Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Concert Review - Face-Melting Friday feat. Odin's Court, Aries, Flag of the White Rose, Channel Volatile, Sin 4 Sin - 12/13/13 at Sidebar, Baltimore, MD

So this should have been on 2013 - but again I was spending December stressing myself out, and then spent the holiday season de-stressing and hanging with family, and so it didn't get done. But luckily I made detailed notes, so even nearly a month later I can give you a pretty complete run-down of the first three bands!

 I wanted to get out to support the local bands, but not being able to get babysitting so close to another show, I decided to bring my kid. Actually, that's a lie - babysitting or no, I wanted to bring my kid. Inspired by my friend R, who brought her six-year-old daughter to the Finntroll show at Empire, and by the countless other metal parents I've seen everywhere ranging from this summer's Wintersun show to Tuska Fest in Helsinki, I thought it a great opportunity to continue my daughter's metal education. (I tried to take her to the first Face-Melting Friday in August, but we didn't have the proper ear guards and so she was put off by the rather loud and aggressive thrash band Death Penalty.)

This time, we arrived equipped with noise-cancelling headphones. Since the show had been pushed back to 9:00, we were well in time for the first band, Sin 4 Sin. At that point, Iz was still entranced by her Leapster [a kids game device] and didn't respond much to my attempts to move to the music. Sin 4 Sin was very catchy, and their singer had great voice - he could really soar! They were totally party metal, with choruses like "I quit drinking," "My girlfriend always gets arrested," "I want to stay with you through the night." There were a few unusual moments - a punky intro to one song, some black metal cymbal crashes at another point - but they were pretty much rocking hair metal. The guitarist looked kinda of like my friend D (the musical theater actor) right down to his silly facial expressions. I had such a fun time during their set. Iz did draw a picture of the singer on her Leapster; I'll have to see if we can find it.

Next up was Channel Volatile. I had never heard of them, but I felt optimistic - I mean they had a keyboard! How many local bands have that? The singer had awesome extremely spiky shoes, tights with skeletons on them and a rather short black dress. The guitarist looked pretty metal in boots and a military-ish top. But their sound didn't do it for me. In the first song, I couldn't hear much of the guitar or other instruments; they seemed like just background for the vocals. In the second song, the guitar was much louder, overpowering everything else, so that even the vocals sank into the background. But the guitar didn't do much, just some simple melodies or bland background-music-y riffs. There was a cool part in the second or third song where they suddenly went full out with charging heavy metal riffs and enthusiastic, interesting drumming, the vocalist providing heartfelt "Whoooaaa"s over top. There were a few other moments throughout the set where she belted out the vocals a bit more strongly, but in general her vocals were rather lackluster, and too soft. I only really noticed the keyboard in one or two parts. The sound mixing definitely seemed to be an issue with the guitar being too loud, but I found the music rather lacking overall. Iz seemed to like it, though; after her Leapster ran out of batteries, she spent the rest of the set dancing.

By then it was past ten, and I was tired and thinking about leaving - but with Flag of the White Rose up next, I couldn't tear myself away. I planned to stay for a couple songs, but ended up staying for the whole set. They delivered a much more energetic experience then Channel Volatile, and sounded even better than last time I saw them, with headbang-inspiring heavy metal riffs topped off with Kerri's Halford-like vocals. Once again they covered Priest's "Heading Out to the Highway." As soon as they launched into that song, you could hear that while they're trying to emulate that sound, original Priest is a whole other level - tighter, more intense, not a shred of wasted energy or sound. But Flag sounded awesome playing it, which is a feat in itself. They have the image to back up their music - Kerri with her tall red mohawk and metal stud-encrusted leather outfit, the bassist with his police cap and handcuff belt, and the guitarist also sporting some studded accessories on his black denim outfit. (Nick, the drummer, just needs to add some leather or metal studs to his get-up ;) ) Bobbie, the show's organizer, took my daughter up to the front row and showed her how to rock out, and she was jumping around and waving her fist - so I'd say as far as metal education, the night was a success!

After that it was time to go, but we heard Aries start up while we were in the bathroom, and my first impression was that they sounded a bit like A Sound Of Thunder - the thundering heavy metal riffs, the powerful clean vocals. I'll have to catch them another time, since they sounded promising.

When I asked Iz her opinion of the show, she said, "It was really, really, really, really good!" I was inclined to agree; I really enjoyed two of three bands, and even better, I was so happy that Iz enjoyed the show and started on the path to being a metalhead.

Next show: There are a couple of local shows I hope to see this month - gonna try to see Feritas on Friday, hoping to see Demiz later this month, and I think there's a show with Flag of the White Rose even later on. Next big show is Amon Amarth, Enslaved and Skeletonwitch at the end of the month!

Edit: I mistakenly implied that Aries had a female singer. I should have known they were just channeling Priest. A night of 80's influenced music, FTW.