Tuesday, December 29, 2009

MAYHEM FESTIVAL 2009 (Concert Review)

Post #81
I'm usually always on the look-out for Ozzfest each summer. It's a great package-deal, day-long indulgence of live heavy metal mayhem. However, when I found out that Sharron & Ozzy Osbourne had not planned an Ozzfest for '09 so that Ozzy could write and record a new album, I was bummed out. What was I to do to satiate my annual craving for an outdoor concert festival of chaos?!?

Luckily I soon discovered Mayhem Festival! This is another summer festival tour featuring several heavy metal bands that started last year. This year's line-up featured several newer bands that I've recently become a big fan of: Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium and All That Remains; as well as some bands I've been a long-time fan of: Killswitch Engage and Slayer! Needless to say I was hyped to get 2 lawn admission tickets as a birthday gift! I invited a friend of mine who had been with me to Ozzfest before, and he was game.

We took our time getting to the show, not really caring if we missed the 1st few bands, since all the artists we were interested in were pretty high on the bill. So when we arrived Behemoth was on stage. They were showering the crowd with their brand of death metal, ghostly white makeup covering their faces. They played some pretty heavy tunes, but before we even heard 2 songs they were finished.

Almost immediately after they concluded their set, All That Remains came onto another stage (for this fest there were 2 small stages, sponsored by Jagermeister & Hot Topic respectively). The dual stage set-up really helped the festival move along at a faster pace than I had ever seen at an Ozzfest. All That Remains really kicked the crowd's asses with their brand of melodic-metalcore from the east coast: blast-beat drumming, gutteral-screaming vocals mixed with strong melodic singing, heavy riffs and plenty of shredding guitar solos... This was my kind of metal! Although their set seemed pretty short, there was plenty more in store...

(Let me mention here that I am not especially into Death Metal. I do enjoy very heavy music and a bit of screaming vocals, but I have to have a bit of melody somewhere in the music. So don't be offended if I don't focus on all the bands at this festival.)

The next act was The Black Dahlia Murder. As is their trademark, they came on stage wearing suits with loosened neckties. They began assailing the audience with their screaming death-metal vocals and got right into their set.

Since neither my friend nor I are particular fans of all-out death metal, we took this opportunity to browse the various vendors at the venue. We checked out a good deal of music & memorabilia stands and made our way back in time to catch the end of Black Dahlia Murder and were prepared to get a good spot close to the stage for Trivium...

In recent months, Trivium have quickly become one of my favorite bands. As I've mentioned before they blend melodic vocals with metalcore-style screams, classic-thrash inspired riffs with a heavy use of intricate guitar solos, and tight rapid-fire double bass drumming. I can honestly say they were the main reason behind my desire to see this concert. I was really hyped to hear what they had in store for us.

Before the last echoes of The Black Dahlia Murder had even faded, Trivium's intro music began to play. It was "The End of Everything", and just like in my review of "Ascendancy", it set the tone for their set. Also just like Ascendancy they kicked off their part of the show with "Rain"! Mini mosh pits started up in a couple places. Matt Heafy directed the moshers, and encouraged much headbanging by example. I craved hearing each song, one after another.

It seemed they were finished almost before they got rolling, but they had given us a good mix of tunes, primarily from the albums Ascendancy and Shogun. Before their last number they announced they would be signing merchandise at the Roadrunner booth. Unfortunately I thought the line too long by the time I found it... a rare opportunity missed.

While Cannibal Corpse was on, we took the opportunity to migrate to the mainstage to get a good view from the lawn. Bullet for My Valentine would be the mainstage opener...

After getting situated with a good view of the stage we kicked back for a few while Cannibal Corpse's droning buzzsaw riffs and harsh vocals faded away in the background, and about 20 minutes later Bullet For My Valentine took the stage and wasted no time in delivering mosh-worthy music as they opened with "Waking The Demon".

Most of their set was also some of their heavier numbers. The peak of their set was probably "Tears Don't Fall", arguably their most well-known song. The lawn section developed an enthusiastic mosh-pit where the intensity of the mosh mirrored the intensity of the music. They closed their set with "Scream, Aim, Fire", the title-track from their newest album, and most recent hit.

Bullet for My Valentine were a perfect appetizer for the next band: Killswitch Engage. KsE are a band as well know for their sense of humor as they are for their thundrous style of melodic metalcore music. Their humorous attitude was immediately apparent when they came on stage and drummer Justin Foley tells us all, "Why don't you put this in your pipe and smoke it!" Not to be overshadowed, guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz wore a black cape over his otherwise-normal garb of t-shirt & shorts.

Being one of the most influential bands of the east-coast melodic metalcore scene, Killswitch had a strong following present in the crowd. The crowd was ready to honor these guys with enthusiastic moshing, and lucky for them, Adam & lead singer Howard Jones were ready to direct them. A few songs into the set Adam paused to scold the crowd, claiming he saw too many people standing still. He said, "This is 'Mayhem Fest' not 'May I Stand Around and Act Like a Pussy-Fest'!" That worked to energize the crowd for another couple songs. Then Jones took a few minutes to direct the lawn section to participate in what I can only describe as a 'Chinese Stand-Off' mosh pit...

If you've ever seen the movie "Big Trouble in Little China", then you know what I mean. There's a scene in the film where 2 china-town gangs have an all-out brawl in an alley. This mosh kick-off looked pretty much like that, minus the guns & blades, but just as intense. It was pure adrenaline personified! Then Killswitch proceeded to complete a great set of new songs mixed with their best known classics. If that wasn't enough we still had Slayer & Manson to look forward to.... and Slayer were up next!

The penultimate act of the night, Slayer were about to bring the entire festival to a new level of Mayhem! In the lull between sets, my buddy & I had edged our way up close to the front fence of the lawn section to get a better view of the last couple acts now that the sun had set....

With the stage set in darkness, an intro of static, feedback, and spoken dialog began to play while upon the black screen back-drop images of various Slayer logos began to turn in circles. I would later realize the intro was actually "Darkness of Christ" from their album God Hates Us All. As soon as the intro drew to a close, the band launched straight into "Disciple", and Slayer's clinic of old-school thrash metal was underway.

Early in their set they played one of their new songs from their upcoming album "World Painted Blood". The song was "Psychopathy Red". Thereafter the rest of their set focused on songs from their greatest albums from the mid-80's: "Reign in Blood", "South of Heaven", and "Seasons in the Abyss".

Although I was transfixed by their stage-set and pyrotechnics (which included a flame-spewing Slayer/pentagram logo), I did take a moment at one point to check the status of the mosh-pit behind me. I was curious if the crowd had run out of steam from moshing all day. That was certainly NOT the case, as the entire lawn seemed like a froth of moshing bodies. It was like watching a popcorn popper, except with human bodies!

Lastly the closing of Mayhem Fest was up to Marilyn Manson. Supporting their new album "The High End of Low", Manson took the stage and did their best to keep the crowd rolling. They opened up with "We're From America". Marilyn Manson himself was draped in an American flag and wearing a war helmet. Manson's music is stylistically quite different from many of the faster-tempo acts that had preceded them in this festival. It was clear to me that much of the crowd had had their fill after the speed & intensity of Slayer and began to head for the exits. The faithful that remained seemed more dedicated to the Marilyn Manson frame of mind: united together against the norm, against the grain, and against the status quo.

Though they did select a few songs from their new album, there were enough of their classics that I recognized that still made the show enjoyable, in spite of it seeming a little anti-climatic following the likes of Slayer. The tunes; "Dope Show", "Tourniquet", and "The Beautiful People" were included among others...

Overall, a fantastic day of Heavy-Metal indulgence!

Setlists (to the best of my recollection) for the acts I saw are as follows:

-This Calling
-Forever In Your Hands
-The Air That I Breathe
-Two Weeks


-The End of Everything
-When All Light Dies
-Down From the Sky
-Throes of Perdition
-Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr


-Waking the Demon
-End of Days
-4 Words (To Choke Upon)
-No Control

-Her Voice Resides(?)
-Tears Don't Fall
-Hand of Blood
-Scream Aim Fire


-My Last Serenade
-Fixation on the Darkness
-Light in a Darkened World
-A Bid Farewell
-My Curse
-Rose of Sharyn
-Starting Over
-The End of Heartache
-Holy Diver


-Darkness of Christ
-War Ensemble
-Psychopathy Red
-Born of Fire
-Mandatory Suicide
-Chemical Warfare
-Ghosts of War
-Dead Skin Mask
-Hell Awaits
-Angel of Death
-South of Heaven
-Raining Blood


-We're From America
-Disposable Teens
-Little Horn
-Irresponsible Hate Anthem
-Four Rusted Horses
-Arma... ...geddon
-Dope Show
-Rock is Dead
-Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)
-The Beautiful People


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts on "Favorite 2009 Album" poll.

Post #80
2009 was such a great year for Heavy Metal & Hard Rock music. I could list a couple pages' worth of albums to include in this poll, but I tried to stick to some that I personally found most essential and/or successful. This was a hard decission to make, however. So, before any of you get up-in-arms about any occlusions, please remember you can always vote for 'other', and I welcome comments if you'd like to elaborate on your decission.

One rule of thumb that I used to help narrow down the list was not to include any album I have already reviewed. Here are some great '09 releases you can already read my reviews of on this blog:
Shallow Life-Lacuna Coil
The Devil You Know-Heaven & Hell
Black Gives Way to Blue-Alice In Chains

Also, here are the 'honorable mentions' that I decided against after much internal debate:
No Sacrifice, No Victory-HammerFall
Earthsblood-God Forbid
Wrath-Lamb of God
Scream-Chris Cornell
American Soldier-Queensryche
Horehound-The Dead Weather
Anomaly-Ace Frehley
The Dethalbum II-Dethklok
Memento Mori-Flyleaf
The Days of Grays-Sonata Arctica
Life Starts Now-Three Days Grace
Dear Agony-Breaking Benjamin
Retribution-Shadows Fall

So you can see, I had a great deal of good releases to select from. I try not to let any of my polls get into double-digits of options, so I hope the list that is up is good enough for most of you. Happy voting!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Appetite for Destruction: A Monumental Debut

Post #79-Poll Winner: Favorite Debut Album
In 1987 a new rock band revitalized the music scene with a debut album of unprecedented success. The band was Guns N' Roses. The album was Appetite for Destruction.

For the rest of '87 and almost all of 1988, it seemed every track from 'Appetite' that was released as a single became an instant mega-hit. So many of them are still essential hard-rock songs today. Think about it; "Welcome to the Jungle", "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Paradise City"... Could you imagine a world of rock music without these gems?

All the success allowed the band to do a great deal of extensive touring, and they became a world-wide success. They were a cultural phenomenon, being the first band on everyone's mind for months on end. This album's success is hard to equal, even for the band themselves. More so, as a debut, it set a benchmark that may never be equaled.

Though I've reviewed Guns N' Roses before, I'll reiterate some of my top picks from 'Appetite':
-Welcome to the Jungle
-Mr. Brownstone
-You're Crazy
-Paradise City
-Night Train
-It's So Easy
-Rocket Queen