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Fear Factory And Soilwork At the Concord Music Hall 4/19/2016

Photo of Fear Factory

Band Photo: Fear Factory (?)

Booking this show was an absolute nightmare and almost entirely my fault. I say almost because it it was only 0.01% other people's fault and 99.99% mine thanks to my bad habit of procrastination. I saw that Darren (Rex_84 to you readers) had already interviewed Dino a week ago and thought that I missed my shot at covering Fear Factory but already put in a request to Fear Factory's management instead of Soilwork's which led to discussion with Darren about what type of content was in his now published interview and led to me originally only getting a photo pass from Liz at Earplit PR. Of course by the time Darren, Doug, Ty and I all took the time to discuss whether or not to do a second Fear Factory interview and came to the conclusion that since Darren and Dino only discussed the history of the band through “Demanufacture,” it would be a good idea to get Burt's take on Fear Factory starting with “Obsolete.” Which we only discussed after I bought up the possibility days after I should have. Liz naturally took a vacation for from Friday through Monday and only confirmed the possibility of an interview on the day of the show and sent an e-mail to me stating that an interview was off the table after I'd already contacted the band's tour manager to confirm an interview... which was just a huge clusterfuck made worse by the tour manager being late to send the guest list to the box office when I was worried that I wouldn't even get in.

Of course after getting in, I stop at the merch table, buy a shirt and then look at the audience around me. One guy was still wearing those mallgoth JNCO raver pants that Hot Topic sold circa 2001 who I'm guessing spent the last 15 years in cryogenic suspension. Amazingly a lot of people in Star Wars shirts who frequently had chin straps that grew into full on neckbeards with one guy even wearing a full-on pleather trenchcoat. Part of me wanted to bring a college-aged Ani DeFranco fan with me just to see how fast she'd get triggered only to run into the arms of the security guy who happened to be a white dude with dreadlocks... Which might give her a full-on mental breakdown.

Needless to say, the interview did happen. (And it's damn good.) I came back to see that No Conviction were already playing. For the third time in a row this year, I was greeted with a hardcore band opening for a metal show. The first two times I chalked it up to Unearth and Pig Destroyer owing as much to hardcore as they do to metal but it felt like a strange choice for a Fear Factory and Soilwork show. And of course Chicago Open Air is being opened by... you guessed it. Butcher Babies and a whole bunch of hardcore bands. Still, it was nice to finally see a modern hardcore band who could play actual riffs and not just play chugging breakdowns for an entire set. They're probably the best opener I've seen this year but considering just how bad Dethbeds and Great American Ghost were, that isn't saying much but I was impressed since they are really, genuinely good, particularly for a local band. If you like Hatebreed, Sheer Terror and Sick Of It All, then check these guys out.

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The actual acoustics in the venue were incredible. Concord Music Hall may quite possibly be the best sounding venue in Chicago. For those in the area who've never been there, the venue itself is bigger than the House of Blues and Congress Theater but smaller than the Aragon so it's a good choice for bands who can afford to play at a venue with no less than three bars. It's big. It's spacious and has a whole lot of booze. It's a recently constructed venue that's only a few years old but that just means that it feels like I'm in a secret high-tech volcano lair. It's a good place and I'd certainly head back, especially since they'll never run out of booze.

Of course the above, “triggered” joke got a lot less funny when when No Conviction were packing up their gear and somebody had the nerve to shout, “Faggots!” at them. For as much as I want to think that I'm an educated person who doesn't believe that stereotypes are ever true, a fat Star Wars fan with a neckbeard being a raging homophobe may be the most stereotypical event that I've encountered in a ten-year-period. Then again, it may not have been a fat beardo shouting homophobic slurs. Phil McSorley may be spending the years after being kicked out of Cobalt going to shows and screaming homophobic slurs at bands in public instead of just behind his computer screen.

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Spades and Blades were up next and they're a brand new metalcore band who sound like a metalcore band from 2004. That's fine by me as the genre has gone down the shitter in recent years with bands like Beartooth and Motionless in White being the very definition of, “garbage metal.” It's refreshing to hear a metalcore band who are relatively new who somehow aren't terrible. My advice is to give them a listen if you like Killswitch Engage. If anyone working for a record label is reading this, please sign these guys since they deserve to be on a bigger label than the tiny one that they're currently on.

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Soilwork were the main support and I had the exact opposite problem with them compared to Pig Destroyer. While Pig Destroyer focused almost exclusively on deep cuts, Soilwork only played their singles. Then again, they're probably their own worst enemies in that regard. It's not their fault that people find their singles incredibly catchy and demand that they play them live because there's a demand for it. Case in point, the guy standing next to me shouting, “Play Figure Number Five!” People gravitate to their big hits, they want to hear them and Soilwork are ultimately just listening to the fans. As one of the few modern metal bands suitable for radio play who aren't total garbage, they probably have a LOT of fans who probably heard their first Soilwork song on the radio and began loving them ever since.

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While I do wish that Soilwork would take more risks and play something that nobody recognizes live, they still totally kicked my ass. If you haven't seen them perform live yet, do so. They have this rich quality to their sound that just doesn't translate to a CD or MP3 that you really need to hear live to get the full experience. Since there are still plenty of bands that I still have yet to see live, it takes a lot for me to say that I'd see them play again but in this case, I absolutely want to catch them the next time that they're in town after they announced that they're working on putting together an autumn tour of North America.

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Fear Factory were terrific live. Actually, I'd go so far as to say that Burt's vocals were the best that they've been in years. Yeah, he still hit the wrong note a handful of times but that also happens to James LaBrie and Tom Araya. I'd rather have the occasional imperfection than deal with a situation like Phil Labonte of All That Remains who just autotunes his whole set. The vocal coach that Burt hired before recording “Genexus” seems to have worked wonders as Burt was still able to tackle all of his old “Demanufacture” material and make “Body Hammer” sound even better than it did on the album. His cleans were more consistent than they've been since around 2010 and his harsh vocals were the most furious that they've ever sounded.

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The real elephant in the room that everyone wants addressed is Mike Heller since the real draw with Fear Factory has always been the drummer. Filling the stool left vacant by both Ray Herrera and Gene Hoglan is no small task and I was just as worried that he wouldn't be able to play a set so full of older material but he absolutely nailed it. As somebody who has listened to Demanufactore, Obsolete and Archetype more times that I can count, it sounded to my ear like he hit every note perfectly.

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To anyone on the fence about attending the remaining dates, I'd do so. Fear Factory and Soilwork both completely exceeded my expectations. Also, Tony Campos has an epic beard.

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Dasher10's avatar

Matt is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois and a metalhead since 1999.

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