January 11 this year was a busy day, seeing as Sylvium was due to headline at the Celebrate 2014! gig at Starsound in Utrecht.  Busy as we ever were, not just due to learning a whole new setlist, but also a new song planned for the recording of our second album. And new songs that aren’t recorded yet, simply because they’re still a work in progress, are always a tough cookie.

Even though it was to be a happy environment with two other superb bands, Adeia and Minor Giant, I’d not have the best of weeks and so the drive to Utrecht wasn’t a fun one.

Setup and rolling our gear in after all arriving at two in the afternoon kept my mind off of things as I focused on making sure my amp was set up, seeing as Adeia’s guitarist Wabe was using the speaker cabinet. The whole affair of this gig set up by Freia Music and Layered Reality Productions made this day become one where I had enough opportunities to be distracted by my band mates, our crew helping with the setup and the other bands talking to them about their love for music and other things.

After devouring the Chinese food that was ordered in, we moved into the rehearsal room ( where we work out all our material as well) and started getting ready to do the gig. Whereas I usually watch the venue fill up with people, I decided to distance myself this time and remain as zen as possible. I wasn’t feeling comfortable and I was afraid it was going to show on stage. Taking the time to remain backstage calmed me significantly. I eventually moved out into the venue to enjoy what the other bands had in store that night.
Adeia took the stage first, blowing me away with their massive sound and their unique position that they hold in the Dutch Progressive Metal scene. Not a lot of prog metal bands can incorporate a classic sound that well, but Adeia have proven otherwise.

11950681744_5a9a109774_o         11950240975_bff5d0dd95_o

Minor Giant was up next, playing a stunning set of music best described as the Dutch Transatlantic. After the loud set by Adeia, this was a welcome change in sound, as well as a joy to behold two keyboard players instead of one!
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Then, it was our turn!

And just then, Antal keyboard rig decided to break down.

As Antal sat down to fix his computer ( from which he triggers his soft synths), we waited for about fifteen minutes as we were unable to get any sound out of his rig. But finally, Murphy’s sense of humor ended along with the suspense that was killing us and soon we were on our way into the setlist.

140111-03 Sylvium 038 [Gijs Koopman]         140111-03 Sylvium 003 [Richard de Geest]

The new setlist proved a golden one, with the first half a combination of songs from ‘The Gift of Anxiety’ and two tracks from the ‘Purified’ EP. The crowd was enthusiastic about the songs played and confidently we continued.
The new song, Fade In/Out, was up next. Responses were positive, although we’re still working out the arrangements on that track as we speak to keep it as tight as possible. But we got through it! We ended our set with ‘Heaven’, ‘Weathering’ and ‘Falling’ before setting off into the night once more.


140111-03 Sylvium 039 [Antal Nusselder]          140111-03 Sylvium 019 [Greg Geurtsen] 140111-03 Sylvium 011 [Ben van Gastel]         140111-03 Sylvium 047 [Band] 140111-03 Sylvium 048 [Band]         140111-03 Sylvium 033 [Gijs Koopman, Ben van Gastel, Richard de Geest]

The gig was a marvellous thing to do. Even though I’d had a crap week, performing that night was the required exorcism, so to speak. I’ve been been told by Tom, our esteemed friend who is currently cutting the footage shot at the gig for a DVD ( and is also the lead vocalist of Mind:Soul, a great band you should all check out!), that the footage looked awesome. Beside that, the review we got on progwereld by Mario van Os was so positive, it had me smiling for days. So on to the next gig!


Objects In The Rear View Mirror…

First off, I’d like to apologise for my absence from this blog. Several things kicked off in January, among them a Sylvium gig ( which I will talk about in a different post), a roleplaying event I host yearly with several of my best friends for which I not only am a writer, but also the audio guy and working out new songs with Nur Armata.

But it is with sadness that I relate to you that Nur Armata have decided to call it a day. As much as we were extremely prolific in the past weeks writing new material and working this out during a very powerful and superb sounding rehearsal, finding time and energy to plan another rehearsal and/or recording session to work on the finished material proved impossible. Combining the band with personal life, family ( two of us have children) and work unfortunately ended the band prematurely. In hindsight, this was something that had happened before ( way before I even joined the band in January 2012) but it still came as a surprise to me.
Even though this was a decision made a while back in February, I am still disappointed in the demise of the band. The songs we had were powerful and great, the chemistry felt superb to me. I always hate saying goodbye to a band I was fond of.

I wish Andrea, Patrick and Henk nothing but the best in their next musical endeavours and perhaps, in another time and space, we will get together and work out that music we had. Because the music proved magical.

so, what does this mean for Ghost? Well, that remains to be seen. At the moment I’m very busy writing new lyrics and vocal lines for Sylvium’s second album that we plan to release this year, so I’ve decided to focus on that first and get to recording Shifting Mirrors when I’ve worked out several things. It might mean I can actually release the album in 2014 instead of 2015 ( as related in my previous post) but I don’t want to jump the gun and later recant again after finding out it didnt’work at all. I’d rather make sure everything is well written, recorded and mixed to the best of my abilities and released for your enjoyment at a time when I can also support the album on a tour. But that’s just one of my many planned schemes.


A New Year…

And that was 2013. Oddly enough, I have never counted the last day of the year along, simply because I keep thinking of all the things I want to do in the new year. I find closure and closure is required for such a heavy year as 2013.

There’s plenty set in motion for 2014, one of which being recording and writing the follow up to Sylvium’s “The Gift of Anxiety”. So far, one track is finished, and several other tracks are in the pipeline to be worked out by the band. I wish we could divulge a little bit more about the whole project, but for now I will only say this thing is becoming awesome!
Nur Armata is gearing up for recording the songs we’ve written so far, be it for an EP or a full album. We’ve also begun looking for a keyboard player and bass player to finish the line up we require to play live. For any Dutchies reading this who are musicians themselves or know people looking for an atmospheric postrock/metal band, let us know. You can find us on the interwebs at http://nurarmata.nl/ (dutch website only).

As for Ghost, I’ve had to make a bit of a sad decision: Given my lack of time ( considering I’m busy with Sylvium and Nur Armata), I’m not going to be able to release ‘Shifting Mirrors’ in 2014, as the plan was. Writing and rehearsing with both Sylvium and Nur Armata, plus the fact I have no backing band for Ghost, have pretty much made this a clear cut and indisputable decision. It will allow me to write, record and perform with both bands.
That said, I will be recording “Shifting Mirrors” in the coming year, plus some extras to make up for all the delay to this project. I want this album to be noticed, to resound and leave a mark. I don’t feel I can commit fully to that without a backing band or with my attention with my other two bands. This is not a project I intend to hastily finish and release even faster. This is a project I take very seriously.

So that’s the bad news for 2014. Here’s the good news:

– I can work out a unique marketing strategy for this album. I’m not expecting to become a multi-platinum artist, but I can make sure my music is heard far and wide 🙂
– There will be extra music. Without going too much into detail, this could mean me covering tracks I love or extra b’sides to “Shifting Mirrors”.
– I am currently looking into having several videoclips shot for songs on “Shifting Mirrors”. “Parting The Seconds” will definitely be featured should this plan work out, both financially and scriptwise.

So that’s that! I’m done with 2013, that has turned my personal life upside down several times in a row. I’m ready for a new year of new opportunities, new challenges but most importantly, new and exciting music I get to work on and perform for you all. Be well, I wish you all a great, superb and loving 2014 🙂


Gears of War, continued

A while ago I made a post on some of the equipment I would be using for live shows with Sylvium ( and also with Nur Amata and Ghost, when we’ve got some shows lined up). However, things went awry again as usual. Murphy, seriously dude, we have to stop meeting like this!

The Schecter proved a bad buy, as it was suffering from fretbuzz quite badly. I took it to my local guitar luthier who noted that fixing that guitar would almost amount to the total I paid for the guitar when I bought it. Bit of a shame, but the company where I bought it ( Thomann.de) were quite understandable about the issue and noted I could easily return it to their store for a full refund. So in all, a shame I couldn’t use the guitar in a live situation, but at least I’m happy to see that Thomann keeps up great service. So I went back to the drawing board to work out another cunning plan.

And here it is!

Harley Benton L-1000 Progressive

It’s a guitar I never thought I would’ve bought, but once I got it ( after a friend recommended it to me) I was happily surprised by the level of quality for the price! It’s a Harley Benton L1000-progressive. Coil tapping is impossible on this one, due to the fact it has active pickups, but for now it’ll do as a riffing guitar and occasional solo’s. It played absolutely lovely during the previous Sylvium rehearsal so I’m very happy with it! I’ve also purchased a second hand 6 string acoustic I can use for live gigs, but I’ve been unable to get any pictures of it yet, so I’ll get you those next time I make another gear-anorak post!

Right now, I’m fighting my occasional bouts of GAS ( Gear-Acquisition-Syndrome) and just making lists of the stuff that I need for performing live and/or recording with my bands. A while ago I got this amazing Marshall MA50H with cabinet, which has proven to be a reliable amp during both gigs we did ( the second one I will write about very soon!). However, when confronted with the Bugera 333XL Infinium head and cabinet, I was blown away. It’s a bit thicker and fatter in tone than my MA50H, and delivers a whopping 120 watts instead of the 50 watts I now have at my disposal. So, I may trade said Marshall for the Bugera after having tried it myself. For now, though, the Marshall will stay where it’s at.

Effectswise, I’ve noticed that with Sylvium the sound is just perfect at the moment, although I still occasionally tinker with the effects if I ( or a bandmember) notices that the sound is too loud, too quiet, not doing it’s job etc. The Boss GT-10 has been out of the box a lot the past few weeks and it’s proving to be a proper match ( soundwise, that is) with Ben’s Line6 POD HD. I did notice recently that the effectsloop on the GT-10 is broken sadly enough, so  eventually I am going to have to replace that little bugger, most likely with a GT-100 as I like the Boss units too much.
For Nur Amata, however, I’ve noticed I am wanting to return to using separate effects pedals instead of my GT-10, as Patrick ( Nur Amata’s guitarist) recently upgraded his pedalboard with some new shiny gimmicks and has been having a lot of fun with them. Setting up a build for a separate pedalboard has proven extremely expensive as I know exactly what pedals I am after, but with time I can get those and just build something that is unique in terms of sound design. Having different sounds per band isn’t a bad idea after all 🙂 With regards to Ghost, though, I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I’m sure I can work that out as well in time 😛

That’s the gear-anorak post for this time again, for now you all be well and rock on!

Inspiration Bug And How NOT to repel it…

It’s been quite a busy time for me, job hunting, family related issues and whatnot and, of course, songwriting. Especially the latter since a couple of days.

After finishing up on writing the songs for ‘Shifting Mirrors’, I encountered a dry season with regards to songwriting and simply just sat back and decided to wait for it to return. It always did before whenever dry season would come in sight. That was at the end of 2011.

*cricket noise*

Not counting the lyrics I wrote for Sylvium’s “The Gift of Anxiety’, that’s a lot of work I didn’t do. As for the songs that I wrote for Nur Amata when I joined them early 2012, those had already been written prior to me joining the band. So all in all, it was quite a bit of a quiet period. Truth be told, I didn’t really mind it, I just had other things to take care of back then. Besides, I find that rushing any songwriting that I do screws over the song.

Yet now, I am staring at a notebook with scribblings and scratchings not unlike a painting in the making, be it of course not a visual spectacle but one that will hopefully be enjoyable to your ears.
The first song is one I’ve been working on for Sylvium and am quite badly due to record/work out, as it’s a bit fragmented so far with regards to the pieces. A song in Drop D tuning with 4/4, 6/8, 7/8 and 11/8 time signatures. No lyrics so far, just a fairly mad piece of music that goes by the working title of ‘Coraline’. Incidently, I have never been able to finish a piece of work by Neil Gaiman due to lack of time ( and also because I still have at least thirty odd books or so to finish before I begin new ones, so no bickering! 😉 )
The second song is a piece for Nur Amata that I worked out in Drop G tuning ( after having found out I was mistakenly calling that Drop A tuning). Although the strings on the guitar were quite floppy, I did enjoy playing it. However, the tuning is now back to standard E in 6/8 as it made playing it a whole lot easier and sounded better than having a string sounding floppy ( if that is a proper term for describing strings not wound tight enough!). The lyrics I have so far are only scribbles that seemed to be about disappointment, so the working title for now  is ‘Hollow’.
The third and final song is another piece for Nur Amata revolving more around a standard E tuning ( although I could play it on Drop D as well I found out later) in 4/4. Much more poprock than anything else I’ve written, but with guitar sounds I normally don’t use for Ghost. I have no lyrics for it yet, but found myself mumbling incoherently about driving while playing the bridge part, so it’s working title for now is ‘Keep Driving’. 😛

So right now, I’m just thrilled this has worked out. I’ll work out recordings later this week or perhaps next week if time proves too elusive ( which it very well may be!). There are band rehearsals later this week, so at least I’ll be able to play them some things on guitar/synthesizer and perhaps work out these songs even better. Given that Nur Amata is in full writing mode with several songs, I’m psyched!

songwriting bug

From Here To Oberhausen

The road to Oberhausen isn’t that long for me, given I live about an hour and a half away from the city. Having brought my equipment with me ( and again instantly realising I’d forgotten my guitar stand again :P) we arrived in Germany. Before going to the venue, we found ourselves having to obtain a sticker that proved you could enter the city, as the Germans employ almost mad laws to bar certain ‘un-environmental’ cars from their major cities in the west. Oddly enough, my car was banned from the city ( even though other cars from the same buildyear as mine are allowed). After a bit of a discussion with the mechanic who checked my car, we realised that we would park our cars in a private parking lot and that the chances a ticket for driving into the city with a car that didn’t have the aforementioned sticker was awarded, were next to zero. We decided to take our chances and enter Oberhausen.

As we arrived at the venue, about thirty minutes later Haken arrived as well. The poor guys had been on an eleven hour drive to the venue, so they were royally knackered the entire day. Both bands hauled out their equipment and quickly began setting up the stage.

The venue was situated in what used to be an old West-German factory. Perhaps not the most modern of all places, but it could house about 300 people and had a great location in the middle of town. The stage was a bit small, but that was only a minor issue. At one point though, during our soundcheck, I recall telling the band that at one point I could fall through the stage as where I stood ( centre, in front of the drumkit) I felt the stage shake and groan under the stress of the noise we were making. The stage, however, held it together nicely 🙂

The gig came and went quite rapidly. Going on stage in front of a crowd which had never even heard of us ( half of the crowd didn’t even know there was a support act in the first place!) was a bit daunting, but we held it together and, apart from some minor hiccups, we played a great show. Haken afterwards blew the crowd away, even though they had only had a couple of hours of sleep. Kudos to the men for pulling that off!

After finishing both sets and cleaning out the stage, we all drove back home, content with the work done. Here’s to more gigs, whether they’re abroad or not!

Dutch prog rock band Sylvium in Oberhausen