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11.17.2009: Rob Zombie @ Akron Civic Theatre

Rob Zombie live

Rob Zombie and company stormed into Akron last Tuesday night for a stop on the “Hellbilly Deluxe 2” tour. The capacity crowd was in for a treat being able to see Zombie at the historic Akron Civic Theatre.

Zombie did not disappoint, whipping the crowd to a frenzy and asking them to move up closer, while cavorting across the stage from one platform to the next.

Zombie’s stage set itself was something to be seen with giant video screens continuously flashing imagery of everything from classic horror movies to Ultraman. There was so much going at all times it was often difficult to train your focus in any one spot, giving fans a real horror/rock & roll spectacle as only Zombie does. Neither the band’s nor Zombie’s energy diminished anywhere in the set, it was full throttle-high energy from start to finish. The setlist was pretty much what a fan would expect to hear. He mixed in two White Zombie era songs in the set and included a few new ones from Hellbilly Deluxe 2. The first new song, “Sick Bubble Gum”, was introduced early in the set and Zombie instructed the audience to help him out with the MF’er part of the song as the words flashed on the front platform video screens.

This being my first time seeing Zombie live made me realize what a great performer he is and just how well thought out and executed the stage show and presentation was.

 

10.20.2009: Chthonic, Satyricon @ Peabody’s

Freddy Lim of Chthonic live
Photo courtesy of Michael Sawyer

Tuesday night in Cleveland and Peabody’s was hosting a night of international black metal with Taiwanese rockers Chthonic and Satyricon, all the way from the frozen plains of Norway itself. Sadly, the U.S. component of the bill, Bleeding Through, was forced to drop off of the last leg of the tour to attend to “personal/family issues”. Our foreign friends, however, were not dissuaded.

Chthonic promised a more brutal experience with their latest release, Mirror of Retribution and boy did they deliver. Their set focused almost exclusively on that new material and a blistering set it was. After a brooding, melodic open that set the stage for the coming journey through the mythology of the Oriental concept of Hell, frontman Freddy Lim and the rest of Chthonic took to the stage and terrified and delighted the weeknight crowd. It’s been said that in the music world the East is usually a few years behind the rest of the scene and that may be true: Chthonic’s performance was ripped straight out of the glory days of thrash metal. Their signature Oriental sound served as the perfect counter to balance the songs and keep the crowd on edge. Freddy brought the crowd into their shared vision with songs like “Venom in My Veins”, “Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains” and the title track off of Mirror of Retribution and the crowd ate it up. Never one to forget the important things, Freddy broke out the camera himself to get some crowd shots while leading everybody in a rousing cry of “Fuck China”. Did the crowd buy in to the political message interrupting their thrashing? You bet they did, surprising him with their own shouts of “Free Tibet”. This is a band who know where they’re from, honor their roots and the fans that have gotten them where they are today, shaking hands with as many as people as they could reach from the stage and making themselves available to anyone and everyone after their set. After too short a set, they invited everybody to come hang out with them in the merch area and promised to be back.

Whereas Freddy Lim, from Chthonic, became one with the crowd while perfoming – using them at times as another instrument, Satyr took the stage at the helm of Satyricon and lorded over them. Although the night was still young, Satyricon made certain that it was black from the very outset. With the loss of Bleeding Through, it became a two act bill but instead of being put off by the loss, Satyricon used it to pour over seven albums and 15+ years of material, playing, in the words of Satyr, until the crowd had had enough. So, after tearing through The Age of Nero standards like “The Wolfpack” and “Commando” and the title track off of Now, Diabolical, they went back to material off of 1999’s Rebel Extravaganza and even deeper for 1996’s Nemesis Divina – tracks that die-hard fans haven’t seen live for years. After going through their catalog, Satyr went ahead and opened it up for requests, really making it an awesome night for fans of one of the progenitors of modern Norwegian black metal.

With only two bands on the bill and a weeknight to boot, this one could have gone badly. Instead, though, two professional acts who have made it from the other side of the world brought a whole hell of a lot of black metal with them to take a grim night and paint it pitch black. While Chthonic has only recently broken through here in the States, both of these acts have been their craft for years. This night it showed. The crowd may not have been huge, but they were all intense. On both sides of the stage, up top and in the pit, this was a night where quality really was more important than quantity.

-Late

 

 

10.18.2009: GWAR, The Red Chord, Mobile Deathcamp @ House Of Blues Cleveland

Oderus Urungus live
Photos courtesy of Eris

 

Sunday night in Cleveland was anything but a day of rest at the House Blues as throngs crowded their way in for a taste of some off the wall metal, courtesy of Mobile Deathcamp, The Red Chord and GWAR.

Mobile Deathcamp is an area speed metal band, based out of Toledo and fronted by Todd Evans – formerly known as GWAR’s Beefcake the Mighty. Evans left GWAR to focus on his guitar-playing (as Beefcake, he played bass) and thus Mobile Deathcamp was born, spawning their own self-styled brand of “black swamp speed metal”. They played a pretty straightforward speed metal set, with touches of grindcore in the vocals and song structures. Although it was obvious from the crowd response that people were there to see GWAR, Evans and the rest of MDC weren’t deterred and they took that negative energy and fed on it – turning it back on the crowd and cowering them into respect. I won’t say that they won the crowd over, but before they yielded the stage they had found themselves at least a few new fans. If you’re looking for some no frills, brutal metal, Mobile Deathamp is definitely worth checking out.

The Red Chord took the stage next and it was obvious that they had some fans in attendance. With their irreverent approach to grindcore and Guy Kozowyk’s showmanship, they won over even more in what was apparently their last night on the tour before heading home for some quality with their own girlfriends, instead of everybody else’s girlfriends that they’ve been getting on the road. If you like your music vicious and aggressive but want more lyrically than the usual death and decay of the grindcore scene, check these guys out.

Despite two solid performances earlier in the night, there was no denying that the people were here to see GWAR. For 25 years, GWAR has been delighting (and shocking) fans with their live show and tonight was no different. After a meet and greet autograph session in between acts, the lights dimmed and a VH1-style “Behind the Murder” video recapped the long and proud history of GWAR as told by promoter extraordinaire, Sleazy P. Martini, and the members of GWAR themselves until Cardinal Syn interrupted the broadcast. Then it was time for GWAR to take the stage and set things right as they played through most of their latest release, Lust in Space, which chronicles not only their escape from Earth, but also their return to battle the tyrannical Cardinal Syn (especially once it was discovered that the cardinal had eradicated tasty crack from the rest in the galaxy), with his eventual destruction during “The Price of Peace”. Strangely absent were the pop culture victims that we usually see at GWAR shows, as they focused on the rock opera of Lust in Space, although a space-bound Michael Jackson did make an appearance. With that, GWAR headed for home until the backstage cam revealed that they had left their giant crack rock on stage. Never ones to walk away from a giant rock of crack, GWAR returned only to find that President Obama was there to award them the Presidential Medal of Ass-Kicking for their great victory. They thanked him as only GWAR knows how, by ripping his head off and performing a couple more songs before finally leading the crowd in a chorus of “Sick of You”.

With a bill made up of Mobile Deathcamp, The Red Chord and GWAR, it’s a pretty safe bet that this is not going to be just another night of rock and roll music. But even with the right mindset, these are three bands that proved that they can more than deliver.

-Late

 

09.09.2008: Gza “The Genius”, Killa Priest @ The Dionysus Club

Every so often it can be a blast to get out of town on a weeknight and see a show somewhere new. Even if the show is lousy it can be fun just to have new scenery, and see new people. My brother told me that Wu Tang Clan member GZA “The Genius” was doing a show in Oberlin, and that he would be performing a large chunk of his classic album Liquid Swords. So we decided to buy a couple presale tickets to avoid a sell out and headed off to Oberlin.

I have never been to this club before which in reality is just the basement of a school building that someone decided to put a small stage, some lights, a sound system, and a bar. There were no signs or announcements anywhere on campus for the show, but the long line of kids standing around outside one building tipped us off. One person in line told us the official name of the place is the Dionysus Club.

The long line turned out not to be a hassle as it moved swiftly and promptly at ten into the stage area. We were entertained by dance music while wild college kids who don’t have to work in the morning drank and danced with reckless abandon. At around 11:30 pm two unassuming generic stereotypical college kids took the stage with samplers in tow and began a set of high adrenaline techno. The crowd got really amped and I felt older and older as the set went on.

Just after twelve Killa Priest, another Wu Tang collaborator, took the stage and belted out a few songs of his own. The one thing that became instantly obvious was the awesome quality of the sound system. If there is one thing that turns me off at hip hop shows it’s when the sound is so jacked up, the bass is insanely high, and there are fifteen people onstage all trying to go at once and all the crowd hears is noise and static. This was not the case. Every last syllable spit by Killa Priest was crystal clear.

The tickets were twenty bucks, but if you were a student it was only ten dollars. The place had a sign on the wall that said the capacity was 500 and I can pretty much guarantee there were 498 students along with my brother and I. we were the official creepy townies that no one wanted to acknowledge. Where were you Cleveland hip-hop heads?

The moment of truth came when the intro to the Liquid Swords album began over the PA. Instantly the wild crowd got even wilder as the air was filled with hands forming the “W” sign. As the intro ended Gza was nowhere to be found, and the sound was cut off as Killa Priest said they needed five more minutes. If there is one thing the Wu was notorious for back in their heyday it was showing up ultra late or not at all to their shows and then only playing short sets so immediately I got worried that there would be no show.

Luckily those worries were unfounded, for five minutes later Gza stormed the stage and took control of the crowd instantly! He came out all smiles flanked by a hype man that resembled a young Method Man, and I am fairly certain they were enjoying themselves.

As they ripped through song after song, Gza seemed to be getting stronger and stronger feeding energy off the crowd and shooting right back into the crowd as he engaged the club front to back. I didn’t get a set-list, but it was basically the Liquid Swords album plus a few WU snippets and other solo stuff. Gza fit Oberlin into a song and made sure to tell everyone to stay in school and be the best they could be, and that led to a funny moment during his set. Gza noticed a young girl with a Wu Tang Clan tattoo, and he asked her how old she was. She replied that she was eighteen, and he laughed and said something about her being about three years old when 36 Chambers, their first album, came out and that the Wu was still and would always be relevant.

I couldn’t help but bob my head with enthusiasm watching the guys onstage pour their heart into the performance. Everyone onstage including the dj seemed to be having a blast and it came through in the delivery. Usually when I go see hip hop groups they will perform only small portions of each song, but Gza was going coast to coast by himself song after song and it made for an intense set. Gza single-handedly got me excited to hear more WU, and look out for other members to tour in the area.

Just as we eclipsed the hour mark in the set, and it seemed the crowd was coming down from the amazing high it had ridden Gza got an “ODB” chant going, and in the blink of an eye the crowd was whipped into a frenzy as the opening piano line from the seminal OBD anthem “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” blasted throughout the club.

The set was ended because of a college curfew, but no one left feeling like they got jipped. Then Gza said after the show he would sign any t-shirts, cd’s or anything out by his tour bus, and stayed onstage to slap hi-fives, and was still beaming like he had the time of his life. If you have a chance to see Gza “The Genius” in your town don’t hesitate to get your ticket.

06.20.2008: Demon Hunter, Living Sacrifice, Oh Sleeper, The Famine and The Advent @ House Of Blues Cleveland

Two of Christian metal,s forefathers, Demon Hunter and Living Sacrifice brought their brand of biblical carnage to The House Of Blues-Cleveland. But before the damage could be done, newcomers on the metalcore scene, The Advent, The Famine and Oh, Sleeper took the stage. It was uncanny however, that all of the bands that were on the bill are Solid State Records label mates – making this feel like a company picnic during the summer, but of course, this isn’t your normal outing with the boys from work.

 

Winston-Salem, N.C. natives, The Advent, kicked things off to a surprising ovation from the audience and started pummeling away with “Blackout” getting the fans riled up. They then dedicated their next song, “Hanging The Giants”, too all of the hardcore kids out there in attendance. Although they sounded sluggish at first, the people didn’t mind what The Advent had brought to their first ever stop in Cleveland. Before they went on to one of their final tracks, “The Cross”, they announced an alternative Christian church being introduced to The North Coast with Cleveland Hardcore Church (www.myspace.com/clevelandhardcorechurch and www.clevelandhardcorechurch.com.). This got folks cheering and perhaps could be like Michael Sweet of Stryper’s Metal Church out in California. They ended their set with more audaciously loud hardcore before leaving.

 

Up next were The Famine. Unlike The Advent, they had more death metal and thrash influence in their style as they continued the raucous that was already started. They ferociously shattered the stage performing tons of cuts from their debut release, The Raven and The Reaping, including “The South Will Rise” and “Cut From The Stone”. The people were moshing and yelling for more, giving these guys a warm Buckeye embrace. The Famine gave us something different tonight and hopefully they will return to town for another tour.

 

Oh, Sleeper rattled the cages of the Cleveland faithful hard with their brute-force of post-hardcore destruction. They rocked loud and got the room shouting, clapping and chanting for more. This group almost knocked out everyone in town with their metallic assault on the senses and kept the heads banging and the fists pumping with stuff like “The Siren’s Song” and “Vices Like Vipers”. Oh, Sleeper had a better time than their previous voyage through The Rock and Roll Capital of The World and hopefully it won’t be their last.

 

We’ve been waiting more than five years for this moment and now they’ve arrived as Living Sacrifice reunited and brought everything from their long catalogue of music to the masses. It was great to see Bruce Fitzhugh, Rocky Gray, Arthur Green and Larry Garvin back together and embrace this metalcore brotherhood that started the maelstrom that we have currently. They played everything from their 1991 self-titled debut to their last disc in 2003, Conceived In Fire, and the people ate it up like it was going out of style. Fans were also shouting out requests and weren’t denied. Fitzhugh also plugged their Web site (www.myspace.com/livingsacrifice) to promote their upcoming tracks for their untitled 2009 release and asked everyone to get a taste of the new stuff. There was definitely no rust coming from this group as they battered everybody into submission.

 

Finally, Demon Hunter graced our presence and went straight ahead into a slew of new cuts from Storm The Gates Of Hell. Ryan Clark and the boys rolled out single after single from their latest album such as “Storming The Gates Of Hell”, “Lead Me There” and “I Am You”. It was more like an arena show than a small club concert coming from the feeling that was in the place. They continued on with the new tracks such as “Carry Me Down” and “Fading Away”. Everyone from children, teenagers and adults sang each note amazingly verbatim as the boys in Demon Hunter bellowed them exuberantly. Although they played a ton of new hits, they didn’t disappoint the die-hard old school fans as they brought out “The Soldier’s Song”, “Not I” and “Infected” from The Triptich and their self-titled first release, revving up the entire slightly packed House Of Blues. Demon Hunter gave us more than 110 percent of themselves tonight and how they have such a bond with their people is almost like a religious experience. They didn’t shy away from either old or new that came to see them and this is how a band should treat their audiences.

 

Demon Hunter and Living Sacrifice rose to the occasion holding the torch high and mighty for all to see as the keepers of Christian metalcore’s flame while newbies like Oh, Sleeper, The Famine and The Advent showed them that they should be passed this phenomenal task for the years to come.

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