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!