Sunday, May 26, 2013

Concert Review - Mago de Oz, Metanium - 5/22/13 at Howard Theatre, Washington, DC

Step aside Alestorm - the title of best folk pit now belongs to Mago de Oz. What an amazing show, and amazing energy from the band and the crowd.

That said, there were definitely some downers at this show, the biggest one being that it started over an hour late. We got there a little early, around 7, for a start time of 8. But the opening band didn't go on till about 9:30, so for two hours we had not much to do besides stand around saving at spot at the rail between the bar and the sound booth. Drinks were so heftily priced that I didn't drink at all ($10 for a rum and coke? I don't think I could drink $10 worth of rum in one sitting without passing out) and since it was a Heineken sponsored event, the only beer they were selling - at first - was Heineken. That is, until they ran out, in spite of the ridiculous price of $7-8 for a beer.

Finally the opener, local Hispanic heavy metal band Metanium, came on around 9:30. They seemed to be well known to the sizeable crowd that had gathered by then, with a lot of people jumping during their first song, and small pits thereafter. They played fast-paced NWOBHM or early power metal style heavy metal, a little reminiscent of Iron Maiden and Helloween. Their riffs were energetic and groovy, but their strongest point was their singer, who was capable of both powerful singing and lasting screams. He pulled off Helloween's "I Want Out" as easy as breathing. Overall, they were more interesting than I expected.

After short break, Spanish folk metal band Mago de Oz emerged. In my opinion, they put on a great show. Every song was filled with catchy folk melodies, jump inspiring power metal riffs and anthemic choruses. The energy never stopped; even the ballads cast a spell on audience. Well, there was some down time before "Finisterra" which killed the energy a little, and that song itself was a bit long and wandering. Other than that, they kept things going for their whole set. The crowd was very lively - the pit even took over most of the floor on a couple songs (and we're talking about a floor about a hundred feet across). Even in its most brutal moments, though, it wasn't a very brutal pit; mainly people were jumping, jigging, skipping around in pairs, forming big circles or knots of people with their arms over each other's shoulders. It looked like so much fun, I really regretted wearing a skirt (this always happens when I wear a skirt to shows!). If it weren't for the fact that people were throwing their drinks everywhere and the floor was like a huge slip and slide, I would have gone in anyway. It would have been amusing to see how the Hispanic dudes reacted to a girl in pit, since it didn't seem like something that really happens in the Hispanic metal crowd - although a female friend who did go in the pit said we got grabbed more than at any other show :/

Afterward S. raised the question of why there wasn't any crossover between this crowd and folk metal crowd for acts like Ensiferum and Korpiklaani. I figure it has something do with the language - the crowd for Mago de Oz was almost entirely Hispanic. Also, the style of music is different - Mago de Oz has more of a power metal sound rather than Viking metal, which might explain why more of the typical folk metal crowd isn't drawn to it. I found them through a power metal playlist, and didn't immediately associate them with folk metal. A friend called them "the Spanish version of Iron Maiden" in that most every Hispanic metalhead she talked to in her travels seemed to know this band.

They certainly lived up their reputation, and I'm glad I got to see this great performance by a band outside my usual metal circle.

Next show: A Sound of Thunder's CD release party, June 8

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Concert Review - M3 Rock Festival 2013 (Day 2) - 5/4/13 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

So, this year I actually paid enough attention at M3 Fest to write a real review :P Last year it was a spur of the moment thing, something fun to do on a day off. This year I actually planned to go on the second day, and made S. make me a CD of all the bands so that I could be at least a little familiar with them XD I still went largely because S. was going, and since M3 Fest is near our anniversary, it's kinda become part of our anniversary celebrations..but I was definitely much more into it this year.

We got there a little before Steelheart came on. S. was very excited about seeing them; I couldn't really remember any of their songs. They were loud, especially the guitars - maybe even too loud; there was some feedback which made the guitars indistinct. The singer had a strong voice and was jumping around, and the bassist (an old bald guy) was also spinning around and doing other antics. They sounded great for a band near the bottom of the bill - good vocals and heavy guitars with strong metal riffs.

There was a little break, with no one on the "Festival" stage, and then Trixter came on the main stage. They had clearer guitars than Steelheart, but did not sound as metal. The backing vocals, done by band members, were horrible (I'm not exaggerating - they were off key and unpolished), and the singer himself was just all right. Their hit "One in a Million" sounded pretty good (minus terrible backing vocals), but otherwise I found them unremarkable.

The next band on the Festival stage, Tuff, was a little better. They had some metal guitar parts (heavy, riffy) such as on "Good Guys Wear Black" and "American Haircore" - I mean, "American Hair Band" - but most of the guitars were bland. The backing vocals were much better than Trixter's (not a difficult feat of course) - maybe because they consisted more of punk-like shouting than singing. I thought the vocals were strong overall. Aside from "American Hair Band," though, the songs were not very interesting.

After that was JSRG (formed by members of Vixen) on the main stage. They were excellent, with great guitar work and strong vocals. I especially liked the vocals, which were a little bit deep and rough, and very powerful. For some reason I was not very familiar with Vixen songs, so I don't recall any specifics about their songs, but I enjoyed their set.

Great White was next on the festival stage. They were good technically - I can't fault their musicianship or vocalist - but they weren't very interesting to me. Their sound leaned more toward the rock end of the hair band spectrum - slow and mellow, not very heavy - which is not really my thing. I dig heavy guitars.

The band I was probably looking forward to most was Japanese metal band Loudness, who played on the main stage. They were (of course) ten times heavier than any of the other bands at M3 Fest. They had great heavy guitars, but like Steelheart, the guitars were a little too loud again. They drowned out the vocals sometimes, or made the vocals and guitars sound mismatched. Still, I enjoyed their performance.

After Loudness, we took a dinner break while King's X played, since S. was not interested in them. I could see why - the bits we heard were pretty generic, fine for background music, not worth not sitting on the lawn though.

Our dinner break ended when hair metal parody band Steel Panther came on the main stage. As I hoped, they were hilarious, and also sounded great. Their ridiculous talk (mostly making fun of each other or making statements like "the heaviest singer at this festival on this stage in this time slot") and over-the-top songs were very entertaining. And if one looked (listened?) past their ludicrous lyrics about getting some in all kinds of comically exaggerated ways, their guitar work and vocals were very good. S.'s friend T. commented that it was a shame they were so far higher on the bill than "the bands they're making fun of," but I thought it was with good reason - they gave one of the most polished, entertaining and technically spot on performances of the day. Unfortunately, we missed their last two songs ("17 Girls in a Row" and "Death to All but Metal") because Firehouse started on the festival stage.

Coming straight from Steel Panther's bombastic performance, Firehouse seemed a little plain at first, but they sounded good. They played a lot of songs from their first album, which I was most familiar with - "All She Wrote," "Overnight Sensation," "Love of a Lifetime," "Don't Treat Me Bad." Besides that, they only played one or two other songs (I know "When I Look Into Your Eyes" was one of them) - it seemed like a rather short set, at least for so far along in the day. Still, I was stoked to have heard "Love of a Lifetime," my favorite song of theirs. T wanted to pick S up on his shoulders during "Don't Treat Me Bad," but S. refused, so I got him to pick me up instead \m/

Me making T hate his life during Firehouse's set

After that was Twisted Sister on the main stage - the last band at M3 Fest that I was actually looking forward to seeing. I'm not a huge fan of them, but they're one of those iconic bands that I wouldn't want to miss given the chance to see them. Hearing them play "We're Not Gonna Take It" was one of those experiences every metalhead needs to have at least once in a lifetime. I was pretty pleased with their performance overall - Dee Snider's voice still sounds good, his hair looks about the same as in the 80's, and he was running all over the stage. The rest of the band sounded good, too, but it was Dee's energy and presence that carried it. He talked too much, though, going on about shows in other countries and how America has to sing "I Wanna Rock" the loudest, which made the set drag at points.

After Twisted Sister, it was back to the festival stage to see Jackyl. S. and T. were pumped, but I couldn't wait for their set to be over. I find the singer's voice annoying, and his songs and talk crude and not funny. They killed the energy for me; I was ready to leave when they finished.

S. and T. wanted to stay and hear a bit of Bret Michaels, though - even though T. in particular had spent most of the day dissing him. Bret sounded good, but he played too many covers of non-metal songs (such as "Sweet Home Alabama") instead of Poison songs. By that time, it was very cold, and in my opinion, even Poison is not worth standing out in the cold. In addition, he also talked too much, which made it even more boring. I dragged S. and T. away about 3/4 through the set, just before he played "Every Rose Has Its Thorns" (we heard it as we were walking out of Merriweather).

I enjoyed M3 Fest a lot more this year than last year - maybe it was the line-up, the fact that I got familiar with the bands ahead of time, or that I was able to stay the whole day. Whatever the reason, I'm pretty sure I'll go again next year, as long as S. and T. don't mind me tagging along.

S. wrote a review of Day 1 of M3 Fest as well as Day 2, and posted some photos.

Next concert: Mago de Oz, 5/22

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Concert Review - Arsis, Inhumation, Enigma Code, Monarchs - 4/30/13 at Cafe 611, Frederick, MD

Like usual, I'm trying to get this review up quickly before going to another concert... A few days ago, Arsis put on a one-off headline show as the release party for their new CD at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD. I got into them when I saw them opening for Sonata Arctica. They were fast and melodic, and very headbangable; I enjoyed their set and looked forward to seeing them again, especially to the chance to see them headline. This week was really busy, though, so probably wouldn't have gone to seem them if the show hadn't been in Frederick. But seeing as they were right there, there was no excuse not to see them/support them at their headline show.

The best word for this show would be thunderous. Both the one opener we saw and Arsis were a massive barrage of thundering sound, which I think had more do with the venue's sound system and mixing than the bands, cause I don't remember Arsis sounding like that last time we saw them. In spite of being tired and down in the dumps about my life, I had a good time and thought it was a great show, which is a testament to the energy this band puts out.

We missed Monarchs and Enigma Code entirely, cause it took forever to get my daughter to bed (damnable naps at daycare). We heard the last three songs or so of Inhumation, which sounded pretty good to me. Their sound was dominated by rumbling, rolling bass and drums. The vocals were totally indecipherable, just a rhythmic low growl. The singer was out of breath between songs, which I thought was odd. He called for a pit on the last couple songs, but no one obliged him.

Arsis's sound was also thundering, which was when I realized it must be the sound system - they do a lot of death metal shows at Cafe 611, so I guess that's the kind of sound they prefer. The lead guitar was pretty low in the mix, sort of in the background, unfortunately, but I could pick out the melodies if I listened hard enough. I was feeling pretty crappy before their set started, but the energy of their songs wiped that right out of me and got me moving. They were dynamic, energetic, and seemed to be having a great time (this was their party after all), and they were pretty good natured about the fact that only about thirty people showed up to their party (it was a Tuesday night in Frederick). There was no pit, even though the music was fast and heavy enough in some parts. I shoved S a little, but didn't feel like starting pit. At end, S picked up the band's set list and eventually got it signed. And our friend Sc who has awesome hair got a shoutout during the show for having already purchased the new CD XD

I thought they sounded good, even if the sound system skewed their sound toward the heavier elements and obscured some of the melodic parts. It might have been a better show with more people so there could have been an actual pit, but at the same time, sometimes it's nice to see a band with just fifteen or twenty "friends". Now Arsis is on tour with Krisiun, so if they're hitting your area, I suggest checking them out - especially because the first half of the dates feature the amazing Chicago based melodeath band Starkill! (So bummed that they're not coming to my area >.<)

Next concert: M3 Fest - today!