Sunday, December 29, 2013

Concert Review - Finntroll, Blackguard, Metsatöll, March to Victory, Demiz, Burning Shadows - 12/9/13 at Cafe 611, Frederick, MD

Finally getting around to posting this. December has been rather weird - I managed to make myself feel overworked even though I didn't really have much on my plate, and as a result got almost nothing done. Going to have to plan better for January! Anyway, here's my review of the Finntroll show near the beginning of the month. Luckily I made some notes a few days after the show, otherwise I would have no idea what to say by this point.

So we already caught Finntroll and the other touring bands (as well as more awesome locals) on the first tour stop, but when we found out they were going to be hitting Cafe 611 in Frederick, we had to be there as well, cause Finntroll was sure to tear that place apart! And I'm sure glad we went, cause I had a much better time at this show than at the first one.

We tried to be there early, because like at the first show, a great line-up of local bands was opening. We got there about 7:30, and I went inside just in time to catch the last half, or third, or something of Burning Shadows's last song. I was just getting my layers off (it had snowed the day before) and was just getting into their thundering power metal riffs when they finished and bade the crowd good night :(

As soon as I got inside, I saw that band wasn't set up on the usual tiny stage, but on the left side of floor, spreading into the room back where the second (rarely open) bar is. We had wondered how Finntroll was going to fit on that tiny stage. Now it turned out that apparently they were going to share the floor with us instead :D

The next local band to come on was Demiz, a death metal band from Baltimore. I saw them open for The Agonist over the summer and had been trying to catch them again since then. They got me headbanging with their fast blackened death metal sound. The vocals were indecipherable, and I didn't catch any song titles. My favorite song of the set was "Last Stand" with its melodic, Amon Amarthy lead. That was the only song with much melody to it, but  I picked up their cd afterward (way afterward, just as they were trying to leave), and they sound much more melodic on the cd, with pretty killer solos as well.

Next was another death metal band, March to Victory  from Pennsylvania. They played the same songs as all the other times we've seen them: "Deadly Venom," "Funeral Blizzard Beast" (I think I finally got the title right!), "Consumption," "Soulless" and a cover of Death's "The Philosopher." They were not as fast and furious as Demiz but had more of a rumbling groove. My favorite song of the set was "Consumption" with its very headbangable grooves. Unfortunately they didn't have any merch, otherwise I would have gotten a cd.

Like last time, I was most looking forward to Estonian folk metal band Metsatöll - but I missed their first song (I think it was "Küü") because there was drama and I was talking to my brother in the bathroom. (And yeah, that works.) When we came out, they were playing "Kivine Maa." We started out very close to speakers on the left side. It didn't seem that loud, but later my left ear hurt - oops, now I may have destroyed both ears (the other one was already destroyed by listening to an earbud all day at work). Then they played a song about enslaving women or something, which was insidiously catchy. I started jostling H, and a guy in a kilt said, "We can make it that kind of show!" He became the pit boss for the night and kept things nice and folky. After that I think they played "Vaid Vaprust," which is a great song but too slow for moshing, but after that I got in pit. From the middle of the floor, I got to glimpse Lauri "Varulven" Õunapuu playing the kannel, which is a type of zither. (I shook hands with him later and babbled in a pit-drunk way, and got told for calling it "kantele" - "It's kannel. It's Estonian, not Finnish."). Again they ended the set with "Metsaviha Part 2" and it was even more intense this time - maybe because it was a more intimate setting, and I was in the middle of crowd, clapping along and getting mesmerized by the rhythm. Most of Blackguard came onstage to do backing vocals with them, then they went off, then Paul came back on and stayed for the rest of the song. Then they went off. It seemed like a shorter set than at Empire - we couldn't figure out the setlist afterward to compare (even though someone picked up the actual setlist, I don't think they played those songs in that order). For that reason I was a little disappointed, since I had been looking forward to another long set from Metsatöll.

Canadian symphonic/melodic death metal band (and erstwhile folk metal band) Blackguard was on next, and they sounded way better than at Empire. I think they played the same songs as at the first show, but in a slightly different order - I know there was "Wastelands," "Scarlet to Snow," "Northern Storm," "This Round's on Me," "Firefight," and they ended with another new one, "Dying Season." S hurt his nose headbanging in the pit during "Wastelands" - I think he bashed his head right into someone. It was pretty fun to hear a few of their old folk metal songs and get a bit of a folk pit going.

Finally Finntroll came out, in elf ears as at Empire, and with much more ridiculous face paint - the singer had huge swathes of black paint like Abbath of Immortal. I had so much fun during their set, dancing in the pit and pushing people around, but mainly dancing. Empire used to be the place for folk pits, but I think Cafe 611 may be taking over that title; pits at Empire are getting too brutal. People were pretty rowdy at this show, too, but there were a lot more jig circles than crazy melees. The singer of Finntroll commented that we weren't very good at moshing, but we were dancing our butts off :P He called for a wall of death for one song, that was probably the biggest and most brutal pit, but pretty short lived. I still don't recognize many Finntroll songs, but they sounded good. They had less the look of trolls partying in the forest, and more of trolls partying in a small club, probably due to the fact that they were not really on a stage at all, just sort of in a corner of the room. And we found out that the guy who looked kind of un-Finnish was Brandon Ellis of Arsis, filling in on guitar.

So, it was definitely worth it to go see this tour a second time. Besides the fact that we were celebrating my brother's birthday, it was way more fun than the first show. Definitely hope more folk metal acts will hit up Cafe 611 if this is the kind of crowd we can expect.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Concert Review - Alestorm, TrollfesT, Gypsyhawk, Fallen Martyr - 12/4/13 at Soundstage, Baltimore, MD

Alestorm is one of my favorite bands to see live, so I was pretty stoked to see them doing a headline North American tour. The show was the night before my brother's birthday, so it was supposed to be a birthday celebration for him, too, but he ended up not being able to make it.

At first I was disappointed about the line-up - compared to Finntroll's stellar line-up, Alestorm's seemed especially lame. I had seen TrollfesT at this year's Paganfest, and while they were decent live, I still can't get into their chaotic, brassy sound. I wasn't too familiar with Gypsyhawk but what I'd heard about them - slow, stonerish - didn't make me want to find out more. But the uninteresting openers turned out to be a boon - it meant I didn't have to change my work hours at the library. After working at the library and getting changed at S's place (and scarfing down a burger) we headed to Baltimore.

We got there just as the rotund singer was setting up a wall of death for "Rundt Bålet." The floor wasn't that full, but a solid number of people lined up and the ensuing pit was actually pretty intense. The song itself featured a catchy polka melody played at a wild pace, which I have to admit got me bobbing my head and looking a little enviously at the pit. We saw the singer of Alestorm on floor taking part in a jig, and I felt happy knowing this crowd knew how to do a proper folk pit. Then TrollfesT ended their set with "Helvetes Hund GARM," where they had everyone bark like dogs. There were about a zillion people on stage - including people playing with a vacuum cleaner and a broom, a girl twirling an umbrella, Alestorm's singer with a tambourine, and other band members with maracas. Like last time, TrollfesT ended up being bearable, even kind of catchy, live; I didn't mind being there for their last two songs.

Not too long afterward, Alestorm came out. They didn't seem very loud, yet they seemed to be overwhelming the speaker system - they sounded fuzzy and feedbacky for the more intense parts, such as in "The Quest" and in "Death Throes of the Terrorsquid." The melodies and vocals were nice and clear though. Th pit was energetic, even a little too rowdy - the headbanging line was stumbling about during "Nancy the Tavern Wench," and there was moshing during the chorus of "Captain Morgan's Revenge."

They started out with "The Quest," which is not a song that I'm super familiar with, so I hung back. Then they launched into "The Sunk'n Norwegian" and I had to go jump around in the pit for the chorus. They played a new song, "Surf Squid Warfare," which was all right, with some fun melodies and a kind of slow chorus. I thought it might end up like "Leviathan," another song with a slowish chorus that I didn't dig too much at first, but ending up being one of my favorites. They did play the "In the Navy" cover as expected, which was fun. During "Terrorsquid," local Ethan Looney ("Admiral Derek") got onstage to do black metal vocals, which sounded great. There were a couple instrumental interludes. Besides the volume issues, Alestorm sounded great and delivered a great time. At the end of "Rum" (the last song of the encore), the singer jumped onto crowd declaring "Take me to the bar!" He got as far as pit, the crowd wavered, and then they pushed him back to stage.

Overall it was a fun time. I had been worried about the pit, because the pits at folk metal shows seem to be getting more brutal and less folky recently, but this one was pretty good. There was a guy trying to run the pit who did a pretty good job at getting people to mosh and jig in the right places. The pit was rather more open than I like, since in a pit with a lot of open space it's easy for a small person like me to get knocked down, so I didn't go in as much as I would have liked. Still, it was certainly fun enough, and Alestorm sounded great and had good energy.

Afterward we managed to spot the singer of Alestorm on the floor again, shook hands and took a photo.

Next show: Finntroll, Blackguard, Metsatöll, take 2, on Monday in Frederick (also my brother's birthday fiesta, take 2). With local openers Burning Shadows, Demiz, and March to Victory! Looking forward to an awesome night.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Concert Review - Rob Zombie, Scar the Martyr - 11/27/13 at 930 Club, Washington, DC

We were lucky enough to get a one-off show of just Rob Zombie and Scar the Martyr at 930 Club, right after they ended their tour with Korn. I mainly wanted to go to this show to see Scar the Martyr. They're surprisingly metal, considering they consist of the drummer from Slipknot, guitarists from Darkest Hour and (formerly) Strapping Young Lads, a guy from Nine Inch Nails on keyboards and an unknown singer. Now I don't hate Slipknot like some metalheads, but they're not metal, so I was pretty shocked to find that the drummer's side project is so guitar-heavy and headbangable. Add to that the fact that most new bands coming into the mainstream "metal" scene aren't nearly this metal, and so I was quite impressed with this band's sound. And then of course, I figured this was probably my one chance to see this group live, since most of the members are in other bands and so they might not tour again.

Since I'm a superstar at the library who always gets her work done quickly, I got to take the day off, which allowed me (and S) to get to the venue well in time to see Scar the Martyr's set. I was not a superstar at keeping up with my National Novel Writing Month word count goals, though (hey, 4,000 words a day when you have two jobs and a kid is hard!) so I had to spend the metro ride and all the down time between sets writing on my phone. Thank goodness I have a phone with email now!

Not too long after we got there, Scar the Martyr came out to a surprising amount of applause from the crowd (and it was already quite crowded, too). I guess they had more fans than one would expect for a new band, maybe because of their famous members. I would have been more excited if I hadn't been so worried about my word count, and if I had actually been able to hear them. All we could hear was bass, and it was way too loud, causing feedback. The resulting effect was something like the heavily distorted bass thunder of harsh industrial music - I don't know if that was intentional, to make them fit more with Zombie's industrial sound. It was rather disappointing, though - not to mention a little bland - not to be able to hear the guitars except for a short solo. The vocals were pretty clear, and reminded me at times of Marilyn Manson, HIM and Mr. Lordi, further emphasizing the goth/industrial vibe. Their single, "Blood Host," sounded decent, but the guitars were still too low. They played it faster than on the album, and the guitarists seemed to have trouble doing the back-up vocals at that pace. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed that during what may have been my only chance to see this group, I didn't really get to hear about half of the band.

Between sets, S may have had an exchange with Zombie's bassist Piggy D - a guy with uneven shoulder-length hair and a punkish outfit walked by, and S remarked that he looked like Nikki Sixx. The guy heard him and said no way, he was better looking. S agreed and they exchanged a few more words and took a photo. The guy had a badge, but at the time we couldn't figure out who he was - only later by looking at photos did S figure out he might have been Piggy D.

After a few hundred more words, Rob Zombie (and his band) emerged. I was not too excited about seeing them, and had even considered leaving early to write, since we just saw them at Mayhem Fest and I'm not really a huge Zombie fan. (They're good, but for whatever reason don't get me as pumped as KMFDM or VNV Nation, among other goth/industrial acts.) But just like at Mayhem Fest, the energetic music, costume changes and stage props kept me amused. In contrast to Scar the Martyr, their sound was perfect. There weren't as many (or as enormous) props as at Mayhem Fest (Rob Zombie remarked that they didn't even know how to play club shows anymore and would probably hurt themselves if they tried to do the things they usually do) but Zombie did have a couple different microphones and threw giant balloons into the crowd for one song. A pit broke out right in front of us for the first song (which was surprising since we were on the side and a little toward the back) then moved to the center of the floor. There was a little more moshing after that, and the crowd also jumped energetically on a few songs. Without his giant props to ride around on, Rob Zombie pulled out his dance moves instead; they weren't really impressive. Also, during the guitar solo, he came out into the crowd and stood on the bar shining a flashlight over the crowd, drawing the crowd's attention to him, which I thought was a kind of jerkish move, when the guitarist was supposed to be enjoying the crowd's attention during his solo. Overall, though, I enjoyed the set much more than I expected, and did not mind staying till the end.

Surprisingly, I felt pretty good about the night, in spite of the fact that Scar the Martyr, the band I had really wanted to see, was less than great, and my word count was also hopelessly lacking (I ended the night about 800 words short). What can I say, I guess Rob Zombie really does put on a stupendous show!

Next concert: Alestorm on Weds for my brother's birthday!