Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lamb of God, In Flames, Hatebreed, Sylosis - 11/17/12 at Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD

I was really looking forward to this show. Three great bands, what could go wrong?

We got to the venue just as Sylosis was finishing up. I heard their last song; S went to get a drink. They were pretty listenable, with some energetic and melodic segments, but didn't especially catch my interest.

Hatebreed came out to "America, F**k Yeah" from Team America and immediately got everyone pumped. Pretty much the whole floor was jumping and singing along with Jamey Jasta. I'm surprised I wasn't hoarse after their set cause I sang along to most of the choruses in a low growl, which I didn't even know I could sustain that long. They had a very simple stage show - just the guys playing and Jamey moving around the stage - but they really brought the hardcore energy and got everyone moving with their anthemic and sing/shout-alongable songs (singing along was encouraged by Jamey on just about every song).

They were followed by Swedish melodeath band In Flames, who started with a mellow song and sort of sounded like an 80's rock band compared to Hatebreed. I know In Flames gets a bad rap for not being metal anymore or something, and for not playing some song that everybody really likes, but I thought they sounded all right. They were heavier than I expected, and as they went "back in time" playing older songs, they started to sound more energetic and thunderous. They still had some slow mellow segments in each song, though, and ended with a slow song. There some surprisingly large pits during their set, though, so perhaps they still have some metal cred.

Lamb of God was excellent, and to date the only band I've seen that could share a stage with Hatebreed and outshine them (granted, I've only seen Hatebreed once before). They were loud, fast and heavy, filling the hall with a thunderous barrage of sound, and had lights, spouts of smoke and videos augmenting their performance (no fire for In Flames at the Fillmore - just some banks of lights that blinded the audience). The bass was very loud and the vocals pretty low, so much so that I could hardly hear Randy at first, but I noticed it less as the show went on. The fast but rhythmic music was great for headbanging, and luckily not all of the floor turned into the pit, but we did get shoved a bit.

The show turned out just as good as I hoped. I would recommend it to any metalhead - these are bands you should definitely see if you're into heavy music at all, and you won't be disappointed (unless you expect In Flames to be something that they're not anymore *shrug*)

Next show: I think it's Sonata Arctica and Arsis on 12/9, unless I'm forgetting about something. And after that, Eluveitie and WINTERSUN on 12/19.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Six Feet Under, Cattle Decapitation, Wretched and others - 11/3/12 at Cafe 611, Frederick, MD

I went to this show partly because the one Six Feet Under song I'd heard before sounded great for headbanging, and partly because I wanted to see what Cattle Decapitation was like after all the hype about their recent gory video. And the show was only twenty minutes away, so why not.

I'd never been to Cafe 611, although I'd heard of one or two shows there. It's located on Market Street in downtown Frederick, which seemed like an odd place for a metal show. There was a good sized crowd there, though, and a noticeably different crowd than at Baltimore or DC area shows. The floor was about the same size as at Empire (formerly Jaxx), but without the side areas. There was a small and crowded bar area behind, and a sit-down area that we didn't really explore. On the right of the floor was the office-desk-sized sound booth and on the left was another bar area that was being used to hold the bands' gear. Merch was in another back room, one of the few times I've seen merch somewhere well-lit where you don't have to shout to be heard. The stage itself was tiny, just barely big enough to hold a band and their stuff, and hardly raised or separated from the floor - just like at Krug's Place, it's a wonder no one crashed into the band when things got wild.

Wretched was on when we got there. There were three or four opening acts, but I couldn't escape the house till my daughter had gone to bed, so we missed them. Wretched sounded very muddy and raw - but I suppose that's how underground death metal is supposed to sound. They also had a bit of a black metal sound. I managed to pick out a few headbangable guitar parts and some basslines that moved along with a nice rolling rhythm, but overall found them not that impressive. The singer's pants kept slipping down, and at one point he stepped down from the tiny stage onto the floor, but spent most of that time turned around facing the stage, which I thought was a little odd.

The next act was Cattle Decapitation, who, as I said before, I was curious to see after hearing about their gory new video. I'd heard the band name before, maybe even heard a song or two, but this was the first time I really paid attention to them, because I realized they weren't just using shocking imagery just for shock value, but because they were using their extreme music and visuals to promote (somewhat) extreme progressive views. I hoped I would like them, but that was not to be. There were snippets of strong riffs or bass rhythms in their music and some cool grind and black-metal-like segments, but mostly it just sounded like noise, too much stuff going on at once that wasn't connected. The singer had a very active stage presence, though, so they were decently interesting to see live, but I probably wouldn't want to listen to a recording. There was a lot of drama from the singer about his mic volume - up, down, up.. and a mic that apparently smelled bad.

Luckily, the night wasn't a complete waste of time because Six Feet Under was amazing. Most of my previous knowledge of them consisted of one song, which with its very rhythmic riffs sounded great for headbanging. I hoped this song wasn't an anomaly, and I wasn't disappointed - all their songs (except one suspected to be a Cannibal Corpse cover) had that same slowish and very rhythmic sound. Most songs had some variety in them, though - slower instrumental bridges between intense verses or choruses, some screamed vocals thrown in - with just a few less interesting songs that seemed to have the same riffs and rhythms all the way through. The best song was early in the set, one that sounded like a cover of an old school metal band, maybe Motorhead. I think they also played at least one Cannibal Corpse cover (honestly, not very familiar with the discography of either band), which sounded a lot more chaotic than their usual sound.

It was totally worth it just to get to headbang to Six Feet Under for an hour, and also to see that the people in Cattle Decapitation really are just ordinary dudes (the singer looks like someone's dad).

Next show: Lamb of God, In Flames, Hatebreed, Sylosis, Nov. 17

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dethklok, All That Remains, Machine Head, Black Dahlia Murder - 11/2/2012 at the Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD

The reviews for November will probably be a little abbreviated, because NaNoWriMo has taken over my usual method of note-taking at concerts (texting to email) and the back-up method I discovered (my phone's notepad) is pretty limited. But at least I can give you a general idea.

Anyway, I was looking forward to most of this line-up - except All That Remains. They didn't impress me last year, and the new song they've been playing on the radio seemed wimpy to me. The other bands all seemed like they'd put on a good show, though. Black Dahlia Murder's music is fast and intense, while Dethklok has some of the epic melodic feel of European metal (never mind the hilarious characters). I thought the highlight would be Machine Head, though. They were great when I saw them earlier this year, and I really respect Rob Flynn's songwriting and guitar skills. (On a halfway related note, Suicide Silence opened for them then, and I'm really glad I had a chance to see them, cause they were great as well.)

We were very lucky that this show wasn't earlier, because the first couple of shows on the tour had been canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. So this was actually the first show of the tour.

We got to the venue just as Black Dahlia Murder was starting. (It was exactly 6:30, the time the show was supposed to start, and the rest of the night continued just as precisely, with all the bands going on within ten minutes of their scheduled times.) As expected, they were loud and fast, an intense barrage of sound. They play something like a fusion of fast thrashy riffs with vocals that go from low death growl to black metal shriek in the space of one word - great energetic music. The singer looked like he was having a great time, grinning and jumping about, and the crowd did too - there were only a few small pits, but during several songs pretty much everyone in the front half of the floor started jumping up and down. I had too much stuff with me to jump, but I headbanged pretty happily, especially when they played my favorite song, "Stirring the Seas of Salted Blood." S. said he hoped the singer wouldn't take off his shirt - but he did just before the last song.

Machine Head played the third slot, which came as a little of a surprise and disappointment. I thought they were much more qualified for the second slot than ATR, and I wanted to hear more of their music. Since they were amazing last time I saw them, I had my standards set pretty high, and was disappointed at first - they sounded muddy and the vocals were too low, barely audible at times. (Also, the floor, which had seemed pretty full for BDM, had filled up even more, and Rob Flynn being a little short, I couldn't see him much of the time.) They hit their stride in their third song, however - "Aesthetics of Hate," which they dedicated to the late Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence, and also included a Dimebag Darrell tribute in their visuals. (Right before their set, we were standing by the merch area when a kid in a Suicide Silence t-shirt came up, and one of the merch guys asked if he would let Rob wear his shirt on stage. The kid happily agreed, but apparently Rob didn't have time to put on the shirt, because it was just hanging off the drum kit.) Finally, in this song the guitars began blasting and Rob's vocals sounded stronger, and they killed for the remainder of the set. They played "Locust" a bit faster than they do on the album, making a cool song even better. Their set was soon over, though; it was only five or six songs. I was rather disappointed at the short set, and that we didn't get to hear "Darkness Within," which is my favorite off their newest album.

As a result I felt a little bitter toward All That Remains, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised by them. With the longer set, I was able to hear them play a wider range of songs, and got a better appreciation for their sound. They're also much heavier and intense live than on their recordings - "Down Through the Ages" sounds so much better live than on the radio. During this show, I noticed their guitar work for the first time - I'd never noticed before that their songs had such powerful and melodic guitars. They moved through a range of styles, from anthemic hard rock/classic metal-style songs, to metalcore shouted verses/clean choruses, to the unintelligible death growls at the end of "Some of the People, All of the Time" (is that why it's my favorite ATR song?), and even some grindingly heavy segments. I don't know if this makes me any more likely to listen to their albums (might still find them wimpy) but I was definitely satisfied with their live performance.

After all this, Dethklok was just icing on the cake, but they easily carried the night. They sounded great, with flawless speedy guitar playing and growled vocals delivered by Brendon Small and co. (He had Gene Hoglan on drums; I didn't recognize any other names.) They played several songs off the newest album ("I Ejaculate Fire," "Andromeda," "The Galaxy," "Crush the Industry") as well as classics like "Murmaider" and "Awaken." I wasn't sure what to expect as I'd never seen Dethklok live and wondered how exactly an animated band was going to perform live. Without spoiling too much, they basically showed the music videos for the songs on a large screen, with the stage darkened so that one wouldn't pay too much attention to the live musicians below. There were a few recorded interludes including talking-to's from Facebones and the Dethklok manager, Dr. Rockzo calling for crowd participation, a plot by the Tribunal and some "backstage" antics by the band. The best part, though, had to be the part before the last song of the encore, when all the lights went off except one red one shining straight into the audience and entirely obscuring the stage, and (presumably) Brendon Small proceeded to banter with the audience in the voices of all the band members. (And he talked about Hurricane Sandy, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't entirely scripted - maybe prepared earlier that day, but not a script for the whole tour.) At that moment, it felt almost like the Dethklok band from the show was actually there in the hall (of course, we're probably lucky that they weren't, because that wouldn't have ended well for half or more of the audience). They picked a sort of lackluster song to end on - good, but not as great as the others - but the second to last song (first song of the encore) was "Go Into the Water" and it was absolutely epic.

This was a great show, even with the disappointment about playing order and the first half of Machine Head's performance - Dethklok more than made up for the that, and the rest was pretty enjoyable too.

Next show: was Six Feet Under, Cattle Decapitation and Wretched, 11/3 - the review for this will go up soon.