Some 25 years of more or less decent metal photography...


Alrighty the, another redo of my old overview of about 25 years of (attempts at) metal photography. After a failed first attempt to get some shots at a Motorhead show in Leiden with my then new Canon AE-1P, with the standard 1.8 50mm and a flash, I took a more "serious" stab at it when Loudness played the Paradiso in Amsterdam on May 12, 1984, and I decided to bring 1000ASA Kodak film instead of a flash. I got myself a position up against the stage where Akira would play and managed to get some nice pics. I was deaf for days, but hey, it was worth it! Perhaps not coincidentally, the first four shots, of Loudness (Akira and Minoru), Vandenberg (Adje) and Megadeth (MegaDave), all were made at the Paradiso. Most of these analog shots below are actually scans of negatives, and they don't do the quality of the photos too much justice. The prints I still have look quite a bit better, still, after all these years, but I haven't been very successful at scanning those, either. This'll have to do!
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Most of the bands I really liked weren't big enough (and usually never became big enough) to play large clubs or bigger venues, with a decent amount of light for taking pictures. A lot of shows me and my friends would visit were in small clubs, especially the Scum club in Katwijk (NL), an only slightly refurbished munitions depot that opened its doors as we just started our (astro)pyhsics majors at Leiden University, and the internationally even more infamous Dynamo in Eindhoven. Lighting was usually poor in those places, so inevitably a flash would have to be (ab)used, but not before trying to do without one, as in the first four below, of Slayer at the Scum club on May 31, 1985. Below those, Chris Logue (aka. Dr. Santee) of Savage Grace in Scum (also 1985), Andre Corbin of Helstar (Scum, 1988 - no flash!), Vicious Rumors a the Dynamo (1988), Kurt of Holy Terror at the Paard Van Troje in The Hague (1987), and one poor shot of James Hetfield during The Thing That Should Not Be, from a distance at the 1987 Aardschokdag festival (I was supposed to have gotten a photo pass for that one, dammit...). Those were the days!
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In 1989 I moved to Seattle and found that shooting at shows out there was next to impossible with the nazi-style security at shows large or small. It would've been cool to have gotten some pics at shows of Dark Angel, Morbid Angel and Sanctuary/Nevermore, for instance, but alas... One of my favorite bands back then, and really still, was Death. They usually skipped Seattle (can't blame them, as it had turned into a grunge hell-hole by then), so when the ITP tour went for Europe, I decided to fly back home for a long weekend and two Death shows, told Chuck about it and he gave me a photo pass for the Tilburg show (Noorderligt, October 1993). The first thee pics below are from that show, while the fourth, and the two Warrel Dane shots were taken at the RKCNDY in Seattle on the Symbolic tour with Nevermore supporting. I've seen some of these show up in many places around the web, and the third one is probably my favorite shot of Chuck, ever, but again it looks so much better as a 40x60cm print than this. Your metal will flow forever, Chuck!
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My favorite band, just before Death, Atheist, Necrophagist, and Cynic, is WatchTower. Amazing in every sense of the word and the founders of progressive/technical metal. Described as "Metallica meets Rush" or "Slayer meets Zappa", the wunderkinds have set the yardstick by which all other jazzy/fusiony/technical and sincerely progressive metal is measured, and in 20 years no one ever really quite measured up. Even though the pictures weren't quite as good as I hoped (couldn't get away without a flash), I still thought they warranted representation here. Now let's get Mathematics released in 2010, guys! From their last European show at the P60 in Amstelveen (that's basically Amsterdam) on April 3, 2004:
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At this point I meant to venture into digital SLRs, although being Married With Children my visiting shows had dwindled to almost imaginary numbers, and even fewer ones that I took pictures at. But when Necrophagist came to Haarlem in 2006, and they had just made my all-time top-10 as the first new band in a decade, I thought I might give the old EOS another shot with a 1.4 50mm lens. The results were a bit mixed, but that was largely due to the rather sucky lighting at the new Patronaat in Haarlem. Sure, it's better than the temporary venue they were housed in, but with all the wattage going into lighting, they really could've put one or two floodlights in front of the stage to get better illumination. In all, too much light coming from the back, not enough from the front, and this is what you get. Even had to use a flash... Not awful, but it could've been so much better... These were the last old-fashioned film shots I took of a band - so again, as before, these are scanned negatives.
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A few months later, after getting a rather sizeable bonus from work, I decided to go for the Canon 5D with a 24-70mm 2.8 lens. It surprised me how big a jump ahead it turned out to be. The first time I tried it out was at the small, dark Baroeg in Rotterdam, where Sadus (Steve D. in the first shot) played with Darkane and Gory Blister. I knew the lighting there was (and is) the worst I've probably ever seen - about a light bulb and a half, so I wasn't expecting much. Now, they weren't exactly Earth shattering, indeed, and it would take a little more time to get a feel for the camera, but for the Baroeg they were pretty okay. The shot where Darren hands me his pick (they were just going into Freedom, and I was wearing my favorite Death shirt) is one I really like. The other four are of Exodus at the Patronaat in Haarlem - disappointing still, also due to the way they misuse an otherwise decent amount of light there.
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My newfound favorites Necrophagist, Willem II (Den Bosch, NL), March 13, 2007. From here on, I think (at least to first order) there's a slightly upward trend in the quality of the pics. Most of these turned out good, and I just picked four. I'm sure there's things some will object to, but I'm just trying to portray the artist with a characteristic shot, more than trying to be competition to Anton Corbijn or any pro photographer. Would be nice to make a living with this, but for now it's a nice hobby. Muhammed even used one for promotional purposes - not one of these four, though.
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Marty Friedman, De Boerderij (Zoetermeer, NL), April 6, 2007. Okay, the main reason I went here was to meet up with WatchTower's Ron Jarzombek, but Marty got the best light, of course.
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Laaz Rockit, Dynamo (Eindhoven, NL), April 13, 2007. Can't even count the number of times I've seen them, but the pics I got at this Dynamo show are undoubtedly the best. Won't embarrass the guys by putting the old Scum shots next to them :^)
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Cynic, 013 (Tilburg, NL), June 28, 2007. The only time I've been at the small venue of the 013 in Tilburg, but it seemed rather dark. Even used the flash for a bit! Shame on me...
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SymphonyX with Circus Maximus at De Boerderij, February 16, 2008. I got there late and it was packed, so I went for the balcony and tried to get something from up there. Downstairs again, next time, obviously...
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Nightwish with Pain at the HMH in Amsterdam, March 21 2008. Every once in a while I manage to get a photo pass for a large(r) show. This was one of those occasions.
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Death Angel at the Dynamo (Eindhoven, NL), April 5 2008. Didn't expect too much of this one, since it seemed rather dark, but the camera surprised me. I liked the results, anyway! The last two are from a different show a few months later (July 3rd at the Patronaat in Haarlem) with really weird light.
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2008 was a good year for Thrash and great shows, quite a few of them at the Dynamo, of course. Here's Exodus at the Dynamo (Eindhoven, NL), April 14 2008. Light wasn't easy to work with, but I like these.
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Arch Enemy (with Textures) at the Melkweg (Amsterdam, NL), April 19 2008.
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Joe Satriani in the 013 Tilburg (NL), May 10 2008. Lots of light, lots of fun shooting Satch!
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Testament at the Dynamo (NL), June 3 2008. Mark Workman likes his shows dark, so this one wasn't easy. I still like a few of these quite well, though, and the prints came out very nice.
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FORBIDDEN (with November's Doom) at the Dynamo (NL), July 4 2008: classic show - night of the voluminous vocalists :^) ! Amazing return of the Thrash greats playing their classics off the first two albums. Pics turned out unusually well for the Dynamo, too, thanks to good use of the lighting available. My neck hurt for days, old fart that I am by now :^) Unfortunately no pics, the rest of 2008...
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2009 is turning out to be a pretty good year, too, kicking off with the Priest Feast at the HMH on March 23. Testament (first two) and Megadeth (second two) opened - not with my favorite sets, but I hadn't seen them play a fairly big venue like this one before. Hadn't seen Priest in about 20 years either - so now I know how much I aged in the meantime, too...
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Next day off to the Dynamo to see Testament play the first two albums - much more to my liking! Lighting was dark again, but I managed to get some decent ones, and tried to make up for not getting a good shot of Eric yet.
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Pestilence reunion, supporting their Resurrection Macabre at the P3 in Purmerend (NL, of course) on April 25 of 2009. Got some decent shots of their supports too, but I'll stick to these for now.
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Dynamo time again! Helstar (first shot of the singer of their support, Lanfear), May 24, 2009. I especially like the shot of James Rivera.
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Yay, Forbidden time again! This time at De Pul in Uden (NL, as always), on May 29. Light wasn't as good as the year before (see above), but I got some nice ones anyway. Craig and the guys liked them plenty, in any case!
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Lamb Of God at De Melkweg in Amsterdam, on August 1. Like with Arch Enemy, it was a bit difficult to shoot from a bit of a distance, but there's a few nice ones mixed with rather pedestrian ones. Yes, the guitar guy (I'm not a big LoG fan - I'll take 20 year old Bay Area Thrash over them anyday) was that expressionless almost the entire show...
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Show of the year! Finally got to see Atheist and did they ever deliver! They played De Kade in Zaandam on August 9, with Gnostic and Obscura supporting. I'd never been there before, but after asking for less red light and more front lighting, got some decent ones of Atheist themselves. Can't wait to see them and hope their new album (if it's still in the works) will rival Unquestionable Presence!
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September 6, at the P60 in Amstelveen: Cynic with Dosa Jhana (first four shots, fingers crossed I spelled that correctly). At this show and the next, below, I actually managed to mess up the setting of my new D5MkII, but still got a few worth while pics. Unfortunately it was hard to get Tymon while not doing a Cousin It imitation...
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Dream Theater on the Progressive Nation 2009 tour at the Ahoy in Rotterdam, with Opeth (unfortunately wasn't able to make the other two supports). First ten shots are Opeth, the rest Dream Theater, and since it's the last show I've been to, these get a little more attention. It's also the biggest show I ever got a photo pass to, and I guess I was hoping for a little more in terms of lightshow - if only I'd gotten a pass to Rush there... But again, most of them are presentable.
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That's it for now, hope you liked some of them. Maybe I'll make it to Pain Of Salvation at De Boerderij on December 21st, but otherwise nothing planned for this year. All pics by Martin Rugers - contact: nlun3529(at)uni-one.nl, no reuse or reproduction without permission.