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70,000 Tons of Metal Day 1: Ahoy there sailor!

It's almost the universal rule of festivals: in the excitement of the lead up, arriving at your destination - in this case, swapping snowy cold Kraków for warm and sunny Miami - and anticipation of the fun to be had ahead, there's a tendency to party too hard the night before. 70,000 Tons of Metal 2012 was no exception, so it was with a sore and foggy head and a bunch of new (also hungover) friends that I arrived at the Miami pier to board the Majesty of the Seas cruise ship.

Getting 2051 ticket holders - not to mention 452 musicians, 879 crew and 13 trucks' worth of equipment - onto the ship with all their respective luggage was no mean feat and it took a pretty long time. But it was fun to do some musician-spotting while waiting in line at the terminal,and funny to see that George 'Corpsegrinder' Fisher has as much hassle getting through security as everyone else. After what seemed like an eon each person was issued with a "sailpass" - a handy little item that opened our cabin doors and allowed drink purchases to be added to our accounts - and ushered onto the vessel. More...

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Gigantour 2012: At Least The Music Was Good

It’s hardly necessary to point out why Gigantour, the recurring metal mini-festival on wheels led by Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, is such an – ahem – gigantic draw. My last time seeing the band perform was for the tour’s third incarnation in April 2008, with support from In Flames, Children Of Bodom, Job For A Cowboy, and High On Fire. Round four boasts a package at once further streamlined and brawnier in industry clout, making this show a no-brainer for any heavy music fan within reasonable driving distance. With this firmly in mind, my photographer Tanya J. Kawecki and I set out for Lowell, Massachusetts on Sunday, January 29th. Our destination: UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center, named – in the words of my colorful colleague Matt Dasher – “for the guy who famously didn’t become President in 1992.” More...

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Iced Earth & Symphony X Burn Hartford To Cinders

Even though I reside in the “drive through” state of Connecticut, I still find it odd that one of the most anticipated tours of the year would begin in a location that most bands/tours avoid. It has more to do with fans in the state. Real fans of metal usually head over to neighboring New York or Massachusetts for any quality metal and any other fans tend to stay at home on Tuesday rather than get out and witness a major tour that is literally within 20-40 minutes away. It is the sorry state of affairs that most real metal fans in Connecticut deal with. But here, a rare opportunity descended upon us and it was a night that the half-filled hall would not soon forget.

The bands arrived in town early, but for some reason the sound checking process started right about the time that doors should have opened. Iced Earth could easily be heard in a practice run of Dystopia while the crowd gathered and waited. The delay caused doors to open at approximately 6:45pm and by the time half the crowd had be properly frisked, entered and started to check out the merchandise table…Warbringer started its set. More...

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Machine Head At the House of Blues

Machine Head was the first show that I actually bothered to pay money for since seeing Behemoth two years ago. “Unto the Locust” is an amazing album and I've never seen Machine Head headline a show. I caught them opening when they were touring with Metallica back in 2009 and they impressed me enough to get me to buy a shirt. Naturally, I was upset to see that they weren’t headlining for another two years and I wasn’t going to pass up this great opportunity. More...

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Lamb of God, Acacia Strain Crush Boston

For the past few years, your best bet to catch Lamb of God has been at an amphitheater or arena on a massive stage on a package tour.

But the gods of metal have smiled upon the East Coast as the Virginia band hit six small clubs this month to roll out their speaker-shattering latest disc, “Resolution.” I was among the lucky thousand or so packed into the Paradise in Boston this week and witnessed first-hand the band’s raw force. They slayed – simple and plain.

Massachusetts’ own The Acacia Strain opened with a grinding set of chugging, angry hardcore that brought the club to a near riot. I last saw these guys on Warped tour last summer when towering vocalist Vincent Bennett terrified the Ashleys and Tylers and scared the eyeliner off the emo kids. More...

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Spinefeast at Sea Festival 2012

Tis the season apparently for metal cruises, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Spinefeast at Sea cruise from Helsinki, to Tallin last Thursday and Friday! The cruise was organized by Spinefarm Records, and with perfect timing as the label was celebrating its 20th birthday this year.

Here in Finland, these cruises to Tallin, Estonia are known for being somewhat of a booze cruise, and almost every Finn has been on one of these journeys to either Stockholm, Tallin, or St. Petersburg. The tax free alcohol and overall party mood are always a safe bet for a good time and I for one can’t think of a better accompaniment to my inexpensive alcohol consumption then to have a solid 20 hours of metal oriented fun! Aboard the ship, called The Baltic Princess, were opportunities for drinking, dancing, metal karaoke and of course an exciting and diverse lineup of 8 bands. More...

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Classhole Performs At The Mushroom Record Store

I was able to film Classhole's set when they performed at The Mushroom Record Store in New Orleans, LA on December 20th. This was Classhole's second performance, and they opened for Ramming Speed at the decades old record store. Classhole is formed by Matt Russell (vocals), co-owner of Siberia, former singer of TireFire, Grant Tom (bassist), guitarist of haarp, Gary Mader (guitarist), bassist of Eyehategod and guitarist of Outlaw Order, and Paul Webb (drummer), guitarist of Spickle. More...

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Mournful Congregation Gathers Doom Cult in Austin

Aussie doom merchants, Mournful Congregation have filled U.S. households with feelings of bereavement, loss and forlorn for nearly twenty years. However, this is the first time the funeral doom act brought its musical misery to North American stages. Doom, especially the extremely slow pace of funeral doom, doesn’t always translate so well under lime lights. Mosh-hungry concert goers might find its slothful pace paralytic to their limbs or these bands just don’t tour often due to one reason or another. Either way, seeing one of the greats in this field on their first North American tour was nearly as monumental as the group’s music.

After sharing the stage with Mournful Congregation just a day or two prior at Rites of Darkness III in San Antonio, Anhedonist, Ritual Necromancy, Pallbearer and Cruciamentum came together for one of best extreme metal bills featuring bands you’ve never heard of. Considering this show fell on a Monday (late Monday night) and included bands without a large following (the crowd seemed most aware of Mournful Congregation), fans squeezed into the tiny space in front of Mohawk’s indoor stage. More...

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Bang-Cock Death Fest Recap

Approximately 200 of Thailand’s most brutal turned up for Bang-Cock Death Fest 2011 at the cavernous yet acoustically pleasing Barbie’s Bar in Bangkok, on Saturday December 3rd. The 12-band bill was comprised of a who’s-who of the underground Asian death metal scene, featuring bands from Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan, which played alongside an incredibly strong array of acts from the host country. More...

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NYC Rock and Roll Food Drive at Gramercy Theatre

Anyone in New York looking for rock and roll this past Friday had to look no further than Gramercy Theatre. Simple concept: Bring food for the homeless and watch great rock and roll music. Hosted by Luc Carl, four bands: NEES and VOS, BROTHERS NYC, SEX SLAVES, and THE DIRTY PEARLS, shook the joint for four plus hours; leaving behind an energized crowd that could rest assured that rock music is still going strong in their city. More...

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GWAR Returns The Maggot To New Orleans

The Hangar was packed for the return of GWAR on the “Return of the Maggot” Tour. The terrible incident that GWAR had been through hung in the air with curiosity about what exactly the show would be like. However, that did not stop the reveling mass from enjoying the other bands. More...

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Unearth, Skeletonwitch Stole Show in Austin

Co-headliners Unearth and Chimaira, two bastions of the breakdown, threw down a modern-metal clinic at Emo’s East in Austin, Texas. Molotov Solution, a promising newcomer to Metal Blade Records, opened the show in fitting ground-and-pound deathcore fashion. Skeletonwitch seemed the odd man out, although their searing blend of blackened thrash proved a needed diversity. The package came sealed with a black licorice-tasting inebriation courtesy of Jägermeister music. More...

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra Lights Up Hartford

It was 1996, New York City, in what was a converted church. That was the first and last time I saw Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I was 25 years old. A band, comprised mostly of my heroes since I was a child, took the stage, fittingly on the church's former altar. You see, this new incarnation of Savatage had erupted on the scene quicker than those same heroes did in all the thirteen years prior to that first show.

It seems that by incorporating Savatage material into Christmas material with Broadway type singers, the band, disguised as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, gained almost instantaneous commercial and mainstream notoriety. They had been "accepted." I knew then that Savatage was doomed to end and time revealed it to be true, as they released only two albums in what would be the band's final five years after. Now relegated to a side project with a terminal "on hold" status, Savatage can only be heard within Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who continue to this day incorporate song parts, whole songs and it's legacy with contributions from all members, including one of its main writers/composers, The Mountain King Jon Oliva. More...

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The Goregrowler's Ball 5, Day 3

Death is just the beginning, so says the title of Nuclear Blast’s compilation series. In the case of The Goregrowler’s Ball 5, death was just the beginning on Friday. Once Sunday, the third and final day of the fest arrived, many were feeling death was never ending. After three days of having one’s body blasted by the hardest, fastest and loudest music known to man, a headache or two afflicted more than one of the band members and ticket purchasers. Due to little seating, the vendors claimed most of the seating inside, many found a curb or fence to rest their ailing backs and feet.

Those taking in all three days were not about to give in to their fatigue, though. While just about everyone took occasional retreats to the parking lot to recharge at their cars (and party), most third-day attendees hung in to the very end. These metal warriors conjured the strength to bang bodies (even after massive bruising) one more time during Suffocation’s closing set.

Unfortunately, the number of purchases at the door was significantly less than the first two days. Hirax and Brutal Truth made climatic performances. Even before taking in our first act of the day, The Goregrowler’s Ball lone stoner/doom band, Pill Crusher, we felt something was amiss. According to a post on promoter Aaron Mendiola’s Facebook page, Sunday continued the trend of the previous days with a headcount fewer than 100 paying customers. The number of band members, vendors and sponsors gave the false impression of more money being exchanged. Because of the poor turn out, bands weren’t paid, a custom guitar was taken away from its raffle and raffle ticket holders weren’t refunded their money, and bands cancelled. More...

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The Goregrowler's Ball 5, Day 2

Day one of The Goregrowler’s Ball came and went without any hitches. Day two promised even more gore-gurgling delights. This day started earlier than Friday’s 5:30 start time. Originally scheduled for a 1:30 start time, the promoter pushed the start time back to 2:30. Prog death artists, Vex took this early slot, which we unfortunately missed. Comatose Records was on full display, as it was throughout the weekend, with Atrocious Abnormality. Said band played a brutal slab of unmerciful, brutal death metal featuring label head, Steve Green.

Ibex Moon Records, owned by John McEntee of Incantation, also made its presence known on the second day. Cardiac Arrest produced grimy, churning death metal in the vein of Autopsy and Grave. The Chicago act switched between rotten-limb-stiffening slow jams and all-out-blast fests provided by new drummer Nick Gallichio. Adam Scott, Tom Knizner, Dave Holland joined low and mid-range scathing voices to narrate grisly tales from the group’s three recordings. Set highlights include the frantic pace of “Insanity’s Grip,” and the ominous, full-moon-blooming groove of “Affliction of the Beast.”

Fellow Ibex Moon label and former tour mates, Hod took the hell-raising chaos outside. Hod was in fine form, performing its perfected blend of death, thrash, black, speed and all-things-metal (“We’re Hod and we play fucking metal”) style. The Central Texas act showcased material from its sole album, “Serpent.” The said album has been out for two years, so one would expect new material. Locals familiar with Hod knew the band well, so their new songs came without surprise. However, those from out of town delighted in hearing new tracks such as “Den of Wolves.” Look for a new record in 2012. More...

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The Goregrowler's Ball 5, Day 1

Texas is a large enough state, the largest of the lower forty-eight, and has so many metal scenes that its promoters have built festivals consisting solely of bands within its large borders. The Goregrowler’s Ball built its foundation on Lone Star groups. The first installment began five years ago, when festival organizer, Aaron Mendiola (read his interview) threw a thirty-band birthday bash in honor of his thirtieth birthday. Devourment headlined, a Texas band, albeit one of international acclaim. Since the first sanguinary celebration in 2007, Mendiola has continually increased the amount of signed bands with strong reputations in the metal underground, culminating with the strongest lineup yet at this year’s festivities.

As many festival promoters before him have done, Mendiola tapped some of the talent from ongoing tours. The Metal Underground-sponsored tour featuring Exhumed, Goatwhore and Havok provided day one’s headliners. Singaporean black metallers, Impiety didn’t have to board a plane for thirty hours (or however long it takes) to arrive in Texas. The festival comprised their San Antonio stop on the tour. Gravehill were part of this tour and were originally scheduled to play the Ball, but cancelled at the beginning of the month. Internal Bleeding, Hirax and Brutal Truth took center stage on Saturday and Suffocation ended the fest in a bone-breaking fashion.

The “A Clockwork Orange” dubbed Korova Club played host to the event. The club’s downtown location provided plenty of cheap parking, but the outdoor stage sparked controversy from townies and tourists alike. As if the festival were an odd, new River Walk attraction, people passing by often stopped and took in the strange noises that emanated from Korova’s parking lot stage. Food and beverages were prohibited from entering or leaving Korova’s gated premises, but allegedly one patron took a beer to the parking lot, which resulted in the club receiving a fine. On the third day, one of the fans alleged that the outdoor stage would be shut down due to excessive profanity. That never happened, but Goatwhore’s 11:30-12:00 outdoor showing went inside. Day two saw the indoor-outdoor shuffle retire at 10 PM and even earlier on the third day. More...

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Revocation Dominates In Western Mass

Western Massachusetts is home to one of the most loyal and fanatical local metal scenes I only vaguely knew existed. National exports such as Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage aside, all my years of visiting family in the area hadn’t yet tapped me into the region’s pulsing, simmering underground until Saturday, November 12th.

Still sore from the merciless thrashing I’d received at the hands of Anthrax the evening prior in Worcester, I dragged my exhausted body and scrambled mind out to the main event of “Metalympics.” A regional battle of the bands devoted to guess-what-genre, Metalympics is a beloved grassroots institution. While shows are ordinarily held at Easy Street Nightclub up the road in Greenfield, tonight’s event had been moved to Silk City Taproom in the snug hamlet of Florence – after the regular venue temporarily closed its doors. More...

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Nashville-based Intruder Is "Still Psycho"

Working hard in the underground from 1987-1992, Nashville-based old school thrash metal band Intruder was given the cult status of tightest thrash band in that underground. For reasons unknown, they were dropped from Metal Blade records while beginning to enter the charts from the release of their third full-length album, "Psycho Savant," just as everyone was getting a whiff of the '90s. The band ended up breaking up and reforming in 2002 for various festivals, such as the Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air festivals in Germany and the Classic Metal Fest in Ohio.

Fast forward to nine years later, back where they started in Nashville, TN: Saturday, November 12th, 2011. Intruder reunited for the 20th anniversary celebration of "Psycho Savant," with DownSlave as the opening band. Of course I don't remember any of the Intruder early days that I just recounted to you all, because I was only four years old when they had disbanded in 1992, but I did my research on their history before coming to the show and was completely blown away.

In this day and age, with Metallica seemingly lobotomized, leaving Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer as just a "Big Three," I think the world needs an old school thrash band to step up and take the fourth set of reigns. As a student of the old school, but not having been there during their major days, I won't claim to know how Intruder was in their "prime." However, I'm more than capable of accurately judging a band by how they sound right in front of me. On this night, I was almost ready to substitute Intruder for Metallica in my "Big Four." More...

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Waltari Celebrates 25 Years of Music

Finnish metal band Waltari recently celebrated their 25th anniversary as a band. Formed in 1986, they’ve become known in their careers as a band that excels at combining different styles of music, especially creating diverse and refreshingly open minded variations within rock and metal. So it was only natural that at their anniversary show at Nosturi in Helsinki, some of the areas diverse quantity of musicians within the Finnish musical community (and a few other from other areas! ) would be taking the stage to perform with these heroes of rock.

First up to take the stage was Lord Bishop of Lord Bishop Rocks. I cannot stress the diversity of this show enough, especially in the case of getting to hear this upbeat 70’s influenced rock. The charismatic Lord Bishop played well with the musicians of Waltari, and the effect was an intro to the night that spoke purely of the good times ahead.

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Vince Neil’s 11/11/11 Atlantic City Show

What better place to spend 11/11/11 than Atlantic City? Okay, maybe Las Vegas, Miami, etc… Anyway, we ended up in A.C. to test the gambling gods on the roulette table and have some fun. Last minute (a week prior) Motley Crue singer, Vince Neil, scheduled two solo shows for the night. This was never part of the original plan, but you know…when in Vegas (I mean Atlantic City): Go to the Vince Neil show. More...

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