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.

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