Thursday, February 2, 2012

Machine Head, Suicide Silence, Darkest Hour - 2/1/12 at Ram's Head Live, Baltimore, MD

This was the first concert in a good six months that I was actually
excited to attend. Maybe it was just that I was less tired and
stressed out than usual, maybe that there was no hassle involved in
getting there (Ram's Head is a couple blocks from my place of
employment..). It was also the first in a while where I wasn't bored
and tired and feeling like
can't-wait-till-this-is-over-so-I-can-go-home in a good while. Again
maybe because I actually wasn't tired for once. But was
nice to actually enjoy a concert again.

So now for the actual reviewing..

Darkest Hour was good, although not as excellent as I thought it would be
from my very quick pre-listening the day before. They had some melodic
bits and heavy bits and some bits that were both melodic and
heavy, but I kept wishing they would make the guitars a little heavier
and give the vocals more punch to make it into true melodic death
metal (but this may just be because I wish everything was death
metal..). Also, metalcore kids don't know how to mosh. During one
insanely heavy song, there was NO ONE in the pit. At one point the
singer called for a circle pit, and one guy pushed another around the
floor, and that was it. I had come straight from work and had a bunch
of "luggage" with me, otherwise I would definitely have had to teach
those kids a lesson.

Suicide Silence was great. Ultra heavy, just an all out assault
on the senses (being a bit ADHD, I like music that overwhelms all
distractions in my brain). But it wasn't just the usual grinding-bass
grindcore band; the vocals were more of a black metal shriek, and they
mixed in some other unusual sounds as well.
They varied the tempo, too, with some fast riffs and some slow,
soul-shakingly heavy segments. Overall it was just all-consuming
nonstop heaviness (the singer didn't waste a lot of time talking
either) and it never got boring either. There was better moshing for
these guys but some grindcore silliness too - a few guys doing moves
that reminded me of kung fu drills in the pit.

I thought that with their nonstop delivery of heaviness, Suicide
Silence would blow Machine Head out of the water, but I was
wrong. They weren't as heavy as Suicide Silence, but definitely heavy
enough. Also, they had great riffs and guitar solos, as well as
powerful lyrics and melodies that took the place of overwhelming
heaviness in holding my interest and making me headbang. I didn't
really like their old stuff much before this concert - although I
thought their new album was amazing and that was why I went to the
concert at all - but after seeing them live I have new enjoyment of
their music. The singer delivered a short speech before the first
encore, and usually I'm the jerk that shouts "Play some damn music"
when the band gets speechy, but it seemed like he was really speaking
from his heart, thanking the band's fans and talking about how music
got him through tough spots, as well as high points, in his life, so I
actually listened and was touched by what he said, even though I'm a
relatively new fan of the band. Then the first encore, "Darkness
Within," which starts with a long acoustic segment, convinced me for
certain of the guy's amazing songwriting abilities. That's right, I
said first encore. I think they played three encores. They played for
about 2 hours overall. I was so exhausted by the end, I was leaning on
the barrier in front of the sound tech area thing, but still the music
moved me to headbang till the end.

Overall it was an excellent experience, well worth the exhaustion. It
was also neat to see three bands of such different styles on one
night. You could definitely see the change in the crowd as the bands
changed - but I for one enjoyed all three.

Concert Recap

I'm going to post a review of Machine Head et al pretty soon (I know, my first review in what, five months? So exciting!). First though I thought I should recap what I've been doing since September. It's not that I took time off concerts, just that I was too tired/stressed/busy/lacking-in-internets, etc. to post reviews. Since my next concert is early March, we'll see if the renewed vigor lasts.

So here's what I've been doing since September:

Sabaton, A Sound of Thunder, Oct. 2011, Jaxx: Sabaton = awesome, so Sabaton live = overpowering amounts of awesome. Jumping, headbanging, shouting and singing along. Sabaton is a power metal band that focuses on historical and heroic themes, so they manage to create some seriously inspiring songs. "Uprising" was definitely the highlight of the night. Even more excellently, the amazing local band Sound of Thunder opened for them and got to play an extra long set (for a local band) so we got to hear a lot of their new music.

Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel, Nov. 2011, Ram's Head Live (Baltimore): It was great to see a legendary act like Anthrax in such a small venue. We were behind the pit but it still felt like up close and personal with metal history. Great show and massive pit. Was not a big fan of Testament before but I appreciate them more after seeing them live. We missed most of Death Angel but the song and a half that we did hear sounded good as well. (Thank goodness we didn't hear "Truce," it's an ok song but horribly overplayed on a certain xm radio station.)

Five Finger Death Punch, Hatebreed, All That Remains, Nov. 2011, Ram's Head Live (Baltimore): Hatebreed was the highlight of this show and restored my faith in metal (well, hardcore, so, um, music in general I guess) at a kind of low time in my life. Their music is so in-your-face yet also has a positive spin, I can't help but feel inspired by it (I mean, even their most famously brutal song, "Destroy Everything" goes, "Destroy a new life can begin"). Five Finger Death Punch and All that Remains were probably better than all right, but I wasn't feeling too great and don't really have a clear memory of how they sounded. Except I think this was the show where one of the singers said, "Let me hear all the ladies," and I went ROARRR and several people turned to look at me in surprise.

Korpiklaani, Arkona, Polkadot Cadaver, Dec. 15, 2011, Jaxx: I couldn't remember who the third band on this line-up was and when I googled it I realized why. I don't really care for Polkadot Cadaver at all, I think their music just sounds bad. No epic riffs, powerful vocals, or stellar guitars. We sat out their set. Arkona and Korpiklaani were great, though, of course. I spent most of Arkona's set in the pit, and most of Korpiklaani watching two bigheaded guys ruining the pit for everyone else (by the time it occurred to me to just get in their way and mess up their turning the pit into their personal duel, the set was winding down). And I got S injured in the pit when I dragged him in - oops :( Anyway, it was fun times but not quite as good as Alestorm or Blackguard, I think.