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ProgPower USA XVI, Part 4: Fabio Is God

3:45pm - September 12, 2015

It’s surreal….I stand on the ramp looking out Dragonland performing “Starfall,” minutes before I make my stage debut. Nerves, excitement, tension….all wrapped up as I stood with my friend Tommy to unleash “The Black Mare” with one of my favorite bands. I sang along to practice…

“The sign of truth – starfall lights in your eyes
The wish it hides – is in your mind
The hope of life – when astral angels cry
Truth and lies – starfall eyes”

Hey…I felt strong! Excitement flowed as I banged my head thinking…this is going to be awesome! Its back! My voice was back!

Far cry from this morning…… More...

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ProgPower USA XVI, Part 3: Falconer's Last Show

7:30am – September 11, 2015.

In any other place, at any other time of the year, 7:30am feels like noon. After last night’s Dragonland experience, it felt way too early. As a perpetual early riser, this one felt like grim death. I’m getting to old for this – restricted to two maybe three occasions a year that I would even consider staying out until 4:30-5:00am. I needed coffee….buckets of it. Where was Lance King and his trusty “Awakenings” blend when I needed it! Riiiiight, the main merch area doesn’t open until noon today.

Well, I couldn’t fall back asleep now…I might wake up at 3pm and I had an 11am sponsor meeting with Glenn Harveston. I cannot miss that one. Just a day earlier when arriving in Atlanta, I learned that since the issues with Hibria forced my sponsored band off the roster, I would now be proudly co-sponsoring Jeff Scott Soto. Nothing wrong with that! Here is a legend that now gets an extended set to celebrate his 30th anniversary – so I was expecting to hear solo material, Yngwie Malmsteen material and Talisman material at least! Truly exciting stuff….when one door closes, another opens wider! More...

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ProgPower USA XVI, Part 2: Project Dragonland

Daybreak…..September 10th. Going out to the Artmore the previous evening was lame by comparison to the rest of the weekend. Though sold out, the Mid-Week Mayhem show after party just isn’t as big because many of the fans and musicians haven’t arrived to the area quite yet, so a 3:00am turn in time may as well have been midnight.

Waking at 7:00am, I trudged over to the Residence Inn’s quality free hot breakfast on floor 2. Today was the day….it would all hang on Dragonland – the band I’ve been lusting over since the announcement came a year ago. The Kick-Off event has always been a special occasion, but since Nathan Block of Swordlord took over, the bar has been raised dramatically…for me. That is, if you are a power metal fanboy, Nathan is your man. More...

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ProgPower USA XVI, Part 1: Mid-Week Mayhem

Sunday....September 20, 2015....the alarm blared at 4:45pm. I guess I forgot to change it from the normal weekday. I sit up - still reeling from the post-ProgPower USA plague, a disease that seems to permeate from the long hours and constant human communication/contact over a four day annual ritual - or rite of passage for the newbie virgins. I reach for another cough drop and open unlock my phone to reveal this morning’s round of Facebook notifications.

Oh...a tag on a video from Dragonland’s second set at ProgPower USA...yes, I said “second.” Why a tag? Well, as it turned out, yours truly was afforded the incredible honor of joining the band on stage for “The Black Mare.” As I sit and contemplate just how that weekend transpired - all the changes, the problems Glenn and Jen Harveston and all involved had to endure in keeping a solidified lineup in the face of the dreaded USCIS - there really is a magic that happens in Atlanta. No matter how it turns out...it never ceases to raise the bar each and every year. More...

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Brujeria Shine In An International Metal Gathering

On Friday the 14th (probably unlucky for some,) two of death metal's cult favourites, Cryptopsy and Brujeria, performed a co-headlining show at The Dome in Tufnell Park, North London, joined in their venture by Brazilian thrash trio Nervosa and Australian technical death metal outfit, Psycroptic. The Dome itself is a solid venue, especially for housing metal shows, comprising mostly of a large hall, with the usual club features of a cloakroom and smoking area. Unfortunately, because of renovations at the Tufnell Park underground station (which is literally across the street from The Dome,) the best option was to get off at Kentish Town and walk from there, which is only a ten minute straight walk. It's a venue well worth checking out if there's something on that fits your taste, and on this night, The Dome was catering to those of us with a taste for the extreme.

First up, at only half past six in the evening, was the all female thrash metal group, Nervosa, arguably one of the most exciting bands coming through at the moment. It was their first time visiting Great Britain and they were clearly keen to both showcase their talents and win over new fans, which they most certainly did on the night. Though the crowd was relatively sparse when they took to the stage, Nervosa played with a frenzied passion that encompassed both the anger that drives their creativity and the love of metal that taking them to new places. As more people entered the venue, they found themselves gravitating to the stage to see this exhilarating three piece, mostly performing music from their debut full length, "Victim of Yourself." The album itself is a great listen, and songs such as, "Death" and "Into Moshpit" sound even heavier in a live environment and it took no more than two songs for the whole crowd to be converted, with more being won over from start to finish. It was a great way for the band to introduce themselves in the UK before heading out on their headline run, which is a must see for those who like their thrash tinged with death metal. A fantastic way to start the show. More...

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Graspop Metal Meeting: Day Three

The final day of a festival always seems to be the most subdued and relaxed, most likely a result of tiredness, but with such a solid lineup to look forward to, who has time to take it easy? Graspop Metal Meeting still had plenty to offer the head bangers on this Sunday, with things getting off to a great start at the second main stage, where New Zealand hard rockers, Like A Storm got things underway. This was another case of checking out a band I had never heard of and they proved well worth a gamble, as their brand of hard rock with a tinge of alternative metal was the perfect way to wake up the sleepy unwashed and accentuate a few hang overs. Like The Dead Daisies two days before, Like A Storm are all about having a good time. It's rock the way it was designed to be, a lot of fun and high energy, though they put their own, native stamp on things by utilising the didgeridoo, which believe it or not, actually works really well with their music. The instrument was first used in a solo performance, before being brought out again for their song, "Love the Way You Hate Me," and there were other surprises in store too, most notably a cover of the Coolio hit, "Gangsta's Paradise." A great way to start the day.

A little bit of Pop Evil followed, which continued the theme of enjoyable hard rock, before the day's first trip to the Marquee came, this time to check out Winterfylleth. This was another band I was unfamiliar with, despite seeing the name in passing a number of times. I assumed from the name that they were a black metal group, but there's a lot more to them than that. They display an amazing musical talent which goes beyond the simple goal of making music just to be extreme, which some bands are guilty of, and don't conform to the uniform of corpse paint and spikes out of a mistaken sense of obligation, something else young black metal groups have done from time to time. Winterfylleth are another outfit that let the music do most of the talking, which is guaranteed to win over newcomers and please fans who turned up to see these metal Mancunians. More...

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Graspop Metal Meeting: Day Two

Following an excellent start to the festival the day before, it was exciting to wake up to another day of metal music in Dessel. There was once again plenty on display for head bangers of all tastes, from legendary bands to current favourites. There were also plent of cult heroes performing on this day, one of which was the first band on the agenda.

Formed in 1991 under the name Resurrection in Israel, Orphaned Land have gone on to become one of, if not the premier metal band from the Middle East. Part of what makes them such an endearing group is their constant devotion of their music to peace, particularly between the Abrahamic religions that clash more than anywhere around their homeland. They were a great way to start the day, possessing a fantastic energy that got plenty of the crowd moving, which is quite an accomplishment for midday at a festival. Opening with the title track to their latest album, "All Is One," they oozed a positive atmosphere and most heads that were banging were also smiling. Having only a forty minute set, it was impressive that the band were able to fit seven songs into their schedule, with the excellent "Separi" being a particular highlight, in part due to the guest appearance of a Dutch Muslim belly dancer, who also joined the group for their finale, which was a medley of "Norra el Norra" and "Ornaments of Gold." Like several bands the day before, Orphaned Land were highly impressive and one that needs adding to the metal fans list of bands to see live. More...

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Graspop Metal Meeting: Day One

The Graspop Metal Meeting festival, held annually in the small Belgian town of Dessel, has become one of the highlights of the metal calendar, along with such festivals as Wacken Open Air and Hellfest and this year, the event proved how successful it is by celebrating it's twentieth edition. It was certainly a special way to mark the occassion, booking a number of bands who had never played the festival before but who fans had been clamouring to see. It has always traditionally catered to head bangers of all ages, bringing in bands from the early days of metal to the stars of today, as well as up and comers. Before we go any further, it should be noted that due to scheduling conflicts, some big names either will not be covered in this review, or only mentioned briefly, so don't be disappointed if your favourite band doesn't get the treatment you want, if at all. So, with all that said, just how good can a metal festival in the Flemish region be? Read on, MacDuff.

Arriving on the Thursday, the camp site seemed to be smoother than ever to get in to than previous years. Whether this is because the staff have further improved the planning of the grounds, metal heads have become friendlier over the past four years, or because I've been put on medication since my last visit, we'll never know. Anyway, the general atmosphere at Graspop was, as per usual, a very relaxed one, with people from all over the world coming to listen to and celebrate the music they love so dearly. There are some bands performing on this day too, mostly cover acts such as The Art of Pantera and Diolegacy. It's a good way to get introduced to the festival grounds, get some tokens (imagine Disney money but with skulls on,) and familiarise yourself with the stages, food stalls and the cafe, which is more of a pub with Warlock on full blast.

On to the most important thing however, the music. Kicking off the main stage, or rather, the second main stage as the festival now has two, was hard rock supergroup, The Dead Daisies. The band features a collective of solid names such as Marco Mendoza, Dizzy Reed and former Motley Crue vocalist, John Corabi. Looking at the bands on the members resume such as Guns N Roses, Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, their good time, hard rocking sound was pretty much what one would expect. This does not, however, stop them from doing their job of getting people on their feet, putting smiles on faces and generally bringing a great vibe to the event that is so vital in making sure a festival gets off to a good start. They're not just a party act either, they've got some genuinly good songs and a number of people seemed to be a little surprised how much they enjoyed the set. Bottom line: If you want to party like it's 1985, go see the Dead Daisies. You'll be glad you did. More...

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Sepultura Plays 30-Year Anniversary Show in Austin

Just a few weeks ago I watched Cavalera Conspiracy perform Sepultura songs at the Texas Independence Festival on the very same stage at Empire Control Room & Garage. At that show I heard the former voice (Max) and beat maker (Igor) of Sepultura. With the band bearing the namesake Sepultura, I witnessed original bassist Paulo Jr. and longtime guitarist Andreas Kisser. Most of all I would be comparing vocalists. I saw Max Cavalera front the band during their vaunted “Chaos A.D.” album twenty-one years ago, so I was curious to hear Derrick Green’s fill in this position. More...

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Texas Independence Fest Day 3: Cavalera Conspiracy

Day three of Texas Independence was the day I looked forward to the most. The headliners included Corrosion of Conformity-Blind, Death Angel and Cavalera Conspiracy.

This day was by far the most stacked for talent. Bands as well known as Allegaeon played early in the day. I didn’t make it to the club until 2:30. The Agonist was the first band I caught. I wasn’t able to see the band with Alissa White-Gluz before she left for Arch Enemy, so it’s difficult to compare her to her replacement Vicky Psarakis. Psarakis’s vocals seemed fine, but she appeared to have lost the monitor. Her band mates were in fine form, though.


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Texas Independence Fest Day 2: Whitechapel

Deathcore was the chosen style of music for day two of Texas Independence Fest in Austin, Texas. Whitechapel headlined and Oceano and Boris The Blade were two of the bands providing support. All those bands played the main stage, the Garage Stage. Before getting into this this stage, I would like to look at some of the small stage, Control Room Stage. Metalcore seems to be alive and well in Temple, Texas, a town located an hour north of Austin. Insonomist out of Temple played yesterday’s show and In The Trench played today. Vocalist Steven Harding’s refrain was infectious and the band got the small crowd in motion. More...

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Texas Independence Fest Day 1: BTBAM

Come and Take It Productions founded Texas Independence Fest in 2008 as a way to bring fans of heavy music together and to celebrate Texas pride. This was my second time attending the annual event held in Austin, Texas. Last year I covered sets by Behemoth, 1349, Wayne Static and more. The previous year consisted of only a day, while this year was expanded to three days. Several vendors offered their goods and services for sale. One of these was Gibroni’s Texitalican Kitchen, which offered Tex-Mex meets Italian sandwiches. More...

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SXSW 2015 Day Four: Converse/Thrasher Death Match

SXSW attendees spent the last day of the festival trying to stay dry. Fortunately, the Gypsy Lounge erected a giant tent to keep the crowd dry. The rain forced the staff running Converse/Thrasher’s Death Match to shut down the skate ramp.

I missed the first two bands, Blasting Concept and American Sharks and came in during instrumental jam band, Arctic. This Southern California band is making a name for their selves playing skate parks and skate festivals. Their guitarist, Figgy looked like Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth and played solos like him too, even though the band sounds nothing like Opeth. He was fun to watch and his solos were excellent but he and his band didn’t bring a lot in terms of riffs. More...

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SXSW 2015 Day Three: Tone Deaf Touring Showcase

A little bit of rain didn’t stop SXSW attendees from once again packing the Dirty Dog Bar down on Sixth Street this Friday. While the Metal Sucks showcase was heavy on tech death bands, the Tone Deaf Touring showcase included down tempo acts The Skull and Weedeater. Before those acts took the stage, though, progressive instrumentalists Stinking Lizaveta opened the show. The Philadelphia, Ohio based band has fifteen years of touring American and European audiences. This longevity showed in the trio’s tightness. Their female drummer played hard sticking tightly to the bassist who played an upright bass. The guitarist adeptly traversed his fret board. They received a good response from the small crowd. More...

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SXSW 2015 Day Two: South By South Death

Metalsucks.net's South By South Death showcase featured guitar shredders. Tech death bands Archspire and Allegaeon were in full force, but before they hammered out their first blast beats, a different kind of shredder took the stage. Myrone is a one-man guitar virtuoso hailing out of Los Angeles, California. The sole member of Myrone was similar to Buckethead in that he wore a mask. Many of the long notes he held was reminiscent of Joe Satriani. He later admitted to me that Satriani is a major influence. He played his guitar over top of ‘80s style keyboard samples, which were part of a soundtrack to a video game.


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SXSW 2015 Day One: St. Patrick’s Day

Dirty Dog Bar hosted the night’s show. The bar will host metal showcases through most of the duration of South By Southwest. The Dirty Dog is located on Sixth Street, a place of reputed drunken revelry due to so many bars lining its streets. Alcohol consumption was in full force tonight being Saint Patrick’s day. Hordes of green clad patrons wearing beads walked from bar to bar, sometimes with the assistance of others, seeking hops and other beverages. The drunkenness wasn’t too obnoxious, but when you introduce this much alcohol fights are bound to occur. One happened right on the sidewalk next to the venue. The initial crowd inside the bar was somewhat docile.

Before focusing on the bands at the Dirty Dog, I want to revisit some of my activities from days prior. SXSW is not just devoted to music. There is a film, education and interactive portion. On Sunday, two days after the start of film portion, I got my picture taken on the throne from Game of Thrones. It took us about an hour to get through the line to have a few seconds to take a picture. I thought the throne looked more realistic on TV only because we’re just seeing the top portion on screen. Once it was done I received a “mix tape” that was nothing more than cheap ear buds. We left the “SXSWestoros” exhibit on 5th Street and made our way to Congress to visit Robert Rodriguez’s museum. He had artwork by fantasy painter Frank Frazetta on display. The detail was much sharper in his paintings than his posters and book cover art. It was interesting to see the paintings that inspired the look of Conan The Barbarian. More...

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The 70,000 Ton Hangover

Can 21st-century metalheads ever be truly happy if they’re not bitching about something on the web?

The pointless arguments over bands’ music, which mostly boil down to matters of taste, are exhausting enough. And there’s a simple solution to dissatisfaction with a particular tour package: stay home and masturbate.

But complaining about festival lineups? Really?

I have some news for you, sport: the only Perfect Metal Festival Lineup, which exists only in an individual’s imagination, attracts an audience of one. Your Perfect Lineup is different from mine.

There needs to be a common denominator, a compromise. I don’t know about you, but when I’m not basking in my serene, elite metal knowledge via trve and righteous, smarmy and self-congratulatory screeds on Facebook, I actually enjoy watching a live show in the company of others. And in reaching the compromise to make that social event possible, everyone’s Perfect Lineup inevitably becomes less than perfect. Such is the transition from fantasy to reality.

In the process, like small children finally realizing that vegetables aren’t going to kill them, we learn that the reality is almost always better than the fantasy (discounting the fact that the latter doesn’t exist). MTV’s Butt-Head once mused on this very issue: “If nothing sucked, and everything was, like, cool all the time… how would you KNOW it was cool?”

At a several-day festival with dozens of bands on multiple stages, we NEED at least a handful of acts we know we can ignore. Otherwise, think of the immense pressure to be constantly on our feet, rushing back and forth, watching every equally important band with rapt attention. Even if possible, it would be simply overwhelming. We’d pass out from exhaustion and forget to enjoy ourselves. Plus, the truly special acts wouldn’t seem as special.

Last summer at Tuska Open Air in Helsinki, rather than bitch about the injustice of Bring Me The Horizon directly preceding Anthrax, I was grateful for the chance to relax and have a beer before catching a show by one of the Big Four. More...

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Alice Cooper Plays Pay-Per-View Show in Austin

The king of shock rock Alice Cooper put on a special show at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. Not only was the evening devoted entirely to the Alice Cooper band, no openers, the group recorded the show for pay-per-view. It was a special night for me because this was my first Alice Cooper show. It would not be one of those shows that made me say I wish I saw him when he was younger. Vincent Damon Furnier may have just turned 67 but he performed with the gusto of a young man. His voice was in peak condition and held up the entire hour and a half. More...

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An Evening With Machine Head In Baltimore

Machine Head is the heaviest metal band in the world.

You’re probably already spitting your beer all over your computer screen.

Let me explain. We’ve all heard the complaints of modern production woes, the trendy obsession with blinding speed and out-tech-ing each other, and the resultant dearth of memorable songwriting. Chances are you’ve done quite a bit of this complaining yourself. I know I have.

I know what brutal death metal is; and black metal, and grindcore, and so on. I know how “extreme” metal can get, and I’m a fan of tons of that stuff. I’m a metal journalist. It’s my job to know these things.

There are several reasons, each having to do with the merits of each individual instrument and the man playing it, for Machine Head’s status as Heaviest Metal Band in the World. To go with the most obvious reason, I will tell you right now that no one, and I mean NO ONE, comes close to touching Mr. Robert Flynn in terms of absolute, raw, uncut vocal intensity. Two decades and eight albums deep into Machine Head’s career, he has become a monster.

Guttural death growls, atonal black metal shrieks, I’ve heard it all. I love a great deal of it. But you know what? Little of it shocks or scares me anymore. Precious few bands of the elite-approved, underground, “extreme” variety actually provoke a sense of DANGER in me. Robb Flynn does.

The secret is passion. Unbridled, burning passion, rage, and all-around emotion. Flynn’s voice, at its harshest, is the sound of a man threatening to rip your head off and meaning it. At its softest, it’s the sound of a grieving mourner at a funeral, choking his way through a moving hymn. These two poles, and everything between, are part and parcel of the same experience: pure emotion, and pure intensity.

The guitars and rhythm section follow suit. For all the band’s stylistic evolution and musical expansion over the years, the core ingredient of bone-crushing groove remains unchanged. Whether the band is veering into thrashy or sludgy territory, it doesn’t matter: you can truly BANG YOUR HEAD to this stuff. Machine Head's riffing whips up a kind of aural stigmata, wherein you almost feel the brutal pain of a sledgehammer impacting your body.

All of this translates directly to the live setting. Machine Head are a live band at heart (and many bands of the technical sort are decidedly not). They’ve always sounded that way on record, because their music is MEANT to be experienced in concert. Think of that word’s other meaning: union, harmony. In this case, a bonding between artist and fan. A collective sharing of passion, rage, euphoria, lamentation. EMOTION. More...

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Death To All Conquers Austin

Death To All has been a functional unit for a couple of years. The band or cover band, if you will, toured in 2012 and 2013 with the “Human” era lineup. The band’s stop in Austin, thanks to Come And Take It Productions, included members from the progressive era of the band. This lineup included Steve DiGiorgio (“Human,” “Individual Thought Patterns”) bass and Bobby Koelbe (“Symbolic”) guitar. Gene Hoglan (“Individual Thought Patterns,” “Symbolic”) replaced Sein Reifert on drums and Max Phelps of Cynic once again played the role of Chuck Schuldiner on guitar and vocals. More...

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