Draconian + Tyr + Warm Up + Rhapsody
Málaga is one of the most abandoned cities for music in the Spanish panorama. In spite of counting with more than 500.000 inhabitants and one of the biggest floating populations in Europe thanks to the beaches of towns as Torremolinos, Fuengirola or Marbella, Málaga is years light away from having a scene of worthy concerts. Yes, they brought The Rolling Stones but that does not justify anything. Most groups of prestige have not come to the capital, only there being some small shows in border towns and of bands that were big in the past but that are now less important (Deep Purple, Status Quo). Fortunately in the town of Mijas for some years an annual festival takes place and the one that I had the opportunity to attend, billed two of the most important bands in the progressive metal? scene.
For the reviewer it is sufficiently patent that 90% of the festival was only heavy metal of a better or worse quality. As I will detail later on, some bands were better than other but far away of anything that could be considered progressive (as much as in attitude as in label). As one of the main premises of progVisions is the objectivity and since many of our readers are followers of this type of bands, here is the chronicle, that will satisfy the fans of Stratovarius and disappoint those of Rhapsody. In any event, what I saw was not progressive metal.
The backing bands:
Around 21.00 PM the local band Draconian started the show, a typical band formed by two guitars, keyboard, bass/vocal and drums that were devoted to offer some mediocre own topics sung in English (horribly pronounced by the way) next to a couple of versions ("Shot in the dark" of Ozzy Osbourne and "We Star" of Dio). The music, as you will be able to imagine, is anchored in the heavy of the 80´s, replete of kneaded scales and of yellowish clichés. The sentence You are of my species: the species of Heavy Metal" that the singer screamed, already gives you an idea. The most progressive thing, an instrumental topic a la Dream Theater style in which they made a mistake three or four times (as a Spanish proverb says, those that are not accustomed to wear panties, get wounded in the seams). The lack of professionality of this people was patent when they asked the public if the keyboards could or not be heard. However, people loved it.
After Draconian played another local band, Tyr. They were the promoters of the concert. In their case the music was also heavy of the 80´s but much worse. The only thing that I liked was the keyboard player that improved the double riffs a la Maiden of the guitarists. The act of the singer was simply lamentable, a mixture of Jim Morrison (in his "mysticism"?), Freddie Mercury (his sense of entertainment?) and Ian Anderson (singing with his head back to the public and moving as if he was suffering electric discharges in the testicles). People got tired.
In spite of the fact that it was supposed to be the time for Rhapsody, at the last moment they incorporated the Catalan band Warm Up. These were really awful, so most of the audience took some time to drink some beers and go to the bathroom.
Interlude/Meet and Greet:
At about 23.00PM I could attend the meet and greet session offered by Stratovarius in which I had the opportunity to verify the kindness and exquisite education of the members of the band, with which I had the opportunity to exchange a few words. I verified Timo Tolkki's height and shared a beer with them. We spoke of different musical topics (mainly of the project Ayreon and the relationship of Tolkki with the classic music) and Jörg admitted his intention of not returning to Running Wild to continue with Stratovarius full time. Really nice guys.
These Italians had created expectations. They are considered next to Hammerfall or Stratovarius, the new stars of the progressive and epic metal. The band came out to scene sheathed in black and more concerned of showing their muscles that in offering a concert. Evidently this kind of bands slacken a lot in concert. In studio they use all kind of samplers, chorals, orchestrations, etc. In concert this is different. The singer was out of breath continuously and he had to lower a couple of octaves in his habitual registrations in studio, and the keyboard player launched sequencers without a pause.
They opened up with "The Emerald Sword" and played 4 or 5 of their better known topics to conclude with "Riding the winds of eternity". People finished very angry with them (they played less time than Draconian or Tyr) and only the performance of the new and stupendous drummer was worth highlighting. In spite of the fact that nobody requested it, the band returned to stage at the sound of the intro (recorded, of course) "Epicus Furor" to discharge their hymn Warriors of ice". Even their fans were disappointed with the intervention of the Italians in scene.
The most expected moment of the night finally arrived. The Finnish Stratovarius had arrived to Mijas to offer the last concert of their European tour. With just 50% of the seating capacity full, a very epic instrumental intro accompanied by spectacular games of lights opened the way to Hunting high and low a perfect piece to open a concert and that took the public to the doors of delirium. The band sounded like a machine of precision, each instrument in its place and Timo Kotipelto's voice gave the first hints that this man is able to sing in studio as in concert. After this topic, a heavy "Millenium" and Against the wind", this last corresponding to 4th Dimension, first work of the band with Kotipelto and with an evident debt to Gamma Ray, that heated up even more the atmosphere. "Kiss of Judas was the following one, with an impressive bass introduction and a potent vocal intervention, the opportunity was given to the public of singing the chorus. Then pieces such as like "Father Time", "Distant skies", the more progressive (for the instrumental intermediate section) "Phoenix" and "Infinity". A tremendous war between Tolkki and Jens Johansson demonstrating their technical quality gave way to Speed of light", a quick track from the album "Episode".
End of the first act. Then came the encores as Save our souls and the ballad "Forever" (original title) in which the most prominent thing was the appearance of hundred of lighters to the air and the contribution of Fabio Leone to the voices, contribution that was not applauded by the public, so Fabio had to retire, with evident signs of irritation. A couple of fleeting interventions of "Paranoid" (Black Sabbath) and "Smoke on the water" (Deep Purple) was the introduction for "Paradise", another topic-hymn that produced the public's delirium and that was the end of the first encore.
After many chants requesting the comeback of the band to the stage, Kotilpeto appeared to play with the audience a la Freddie Mercury before singing Under Pressure". People participated charmed and Timo was really happy of seeing the answer from the Spanish public to which he answered singing fucking good for a while. The strong section of this second encore was the song Black diamond" (another very original title, Kiss used it 30 years ago), in which Johansson made a solo of keyboards... with the nose, and that finished with a total delirium as Timo recorded the audience with a video camera, Jörg threw more than 50 sticks to the public while he played!, and a perfect communion band-audience. The show finished among the eternal applause of an audience surrendered to the band and they had the detail of presenting all their road crew and to dedicate some words in Finnish to their countrymen in the audience (in the Spanish coast many Finnish live).
In definitive, Stratovarius, on the contrary to Rhapsody, convinced the whole public, to fans and no-fans (my case) thanks to their sympathy, their well doing, catching melodies and a band that sounds compact as a Swiss clock. I will die without buying an album of Stratovarius, I will die without accepting that these boys make heavy prog, but I acknowledge that they are great musicians and that they give the public what they request.
Three poor bands that will never have a minimum repercussion, a band with more tricks than Boney M and, to conclude, a good group of heavy metal. That was all. Do you continue thinking that people as Stratovarius or Rhapsody make progressive metal? You have the last word.