Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Utter Crap... Summer Slaughter 2008

Summer Slaughter 2008

Venue: The Vault 350

Location: Long Beach, California

Date: July 14, 2008

Here’s a half assed review for a totally half assed show. I have a back story to this review and a fair amount of griping to do, so please bear with me. Frankly, I wasn’t all that ecstatic about the lineup of the 2008 version of Summer Slaughter, but I managed to finagle a guest/photo pass to the West Hollywood show on July 11th (famously reported as sold out, by the way). Sure enough, I get to the HOB Sunset Strip and, after much hemming and hawing, it turns out that I’m not on the guest list (I had been told previously that I was confirmed). Sigh. I end up driving home; four hours and 40 miles worth of gas, down the drain. OK, plan B: buy a ticket to the newly added July 14th date at the Vault 350 in Long Beach.

Yeah, I’m in a foul mood from the get go, and it just got worse as the afternoon and night wore on. The show started at about 4:00pm and, because I’m anal retentive, I pretty much have to see the whole thing. With the exception of the main headliner, The Black Dahlia Murder, each band’s set ran about 20-30 minutes. Here’s a brief impression or so of each band.

1) Devolved: Added to this particular show, Devolved play mediocre technical death metal and originally hail from Australia, although they’re now based in Los Angeles. Apparently, the band has released two full-lengths, the last dating from 2004, but Devolved were barely entertaining.

2) Whitechapel: Increasingly popular deathcore band from Tennessee. I reviewed their debut full-length awhile back and gave it a positive review. In addition, I’m slated to review the band’s new full-length very soon. I was not impressed. Whitechapel were basically a wall of sound with one breakdown after another with nothing to distinguish between them. Also, for some reason, the white trash skinheads from Riverside and San Bernardino counties crawled out of their trailers to come see this band. This bunch’s version of pit slamming consists of wild gyrations of arms and legs, obviously simulating fighting. One older guy in a Suffocation t shirt was so pissed off by these nitwits that he immediately started shoving them in a more traditional sense. Naturally, the skinheads all jumped him en masse but, luckily, the trash left the venue soon after. What a great way to make a name for your band, attract the worst sort.

3) Psycroptic: Amazing technical death metal band from Tasmania, I actually enjoyed their set although I feel that they would greatly benefit from a second guitarist. Unfortunately, the mallcore/ emo kids that were present in staggeringly high numbers had no idea what to make of their display.

4) Born of Osiris: Crap metalcore that all of the pre-pubescent kids really got into. At least, unlike Whitechapel, they have some songwriting skills. Guest list?

5) Aborted: A great band from years past, Aborted are now merely a shadow of what they once were back in the “Goremageddon…” days. No surprise since this was an entirely different band from the lineup that I saw a few years ago. I’ve written them off, as of this point, but at least they played a few older songs. Some of the death metal heads present were also shaking their heads in dismay. In addition, during the set, we were informed that Kataklysm would not go on due to a health issue. Great. My reason for coming to this show basically went out the window. My mood soured even further.

6) Despised Icon: At least these guys are top notch musicians, and the mallcore crowd really got into them. They had some technical problems, though.

7) The Faceless: A Los Angeles- based technical death metal band that’s getting some notice, The Faceless, frankly, still have a long way to go to compete with the likes of Necrophagist, Gorod, Anata, etc. Still, at least they’ve dropped the keyboards and the hoods that one or two of them were wearing last year.

8) Winds of Plague: These guys were added to the bill after Suicide Silence dropped off for some reason (at least, I think so, we were never informed why). Another breakdown-based deathcore band, at least these guys showed tremendous energy and enthusiasm. Also, unlike Whitechapel, at least they could write songs.

9) Cryptopsy: OK, everyone was waiting for Cryptopsy, given the serious beating the band has been taking over “Cold Lake/St. Anger/The Unspoken King”. Opening with “It’s Dinner Time” is not a good way to start. Afterwards, at least, Cryptopsy only played older material, finishing with “Phobophile”. Matt McGachy was average, at best.

10) Vader: The other reason that I was here (and still here), Vader played an all too short set that suffered from a few mixing problems. The mallcore/ emo crowd, by the way, had long since left the venue.

11) The Black Dahlia Murder: A good band that’s not really my thing, I left after about five songs.

This show was awful on so many levels. First, the concentration on metalcore is going to attract a huge crowd of kids, but throwing in some class death metal acts at the same time resulted in a totally uneven show that discouraged a lot of people, probably on both sides, from showing up. Second, the white trash that showed up also ruined a good time for everyone; although, at least, those screwballs left early. Third, the show was way too long with way too much filler. How about five or six top notch bands, instead? If you want to mix genres, fine, but, at least ensure that all of the bands are class acts.

I’m going to look very carefully at next year’s lineup and I fear that Summer Slaughter is on its way to becoming the next Ozzfest. Will the same happen to Death By Decibels? Stay tuned. Ugh.

Here's the usual garbage.

The t-shirt haul (deserved)...



The Black Dahlia Murder

The Faceless

Winds of Plague






The Black Dahlia Murder


Next up (probably)...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Impressions of Gorgoroth...

Infernus has been busy lately. First of all, Regain Records recently re-released three pre-Gaahl, pre-King Ov Hell full-lengths from the Infernus-fronted version of Gorgoroth awhile back. This, of course, occurred after the now infamous splintering of the band. I reviewed the re-releases for Live 4 Metal here, and I believe that the intention was to further attach Infernus' name to the Gorgoroth brand, if you will. That intention, perhaps, continues with "True Norwegian Black Metal- Live In Grieghallen", also released by Regain Records.

My mighty colleague Crin is slated to review the album for Live 4 Metal, but I received a copy of the album from Regain Records, as well; thus, I'll provide a brief review. In addition, my esteemed colleague Cosmo Lee was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of the new DVD from Gorgoroth, the already infamous "Black Mass Krakow 2004". I'll also provide a brief review.

Gorgoroth- True Norwegian Black Metal- Live In Grieghallen

(Regain Records)

First of all, "True Norwegian Black Metal- Live In Grieghallen" is NOT a live album in front of an audience; instead, this turns out to be one of those "live in the studio" recordings of eight classics that are usually staples of Gorgoroth concerts. The album was recorded during late 2007- early 2008 and consists of Gaahl on vocals, Infernus on both guitar and bass (interesting, was King Ov Hell the original bassist for the tracks and then excised?), Teloch as session guitarist, and Garghuf on drums. Although somewhat rougher than a proper studio album, "True Norwegian..." is notable for a very prominent bass from Infernus, and the experience of hearing Gaahl provide the vocals for pre- "Destroyer..." tracks, something not heard in an official release before. Other than that, it's Gorgoroth.

Sorry, song removed.

Gorgoroth- Black Mass Krakow 2004 DVD

(Metal Mind Productions)

Metal, like any other culture, has its share of myth and folklore, perhaps more so than any other musical genre due to the propensity of metal's penchant for theatrics. Certainly, Gorgoroth love to shroud themselves in this cloak of pure evil (a great put-on to some degree, in my opinion, wholly designed to sell albums) and, whether or not you choose to believe their "shtick", they certainly have the balls to go all out. This is, of course, a preamble for "Black Mass Krakow 2004", the infamous, invite-only concert in Krakow, Poland in 2004. At the time, John Paul II was still alive and his hometown was Krakow. Gorgoroth's intention with the concert was pure blasphemy and insult replete with severed, impaled sheeps' heads on pikes, nude models "crucified" on crosses, fire, blood, garishly red lighting, the works. A few vague photos from the show surfaced right after the concert along with lurid stories of Catholic authorities (even attracting the attention of John Paul II, apparently, what a coup) in an uproar, the band sneaking out of the country that night, etc. All designed to further cement the myths surrounding the band (and sell albums).

Turns out that Metal Mind Productions filmed the whole thing in very high quality (apparently, Metal Mind had some legal trouble in Poland regarding this footage and the country's obscenity laws), and now release the concert as an official DVD with plenty of extras. My copy of the DVD lacks the extras, however, so I can only comment upon the concert itself. Nothing really insults me or shocks me anymore, but I can only say that Gorgoroth's intention of committing blasphemy was successful. After you take in the scene, however, the band's lack of charisma on stage (Gaahl basically just stands there glaring around), the non-existent participation of the crowd, and the exact same production values and techniques from Metal Mind that have appeared on other DVDs from the company (see my review of Dark Funeral's "Attera Orbis Terrarum- Part I" here) essentially reduce a myth into just another metal concert. Don't get me wrong, this is a great concert and well worth the expense (especially for American audiences as I would be stunned if Gorgoroth are ever able to do shows in the U.S.), but the myth has been dissipated.

In closing, Born Of Osiris sucks. I'll tell you why later...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Review: Heavy Metal In Baghdad

Heavy Metal In Baghdad


I have to say that I’m really looking forward to Sam Dunn’s sequel to “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey”, entitled “Global Metal”. One reason is that I’m very curious to see what inroads into the Islamic world have been made by metal, particularly since the events of September 11, 2001. While “Global Metal” has been hotly anticipated, less notice was being given to another film in production, that being “Heavy Metal In Baghdad” by VBS TV, a hard look at the circumstances affecting the only known Iraqi metal band, Acrassicauda.

In very limited release since May, including being chosen as an official selection at the SXSW and Berlin film festivals, “Heavy Metal In Baghdad” also now appears on DVD and is, in this reviewer’s opinion, a must have for not just metal heads, but anyone who is interested in looking beyond the mainstream media’s portrayal of Iraq. Of particular interest is the impact of the U.S. invasion and the subsequent warfare amongst various factions upon youth culture in general, particularly those with a Western bent.

Filmed by Canadian filmmakers Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi, who also appears in front of the camera as the film’s documentarian, the film follows the struggles of Acrassicauda at different moments from 2003-06. Beginning in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime and before the full-fledged insurgency, we get a look at Iraq when the promise of freedom seemed just around the corner. The optimism is palpable as Acrassicauda blasts through their mid-paced style of thrash in their rehearsal room, a small space in the back of a market.

Flash forward to 2005. The insurgency is roaring, but the band manages to put together a concert at the Al-Fanar Hotel in Baghdad. The concert, very well documented by Alvi and Moretti, is a thoroughly fascinating affair that shows the unbelievable difficulties that the band and their fans have to overcome in a battleground city that is falling apart in every sense of the word. In addition, Alvi and Moretti provide a surreal look of the environment as the two brave, and perhaps foolhardy, journalists move around Baghdad. Although the style is rougher than what you would see in the mainstream media, you really get a visceral sense of what life is like in the city with these vignettes.

In 2006, Moretti and Alvi return to Baghdad once again, and the band has splintered. The rehearsal space has been destroyed, a few of the band members have fled to Syria, and the remaining members can barely move within a few blocks of home as the city disintegrates around them. Acrassicauda’s bassist, Firas Al-Taleef, is the band member most prominently featured throughout the film, and he provides a haunting look at life in the city. Of note is the stark contrast of the Muslim call to prayer interspersed with the sound of AK-47 gunfire and the detonation of mortar rounds.

Later that year, the remaining members of the band flee to Syria and Acrassicauda reforms and begin to practice once again. Many Iraqi refugees are in place in Damascus, and the band puts together a performance in a Syrian club. The affair goes well, and the band also manages to record a demo in a Damascus studio that’s never been used to record rock music, let alone heavy metal. However, the opportunities for Iraqi refugees in Syria are non-existent, and the members are forced to sell their instruments to make ends meet. The main portion of the film ends here.

The extras are fascinating, including a looser, 45 minute long update of the band successfully relocating to Istanbul and being granted asylum status by the UNHCR. Other extras include some early concert footage filmed prior to the fall of Hussein with some bizarre instances of Acrassicauda getting kicked off the stage in favor of a traditional Arab folk group, and the performance of a song devoted to the glories of Saddam Hussein in another clip.

Frankly, what is most interesting about “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” is the stark portrayal of the shattering of the dreams of a nation, and the struggle of young people in a broken society to put together a future for themselves and their families (Acrassicauda’s obvious passion for metal has motivated them to change their situation as circumstances would allow). The music (in the sense that it’s metal and not some other genre), and whether you actually like the music, becomes less and less important as the film progresses; instead, the music becomes a vehicle for the overall struggle of the people being depicted. Also worth noting is that the politics of the U.S. invasion, thankfully, is not addressed in the film, other than the film adopting a general anti-war stance. That allows the film to appeal to a wide audience.

“Heavy Metal In Baghdad” comes highly recommended and I urge you to investigate the following:

Heavy Metal In Baghdad

MySpace Page: Acrassicauda