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St. Vitus Dance Of Doom Snow Blinds Austin, TX

Doom metal pioneers Saint Vitus returned to the state capital of Texas. Earlier in the year, the cult icons played SXSW as part of the “Metal Alliance Tour” with Helmet, Crowbar and other masters of the down beat. Many of the group’s hardcore fans, however, were shunned by SXSW in lieu of badge and wristband holders. St. Vitus original and hippie prototype, guitarist Dave Chandler cursed SXSW in between a song, confessing his displeasure with SX’s unfair practice. August 20, 2011 went down as a night not for industry elitists, but for true fans of stoner/doom and rock-n-roll in general.

Sabbath still provides, at least, a base for all hard rock/heavy metal bands of today. Some bands owe their entire existence to Black Sabbath. In fact, so many of these bands exist, even 40 years after the birth of Sabbath, that we have categories for these bands. Still, these bands seem a small part of the metal contingency when compared to the masses of black and death metal bands. In a town known for death metal blast beats and machine-gun-delivered punk vocals, it was nice to finally slow down the tempo.

While figure heads of the doom and stoner/doom movement, Saint Vitus deservedly took the lead, Austin’s masters of slow banging rounded at a lineup that was true to fans of this style. Mala Suerte came up first. These guys have a huge sound that borrows heavily from Sabbath and Cathedral, although they create tones with harshness owing to sludge. Singer Gary Rosas possesses a Lee Dorian-type stage swagger, dancing around the stage like an enthralled Dionysus follower. The group played a five-song set that elicited a strong crowd response. More...

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Macabre & Withered In San Antonio

After leaving a trail of dead bodies across North America with Exhumed, Cephalic Carnage, and Withered, the minstrels of murder — Macabre came to San Antonio as the headline act. While Exhumed and Cephalic Carnage didn’t follow in their “nefarious” footsteps, Withered stayed in tow, leaving their native Peach state for a just a few more days.

Without the four-band-touring ensemble, the Korova club (named after the milk bar in “A Clockwork Orange”) overloaded the bill with local talent. All the bands that played were good, but as small clubs so often do, the local bands seemed to snatch a few minutes from the headliner.

The club opened at 7 P.M.—and unheard of early time for a club. The serial killer artwork and memorabilia that lined the walls known as “Sinister Art Exhibition” was sort of given the opening time slot, even though serial killer-obsessed patrons could bring in all the madness anytime throughout the night. Without a band to contend with, the owner of said art pieces became the featured act.

In some circles, San Antonio wears the title “Metal Capital of the World.” This distinction rings true, in part, when observing Korova’s location next to another metal club, Bonds 007. Of course, the droves of metal heads that come to shows, especially death metal shows, may have something to do with that dubbing. San Antone’s famous river walk sits on the other side of the Korova, which offers outdoor recreation to kill time before your favorite band hits the stage.

Frequenters of live extreme metal should know Withered. Over the past couple of years, the group has never seemed to stop gigging. I saw the them open for Danzig and Watain, so this was the third time I’ve seen Withered in the past year. With each performance, I gain more and more respect for this band.

Withered plays an eclectic mix of death, black and doom metal that keeps their music dynamic. Whether slow or fast, each part is catchy, although sometimes redundant. Even though the group had been in a van for three weeks, they seemed at the top of their game. If Withered opens a bill and you have never heard of them, make sure to check out these guys.

Macabre took its time setting up. The group had technical difficulties due to a PA system and other issues. The same PA caused sound problems throughout the set. While standing at the bar, I couldn’t hear Corporate Death’s intros to each song. The bar could not have been more than 100 feet away. The gruesome details he emitted from his wireless microphone came out as a jumbled mess of half-words. I didn’t have this problem while standing just a few feet from the stage. Of course, at that distance I could hear everything he said without the use of his mic. More...

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Summer Slaughter at Chicago's House of Blues

The House of Blues once again had issues with their guest list coming in too late. And of course that meant that I missed the first three acts and therefore have absolutely nothing to say about Within the Ruins, Fleshgod Apocalypse or As Blood Runs Black. Despite me giving an otherwise positive review to the new Fleshgod Apocalypse album, I had to wait in the front foyer while they played.

Thankfully, I was able to get into the venue by the time that Oceano began playing. Even though I hate ripping on hometown bands, Adam Warren sounded like he was choking on something throughout the entire set. Outside of their vocalist sounding hoarse the entire time, there was nothing remarkable about Oceano. They're yet another generic deathcore band that does nothing to stand out. I seriously can’t tell the difference between them and about twenty other deathcore bands that I've heard.

After Oceano finished playing, I was thankfully treated to Powerglove, a video game music cover band. I'll be the first guy to admit that I'm a complete and utter nerd and I've been a gamer since the Sega Genesis, so I naturally loved this band. And given that there is a TON of video game music that needs a metal remix, I'm hoping to see Powerglove have a long and prosperous career. (They still need to cover Grabbag from Duke Nukem 3D.)

And even for non-gamers out there, Powerglove put on a VERY good show. Between having a contest to bring the band the head of a stuffed animal and tossing blow-up swords into the audience, they were clearly one of the best band's there in terms of sheer theatricality. I'm really looking forward to seeing this band do a longer set in the future. More...

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Times of Grace and Underoath in Nashville

"Be vigilant in truth and love," is not a lyric you’d expect to hear from a metal band, and especially not at a live show. You’d think it would have a way of stopping mosh pits, but that wasn’t the case when Times of Grace and Underoath came to Nashville, bringing along the bands Stray from the Path and Letlive. On the night of August 9th, the "Illuminatour" was to be a high-volume lesson in believing in yourself.

Amidst a record high-temperature summer, fans waited outside the venue well before the doors opened. More...

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Emmure Strikes Out At The All Stars Tour

I sadly arrived late for the show and missed all, but seven of the bands playing. Granted, I've never listened to the openers, since the majority of the bands were hardcore; a scene that I'm familiar with, but not a part of. This lead to an incredibly awkward experience, since I was immersing myself in a completely different culture.

After finishing up an upcoming interview with In This Moment, I entered the Congress Theater to watch Iwrestledabearonce. Having been chafed by Krysta Cameron's rabid parakeet screams when I saw the band play with The Dillinger Escape Plan, I was hoping that she may have improved as a vocalist during the past year on tour. Sadly, she's just as annoying as ever in a live setting, while the actual music remains unfocused, disjointed, and truly unfunny. Comedy metal can indeed work and Iwrestledabearonce should quit it with the funny sound effects and instead move on to having the humor come from their lyrics and stage presence. GWAR and Cannabis Corpse manage to be genuinely funny in an over-the-top way without annoying me because they don't bombard me with cheesy sound effects every ten seconds. It's a shame that Iwrestledabearonce still don’t comprehend taste and only make music for their own amusement instead of that of their highly annoyed audience.

In This Moment were up next and I have to say that ITM put on a great show. Maria's voice simply works better in a live setting than it does in the studio and it's a shame that they went from headlining to only playing five songs after only a few short months. Much like my experience with Warbringer and Job For a Cowboy, In This Moment won me over in the live arena. The fact that they put on such a great performance was sadly probably wasted on playing for a hardcore crowd who didn't appreciate their music, since much of the audience had left the venue during their set.

Next up was For Today, who I'd never listened to before, but managed to put on a good show despite being pretty generic modern hardcore. While the band doesn’t break any new ground or do much to stand out, they don't annoy me as much as most contemporary hardcore does. If I were more into the neo post-hardcore scene, I'd probably give the band a few more listens. Still, they're good for what they are and anyone into contemporary hardcore should give them a shot. More...

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Riffs Not Riots Charity Gig In Vancouver, BC

The Riffs Not Riots show was an effort by the Vancouver metal community to showcase local talent while emphasizing that while we love our violent music, we don’t condone violence in our streets. The show was a way of protesting against the riot that devastated Vancouver shortly after the Canucks’ loss against the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The MetalUnderground.com-sponsored event took place on July 13th, 2011, at the Fortune Sound Club, strangely located in the heart of Chinatown. Proceeds went to Canucks for Kids Fund, a nonprofit charity run by the Vancouver Canucks NHL organization. The crowd was a mixed group, ranging from hipsters to an old guy in a fishing cap (he had to be at least 60 or 70) who rocked out until closing. Somehow, the anti-riot theme of the show toned down the moshing as most of the audience just stood and soaked up the tunes. More...

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Sevendust Brings The Heat To Nashville

Sevendust coming to Nashville is a rarity, despite the show with Disturbed and Korn at the beginning of the year. If you’re keen on Sevendust history, you’d know that lead vocalist Lajon Witherspoon is Nashville-born. However, in 2002, his brother Reginald was shot and killed here, and the band had been reluctant to play many shows here throughout the last decade. It seems things are a bit more relaxed in the Sevendust camp these days, and Nashville opened her arms to welcome them back again.

There’s a general rule of thumb on lines for shows. For a major band, the line will double in length every twenty minutes about an hour before the doors open. For The Cannery Ballroom on the 21st, that line stretched out quite a ways as fans lined up to get in. Sevendust had brought tour-mates Adelitas Way, Seven Day Sonnet, and Violence To Vegas. It was to be a packed show in a hotbox of a venue. More...

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Megadeth, Unearth, Kingdom of Sorrow Slay Mayhem

The heatwave scorching the U.S. has been following the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival from shed to shed and leaned on Boston hard as the mercury hit 105 on the Comcast Center tarmac in Mansfield, Mass.

But that didn't stop me and 15,000 or so fellow headbangers from slipping on our black T-shirts and standing in the blistering sun for 10 hours to get our fill of the biggest metal tour of the summer.

Most people in Boston were in the shade, a pool, the beach or some sort of air conditioned locale, but legions of soaked fans stood on the red-hot concrete for hours watching their favorite bands pay them back in spades.

As if it weren't painful enough to just be outside, the Boston crowd didn't disappoint the bands as pit after massive pit opened up across the venue. By the time Jamey Jasta, Kirk Windstein and the rest of Kingdom of Sorrow ripped into "Enlightened to Extinction," the outdoor stage area was a sea of sweaty, swirling, sunburned bodies. With security hosing down the masses, Windstein was a riff machine and Jasta - one of the hardest working dudes in metal - was on point, as usual. More...

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In the Wake of Clutch in West Virginia

Clutch recently came through Huntington, West Virginia, capping off a short run of tour dates to promote the band's forthcoming "Basket of Eggs" project.

I arrived at the V Club just after the first act has gone on stage. The door guy, who checked me for weapons on the way in was happy to chat with me, telling me I’ll never find a seat cause they’ve removed almost all the chairs, except for on the patio, plus the show has sold out, so standing room only may be an understatement. Then I went to the bar, focusing on the opening act, who I was surprised to hear is playing reggae.

Groundscore, a punk/rock/reggae trio from our nation’s capital was laying down the good vibes up on stage. Despite my initial surprise, I was not disappointed, nor do I think the audience of some 100+ people, many packed in front of the stage, were either. I found myself easily slipping into the mellow infectious reggae grooves, the bluesy rock guitar solos, and suddenly invigorated by the bursts of punk jams.

The trio was just on the heels of the their second full length release, "Speed Kills," the title track of which they played to a head bobbing, swaying audience. Groundscore seemed an appropriate warm up act for a hot Sunday evening, the kind of music that is cool for the kids, non-abrasive to parents, just good fun music with positive energy. More...

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Singapore Death Fest 2011 Recap

This past Saturday White Studio at Fort Canning played host to Singapore Death Fest 2011, a gathering of some of Asia’s best and most brutal grind and death metal bands.

Fiaz Grinder, who also plays bass in Singaporean death metal act Asilent, organized the fest along with Wormrot vocalist Arif Rot and production company Echo Productions. All worked extremely hard in the weeks leading up to the fest and on the weekend of the fest itself in particular, basically forgoing sleep from Friday through Sunday to make sure everything went smoothly, and without a hitch things did go off.

The venue was an interesting one, with White Studio being named for its virginal white walls, floor, and ceiling, and with the room being housed in a colonial era British military fort atop a hill in central Singapore. About 150 die hard metal heads from the Singapore scene began to gather early in the afternoon to mingle and peruse the bands’ merchandise before the late afternoon start time. At just after four p.m., the doors were opened, and the mayhem could begin. More...

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Children of Bodom At The House Of Blues

I hadn't seen Children of Bodom live since the band opened for Megadeth back in 2008, so of course I was anxious to see the group play again. The fact that Children of Bodom was playing with Devin Townsend and Septicflesh just made this show that much harder to overlook. Plus the fact that The House of Blues has a great location and is known for providing great sound quality sweetened the deal.

After meeting an interviewing Devin Townsend himself for an interview that will be posted shortly, as well as getting my Strapping Young Lad collection signed, I unfortunately had to deal with The House of Blues draconian security, which required me to leave the backstage area, get a ticket after being confirmed to be on the guest list, head to the back of the line and then reenter the venue. So I'd personally like the thank the management, box office, and security for helping the most impatient man you'll ever meet reenter a venue that he already had access to.

Thankfully this was only a mere hour-long inconvenience and I was able to enter the venue in time to see Septicflesh. While I actually enjoy Septicflesh's albums, their stage show needs a bit of work. It's too theatrical and artificial. The mic stand shaped like a Lovcraftian Eldrich Abomination as well as Spiros Antoniou's overly flamboyant stage presence crossed the line between enthralling and distracting for me. The band needs to tone things down a bit if it wants to be taken seriously, particularly in the North American market in which things are far less pretentious than the band's native Europe. More...

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The Sword Makes Secret Apperance in Austin

Grilled Burgers, Corona and a handful of all-American rock n roll were on the agenda for this year’s 4th of July celebration. The only Independence Day fixture mixing from this equation was fireworks, and due to unrelenting drought, Austinites would have to drive to a satellite community to participate in that tradition. The Spider House Café played host to these festivities. Billed as the “Summer of Sam,” the bill featured a variety of acts of varying style.

For the most part, “Summer of Sam” was a two-stage local band festival. The Sword is a national powerhouse, but still an Austin-based group. The club kept The Sword’s performance on the down low, printing a TBA special guest on the show’s flyer. By far the most popular metal/hard rock act in Austin, most of The Sword’s shows often sell out, so this word-of-mouth performance kept the small club from bulging at the seems, although the group still played to a packed house.

Situated near the campus of University of Texas (hook ‘em Horns), the Spider House Café features an indoor and outdoor stage and an outdoor patio that seems to never end. The event kicked off outdoors around 3 PM. An outdoor bar provided beer to wash down the smoker-grilled hamburgers. The burgers were the school-cafeteria-bulk variety, but costing a dollar a sandwich, nobody complained about the quality.

Arriving around 5 PM, my introduction to the outdoor stage came in the form of electro goth rockers Troller. The guy/girl combo merged vocals amidst heavenly tones of ethereal electronica. One patron told me the beautiful female vocals reminded him of the beautiful-but-deadly song of the mythical Siren. TA of Hod and Ancient VVisdom hailed the group’s music as “fuck music.” I couldn’t disagree with either of those descriptions. I don’t often see goth bands, so their performance was a nice change of pace. According to the band’s Myspace page, Troller is brand new. I expect to see their names on flyers for Austin’s goth-industrial club, Elysium. More...

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Scream The Prayer 2011 Kicks Off in TN

Scream The Prayer is a touring metal and hardcore festival of sorts, already in its fourth year, that packs the stage with bands that specialize in redefining what counts as a Christian worship service. The bands associated with the tour this year are as follows: Norma Jean, Sleeping Giant, The Chariot, War of Ages, Close Your Eyes, Texas In July, I The Breather, The Great Commission, As Hell Retreats, and Sovereign Strength. From beginning to end, each band worked towards bringing the word of God to the masses in the form of relentless heavy metal.

Regardless of your stance on religion, you have to commend these bands for their drive. On July 1st, I was on hand to catch the first date of this 2011 tour. More...

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Maryland Death Fest IX Day Four

Fatigue had definitely begun to set in by Day Four. Through the beer belly, muscle ache (everyone’s hotel was up the hill), blown-out senses, and heat I thought could only happen in the south, I persevered though badly worn. The venue was getting pretty rough also. Everyone was tired, but still partying hard. Inside it was sticky and stinky like it had not been before. But that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the rest of the great lineup on the last day of the mighty MDF.

Bright and early in the afternoon (although it seemed like night in the main room), hometown boys Visceral Disgorge began the festivities. They brought to mind the early works of death metal. Trauma and gore galore, this band encompassed the snarl inhaled low growls, din-destroying high tuned snare, gallop picking guitar done by Eric.

Bad acid Trip’s singer Dirk Rogers opening question to us was, “Is everyone drunk?,” and by just the sight of the crowd through the hours it was obvious that we all were. Crazed rock riffage and grindcore led this band to a energetic frenzy. Dirk was like Ian Curtis and Johnny Rotten; a twisted love child onstage. This band had true dynamic ranging from guttural blasts to hardcore breakdowns to strange, psychotic circus dementia. More...

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Graspop Metal Meeting: Day Three

After the grey and miserable weather the day before, it was nice to awake on the final day of Graspop and be greeted with plenty of sunshine. While that may not have been the most metal sentence I have ever written, the roster of bands on display may well have been the most extreme of the weekend.

Like the previous day, we wasted a little time in the campsite before heading into the main area to catch the second main stage band, in today's case, Canadian heavy metal heroes, Anvil. Of course, everyone knows the story of Anvil by now, and perhaps that's made this set such a special one. From the opening guitar shrieks of "March Of The Crabs/666" there were smiles all around, not least from frontman Steve "Lips" Kudrow. The fact that everyone could see how much fun the band were having made the fans enjoy it all the more, which I'm sure in turn only fueled the smiles on the faces of Anvil. It might seem a strange word to use to describe a performance from a metal band, but Anvil are a really fun live experience. It's impossible to watch them and not headbang or raise the horns. Kudrow's interaction with the crowd is simply great, not least because he doesn't patronise the audience with cliche lines like "Are you ready to party?" I was also impressed by his ability to perform his guitar duties flawlessly, while still singing. Drummer Rob Reiner and bassist Glenn Five also deserve alot of credit, as their skills were on full display today, particularly Reiner's during, "White Rhino." Having only a fairly short set, only three songs from the group's new album, "Juggernaut Of Justice" were performed today, namely the title track, "On Fire" and "New Orleans Voodoo," but they all went down well with the crowd, who did their best to sing along to the latter. Another highlight came during Kudrow's guitar solo, which he did by playing his axe with a vibrator. An unorthodox method, but effective. As one might expect, they closed their set with the anthemic, "Metal On Metal," which went down a treat for all viewing. While they may not be the greatest heavy metal band to ever grace the Earth, they might well be one of the most enjoyable and were a great way to start the day.

It was then over to Marquee 2 for a little crossover thrash from D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles.) There were plenty of old school thrashers in attendance for them, complete with upturned caps and white shoes, and they all seemed to enjoy what they were witnessing. As much as I've always liked the band and crossover in general, I found watching them for as long as I did to be a little much, as most songs follow a similar formula, resulting in the performance getting a little boring after a short while. It seems I was not alone in this opinion, as there were plenty who came in to watch, then left after a couple of songs. D.R.I. are, like Anvil, all about having fun, but they don't possess the same stage presence. Songs like "Snap/I'd Rather Be Sleeping" and "Asleep At The Wheel" are always good to hear, but they felt rather tame today. Perhaps it would be better to catch them in a small club setting, because they weren't able to make it work in the Marquee. More...

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Graspop Metal Meeting: Day Two

Being awoken by drunks at a festival is to be expected, being awoken by rain, was not. The second day of the Graspop Metal Meeting was considerably more dreary than the first when it came to weather, but just like the first day, there was still a fantastic lineup of metal to look forward to.

After deciding to stick around in the campsites for a little while, we headed into the main area to be greeted by the frustrating news that tonight's headliner, Ozzy Osbourne, has cancelled his performance due to laryngitis. Instead, second from top Judas Priest would be taking over the headlining position with an extended two hour set and Belgian metal veterans Channel Zero would be stepping in to fill the empty slot, bumping Whitesnake up the bill in the process.

Although we missed the first couple of bands on saturday, we arrived with plenty of time to catch the second band on the main stage, Italian gothic rockers Lacuna Coil. The band performed a solid set with material which focused mostly on their last three albums, "Comalies," "Karmacode" and "Shallow Life" and were on fine form. Although singer Cristina Scabbia receives much of the attention lavished on the band, her singing partner Andrea Ferro also deserves a huge amount of recognition, as both singers voices sounded absolutely perfect. The fans were clearly enjoying it too, otherwise they wouldn't have stayed throughout the entire set in the miserable weather, not just bearing the climate, but singing along and raising their hands too. Scabbia carried herself on stage with a real ballsy attitude, the kind that shows just how well women really can fit into rock and metal music, and was able to coax the crowd into singing as loud as they could for the Depeche Mode cover, "Enjoy The Silence." I must say there were a few songs I was hoping it would be included in the set that weren't, most notably, "Swamped," but nevertheless, they were still a captivating live spectacle and disappointed no-one.

It would then be a while before I was to catch another set in full, having only caught a few songs from Kylesa in one of the Marquees to avoid the rain and watching the first song from Greek power metal outfit Firewind before deciding it was time to eat. In any case, we made sure we were in Marquee 1 with plenty of time to spare to catch Triptykon, one of the main reasons I wanted to return to Graspop. Following their chilling, "Crucifixus" intro, the band broke into the Celtic Frost classic, "Procreation Of The Wicked." The song went down a storm but in all honesty, took some time to recognise as it has become a much slower and more doom metal laden affair than what is heard on the "Morbid Tales" album. It was truely a thrill to see Tom G. Warrior back on stage, displaying the dark intensity that has made him such a popular figure in metal music for almost three decades. He wasn't the only notable member of the band too, as Dark Fortress guitarist V. Santura was able to perform with total accuracy and bassist Vanja Slajh showed everyone that she has a mesmerising stage presence too. After "Procreation..." the band busted out one of their own tracks in the form of "Eparistera Daimones" opener, "Goetia," before heading back into more familiar territory with another Celtic Frost song, this time "Circle Of The Tyrants." Warrior thanked the fans afterwards, displaying the utmost sincerity and grattitude for the warm welcome the audience had given Triptykon, before launching into another Frost staple, "Babylon Fell." Only four songs into the set and it was time for the last, in this case, Triptykon's album closer, "The Prolonging." It takes some balls to perform a twenty minute song at a festival and it takes alot of musicianship and charisma to keep the crowd interested, which is exactly what they did. "The Prolonging" is clearly a song the group are very proud of, as performing it meant that they had to cut out other brilliant songs both of their own and the Frost catalogue. Having seen Celtic Frost before, I can say that seeing Triptykon is as close as one can get but with the added bonus of their own, outstanding material. I eagerly await seeing them again. More...

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Asia Metal Festival 2011 Recap

Another edition of Asia Metal Festival went off this past weekend in Seoul, South Korea, bringing together extreme metal bands from all parts of the metal spectrum hailing from the host nation, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.K.

Roughly 600 fans, largely from South Korea but also with a large ex-pat contingent from the U.S., Canada, and all over Europe, turned up for the event in raucous anticipation of headliner Napalm Death’s first appearance on Korean soil.

Seoul melodic death metal act Terrormight kicked off the evening, or rather late afternoon with the festival’s 4:30 start time. The five piece band took full advantage of their 25-minute time slot, showcasing their rich, early-era In Flames sound with a keyboardist adding some rich underlying textures. Many punters showed up early and were ready to expend some energy, head banging enthusiastically at the front of the stage at V Hall in the city’s Hongdae District, an area filled with restaurants, bars, and drunken revelers of all ages. More...

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Graspop Metal Meeting: Day One

There is absolutely no question about it, if you want to go to a metal festival, go to a European one. Wacken Open Air and Download might well be the most famous, with the Sonisphere events gaining plenty of exposure too, but for my money, it just doesn't get any better than Graspop Metal Meeting, which takes place in a small town in Belgium called Dessel. This would be my third time attending the event, and more likely than not, it won't be the last.

The festival kicked off on Friday the 24th with a rather unusual choice of band, namely FM. The band features two former members of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band, Samson but their style is much more album orientated rock than metal. Nevertheless, they proved to be a good way to start the festivities, opening with the song, "Wildside." As it was only half past eleven in the morning and the majority of the crowd had been up all night drinking and shouting, "TIMMY!" it took the audience a little while to get into the mood. In any case, they were still very appreciative of FM and perhaps the biggest response came when the band performed a cover of "Heard It Through The Grapevine," a song made famous by soul legend Marvin Gaye. Maybe it would have been better to start with something a little heavier, but either way, FM put in a solid performance and were warmly received.

After deciding to skip the first bands on the Marquees, we hung around the main stage to wait for the next band, Dio Disciples. I've always liked "Ripper" Owens and felt that he doesn't get the credit he deserves so the prospect of him singing Dio songs this afternoon seemed quite interesting. "Interesting" didn't quite cover Dio Disciples though, as when they took the stage, they instantly proved themselves to be an outstanding way to remember Ronnie James Dio. Owens was in top form for the performance, which opened with "Stand Up And Shout" before leading into the classic, "Holy Diver." Owens isn't the only vocalist in the band either, as he is joined by Little Angels singer Toby Jepson, who was just as impressive as Owens and whose voice was absolutely magnifficent. The group frequently got the crowd to cheer as loud as they could whenever Dio's name was mentioned and most importantly, they seemed to be genuine about what they were doing. Make no mistake, Dio Disciples are not a cash in, they are one of the most heartfelt tributes to anything you will ever see. If Dio could see his music living on like this, with two amazing vocalists leading the charge, he would be proud. More...

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Otep Confronts Rabid Crowd In Springfield, VA

What really attracted me to this show, in addition to the prospect of multiple interviews, was the sheer diversity of the tour package. It was assembled as a promotional tour by Victory Records to showcase some of their big and emerging rock/metal acts, and early on, I’d gathered from a mere glance at the bill that every band would sound substantially different. As it turns out, that wasn’t the half of it.

Happy coincidence placed me in the great state of Virginia, on my annual pilgrimage to my childhood roots, when Otep & Co. stopped at Jaxx in Springfield. I hadn’t been to Jaxx in eight years, so this show was more or less an extension of my nostalgic long-weekend romp through my past. To boot, Saturday, June 18th was beautiful and sunny, and the late afternoon and evening were shaping up to be quite pleasant too. I arrived early with my brother, wingman, and fellow metal fan Will “Fresh Prince” Smith as the line outside the door was beginning to form, and in due time, we’d knocked out a pair of killer interviews with Paul Ablaze and Ari Mihalopoulos – devoted fitness freaks and smiling frontmen for support acts Blackguard and Destrophy, respectively. Unfortunately, Otep herself was battling a sore throat, and her diplomatic tour manager Tristan was forced to cancel my planned interview so she could save her voice for that night’s performance. On the upside, I was promised a chance to make it up via telephone, and our names remained on the guest list.

While Jaxx hosts innumerable high-profile metal acts, it is not a large club – the capacity is considerably less than 1,000. That occasionally makes for a tight squeeze, but the atmosphere is pretty cozy and the layout is comfortably symmetrical. The small box office lobby at the venue’s rear corner leads to an open, dimly lit space with a long bar, flanked by two narrow corridors (along with two pairs of restrooms) that open up into the venue proper. At this point, you’ll find yourself standing on a raised platform that rings the stage in a horseshoe, with another bar in the center rear, and space for merch tables along the sides. Pretty standard, but streamlined and efficient. I enjoyed taking it all in and soaking up the lingering memories from my high school days, back before I could legally order a drink… That reminded me to get my ass to the bar and christen it. More...

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Maryland Death Fest IX Day Three

The ninth annual edition of the Maryland Deathfest has grown into a four day affair, spanning Thursday night, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Despite a last minute scare with Sonar possibly closing down, the even took place at Sonar, with the outdoor stages at either end of a closed off Saratoga Street.

This year, Metalunderground.com writer Emily Hingle (aka Buick McKane) was on hand for the entire festival (you can read her reports from day 1 and day 2) and Doug Gibson (aka deathbringer) was present on Saturday.

After an adventurous drive around the venue a few times trying to figure out how to reach the parking lot with Saratoga Street closed off, I finally arrived in time to see Creative Waste’s set. Sonar is a dark venue at any time, but entering from the afternoon sunlight, it seemed pitch black and took a few minutes to adjust.

Creative Waste took the stage and their sound was painfully loud. And they’re only a three-piece band, with a vocalist, guitarist and drummer - no bassist. The Saudi band described themselves as grindcore, but sounded more like a very hardcore influenced brand of metal. The music wasn’t my thing and the excessive volume that was not pleasant even with ear plugs sealed the deal for me.

Mammoth Grinder took the stage next, and I didn’t recognize them at first. The first few songs sounded a bit thin and reminded me of Prong, who while I enjoy, always had a weaker sound as a 3-piece. A few songs into their set, things got heavier and thrashier, evoking thoughts of Slayer. Then I recognized them as the band I saw at SXSW earlier this year. The remainder of their set was fast and heavy and made Mammoth Grinder the best band I witnessed on the inside stage that day. More...

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