Forwardhead Takes The Next Step with "Pieces" Release Party and Tour
Band Photo: Forwardhead (?)
Now that Forwardhead has announced the first batch of their headlining tour dates, I am officially late on this show report. On Saturday, May 26, over Memorial Day Weekend, I made my second trip to Baltimore's excellent Ram's Head Live, this time to catch the Metalunderground.com-sponsored Forwardhead CD release party. The bill sported five local bands playing a show in celebration of Forwardhead's long-awaited album "Pieces" being released. The all-ages show was to feature a screening of their first video as well.
I entered just as the first band, Phantom Communique was taking the stage. The crowd was a decent size - somewhere upwards of 200 people I'd estimate - which worked well for the Ram's Head Live's configuration. The balcony areas were closed off, as the main floor (that I consider small for a sold out show) was sufficient for a crowd this size. The venue seemed ideal for a smaller crowd like this and the show had a feel somewhat more professional than a local show, but more laid back than a bigger concert.
Back to the first band - Phantom Communique, which features members of Dog Fashion Disco and the vocalist from Bleed The Dream, were playing under the moniker of Reliable Foe. They were asked to fill in for Blind Rhetoric and were using this show as a sort of practice gig to get in shape for touring. Vocalist Brandon Thomas was very informal and set the show off on a light note by joking with the crowd.
Phantom Communique played what could be considered a hardcore brand of rock. The music was mostly rock with some melodic punk influences, while the vocals were typical shouted hardcore vocals alternated with cleaner rock vocals. The band put on a high energy show and were clearly exhausted by the end of their 30-40 minute set, with Thomas once again joking about how out of shape he was.
Seventh Seal were up next and the crowd swelled somewhat for these local favorites. I had heard good things about this band, but what ensued was a little different from what I expected. I expected a more extreme-sounding band but instead they sounded more modern metal, with a metalcore edge. The vocals ranged from some excellent screaming to melodic singing much in the vein of Killswitch Engage at times. The band's sound as well as their stage presence was excellent and they played some good heavy metal. However, nearly every song had a slowed down or melodic part, and while each song was well-executed and sounded good nonetheless, I wanted to hear Seventh Seal tear it up for an entire song or two with pure heaviness. Despite that personal desire, Seventh Seal put on a great show and had a polished sound and would be a hard act to follow.
Next Up was the three-piece who call themselves Forgotten. The crowd thinned considerably after Seventh Seal's set, despite it being fairly early still. Forgotten bore an immediate resemblance to Nirvana and pulled it off quite well. The vocalist had Kurt Cobain's almost-not-understandable quality down pretty well and the music was on the heavier-side for sounding like a Nirvana clone, making it more suitable for the show that night. Overall the music was very enjoyable. While it was not as heavy as the previous band, Seventh Seal, it was entirely different and still of good quality.
Along with their own songs, Forgotten also played an excellent cover of Seether's "Remedy" (that happens to be the most Nirvana-sounding Seether song there is) and a Tool cover. The Tool cover was immediately recognizable by the heavy bass early in the song, but I couldn't name the specific song that was covered. Musically, it was a departure from the rest of their set, but not a bad one still.
One thing that did stand out to me and would be a preview of Forwardhead's performance is that a three-piece really seemed lost on the spacious stage at the Ram's Head Live, making it difficult for the band to be visually stimulating or entertaining. Nonetheless, Forgotten held their own and played an enjoyable set.
In direct support of Forwardhead was another local Baltimore band, Tommyhate. The band came out in and odd get up for a metal show - each of the band members in black button-up shirts with cream-colored ties. After some trouble with one of the guitarist's connections, the band kicked off their set sounding like a combination of hardcore and rock. Musically, Tommyhate was on the light side (meaning rock instead of hardcore), with hook-filled songs and a somewhat mainstream rock sound. Vocally, they threw in some hardcore screaming interspersed between the clean vocals.
Aside from a couple of heavier songs, Tommyhate just didn't connect with me. Throughout much of their set, I was bored and as it grew later, I just wanted to see the band I came to see - Forwardhead.
It was a bit past midnight when Forwardhead finally took the stage. The three-piece had the massive stage all to themselves, their drummer's kit elevated substantially as well, leaving the stage even more open. The band's logo was projected onto the large screen behind them. They opened up with several numbers off their latest full-length album, "Pieces," for which the show served as a release party. Despite some initial tightness and mic problems, Forwardhead worked out the kinks and got better as the night went on. Their sound was crisp and the heavy bass lines and guitars were a welcome sound after some lighter music from the previous two bands.
Forwardhead continued to play nearly every song off of "Pieces" as well as some older material, presumably from their previous self-released album entitled "Elevate," to extend their set well past an hour. The older material didn't sound as heavy and Tool-like as much of the newer material, but still had the band's signature sound.
Much like on "Pieces," the band managed to have a very full sound live, not really sounding like a typical three-piece. Still, the band brought out a second guitarist for a few songs where needed. Then about three quarters of the way through their set, the band took a breather while the video for their first single, "Second Guess," off of "Pieces" was debuted on the large screen above the stage. Being their first single and one of the best songs off of the new album, it would have been great to see them perform the song live, but being the first to see the new video up on the big screen was pretty cool as well.
Forwardhead's set ended fairly late, at around 1:30 am, but at the end of the night it was a fun show to see. Nearly all of the bands put on a good show and the casual environment of the spacious Ram's Head Live that night was great.
If you get a chance to catch Forwardhead playing near you, go check them out.
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