Unioni Festival was a new occurrence this year, and this mini festival quickly became the most anticipated even of the autumn calendar in Helsinki. People came from all over Europe, and even as far as Los Angeles to catch the amazing lineup these two days boasted. Livenation has really outdone themselves this time around, and with both nights of the long anticipated Unioni festival sold out, they’d do well to be patting themselves on the back! More...
Representing a metal publication, that would normally count me right out. But then again, I’ve always held the firm belief that the best way to be a metal fan is to be a rock fan first. Without doing so, you’re building your factory on a foundation of silly putty.
And once in a while, an act springs up that simultaneously embraces and defies conventions of both genres. This is the sweet spot, the perfect ingredient for a rousing evening on the town.
After all, the three young Finns surrounding me at the small steakhouse restaurant table appear to have just bumped into one another by accident earlier this afternoon and started jamming.
The diversity of backgrounds and influences, the casual indifference to excessive image, the refusal to acknowledge stylistic boundaries - all these things combine to form a rock sound that’s alternative in the truest sense, an identity as elusive as it is distinct.
This is Helsinki’s Face Of God, and they’re telling me their story.
* * *
Red 7 held the concert in their outside stage, which due to the previous days storms, we were wondering if we would be rained out. As if the gods were fans of this tour, there was no raining on September 20. However, the rain did leave a muggy residue that was heated even further by packed crowd. Being on a Saturday certainly helped nudge area metal heads to get downtown, as did the lineup itself. Ghoul probably brought in the most fans, as evidenced by all the Municipal Waste and other crossover shirts and hats. Skeletonwitch shirts were also in abundance. Black Anvil was a nice complement to Ghoul and Skeletonwitch.
Locals, Sore put the night in motion. Their sludgy sounds added another distinct flavor to the three tour bands who possessed unique styles in their own rights. Fronted by ex-The Roller vocalist Mike Morowitz, Sore’s sound was akin to tearing away a sore from one’s flesh. It was abrasive and loud and divergent in tempo. Stomping doomy grooves saw bodies beginning to warm up. Faster grind seemed too caustic and it was too early in the evening to start a pit. But people took notice. More...
The fact that Friday’s ProgPower events went off without a hitch despite numerous technical issues that the audience generally wasn’t aware of and bands weren’t very delayed from their assigned time slots was a real credit to the ProgPower crew. Unfortunately, Saturday would bring its share of more obvious challenges. Waking up on Saturday had Friday’s attendees feeling as if they’d just collectively experienced the same dream for the entire day before. For some, that dream had lasted until dawn clawed its way overhead. As difficult as it was to believe, the festival was already half over. A full writeup on day one’s shows can be read here.
Saturday’s shows were to kick off with two of Norway’s more progressive bands - the young upstarts in Withem and the veterans of Divided Multitude. Divided Multitude’s drummer wasn’t available to come to America due to postal delays in getting him his visa, which forced the band to cut down their set and bring in the talents of two experts playing off the cuff: Withem’s Frank Røe and Pagan’s Mind’s Stian Kristoffersen. Following them would be Germany’s Voodoo Circle, whose vocalist would cause instant pregnancy among several of the female -- and male -- fans in the audience. Germany’s MasterPlan would round out the last of the power metal for the festival in huge fashion afterward, followed by a passionate full album performance by Sweden’s Pain of Salvation. Jon Oliva’s Pain would close out the festival with rare fire and what will surely be noted as one of the strongest performances of Oliva’s second half of his musical career - Savatage’s “Streets” performed in its entirety.
First, however, as is the tradition at ProgPower each year, gold badge holders were treated to a special additional set of music -- this time, by Seventh Wonder, performing non-Mercy Falls songs exclusively bright and early. More...
There really was no better way of preparing for the official days of 2014’s ProgPower USA festival than to have gone “Full Circle” with Pagan’s Mind, DGM, and Draekon the night before, on September 11th in Atlanta, GA. For the 12th of September, if you weren’t waking up late and shmammered from the after-party the night before, you were soon to be treated to a variety of international bands: From Greece, the proggy show-stealing Need, performing their latest album, “Orvam: A Song For Home.” From Germany, the power chant-fest that is Orden Ogan. From Norway, young prog super-champs Leprous. From Sweden, the humble prog-titans of Seventh Wonder were to perform their “Mercy Falls” album. Finally (and again from the Scandinavian countries!) from Finland, the prestigious major-key-masters of Stratovarius were to perform their 1997 album, “Visions.”
With doors opening at 1:30 in the warm Atlanta afternoon, crowds and pizza (courtesy of nearby restaurant DaVinci’s) flowed in steadily to Center Stage, combining with drinks, merchandise, band members, and a few awesome wheelchair-bound metalheads with passion for the music for a very warm “Welcome to ProgPower!” feeling. Truly, ProgPower is a festival like none other in the US - full of friendly faces, excitement, and a sense of brotherhood. Further, the first band of the day (Need), personified this enthusiasm and attitude perfectly as they took the stage at 2PM. They would have the crowd in their pocket within three songs. More...
Just one year to the day after the expeditionary US satellite Voyager I left our solar system, pushing mankind’s exploration of space to interstellar regions, Pagan’s Mind, DGM, and Draekon were to push the limits of bombastic progressive and power metal in a live setting and leave the crowd -- and this writer -- with nothing but hyperbole to explain the feat.
After Wednesday’s Midweek Mayhem show, the bar was set high at ProgPower USA XV in Atlanta for Thursday September 11th’s Kick-Off Show festivities. Nevertheless, in ProgPower tradition, Thursday’s show by Swordlord Productions built upon Wednesday’s energy and elevated it beyond the stratosphere. On this night, I and the crowd were to be treated to the talents of the sci-fi prog thrill-seekers of Norway’s Pagan’s Mind, a show that was also to be recorded for a crowd-funded live DVD entitled “Full Circle.”
As if that weren’t enough, Italy’s long-running kings of speed -- DGM -- were to put in a set of their own, with the USA’s own Draekon opening things right. Moreover, Evergrey had just hosted an exclusive listening party for their upcoming album, “Hymns For The Broken,” in the main venue an hour before the doors opened. What a day it was to be! More...
The first date for the Pain of Salvation/Vangough North American tour (sponsored by MetalUnderground.com) doubled as ProgPower USA’s unofficial “Midweek Mayhem” show on September 10th in Atlanta, Georgia at The Loft music venue. Power metal band Theocracy joined for a set in-between the two bands to balance out the power- and progressive-metal for the evening with a powerful galloping energy. In the style of the three bands combined, here is a lyrical retelling of the experience of that show by writer Frank Serafine. More...
[Continued from Part II]
SUNDAY, 6/29 - 13:00
“We have less than thirty minutes to catch the bus.”
THAT gets me moving. Did I mention I’ve developed Midnight Sun Syndrome since arriving in Finland? According to the current DSM edition, its chief symptom is “a complete ignorance and lack of regard for the time of day and nonchalant indifference toward tardiness; see also ‘The Casual Southerner.’”
I enter the bathroom. Nera, a shy, tiny black cat, scampers between my legs and out the door. I almost trip and plant a bare foot smack in the litter box. I’m still waking up.
As the mornings have ticked by - it’s still “morning” to us this weekend - it’s gotten more and more difficult to grease the joints, clear the skull, and get going. Tuska is not a camping festival, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to forsake the comforts of home at my disposal. A shit, shower, and shave is as good as a full-immersion baptism after a night of drinking.
My ill-advised windmilling at Omnium Gatherum last night really did a twisting number on my hair, which is in danger of Chris Barnesing. Lacking a brush, I clumsily yank apart the knotted strands and clumps cemented together with dried sweat.
And then, Rachel’s muffled yell over the running shower, through the closed door: “You ready?” Not even close. More...
[Continued from Part I]
SATURDAY, 6/28 - 13:30
“That’s a killer e-cig; where’d you pick it up?”
Actually, the stranger on the bus doesn’t say that. At least not in English. And judging from his condescending glare from a row up and across the aisle, I’m thinking he doesn’t approve.
I exhale the last puff of vapor toward the ceiling and shrug uncomfortably.
Rachel exchanges a few words with him, nudges me on the shoulder. “He’s definitely not from here - I can’t recognize his accent - but he says you’re not allowed to do that on the bus.”
“If he’s not from here, why’s he lecturing other people on the rules?” I shoot the man a neutral nod. “This stuff isn’t affecting him.” Still, I put it away. Some people, man. Busybodies.
Through my vest pocket, I finger the boxy outline of the pack of Marlboro Reds I bought last night after I caved. Post-Dimmu, our gearing-down at Nikky’s place a few blocks away became a relaxed, languid, drawn-out gab session, leading us to miss the afterparty band, Amorphis. For shame. Harakiri shame.
Instead, we ended up at PRKL, another rock club, well after midnight. After buying the pack and stepping outside to smoke one, I nearly got myself flattened by a passing street tram. That was probably some kind of sign. More...
THURSDAY, 6/27 - 13:30
Unmistakable, husky German accent behind me. I glance over my shoulder, turn, step aside the river of disembarking passengers from the Lufthansa Airbus parked out in the drizzly gray. The veteran green-fatigue-jacketed metalhead, balding, sporting a life-without-parole graying goatee, sticks out his hand.
“Holger. Nuclear Blast.” We shake, he grins and nods at the Testament logo above my lapel, only partially obscured by my boarding pass. He slips me a company card - “Holger Tiefenbach, Distribution & Marketing” - and lifts a finger toward a sign down the corridor: “Matkatavarat.” Luggage.
As we stride through Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, locate the carousel for Flight 848 from Frankfurt, and wait for our suitcases to materialize - I was forced to check mine at the last minute and have since developed acute missing-luggage paranoia - Holger brings me up to speed on our shared reason for being here: Tuska Open Air Metal Festival, sixteen years running, 2014 edition set to kick off tomorrow afternoon.
“It used to be held in Kaisaniemi Park, right in the middle of the city. It was the greatest. You’d show up, basically have an afternoon at the park, and then head straight to the bars nearby, when the sun was just barely set.” He seems to almost sigh while tossing off a plaintive, what-are-you-gonna-do shrug. “They moved the location three, four years ago.”
“So it’s not as much fun now?” I want to get my finger on the pulse of conventional wisdom.
He’s quick to clarify. “It’s still awesome. The new location just took some getting used to.” On our painless stroll through the open doorway that passes for an immigration barrier - the stamps and stern looks and “papers, please” stuff was handled back in Germany, natch - Holger gives an inside view of current happenings back at the Nuclear Blast bunker.
“We spent a lot of time promoting that Tuomas Holopainen solo album - the one about Scrooge McDuck,” he tells me. I haven’t heard it, and ask him how it is. “Not metal. That’s how it is,” he chuckles. “But cool if you’re into that wacky stuff, like the last Nightwish album.
“And we signed Slayer!” He clenches a victorious fist like a kid receiving his BB gun on Christmas. “Finally.”
We’ve reached the Arrivals lobby, and a leather-jacketed brunette gives a wave. Rachel Roth (WandererOfKalevala), Metalunderground.com photographer and correspondent, currently residing in Vantaa. We have a bus to catch, and before parting ways with Holger, I bum a cigarette, pocketing the e-cig I’ve been abusing for two months.
I make a half-hearted promise to myself not to do this too much during Tuska (and not to beat myself up for doing just that). Rationalization is still the great human sport. More...
The old say proclaims that experience is something you cannot improvise or replicate. You need to acquire it through years at the war front, whatever your skill set is. That was demonstrated on July 29 when the now mandatory Summer Slaughter Tour came to the State Theater, located in St. Pete, Florida. None of the participating bands on the current tour (including heavyweights Goatwhore, Origin, and the mighty Dying Fetus) were remotely close to reach the level of obliterating power and majestic sense of darkness showcased by legendary headliners, Morbid Angel.
Some people might disagree but to us, it's clear that after three decades pioneering and redefining the Death Metal genre, the appeal and panache of this Floridian quartet is impossible to emulate. That was demonstrated in the way every song on their set list (both old or new) was received by the rabid fans. "Rapture" "Fall from Grace", "Where The Slime Lives" and even the most recent "Existo Vulgoré" were all worshiped with equal level of euphoria by those in attendance. If that doesn't prove the longevity and influence of the band's repertory on older and newer generations, then, nothing else will.
Despite some minor technical issues here and there, the current line up couldn't perform any in better. Frontman, David Vincent, used his quasi-zen evil persona to set his own set of rules on stage. Both menacing and alluring at the same time, he commanded the masses through the show like if they were experiencing an unique religious experience. Axeman Trey Azagthoth went into total communion with his guitar while the newest generation, represented by guitarist Destructhor and drummer Tim Yeung delivered the goods as the seasoned performers they have become after several years playing with the band.
Experience is something you cannot improvise. Definitely, Morbid Angel is a living proof of this universal truth. They just demonstrated that on this unforgettable show and probably will do it again tomorrow and in the years to come. If you don't trust us, go to one of their shows... you will become a believer.
Summer Slaughter came in to the same venue, Scoot Inn, as last year's stop off at Texas' capital city. The mid-July temperatures reached a scorching 99 degrees, which everyone from fans to bands did their best to stay hydrated (kudos to Scoot Inn for providing water). Keep in mind, this was still a good 5 degrees cooler than last year.
In regards to the lineup, Summer Slaughter 2014 featured artists expected from a death metal-based tour. This year the brutality of Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus, Origin and Decrepit Birth replaced the shredding progression of Animals As Leaders and Periphery.
While death metal was at the forefront of this year's festivities, complex timing and long-winded solos were dispersed throughout the bill. Memories In Broken Glass, this year's battle of the bands winner, concentrated less on guitar solos as they did low tuned, (7 or 8-string guitar) jumping rhythms and samples. I'm sure they were happy to have played a showed promoted by Come And Take It Productions as they played in front of an impressive, jumping early crowd. More...
Held at the Mohawk on the historic Red River Street in Austin, Texas, American Icon Records (AIR) produced two stages featuring some of the best hard rock and heavy metal bands not only in Austin, but in the state of Texas. Both nights (I only attended day one) included a headliner that played on the open-air stage. Seminal doom faction, Pentagram headed up Independence Day, while The Sword--a local act with a international following--played day two. More...
Twenty years ago, I remarked that if you went to a concert and didn't have bruises the next day, you didn't have a good time. I don't experience shows the same way now, but my former words live on in the crowd at the Mohawk in Austin, Texas. From massive circle pits to stage and even PA diving, many on the floor surely awoke on Saturday with lumpy, bluish marks on their bodies. Whether it's grindcore, power violence, crossover, hardcore or just plain ole' punk rock, Austin has an affinity for punk-related bands. So when Transmission Events and Red Bull brought in Municipal Waste and Power Trip for a mesely $3 (with RSVP, without the show was $10), you could expect nothing less than a packed house of rowdy punks a metal heads. More...
Given the recent talk that the future of The Fleece, one of Bristol's best venues to see metal and rock bands, could be under threat, it seemed the perfect time to have one of industrial metal's most important acts, Godflesh perform at the club. Godflesh had been performing a small UK tour in support of their new EP, "Decline and Fall," as well as their forthcoming new studio album, "A World Lit Only By Fire," their first full length album since 2001's, "Hymns," and the prospect of seeing the band live was absolutely thrilling.
They were joined on the night by Ramleh, a name which also has signifficance in their own genre as one of the earliest recognised bands in the noise genre. They more than lived up to their genre's name, as walking into their set, myself and company were immediately met with an ear ache. The band consists of two men, one on bass and the other on guitar, vocals and electronics, the latter of which were certainly the most prominent. Picture a bassist stood in front of an airplane engine, playing one note every now and then and you'll get the idea of what seeing Ramleh is like. I was amazed to see people stood at the front actually nodding along to what was essentially just amplified white noise. Maybe I just don't get it, but I can honestly say that they were one of the worst acts I've ever seen live. Nothing interesting going on, no stage presence, not even any music in the traditional sense of the word. There were far more people stood outside the venue than inside watching them and unless you're a noise fan, I would advise you to do the same if they're supporting someone you want to see. More...
Sonisphere Festival returned to Finland last week, to start off the festival season in Helsinki with a bang! Despite the fact that it is Spring and we’ve had hot weather rivaling the Mediterranean this year; we were instead treated to a cold downpour, which only the bravest of metal fans dared endure. Despite the less then summery weather, the turnout was dense, though admittedly covered in less then festive rainwear.
The dark sky was a glaring contrast to the laid back vibe of the festival hosted by Live Nation. Still the atmosphere remained upbeat; as Metallica and Slayer were to be headlining; and the instinct to nest indoors was trampled by the drive to see two such legends live! More...
The last three years I've reported on Austin's extreme music festival known as Chaos in Tejas. Some of the bands I witnessed include Autopsy and Winter. Last year, I attended four consecutive days. Although it took place for five days, May 28-June 1, this year, I didn't recognize a many name as the past three years. This may be because festival promoter, Timmy Hefner decided to tone it down a bit after last year's mega blow out of bands that included Benediction and Bolt Thrower. More...
I recently made my first trip to the United States, for which I decided that catching a metal show was mandatory. The best option was by far a trip to the Empire in Springfield, Virginia, where Fozzy were headlining on May 5th, a show sweetened immensely by the addition of New Wave of British Heavy Metal legends Raven performing as special guests. The venue itself is quite impressive, it's got a nice lounge area before heading into the main venue itself, which is plenty spacious but still relatively compact, perfect for up and coming metal acts as well as those with a cult following.
Unfortunately, the show was far from sold out but there was still a decent sized crowd in attendance for the festivities on hand, which began with a local outfit called Shotgun Sugar, who were exclusively a covers band, performing songs by AC/DC, Journey and the like. They served their purpose as a warm up act before Newcastle nutters Raven took to the stage.
Raven are known for their energetic live performances and influential, hectic sound, something I am pleased to say they still possess in abundance. They kicked things off with the "All For One" opener, "Take Control," which immediately caught the crowd's attention. From then on, it was classic after classic, with songs such as "Live at the Inferno" and "Hard Ride" being thrown to the audience at full speed, as well as the title track from their 1981 debut album, "Rock Until You Drop," which had been slowed down for a more anthem like vibe. The interaction between the Gallagher brothers is still great and Raven put on a proper, old school heavy metal show with plenty of crowd banter, posing and a mid-set guitar solo. They finished their forty minute set with the hit, "On and On" from the 1985 album, "Stay Hard," much to the delight of fans in attendance. Of course, there'll always be a few songs which would have been great to hear such as "Don't Need Your Money" and "Crash, Bang, Wallop" but Raven's catalogue is strong enough that even if some favourites aren't busted out, you're guaranteed great music and a great time. More...
Metal Underground.com has followed Combichrist's recent jaunt over Europe with Mortiis. That tour must have been special with two of the major players in the modern electro-industrial scene. On Friday, May 2nd, I caught Combichrist's mechanized performance at Elysium in Austin, Texas. This tour saw them at the top of the bill with William Control and New Year's Day providing support.
I missed New Year's Day as the concert started at 9 and not 9:30 as the event markers stated. I can't say I'm a fan of their pop-friendly California rock style, but I did hear good things about their performance. Much like the industrialized section of nu metal, the group wore face paint and watching a female singer front a hard rock band is always fun. I wish I could say more about the Anaheim-based group, but for now the You-tube video embedded below will have to suffice.
It was to be a more eventful Easter Sunday then most, as instead of the awkward family dinners and drinking binges at a dive bar, I was looking forward to spending an epic evening at The Circus in Helsinki for Ensiferum, Turisas and Thaurorod. There would from that moment on be only small amounts of the required holiday binge drinking at a respectable venue, and in well supplied company!
Though much of the city was quiet, even a half hour before the sold out show was to be played there was a line well outside of the club area, and extending into the square. Red and Black facepaint, and warrior costumes were the attire of the night, it was easy to feel underdressed in a sea of war paint and leather. Drinking horns were clipped to belts and kilts (ie acceptable man skirts), as the Vikings of the city came out to pay tribute to their heroes.
There had been a late announcement only hours before the show that Petri Lindroos was having some painful issues with his hand, and would not be playing guitar that evening. Luckily the day was saved by Jukka Pekka Miettinen (Jukkis) (ex-Ensiferum, ex-Turisas, ex-ArthemesiA) and the sold out show would still occur as scheduled. More...