Friday, February 21, 2014

Between The Buried And Me, Deafheaven, Intronaut, Kindred - 2/20/14 at Empire, Springfield, VA

A little while ago I discovered Deafheaven, crazily enough, through hearing their song "Dream House" on XM radio. Wtf? I thought. No way are they playing something this atmospheric and lovely! But they were, and when I got to work I had to check out Deafheaven more, and fell even more in love. They're up there with Alcest for harshly beautiful, trance-inducing music. So when I found they were touring, I had to go. Even if it meant buying a ticket to Between The Buried And Me.

Deafheaven was the only band I really cared to see, so I didn't bother taking time off work, which meant I got to Empire around 8. Somehow, there was still a line to get in (doors were at 6:30, I think). The show was sold out. By the time I got in, Intronaut had started, and I had my dinner of black bean burger with them as background music. They made good background music - not very distracting, as they were far too slow to hold my interest. I woulda just preferred eating my dinner somewhere with less people. The place was packed.

I met a fellow Alcest fan and we talked for a bit before Deafheaven. Then, the San Francisco-based black metal band took the stage with "Dream House." (It's the only song I can recognize, since they play it on the radio; the rest of the songs blend together into one long cascade of loveliness.) They sounded amazing, and transfixed the crowd. Being near the back, I decided I should kneel on a stool in order to see, and I was a bit distracted trying to keep my balance, so I couldn't quite go into a trance like when I saw Alcest, but there were still parts that carried me away. I had just gone through a rather difficult personal episode, but hearing Deafheaven live purged all the negativity and made me feel so uplifted and alive. I could even forgive their, erm, not very metal appearance with short hair and random shirts (not even black..what sort of black metal is this) by how into it they were. Headbanging (sans hair), the singer and one guitarist dancing around to one melodic part, and the singer getting up close and personal with the crowd. At one point it looked like he was hugging people in the crowd, and he definitely threw himself onto the crowd briefly near the end of the set. It was intense. I only wish I had been able to get a better spot so I could have gotten more into the feel of it, but at least I got to see the band clearly from my precarious perch.

I stayed for a few songs of Between The Buried And Me. I owed it to a friend who really likes them. For her sake, I had tried a couple times to listen to them, but just could not get into them because of the chaotic segments in their music. They'd be doing something lovely or heandbangable with the guitars, and then suddenly go crazy and sound like a mess. Unfortunately, it was even worse live. During the discordant segments, I was almost in physical pain; it was like my soul was being destroyed. It quite possibly wiped away all the good vibes I got from Deafheaven. The ending of the second song was decent and I decided, that's it, gonna leave on a good note. Walked back to the car wishing I had brought my Deafheaven cd so I could get the good vibes back.

I was still glad I went, though. Seeing Deafheaven was worth it.

Next concert: Face-Melting Friday Melodic Metal Edition at the Sidebar, 2/28

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dark Tranquillity, Omnium Gatherum, Exmortus - 2/2/14 at Soundstage, Baltimore, MD

Ok, another late one. Maybe I've been overloading myself with writing commitments lately, or maybe I need to get better about making time for my writing...

Anyway, so this was actually one of my most anticipated concerts this spring. Dark Tranquillity is pretty great, though they're one of those bands, like Iron Maiden and some others, that I just sort of like by default, without actually listening to them very much. But Omnium Gatherum is one of my favorite melodic death metal bands, simply because they are so, so overwhelmingly melodic. They had been on my short list of "bands I really hope will tour the US soon" ever since I found out about them, so I was pretty stoked to find out that they were coming over, and supporting Dark Tranquillity to boot.

We originally planned to get to the show early to see local death metal band March to Victory with their new singer, but due to a gap in babysitting we couldn't head out early enough - and then it turned out March to Victory didn't play anyway. Even though the two European bands had a bus breakdown and were running late. I talked to Bronson of (local blackened death metal band) Demiz and he said March to Victory was there, but didn't play; he didn't know why.

By the time we got there, Exmortus had just finished. I don't know much about them, and since S described them as thrashy, haven't really bothered to check them out. I'm digging melancholy, atmospheric stuff lately and don't have much use for pushing people around in the pit music most days.

Omnium Gatherum and Dark Tranquillity were delayed by a bus breakdown (the bands described it as being stuck in the middle of nowhere in Virginia for hours, drinking beer to pass the time and not knowing if they would make it to the show). There had been some doubt over whether they'd make it, but I think they finally arrived right around the time we did.

Fun people were there to chat with, so it didn't seem like too long before Omnium Gatherum took the stage. They came out to the intro from their latest album, Beyond, and they were actually playing, not just having the intro piped in. As they launched into "The New Dynamic," though I was a little disappointed to find the drums were too loud. Some parts sounded like just vocals and drums, the amazing melodies barely audible. The next song, "New World Shadows," sounded better, and I thought I might actually enjoy this thundering version of Omnium Gatherum, but then in "The Sonic Sign," again it seemed the melodies were being drowned out. That was unfortunate since that song has some pretty awesome melodies. By the end, though, they seemed to have fixed things, because the last song, "The Unknowing," my favorite from Beyond, sounded amazing. Although it has its harsh vocals and the some of the typical melancholy vibe of Finnish metal, Omnium Gatherum's music usually feels more like a ray of sunlight piercing clouds than a somber veil of darkness, and the impression was supported by the singer's appearance - he was so happy, with a huge grin on his face for the whole set. I shook hands with him after show and he was still smiling.

After that, Dark Tranquillity was just icing on the cake. They sounded great, with a perfect mix of melodic guitars and death metal heaviness, and Mikael Stanne's vocals charging through it all. He also seemed to be quite happy to be there, saying how glad he was they made it, thanking the crowd for supporting Gothenburg metal and shaking hands with pretty much everyone in the front rows. There was a decent turnout - about half of the parqueted "floor" area full - in spite of the fact that this was the night of the Superb Owl. (It had seemed like slightly more people during OG's set, but maybe they were just more spread out.) One of the most amusing parts of the night was Mikael Stanne's moonwalking, which he did constantly from one side of the stage to the other. In general, he moved very quickly about the stage. They played a sort of short set, about an hour, and no encore, even though it was still early (about 11 when they finished). Perhaps they were just tired from their traveling ordeal.

It was a pretty solid show. OG's sound and DT's short set perhaps made it less awesome than it could have been, but really, it was great to see two of my favorite bands from my favorite genre, especially considering they almost didn't make it.

Next show: Deafheaven (with Between the Buried And Me) on Feb 20.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Amon Amarth, Enslaved, Skeletonwitch - 1/31/14 at Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD

First show of the year, and I don't even get to it until a week later. That's just my life.

Well, so we went to see Amon Amarth. They were one of the first metal bands I got into, so I think they'll always be one of my top bands :) Besides, Johan Hegg is one of my idols as far as vocals go. I wish I could growl like him. (But since I'm a girl, I don't think my voice will ever be able to go that low.) I was actually looking forward to Enslaved more, though, because they were amazing last time we saw them. I didn't care much about Skeletonwitch; they're better than decent, but I wondered why they couldn't find another Viking-themed band for this tour.

When we got to the venue, they were screening the video for "Father of the Wolf." We were with S's brother and niece, and I tried to convince them to go in and watch the video, but they were hesitant for a while, so the video was almost over by the time we actually went into the stage area.

Not soon after, Ohio's blackened thrash outfit Skeletonwitch took the stage. The Fillmore's stellar sound system did them justice - they sounded better and clearer than I've ever heard them. I got a sort of death metal vibe from them this time, although that may have just been the thundering sound. They definitely did have an Amon Amarthy vibe to some of the leads though, with an epic or rolling sound. I noticed some thrashy and black metal moments, too, but my overall impression was much more groovy and melodic than I remembered them being. So it was a pretty entertaining set.

The experience of seeing Norway's progressive black band Enslaved was also different from the last time we saw them. Then, we saw them at the rather small Ottobar in Baltimore. We were probably less than twenty feet away from them, and they clearly towered over everyone in the venue (they're all incredibly tall, either that or they wear tall shoes). This time they were just distant figures, dwarfed by a large stage. They got off to a slow start with newer songs from Riitiir, but things intensified with "Ethica Odini." And two songs after that, I was very glad to find that they're still playing one of their oldest songs, "Allfáðr Oðinn," which is one of their best - it's my favorite, anyway. "Riitiir" also sounded surprisingly good. With the bigger venue and shorter set, their performance was not as intense as when we saw them at Ottobar, but I still enjoyed it.

We wondered what props Amon Amarth, Sweden's death metal Vikings, would have, considering that last time we saw them, they brought along a whole Viking ship. They turned out not to have much, just some banners of Viking warriors in front of their huge banner of the cover of Deceiver of the Gods. They also started out a little weak with two new songs. But as they thundered into the third song, "Death by Fire," I felt like the show really got started, and the intensity didn't let up till the end. Johan Hegg complained of a cold, but it didn't seem to affect his vocals, just making his speaking voice rough like his vocals. I felt like "Destroyer of the Universe" and a couple songs right after it were a little off, as though they were trying to play faster and not everyone could keep up. They finished up with "War of the Gods," which sounded much more epic than when they played it at Jaxx a couple years ago. But they weren't done - soon, thunder rumbled through the hall, introducing "Twilight of the Thunder God." The crowd was invited to sing along for the chorus. Then the band launched into "Pursuit of Vikings" and everyone went crazy - the whole floor seemed to be jumping, and I hear the middle of the floor was wild (we were at the very back).

Before leaving the stage, Johan Hegg invited everyone to stay and watch the video for "Father of the Wolf" (perhaps not knowing it had already been shown) but it didn't actually play and pretty soon the staff began encouraging us to leave.

Considering I was rather, um, unamped for this show, I had a great time. We got solid performances from all three bands, but Amon Amarth obviously ruled the night.