in to play the second half of the track live, the audience exploded with contempt. People shouting out the lyrics out loud, even though I’m fairly sure no one in the audience spoke the language. The title track of the new album, “All is One” followed and saw people struggling to get as close to the stage as possible. Although the sound was a bit scrambled up front, the positive energy exchange between the crowd and the band made everyone forget about such technicalities and enjoy the band’s inspiring performance. The band covered their entire discography, favoring the last record but making way for tracks like “Birth of the Three (The Unification)” and “Ocean Land (The Revelation) off of their famous record Marbool, as well as “In Thy Never Ending Way” and “Olat Ha’tamid” taken from their previous effort, The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR.
Read our review of All is One here!
The new songs were also well accepted by the audience, with the crowd joining in for “The Simple Man” or “Let Truce Be Known.” However, the spirits were at the highest during the performances of “Sapari” and “Norra El Norra.” The band felt the warm enthusiasm and could hardly hide their own excitement. As a token of gratitude they included a cover of Erkin Koray’s song “Estarabim,” which (as far as I know) they did not play anywhere else on this tour. Kobi Fahri constantly engaged in friendly chit-chats with the audience, talking about the situation in the Middle East and making a few jokes on his expense as well (“I’m Kobi Fahri, I’m a Jew and I’m going to make a deal with you”) which gave the audience a good laugh.
The band’s performance was outstanding, and the aura they were emitting overwhelmed us with positive energy. Orphaned Land are definitely one of those bands whose message is equally important as their music, and the way they presented both proves that they are one of a kind act and true messiahs among metal bands.
Just a few days later another outstanding progressive metal band came to Serbia, for the second time this year. The guys from Leprous have had a negative experience with the Serbian border patrol before (which ultimately led to the cancellation of their show back in 2012), but instead of being discouraged the band came back to perform a stand-alone show in January 2013. Amazed by the warm reception, the band decided to include Belgrade in their tour-table once again, this time supporting their latest effort, Coal.
The support came in the for of a Polish alternative metal outfit, Blindead. Their unique blend of modern progressive and doom metal sounded way better live than on tape, but the performer-crowd relationship was missing. A few people that were present kept their distance from the stage, carefully listening to every note the band produced. The band also did not bother to engage in the clichéd “you are the best audience” charades, and let their music do the talking instead.
As Blindead bid their farewell to the audience, the roadies quickly started setting the stage for the headliners. Leprous’ backdrop featuring the cover art of Coal rose behind the stage as the crowd became bigger and bigger. And then out of the dark of the backstage Leprous came onto the stage.
The band started out with a couple of new tracks off of their latest record, Coal. What instantly caught my attention is how well the band reproduced every note to the point where you were not sure whether you were listening to a live performance or a studio version. This culminated with Einar Solberg’s breathtaking rendition of the complex vocal part at the end of the opening track “Foe.” The energy that the band emitted was incredible. People were up on their feet, supporting the band by singing every melody, every riff and every word the band played. After presenting a few new tracks “The Valley,” “Chronic,” and “The Cloak” the band shifted their attention to their previous releases, Bilateral and Tall Poppy Syndrome with tracks like “Restless” and “Dare You.” The band maintained a constant contact with the audience, with Solberg frequently leaving his keyboards and getting to the front of the stage and as close to the audience as he could. Apart from the backdrop, Leprous’ stage set-up included four LED monitors showing videos that corresponded to the mood of the songs as well as snippets from their official videos. This really made the small venue look spectacular and vastly contributed to the visual aspect of the gig. The sound was outstanding and clear, both in the back of the venue and in the front row.
Read our review of Coal here!
The audience provided equal support to the old as well as the new tracks. A lot of people already knew Coal by heart, and I’m certain that the other half was persuaded to get more acquainted with it after hearing how powerful the band’s live rendition was. Hearing “Echo,” “Contaminate Me” and the title track live really gave the album a new dimension, and the passion with which the band presented their new material is something you don’t get a chance to see in today’s plastic music industry.
The band closed the show with “Passing” and “Waste of Air” (announcing the latter as a slow one), which really gave the ecstatic audience one last injection of pure energy. The band’s performance was so inspiring, that I feel that it would persuade even those who never liked the band to give them a second chance. In today’s music industry where most of the bands rely heavily upon computers and other gimmicks to make a decent album it’s good to hear a band needs nothing but their instruments to make an amazing live rendition of their tracks. I would recommend everyone go and see these marvels in a venue near you – you won’t regret it!