Insomnium and Oceans of Slumber at The Scout Bar, Houston, TX 6/12/2018

insomnium

This show was a long time coming for me.  Insomnium is one of those little bands that I latched onto with the release of their debut album back in 2002.  I’ve been a big fan of their melodic and progressive style of death metal since my first listen.  For whatever reason, I had never had the chance to see them perform live.  There have been a couple of tours roll through Texas where they had an opening slot and I just wasn’t able to make it work.  However, it all worked out this past Tuesday when they came to Houston as a part of their first headlining tour of the U.S.  I’m really glad I waited to witness a full set rather than an abbreviated opening set.

The showcase of this tour is Insomium’s latest album, Winter’s Gate.  This album is composed of one song that last a little over 40 minutes.  So, obviously, they open the set by playing the whole damn thing all the way through.  And it was awesome.  The second half of the set was a good seven or eight additional songs from throughout their catalog.

So, I drove to Houston the afternoon of this show and then drove back to Austin immediately following the show.  So, I had a lot of time to reflect during the drive (and also lots of time to realize that I may be getting a little old to pull a three-hour drive from midnight to 3am).  Music is just amazing.  Let me explain why.  So, you have this group of hairy dudes (OK, one of them is bald) growing up in Finland.  They get into metal.  They learn how to play instruments.  They all run into each other at some point and realize they all like the same kind of music and they decide to start a band.  They start to gel and they get good enough to start composing their own songs.  They start playing gigs and eventually get noticed by a record company who signs them to a contract.  They release an album.  This album is featured is some random metal magazine that a dorky metalhead in Texas reads.  He thinks the album and band sound like something he would enjoy.  He goes out and buys the record and becomes an immediate fan.  16 years later, this group of Finnish dudes have the opportunity to tour the U.S. and on a random Tuesday night in Texas, the dorky metalhead sees this band of Finnish dudes play an awesome set of their music.  The lead guitarist for said band even fist bumps said dorky metalhead Texan while making his way on stage.  It is a cool moment in time between people who have never met and grew up on different sides of the planet that is made entirely possible by the music being played.  Metal brought us all together.  It almost makes me want to tear up a bit.

Like I said, it was a long drive home.

Also, opening this show was Houston’s own, Oceans of Slumber.  This is the third time I’ve seen these guys perform live.  They have been in the midst of doing a lot of touring in Europe in support of their latest album and the touring is paying off.  Their live set is getting more and more confident in its performance.  It’s really cool to see this band starting to come into their own as a live entity.  Definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Insomnium-The Primeval Dark

Insomnium-Winter’s Gate

Insomnium-While We Sleep

Oceans of Slumber-The Decay of Disregard

Power Trip at Mohawk, Austin, TX 6/7/2018

Well, this show was downright nuts.  I’ve been through quite a few pits over my years of going to shows and this was right up there as being one of the more intense ones I’ve ever experienced.  I really hope you people sincerely appreciate the sacrifice to life and limb I go through to bring you these first hand accounts.  Let’s face it.  Not only am I middle age, I’m very feeble and a tad on the dainty side.  And I wear flip flops.  I’m not exactly cut out for a mass of humanity slamming into one another.  But, I do it for you, dear reader.  I do it for you because I care.

OK, I do actually really enjoy this shit.  It’s where I feel at home.  You haven’t really lived until you’ve had a hairy dude who probably tips the scales at 250 pounds unintentionally bring his combat boot straight down onto your exposed toes.  Woooo!  It will make you feel alive!  The pit is cathartic.  It’s a release.  It’s fun to be in a controlled environment of aggression where it’s OK, even welcomed, to slam into your fellow concertgoers and, in turn, be slammed back with equal fervor and zeal.

Oh, and did I mention the smell.  Every pit has its own distinct fragrance, but underlying them all is a bouquet of B.O., cheap beer, weed and frustration.  Man, if Chanel could ever find a way bottle that smell, they’d really be on to something.  Eau de Moshpit, if you will.

OK, enough on the scene setting.  Power Trip is nuts.  They are a high energy crossover thrash metal/punk band out of Dallas.  Heavily influenced by the mid-80s thrash scene, their guitar sound is the epitome of metal.  It is that perfect pitch of crunch that is my reason for being.  This is a live band through and through and last night showcased them in top form.  You could tell that they really fed off of the energy of the crowd.  This was a really fun one and they are a band that should get you off of your couch next time they roll through your town.

I can’t recommend enough that you watch the limited video I was able to capture.  It was a struggle to stay in place and not drop my phone.  Video is not the greatest quality, but it should give you some sense of the sheer mass of chaos that reigned at the Mohawk last night.

Power Trip-Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Ax)

Obituary, Pallbearer, Skeletonwitch and Dust Bolt at Barracuda, Austin, TX 5/29/2018

So, the roaring redneck death metal show from Florida rolled into town last night.  These guys are one of the stalwarts of the swampy Florida death metal scene and one of the prominent purveyors of gore with brethren Cannibal Corpse and Carcass.  Whereas those other two bands are straight up blistering, Obituary comes at their gore-laden tunes from a little different direction.  Imagine Molly Hatchet breeding with Cannibal Corpse and it will give you a decent idea of their sound.  You’ve got all of the putrefaction with an added dose of southern groove.  It’s gross and you can dance to it!  Win-win.  It’s an interesting combo and it plays well in a live setting.  It was a set list that represented a good cross-section of tunes from throughout their career.  The crowd went absolutely nuts with the largest circle pit I’ve ever witnessed at Barracuda and even had a couple of knucklehead clamber up into the overhead rafters during the encore.  It’s amazing I didn’t have a second straight concert flip flop blowout.

The rest of the bill for this show was widely varied.  Most touring bills usually throw bands within the same sub-genre together, but this one tried to add a little more diversity to the proceedings.  First out of the gate and playing while the sun was still up was Germany’s Dust Bolt.  This was my first experience with them and they brought a high energy straight up old school thrash aesthetic to set the tone for the night.  They were the most original of bands, but they more than made up for it with their enthusiasm.  Definitely a band to keep an eye on in the future.

Second on the bill was Skeletonwitch.  These guys have been around for some time now and are a seasoned death metal crew.  I always feel like I should really like Skeletonwitch, but they just never end up finding that sweet spot for me.  They seem like fun guys.  They have a great name.  Metal loves skeletons and witches.  You’d think that by combining the two would be even more awesome, but there is just something that is holding them back.  I’m not even sure what it is.

Coming out before Obituary were doom merchants and the pride of Arkansas, Pallbearer.  They are still touring on last year’s Heartless album and you can really tell that all of their relentless touring over the past year is starting to pay off.  I believe this is the fourth time that I’ve seen these guys play live and every time it feels like their performance gets a little tighter.  It’s like they are getting more and more comfortable in their own skin as a band.  Highlights of this set were their newly release single, Dropout, and an unreleased song from the first demo they ever put out.  I really hope they put this latter song out as a proper release because it was really strong.

Obituary-Visions In My Head

Obituary-I’m In Pain

Pallbearer-Thorns

Babymetal at The Moody Theater at ACL Live, Austin, TX, 5/10/2018

Yep, I went to see Babymetal last night.  And you know what?  If you’ve got a problem with Babymetal, you’ve honestly have a problem with life.  It’s silly.  It’s goofy.  It’s unique.  It’s catchy as all hell.  And above all, it’s a lot of fucking fun.

For the uninitiated, Babymetal is a Japanese group that combines a heavy metal band with the vocal stylings and dance moves of a J-Pop group.  This group is basically the personification of the collective musical fascinations of the punk rock fiancée and myself (me bringing the metal obsession to her fascination with everything Japanese anime, J-Pop and other weird Japanese cultural shit).  As she observed later, knowing Babymetal exists makes her soul happy.

You had a bit of controversy coming into this show as one of the original three vocalists, Yuimetal, hadn’t performed with the band since December and wasn’t a part of the opening night show of the tour in Kansas City.  There was no official word from the band’s handlers as to whether she was no longer in the band or if she was just ill.  For our show, two of the original vocalists, Su-metal and Moametal, were joined by two unnamed dancers.  To be perfectly honest, had I not read about this stuff on the internet prior to the show, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the difference.

At any rate, you had an over-the-top spectacle.  The backing band is nothing to scoff at.  These guys have some serious metal chops and the music they bring isn’t your average cheesy pop metal drivel.  You’ve got double bass out the ass and down-tuned guitar riffs all over the place.  Over the top of it all, you’ve got these adorable J-Pop girls dancing their asses off in synchronized routines.  Most of the songs are in Japanese, but it doesn’t really matter.  You’ll find yourself just humming along to these melodies all day.

I was skeptical about this group when they first came out, but I get it.  It’s fun and I had a really good time.  And seeing the number of young girls in the crowd, I can only hope that this opens a door for a whole new section of metal fans.  Start with Babymetal and end up becoming a fan of Anthrax or Immortal.  I’m honestly for anything that can act as a gateway drug for bringing new people into the metal community.

Karate

Gimme Chocolate!

GJ!

Fu Manchu, Mos Generator and Speedealer at Barracuda, Austin, TX 5/4/2018

fu manchu

Good time stoner rock.  That’s the long and the short of it for this one.  No bad vibes. No bad attitudes.  Just grabbin’ some choice waves, tunes and buds, bud.  YouknowwhatI’mtalkinabout.  I knew that you did.  This was the perfect way to blow off some steam on a Friday evening after a long work week.

These guys aren’t deep and don’t take things all that seriously, but they really bring some serious chops to the proceedings.  You go to a Fu Manchu show, expect to move around a little bit.  You won’t be able to contain yourself.  You’re going to want to boogie a little.  You’re going to want to cut a little rug.  Just give into it and enjoy the ride with these So Cal goofballs.

Laserbl’ast

King of the Road

 

Judas Priest, Saxon and Black Star Riders at Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, TX 5/1/2018

logo

These are the special ones.  The shows that hearken back to the bands that first made an impression on a developing little headbanger.  The shows that feature artists in the twilight of long distinguished careers.  You never know if this is the last time you’ll get to see these guys perform live again.  These are the shows to really cherish.  Especially when a group of senior citizens flat-out obliterate an arena with a blitzkrieg of metal.

40 plus years into their career and they still deliver like a band half their age.  You see some singers lose their high range as they age.  Well, Rob Halford is apparently a robot.  He doesn’t quite move around the stage as he once did, but he hit all of the high notes without issue.  Guitarist Richie Faulkner ably filled the shoes of retired K.K. Downing both in sound and in stage presence.  Uber-metal producer Andy Sneap did an admirable job in filling in for the Parkinson’s stricken Glenn Tipton.  San Antonio was lucky enough to be one of the dates in which Tipton came out for an encore of Metal Gods, Breaking the Law and Livin’ After Midnight.  He looks frail, but it was really nice to see him able to perform on stage one last time.

The set list Priest brought to the table this evening was just outstanding.  They rolled out four songs from the new album, Firepower.  The oldest song from the remainder of the set list was from 1990.  So, it was really a show featuring the vintage Priest material.  All of the huge hits were represented along with some fairly obscure gems like Sinner, Saints in Hell and Tyrant.

Long time NWOBHM heroes, Saxon, opened up the show and also served notice that age will not slow down these metal giants.  Given an hour set, Biff and the boys alternated between a set of new songs from Thunderbolt and their many classic anthems.  Crusader, Denim and Leather, Wheels of Steel, The Power and The Glory and Motorcycle Man were are represented and met with a huge San Antonio reaction.

Judas Priest-Sinner

Judas Priest-Tyrant

Judas Priest-Saints in Hell

Saxon-Motorcycle Man

Levitation Fest: Electric Wizard, Russian Circles and The Well at Stubb’s, Austin, TX 4/27/2018

IMG_0555

Filthy.  Just a dirty, grimy, nasty live rock n’ roll show.  And it was glorious.

This was my first experience seeing Electric Wizard live and it more than lived up to their reputation.  These Black Sabbath-worshiping heathens from England don’t give a shit about your feelings.  They’re not really into manners.  They are a little scary.  A little shocking.  A little taboo.  And they deliver a helluva sludgy metal fest that seriously eclipses the output they produce in the studio.  Some bands excel in the studio.  Some in a live setting.  After seeing their show firsthand, I can safely say that Electric Wizard should only be listened to in a live setting.  The crunchy guitar sound just pounded across the Austin night air.  The coupling of their sound with the vintage 70s era exploitation occult film clips projected on the overhead awning at Stubb’s just made it feel like one just tripped into a wormhole.  This was one of those shows where I was genuinely upset when it was over.

Russian Circles supplied the middle slot on the night’s bill and once again stated in bold fashion that they are one of the tightest metal trios in the world today.  They came out with blistering set that focused on more of the heavier side of their catalog than I’m used to seeing.  Pounding percussive riffs just didn’t stop throughout their hour-long set.

Opening the night’s festivities was local stoner group, The Well.  I’ve seen this trio perform a number of times in Austin and it was cool getting to see them command a little larger stage and audience than I think they are used to seeing.  Their sound was perfect for The Levitation Fest crowd and their Sabbath inspired riffs were met with many a knowing head bob by the multitude of headbangers/stoners in attendance.

Just a great show all around.  This will probably end up being one of the better shows I see this year.

Enjoy the samples below.  Sorry for the video quality on the Electric Wizard clips.  The smoke and light show makes focusing difficult.  Plus, I’m just a shitty I-phone videographer.  The sound is still pretty good.  So, there’s that.

Russian Circles-Vorel

Electric Wizard-Black Mass

Electric Wizard-See You In Hell

The Sword at Mohawk, Austin, TX 3/21/2018

I’m just going to say it.  It’s not really letting a big secret out of the bag or anything, but The Sword is just the best little metal band to ever come out of our fine little city.  It was certainly nice of them to kick off the upcoming tour cycle for their new album, Used Future, in their hometown on Wednesday evening.

The set featured around five or six new cuts off of the new record that is to be released tomorrow.  Based on the new songs played, it feels like they are continuing down the southern-fried influence of their last album, High Country.  The songs don’t quite have the aggression of the older material, but it’s still metal.  This isn’t the up-and-coming, Sabbath-worshiping Sword, but rather, this is a Sword that has come of age and is comfortable in who they have become as an entity.  It really feels like the band is fully embracing this new sound and the newer direction doesn’t feel forced or put upon.  It’s still The Sword, but just with a little added boogie to its giddy-up.  Take a listen.

Also, this show was streamed live on YouTube.  The feed is still available if you’d like to see a professionally shot version of the entire show.

Dreamthieves

New Song

Mist & Shadows

Between the Buried and Me at Come and Take It Live, Austin, TX, 3/19/2018

Even though it doesn’t appear that Between the Buried and Me can cure the common cold (your intrepid reporter is currently suffering greatly from a post-SXSW malaise), they sure did supply a salve to my soul last night.  It’s actually been a damn long time since I’ve been to a proper live metal show.  I was reminded in a very powerful manner why metal is best consumed in a live setting.

Between the Buried and Me is back on the road in support of a new album that just came out last week (the review of which will probably be up tomorrow).  Justifiably so, the band’s set focused heavily on the new material, which came across very well in the live setting.  The sold out crowd was bursting at the seams in the cramped quarters of Come and Take It Live, but in spite of the sweaty and packed environment, the crowd remained in good spirits throughout and was impressive in its knowledge of the new material even though it hasn’t been available for very long.

BtBaM is a band that is just peaking right now in terms of creativity and performance.  During the set, I just kept feeling like I was witnessing this generation’s version of Rush.  I looked at a bunch of the younger fans in attendance and wondered if they felt the same way I did the first time I saw Rush back in the 1980s.  The level of musicianship that was collectively brought to the stage by BtBaM is just jaw-dropping at times.  They manage to bring in so many different aspects of metal, progressive, electronic and new wave music to their sound and meld them in such a unique manner that can only be described by the name, Between the Buried and Me.  You will know these guys when you hear them because there is really no other band out there that sounds like this.  To me, that’s the hallmark of a truly groundbreaking band.  These guys are the tops and this was one of those shows that I felt lucky to experience up close.

The Coma Machine

Blot