Children of Bodom & Revocation Wreck Austin, TX
Band Photo: Children of Bodom (?)
Last year, Children of Bodom earned a gold record in its native Finland for selling 10,000 copies of "Relentless Reckless Forever” on its release date. Add this to career sales in their country and the group has sold over 250,000 records, making them one of Finland’s best selling artists of all time. In America, 250,000 units will get them halfway to a gold record; that is if we were counting individual recordings. Still, the group has found its way to the ears of enough Americans to warrant a headlining tour in celebration of the group’s 15th birthday.
Children of Bodom has spent the better part of the new millennium on the road in America, supporting some of metal’s biggest acts. I saw Children of Bodom twice in 2004. Once, they supported Lamb of God and Fear Factory. Another time they went out with Ripper Owens and Iced Earth. Eluveitie, Revocation and Threat Signal have assumed the warm-up spots so familiar to the melodic death/power metal act. Several of Emo’s patrons wore BLS shirts as a reminder of Children of Bodom’s 2010 showing in Austin with Black Label Society.
Before the Fins could dazzle the crowd with its virtuoso magic, three bands with separate identities took the stage. The melodic death metal style of opener Threat Signal resembled Children of Bodom the most. At times, the Nuclear Blast artist utilized familiar Swede-inspired rhythms to push frenzied tempos. Even though the Canadian group displayed an iron conviction during these moments, the clean-voiced choruses revealed a buttery soft disposition. Threat Signal’s members were rife with energy, including singer Jon Howard’s powerful stance on the middle PA, so their energy was not a factor in my poor assessment of the group. Their rehashing of Soilwork and In Flames and terrible clean vocals made this writer cringe. They received a warm welcome for the night’s starter act, but this band was just not my cup of tea.
Revocation was an altogether different story. Home listening sessions brought on a similar sentiment to that of Threat Signal. Dan Gargiulo’s voice has a hardcore tinge that wasn’t pleasant to my ears. It especially doesn’t fit well covering Mike Patton on their Faith No More cover of “Surprise! Your Dead.” However, the sheer force of the band’s live assault made it easy to overlook this factor. Offering a cocktail of thrash and death metal, speed and groove, the Boston group conveyed a massive heap of heaviness.
I am not too familiar with Revocation’s catalog, but it’s safe to assume the bulk of their set, “Chaos of Forms,” which they released last year. Drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne displayed the album cover, a macabre painting depicting a tornado of skeletons swirling through an angry storm, on his bass drum. Considering their style, Revocation would be an apt road partner for Goatwhore. I expect this band to become a major player in the modern metal scene.
Switzerland’s Eluveitie is another band making a big impact in the modern metal scene, although much of their music adheres to a much older time period. Heavy metal bands playing violin, multiple flutes, tin whistles, hurdy gurdy and other old world instruments just wouldn’t fly in the age before metal received so many stylistic classifications. However, this idea has been growing and expanding for nearly twenty years in Europe, and thanks to tours such as Pagan Knights and Pagan Fest, the pagan/folk metal movement is finally thriving in North America.
With less emphasis on stage theatrics utilized by fur-wearing artists as Turisas and Finntroll, Eluveitie entertained the crowd through plethora of folk sounds. Their set showed a significance increase in volume from the previous bands, which sounded particularly booming during their metal sections. The group’s metal side is often ignored due to their (still) unusual folksy approach, but it was hard to forget tonight. Much like Threat Signal, their brand of melodic death was akin to the headliner, and did it without sounding like a cliché.
Eluveitie was on tour in support of their new album “Helvetios,” which the band said was available only on this tour. They played a new song that was hard and heavy with a “Revenge of the Nerds” style electric violin (I’m sure that wasn’t their intent). Anna Murphy exchanged her hurdy gurdy for a microphone on one song, pushing her voice to far beyond the rafters in a display that rivaled the power metal operatic of Nightwish. Further into the set, she showed more chops during a furious chorus of screams. The group busted out the bag pipes to close the set out with an early favorite, “Inis Mona.” Eluveitie was spectacular, as expected, but the intimacy of White Rabbit in San Antonio during Pagan Fest 1 yielded a greater amount of energy.
Jig-dancing folk metal fans were out in numbers, but the largest group of fans came out for headliner Children of Bodom. Bodom has come a long way since they opened those shows I saw eight years ago. I could say it was due to the increased volume and more room for stage props, but it was also experience. For many years, Alexi Laiho has been receiving endorsements as a guitar virtuoso. We all knew it was coming. Now the group is a headlining act and on the verge being dubbed super stars. They need to bring in more than half the capacity of Emo’s 1,700 limit, though, to be in the same league as bands like Black Label Society. Certainly, a weekend show would have brought more fans. The few hundred fans in attendance made their voices heard and bodies felt, though.
Around 11 PM, tattered sheets illuminated by a ghoulish green light fell from the rafters as part of the “Relentless Reckless Forever” back drop. Just like any band on tour, Children of Bodom played several songs from the latest album. The hour-plus set afforded the group time for material through out its career. Set highlights included “Follow the Reaper” songs “Everytime I Die” and “Bodom After Midnight” (encore) and “Needled 24/7” and the title track as a set closer from their breakout album “Hate Crew Deathroll.”
Each member circled the stage, so no matter where the fans were at, they could see each musician shred. Bodom has a definite melodic death/Finnish thrash sound, but their keyboards showed them eye to eye with prog-power greats. When not using the PA as a post for hammering out millions of notes, Laiho joined keyboardist Janne Warman on the platform at the back of the stage. The two played side-by-side, almost in a type of competition. Children of Bodom’s performance could have rivaled any large arena, radio hard rock band.
With their blend of folk melodies and melodic death metal, Children of Bodom was once close to my heart. My appreciation began to wane when the group starting incorporating modern metal and hardcore elements into their sound. After watching a mind-blowing performance, I realized they needed to bring in more of those influences to gain a wider audience. Now they have so many influences and elite skills that it’s hard to see this band not becoming huge. Openers Eluveitie, Revocation, Threat Signal resulted in a rounded affair. Although Bodom’s performance was hindered by a blown speaker, Emo’s fixed the problem, so the venue could boast another night of dazzling lights and excellent sound!
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