Shadows Fall Brings A Variety of Metal To Jaxx
Band Photo: Kataklysm (?)
I was happy to hear just a week before this show that Shadows Fall's tour was hitting Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia on April 13, 2008. I had already resigned to missing the tour, which featured a great lineup with Droid, Arsis, The Showdown, and Kataklysm as support, because the Baltimore date was the day before Ministry's final stop in my area, and I'm just too old for back-to-back shows! The April 13 show worked out perfectly, as I really wanted to catch this tour. The show was also on a weekend and I had not been to Jaxx in quite a while, not that I needed so many reasons to go to this show.
I arrived as local opener Cab Ride Home was playing. One thing I forgot about Jaxx is that it is often louder than most venues. However, the volume usually climbs as the night wears on. In this case, it was already pretty loud, requiring earplugs for the opening band - nevermind taking photos right in front of the speaker stack. That issue aside, Cab Ride Home sounded pretty decent and had a good stage presence for a local opener. They played a simplistic but bass-heavy, groovy style of metal. The singer's screams were just right for the style, and their last song, "Drunk On Arrival," had a catchy chant-along chorus of "D--O-A," which capped their set nicely.
Even harder to describe is Droid's sound. A number of their songs remind me of "Chaosphere"-era Meshuggah with lots of stop-and-go, but with crunchier guitars and heavy bass-lines. The singer mixes up a range of vocalizations from a growled-talking style - somewhat reminiscient of Lamb of God's Randy Blythe - to more hardcore-style shouts. I was pleasantly surprised by Droid's live sound and performance. Even more impressive yet, was their stage presence, which far exceeded that of the next two bands. Frontman James Eason engaged the crowd and seemed like a genuinely personable guy. The rest of the band was energetic and played a tight half-hour set.
Witnessing their live performance in a small club gave me far more appreciation for Droid than their self-titled CD alone. Despite having toured with Korn on the Family Values tour and being on Munky's Emotional Syphon Recordings, don't underestimate Droid or assume they are some lame post-nu-metal band. Droid has a unique sound and is a legitimately heavy band with an energetic performance.
I was curious to check out Arsis, who was up next. I've enjoyed their newest album, but can't say I've been fully converted. I was hoping that their live performance would tip the scales in favor of them, but honestly, it didn't. I've heard reports of very technical death metal bands not having a great stage show before, and this description certainly fit the bill. Presumably it's just too hard to be very active while pulling off the amazing fret work the guitarist was playing. It was interesting to watch the insane fret work, but that definitely left something to be desired in overall stage presence. The singer talked to the crowd but was busy pimping their merch more than anything, understandalby as they were enduring financial hardships on this tour it seemed. Arsis' live set was an enjoyable solid half hour of technical death metal, but it didn't leave me blown away as expected.
The Showdown followed with some southern-style metalcore. It made for an interesting combination, seeing how hardcore seems to predominately from the northeast, hearing it with a southern accent was quite odd at times and at others not even noticable. The vocalist sang and screamed through the set with a bloodied nose (from what I don't know) for the duration, but he performed well. I actually liked a few of The Showdown's heavier songs that they described as "thrash." "Thrash" or "thrasy," they were hands down better than the generic-sounding melodic metalcore in which the vocalist used clean vocals and sang a bit as well. The Showdown is no Full Blown Chaos (with regards to thrashcore comparisons), but they should still stick to the heavier material.
I had been waiting for the opportunity to see Kataklysm perform since seeing them open for Dimmu Borgir last year. They definitely impressed me with their groovy death metal that often borded on thrash, and this performance proved to be of the same intensity, but longer. Kataklysm got the crowd really going for the first time that night, and the mosh pit spread from end to end of the under-populated main floor. Given the proper power conversion equipment, the band themselves could have powered the sound system and light show with all of the windmilling that took place during their set. Kataklysm's stage presence was superb and their music fast and heavy. What more could one ask for?
Aside from the above average death metal vocal delivery and excellent guitar work that included a few solos, what I enjoyed most about Kataklysm'sr set are those songs that go from break-neck speed to a massive heavy groove that compels you to headbang. And the band had several of those moments throughout their set. As yet another treat for the crowd, Kataklysm played two new songs off of their forthcoming album, "Prevail."
Kataklysm only needs to get their name out there some more and they will be ready to headline. And I am certainly ready to experience their full headining set.
Finally, Shadows Fall were ready to take the stage. I was a bit taken aback at how much space still remained on the main floor. This tour should certainly have sold out a club the size of Jaxx, as I've seen Shadows Fall fill up bigger venues. Perhaps having a Baltimore show a week later cut into the potential audience for this show, since Baltimore, DC, and Northern Virginia are pretty close and generally share the same venues.
Shadows Fall's guitars initially sounded weak following the heaviness of Kataklysm, and playing a song off of their latest, slightly over-produced, studio album, "Threads of Life" no less. Still, the band sounded crisp and tight despite the sound being so loud. They quickly found their groove and began cranking out the fan-favorites. Shadows Fall also played a number of songs they don't usually play, including some older ones ("Crushing Belial" and at least one other song) off of "Of One Blood," which was recently remastered and re-released by Century Media Records. With five albums under their belt, it was definitely a nice touch to hear some variety from their previous Jagermeister tour.
With the exception of some off key supporting vocals once in a while, I'd say they executed near-perfectly. Shadows Fall did a great job of featuring their guitarists every time a lead or solo came up in a song, dimming the other lights and putting the spot light on the guitarist. I find that I take the guitarwork for granted when listening to their studio albums, but it's really quite superb. I only recoginized a couple songs from their latest album, and they seemed to mix up the song selection well for this tour. Shadows Fall always delivers a good show, and this time was no exception.
At the end of the night, I was happy to have experienced Droid and Arsis live. I heard two new bands I'd never heard before, who weren't bad: Cab Ride Home and The Showdown. Kataklysm got me even more excited about their upcoming release, and both Kataklysm and Shadows Fall put on top-notch performances. After over five hours of standing and walking around in a club with little seating, I couldn't help but feel a bit tired though. While this tour let concert-goers experience a wide variety of bands for a great price, I found the show a bit long overall. But there's no use splitting hairs about something as trivial as that.
Photos from the show will be posted in the photo gallery shortly - most likely this weekend.
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