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Nervosa's New Lineup Makes Their British Debut
It was just over a year ago when I last saw Nervosa, during their co-headlining tour with Burning Witches. Thirteen months later and a lot has changed. Nervosa's founding guitarist Prika Amaral has now taken over the vocalist spot from Diva Satanica, while Michaela Naydenova now sits behind the drum kit, where Eleni Nota sat last time the band performed in the Underworld. Nota's departure didn't remove the Greek flavour though as Helena Kotina and Hel Pyre have now joined the ranks as lead guitarist and bassist respectively. So with all this having taken place, fans were eager to find out how this new lineup sounded.
Opening the show were two local bands, the first being Die Ego. The London trio released their latest EP, "74 Days Staring At The Void" a little under two months ago and the material sounds very strong live. The group has a very strong stage presence and comes across well, exceeding the expectations of those in attendance who admitted before the show that their studio recordings weren't to their liking. Obviously the material isn't familiar enough to me to know the setlist, though I do remember one of the songs they performed was "Consumed By Mediocrity," which was enjoyable. All in all, a promising young band with a good repertoire. More...
Desertfest London 2023: Day 3
The most bittersweet thing in music is the last day of a festival. After two days of awesome music, you know that the time is nearly over, yet there's still one more chance to witness more bands, hear more tunes and bang your head. The first two days of Desertfest had showcased some real legends, as well as promising up and comers and cult favourites. Sunday would once again offer all three, with the added bonus of The Roundhouse coming into the picture.
Whereas last year, I spent the entire Sunday in the Roundhouse, partly due to it being out of the way of the other venues and also because it had an incredible lineup, this time I made a point of swinging by the Underworld first. The reason was simple; Greek metal bands always deliver. Today saw the venue opened by Athens doom outfit Acid Mammoth, making their Desertfest London debut (they had previously performed at Desertfest Antwerp,) and the Hellenic quartet proved to be absolutely phenomenal, delivering world class doom metal from start to finish.
The band opened their set with a new song, which from my upside down view of the setlist appeared to be named "Fuzz Orgasm," before performing material from all three of their albums, including "Jack The Riffer," "Tree Of Woe" and "Them!" from the "Under Acid Hoof Record." There was even room for some audience participation as a crowd member imitated the evil laughter from the "Berserker" intro, leading the band to use him to get the song going, before ending the set with "They Live" from their eponymous debut. This was a brilliant way to kick things off and Acid Mammoth may even have been the band of the day. Superb. More...
Desertfest London 2023: Day 2
Saturday the 6th of May was an important day for Britain, being the day that the country crowned a new monarch for the first time since 1952 and the country's police cracking down on anyone who vocally opposed the antiquated idea of an unelected figurehead. In the north of the capital, away from these shenanigans, Camden town wasn't just welcoming the usual market visitors, but the returning fans of doom, stoner and desert rock for the second day of DesertFest 2023.
Appropriately, the day started with some real desert rock royalty, as genre pioneers Fatso Jetson got things going in the Electric Ballroom. For those unfamiliar with the group, they're a real family affair, with three members being related and a legacy which spans three decades, welcoming a whole new generation of fans throughout their existence. Like some of the other bands on the bill, Fatso Jetson's strength lies within their music rather than their stage act and they have a really strong vibe about them, which permeates the room. The show became more intriguing when they were joined by former Throw Rag frontman and "desert legend" Sean Wheeler, who exudes charisma, like a hybrid of Nick Cave and Chris Isaak. He stayed with the band for the rest of the set, which was a delight for all fans in attendance and curious onlookers. More...
Desertfest London 2023: Day 1
In 2022, London hosted Desertfest for the first time in three years, as it made its triumphant return following the COVID pandemic. It was an incredible event with some of the best names in doom, stoner and desert rock and metal laying waste to Camden. Naturally then, coming back was high on the list of priorities and with another stellar lineup, Desertfest was ready to blow fans away. Attendees can get their wristbands outside the Black Heart, where a number of stalls are set up selling merchandise, beer and even tattoos, all catered by a very friendly team who help to make this multi venue festival as special as it is.
Opening the festivities in the Black Heart this year was Margarita Witch Cult, the Birmingham trio who only the week before, released their eponymous debut album. Expecting a bit of fun to get things going, the band far exceeded expectations, delivering a white hot set which instantly turned the venue into a sweat box. Songs like "Annihilation" and the awesome "Death Lurks At Every Turn" went down a treat with the audience who undoubtedly left as fans of the Midlands newcomers, while a surprising but well crafted take on Billy Idol's "White Wedding" was also well received, not to mention the Sabbath jam at the end of the set. Margarita Witch Cult may be new to the majority of listeners, but in a few years they'll be as much of a staple as Nebula, Earthless or Bongzilla. Fantastic! More...
Concert Report: Black Anvil, Insomnium, Enslaved
After a night of Gojira and Mastodon, I found myself in Berkeley the following night for another tripleheader.
First up was Black Anvil, the only band I hadn’t seen multiple times before.
Black Anvil’s 2022 release, Regenesis, made my list of best albums of the year.
Their quick set did not disappoint.
Insomnium, like Gojira the night before, is a band that I’ve always liked, but they’ve never quite crossed the rubicon into a band I would purposely play or follow with great interest.
The first time I saw them live, they were missing some key members—including Niilo Sevanen. That venue was miserable as well, so that evening didn’t leave a great impression on my mind.
The second time was at a festival, and I think their time slot overlapped with another band I wanted to see. Many other bands were more on my radar that day (Opeth, Bloodbath, Dark Funeral, etc.) so once again, not a huge impression from the partial set I witnessed on that 2017 day in Sweden.
This Berkeley show, though, was a whole different story. I thoroughly enjoyed their set from the outset until completion.
Insomnium has earned a place in my permanent music rotation.
The setlist was heavy on their new album, Anno 1696. The album is great, but it only came out a few weeks ago so I wasn’t super familiar with all of the tracks.
Enslaved is one of my favorite bands and have been for more than 15 years. I’ve seen them many times and in several different countries. Between Insomnium and Enslaved, Blue Oyster Cult's "Secret Treaties" was played in its entirety over the PA. That's one of my Top 10 albums of all time so it put me in an even better mood. I didn't notice the rest of the audience appreciating it quite as much as I did.
I was very disappointed when Enslaved announced at the beginning of the tour that Ivar wasn’t going to be joining them due to a family emergency. I thought the sound would be way off without him—especially since they weren’t temporarily replacing him. Rather, they were going to go with just one guitarist, Ice Dale.
Ice Dale is a great guitarist, but when you listen to Enslave you can easily hear two different guitars frequently doing very different things. How was this going to sound good without Ivar?
The band members came out one at a time. Ice Dale went to the side of the stage without a microphone which was very odd given that two were on the front of the stage. My puzzlement was quickly solved when Ivar walked out last. Happiness filled me as I verbally welcomed him back. Grutle did the same, into the microphone for the entire audience to hear, a moment later.
This was my favorite Enslaved performance to date, eclipsing the time I saw them at the 2011 Getaway Rock Festival in Sweden.
Like Insomnium, Enslaved spent a large portion of their set on their new album, Heimdal. I suppose my only complaint is that they didn’t play for a longer period of time. I would have also loved to have heard tunes off of Ruun, Vertebrae, Aximoa Ethica Odini, and RIITIIR.
Another stellar evening! I drove the six hours home the next day with a smile across my face.
Live Concert Report: Mega-Monsters
When I first saw the poster for this tour, I was amazed. Upon closer review, I noticed that the 4/20 show was within a day’s driving distance, and the Concord Pavilion is less than five miles from a Gojira-loving good friend’s home. How could I resist?
I live between Portland and Concord. With a day off after their 4/18 gig, I actually saw every member of Mastodon and some members of Gojira and their crews roaming the streets of my little town on 4/19. Had I not been making the long drive to see them all perform the following night, I would have felt sick to be missing this. Instead, I knew that the following day would be an epic adventure. Let’s skip some of the adventures and get straight to the show.
Lorna Shore was the opener, but, as I’ve noted elsewhere, I have yet to appreciate bands that are described as “deathcore” or “metalcore”. I have eventually become a fan of some metal subgenres that I didn't initially like, but that hasn't happened yet with anything core. I tried; I really did. I had Lorna Shore in constant rotation the past few months, but they still don’t work for me. Some of the solos are fantastic, but the rest just doesn’t compute in my brain.
Gojira and Mastodon are co-headlining this tour, and I think Gojira finished the night off in Portland. So on this 420, Gojira went first, which made sense given that Mastodon is one of the biggest stoner metal bands on the planet.
I have always liked Gojira, but they never climbed into the “love” category. Nor have they ever remained in my permanent music rotation. I saw them seven years ago in Denmark, and, while a good show, that performance didn’t change their status much in my book.
On this night in Concord, however, I fell in love. Gojira has now earned a spot in my permanent music rotation, and I hope this wasn’t the last time I see them live.
I photographed two different setlists on the stage, and they were slightly different from each other. (How confusing for the band members?!?) This one may have Amazonia and The Chant in reverse order from what actually transpired. I don’t remember.
Mastodon’s setlist was:
The Wolf Is Loose
Pushing the Tides
More Than I Could Chew
March of the Fire Ants
Circle of Cysquatch
Blood and Thunder
In other words, more focus on earlier material than recent tours. Seven songs off of Leviathan and Blood Mountain—when is the last tour that happened? Only two songs off of their most recent release, Hushed and Grim, and nothing from The Hunter or Once More ‘Round the Sun. I always want to hear more from Crack the Skye, but Divinations was the lone track from my favorite Mastodon album.
I wonder if the setlist selection has something to do with who they are touring with? Go heavier with Gojira but not so much when touring with Opeth, Ghost, etc.? I don’t know—just wondering what the selection process is like.
I've been to hundreds of concerts in the Bay Area over the past 40+ years. Somehow, this was my first visit to the Concord Pavilion. Great experience for the most part but one complaint--the merch situation. There were only two places to buy merch, in a venue that holds over 12,000 people, and the lines went on forever and didn't move quickly. I walked by each of the lines, at various times in the evening, at least two or three times and the situation was always the same. You either had to miss an hour of the show or forgo purchasing anything. I chose the latter. The bands could have hawked a lot more of their wares had this situation been improved.
The evening was a trip, in many ways.
Napalm Death Campaigns In Bristol
When it comes to Napalm Death, they really are a band that needs no introduction. Pioneers, perhaps even inventors depending on who you ask, of grindcore, bringing together metal heads and punks for well over thirty years and always remaining true to their principles, Napalm Death are truly deserving of the often overused tag, "legends." One of the reasons that they've remained so popular is their live shows, in which they easily connect with the crowd and perform with such energy that they still inspire young fans to get on stage themselves. A Napalm Death show always feels like an event too, as often they put together an amazing package of bands that fit well together but still display a good variety, such is the case on their current "Campaign For Musical Destruction" tour, which on Tuesday the 7th of March, made it's first British stop in Bristol.
The best way to open an event is with with a bang and if ever there was a band that brings the boom, it's Escuela Grind. For some reason, the band seems to attract controversy regarding their genre and image but, for lack of a better phrase, I don't understand why. From the first note, the quartet are a blast (I promise that's the last of the explosions synonyms,) and they're so much fun. Vocalist Katerina Economou is a force of nature, leading the charge as the band treated those who arrived early to their mix of hardcore, grindcore, death metal and powerviolence. I'm still a relative newcomer to the band so I can't list every song they played, but "Cliffhanger" was a definite highlight. Escuela Grind crafted an instant connection with the crowd, joking with them, receiving positive responses to their short statements regarding social issues (a subject we'll be revisiting later in this review) and just generally being great to be around. They're not just impressive live, they're quite frankly amazing. I can't wait to see them again. This was their first show in Britain and they're more than welcome to come back any time. More...
70000 Tons Of Metal 2023: Day Four
They say all good things must come to an end and so it was that the final day of this year's 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, the first for three years, had a slight air of sadness about it. But metal fans aren't the type to go out with a whimper and thus our fourth day at sea is traditionally the time to go all out with costumes and to lose a few inhibitions.
A bright and early start seemed to be on most sailor's agenda, as everyone wanted to make the most of this last day floating through the Caribbean, and there was certainly no better wake up call than Nightmare. The French power metal squadron have been going for some time now but this was the first chance many fans and onlookers had to hear new vocalist Barbara Mogore, who is 100% natural in her new job, giving the impression that she's always been leading the line. Perhaps as was to be expected, the band gave a good deal of attention to their latest album, "Aeternam," performing the title track as well as the songs, "Crystal Lake," "Divine Nemesis" and "Downfall Of A Tyrant." "Dead Sun" was also represented with four songs, including the title track which opened the set and "Starry Skies Gone Black" which closed it. Fans don't need to worry about the future of Nightmare with a new vocalist, as they're clearly in very capable hands. More...
Steel Panther Went On The Prowl In Tempe, Arizona
We now live in a world where the littlest things seem to offend someone somewhere on a daily basis. You may love, hate, or love to hate Steel Panther, but you know what, they’ve just released their sixth studio album, “On The Prowl.” Judging by the size and enthusiasm from the crowd on their recent tour stop in Tempe, Arizona, there’s no need to ever return to their day jobs anytime soon.
We don’t celebrate Mardi Gras in Arizona, but there were enough costumes and rocker wigs at the Marquee Theater that could have filled any Spirit Halloween pop-up store. Kicking their set off with a familiar favorite, “Eyes of a Panther,” the crowd got their first live glimpse of the new permanent bassist, Spyder. It had to be an arduous task replacing the very much beloved, Lexxi Foxx, but from what I witnessed, he's fitting in just fine.
After a couple of songs in into their set, I had figured out what Spyder’s shtick is, he’s the “new guy in the band.” It was the expected and correct characterization for him and he executed it to a T. It was most evident when they played, “Ain’t Dead Yet,” off of the new album. It’s an acoustic ditty where Michael Starr plays an acoustic guitar and sings, Satchel rocks his six-string, Stix plays the keys and Spyder…well, a set of windchimes.
70000 Tons Of Metal 2023: Day Three
This year, thousands of metal fans boarded the Independence Of The Seas to enjoy the eleventh round of the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, which departed from Miami on January 30th and made its way to Bimini, Bahamas. On the third day, as is custom, the ship landed at its destination and the Caribbean warmly greeted headbangers from all over the world. This sun kissed part of the world is absolutely stunning, a treat for lovers of warm weather and beautiful scenery, though be prepared to spend should you find yourself heading to the district, as several beaches require a $20 entry fee. Even the free beach is limited, with visitors required to buy a wrist band to go further, should they so wish. After an hour or so of soaking up the rays and enjoying a drink on a sun lounger by the sea, it was back on board to have the customary nap before the musical shenanigans we'd all come for began.
Having overslept a little, it was a race to the Star Lounge for the first time this voyage to see Texan progressive/Gothic metal outfits Oceans Of Slumber. Having seen the band without any knowledge of their background five years ago in London (and being blown away,) there was no way I was missing out on seeing them again. The intimate setting only enhanced their soulful melodies and bittersweet heaviness and those who crammed into the lounge were treated to one of the more emotionally charged sets of the festival. Singer Cammie Gilbert's voice is as powerful as ever and clearly impressed newcomers and fans alike, as her performance was the talk of many visitors throughout the rest of the night. Oceans Of Slumber has come a long way in five years and in the next five, they'll become one of American metal's most popular names and sooner rather than later no doubt. More...
70000 Tons Of Metal 2023: Day Two
Rise and shine sea dogs! The second day of 70000 Tons Of Metal 2023 dawned and with it came the knowledge that the Pool Deck, perhaps the most notable stage on board the ship, was open for business with plenty of favourites ready to let their sound ride the Caribbean wind. Opening the stage was German power metal veterans Freedom Call, perhaps the happiest metal band on Earth, though personally, I was less than chipper to wake up just after they'd finished their set, missing out on the fun in the sun. So after a quick shower, it was time to head up to the eleventh floor for my first taste of sea air and outdoor metal this year.
Despite missing out on Freedom Call, perhaps there was no better way to get into the spirit of things than by witnessing one of your bucket list bands, which in my case was Dutch death metal legends, God Dethroned. The quartet has been on a roll since their second return in 2014, releasing two excellent albums with a third reportedly in production and watching this lineup, it's safe to assume that God Dethroned has never been healthier. They looked as if they were enjoying themselves as much as the fans were and songs like "Poison Fog" and "No Man's Land" sounded absolutely amazing. Perhaps the biggest surprise was just how quick it was to take to the band's new single, "Asmodevs," which may have even been the highlight of the set. God Dethroned not only met expectations, they exceeded them. More...
Mac Sabbath Increase Hypertension In Mesa, AZ
Fast food and metal, a match made heaven and hell, right? Absolutely! Especially if the band is Mac Sabbath! This was my second taste of “drive thru metal” and you can supersize me with Mac Sabbath without any regard to my personal health anytime. I’m usually not into gimmicky type bands, but Mac Sabbath is different in a couple of ways for me. I grew up eating McDonalds as a child and in my teenage years I developed my metal ears listening to Sabbath. It’s just a genius concept and I Mcfucking love this band!
I’ve been hangry for some Mac Sabbath for awhile and lucky me, they stopped in Mesa, Arizona during a small run of shows. When I arrived at the venue, it was packed with “customers.” The merch line was a mile long and it was the same with adult fountain drink line. I overheard that the previous night’s show in Tucson was just as packed. After a short delay from the projected starting time of the show, the world’s best Black Sabbath tribute band dropped their circus tent-like shroud and fast-food metal mania commenced.
Opening with “Organic Funeral,” the trio of Slayer MacCheeze, Grimalice and the Catburglar graced the drive-thru stage. Ronald Osbourne, the restaurant/stage manager, showed up to work wearing a yellow straight jacket with a pentagram stitched onto one of the elbows. He managed to maneuver his way towards the giant drinking straw microphone stand and sing before eventually freeing himself from the jacket.
For those that haven’t attended a Mac Sabbath show, between songs the band will make puns out of anything music culture and fast food. As you might have already guessed, all their songs titles are Black Sabbath/Metal puns. Here are a few: “Sweet Beef,” “We’re Not Going to Shake Shack,” “Frying Pan.” The list goes on and on.
70000 Tons Of Metal 2023: Day One
In the modern metal world full of festivals, it seems that cruises are becoming more and more common. Whether it be Chris Jericho's Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager At Sea, the Kiss Kruise or the Mediterranea Metal Cruise, heavy metal on the open sea is becoming more and more common. However, to understand how this became a thing, you need look no further than 70000 Tons Of Metal, which as it proudly boasts, is the world's original metal cruise.
First setting sail in 2011, the floating festival quickly grew in size, popularity and prestige to become the institution it is today. After a few years away thanks to the worldwide bastard that was the COVID-19 pandemic, the cruise returned last week for its eleventh voyage. Boasting some of metal's most popular names, cult favourites and up and comers, 70000 Tons was back with a vengeance.
To get festivities underway, sailors had a choice between British death metal veterans Cancer or German heavy metal stalwarts Iron Savior. Fortunately, with every band scheduled to play twice, it's only a matter of scheduling and not worrying about missing out that helps form decisions. So it was decided that the best way to get the ball rolling was Iron Savior, given their more upbeat sound. They proved to be the perfect choice, as their sonic bridge between heavy and power metal matched the excitement felt on board. Of course, with nearly thirty years of music under their belts, not all albums could be represented in forty five minutes, but the carefully chosen setlist including three songs from "Kill Or Get Killed." The chemistry between frontman Piet Sielck and bassist Jan-Sören Eckert also added to the fun of a memorable set which concluded with "Break The Curse" from 2004's, "Battering Ram." Iron Savior are an underrated band who delivered the goods big time today and proved a perfect opener. More...
Godflesh Digs Deep For London Show
Godflesh has always been a law unto themselves. For as much as they are pigeonholed in the industrial metal category, which is definitely a tag they helped create, they've never been afraid to take risks, veer into new territory and challenge any preconceived notions as to what Godflesh is. While not always in full metal mode, as evidenced by their latest album, 2017's excellent, "Post Self," they will always attract headbangers thanks to their connection to Napalm Death, though they certainly don't cater to this crowd specifically.
The Birmingham duo recently completed a two night residency at the 229 club in London, a venue located immediately to the left of Great Portland Road tube station, which is a fascinating place in and of itself. The 229 is a club which not only hosts a variety of performances, but all profits go to benefit university students and inside it's something of a mix of different typical settings. The main hall itself is quite big, with a raised stage and, at least on this occasion, folding chairs located either side, almost like an assembly hall or community centre, while towards the back is a bar not unlike one would find in the more corporate place like an 02 Academy. The staff were also excellent for the most part, being very friendly and welcoming, though this was also the first time I've ever seen security stand amidst the crowd, for what reason, I haven't worked out. More...
Fleshgod Apocalypse Brings Motocultor To London
If you're going to a metal show in London, you're almost guaranteed to be in the north of the city and more likely than not, in Camden. It's unsurprising then that this reporter's first gig of the year took place at the legendary Underworld venue, directly opposite Camden tube station. Tonight was an interesting one as five bands from across the globe convened to represent France's Motocultor Festival, which will take place this August in Carhaix, some of which were performing in England for the first time.
For some reason, the show was delayed by quite some time, with doors opening over half an hour later than scheduled, likely causing the relatively short set times. Nevertheless, opening the festivities tonight was Ethereal Sin from Osaka, Japan and they certainly kicked things off in style. Attention was immediately drawn to drummer Meet Schattenclown, who performed the entire set blindfolded and inch perfect to boot. Much like compatriots Sigh, Ethereal Sin mix black metal with their country's heritage and folklore to create a dazzling aesthetic, which fits hand in glove with their brand of extreme music. Ethereal Sin is immediately likable, displaying an earnest love for their music, for playing and just to be part of the tour. Frontman Yama Darkblaze promised that they would return to London in the near future and judging by the response from the crowd, they'll be welcomed back with open arms. More...
Anaal Nathrakh Returns To London With Full Force
Look up the most influential or acclaimed comedies of all time and you'll always see The Odd Couple. This might be a strange way to start a review of a metal gig, but when you think about it, metal shows are often at their best when they offer variety, or a combination that you wouldn't normally expect to see. So it was on April 14th in London, when British blackened industrial grindcore outfit Anaal Nathrakh teamed up with Japanese avant-garde black metal legends Sigh to put on a Hell of a show in every sense of the word.
Appropriately, it was a freezing cold night in the English capital city, with no shortage of ice and a little snow outside before eventually heading inside to the Scala. Despite personally attending live shows in London for nearly twenty years, this was my first visit to the Scala, which hopefully won't be my last. The Scala combines the grandiose feel of an old theatre upon entrance, while in the gig room itself, for lack of a better term, it provides a two tiered space with an area for those who like to be down the front and dirty, as well as those who have done their time in the pit and prefer to stand in the back.
Opening the show, those who arrived early were treated to a little local flavour as London's own De Profundis took to the stage around seven. While their time was short, they more than made the most of it, unleashing twenty five minutes of heaviness and anti-authoritarian death metal. As one might expect, the set focused heavily on the band's new album, "The Corruption Of Virtue," released only two months prior. These songs, such as "Weaponised Rape" and "Scapegoat" sat perfectly beside opener, "Martyrs" and closing number, "War Be Upon Him," both taken from "The Blinding Light Of Faith." A short stay, but a memorable one and De Profundis continue to make a name for themselves as one of Britain's leading death metal acts. More...
The Great Heathen Tour
Tonight, in San Diego, the second-to-last stop on Amon Amarth’s 2022 "The Great Heathen Tour" with Carcass, Obituary, and Cattle Decapitation will take place. This will be a hometown show for the latter. Tomorrow night the tour will wrap up at the Forum in Los Angeles. More...
Put Mexico Metal Fest On Your Must Go To List
When I normally write up a festival review, I break it down day by day and band by band. For Mexico Metal Fest 2022, I’m doing it differently. I’m going to get straight to the point with pros and cons. I mean let’s face it, you’re reading this to determine if it’s worth the price of a flight these days and festival ticket. I’m guessing that you’re probably not reading this to stroll down memory lane.
This year’s festival took place at Expo Guadalupe (a popular local fairground used for rodeos and other events) which is located approximately 15 minutes from downtown Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The festival was postponed twice due to the global pandemic and several bands dropped off and were replaced before the 5th and 6th editions took place over the weekend of September 23rd and 24th.
So without further ado, I’ll get on with it.
For the sheer quality and number of bands, this has to be the most budget friendly festivals in all of North America. There were 52 artists at this year’s edition and there wasn’t a huge drop-off in talent after the headlining acts (W.A.S.P., Rotting Christ, Kreator, Hellhammer, Jinjer). In fact, the filler bands were also some heavy hitters that have headlined festivals numerous times before (Destruction, Sodom, Cradle of Filth, Dismember, Nile, plus a ton of others). The cost for a basic, two-day pass in U.S. dollars was around $170. If you do the math, that’s $3.52 a band. Go ahead and see if that value exists at any U.S. based festival right now, probably not.
The overall festival experience was top notch. You can see the stage from almost any vantage point on the grounds and the quality of the sound was excellent. Every band sounded great and I don’t remember any glitches with the band mixes throughout the weekend. The schedule was also on point 99% of the time. I remember only one band going over their scheduled allotment time and it was only by 5 minutes. Did I mention the lush and green mountain view behind the stages? You have to see it to believe it, metal paradise!
The food and beverage options were very affordable and tasty. Now, there were some cons in this area as well, but I’ll list those below. But for now, if you like tacos, hot dogs, ribs and burgers (basically any type of hunger destroying meat option), you were set. In regards to alcohol, there were stands in any direction you looked. For the most part, it only took a couple of minutes of waiting in line to order your favorite Mexican beer or libation of choice. If you ordered a beer, they always poured two bottles to fill your cup to the brim and it cost a fraction ($7.00 for 24 ounces) of what you would pay for a beer at a festival in the United States.
Merch, merch and even more merch. There were two areas that housed the merch, the official festival merch tent and another area the size of a soccer field of merch tents. If you were looking for any (and I mean ANY) shirt design from your favorite metal band, they probably had it at this festival. There was also a killer selection of patches, pins and jewelry/accessories scattered throughout this small pueblo of merch vendors. The average cost of a T-shirt was about $20, so again, not too shabby for a festival and outside of the festival grounds there were additional merch tents that were haggling their wares even cheaper. More...
Meshuggah's Recent Pounding Of Tempe, AZ
I’ve seen Meshuggah three times live and the experience just keeps getting better. However, this was the first time I’ve seen them in my own city and even though the venue wasn’t as large as the other two, the Tempe, Arizona crowd made it seem like I was seeing them at a festival.
The Marquee Theater was almost at full capacity and this crowd was louder than the two previous Meshuggah shows I’ve attended. Here is my captain obvious quote of this road report: Meshuggah fans are just fucking rabid regardless of venue size or number of attendees.
Meshuggah is known for their extended mood setting live show intros. On this current tour it was different. For example, the first 3 minutes of the first track (“Broken Cog”) off their latest effort, “Immutable,” already has an intro feel to it. So, to set the scene for the next paragraph I need to explain the album’s artwork for those that aren’t familiar. The artwork depicts a person/cyborg/biology class skeleton burning via an explosion, there are shades or red, orange and black within the color palette. Like all of Meshuggah’s releases, it sets the stage.
When the band entered the stage (minus their cyborg drum god Tomas Haake, who was already perched on his throne a couple of meters above stage level), they stood still in front of lighted replicas of themselves burning like the album’s cover artwork. The lit replicas flashed on and off and back-lighted the Meshuggah front four during the tribal-esque feel of “Broken Cog.” The first half of the song felt chaotic and uncomfortable. This is what Meshuggah does best during their live shows, they control the mood.
Meshuggah played a total 13 songs this night including their encore. I won’t give a play by play for every song they played though, you can find that online easy enough but I will say my highlight songs of their set were: “Ligature Marks,” “Born in Dissonance,” and “Demiurge.” The setlist was great but the song that put the crowd into a frenzy was the set ender, “Future Breed Machine” off of their second studio album, “Destroy Erase Improve.” I had a feeling that something special was about to happen once they added two more microphone stands on both ends stage right before the final song started. More...
Imperial Triumphant's Reign Over Phoenix
The first time I witnessed Imperial Triumphant was this past summer at Mystic Festival in Gdansk, Poland, but my actual introduction to this band took place two weeks before. You see, before I go to any festival to report on, I always research a few bands I’ve never heard of, or know little about, in order to determine if they’re worth checking out or not. I downloaded their album “Alphaville” and I think I made it through 45 seconds before I switched to another Mystic Festival band, Dopelord. I knew that Imperial Triumphant wore some rad costuming live so if anything, I’d get some cool live shots during their set. The story continues...
At Mystic Festival, I remember the line-up schedule being quite busy that day and my wife and I were hanging out with some friends between bands. I told them that I was going to shoot Imperial Triumphant and if they wanted to see something eclectic and exotic at this festival, this would be the band to see. We ventured inside and I strode into the empty photo pit with ease. Once the band took stage, I was amazed by it all; the music, the costumes and the light show. After my three-song photo allotment, I returned to the area where I left my wife and friends and they were all gone! I checked my phone and the message said, “Come outside, we couldn’t take it anymore.” This pretty much sums up this band. You either love them, or you can’t take it anymore.
A month or so after Mystic Festival, I saw that they had a tour stop in my city supporting their latest album, “Spirit in Ecstasy,” that dropped this past July. This was the perfect opportunity to see them up close and in a more intimate setting. There was already a decent crowd waiting to see them when I arrived considering they were the first band of a three-band billing with Zeal & Ardor headlining. When the house lights dropped and the blood red stage lighting was the only light source in the room, you wouldn’t even have noticed the band take the stage if it wasn’t for their full regalia costumes and crown headdress.