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Chicago Open Air Day One

I've never been to an open air music festival. Mostly since most music fests have only one or two artists who I like and try to jam as many different styles of music into one festival as possible to the point where they have no target audience anymore. Lollapalooza is perhaps the biggest offender in that regard to he point where it appeals to both everyone and nobody simultaneously. But thankfully Chicago finally got a metal festival of its own to compensate for a lot of the directionless festivals that the city is known for that have kept me at bay for so long.

Milwaukee Metalfest closed up around a decade ago so Chicago getting a heavy metal festival was (literally) music to my ears. The Rust Belt had nothing in the way of metal festivals and the only other big metal fests have been Rocklahoma, Maryland Deathfest, New England Metal and Hardcore Fest and 70,000 Tons of Metal. As somebody who doesn't live within driving distance from Oklahoma, Maryland, Massachusetts or Florida, I was incredibly excited for something to hit the Midwest as it was long overdue.

But the part that got me most excited was the potential for the future. Specifically a future where artists who only do festivals and mini-tours can finally hit a big outdoor stage and do so in my hometown. Think Anaal Nathrakh, Samael, Ihsahn, Pig Destroyer and Zardonic being able to not only play a real festival show in the Midwest but also be introduced to a whole new audience who would be coming for the far more mainstream headliner. At the very least, the fest could use some less obscure second stage openers and some more foreign bands who haven't come to America for years like Primordial, Vreid or Orphaned Land. But for a brand new festival, the lineup wasn't bad by any means, particularly when it came to headliners. It's a possible future outlet for all the cool stuff that I would never otherwise get to see in coming years which is what got me psyched more than anything else.

I waited in the mother of all lines upon arriving on Friday for a full 90 minutes. Everyone wanted to be in early to catch the opening band on the opening day of the inaugural festival. And the person in front of me was the evil doppelganger of a friend of mine from college. Same body. Same haircut. Same facial features. Same teeth. It was just completely uncanny, especially since one of them lives in west Iowa and the other in east Nebraska. More...

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Ratos de Porão Celebrates "Anarkophobia" In Murcia

There are some bands that you resign yourself to never experiencing live. Whether it's because the group in question is a cult favourite from another country, have been disbanded for years and aren't on speaking terms, or simply because they're all dead (which puts a Ramones reunion out of the window,) we all have bands that we say, "Oh, I would have loved to have seen them." Fortunately, through the magic of travel and immigration, I was able to defy my expectations and witness one of the greatest bands in the history of Brazilian heavy music, Ratos de Porão.

Taking place at the Garaje Beat Club in the southern city of Murcia, a venue which holds the gritty, down to Earth vibe of a punk hangout, while also having air condition (which trust me, is a Godsend in this part of the world,) and a small, leather sofa upstairs, the club is one of the most impressive I've visited anywhere. Opening the show was the only Spanish band on the bill, Fuckop Family, a strange collective from Alicante but one well worth checking out. Whilst probably best described as a hardcore band, there was plenty of variation in their sound, especially when showcasing their reggae and ska influences. Heavy music and toasting may not sound like the ideal marriage, but these boys made it work. A good start to the evening, though perhaps their set was a little long for an opening act. More...

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The Obsessed Makes Triumphant Return

The Obsessed came to Austin to play the Dirty Dog Bar after over a twenty-year hiatus. The group last released “The Church Within” in 1994, but their fans haven’t forgotten the band. Even without the exposure, their singer/guitarist, Scott “Wino” Weinrich has made numerous treks through Texas and his hailed as one of the true greats in the doom field. He is one of the most active and talented musicians in the doom scene and has played Austin with several other bands including his solo project, doom icons Saint Vitus, and most recently with Spirit Caravan, a group that he spawned out of The Obsessed. Now, two-thirds of The Obsessed consist of Spirit Caravan members. More...

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Behemoth At Thalia Hall 4/29/2016

Behemoth always kick ass live. Always have, always will. “The Satanist” is Behemoth's best album, period. So when I heard that Behemoth were playing it in their entirety live, I simply had to go.

Of course, the venue was in an unfamiliar part of town where I had to take a bus that I'd never taken before after arriving at Union Station. A random guy on the street complimented my Fear Factory shirt while I got lost wandering around a four block radius looking for just the right street corner which was nice. It would have been nicer if I could actually figure out the right street address since the directions on Google Maps were kind of confusing since it couldn't pinpoint my location.

I reached the #60 bus stop right while I had a red light across the street from the bus. It was an eight minute wait if I didn't board ASAP despite knowing that I'd never be able to make it to the door in time without being run over. I made a run for it right as I got a green light and knocked on the door as the bus began to move. The driver asked if I was crazy. I relied with, “yeah, a little.” Being crazy may be dangerous but I can't complain since crazy gets me results. More...

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Butcher Babies Take London By Storm

Butcher Babies are a band which have attracted plenty of attention in their relatively short time, garnering both praise and (sometimes unwarranted) criticism. However, they've always been more than willing to fight back and answer the naysayers, particularly in the live setting. Last week in London, the band, joined by Canadian outfit Sumo Cyco, brought their blistering performance to the English capital.

Although I unfortunately missed the majority of the local opener's set, I did arrive with plenty of time to see Sumo Cyco. Having known nothing about the group before watching them, I had the fair position of having no expectations about their performance. However, I am now convinced that I have seen the next big thing, a phrase I have never used before. Sumo Cyco bring a hard rocking take to some very catchy numbers, as well as something of a party atmosphere to a gritty, punk influenced style. More...

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Fear Factory At the Concord Music Hall 4/19/2016

Booking this show was an absolute nightmare and almost entirely my fault. I say almost because it it was only 0.01% other people's fault and 99.99% mine thanks to my bad habit of procrastination. I saw that Darren (Rex_84 to you readers) had already interviewed Dino a week ago and thought that I missed my shot at covering Fear Factory but already put in a request to Fear Factory's management instead of Soilwork's which led to discussion with Darren about what type of content was in his now published interview and led to me originally only getting a photo pass from Liz at Earplit PR. Of course by the time Darren, Doug, Ty and I all took the time to discuss whether or not to do a second Fear Factory interview and came to the conclusion that since Darren and Dino only discussed the history of the band through “Demanufacture,” it would be a good idea to get Burt's take on Fear Factory starting with “Obsolete.” Which we only discussed after I bought up the possibility days after I should have. Liz naturally took a vacation for from Friday through Monday and only confirmed the possibility of an interview on the day of the show and sent an e-mail to me stating that an interview was off the table after I'd already contacted the band's tour manager to confirm an interview... which was just a huge clusterfuck made worse by the tour manager being late to send the guest list to the box office when I was worried that I wouldn't even get in.

Of course after getting in, I stop at the merch table, buy a shirt and then look at the audience around me. One guy was still wearing those mallgoth JNCO raver pants that Hot Topic sold circa 2001 who I'm guessing spent the last 15 years in cryogenic suspension. Amazingly a lot of people in Star Wars shirts who frequently had chin straps that grew into full on neckbeards with one guy even wearing a full-on pleather trenchcoat. Part of me wanted to bring a college-aged Ani DeFranco fan with me just to see how fast she'd get triggered only to run into the arms of the security guy who happened to be a white dude with dreadlocks... Which might give her a full-on mental breakdown. More...

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Korpiklaani And Moonsorrow Pillage London

North London is no stranger to heavy metal shows, with venues like the Underworld, the Koko and the Electric Ballroom (all in Camden) regularly hosting bands from the genre. The 02 Academy in Islington has really been spoiling fans of the genre this week however as only a day after Udo Dirkschneider and Anvil graced the stage (see review here,) two of Finland's most beloved bands docked in the capital to treat the Islington crowd to a grand but highly enjoyable night of pagan metal.

I arrived at the venue to find that Moonsorrow had just started, opening with the title track from their new album, "Jumalten Aika" and immediately capturing the attention of the crowd, who had packed this relatively small but still impressive concert hall. The band are a seriously impressive live act, in addition to their complex compositions, somehow creating images in the mind despite their striking stage presence. Just listening to songs like "Suden Tunti" and "Jotunheim," I could practically see the Viking vessels arriving on the shores of England (I'm glad they weren't really, the Vikings took all our hot women to Iceland last time they showed up.) More...

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Udo Dirkschneider Bids Farewell To Accept

The Islington Academy has hosted many names from the world of metal over the years. From upstarts to legends, many a hard rocker has passed through it's doors. Tonight however, the venue was to host a show like never before, as the iconic heavy metal singer Udo Dirkschneider and his band U.D.O. (using the moniker, Dirkschneider, so as not to confuse concert goers expecting to hear their own songs,) performed a set consisting only of Accept songs, the vast catalogue and classic tunes the singer was bidding farewell to after so many years, perhaps never to be sung by his unmistakable voice again. He was in good company too, bringing along Canadian metal stalwarts Anvil for the ride, as well as British heavy metal outfit, I.C.O.N.

I.C.O.N. opened the show and set the tone for the entire night. This quartet from Burnley play nothing short of vintage of heavy metal with the skill to do it justice where so many have failed, making them the perfect openers for such a tour. With a good stage presence and solid musicianship, the group surely won over those who attended the show early and treated them to some real belters such as "Devil's Blacklist" and "Deconverted" during a set which felt all too short for those of us in the audience. Their album, "The Blacklist" is out now. More...

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Avantasia Lights Up New York City

Concerts come and concerts go. The more concerts we see, the less distinctive they become against the backdrop of such numbers. As we get older, it seems each show etches away a fragment of that youthful excitement – the part that props our heroes up on a mantle where they are only revered for the music they create. In 2016, there are so many opportunities to view our heroes from the other side of the stage – whether it is via “meet and greets” or just through the accessibility of social media, which proves as much amazing as it is awful. Our heroes become so human that it etches away the luster of the mantle which our youthful excitement once raised them on. In this regard, perhaps those who feel “rock is dead” may just have a point.

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Visigoth And Night Demon Enthrall Austin

Visigoth made their furthest trip east as they played only their second show, ever, in Texas. The Salt Lake City group came into Austin on tour supporting NHOBHM revivalists Night Demon. Although having a show on a Tuesday night didn’t produce a full house, the overall concert, including local tribute Thin Lizzy tribute band, Think Lizzy, was one of the best shows to ever embrace Beerland’s dark confines.

Never have I seen a local opener produce as much anticipation as Think Lizzy. Before taking the stage, members of Visigoth told the band before the show started how much they wanted to see them, and their members plus the Night Demon guys were up front supporting the tribute act. Led by a real Irish man, Steve O’Brien, who donned an afro wig to look just like fallen singer/bassist, Phil Lynott, the group played a full set of Lizzy tunes.

The crowd sang along to a full set of Lizzy classics while playing air guitar to some of the best guitar harmonies ever produced (air guitar was ever-present from the crowd). The group even brought up special guests like Night Demon’s newest guitarist Armand John Anthony and former Eternal Champion bassist Sean Weingartner. Weingartner took over the bass and mic to perform a non-Lizzy song, “The Ace of Spades.” Armand joined the group in a Maiden-esque three-way of melodious guitars for arguably the band’s most metal song “Emerald.” More...

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Overkill And Vader Lay Waste To Bristol

It truly is wonderful that so many of the old guard of thrash metal are still going strong. Even better, it's especially wonderful that Overkill are still around, stronger than ever and representing the genre perhaps better than anyone else. This month, the band embarked on their most extensive tour of the United Kingdom yet, bringing along two stellar groups including one of Europe's most beloved death metal veterans, Vader and the multinational progressive thrash outfit, One Machine.

There was barely any time for the audience to digest what they were about to see, as due to a noise level curfew, One Machine were still finishing up their sound check, before launching into their set without warning, made ironic by the opening number, "Forewarning" from their new album, "The Final Cull." It's a solid opener from a band with enormous stage presence, led by vocalist Chris Hawkins, whose combination of David Lee Roth style theatrics, humour and vocal prowess makes for a classic example of a heavy metal frontman. One Machine has an extremely crushing live sound that makes the music sound much more immersive than in the studio and though their set was a short one, consisting only of five songs, they certainly made an impact, winning new fans and providing an exhilarating start to the evening. More...

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Pig Destroyer At Reggies Rock Club

Whoever decided to book the Abbath, High On Fire and Skeletonwitch tour date on the same day as a Pig Destroyer show deserves to be shot. After seeing how many people turned up to see PD, I feel really sorry for everyone involved with the Abbath tour.

Then again, it might not have been as dire for them since metal's grown larger as it has grown more diverse. I was surprised by the amount of people over 40, women and people dressed like they just got out of work at an office job. Usually metal shows – particularly for bands as brutal as Pig Destroyer – attract a audience of mostly 18-35-year-old working class males. Then again, since anyone who isn't part of that demographic is treated as a complete pariah by TV executives and aren't allowed to be couch potatoes, it's only natural that they'd show up to see Pig Destroyer. After all, metal is ultimately a genre for the dispossessed misfits of society.
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Nile And Melechesh Unearth Darkness In Bristol

The Bierkeller in Bristol has hosted some of the most respected names in rock, metal, hardcore and punk over the years. It's an ideal venue to welcome these bands too, as it can hold around seven hundred people, with plenty of space, yet feel like an intimate concert, not least because it's not uncommon to see members of the groups walking around, drinking and taking photos with the crowd. All this made it pretty much perfect for the night's show, as American death metal veterans Nile brought their What Should Not Be Unearthed tour to Britain's seventh largest city, and with them, Jerusalemite black metallers Melechesh and Italian death metal act, Embryo.

It was Embryo who kicked off the evening's festivities, taking to the stage with only a small audience to perform to. Right from the start, they let the crowd know just what they had before them: Five hungry young men whose appetite for death metal was insatiable. There's a lot to enjoy about this band, whose brutality is married to a groove many attempt, but few can capture. As the number of people in the venue grew, so too did the appreciation for the band, who maintained a professional demeanour, despite their clear joy to be a part of such a tour. While they may not be a household name (in households who listen to extreme music anyway,) Embryo could yet become one of Italy's most beloved metal bands if they continue their quality songwriting and live intensity. More...

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Unearth At The Subterranean

I took the Metra to the CTA Blue Line since I didn't want to pay for both gas and city parking. Besides, mass transit probably caused more damage to my hearing over the years that heavy metal ever did. On the way down to the city, the train conductor asked if I was in high school as he was offering student discounts and I looked like I could be a teenager. I'm 28. That's the downside of shaving my beard off every spring and staying clean shaven all the way through the summer until late autumn. With it, I look 16. Without it I look 45. I simply cannot win.

The venue is located in Wicker Park, which is the Hipster capital of Chicago thanks in no small part to the Subterranean being located right next to the Double Door. If there was any further proof that the hipster generation is a bunch of aging fossils, the Subterranean had a flier for an upcoming nu metal DJ night with a picture of Fred Durst. When your generation is old enough to get nostalgic and start looking backwards instead of to the future, they're officially as pathetic as retired hippies still pining away for the 60s. More...

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70,000 Tons Of Metal, Day Four: "Band Vs. Nature"

I woke up at the usual 7:30am after arriving at my cabin less than three hours prior. I really thought there would be more of a hangover…but then again, it really wasn’t that long since my last drink. I usually reserve the last full day/night of the cruise (today) to be the time I lay down the camera and act more like a fan, but circumstances were such that Saturday night was the party night.

So the last full day of the cruise is met much like any other Sunday before you go back to work…the morning brings the feeling of “I still have a full day ahead of me.” By mid-morning you think “Ok…I have to find a way to slow this day down.” By noon its “I still have lunch and dinner and a bunch of shows to see.” By mid-afternoon its “well, the sun is still out.” By early evening its “Fuck…its almost over.”

I headed up to the Windjammer for some breakfast and I brought my camera so I can check out the 10am pool deck show with Twilight Force. After eating, I walked up to deck 12 and guards were blocking the pool deck from every angle. Apparently there was a banner that was blowing around that may cause harm if it detached…or so the story went. I checked back four times…even seeing many of the band members in costume and ready to go. It was not to be…Twlight Force would be cancelled and rescheduled…but this was just the beginning of the nightmare. More...

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70,000 Tons Of Metal, Day Three: "Its METAL Mon!"

Port day on the 2016 edition of the World’s Largest Metal Cruise! We made it into Falmouth, Jamaica at some time in the wee hours of the morning. This part of the cruise is a necessary element for a journalist, especially one trying to see as many shows as possible before collapsing from exhaustion. Since the day is usually enjoyed by fan and musician alike on shore and about the country, it means rest and relaxation for me until about 4pm – a time to recharge both the physical and mental batteries for the second half of the mayhem.

In similar fashion to last year, I skipped the part about getting off the boat. Unless there is a Mayan ruin like in Mexico a few years back, my interest in beach activities and touristy shops pales in comparison to resting and taking a few walks around the ship. This year I freed my shoulders from cameras and relaxed with breakfast before heading back to the room to do a little photo processing. The first show I would attend today would be Stratovarius’ second set on the pool deck. More...

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70,000 Tons Of Metal, Day Two: "The Marathon Day"

I woke around 7am – excited for what was not only the first full day of the cruise…but what I hoped would be the most concerts I’ve ever attended in any single day of my life. It was all mapped out…but the question is – would the pool deck be ready?

I headed up to Deck 12 to assess the situation…and once I made it to the yellow police tape, I realized – here we go again. In 2015, the high winds at sea forced the crew to abandon building the pool deck stage (the largest at sea) until the morning. It took them until 6pm to get it ready for Soulfly’s set, forcing all other shows to be reworked indoors. This year, the plan going in seemed to be to rework the shows where available – likely at the end of the evening within the venues inside. I recalled my joke to Siegfried Sammer of Visions of Atlantis – “I’ll see you at 10am…IF – and that’s a big IF…the pool deck is ready.” Well, it appears the jinx was on because Visions of Atlantis would be bumped to Saturday. The guard told me that 11:30am was the target time for completion, which is still way better than 2015. More...

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Kataklysm Lead A Death Metal War In London

Perhaps one of the most popular venues among metal fans and bands in Britain, is The Underworld in Camden, North London. It's practically a given that when a small or cult band tours the UK, this is where they will play, even if it's their only UK show. As a result, even the pub located above the venue, appropriately enough called The World's End, is a very metal place, complete with it's own merchandise and all kinds of rock and metal being played over the stereo, as well as fantastic staff. The place is worth visiting for this alone, but on this night, The Underworld was hosting a death metal extravaganza which simply could not be missed, as Kataklysm arrived with Septicflesh and Aborted to perform the penultimate show of a 44 date tour.

The evening got off to an extremely heavy start as Waregem's own, Aborted took to the stage. It says a lot about this tour that all three bands are headliners in their own rights, each with a rich history and a lengthy back catalogue and Aborted certainly have the presence to be deemed headliners. All three bands brought a different brand of death metal to the show and this evening's openers were representing the brutal side of music, and representing it well. Despite going on at 6:45, Aborted instantly got the crowd moving, with plenty of head banging and mosh pits (a dangerous thing in The Underworld given the pillars on the floor,) to go around. The band mixed old material with new, performing songs from their excellent new EP, "Termination Redux," which are also scheduled to appear on their forthcoming new album, "Retrogore." This is all held together by frontman Sven de Caluwé, who possesses the charisma and showmanship that it takes to be considered one of the best live vocalists in death metal. Aborted puts on the kind of death metal performance people want to see, intense, extreme and very fun. More...

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At The Gates Inspires Generations of Austinites

In Central Texas, the weekend that fell on Friday, February 12th through the 14th was filled with great shows featuring major European extreme metal bands, bands that rarely appear in North America. First, I caught Cradle of Filth (visit link) put on a spectacular show at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio. Two days later, the immortal At The Gates made it’s first ever appearance in Austin.

The forerunners of melodic death previously toured North America in 2008 with Darkest Hour and Municipal Waste. Then, they played San Antonio. Due to a publicist error, I couldn’t get into that show, so I partook in other debaucheries. I did, however, catch At The Gates tour twenty-years ago with Morbid Angel and Dissection as the opener. (Readers may have seen them on 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise or Maryland Death Fest).

I didn’t know anything about them. I was there to see Dissection (the only time I caught the band), but liked what I heard and shortly after became a fan of Gothenburg bands. Twenty years later and I can sing all the songs, pump my fest and bang my head with the rest of the packed club at the Mohawk’s punk/metal-friendly club. More...

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Cradle of Filth Spreads Vampire Plague

Two days in February will probably become two of the most sought after days for metal concerts in central Texas. This is because European bands invaded the Lone Star state. First, on Friday the 12th, Cradle of Filth ravaged the Aztec Theater in San Antonio. Then, At The Gates thrashed Austin. Both shows brought in a large crowd, which was partially due to their popularity but also due to the fact that Euro bands like these just don’t tour much.

My show report on At The Gates will post soon, but first let’s look at COF’s performance at the Aztec. Due to horrendous traffic, it took me 3.5 hours to drive from Georgetown, Texas to San Antonio Friday traffic is terrible and on this day I encountered 4 wrecks and traffic stalls. I guess next time I’ll need to take off around noon on Friday to see all the bands. The drive is terrible. Once I made it to the venue Butcher Babies were halfway through their set. Other than boobs on parade, I don’t give much credence to this band. They sound very cliché for the times and there is nothing that really grabs me.

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