Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dio Disciples, Disciples of Sabbath, A Sound of Thunder, Bloodlines - 9/24/11 at Jaxx

Although I love Dio, to be honest I went to this concert because A Sound of Thunder was opening. Otherwise it would not really have caught my interest. But A Sound of Thunder is an awesome local band that I hadn't seen for some time, so mainly for their sake (and because S. wanted to) I went.

We got there in the middle of Bloodlines's set and listened to a few songs. I don't have much impression of them. (Sorry, my brain is not completely functional these days. Blame the meds.) S. posted a setlist albeit a very short one for Bloodlines.

Fortunately A Sound of Thunder was second, so we got to hear their whole set. They veer more toward a classic metal sound, although Nina does throw in some harsher vocals every now and then. What I like most about them is that when they get going, they shake the house with their thunderous sound. This time I thought they started out a little quiet. They started with "Walls" which is a pretty catchy song but didn't quite get me moving. But then near the end of second song, "Murderous Horde," came this amazing barrage of sound! I love it when this band lives up to their name! They played some new songs as well as their "classics." Apparently people get mad if they don't play "Blood Vomit" and I'm glad this caused to them to play cause it's one of my favorite songs from their latest CD. They ended with their "theme song," "A Sound of Thunder" which is my all time favorite song by them. I can't wait till their new album comes out but seeing them live is even better. Nina has a powerful voice and I love the way they shake the walls. Oh yeah and at one point Nina used a whip to induce awesome, virtuoso soloing from the guitarist. I just felt bad the guy didn't get any applause cause they went right into a song. I'm sure the whole room would have thundered with applause. ha, ha.

One of their new songs. It's not my video, and I'm not in it either..I'm afraid my hair would get tangled in someone's guitar if I went right up to the front O.o

After that was Disciples of Sabbath, an Ozzy era Sabbath cover band. I'm not a huge Ozzy fan so I was not terribly interested in them. The singer looked a bit like a chubby(er), blond Ozzy, complete with make-up, and they did decent renditions of the songs I recognized (could not for the life of me tell you the song titles S's setlist.)

Last, of course, was Dio Disciples, which was Dio's band with Ripper Owens (Charred Walls of the Damned, Beyond Fear, Judas Priest, Iced Earth) and Toby Jepson (Little Angels, Gun) doing vocals. It was amazing to hear these songs live and performed by such talented people (not just the vocalists but the band as well). As a metal n00b I figured I'd never get to hear them anywhere close to original quality (I was just getting into metal when Dio died) but obviously, this was something quite other than an opening act cover band! The songs I knew well enough to judge were all sung by Ripper and I think he did his best on the lower parts, his high notes didn't quite match the sound of Dio. (But then, the guy's not Dio, and he did do a really good job anyway I thought.) My favorite was "Holy Diver" (too predictable?) I was literally falling asleep on my feet by the end and didn't enjoy the two encores ("Rainbow in the Dark" and "We Rock") as much as I should have. Damnable job interviews at 7 in the morning!

I thought that this was a one tour wonder but apparently Dio Disciples is an actual band. If so, I hope they come around again sometime. RIP Ronnie James Dio. Your music will live forever!

Next review: Would you like me to review Chinese opera?? That's what I'll be seeing tonight XD If it's metal you desire, then the next show on my calendar is Sabaton on Oct. 17 - with A Sound of Thunder opening!! can't wait!!

Kix (Jaxx, 9/17/11) and Corrections

I bet you are wondering if I'm refering to the band you think I'm refering to because Kix definitely is not a folk, power, death, epic or pagan metal band, right? Yeah, that was S's doing, he's a big Kix fan, so I went with him to see a show. They were good. Louder and heavier than I expected. I was tired and felt like crap so I just kind of stood there and listened, and I wasn't familiar with their songs cause I'd spent the week listening to Enslaved and Alcest (for a concert I wound up not going to >.<). But it was fun. The singer was so energetic and crazy - he kept talking about rock and roll hard-ons and jumping around the stage and throwing things like confetti and giant balloons into the audience. Huge crowd too, it took forever to get anything at the bar and the floor was packed.

Here is an example of Steve's craziness. He's telling some story about a woman who threw up all over the floor or something. I couldn't really follow it even when I was there XD

In other news, I have a few corrections to make. For some reason I was under the impression that Enslaved was a Swedish death metal band, when in fact they are a Norwegian black metal band O.o (I could have sworn they said they were from Sweden at Tuska! But maybe they were just messing with us because they also said that in interviews they like to say they are from Finland. assholes! XD) And apparently everything is death metal me.

Also, I'm going to go back and change the post titles so that the bands are listed from the headliner down, as is the convention. I hope this does not cause url's to change in case anyone (probably only me >.<) has linked to the posts. If it does..sorry :(

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Arch Enemy, DevilDriver, Skeletonwitch, ChthoniC - 9/8/11 at Ram's Head Live, Baltimore, MD

aka. Arch Enemy, Devil Drivers, Skeltonswitch, cthohic according to the sign on Ram's Head's door. Way to go Ram's Head! You kept us well amused in the entrance line by inspiring people to do imitations of Toki and Murderface. Good times.

I hope this review will be decent because I wasn't feeling too well by the end of this show, and kind of lost the ability to concentrate.

This was my first time at Ram's Head in Baltimore. It's kind of in the middle of everything by the waterfront, which was annoying to me since it meant a lot of people around, but there was also a 24 hour Subway around the corner which is the best post concert food. Parking at Ram's Head is convenient - the garage is on top of the venue - but it's expensive ($10), and the garage seems sort of dangerous to drive in because of its narrow ramps. Inside is more open than Jaxx (yes, Jaxx is my standard for everything) but not just a huge warehouse like certain other venues. I didn't like the layout at first, with a bar in the middle of an open-ish area with the stage and floor off to the side, but I got used to it, and it was nice being able to see the stage from the bar. I thought the bar area needed more seating, though - tables or something. On the floor, I liked how the stage area feels large because of the high ceiling. There are three floors but only the  bottom was open for this show because the crowd wasn't large - people said that for bigger shows, the two tiers of balconies are open too.

We got there early on purpose because I was not about to miss the first band - ChthoniC, a melodic black metal band from Taiwan that combines Chinese melodies and traditional instruments with overwhelming metal heaviness. They blasted off with a loud, heavy sound right from the start. Like with most melodic bands, the melodies got a little lost in the noise, but the erhu (Chinese two stringed fiddle) segments came out nice and clear, probably since the vocalist, Freddy, was the one playing them. One of the erhu solos got cut short since his bow got stuck somehow, which made me sad. I was also sad that the guzheng that's seen in the video for "Takao" was nowhere in evidence, but I maybe they just couldn't bring everything across the ocean. They played a lot of songs from their new album. And there was almost a fight in the pit.
 ChthoniC rarrrrr
 S. with ChthoniC, it's pretty dark (fittingly so?) but from right to left (this is black metal after all) S., Doris, Freddy, Jesse. And C's merch guy behind S.

The next band was Skeletonwitch, a band that S. rather likes. He says they are blackened thrash, but they sound more like death metal to me, even sounding like Amon Amarth in one song. They had fast, interesting riffs and melodies, and they sounded more interesting live than on their recordings. I confess to not having familiarized myself with them as much as usual before the concert because the week before, I was listening almost exclusively, obsessively to ChthoniC (so flipping good).

I thought DevilDriver did not sound as good as Skeletonwitch, but they were still fast and heavy. They are hard to place genre wise, but I would peg them as some kind of death metal or deathcore. (Wikipedia calls them "heavy metal" which I think is basically a copout from trying to name their genre.) I like the songs from the newest album, "Beast," better than their older ones - the sound is very unique, with this kind of harsh whining sound to the guitars, the intense drumming and the combined growl/scream of the singer's voice. Basically, the "rar" factor of the new album is much higher :P Their sound in concert was a little, uh, blurred, though. (They didn't play "Blur," though; the only song from "Beast" that they played was "Dead to Rights," sadly, but at least they played that song.) Huge crazy pits appeared during their set.

The star of the evening was Arch Enemy, a death metal outfit with a revolutionary agenda. They were pretty good, but unfortunately I was too irritated by some people near me to really enjoy. Angela's voice was strong and vicious for the whole set, which was great. I thought their uniform-like outfits were odd, though - what were they supposed to be, Angela's Anarchist Army? There were several awesome melodic guitar solos, and I liked that they ended their encore with guitar solos, because of course most people are into Arch Enemy because of Angela, so it was nice that the guitarists got to send off the audience. Also, there was a crazy wheelchair guy in the pit - he had people, sometimes big knots of four or five people, pushing his chair around the pit, and he even crowd surfed up to the stage, chair and all. And then came back around to the pit again. Now that's hardcore.

This video shows some of the awesome guitarring. (Be warned though, the camera person must have been jostled by moshers because the camera shakes and jerks around a lot. Do not watch if you are sensitive to that type of thing.) I couldn't find video of the wheelchair moshing sadly :(

Next concert: Not sure. S. is going to see Within Temptation tomorrow and I'm pretty jealous. Enslaved is at Jaxx next week but practical matters may get in the way.

Book review(s) soon because I also finished China Miéville's Kraken.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Agonist, Blackguard, Alestorm, Kamelot - 8/27/11 at Jaxx, Springfield, VA

We braved Hurricane Irene to go see this show and I'm glad we did. Actually the hurricane wasn't that bad - we were so far inland that all we got was a lot of rain, a little wind, a few downed branches and a lot of flying leaves.

We got there near the end of The Agonist's set, in time to hear "Thank You Pain" and one other song. The Agonist is a death metal band, which sounds like you take Arch Enemy style vocals over really fast, thrashy guitars. Their vocalist is pretty amazing, but they lack something in the guitars - more melodies or epic riffs. But they sounded better live - really heavy, and Alissa's clean singing voice (which I don't like as much as her growls) seemed deeper and more fitting with the music. I would probably have enjoyed the set although I don't know if I would have gone on the floor.

Blackguard, a self-described "epic metal" band from Montreal, was next. (This is the first time I've heard a band refer to themselves as "epic metal." I guess it's a new genre for those bands that just sound EPIC without really fitting into death, power, symphonic or folk metal?) I was pretty pumped from their headlining show three days before, although S. and I were a little worried that they would play the same exact set. (They almost did. They didn't play "Fear of All Flesh" this time, that was the only difference.) They did play "Sarissas" again and this time the pit was awesome. The crowd was a little lax though - for the first few songs, they didn't start to mosh until Paul (vocalist) gave the signal. S.said they sounded better at the headline show; I didn't notice any difference. I think I was too busy moshing, and thinking about folk pits, to critique their sound - perhaps not something I should admit on a music review blog! But I am honest to a fault :D

Then came Alestorm, which topped Amon Amarth as the best concert experience I've ever had. Alestorm is what I would call a "pirate metal" band from Scotland. They use a lot of jig-like melodies but are also VERY heavy. To my glee, the singer looked just like he does in the video for "Keelhauled" - frizzly black hair and a ragged white shirt, the image of a pirate. Their performance was excellent - they didn't suffer from the problem a lot of folk and melodic metal bands have, which is that the heaviness drowns out the melodies. Their melodies came out loud and clear, even in the heaviest segments. But the best part of the experience was the crowd. Wild crazy pits for nearly every song. Jigging and headbanging together in a line for "Nancy the Tavern Wench" and "Captain Morgan's Revenge." I even almost got S. into the pit for "Wenches and Mead" and saw (and participated in) a fair bit of jigging in the pit. My watch broke and I got thrown face first onto the floor (by someone that was trying to help me up from a fall just before that no less XD) but it was worth it. Until I go to Wacken or see someone like Megadeth up close, this holds the title of BEST SHOW EVER.

(Side note: Sometime during this concert, I figured out how to mosh with minimal pain from my epic long hair. Luckily, it tends to get stuck between people rather than on people - so when it gets stuck, what I have to do is stop, wait a moment for the people to move apart again and then I can continue. mwahaha.)

"Rum" video. It's not very clear but only one I can find from this show :( I was somewhere in the middle for this song but you can't really make anything out. It's funny how mosh pits look so slow on video, when they feel so crazy at the time XD

I was pretty wiped out after Alestorm, but somehow I stayed standing during Kamelot. They were great, even with Fabio Leone from Rhapsody of Fire as the singer (their singer Roy Khan left the band earlier this year). Anyone who is wondering whether seeing the show is worth it without Roy, I would say YES! Definitely go. You will not be disappointed. Fabio has an amazing voice. (Caveat, though: I haven't followed Kamelot that closely, so the difference wasn't as noticeable to me as perhaps a more diehard fan.) But S., who has listened to Kamelot a lot more, also approved of Fabio. They also had a few special guests including Simone Simons of Epica and the singer from Amaranth.

All right. This is about a week later and I'm finally recovered from the this concert (although a little sore from industrial club dancing two nights ago). Next concert coming up will also be killerrrrr because it is Arch Enemy, DevilDriver, Skeletonwitch and CHTHONIC this Thursday at Ram's Head Live, Baltimore. CHTHONICCCCCC!!!!!

There should also be a book review soon because I have finished reading Tuomas Karhumieli...But when will I have time to type it up???

Sanhedron, Sixteen Cylinder, Vitality, Fallen Martyr, BLACKGUARD - 8/24/11 at Krug's Place, Frederick, MD

I was pretty excited when I found out that as warm-up for their tour with Kamelot, Alestorm and The Agonist, Blackguard would be doing a headlining show in my area. (If you don't know why I'm crazy about Blackguard, read this post.) They'll play a whole set, I thought, which means a bunch of their old stuff! (These days they tend to mainly play songs from Firefight, their latest album, with a few old ones thrown in along with a comment about their fans who've followed them since the beginning of time and how they used to be a folk metal band, which always causes me to throw the horns and yell, "FOLK METALLLLL!" Although before that, they were a black metal band.) But anyway, I digress.

Well, this show started late. By the time we managed to get our butts in gear and get out the door (and stop by Giant for supplies..) it became clear it would be past 9:00 when we got to Frederick. We figured we were going to miss most of the opening bands, which made me sad since the tiny samples that Sixteen Cylinder put up online sounded pretty tempting, and I wanted to hear some full songs from them. But it turned out the show, which was supposed to start at 8, didn't start till 9. We missed Sanhedron, but Sixteen Cylinder was on when we got there.

Sixteen Cylinder is an insanely heavy band, with a little industrial flavor particularly at the beginnings of their songs, and also a female vocalist with a great voice. I was glad we got to see them, disappointed that they didn't have any CDs or merch for sale. I guess they're just working on their first album. They had an amazing, loud and heavy sound for a band that's so new they don't even have an album or full song samples.

After Sixteen Cylinder, we skipped out for a bit. Krug's place is more of a bar and restaurant than a real concert venue - there was plenty of seating, as well as pool tables, in the bar area to the left, and the room to the right where the bands played was jammed with tables, chairs and five bands' gear. The "floor" area was so tiny and the "stage" so small and low, that it was wonder none of the moshers crashed into any of the band members. Things at the venue were pretty relaxed, so it was easy to go in and figuring we were in for a long night, we left and got some fries.

When we got back, Fallen Martyr was on. We missed Vitality, whom S. would have liked to see, but I was not that excited about. Fallen Martyr has a pretty nice sound, and they sound more intense live than on their recordings, but they're still missing something. Their songs tend to be long and ramble a bit, with lots of different pieces that don't quite come together. They have epic and heavy guitars, but the singer doesn't quite live up to the rest of the band. He has a nice voice, but in my opinion he doesn't sing strongly enough - although this was better live than on the recordings; S. thought he would be more suited to a different music genre.

By the time Blackguard finally came on stage - I think it was near midnight, I didn't even dare look at my watch cause I had to go to work the next day - there were only ten or so people left in the floor area. We chatted a bit with Terry (guitarist) earlier in the show, and found out that since Kim (lead guitarist) couldn't make it, they were not going to be able to do any songs from their Profugus Mortis days, only a limited set that the guest guitarist (someone from Destrophy \m/) had learned. And then since they came on late, they announced they were only going to play a short set :(

They started with "Firefight" like usual. I felt like there was something off about the song, but maybe that's just from listening to the album version too many times. Even with a small crowd in a small space, they sounded loud and awesome, and they used the low stage to their advantage - the bassist got on the floor a couple times to join in the pit, and Paul put his hand on people's heads and gave one avid fan the chance to sing into the mic. The highlight of the night for me was that they played "Sarissas," my second favorite song from the new album and one that they don't usually play live; I said to S., "If no one else starts a pit for this song, I think I'll have to." No one else did - so I ran into a bunch of big dudes, who looked at me like I was crazy - I'm female and kind of small, so I don't think they believed I was serious. I couldn't get a real pit going for that song, but I joined in a few more and tried to start a folk pit for "Allegiance." (More about folk pits in the next review XD) Overall, the expected solid, fun performance from Blackguard, and it was just too bad that there weren't more people there to hear them. (S. commented that the advertising for the show and for Krug's Place in general was pretty nonexistent.)

Next review: I believe the one I will post after this is Kamelot, Alestorm, BLACKGUARDDDDD and The Agonist, from 8/27/11

Human Factors Lab, Army of the Universe, KMFDM - 8/20/11 at Recher Theatre, Towson, MD


All right, now that we've got that out of the way. This was an almost excellent concert, the first I went to at Recher Theatre. The venue was all right, it was basically a huge room with no seating and way too much open space for an agoraphobe like me. In spite of the big crowd though, we were able to get pretty close to the front, which is of course the only place to be at a metal concert! Also, it seemed there was food available, which is ALWAYS a plus, although we did not imbibe of food or drinks, perhaps due to the lack of seating, or maybe from not wanting to lose our awesome spot (just behind the pit \m/).

The first band we saw was Army of the Universe, from Italy. Their sound is like you take European dance music, and add some heavy guitars and an industrial beat. They were better than I expected from their Youtube videos - heavier and more danceable. I even enjoyed their Bjork cover, which is rather lackluster on the intarwebz, but soooo heavy and driving live, that I had to dance. Perhaps that wasn't very metal of me, but screw it, that's what this music is made for, what's the point of experiencing it live, loud and heavy if you're not going to enjoy it and let it move you. This is them on the same tour, different city.

I thought that next up was the excellent and amazing Human Factors Lab, so I was a bit disappointed when I realized it was KMFDM setting up (hence the reason for the concert being only "almost" excellent). I guess we got there too late (almost an hour after doors).

KMFDM was great, though. To anyone who is wondering if after 20+ years Sascha and co. have still "got it," the answer would be a resounding yes. Sascha had a fitting mix of energy and industrial cool, and Lucia had a great stage presence, dark and seductive, but also bad-ass. Her singing voice was excellent, sometimes I got a little bored of the shouted lyrics, but the "ultra heavy beat" more than made up for it. I wound up dancing to almost every song and even more awesome, gigantic mosh pits formed for songs like "Megalomaniac" and "Drug Against War". It was awesome to see such metal people going crazy for an industrial band XD

There was a guest vocalist for a few songs, but I couldn't catch his name when he was introduced. Actually, Sascha didn't talk much at all, just played music. I didn't really notice until S. or someone pointed it out afterward.

It was so far the best industrial night of my life, and could probably only be topped by Rammstein.

Next concert: Blackguard, 8/24 and Blackguard, The Agonist, Alestorm & Kamelot, 8/27

One Jump Ahead by Mark L. Van Name

So how about a book review for a change? Anyway, finally posting this..I finished the book back in June and quickly jotted some notes in Wordpad, and then I went to Europe for several weeks and the file languished on my computer..and then I came back and life happened. But anyway. Here finally is my review of One Jump Ahead.

I got it as part of a volume called Jump Gate Twist, which also includes the short story "My Sister, My Self" and the sequel Slanted Jack. I had to return the book before being able to read either of those two, so I may come back to them again later.

It's a far future novel about a mercenary who gets himself in deeper and deeper trouble until, with the help of an (almost unbelievably) unlikely coalition of allies, he manages to fight his way out of his problems. Nonviolently. Yes, our mercenary hero is a devoted pacifist who goes out of his way to trank rather than maim/kill his enemies. I'm not making fun of nonviolence - it's one of my own core values - but the way it plays out seems almost farcical in this novel. It's like the author wanted to write about a mercenary, but couldn't quite make all the violence that would entail mesh with his own value system, so he created this pacifist mercenary to pacify his own conscience. And what happens is that it allows the enlightened violence-disapproving reader to feel ok about reading a book that essentially showcases (watered down) violence as a way of achieving one's aims. Not what the author really wanted, I think.

This mercenary, Jon, is also possessed of magical nanomachines. They're not really magical, supposedly, but I say that because they can do pretty much anything, and Jon can control them on a whim. He usually uses them to heal himself, to create diversions and to melt people's heads (because when confronted with the choice between winning and sticking to his principles, he chooses winning).

Dang, none of this hardcore criticism was in my notes. I am not usually like this either. This book must have touched a nerve!

So anyway, I thought the nanomachines were an interesting idea, but kind of blandly executed. There needed to be more rules, limitations and details regarding how they were used. After the first time that Jon magically got himself out of a tricky situation by calling up the nanomachines and melting someone's head, it got kind of boring since I figured basically he could get out of anything.

My favorite character was Lobo, which was some kind of artificially intelligent, talking armored space-warship type thing. He had much more personality than Jon, who seemed more like a machine than a person. The short story in the volume was about Jon as a teen, and it would have been nice to read that and see what he was like when younger, before the nanomachines and also different in another way I shall not reveal ;)

There were some author's notes at the end of the novel, and usually I like reading those and finding out how the author wrote the book, but this one was rather boring. I would have liked to know more about his inspiration and how he planned the novel, not how he sold it to publishers.

I did, however, like the ending - at least I did back when I read it, who knows if this sudden hypercritical me would have been moved by it. At the time, in spite of Jon's magic-plot-device nanomachines and willingness to bend his principles, I had come to care about him a bit since he did seem to care about doing the right thing and was apparently trying his best to get over a difficult past and find a better life. So this ending brought tears to my eyes, because I hoped that he would indeed find brightness.

"In that perfect black I could see a dark and dangerous universe, but I could also see worlds yet to form, an unwritten future waiting for me to fill it with the bright colors of days to come.
In that moment, I hoped for brightness.
We jumped."

Good endings are hard to write, but I feel Mr. van Name nailed it with this one.

Next review: Tuomas Karhumieli by Ritva Toivola

TUSKA Videos

As promised, yummy videos from Tuska Fest 2011. These are not my videos though, much loves to the wonderful people who recorded them and posted them on Youtube.

Moonsorrow - Aurinko ja Kuu
Moonsorrow - Kivenkantaja - This is from Wacken, not Tuska, but I couldn't find a Tuska video of this song. This is the one I was talking about with the shamanic sound.
Wintersun wall of death
Wintersun - so called "Summer Madness"
Blind Guardian - Valhalla sing-along
Blind Guardian - Nightfall
Enslaved - Allfáðr Oðinn

Turisas - To Holmgard and Beyond
Turisas - Battle Metal
ok, so I didn't see these guys cause they were on Sunday but I just love em!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

TUSKA - 7/23/11 at Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland

So, I know this is very late, but one thing or another has conspired to keep me from typing it up ever since the event and since I got back from Finland. Now I have some other concert reviews piling up, so I need to get this posted, and expect a few more posts in quick succession.

So. I believe Tuska is Finland's largest metal festival, held each summer in Helsinki for three days (I only went for one day, though, because the tickets were so expensive). In the past, I think it has drawn some performers from overseas, but this year the line-up was mostly Finnish, with several Swedish visitors and a smattering of other European bands. Oh and Devin Townsend Project, which I believe is from Australia. The biggest names there - off the top of my head, and with considerable bias according to my tastes - were Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, Epica, Amorphis, Wintersun, Turisas.. I could go on and on.

I went on Saturday, the middle day. Most of the big names like Amon Amarth, Amorphis and Turisas performed on Sunday, but I chose Saturday because I already saw Amon Amarth and Turisas earlier this year, and on Saturday I would have the chance to see Wintersun and Moonsorrow.

Tuska used to be held at a park called Kaisaniemi, but this year it was in what seemed to be an old industrial location called Suvilahti. It was very convenient to the metro - you literally walk about 100 feet from the Kalasatama metro station, following the stream of metallic looking people. I got there early in the day, about 1pm, and there was no line to speak of at the gates. The space inside the area felt a little small, maybe because the arrangement of the vendors and merch booths, food stands and stages created some sort of narrow, winding areas with large open areas only in front of the main and second stage. However, it did not feel cramped, even in the evening when the crowds got bigger, but then again the festival wasn't sold out either.

Facilities at the venue were excellent. There was a veritable maze of portapotties, with no line. There were a couple water fountains for drinking and refilling water bottles. The lines for food and merch were not too long (wait about 5 minutes) and moved fast, especially the line for the Alepa (convenience store) kiosk. The only long waits were at the signing booth, where I waited an hour each of the two times I went (for Wintersun and Epica). The Alepa kiosk was great - you could get sandwiches, ice cream, energy drinks and other basic supplies for very good prices there. (I read on the Tuska website that the prices were the same as in regular Alepa stores around Helsinki. Mad props to Alepa for doing that, it made being at the fest all day much more economical \m/) The area was pretty clean, compared to what I'd seen on the news a few days earlier about a big gathering in a park in Helsinki or Turku, with trash everywhere - at Tuska, there were just cigarette butts everywhere, and a few cans.

I loved the relaxed atmosphere - my favorite part of the day had to be sitting on the ground in the shade of this huge domed thing, eating something called "kebab" which was really not a kebab at all, with a bunch of people I didn't know but felt totally cool with, all while watching Blind Guardian perform not too far away on the main stage. I didn't talk to many people - as I well exemplify, Finnish people are kind of taciturn and not given to small talk - but I felt very comfortable. The Finnish metal scene has a strong goth/industrial edge, so I fit in better than at metal shows in the US ;D

So now to the actual bands. The entire list of performers and schedule for the day can still be found on the Tuska website (and when they can't anymore, well, I guess it means it's time to move on and think about Tuska 2012 XD) I shall just go through the bands that I actually saw and/or was interested in.

Witchery - They were onstage when I got through the winding corridor of vendor booths, and I sort of watched the with one eye while buying stuff at the merch stand (T-shirts!!) and then waiting for Wintersun at the signing booth. They were fast and heavy though not particularly remarkable.

Medeia - Just as I stepped away from the signing booth, it started to rain, and a bunch of people headed into the building where the fourth stage was (only that and the third stage, which was in a huge tent, were covered). I was going in there anyway since it was time for Medeia to start. Medeia is a death metal band from Finland with hilarious videos. This video is my favorite. I don't think they're well known abroad but they definitely had a lot of enthusiastic fans at Tuska. Their riffs were kind of simple but the guitars were very heavy. The last song they played sounded like thunder - always a good sign for a metal band. (I just wish I'd written down which song it was because now I have no recollection >.<)

Moonsorrow - A pagan/folk metal band with a very strong influence from Finnish folk music in particular, which is rare compared to the more jig-like Scandinavian/Celtic sound that a lot of folk metal bands use. Their songs are long and often slow, although in a good way (I think) because of the melodies and folk elements. "Kivenkantaja" (The Stone Carrier) was a crowd favorite. For the first time, I realized the (apparent) influence from Finnish shaman chants - when the vocalist starts in, the guitars, not just the drums, even seemed to imitate the sound a of shaman's drum. Starting from this song, their set got heavier, which made me happy.

Katatonia - Wandered out to see them partway through their set after a having a snack. They were a little lite for my taste. A person who started randomly talking to me said they used to have a heavier sound but their singer damaged his voice and can't do growls anymore, thus the classic metal sound.

Wintersun - Obviously, they were epic. Jari Mäenpää is a god to many Finnish metal fans - though he seemed like a regular dude when I asked him to sign a t-shirt for a friend of mine, maybe a little aloof but what Finnish person isn't? (Digression, you could definitely feel the difference in national personalities between Wintersun and Epica, the former being civil, smiling and perhaps chatting a little with you if you started the conversation; the latter joking, hitting people with flyswatters and all around out to have a good time.) Anyway, so Wintersun was not very heavy but they were FAST. The guitars were sometimes so fast and complicated that it was hard to headbang. They were easily the best performance of the day.

Blind Guardian - As I said before, I listened to them while eating dinner XD I would have been more enthused if it weren't for the fact that I saw BG last December (battling a nasty nasty cold to go the show, too). I was walking away toward the signing booth when "Valhalla" started and I had to back and sing along (best BG sing-along song EVER). I listened to them more while waiting for Epica. As at Jaxx last December, they gave a solid performance and played all the crowd-pleasers like "Valhalla," "The Bard's Song," "Nightfall" and so on.

Enslaved - After BG finished, while I was still waiting for Epica, stages 2 and 3 started up at the same time, and I couldn't make out much except when one of the bands stopped to talk. After getting another shirt signed for another friend, I went to listen to Enslaved while eating ice cream. (What's better than eating something yummy while watching awesome metal? Well, I suppose not eating while watching so that you can HEADBANG or MOSH.) Enslaved, I found out, is an epic Swedish death metal band in the vein of Amon Amarth. Strong melodies and epic riffs. I liked their last song, "Allfadr Odin" so much that I chose to headbang, rather than use the portapotty before dashing out to the metro for a two hour bus ride back to Turku.

Since my mom and I opted for the 9:00 bus (which would let us get back to Turku before midnight), I didn't get to hear Devin Townsend Project (as it was, I just barely made it to the bus terminal in time; but luckily there was a very clean and functional toilet in the back of the bus :D). And I definitely didn't get to go to the afterclub, where Turmion Kätilöt, one of my favorite Finnish industrial metal bands, would have been performing. But as my aunt said, "Leave something for next time!"

Hopefully, next time will be Tuska 2012, just waiting to see who the performers will be, and figure out a way to get airline tickets.... O.o

Next reviews: I have a review of KMFDM already typed up, and need to do one for Blackguard who we saw headlining this past Wednesday. I hope I can get those up before we head out to see Blackguard, Alestorm and Kamelot tonight - braving a hurricane no less!

I will also later proofread this post and add links to wonderfully awesome live vids from the festival....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Urgamla, Axegressor, Primordial - 7/14/11 at Klubi, Turku, Finland; and Summer Wars

Something extra for you today. Not just a concert review but also a short movie review! And there will be a book review when I get back to the States. I finished One Jump Ahead in June but I left the draft of my review on my laptop. So it will be posted when I get back. Now I'm reading Kadonneet Kyyneleet (Lost Tears) by Mike Pohjola, so you may get a double review. And now on to the good stuff...

In Finland, everything is death metal

I thought there'd be this huge metal scene in Finland but it seems to be concentrated in Helsinki and Tampere - then again I have to drive an hour to most metal shows in my area too. But I did find a couple of shows in Turku as part of Hammer Open Air Metal Festival and decided to go see Urgamla, Axegressor and Primordial at Klubi.

Getting into Klubi is a little disorienting but once inside its quite cozy, kind of like Jaxx. You have to go into this alley, down some stairs, through a restaurant/bar area (empty both when I arrived and left), up some stairs and finally you're at the entrance to Klubi Live. The floor is a little smaller than Jaxx (I'm terrible with measurements though so don't ask me what the dimensions are) but there are more tables, chairs and benches for sitting and a little room to the back that I didn't really explore.

Hardly anyone was there when I arrived - and Urgamla had already started even though it was only ten minutes past their scheduled start time. Perhaps in Finland concerts actually start on time? Anyway, Urgamla is a black metal band from Turku with a very brutal and death metal like sound - growled vocals (mostly in Finnish) and heavy guitars, with very headbangable riffs and melodies, and a little folk flavor. They were going for a very evil image - the singer was covered in fake blood and at some point brought out an inverted cross with some candles on it. I wish they had more CDs (they only have two short demos) and/or more stuff on youtube. I liked them better out of the two openers.

Axegressor bills themselves as a thrash metal band and if you really listen for it, you can hear the thrashiness in their songs. The heaviness and melodic touches were more reminiscent of Scandinavian death metal, though, and I (who doesn't like thrash too much, I find it kind of boring) thoroughly enjoyed their set. I thought the singer had some kind of odd shorts on of some kind of printed fabric, and then toward the end I realized they were actually covered in band patches. Hoped he would be hanging out somewhere afterward so I could compliment him on the awesome shorts but didn't happen. However, I just realized that Axegressor will be at Tuska the day that I'm there so I'll get the chance to hear them again, yay.

Primordial, lastly, is a pagan/black metal band from Ireland. They started late and I had to leave early, so I only got to hear 45 minutes of them (4 songs, I think?). But they were well worth the wait and I would happily have stayed for the whole set (although my neck might not have liked me the next day). This is the start of their set (not my video). I was shocked to see that the singer had a shaved head since I had the impression they all had lovely long hair, and everyone else in the band had epic long wavy hair. Instead, the singer had corpse paint, but it fit the mood of the songs - a little bit slow paced, but very heavy. I didn't headbang much, because of the slow beat, but there were some epic melodic moments that were quite headbangable. There were a definite Celtic influence and the songs seemed to have Celtic themes, including the fall of Rome. We got to sing along to that one.

For three unknowns - I'd never heard of any of these bands before this concert - this was a great find. Definitely a fan of all three of these bands now, looking forward to seeing Axegressor at Tuska, and hoping Primordial will tour the US.

next concert: TUSKA, Helsinki, Finland, 7/23

Summer Wars

Now for my first ever movie review (on this blog at least).

Someone pointed out a review of an anime movie in the paper, which turned out to be Mamoru Hosoda's Summer Wars. I'm a bit of anime fan but not an expert, so I hadn't heard of this movie or director before. The picture in the paper looked a bit goofy, but it said the director was a big Miyazaki fan, so I figured, it's got to be ok at least. And I was kind of bored. So I went to see it at Turku's biggest (and only) movie theater. There were exactly three other people in the that theater with me - everyone headed to the Harry Potter movie next door.

The movie started out plunging us straight into a virtual world called OZ, moving very fast, with lots of bright colors and cute images - it was very disorienting, and I thought, if the whole movie is like this, then I'm going to get tired of it very fast. But luckily, it soon moved to the "real" world. And once the main conflict emerged - BEGIN SPOILER - OZ, which controls everything from GPS navigation to cell phone and TV transmission, was hacked by a powerhungry AI thing, and an unlikely team of programmers and game fanatics got together to beat it - END SPOILER - I was hooked and followed the story on the edge of my seat.

The characters were not very deep, but easy to relate to - the shy and awkward computer geek, the girl he likes and tries to help, the kid who spends all his time on the computer and turns out to be the game champion of OZ. The girl Natsuki's huge family was very interesting - the aunt who just wanted to watch baseball, the silly kids and the spitfire great grandmother were very memorable. It was probably because there was such a huge cast that no one in particular could be excessively complicated, and props to the director that in spite of the huge cast, I didn't have any trouble keeping track of who anyone was - they were very distinctive (although, I'm not sure I could say for sure how anyone except the most important characters were specifically related. For instance, I have no idea whose kid Kazuma, the game fanatic and martial arts genius, was.)

The action sequences - battles between Kazuma and the hacker, which took place in OZ - were downright amazing. So much fun to watch.

The story a bit simple, so I don't know if this is a movie I would want to watch over and over (unlike other anime favorites like Appleseed and Perfect Blue). But I certainly enjoyed it this time and would recommend it to other anime fans. Non anime fans might find it less than amusing due to unapologetic animatedness of the OZ segments and not quite logical moments (ex. magical girl costume morph) that anime fans take for granted.

Next movie: don't know..I hardly ever watch movies.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sister Sin, Destrophy, Blackguard, Otep - 6/18/11 at Jaxx, Springfield, VA

Ack. So I didn't write up My Enemy Complete and those other local bands like I was supposed to >.< If I get a chance, I still want to do that, since they can use all the promotion they can get. But anyway. While it's still fresh in my mind, let me type up my review of last night's concert.

It was a kind of crazy combination of bands - when I first saw that Otep was touring, and then that Blackguard was supporting her, I thought, how in the world is that going to work out?! I was really looking forward to seeing both of them, but it just seemed like an odd combination. Actually, in addition to the four bands in the title, this goth act called One Eyed Doll also performed last night along with two local bands, Pain and Beyond Black Skies, but we missed those. (Yeah, it's we, not I, now. Life just got a little more interesting :P )

We got to Jaxx in the middle of Sister Sin's set. S. was really looking forward to seeing them, and I was glad we didn't miss them too. They're an "old-school" metal band from Sweden. Their songs are pretty catchy, with a bit more of hard rock sound, but still heavy enough to headbang to on most songs. Certainly the singer, Liv, headbanged plenty. The crowd was not really into it though (they didn't even respond to the "Hey!"/fistpump prompt the first time around >.<), which was a shame since I thought Sister Sin was pretty cool.

Destrophy was pretty good too. Still more of a hard rock sound, but their older songs were pretty heavy. For the two new (and not so heavy) songs they played, they made a big deal out of the fact that they get a lot of play on a certain radio station, and in fact they made a big deal about their CD's and merchandise before most of the songs. I guess they have to promote their stuff, still, it got kind of annoying. Of the new songs, "Closer" was the better one I thought, and I wanted to jump but no one else was into it. Typical Jaxx crowd!

However, I forgive them for that due to the way they received Blackguard. Huge mosh pits! Massive headbanging! If you want to know about Blackguard, see my paean in this post. I thought Blackguard sounded better than ever - they were loud and energetic and Paul's energy was contagious. Their sound seemed a bit out of balance, though - something, maybe the bass, was too loud and it was hard to hear the melodies. They acknowledged their folk metal roots and played a few old songs at the end of their set, but all the folk awesomeness was lost in the noise. I thought their best song last night was "The Fear of All Flesh," probably because it's a song that sounds good loud and made the crowd go crazy.

So speaking of going crazy. OTEP. If you haven't noticed, most of my reviews critique the crowd as much as the band, because I think the experience of being part of the "crowd" is as much part of the metal concert experience as hearing the band. I mean, you could headbang to music by yourself at home - you go to a concert so that you can headbang, fistpump, shout and mosh with a bunch of other metal fans. I'll still enjoy a concert even if there are only a few people listening and I'm the only one headbanging (has happened..) but it's much more fun with a bunch of other people that are into the music too. So anyway. Otep was, well, Otep. It seems like people either love her or hate her; me, I think she's awesome, as much for the artistic way she does things as for her amazing heavy music. She makes songs that, to me, sound a lot like spoken word set to metal music. I wasn't sure how that would work out in a concert setting - does one headbang to spoken word? Well, it worked out really well actually - the heavy music got people moving and Otep's rapid-fire delivery rode right along with it. The mosh pit was massive, at times I thought the whole floor would turn into one huge pit. (And then what would happen to the goth chicks? Haha, I'm mean. I'm not crazy about the pit either because having waist length hair that gets caught on things makes it more painful than I'd really want it to be.) But I had a good time headbanging on the edge of the pit.

Otep didn't come back out for an encore, and we met a diehard fan in 7-11 who complained about how she only played one song from her new album. I'm not that familiar with her new album and like her old stuff better anyway, so I didn't really notice or care about that, but I thought it was kind a of a jerkish gesture not to do an encore, especially since she kept saying things like we were the best crowd she'd ever seen (shows how cynical I am that I wondered if she says that to every crowd). Still, I thought it was a good show, enjoyed all four of the bands we saw and would definitely see any of them again.

Next concert: TUSKA METAL FESTIVAL in Helsinki!!! Saturday July 23!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blackguard, Powerglove, Symphony X - 5/22/11 at Jaxx, Springfield, VA

Ok, well, I thought I would post a review of Asche, a German industrial artist that played at a friend's goth night near the start of May...but then somehow I never had time :( So. jumping ahead to the present time - on Sunday last, I went to see Symphony X, Powerglove and Blackguard. Well, really I went to see Blackguard and Symphony X since I had never heard of Powerglove before.

Let me just wax eloquent about Blackguard for a moment because they deserve a little more spotlight :) They're a band from Montreal that tours like crazy - they were just down here in November with Epica, they were here this week, they'll be back again in June with Otep (weird combo, that). Notice I didn't say what genre of metal they play, I'm about to get to that. So I just got their new CD this weekend - my brother and I bought it together a while ago but he didn't give it to me till the day before the concert. The sticker on the front of the CD recommends it to fans of "Dragonforce, Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom." Three completely different bands! And yet magically, Blackguard IS like all of them - Dragonforce style speed and technical prowess, Amon Amarth style growly singing and epic riffs and Children of Bodom style rollicking good tunes. The Dragonforce comparison is most obvious in a couple parts, and there was also a moment in one song where I swear they sounded like Ensiferum. But really, they're nothing like any of these bands because the combination they've made gives them an amazing unique sound. There are a lot of symphonic bits on this CD, too, something I haven't heard before from Blackguard. So, I'd say they've created their own new genre which we should call.. power-death symphony, or something like that. I think Paul Ablaze (their singer) would agree based on what he says in this interview. "Blackguard has a very symphonic feel to it. I like to say we're a bastardized..the bastard child of power metal, death metal, black metal, symphonic metal kind of all smushed into one in a way..We do have a strong folk element in the music, so we tend to appeal to a lot of fans of Ensiferum and Children of Bodom and a lot of power metal fans, even Dragonforce and Sonata Arctica..." So yeah. They're like all my favorite genres/bands rolled into one, that is to say, PURE AWESOME!

Anyway :P So when I went down to Jaxx on Sunday night, I was actually looking forward most to hearing Blackguard :) And they didn't disappoint, even though they had two substitute singers, since Paul couldn't make it for some reason. The singer from Powerglove did the first few songs with them, and then the guitarist from a local band called Cab Ride Home did the second half. There was definitely a clear difference between their new stuff, which has more of a power metal sound, and their old stuff, which had more of a folk metal sound. They sounded louder and more energetic than they did in November, and it seemed like the crowd was more into it too.

Powerglove was a fun band to see. Metal versions of video game music is their schtick, and they came out with this huge spiky armor on, the drummer had these battle flag things on his back...they threw inflatable hammers and swords, beach balls and Starbursts into the audience, and at the end of their set exhorted the crowd to form a "triangle pit." It was very silly and a lot of fun. Their music was mostly instrumental, which is not really my thing, but the video game music basis ensured that the tunes were catchy (although since I don't play video games, none were familiar to me) and it was upbeat and decently headbang-able. Random video.

Lastly, Symphony X. They're a progressive metal band in the vein of Dream Theater ie. more melodic and symphonic then the more extreme progressive bands. They turned out to be one of those bands that sounds sooo much heavier live than on their recordings. The sound just came blasting out with nonstop heaviness. I don't know them very well, so I didn't recognize any of the first few songs they played, but I enjoyed it anyway because of the power of their sound. I had to leave after the first four or five songs because I still had schoolwork to do, so I didn't get to hear my favorite Symphony X song, "Set the World on Fire" (of course, I couldn't have picked a more obvious one, right?) which they apparently played near the end of their set.

Overall, an excellent, fun concert. I know I'll be seeing Blackguard and Powerglove again - Blackguard next month with Otep - and I hope to see Symphony X again too so I can see their full set.

Next concert - Noise in the Basement (local bands) - My Enemy Complete, Descent to Daylight, Cyberstrike, Chris Beatty - May 30

Don't know when I'll have a book review. Sorry :( Just don't have much time for reading these days.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Evening with Amon Amarth - 5/2/11 at Jaxx, Springfield, VA

So, finally getting this done. I kept falling asleep this week >.< There will be another one right away since I went to another concert of sorts last night, and I want to write that one up too.

So anyway. "An evening with Amon Amarth." Let's just get this out of the way - the show was incredibly epic! (Note I managed to do that without any cursewords.) I've been to a few concerts, but this was the first time I felt like I was really at a "metal" concert. It was the first time I saw that many people at Jaxx with long hair, that many people headbanging, and such a huge mosh pit that lasted more than 5 seconds (Jaxx crowd isn't into moshing for some reason). That metal concert thing where everyone headbangs in unison? It actually happened, which is totally wild for Jaxx - usually people just stand around.

In case you don't know, Amon Amarth is a death metal band from Sweden that sings about Vikings (they have rejected the label "Viking metal," though). A lot of their songs are fast and furious, they do epic-sounding riffs and their vocals are just growly enough to be intense, but you can usually understand at least some of the words. The Viking theme is what really makes them stand out in the sea of death metal bands, and I know at least for me, it's as much the epic themes of their songs as the epic riffs and vocals that draw me to their music.

A lot of people agree - the place was packed on Monday. The line wrapped around the building when I got there, and when I finally got to the door, the line behind me still wrapped around the building. I talked to people who had come up from North Carolina for the show and had driven 6 hours to get there. Obviously, we love us some Amon Amarth in the Mid Atlantic region!

For their first set, they played the entirety of their new album, "Surtur Rising." When they opened up with "War of the Gods," the crowd surged forward, so at the front we were packed in so tight it was impossible to jump, throw the horns or pretty much do anything, until the shoving and moshing started XD I was a little disappointed with the first set though - I felt like a lot of the songs lacked energy; even "War of the Gods" seemed weak and felt less epic than when I had heard it on the radio on the way down to the concert. Of course, on any album there will be songs that are better and songs that are not as good, and since they played the whole album, we had to take the not-so-good along with th excellent songs. "Slaves of Fear," "Destroyer of the Universe" and "A Beast Am I" were among the better ones. Also, I hadn't been able to get my hands on the album before the concert, and I usually find I enjoy songs more in concert when I already know them well, with the rare epic exception. Still, I know most of the lyrics and riffs to "War of the Gods" from hearing it on the radio so much, and I know it's an epic song, yet it seemed to fall a little flat.

Luckily, the second set more than made up for the first, probably since they were able to choose their best, high-energy songs for this one. I didn't realize the band had been around for nearly twenty years (something Johan said), so they had a lot of good material to choose from. They played every song I hoped they would, starting with "Twilight of the Thunder God" and ending with "Pursuit of Vikings," with "Guardians of Asgard," "Cry of the Black Birds," "Runestone to my Memory" and a bunch more in between. Ok, so I lied a little, I hoped they would play "Under the Northern Star," but that's kind of a slow song and would have been a bit of a downer. This set was epic - if poor planning on my part hadn't placed me right at the edge of the huge mosh pit, I would have been headbanging all the way through (perhaps I should thank the moshers for my not having a sore neck the next day XD). Definitely worth the long wait and the huge crowd.

Next review: Asche - 5/6/11

Monday, April 18, 2011

Doubleshot of...well, stuff

Hello and welcome to my castle! Where I rant and rave about books (mainly the fantasy and science fiction variety) and music (mainly the metal variety).

Since it's my first post why don't I start you all off with a doubleshot of the good stuff: a book review and a concert review! w00t.

Stealing Fire by Jo Graham

Stealing Fire starts out from the death of Alexander the Great, and our hero Lydias of Miletus trying to decide which of Alexander's would-be successors he'll throw his lot in with. We don't really get to see his decision; somehow he ends up with Ptolemy, and becomes instrumental in Ptolemy's attempt to hold Egypt (involving the theft of Alexander's body from rivals in Persia..) But this is a lot more than just a story of political intrigue and wars waged for power.

First of all, it's the story of Lydias, who was born a slave, but escapes to freedom, eventually becoming one of Alexander's Companions (elite cavalry) and then Ptolemy's general. We find out a lot about him through flashbacks. He has this very matter of fact voice and personality that carries him through all kinds of adventures and ordeals mostly unscathed, but at times one sees hidden pain leaking through - a lot of pain. He lost a lot, and this is the story of him finally finding a place to belong and people to live happily ever after with.

Secondly, it's also the story of Alexander's vision for a world of different peoples united in brotherhood (albeit brought to this state by violence..) Lydias and Ptolemy often discuss Alexander's ideals, the things that never will be now that he's gone, and the things they still want to fight for - mostly peace in Egypt and Alexandria for Egypt's people and all the diverse peoples that make up Ptolemy's army, to live together in something like equality (relatively speaking for that time period..) This is what makes the novel more than just another bland power struggle.

Thirdly, it's the story of how Ptolemy managed to become Pharaoh of Egypt, and this is the thread that makes me a bit uneasy. Gods, generally Egyptian, speak directly to Lydias and occasionally Ptolemy, helping and guiding them (although ultimately the decisions for how to save Egypt rest with the mortals). Divine intervention is something I don't really like to see in fiction (although I'm guilty as charged); it seems too easy, like god-modding in role-playing. Of course the heroes will win because the gods are on their side.

Overall, though, I liked the book and would recommend it to fantasy or historical fiction fans. The emotional depth of the characters, especially Lydias, was very engaging, and the way Ms. Graham encapsulated the sweep of history in one character's experience was at once epic (battle scenes!!) and human (romance :) ). PG-13 for violence and sex.

Next review: Riot in Chang'an by Han Han or One Jump Ahead by Mark L. Van Name - whichever I finish first!

And now..

A Sound of Thunder, Kat Atomic, Sabaton, Accept - 4/13/11 at Jaxx, Springfield, VA

So, you should know that my concert reviews will be overwhelmingly positive, as first of all I'm not nearly as knowledgeable or picky about music as I am about books, and second since I only go to concerts of bands that I really like anyway, I'm kind of biased from the start.

I went to this concert to see Sabaton - a power metal band from Sweden that is really into military history; almost all their songs have to do with World War I or II. I knew one song by Accept that gets played on the radio, and wasn't planning to stay for them as it was a school night. I was also trying to get there late so that I wouldn't have to sit through the opening bands.

That plan failed; I got there right as they started letting people inside. However, I'm glad I did, because A Sound of Thunder knocked my socks off. Their name fits; their sound was like thunder shaking the building. I didn't go on the floor but I should have (I think I was too embarrassed because I was surrounded by older people..) "A Sound of Thunder" and "Archangel" ("Metal Wings") were my favorite songs from their set. I got their CD, and obviously, the thundering sound doesn't quite come through (unless I turn the stereo way up! But with a kid in the car, that's not always an option), but I'm still impressed and hooked by Nina's intense vocals. She has an amazing voice, powerful and also beautiful, that can be lyrical ("Wood and Steel," "Flesh and Blood") or evil ("My Name is Doom," "Blood Vomit"). Those would be my favorite songs from the CD; I'm looking forward to their next release that will have songs they played at the concert.

The second local band, Kat Atomic, was a little more laid back, and did mostly (all?) covers. I recognized Dio's "Rainbow in the Dark," Heart's "Barracuda" and a couple others. The songs were energetic enough to get me moving although I wished there was more oomph to them. (Then again, I'm not a huge 70s/80s metal fan, primarily because it lacks that "oomph" :P ) Kat Atomic got cut off mid song, apparently because Accept's management was really anal about the schedule, is what I've heard from discussions after the fact. That wasn't really very nice.

Sabaton was as awesome as I expected, although of course their set was too short. If I remember correctly, they started with "Ghost Division" and finished with "Primo Victoria" and then "Metal Machine." After they finished, I heard several people commenting about their "great energy" and I think that's a perfect way to describe it - their fast-paced, overwhelming sound where the music, the beat and the lyrics just carry you along. It's definitely battle music. It wasn't at all hard for them to get people jumping for "Primo Victoria," in fact the singer, Joakim laughed at us (the audience) because we wouldn't stop jumping XD Apparently this was their first ever North American tour - no wonder they were so excited about the crowd's (hugely positive) reaction at Jaxx. And I just read that they're coming back this fall with Evergrey - can't wait!

As for Accept, well, I left before they came onstage, so my impression of them remains that created by hearing "Teutonic Terror" on the radio, namely, a decent band. If it hadn't been a school night I probably would have stayed and enjoyed it. Oh well, some other time.

Next concert: Amon Amarth - 5/2/11 \m/