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SXSW Music 2011 Day 3: Part 2

The fantastic “South by South Death” earlier in the day would be a tough act to follow, but perhaps the best night show was set for the night of March 18th: The Metalliance Tour.

Following up the best day show yet, was the biggest official SXSW metal show: The Metalliance SXSW stop. The Metalliance tour featured an excellent lineup including The Atlas Moth, Howl, Red Fang, Weedeater, Kylesa, Crowbar, Helmet and Saint Vitus. The show was the first I’d attended at the Dirty Dog. It was a decent sized place, but not exactly laid out well for the crowd that would fill it that night.

I arrived while The Atlas Moth was playing. They had just a couple songs left in their set. The first thing I noticed is that the bass sounded very loud. It gave a groovier feel to their music and most of the bands who played that night for that matter. Their last two songs sounded pretty decent, even if bass-heavy.

Howl was up next and played a short set of their groovy style of doom. Still getting drinks and settled in, their set flew by with little sticking out to me, however. More...

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Frankie Sparcello Memorial Held in New Orleans

A memorial was held this past Sunday for Frankie Sparcello, bassist of the legendary band Exhorder, at the Hangar in New Orleans, Louisiana. The reception included his remains displayed on a pedestal, many pictures of Frankie with his friends and family and friends, and a few friends, including Kyle Thomas, who spoke about their favorite moments with Frankie.

Kyle Thomas stated after the memorial, "Thanks to everyone that came to share our last gathering with Frankie. It's been tough for all of us, but it seems like his family really appreciated everything yesterday. That's good enough for me!"

Frankie Sparcello's obituary ran in the Saturday edition of the Times Picayune. It reads: "Frank 'Frankie' Sparcello, Jr. departed this Earth on Tuesday, March 22 2011 at 9:32 a.m. He was 40 years old. Frankie was very loved and is dearly missed by family, friends and fans of his music. An extremely talented musician, he was best known in his field as the bassist for international recording act Exhorder.

Frankie toured the United States and Europe with the band in the 90's and was the current bassist since the band returned to performing in 2009. He was the father of Nikolas Andrew Clogher and Isabella Maria Clogher; and step-father of Lauren and Kali Payne. He is also survived by his wife, Bobbi Sparcello; father Frank Sparcello Sr.; mother Jan Nox, sisters: Pam Ridgel and Jan Sparcello. He had two nephews: Christopher Fontaine and Philip Ridgel, and two nieces: Candice Fontaine LaBiche and Stephanie Ridgel. The family will be holding a memorial on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at the Harvest Family Church, 43052 Yokum Rd., Hammond, LA 70403. (I-12 Service Rd/ Frontage Rd).

Anyone wanting to do a eulogy is welcome and in lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated. The members of Exhorder and friends are holding a celebration of Frankie's life on Sunday from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at The Hangar, 1511 South Rendon St., New Orleans, LA 70125. Family friends, and fans of his music are all welcome."

Frankie Sparcello Memorial

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SXSW Music 2011 Day 3: Part 1

Friday, March 18th marked day three of SXSW Music. I attended the afternoon session entitled “Writing About Music in the Twenty Tens,” as it sounded like a great fit for what we do here. It was actually more geared toward the individual writer, but was applicable nonetheless. The panel of speakers had some prepared questions and discussed the need to learn multimedia and how writing professionally is a skill set in itself. Some of the examples about the latter were particularly interesting - writers get asked to do a wide range of things and the thinking is that rising to the challenge makes you a better writer. They also talked about saving your articles so that over time you’ll have enough material for a book or some sort, and discussed self publishing vs a book deal and how to find a good agent who works with your topic/kind of book (and recommended agentquery.com for searches).

There were two big day shows to choose from on this day: The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival at SXSW and MetalSucks’ “South by South Death.” I had planned to stop by the NEMHF before heading to the MetalSucks event. The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival was being held across the street from Emo’s in a tent. Being highly visible on the main strip, and featuring more well known bands, it was already packed and there was a line to get in - no special treatment for having a badge even. That made it a no-brainer to walk a block down the street to Headhunters to check out the MetalSucks event.

When I arrived, it had yet to start, but Meek Is Murder was setting up just minutes later. The main floor of Headhunters is not very big, especially if you don’t count the stage, sound board, and bar. I’d guess there’s about 15’ x 25’ of usable floor space. Meek Is Murder began playing to the dozen or so people there at the time. Their sound lies somewhere under the progressive hardcore umbrella. I liked the more progressive parts, as well as the occasional cool riff or groove, but was not a big fan of the screamy hardcore parts. But it was still an enjoyable half hour set anyway. More...

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SXSW Music 2011 Day 2: Part 2

On the second day of SXSW Music, there were more options for metal shows at night. I enjoyed bouncing around between shows on the first day and hoped to catch a few bands at different shows this evening, such as Christian Mistress, Agalloch, and the Alex Skolnick Trio. It didn’t pan out exactly as planned, but was a good night nonetheless.

As I wandered a few alleyways, looking for a few of the more obscure venues where these bands were playing, I stumbled upon the Barbarella Patio first, which is where Agalloch would be playing later that night. Upon entry, Amber Asylum was playing and I literally went back to the gate to double check the lineup posted there. They were so mellow that I thought I was in the wrong place. The band did have a couple of slightly heavier moments toward the end of their set, but overall they were far too mellow for my tastes. More...

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SXSW Music 2011 Day 2: Part 1

After my struggles to stay awake the previous night, I slept in late so I wouldn’t be exhausted for the rest of SXSW.

I made it out to an afternoon session “Website? Get Real. You Need A Web Empire.” It was a decent talk about not only the band’s website as a central hub, but all of the social media and mobile presence that bands should work on to build their audience. There were some tips given on marketing and SEO and various related topics as well, but overall, I felt the title was a little misleading. They discussed some services such as cashmusic, bandcamp, and Topspin as well. It was an ok discussion overall, but I only learned a few tidbits here and there that I didn’t know already.

From there, I was headed over to Emo’s once again. On the way, I ran into San Francisco violin, cello and drums trio Judgement Day playing acoustically at a street corner. I stopped to shoot a few photos and hear a song, bought a CD and then was on my way. I hoped to catch them amped the following night at a proper show. More...

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SXSW Music 2011, Day 1

SXSW Music officially began on Wednesday, March 16th. My schedule was jam-packed and I quicky fell behind on reporting on the days’ events at the conference, which started with an interactive conference on March 11th.

Despite being out late for a show the night before, I decided to head over to the conference center to catch my first music talk: “Welcome to the Music Business - You’re Fucked.” I didn’t have great expectations from the description alone. Once seated, I was hearing great things about the speaker, who turned out to be Martin Atkins, author of “Tour:Smart” and former drummer for Ministry and Killing Joke among others. More...

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Motorhead Came To Austin With Guns A'blazing

The rustic décor of Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater seemed ideal for Motorhead front man Lemmy. Wearing his trademark black western wear, Lemmy could have been an outlaw gambler in a past life, searching out a lucrative poker game in the saloons of Texas’s capital city. March 8, 2011 wasn’t the scene of a 1980s Kenny Roger’s film, but Motorhead came prepared with an “Ace of Spades” up their sleeves.

Even after 37 years in the rock‘n’roll biz, Motorhead has a reach and longevity like few others. Their crossover appeal brought in a sold-out crowd of over 2,000 old school metal heads, bikers, punks, thrashers, black metal fans and stoners. Although nowhere near the legend of Motorhead, Maryland’s bluesy, heavy rock troupe Clutch has carved its own niche in the hard rock world. Their inclusion on the tour not only brought in a unique section of fans; the group’s style was a good fit with Motorhead.

Valient Thorr’s sleazy rock disposition gave the tour a feeling of completeness. The North Carolina opener fed the crowd large doses of volume to go with the huge quantities of beer and BBQ (look for Stubb’s products in your local grocery store) it had already ingested. Front man, Valient Himself stalked the stage like a Sasquatch, hair obscuring his face with every bang of his head.

Wearing jean jackets, bassist Dr. Professor Nitewolf Strangees and guitarists Sadat Thorr and Eidan Thorr combined to form old school metal tandems. Tracks such as set closer 'Sleeper Awakes' and 'Mask of Sanity' proved the band supplemented their stoner rock diet with a few dishes of Judas Priest, Metallica, and Iron Maiden.

Clutch slowed down the pace set by Valient Thorr. The group has become mellower since I first saw them open for Sepultura in 1994. The bruising "Come on Motherfucker" or the hopping dynamics of "Space Grass" were not on display. In fact, the group played nothing from the first two records, which commonly happens when a band has twenty-plus-years of recordings.

“Blast Tyrant” marked the earliest material, which the group obviously highlighted to promote its upcoming reissue. Clutch played album favorites 'I Am Immortal,' 'The Mob Goes Wild,' and 'Cypress Grove' to a welcomed applause. Another notable track was '50,000 Unstoppable Watts' from the “Strange Cousins from the West” album.

Clutch has made a name for itself as a jam band. While I’ve seen Clutch go off on longer tangents, the group made sure to insert a couple of jam sessions. Even though the years have faded their aggression, Clutch’s musical skill has vastly improved. Neil Fallon and Tim Sult created a dialog with the stars through trippy guitar solos. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster displayed impressive chops, something I didn’t notice until his performance with Wino on “Punctuated Equilibrium.”

Amidst a winged backdrop and drum platform scribed with the title of their new album, Motorhead pushed the venue’s speakers to the max. While not cranking their volume to the extent as their indoor performance (the last time I saw Motorhead) with Black Sabbath and Morbid Angel in 1994 (good year for concerts), I would not advise standing in front of a speaker. A blown speaker needed the help of Mickey Dee’s snare hits to straighten out the static produced by Lemmy’s rumbling bass. More...

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Melechesh Steals The Kill From Rotting Christ Live

Ahhhh, death metal. Until tonight I hadn’t been to a proper death metal show in a couple of years at least, if not longer, so when I opened the doors to Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago’s Near South Side, the stench of decaying flesh wafted into my wanting nostrils and refreshed my soul. Spiked gauntlets and shinguards, bullet belts, corpsepaint, unending blast beats, lots and lots of huge buckles, long black coats – all the pleasantries of a death metal show were coming back to me in trigged kick drum style as I boldly strode past the merch table. The Apostles of Darkness Over The Americas Tour was in town, and headliner Rotting Christ had brought along a bag of very special guests: Melechesh, Hate, Abigail Williams and Lecherous Nocturne. Unfortunately I had a sustenance occasion that precluded my arrival in time for Lecherous Nocturne, but the folks I chatted with said their tech-death was precise and heavy. More...

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Swampfest Kicks Off The Metal At SXSW 2011

SXSW Music had yet to officially begin, but on Tuesday night, I headed out to Klub Krucial to catch the first metal show I had on my schedule. Dubbed “Swampfest,” the show was to feature local bands Mammoth Grinder, Hod, The Roller, and Atlanta’s Kylesa. The venue apparently is host to all sorts of shows, apparently hip hop venue according to some patrons I talked to. But it worked fairly well for a metal show just the same. It was wider than deep and had a balcony, which is where I gravitated to escape the mosh pit and from being directly in front of the stacks of speakers, as no ear plugs were needed up there.

First up was Mammoth Grinder. They played a noisy, thrashy style of music. The vocals were completely incomprehensible to me, but it sounded like more the sound system’s fault than the vocalist’s. Their style of thrash was in the same vein as Slayer’s, and the final song that finally got the crowd going a bit sounded something like a Slayerized version of “Orgasmatron” in tempo and riffs, although judging by the vocals, that did not seem to actually be the case. More...

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Quake Devastates Japan, Cuts Tours Short

Revilement got into Nagoya, Japan on Thursday night a day ahead of our three day, three city mini-tour of Japan, and was met at the airport by Jun, guitar player of the local thrash metal band Deaflock. Jun didn't speak much English but with sign language and slow, deliberate speech we were able to get by. He took us directly to Club Quattro where Unearthly Trance, High on Fire, and The Melvins were playing. Our flight landed at about 6:15, and with the seven o'clock start time, we missed Unearthly Trance, but caught the last two bands. High on Fire ripped through their set with the oft shirtless Matt Pike unleashing sludgy, sonic hellfire through his 12-string guitar. Being used to seeing him sans upper body coverings and resting his ax on his paunch it was almost odd seeing him move about the club after the show wearing a tank top.

The Melvins were headlining and it was unreal how tight they were with their two-drummer set up and varying vocal combinations featuring all four members at times. Being the consummate eclectic eccentrics that they are, the band closed the show with a four-part harmonized version of Merle Haggard's “Okie from Muskogee”, during which bassist Jared Warren doffed his instrument and waded out into the crowd to both wrap his arms around, and in the case of at least one unsuspecting attendee, pick them up and flip them into a standing 69 position, all while belting out his end of the harmony. More...

Read the full article at Touring Amidst Disaster.

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Lamb Of God's Chris Adler - The Nashville Clinic

Let’s be honest: Instrument workshops or clinics are usually either self-indulgent, all about show, or strictly educational. You’ve got your Michael Angelo Batio types who think a four-necked guitar is just the coolest thing and can’t wait to start noodling for the crowd. You’ve got your Tim Yeung (Vital Remains, Divine Heresy) types that like to show off ridiculous dexterity and muscle control to the max. You’ve even got your Melissa Cross types, which are mostly educational.

That’s not saying they’re not amazing at what they do, but rarely do you see a musician who checks their ego at the door, talks about their career instead of their techniques, plays more obscure songs, and doesn’t try to instruct everyone in the audience. The drummer from Grammy-nominated American heavy metal titans Lamb of God, Chris Adler, did just that. More...

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Immortal Plows Through Chicago

It's only fitting, in an ironic way, that Immortal finally arrived in Chicago during a winter when my city was buried under two feet of snow. It's one of those coincidences that I'd have a much easier time appreciating if I wasn't trapped in my own home for four days a mere three weeks before the show. Despite taking almost a decade to return to the Windy City, Immortal was still worth the wait.

Unfortunately I missed all but the last two songs of Absu's set since the CTA thought it was a great idea to name two stops Ashland on the Green Line and I'd personally like to meet whoever was responsible for that decision, so that I can challenge that person to a bloody duel to the death suspended over a pit of lava with spiked clubs. I ended up taking the train in the exact opposite direction towards the second Ashland since jumping on the train saying that it was heading to the Ashland stop seemed like a great idea at the time. That whole ordeal managed to take up over an hour of my life since I ended up at the exact opposite end of Chicago that I wanted to be at. Thank you very much CTA. You really know how to create wonderful, memorable experiences. More...

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Boston Feels Motorhead's Fury

I’ve seen literally hundreds of shows in my life and for the past decade or so, there’s been one band on my concert bucket list that I somehow had never managed to see: Motorhead.

That all ended when Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee invaded Boston this week and it would be the understatement of a lifetime to say it was more than worth the wait.

These three have been playing together since 1985 and to call them “tight” is like saying Sydney Crosby is a good ice skater. They play as one and their raw chemistry defies words. More...

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Jucifer Rolls Into New Orleans

As the fog rolled in on the warm, balmy night in NOLA, so did the fans of Jucifer. Not just the average metalheads, but artists, punks, middle-aged/middle class men and women, and about anyone else you can think of. The infamous huge stack of old but very powerful amps, instruments, and all kinds of weird electronic devices filled the side wall of Siberia and rose to the ceiling. It was apparent that they would be performing on the floor lengthwise of the venue because their equipment was too much for the stage. More...

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Death Angel Summons The Angel of Death In Chicago

See what I did there? Clever stuff, eh? Anyway, Death Angel is out doing a club tour across North America to support their newest studio full length, “Relentless Retribution,” supported by Lazarus A.D., Bonded by Blood, Early Man and Hexen. They stopped by Chicago on February 9, and already had a couple strikes against them before they even took the stage. But more on that later. Lazarus A.D. was supposed to be second on the bill but had van problems and didn’t make it to Chicago; an obvious bummer all around for obvious reasons, and it especially sucked for your correspondent, since I love me some Lazarus A.D. Hexen and Early Man were also replaced by a couple local Chicago bands. Enough preamble, let’s talk about what actually happened. More...

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Arson Anthem Holds A Meeting In New Orleans

The Hangar was ready for the AA meeting; the floors were redone in a slick finish to make the mess easier to clean, the bar was stocked with booze, and the flasks were full. I’m talking about the Arson Anthem show, of course. I had to prepare for such an event as any Louisianian would, a tailgate complete with fried chicken, fold-out chairs, and good friends. We all had a great time before the show, but the best was yet to come. The crowd wasn’t the a-typical metalheads I thought would show up, although quite a few did. There were younger Down fans, older yuppie Pantera fans, and the curios onlooker all wanting to see what Phil Anselmo looks like behind a guitar, no doubt. I knew what to expect from Arson Anthem, but the show took some strange turns indeed. More...

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Devildriver Came, Cancer Bats Conquered

On a rainy Tuesday night in Vancouver, hundreds of metalheads lined the city's famed Granville street to catch the first Canadian stop in Devildriver's headline tour. If one thing is ever apparent about Vancouver and its metal fanatics, it is that they are one faithful bunch and are willing to put themselves through any amount of trouble to make it out to a metal show. Devildriver fans are especially rabid in this city and they had made the event a total sell out by the time doors were officially opened, as they have done for every other time Devildriver has rolled through our neck of the woods.

The tour, which features an all-Canadian supporting cast in Cancer Bats and Baptized in Blood, made its Vancouver stop at one of the city's more trendy dance clubs. The venue, which also happens to be named "Venue" of all things, mostly caters to a bar-hoping dance crowd and plays home to techno raves on most other nights. While the venue itself is nice and features an equal balance of floor space and upscale seating, it needs to be pointed out that the employees at Venue are some of the most insufferable people in the city and they really make it a point to take the douchebag factor to whole new levels. The employees were treating the metal fans in attendance that night like they were diseased third world prostitutes and made entry into the venue extremely difficult and lengthy, with many people being kept outside well into the start of the show; an hour after doors. To anyone thinking of attending a metal show at "Venue" in the future or to promoters looking to book a show in the city: only look to "Venue" as absolute last resort.

Despite the terrible start to the evening, Baptized in Blood took to the stage on time and looked to lighten the mood with its positive vibe and high energy performance. The crowd seemed to really enjoy the Ontario, Canada thrash act and did not hesitate to open the pit up early. Performing a rather short set, Baptized in Blood managed to cram all of the fan favorite tracks from its self-titled Roadrunner Records debut into the set with "Dirty's Back" being the lone highlight for me. Its hard to put a finger on what exactly it was, but the band just did not take an interest with me. The sound was great and each band member were very into its performance, but the music itself seemed to lack any punch as its set went on. Although for a young band that already has Megadeth's Dave Mustaine singing its praises the future is surely a bright one for this young thrash act. More...

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haarp's CD Release Show For "The Filth"

Sibera, the latest metal/punk bar hosting shows many days of the week in the darkly lit side streets of the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, quickly filled with many local metal patrons of all variables: musicians, artists, fans, Housecore Records affiliates, and beer-swilling metal supporters alike. I myself rushed from UNO’s graduation ceremony in cap and gown straight down Elysian Fields Avenue to be there for this special night: haarp’s album release show for the band's first full-length “The Filth.” More...

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X Japan Plays The Riviera

X Japan remains the biggest name in heavy metal across the Asian continent. Despite major setbacks including the death of a lead guitarist and a decade long-hiatus, X Japan is still capable of selling out the Tokyo Dome in the band's home country and appearing on the soundtracks for major motion pictures. Finally, North American audiences have been able to witness a phenomenon that they've missed out on since the 1980s.

For those not familiar with X Japan it, along with Helloween, pioneered power metal in the late 1980s as well as a new style of dress known as visual kei, which is entirely an image and has nothing to do with a band's sound. Visual kei bands range from noise to pop and are defined by their use of "Medusa" hairstyles, colorful costumes, and heavy stage makeup. It's a style that emphasizes live performance and theatrics much like black metal, but with a much lighter and less grim approach. Moreover, visual kei has has a profound impact on everything in Japan from anime to video games, with things like Code Geass and the Final Fantasy series taking a heavy influence from visual kei for their art direction.

Finally, after missing the band's Chicago debut at Lollapalooza, I was finally able to witness the legends in person during X Japan's full tour. For one thing, it was inspiring for me to see so many fans follow X Japan to North America from the band's home continent. About 1/3 of the crowd were metalheads decked out in shirts for bands like Helloween and Dark Tranquillity, 1/3 were American weaboos interested in Japan's biggest metal phenomenon, and 1/3 were overseas fans who followed X Japan all the way across the world to see a performance on the group's first ever (and long overdue) North American tour. After every show that I've been to, I've never seen a fan base devoted enough to follow their favorite band overseas. Then again, this is the band that is able to sell out a show at the Tokyo Dome with no opener and have managed to sell thirty million albums with absolutely no touring in North America. More...

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Watain Declares Lawlessness In New Orleans

Although it was cold out, not everyone wanted to go in. Rumors of the worst smell imaginable emanating from wherever Watain plays kept many people at bay. But The Bar was still full to the brim with fans of black metal and those wanting to see if this tour was really as creepy as people said. Let me say this, the next time Watain comes, I don’t think everyone from this show will come back. The scary show filled with meat, blood, fire, and extreme music might just be too much for them. More...

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