Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest, 07.26.09

When was the last time you attended a festival where every band you saw seemed like they were at the top of their game? Of course to have this opinion you’d have to pick and choose who it is you want to both see and avoid, so it’s not as random as one might think.

I learned many, many years ago that it is impossible to see everything at these all-day shin digs. Sure you could run around like crazy and try to witness, photograph, absorb all of the bands these things have to offer, but if you do that chances are you’re about 20 years old and from a different planet than I.

I got to the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater at around 3:00 and by the time I got all my crap settled I was in the door about 3:30. I missed Dirge Within, who I wanted to see live. I’ve heard some final mixes of their new album and what can I say? It sounds impressively huge. Several people throughout the day made mention of their brief but effective set.

I made it to one of the side stages to see Poland’s sons of darkness, Behemoth. This is a band that does upwards of 200/250+ gigs a year; their work ethic is simply remarkable. Judging by their performance and the reaction they received today I cannot see anything changing any time soon. Truth be told I’ve lost a few steps with Behemoth. I was fully on board for a lot of years going back to their first post demo stuff up through their first appearances stateside in 2003. Not sure where I lost track of them and that doesn’t mean their new material is anything of lower quality, but I do think they’ve become somewhat one dimensional.

The expansion of their brand seems to come from constant visual upgrades (artwork, live production/props/evolved stage gear/wear) instead of things that will floor you musically where they remain an excellent bastard child of Morbid Angel/Nile. That being said I remain a fan of them where they excel and remain seemingly untouchable, live!
A few highlights ‘ov’ their set were: “Conquer All”, “At The Left Hand Ov God” and definitely the opener “Slaves Shall Serve”.

I’m far from an expert on The Black Dahlia Murder, but I know I buy their albums and I always like what I hear. I don’t think I’ve seen them live in a few years, can’t remember exactly when the last time was, but seeing them on Sunday was like seeing them for the first time, again. I thought they just slayed!

Even with a new guitarist (ex-Arsis man Ryan Knight) in tow the band plowed through their set, composed of material from their ‘Unhallowed’, ‘Miasma’ and ‘Nocturnal’ albums like they’d been playing together since day one.

Tracks like “Everything Went Black”, a new song called “Necropolis” and “What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse” seemed to make the biggest impact. Minimal stage banter aside, the band wasted no time and flattened all in their way.

Their newest, ‘Deflorate’ comes out in mid-September and I firmly believe in the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” way The Black Dahlia Murder seems to operate.

I’ve known this for quite a few years and it hit me again while watching them, Cannibal Corpse is Death Metal!

Take all the bands they came up, and you can include Deicide, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation, Gorguts, Sadus, Immolation, etc. etc. etc. To me they are the quintessential Death Metal band in every way, shape and form…period!

Notice I didn’t say Florida or even Buffalo based Death Metal band, I mean world wide. Show me another band that does it like Cannibal Corpse. They do the ‘write, record, tour’ cycle month after month, year after year, decade after decade and they do it with such motivation, achieving high levels of productivity that they often make the others appear to be lacking something.

I sound like a broken record here, but I wasn’t exactly floored by the latest album, ‘Evisceration Plague’ as a whole. There’s some great songs present, “Scalding Hail” and "Skewered from Ear to Eye" yes but I was wanting to be blown away by the entire thing the same way I was after the release of ‘Kill’ back in 2006. Regardless, as with many, many musical acts the world over they get to a certain point where recordings aren’t the ‘be all, end all’ of their careers but as a means to get back on the road. Now I don’t think this is what’s going on with Cannibal Corpse, it’s just how I think of them 20+ years after they first formed.

When the band takes the stage though, one thing is certain it’s time for battle and it’s on! Their front line simply take their positions then it’s a quick four count on the drums and for the next 45 minutes or so it was nothing but banging heads and the roar of half-human half-beast George Fisher. Speaking of George, no one bangs like this guy! Seriously, have you ever met someone who was really born to do something? Well he was born to sing for Cannibal and bang his head like no other.

My feeling is the band is not there change the opinions of people who missed the Death Metal boat or have many misconceptions about the music or the lifestyle. I don’t think they juggle their set-lists with the intention of converting the daisy-duke wearing Killswitch Engage fan, they simply go for the jugular with precision and they do it well. They opened with the title track of their new album and went right into “The Time to Kill is Now” and shut it down with “Stripped, Raped and Strangled”, like the band itself the set was brutal and efficient.

I missed the following bands around this time. Job For A Cowboy, All That Remains, Trivium the aforementioned Killswitch Engage and Bullet For My Valentine.

I don’t have much to say about JFAC, other than to say what I’ve heard from them I’ve heard a million times before, better and more original of course. All That Remains must be doing something right, I’ll give em that. Trivium probably killed it. Say what you will about the band, they can play and of all the times I saw them on tours I was on, they put 110% into their show and that’s something I don’t ever see changing.

Killswitch I saw at Ozzfest 2005. I think I was more impressed with the crowd reaction and devotion on display than I was with the band them selves. I know their singer can sing between screaming, but they seem to have cornered the market on the sensitive yet aggressive color-by-numbers thing that drives me nuts. BFMV? Howzabout you FOAD?

I did some work and killed some time and brain cells with a cast of characters from both near and far throughout the day and it was around this time everyone kicked it into high gear. It was time for something no other band on the day could deliver…

Now similar to my other favorite bands, there are times you go through a love/hate thing with them. Slayer is no stranger to my feelings of both joy and disgust, although as I age I know I appreciate them more and more. I went through a disgust stage with the band around the 'Diabolus In Musica' era, 1998/1999 and even blew off seeing a few of their shows around this time, I know Fear Factory was supporting them at one such instance. No need to do that to myself now is there?

So all bullshit aside, I was ready. Yeah I had fun waiting for the band and I of course wasn’t going to subject myself to the utter gayness that is Killswitch Engage, but as the stage was being prepped for their arrival I definitely had a “about fucking time” feeling going on. I was done with the bullshit music (of the bands I didn’t see) and was chomping at the bit for something bigger, better, more powerful and definitely something I could sink my teeth into…and it was time.

Kick starting the campaign for the upcoming release of ‘World Painted Blood’, the fearsome foursome known as Slayer were finally back. Not that they were gone for an extended period, but it’s been almost two years since their last Chicago show August 2007- (also with Mrs. Manson) and the crowd most definitely welcomed them back. The intro and opener was the time tested “Darkness of Christ/Disciple” which works rather nicely, it definitely sets the tone for what lay ahead.

During the first few songs I noticed a few changes in the show since the last time through. Gone were the projection screens they’d utilized since around the time of Dave Lombardo’s return (2002). I always thought they could’ve been used a little better instead of the cheezy graphics and logos, however it wasn’t until they were gone that I noticed it as much, go figure.

The backdrop was replaced with a cool looking metal eagle logo with a never ending amount of fire! I cannot recall Slayer ever having the amount of pyro, flames, flashpots etc. than they did tonight and what can I say? It was fucking awesome! The production value of their set was a welcome surprise and definitely enhanced the “show” aspect of Slayer’s performance.

Not only the visuals, but the sound from where I was both early in the photo pit and then to my seat, was beyond excellent. The band, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo were also admittedly beyond excellent. The start of a tour and somewhere in the half way point is the time to see Slayer truly pushing the boundaries and that’s the way I felt tonight. All four were super into it and the songs performed benefited greatly.

A few personal highlights of the set, “Chemical Warfare” back-to-back with “Ghosts of War”, “Born of Fire”, the return of “Dead Skin Mask”, the mini drum solo during the double bass breakdown in “Angel of Death” and the still very new to me “Psychopathy Red”. Slayer nailed it, just how I hoped they would, just how I knew they could.

Monday, July 27, 2009

SLAYhem Fest!!!!

Brutal bang-over today. Slayer brought the thunder in a huge way at the Chicago (Tinley Park) stop of the 2009 Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival. Full report and more photos to come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Judas Priest Delivers!

All it took was about three seconds into the evening’s opener, “Rapid Fire.” That was all it took before a massively huge smile worked its way onto my face. Three days later and I’m still in awe, Judas Priest is Heavy Metal.

The band was in the middle of a tour celebrating their seminal ‘British Steel’ album and by playing said LP in its entirety they celebrated in style. Over the past few years it seems like the ‘band performing an entire album’ thing has either been a smash success or a case of biting off more than they can chew. I’ve seen my share of both and think Judas Priest fucking nailed it!

What impressed me the most was, like the album itself, the evening was a crash course in everything Heavy Metal. ‘British Steel’ as you know features fast songs, melodic songs, anthems and more genre defining riffs and screams than you can shake a stick at. These elements brought forth live? In a word it was perfect.

The band (Vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists KK Downing and Glen Tipton, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis) were in top form throughout the nearly hour and a half performance, they didn’t waste time, they didn’t wander they did not stray, they delivered a heads down Heavy Metal attack of the highest order! Halford was in top form, he was more mobile than I’ve seen him in years and the intensity he performed with was unreal!

During the show I started to mentally come down on Heaven and Hell/Sabbath. Why? Well at first I was so into ‘The Devil You Know’, I really thought it was the long lost Sabbath classic-in-the-making. A few months on, I cannot even stand to listen to it. Maybe this will change, but I doubt it.

The thing that got me disappointed was the fact that there are no upbeat/uptempo tracks, it’s all mid paced and while I love that style, twelve songs all the same tempo makes for a dull as hell record.

Watching Judas Priest, soon to be in their 40th year as a group, slay and annihilate was like a light went off in my head. These guys understand that Heavy Metal still needs to have some fast moments. Speed is still a part of the equation, Sabbath seem to have forgotten this. Sure we’re comparing apples to oranges with ‘British Steel’ and a 2009 released Sabbath record, but I think you understand what I mean.

Whitesnake opened the show and were a total disappointment. I've been a fan of the band since around 1984 and fully realize that era of the band is dead and gone, but the 'Snake pretty much blew! Yeah, we got "Slow And Easy", "Love Ain't No Stranger" and "Crying In The Rain" but they were all modernized and weak and I could not wait for them to be done!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jailhouse Rock?

I was reading the newspaper this morning and came across this:

Who the fuck cares, right? Well yeah, you are right, no one cares. It's just that I met Elgin Nathan James a number of years (14) ago when I went down to the Fireside Bowl to interview his band who were on tour at the time. The band was called 454 Big Block and they were signed to Century Media and were here today and gone before the next, I mean they joined an elite group of acts that simply vanished into thin air.

So here's that interview as it ran in Midwest Metal, Issue#11 from November 1995

((click to enlarge))

Other news worthy action (and I know I'm really late on this) comes courtesy of Phil Fasciana, founder of Malevolent Creation.

There was a robbery, there wasn't a robbery, Phil shot a crackhead, Phil was shot at by a crackhead...who knows exactly what the hell happened. But one thing's for certain, there's no such thing as bad publicity, is there?? But we'll see how this whole thing turns out.

Read it and weep.

Happier times, no crack heads, no chocolate milk...Issue #17

((click to enlarge))

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicago curtain call for the Major Rager...

23 years ago today Metallica played their last Chicago area show with Cliff Burton. There's a bootleg of the show out there, I still have it on cassette (TDK yo!) so if anyone knows where to find a digital copy, pass it on, huh?

- Ecstacy of Gold
- Battery
- Master of Puppets
- For Whom the Bell Tolls
- Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
- The Thing That Should Not Be
- Seek and Destroy
- Creeping Death
- Fade to Black
- Damage Inc.

So yeah, 23 years...amazing.

What I remember:

Admittedly being a little bummed there were no "crosses" on stage, I was 15 and that shit was cool! Drinking before I went in, buying the black "Damage Inc." shirt (to go along with the white one I bought at the U.I.C. earlier in the year, just how many fans they'd gotten since the February release of 'Master of Puppets', freaks flipping when they launched into "Battery!", how godly they were, "The Thing That Should Not Be" and Cliff smiling from ear to ear at the end of the show, which was the only time he stopped headbanging! They fucking CONQUERED!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Northwest Metal Forever!

Seattle, Washington-based metallers METAL CHURCH have released the following statement:

"To all of our fans and friends...

"We regretfully announce that METAL CHURCH is calling it quits.

"The performance at Rocklahoma will be our last show. We have had to cancel the shows scheduled for August and that, among other things, has led us to have to make this decision.

"There has been far too much frustration and disappointment in trying to keep moving forward. The collapse of our record company, SPV, has made it next to impossible for us to continue in any kind of professional manner due to lack of tour support. This decision was not made lightly.

"We do have unfinished business in the studio, and with any luck we will have something that will be of interest to METAL CHURCH fans in the near future.

"We would like to thank all the fans that have stuck with METAL CHURCH through all these years, the lineup changes and the ups and downs.

"We can't tell you how much your support has meant to us, we appreciate each and every one of you.

"It's been a great ride."

"This Present Wasteland", the latest album from METAL CHURCH, sold 920 copies in the United States in its first week of release, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Now,I'll be honest...the last time I gave a shit about Metal Church Clinton was serving his first term. However, reading the above "good bye" from the band, or what's left of them is not shocking, but it's still about time. I mean 25 years as a band is still respectable as hell, even if the majority weren't exactly headline filled.

Anyway, when they were on they were on and the first two albums are absolute classics and they also made some quality Metal with Mike Howe and John Marshall in the band. However when they were both gone it was over for me.

I dug up some early press on the band from the good ol' days, enjoy.

(click to enlarge)