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Archive: Reports

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Sevendust, Lacuna Coil, and Avatar Melt Nashville

"So, I heard that Nashville is supposed to be some sort of country music capital of the world," says Avatar vocalist Johannes Eckerström in the middle of the band's set. Looking around the scene at Marathon Music Works on February 10th, you wouldn't have guessed it. The night before, Hatebreed brought Shadows Fall, Dying Fetus, and The Contortionist with them to play the same venue, but the metal mob was out again in full force to greet the Swedes for their first stop in town on their first tour of the US.

Although Marathon Music Works is not some gigantic stadium, it is anything but a small venue. Stretching about three blocks around the side of the building, waiting in the line of fans to get into the venue was no small test of endurance. Thankfully, two bars and a sound system that blares Megadeth, Van Halen, and Killswitch Engage await indoors to kickstart the weary. Nashville was about to get a multi-national blast of warm loudness to counter the falling temperature. More...

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Killswitch Engage: Trapped Between Two Eras?

In the wake of Killswitch Engage’s second self-titled album – fifth overall – in 2009, I heard the trajectory of the band’s career summed thusly:

“If Killswitch Engage were a transsexual, ‘The End Of Heartache’ [2004] would be the cross-dressing phase, ‘As Daylight Dies’ [2006] would be the transition phase, and ‘KsE II’ would be the full transformation into a woman.” More...

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High On Fire Lights Up New Orleans

All was quiet in the Quarter, save the sidewalk in front of the renowned One Eyed Jacks. The entire heavy scene of New Orleans is in attendance tonight; the beer flows like water as we all file into the main room where opening band Lo-Pan is about to take the stage.

Lo-Pan’s last NOLA performance at Siberia in 2011 garnered a small crowd, playing with local doom groove outfit Endall and Ryan McKern,tThe band now has a packed house to play its unique post-rock hybrid sound. The opening notes are low and dominating, somewhere between Clutch and older Corrosion of Conformity. Jeff Martin’s vocals kick in and it immediately shifts to a softer Soundgarden vibe. The band is passionate about the music, and this is evident in the live show: well-rehearsed structures and tight playing abilities win over the crowd. More...

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Tomahawk at Voodoo Fest

Since their debut album in 2001, Tomahawk has been a champion in the underground with their twangy riffs, bone crushing drum hits, eerie synth sounds, and the ever impressive crooning styles of Mike Patton. This indeed is a supergroup: John Stanier from Helmet on drums, Duane Denison of Jesus Lizard and USSA on guitar, Mike Patton from Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Peeping Tom, etc. not just singing, but using all kinds of distortions and keyboards. More...

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Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 Day 3

Pallbearer may have started around 1 pm, but kept its audience in mourning. The group moved with the deliberation and anguish of its namesake. Guitarists Brett Campbell and Devin Holt dropped emotional bombs with weight comparable to receiving bereaving news. Campbell used an effect to make his voice appear distant like a ghost whispering in the ear of its lost lover. This was the third time in the last year I caught these Arkansas melancholic musicians, which is special since they only have one album of material to display: Profound Lore released their debut full-length recording, “Sorrow and Extinction,” in February.
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Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 Day Two

Red Fang drew my attention first during day two. Contrary to their name, Red Fang’s bite energized rather than paralyzed the crowd. Although they came from the land of fog and towering trees of Oregon, their riffs were the size of Texas and filled with a gritty quality not unlike the festival’s dusty, trodden paths. Their catchy rhythms, guitar solos and drum fills grabbed the modestly sized audience and injected groove into their stoned bones. With prior SXSW appearances, Red Fang has become a well-recognized force in Austin’s festival circuit. Make sure to check these guys out on their touring supporting the “Murder the Mountains” album.

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Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 Day One

Even though Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 happened just a couple of miles from my apartment, it felt like an epic, festival journey. It was akin to driving from Texas to Maryland for the Maryland Death Fest. The road trip I took to a festival was in 2001 to the defunct Milwaukee Metal Fest. That trip was a mere 7-8 hours in the car from Michigan. Making it to Fun Fun Fun Fest meant 24 hours in the car, from Michigan to Texas. Unlike any other festival trip, though, I could sleep in my own bed after a long day of music and festivities.

4:30 AM November 2nd—I hit the highway outside Sikeston, Missouri, made it to Georgetown, Texas round 3:30 PM and immediately left for Austin. The highway reminded me of those nature programs depicting army ants traveling head to butt in a single file line through the forest. The festival surely added to Friday’s gridlock. I anxiously pushed on, trying to make it home in time to catch the best day of the fest for metal. Napalm Death, Municipal Waste, Burning Love, Converge and Tomahawk comprised this lineup. Despite my diligence, I would miss all of these acts.

Having arrived at the festival around 7 PM, I figured I missed the day’s metal acts, and would look towards Run DMC’s performance. My coverage was even further delayed by mistakes in issuing press credentials. While waiting for my photo pass, droning notes emanated from the Yellow Stage. Normally this stage features comedians, but after 5 PM, bands took the stage. I asked a staff member who was playing and he said Super Chunk. More...

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Metal Daze: The Metalcamp Diaries, Part V (Cont'd)

... Continued from Part V...

2:00am. Beach Bar. So this is where it all ends. The final showdown.

Trollfest came on after Sabaton and played some lively little ditties, including the official Metalcamp theme, but after three songs, we were ready to call it a show. We dropped off all our shit back at camp, and now here we are.

Business is booming at the food stands and raging at the bar, and once again, the strippers are out in full force. We’ve found an empty table on the covered deck ringing the steep hill that meets the narrow beach.

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Metal Daze: The Metalcamp Diaries, Part V

... Continued from Part IV...

FRIDAY 8/10

9:00am. For the first time since arriving, I wake up without a sore neck. In profound relief and gratitude, I kiss the small-but-soft pillow I managed to procure at Kik yesterday.

Before this, my strategy was simple: I’d rest my head on the stack of clean clothes in my open bag at the end of my tent. But as the days passed, the stack dwindled, until I felt like a neck injury victim tied to a crude, makeshift wooden stretcher.

There’s a preparation and packing lesson to be learned in there… somewhere. More...

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Morbid Angel Returns to San Antonio

If Satan needed a house band in Hell, he could certainly call on Morbid Angel. Thanks to his guitar acrobatics, journalists have long dubbed band-founder Trey Azagthoth as the Eddie Van Halen of death metal. When the group emerged in 1989 with their first proper release, few, if any, could match the Mercury-footed speed of Pete Sandoval’s double-bass-blasting feet. The groove, mind-blowing skill and heretical lyrics and imagery landed the group at the top of the extreme metal world. Massive touring cycles transformed the band into one of the most prolific, underground touring acts of the 1990s. Their devilish music found its largest audience opening for Slayer and Pantera in the beginning of the new millennium.

After the Pantera gigs, Morbid Angel largely stayed out of the limelight. An opening stint for Soulfly in 2005 was the only North American tour I recall since Pantera. Assumingly, much of the crowd in attendance at Backstage Live in San Antonio had not seen the group in seven or even twelve years. Many long-time fans bemoaned “Illud Divinium Insanus,” the group’s first album in eight years, as the lowest point of artistry in the group’s near-thirty-year career. In fact, many of these fans felt the album was so poor they wouldn’t even venture out to see the band play, which is such a shame because they missed one of the best extreme metal tours of the year! More...

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Metal Daze: The Metalcamp Diaries, Part IV

Continued from Part III...

THURSDAY 8/9

10:00am. “Waking up” is one thing. “Getting up” is something else. These festivals involve a continuous stream of physical self-abuse of one kind or another – usually both, and more.

I drag myself like a cranky newborn from my tent and stretch, feeling drawn and quartered. By now, I have no problem pulling out my unit and pissing in the open air, on the slight hill next to our Embassy. Bashfulness went right out the window a while ago. More...

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Lacuna Coil Plays Nosturi

Lacuna Coil made the band's first appearance in Helsinki since February 15th, 2010, on the Shallow Life World Tour. Unaccompanied, Lacuna Coil performed a 2-hour set, complete with a 5-song acoustic set, ranging all the way from "In A Reverie" to the 2012 release, "Dark Adrenaline" (reviewed here). This night kicked off the Dark Legacy European tour.

In a twist of fate, Lacuna Coil was yet again in Helsinki without the full band. In the 2010 show, Marco “Maus” Biazzi was unable to play due to an injury, and likewise this year, he was recovering from a shoulder injury and unable to participate. As well, Cristiano “Criz” Mozzati was taking this one out because of the recent birth of his daughter. As such, another drummer friend, Ryan Folden, was substituting for this tour.

Lacuna Coil wins some big points to viewers for being a very crowd-friendly band. Vocalist Cristina Scabbia in particular tells stories about the songs and the meaning behind them, letting the crowd get not only a live performance, but a bit of insight into the deeper meanings of the songs the fans love. More...

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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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