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Metal Daze: The Metalcamp Diaries, Part III

... Continued from Part II...

WEDNESDAY 8/8

11:00am. After two full days of brushing my teeth with bottled water, “morning” and “night” (relative terms), without a sink, I have toothpaste streaked in white stains all over my army-green shorts. I’ve already lost count of people who’ve asked me how much I’ve been jerking it.

12:00pm. A bracing gust of wind pummels the gazebo. So far, the guy lines and tent pegs anchoring the flimsy metal stanchions to the ground have held (with some occasional coaxing), but they’ve taken a beating from the continuous breeze. We’re situated on the crest of a slope that scoops up the air and sends it hurtling into our camp. More...

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Metal Daze: The Metalcamp Diaries, Part II

... Continued from Part I...

TUESDAY 8/7

9… something… am. Or maybe it’s 10, or maybe I’m in Hell. All I know is that the sun has risen, transforming my tent into a “Bridge On The River Kwai” sweatbox and my sleeping bag into a dehydration cocoon. I’m marinating.

Cooking aromas. Eggs frying, a Mediterranean whiff of olive oil, the universal scent of black coffee. Subdued, slow-motion, hung-over camp chatter. An unfamiliar voice: “Mind if I drop in for a meet-and-greet?” Male, low and steady-pitched, Eastern European. Might as well get my ass moving and be social. Also, I’m starving again.

I peel away my constraints, fumbling, slippery, dazed. I unzip the door and gasp for breath. The open air feels cucumber-cool by comparison and prickles my skin.

With nature doing all the work around here, who needs an alarm clock? More...

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Metal Daze: The Metalcamp Diaries, Part I

SATURDAY 8/11

6:00am. YOU’VE KNOCKED A SCREW LOOSE, a taunting Protestant voice rattles my inner skull in a booze-muddled echo as I lope across a bed of sharp stones and plunge into the frigid river just this side of bare-assed.

The full immersion drowns that pesky voice mid-sentence. Eyes open under water; I find peaceful seclusion for a few precious, bone-chilling seconds.

Confirming the diagnosis as I breach the surface and hoist myself to my feet, waist-deep, skin already tightening from the abrupt system shock, a guy on the beach mutters something to his friend, shoots me a strange glare – did I somehow manage to insult his mom? – and twirls his finger near his temple. Yep.

Whatever. I reinforce the diagnosis and thrust double horns skyward, hoping to give the appearance of a calculated, decisive, tough, metal-inspired action and not the clumsy result of a dare, drowned brain cells, and a liquid blanket.

In either case, this is Metalcamp, and what happens at Metalcamp… gets reproduced (and photographed) on Metalunderground.com.

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ProgPower USA XIII: Day Two

The morning of September 15th was a bit hazy for most attendees, as the Artmore post-show celebrations had famously ensued when Epica finished up Day One's show at 2:30 in the AM. Really, where else were you going to go after getting 12 straight hours of show time, knowing that the bands you just saw on stage would be mingling with you in the courtyard? It just didn't make sense to go home. Nightwish and Kamelot were off on their tour after playing the pre-ProgPower show on Thursday.

One of the other fun things about ProgPower is that it brings out members of other bands who aren't playing, but just want to see a great show. In the courtyard later in the day, I would run into Pyramaze vocalist Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose) as well as Oklahoma-based progressive metal band Vangough. I met the members of Vangough at a Mexican restaurant a block up from the venue for lunch and an interview about their most recent album, "Kingdom of Ruin," and their future. Festivities for Day Two kicked off at 2:30 in the afternoon. Brace yourselves, because this is going to be a long write-up. More...

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ProgPower USA XIII: Day One

While the rest of the world went to work or whatever it is they normally would do on a Friday, the contingent of the lovers of loud and fast music down on Peachtree St in Atlanta were being awesome. The day that many metal fans were waiting for since Day Two of the 2011 festival had finally come around -- Day One of the 2012 festival had arrived, bringing with it headliners Epica and support bands Sinbreed, Kingcrow, Amaranthe, Serenity, Primordial, and Redemption. The night before, Nightwish and Kamelot had thrilled in the same venue.

With several levels of ticket options available to attendees, gold badge attendees were given early access to the festival's merchandise room. Like the gaping maw of a hungry beast, the doors to the merchandise room were opened at noon and soon swallowed absurd amounts of money with little effort from the wallets of attendees. For attendees who found the dilemma of "I just need ONE more CD," without having the money for it, there was an ATM around the hall so that "one more" could then turn into "ten more" without a worry. More...

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ProgPower Pre-Show: Nightwish and Kamelot

A kind of metalhead Mecca, the ProgPower USA festival at Center Stage in Atlanta is back in session for its 13th year today and tomorrow. In the kickoff of their US tour, Nightwish and Kamelot tag-teamed for two nights before the official ProgPower festivities got going. To add to the enormity of the occasion, Jon Oliva of the mighty Savatage gave a songwriting workshop before the show in the smaller venue next to Center Stage. For attendees, this was going to be a night to remember, as well as a completely sold-out show.

Backstage before the show, I caught up with Nightwish bassist Marco Hietala for an interview. We ended up rehashing Nightwish's legendary USA debut at ProgPower 4 back in 2003, along with talking about new plans for his other band, Tarot, and the "Imaginaerum" movie. Tonight, Nightwish was going to be doing a special 2nd show with a few songs that were different from the night before. Many fans had come out for both nights, and it was soon clear to them that whatever sound and jet-lag issues were grating on the performance last night were taken care of for this second night. More...

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Turbid North Returns to South Texas

Turbid North possesses many facets that make them an attractive concert prospect. The group plays a style of extreme metal that is mellow and malevolent at the same time. They have released two albums, and now they’re backed by Unearth’s Trevor Phipps’ Ironclad Records. Turbid North’s story is of interest, too. Their members migrated from Alaska and England to north Texas. Still, the group expressed their concern about packing clubs in unknown markets.

I reassured bassist, Chris O’Toole that their performance at Head Hunters would be a success because the opening, local bands would help pack the house. This is exactly what happened. Patrons came out to see Turbid North, but the large bill of bands playing on two stages resulted in nearly filling the couple-hundred capacity inside Head Hunters. Bands such as Whore of Bethlehem and Vex feature members with a long history in the Austin metal scene, so they brought their share of fans. More...

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Kreator & Accept Bulldoze Worcester To The Ground

When heavy metal came into my life in 1985/1986, one of the many reasons I fell in love, married it and grafted it into my very soul is due to one special band: Accept. “Metal Heart” was the second album I ever bought, and the love affair with this music grew. Through all the the ups and downs in the band’s career - the initially dreadful David Reece album “Eat the Heat” (which I later came to appreciate a little more), feeling heartbroken about the loss of Udo Dirkschneider (twice), the near disaster of “Predator,” the angst of the band’s return with yet another American vocalist back prior to the release of “Blood of Nations” - Accept has, and always will be, the source of my own metal heart. In the 80's, I joked a lot about how it was the “Nazi choruses” that drew me in. Today, that kind of statement would put me squarely within the crosshairs of overly sensitive individuals who would have no understanding of where I came from with the description should I dare to use it today. Of course, it didn’t help that the band is German. That long abandoned reference from my youth merely refers to the deep, low all male backing vocals that, for me, made Accept one of the greatest bands ever. “Bound to Fail” was the song that coined that phrase and “Stand Tight” reinforced it. Needless to say, I was ready to finally see the one Udo-less Accept incarnation that has found a way to rejuvenate the band and capture the old metal spirit with a whole new set of young fans, which is just glorious. The pairing with Kreator, another band I discovered when “Endless Pain” was released on Noise Records shortly after the band changed its name from Tormentor, seemed almost as perfect as it was slightly “genre mixed.” Add Finland’s Swallow the Sun, who seemed like the oddball out, and this bill became a “lust see.” More...

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Abigail Williams Plays Last Austin Show

Normally, we find Abigail William’s name in smaller font than the other acts listed on their flyer promoting a North American jaunt. This tour, however, features the group going solo on a headlining North American tour. After nearly a decade of supporting the world’s best extreme metal acts, it’s only proper that Candlelight Record’s most prolific artist becomes the featured act at each stop, especially considering this is their last tour.

One of the reasons for their disbanding is an inability to keep band members. Abigail Williams once led a cast of five members, including ex-Cradle of Filth keyboardist Ashley "Ellyllon" Jurgemeyer. Founding member Ken Sorceron came to town this time as a stripped down three-piece. The group used a synthesizer to replicate cinematic moments. This small lineup was perfect for Beerland’s small stage. It’s dark and narrowed halls were also fit the small audience well. More...

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Agalloch Plays 2.5 Hour Set of Classics in Austin

Agalloch has taken its listeners on a voyage over various soundscapes ever since their 1999 debut “Pale Folklore.” Lengthy tracks paint audio pictures of biting winds, snow-capped mountains, bubbling brooks, crackling fire places, placid pools of self-reflection, cold apparitions, the Northern Lights and so much more. Their songs convey a wide range of moods, bright and cheerful, calming white or grey with melancholy. The group needs a long set and stage props to create an authentic Agalloch concert.

When Agalloch last appeared in Austin for SXSW 2011 the group left many of their fans disappointed or at least with mixed emotions. They played a short set of mostly newer material, and their stage presented little in terms of atmosphere. Even front man John Haughm commented on how the SXSW show was less than satisfactory. Many of us had waited years, even a decade to see a rare appearance by the band, so in some ways, we were happy just to have seen the band. Still, many went away having not heard their favorite songs. Agalloch’s return to Austin, this time at Red 7, delivered the type of Agalloch performance we hoped and expected. Their 2.5 hour performance featured choice cuts throughout their career. Additionally, they offered a stage show that tantalized the senses. More...

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Earthen Grave Plays First Show in Austin

Earthen Grave drove south from Chicago to play shows in New Orleans and Dallas. Unfortunately, the NOLA show was canceled on Thursday, which led to an impromptu performance in Austin made possible by Hipsterectomy. The local crossover crushers invited Earthen Grave to play their CD release show at Trophy’s.

Due to the punk-heavy lineup, in many ways Earthen Grave’s performance was akin to The Obsessed opening for hardcore bands in Washington D.C., circa the early ‘80s. This was Hipsterectomy’s show, but the band offered Earthen Grave the headlining spot. Even though Earthen Grave features former Trouble member Ron Holzner, the crowd mostly consisted of locals who had come out to see their friends play. Once Earthen Grave took the stage, most of the crowd filtered out. More...

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Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2012, Day 3

Day three was upon us, and the only thing that banished the gloomy weather was knowing that the day held a few favorites in store. For me at least due to a stubborn illness I caught only the biggest acts. With a healthy mix of folk metal, deathcore, and even some classically inspired loveliness Day three promised to be another rousing adventure in Helsinki for everyone who came out to enjoy.

Suicide Silence was the first act of the day. The energetic Americans started the day off with some epic stage presence and brutal death core that prepared our ears for what was to come this day. Usually I’m not into this genre, but these guys have the kind of energy that is contagious. Singer Mitch is unusually acrobatic for a front man and has the audience frantically headbanging and moshing as he seemingly defies gravity while singing.

Next up was everyone’s favorits cellists, Apocalyptica. There’s something about this band that just pleases everyone, form pretentious purists to the most brutal metal fans; these guys have a very wide fan base. Always impressive is the fact that these well trained musicians can get a clean sound from their strings, even despite the humid weather and rain which usually wreak havoc on acoustic instruments. It’s hard not to enjoy the enthusiastic act on stage when the music can go from lovely, to rageful from one beat to the next. Though I wouldn’t have dreamt it doable these guys run around, headbang and essentially violate their cellos with bows that drop horse hair all over the stage; all while emitting music that permeates the festival grounds with its torment. More...

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Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2012 , Day 2

And then it was Saturday! Day two of Tuska again started a bit earlier then the hungover and tired festival goers may have wished but the drowsy vibes quickly vanished (though not the rain clouds) as the day started on a much folkier note. Tuska Day Two promised another heavy day of good music, good people and the summer vibe that has Finns and Non Finn's coming from all over to partake in the festivities.

First up today was Estonian folk metallers Metsätöll! I have been excited to see these guys for years now and it was with bated breath that I entered the photo pit this morning! And here I will be a bit blasphemous and state that Lauri (Varulven) Õunapuu is quite simply a god of folk instruments. Throughout the set he seamlessly switched from bagpipes, to flutes, and numerous stringed Estonian folk instruments. Each one was expertly played and gave the performance a mysterious lovely quality. The Estonian language is quite obviously similar to Finnish, and in fact singer Markus "Rabapagan" Teeäär wows the predominantly Finnish crowd (and presumably wins their hearts) by speaking to them in Finnish. It needs to be said: his accent is much better than mine. Metsätöll is one of those folk metal bands that clearly love what they do, and though the music is fun and foly as ever, there is a lovely mysterious undertone that lends one’s mind to thinking thoughts of dark forests and legends of old. More...

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Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2012, Day 1

We were greeted with the first hints of summer upon arriving at Suvilahti for day one of Tuska Open air metal festival. Ahead was three full days of metal, with a lineup that would please even the trickiest of metal fans. With program guide in hand, with the most interesting acts already chosen; Day one began.

Starting the festival was Finnish thrash metallers Profane Omen. They were a perfect choice to start the weekend, and although the start time was quite early for many, Profane Omen infused the crown that arrived with enough energy to shake off even the most persistent drowsiness. Jules didn’t allow for lethargic audience members with his typical stage antics of headbanging and giving each and every song his all. They played a healthy mix of old songs and new and thus began Tuska 2012.

One thing that was quite difficult was managing take in all the festival had to offer. Having a nasty case of strep all weekend, I was lucky to be able to keep up the pit hopping and running from stage to stage to see as many acts as possible. Starting a mere 15 minutes after Profane Omen was Alcest. More...

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Impending Doom: Calling Out Nashville

According to Michael Caine's character in the film, "The Dark Knight," some men just want to watch the world burn. In the world of heavy metal, that's kind of a cool line. Actually, that's a really cool line. It's not even that far from the truth for some bands. Some bands like to express their disenchantment with the world and how they'd like to snuff it out like a cigarette butt. Others like to reflect the world in their music, showing it for what it is without passing judgment. Some bands take it one step further and command that we change the world. Impending Doom is not one of them.

On the evening of July 6th, Impending Doom brought back to Nashville's Rocketown a different message: Change yourself. Disregard the world, because it will fail you. Some bands just want to tell you that the world will burn and you shouldn't be part of it. As it turns out, during my interview with vocalist Brook Reeves and some of the band before the show, Impending Doom is about as literal about that as can be. They were joined by fellow bands Within The Ruins, Erra, The Plot In You, and To Each His Own. More...

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Iron Maiden Unleashes Mighty England On Mansfield

It was six years ago when I last saw the mighty Iron Maiden. This time was different, as the band embarked on the “Maiden England” Tour, closely matching the set list that was played during the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” tour, which I remembered so well. The site was at the Comcast Center, an outdoor venue in Mansfield, Massachusetts (called Boston by the band). It was a perfect night, cool - threatening weather (that never came) - and a crowd of 14,000 people to celebrate a moment in time that for some of us was the rare opportunity to recapture memories from 1989-1990 that were frozen in our minds. The bonus of Alice Cooper as an opener made this a very special night indeed.

Iron Maiden shows are a pilgrimage for seasoned metalheads. It is rare to find a Maiden virgin, but I found myself in between two, my wife to my right and a 50 plus year old gentleman who found it important to grace me with his “knowledge” of music and the fact that Iron Maiden “cut the set of Alice Cooper short because they knew they couldn’t follow him.” I nicely reminded the man that 14,000 people showed up to see Iron Maiden, despite the fact that I myself am a huge fan of the Coop. We then engaged in an almost one sided “discussion” (mostly dominated by his apparent low self esteem and/or lack of companion) about how great music was in the 60's and ‘70's and how the 80's sucked (until, as he put it, he “started to appreciate it lately”). Though I was born in 1971, I expressed that I related (somewhat), but my love was the 80's and felt (at the time) that the 90's was a weak decade for metal. The engaged discussion was filled with mind-boggling ignorance which detracted from the importance of the moment for my wife to whom I periodically turned to mouth the words “Save me.” More...

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Chaos in Tejas 2012 Day Two

Saturday, June 2, 2012 offered a much different pace than the previous night. Where Friday night’s lineup played deliberate rhythms and struck chords that hung in the air like an ominous fog, Saturday’s day show at Beerland focused on speed. D-beats, blast beats, double picked chords partly characterized the crossover minded bands such as Midnight and Toxic Holocaust who packed a house of enthusiastic punks and metal heads.

Packing Beerland’s sloped construction did not take long. I arrived at the venue around opening time at 3:30 to find their small smoking area nearly full. I was not at the venue for long before their staff started turning away people. When someone left, someone entered. Once again, due to the staggering amount of attendees, the stuffiness of the club and humidity, I took numerous breaks from watching each band. More...

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Chaos in Tejas 2012 Day One

For some reason, Austin, Texas loves the good-time-party vibe of stoner rock and its sour faced, miserable brother, doom metal. These two related styles have a family reunion at SXSW, but the punk themed Chaos in Tejas is a less likely host. June 1st, the second day of Chaos in Tejas 2012, featured a doom metal dream lineup. Legends Saint Vitus took top bill, while Japan’s stoner-doom, serial killer fanatics Church of Misery made a rare North American appearance. Hail! Hornet, Magic Circles and The Gates of Slumber provided support. More...

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Burn The Throne Fest Destroys Hammond, LA

As high school prom-goers meandered around taking photos in their overly-bright gowns near the picturesque buildings of downtown Hammond, Louisiana, groups of men in black clothing with horrific band logos and album covers smoked cigarettes outside Augustine’s Bar as blasting metal pouring out of the door, frightening the youngsters and keeping them from this side of the street. In the setting orange sun, the music began. More...

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Trivium Streams Nashville To The World

When Trivium rolled through Nashville, TN on May 25th, the Mexican restaurant on the end of the street near Exit/In (the venue) could have had no idea that their entire corner block would be surrounded by black-shirted masses from 7:00 until around 9 PM that night. It was encouraging to once again see metal fans overtake a block in the country music capital of the US – with even more people than when Cannibal Corpse invaded town at the end of April. Several hours later, Nashville showed the world via Livestream.com just how hungry they were for Trivium, as the band announced that the show would be streamed live online. It was a Friday night, nobody had to be anywhere else, and we hadn't had enough to drink yet, which are all good signs that a metal show was just what we needed. More...

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