Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moonspell/Divine Heresy/Secrets of the Moon @ The Pyramid Club 10.23.09

‘What are you doing here’ is something I heard more than a few times during last weekend’s Moonspell/Divine Heresy and Secrets of the Moon show. Indeed a weird one for me to attend but one that I was glad I did. With former Midwest Metal Magazine co-Editor Kain in town for the weekend and Moonspell being one of his favorite bands this was a no brainer.

This show was originally supposed to be at the Pearl Room in Mokena, a venue I’d come to enjoy as long as the place wasn’t too packed that is. So the Pearl Room closed late last month and the shows that were already booked were spread out to other venues. The night before the show I was a little shocked to look up the website for this new venue and see it was essentially a sports bar/eatery.

Nothing wrong with that. I know some pretty good shows take place at these places all the time so I hoped for the best, mostly for the bands. Being out there can be hard enough without having to show up to a venue that just fucking sucks and really can screw up a gig before it even starts.

The Pyramid Club wasn’t perfect in any way other than parking and perhaps size. Big building, but I think maybe a slight reconfiguration of the “stage” area could be a big improvement. Possibly in a way to somehow enhance the vibe of being at a rock show versus the grim reality of being at a sports bar with a live band in the corner while college sports are being played on over 100 TV’s.

So we walked in during Germany’s Secrets of the Moon’s set. Right away you could tell there was something was right with this band. Powerful sounding semi-technical Death Metal with obvious Euro influences S.O.T.M. were a surprisingly effective support band. Most of what I saw was enjoyable and what I liked the most was their off time, jagged moments where they’d twist almost individually only to re-group as a band into the next part. Good stuff.

Divine Heresy were one of the worst bands I’ve probably seen all year. I could think long and hard about this, but I’m probably right. I had very little knowledge of them before the show other than I’d seen the video for a song off their debut album. I really didn’t care for it, I thought it was “extreme” Metal color-by-numbers where a really generic and dumbed down formula was repeated over and over. In fact, that’s what I felt after their set. The same song played six or seven times, and each time you could’ve set a watch to the musical changes. Here comes the blast beat…here’ comes the grind part….here comes the melodic vocals…STOP!

I’ve been attending concerts for over 25 years and I’ve never, ever heard vocals like this guy. They were so insanely annoying, so mismatched and so fingernails on the chalk board impossible to ignore that I thought I was on candid camera. I mean I cringed, I flat out fucking had to turn away, they were that bad. It was like an African-American pop singer who over sings every-mother-fucking-note. I could see them going over well with a band like Il Nino or Sevendust or any other weak sauce “heavy” band, but this was something else.

Musically, they were rather impressive, there’s no way I could take that away from them. When the three were locked in, it was intense and powerful, it was “on” but there were no actual “songs”, at least not to me. There was nothing catchy about them, nothing hooky about them. It reminded me of a modern version of the “Shrapnel” years in the mid 80’s, dozens of guitarists/bassists and drummers so off the hook talented, yet couldn’t write a good song if their lives depended on it. I was told I need to hear the record, but something tells me I already did.

Moonspell were obviously who the crowd was there to see. The thin crowd for the support bands seemed to triple in size as the final stage and sound preparations for Portugal’s finest took place. Now I don’t know much about the band, I’ve heard a lot of their records yet was pleasantly surprised when their set began. Their sound was very heavy, very dark and above all, delivered with pin point accuracy. This is obviously a seasoned touring band that made the most of their time in Chicago.

Covering a lot of their catalog and judging by the crowd reaction they seemed to pick the right songs as each one was followed by a bigger applause than the next. Songs I remember were, “Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)”, “Opium”, “Vampiria”, “Alma Mater” and “Scorpion Flower” which was highlighted by a sampling of (ex-The Gathering’s) Anneke van Giersbergen’s backing vocals. Yeah, they were sampled, but the vocals and the live performance were 100% in sync and turned a good song into something else all together.

Moonspell did their best to create an atmosphere with the use of a projector that helped accentuate the vibe of the band’s work but it was really about the music and making the best of the situation. Whether it’s at an arena, a theater, a club or a sports bar the show must go on. I’m glad it did and was glad I went.