Friday, June 25, 2010

The Big Four on the Big Screen 6.22.10

So Tuesday night was the big event for the “Big 4” and what a night.  First and foremost, leave it to Metallica to do things on such a grand scale. I mean seriously, there’s something about that band and their involvement that takes things to the next level. This was definitely one of those times and one of those things. 

The theater I attended was showing the concert on two screens and both were fairly packed. This sort of caught me by surprise, I thought it would be filled, but two theaters were somewhat impressive. If I was in Chicago outright I can see it, but out here yeah, it was a surprise. 

I arrived somewhat late, I had things to do that were more important so when I finally got to my seat Anthrax were in full swing. As much shit as I give them (and will continue to give them) I will say they were fairly rokkin’. The very first thing I noticed was Joey Belladonna has aged a whole helluva lot since the reunion disaster of 2005.  Weird, but 5 years on him looks like about 20. Not that I’m fixated on the android looking Belladonna, but kinda hard to ignore when looking at a massive screen. 

Vocally he sounded fine. Not great, not horrible just typical Belladonna which is exactly what the band needs right now. It was almost comforting in a way to see Joey up there, he might not be the most technical proficient singer the band has ever had but man, he at least he belongs up there. 

I got to see a few songs, “Metal Thrashing Mad” and “I Am The Law,” which were cool. The band was in top form as they should be, right? I mean they’ve been on vacation for what seems like forever, so their attack was pretty sharp. Speaking of sharp, Guitarist Rob Caggiano fits like a glove in the BellaThrax era. I was impressed with his handling of the Spitz stuff and his tone was damn heavy. 

Megadeth comes storming out of the gate with “Holy Wars,” and that was very cool! One of their finest songs blasting forth from the epicness of a movie screen was a great way to kick off their set. I will admit to feeling a surge inside when they showed Dave Ellefson holding down the bottom end. You almost forget how long it took him to get back to his home, but like seeing Belladonna with Anthrax, seeing Junior in his rightful place meant a little something to this old fuck. 

Their set list was decent, “Hanger 18,” “Headcrusher,” “In My Darkest Hour,” “Hook In Mouth” were all highlights in my book. I’m usually impressed with Mustaine’s shredding skills and tonight was no different. The guy can play his ass off and when matched with the uber talented Chris Broderick it’s a guitar players dream come true. Note for note their precision and techniques were pretty flawless and on the big screen, it kicked some ass for sure.

While I will spew a plenty for his skills on guitar I cannot say the same for his vocals. Simply put, Dave seems to walk the thin line between annoying and passable and while it does little to diminish the feel of the set it leaves a lot to be desired. Still, a good showing for the band and overall a good way to kill 45 minutes or so. 

Slayer. Where to begin? It always seems to be a bit strange watching modern Slayer live as they open with new songs that, quite frankly are decent at best. These aren’t just the words of an old man here. Even at the concert site you can feel the life being taken out of the crowd as the climactic intro gives way to an anti-climatic opening song most can live without. Today’s opening dish was the title track of the latest album, “World Painted Blood.” 

I will add that the best things about new Slayer songs are Dave Lombardo. With new Slayer the tempos are similar, the vocals are similar and the riffs are super fucking similar but the man behind the kit keeps the train a moving and move he does. I noticed some new variations to some of the older material as far as the drums are concerned and that was refreshing to hear Dave mix it up a bit. 

“War Ensemble” was next and while it’s song I could do without it was delivered with some decent intensity. I’d love to have this song shelved for a few years but I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon. There were some great moments here too, “Seasons in the Abyss,” “Mandatory Suicide,” “Chemical Warfare,” “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death” and “South of Heaven” were all top notch entertainment. 

It was very, very strange to watch Tom Araya play a set without headbanging. It was always such a part of a Slayer show it really hit me hard. However, while his body has taken some shots, his voice sounded pretty good. Sure the screams are long gone, but he seemed way into it and his adrenaline seemed to carry his voice throughout the show. 

Somewhere, maybe between Slayer and Metallica, there was a very respectful tribute to Ronnie James Dio. There were words from Kerry King and then a group interview with Mustaine, Scott Ian and Lars talking about RJD and what he meant to them. It was very cool and very surprising, just a class act on the part of the bands and people involved. 

So on to the headliners. Metallica. What can you say? They opened with “Creeping Death” and from there delivered a typical Metallica show. Old stuff (“For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Fade to Black,” “Harvester of Sorrow”), new stuff (“Cyanide”) and mega hits (“Enter Sandman”, “Master of Puppets,” “Nothing Else Matters”) and more. The band was good; nothing too out of the ordinary as far as production goes, so it was just a typical/stellar Metallica show. What was weird, and this is just me…but watching a Metallica gig in an enormo-dome open air venue is sort of passé these days, no? 

After the release of the French and Mexico DVD’s watching the band in these settings is nothing too new. Same stage set up, light schemes and massive panning out to show the masses, it was cooler to watch say Slayer or Megadeth working hard to entertain on the massive Metallica stage. I know, nitpicky. 

Lastly, and it’s been all the rage since it happened, but it should be! “Am I Evil?” performed by most of the band members who make up ‘TB4,’ it was something special. Metallica aren’t usually known for any type of “We Are the World” type jams, so it was surprising, at least to me. I know the innerweb was a buzz about the jam several hours earlier, but due to my schedule I had no idea and I’m sure made it even more memorable for me. Was it perfect? No but it was cool and it was right. 

Well 95% right. For all the props I threw Joey Belladonna’s way earlier? Well he totally fucked up and screwed the pooch when his turn at “Am I Evil?” came. Dude didn’t know the song, dude didn’t know the words, dude didn’t know the vocal patterns, he was basically clueless and it showed. However it’s a slight blemish on a rather historical night in HM. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

EYEHATEGOD: 6.20.10 Empty Bottle - Chicago

Has it really been almost 10 years? Sometime during the set change it dawned on me that the last time I saw EYEHATEGOD was in October of 2000, in Madison, WI. I remember it well as I was leaving to go to New York with Usurper on the day EHG was playing in Chicago and there was no way I was going to miss them, especially back then.

They played at The Note in Chicago in May of 2005 but life got in the way of that one and I had no idea it would be another five years before they returned.

Back in the late 90’s and well into the early/mid 00’s there was no band for me like EYEHATEGOD. I looked at that band as far more than simply something to listen to, it was a lifestyle. It was pissed, claustrophobic, drunk, drugged, dirty, and negative yet somehow beautiful and therapeutic. It was like listening to a violent storm that destroyed or tried to destroy all in its path. You know what? That also describes myself (minus the beautiful, of course) during those years.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself listening to EHG less and less. This has nothing to do with my musical tastes changing but simply put, it’s like do you ever really need to hear ‘Reign In Blood’ again? It’s a part (or by now should be) of your DNA and for me so are records like ‘Dopesick,’ ‘In The Name of Suffering’ and of course ‘Take As Needed for Pain.’

But with listening to them less and less I prepared for the show by thinking about the band and its music and our conjoined pasts. Would I still get the same charge out of the band? Will the same emotions, the buried and forgotten ones surface once I was in the middle of the mental hurricane swirling in my head? Music is so fucking personal to me, trust me I don’t and shouldn’t be bothered with these thoughts but can’t help it either.

Sucks to be me at times, I agree.

So the Chicago stop of the tour would be somewhat special in nature. EHG would perform their debut album, ‘In The Name of Suffering’ on Saturday and Sunday’s show featured ‘Take As Needed for Pain’ in it’s entirety. Say what you will about the pluses and minuses of bands performing whole records, but if it’s one of your favorite records, it’s a win-win. ‘Take As Needed…’ is my favorite album by the band and I couldn’t wait.

Seeing that Sunday was Father’s Day, kicking it with Maxwel and Lilly beat out Bongripper, The Atlas Moth and the always amazing Yakuza, but I did get there in time to see the ‘Addicts’ era Nachtmystium take the stage. 

I have yet to hear the new album, but even without you could pick out the newer numbers so not having listened to the band in quite some time did little to diminish the vibe. Musically they were tight, the sound was totally them and there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary throughout the duration of their set. The last time I saw the band was in support of Nifelheim a few years ago, so I can’t comment too much in the way of reference, but they were solid as hell.
Visually the band seems to have a see-saw effect where they get some amazing showmanship to sort of counter those a little more lacking. Current session Guitarist Pat Clancy (ex-Corpsevomit) always had a commanding stage presence and it was good to see him on stage banging away with Nacht-leader Blake Judd. I liked the new material and look forward to hearing the full album soon.

After a quick change over the room was filled with the unmistakable squelch of addiction, tropical storms, oil spills, death, despair, dependency and ultimately recovery masked as eardrum bleeding feedback…EYEHATEFUCKIN'GOD was in the building. It took about thirty seconds for me to realize where you were and where you’re at are miles away but what never changes is the MUSIC! 

As soon as they kicked in with “Blank” all was right, all was good. It was great to see the band again. They looked really good, they were really into their performance and they played probably the best I’ve ever seen them. It was also a bit weird to see a relatively calm Mike Williams on stage. Weird in it’s always been a somewhat tradition that no matter where you were at or what you were doing at an EHG show, you HAD to keep an eye on Mike.

You kept on eye on him because you never knew what he would do, say or decide to throw at the crowd. I’ve seen chairs, tables, microphones and various shit laying on the stage used as projectiles over the years. Shit, there were times where he’d just bail from the stage altogether, I mean not come back bail. So to see him absorbed in his art without the usual repercussions was pretty cool. 

The interplay between Guitarists Jim Bower and Brian Patton has always been a unique thing. They don’t operate like a typical guitar team yet the results are as equal as if they did. They deal in slides and dirges and just some of the sickest sounds but when done in unison makes the heaviest even heavier.

The rhythm section made up of Joey LaCaze and Bassist Gary Mader was as solid and pounding as it’s ever been. When you’re playing music as unorthodox as EYEHATEGOD, it’s music channeling through your heart versus your head and the way it comes out is either great or fucking terrible. I like to think I’ve seen both and this was one of the greats.

They played the entire ‘Take As Needed…’ album and at the end threw in a few older songs, maybe “Southern Discomfort”, maybe “Dixie Whisky” not totally sure, by 1:30 AM I was done and I never gave a shit about their song titles anyway! But all seems well in their world and I look forward to seeing what they come up with for their first album in over a decade. As far as this show is concerned, it was a victory. A complete conquering and here’s to the future of the future-less.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Exodus/Heathen Live at Slim's - San Francisco

No doubt about it, I've definitely been in a funk since the last post. I suppose something about the death of a legend and life continuously getting busier doesn't always put me in the mood to write. I've always been a "can't fake it" person and this blog is no different.

So with the being said a slump-buster Metal weekend was surely needed and I couldn't have asked for anything more. Exodus was doing three record release shows for their new album Exhibit B: The Human Condition  with the final one being a hometown San Francisco gig.  

Not only was it another chance to see Exodus on their home turf, but supporting on these three shows was Heathen!  Really, a killer double bill that thankfully I didn't miss.

After a completely hellish flight to Oakland where I was squeezed in-between Shoulder's McBoulders and Mr. Mayo (dude, do you really need six packs of mayo on that sandwich?) I was ready to let loose so that's what the hell I did.

Before the drinking could commence some grub was in order so when our guide suggested Tommy's Joynt there was no way I could resist.  Not only was it highly recommended but to the Metal in my heart it was also the place Jason Newsted's resume was accepted back in 1986 so it was a done deal.  Killer food, killer friends, let's do this.  

Arrived to Slim's a few songs into Heathen's storming set.  The place was packed and the response to the hometown band was excellent.   Of course the main course was Exodus but it was great to see Heathen, who put out one of the best albums of 2010 earlier this year, tear it up.  

We got to hear "Arrows Of Agony", "Death By Hanging", "Open The Grave" and the closer "Hypnotized".  Like I said great response for the guys and I really hope things align for them to bring their show on the road.

Exodus were in top form.  Both musically, physically and mentally there's something to be said about the nine lives of Exodus.  Something tells me the days and years of blown opportunities and near hits and misses are long gone.  Once that shit is removed all that's left is a band working as hard as they ever have and the results speak for themselves.  

The crowd was a nice mixture of old and young, we're talking 16-17 y/o kids with hi-top Reebok's and denim vests.  Those kids were the heartbeat of the show as they slammed and banged the entire time.

That being said the crowd had plenty of material to bang to.  Being a record release show there was a lot of new material but what was cool was it seemed like for all the brand new stuff was an even deeper old cut.  Off of 'Exhibit B' you had  set-opener "The Ballad of Leonard and Charles", "Beyond The Pale", "The Sun is my Destroyer" and "Downfall".  
Some classics included "Impaler", "Hells Breath" along with a healthy smattering of  'Bonded By Blood' material such as "Strike of the Beast", "Bonded By Blood", "Metal Command" and "A Lesson in Violence" which featured Robb Flynn on co-vocals...

All said and done Exodus fucking crushed!  I know I said it after the last show of theirs I saw earlier this year, but Tom Hunting is an inhuman time keeping machine!  From song one to the closer, "Good Riddance" the guy missed not a beat and the force in which he hits that snare, unreal. 

The entire band was in top form and it was such a strong statement which was made loud and clear, these guys are virtually unstoppable.  Even a song like "The Toxic Waltz" which is about as campy as it gets is being delivered with such intensity, there's just no way to fault these guys.

Right before the end of the show, Tom Hunting and David White came and addressed the crowd, thanking them for being there and dedicating the show to Debbie Abono with some personal words.  Very cool, very classy.  Many thanks to my friends in the bay for a whirlwind weekend filled with laughter, music and memories.  Mikey-boy, Brian, Cap'n Flynn and family, Cheryl, Happy Brian, E-Wong and the Exodus and Heathen camps.