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