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.
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.