Friday, May 22, 2009

Skull Reviews the WITTR/ Krallice Show in Chicago!

Yes, Skull manages to drag his carcass out to see Wolves In The Throne Room with Krallice and a few other bands at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. Here's his review!

Bands: Wolves In The Throne Room, A Storm of Light, Krallice, Indian

Date: 5/16/09

Venue: Bottom Lounge, Chicago

By: Skull

"The day had FINALLY arrived for me to see WITTR for the first time. I had been looking forward to this show for weeks. I left from work at 4:15 pm Saturday afternoon and headed down to Chicago’s west side to Bottom Lounge where they would be performing. I had never been to Bottom Lounge and was curious as to how good of a venue it would be. I arrived at about 5:15pm, almost 3 hours before the doors to the show would open. I’m always too early for shows but I benefited by being able to park on the street just about 100 feet from the front door. Bottom Lounge is very non-descript and I almost drove right past it at first. It sits smack dab in what used to be a very dangerous part of Chicago sitting underneath, and facing, the “L” tracks that run directly above Lake Street. I decided to take a nap while I waited. The trains passed loudly over my head, but so often I didn’t notice it, so I slept OK.

At 6:30pm I crept into the lounge’s bar/restaurant area, which is quite nice by the way, and munched on a veggie burger while nursing a tasty beverage for the next hour and a half. Metalheads trickled into the club at a steady rate while I waited. The doors to the show room opened a little after 8:00pm, and I quickly made my way up in line through the doors.

I immediately went to check out the merchandise area and quickly scooped up a Black Cascade tour shirt. I then moved down the tables and purchased a couple of Krallice shirts from none other than Nick McMaster. He was very pleasant and quite thorough in making sure the shirts I asked for were the size I wanted. I politely told him how much I appreciated that. I then made my way to, and leaned against the soundboard booth and waited for the show to begin.

At 9:00pm, Indian took the stage and began their set. I had never heard Indian and was even too lazy to research them before the show. The first thought that came to my head when they opened up was, “These guys are fucking loud!” A doom trio from Chicago, Indian had their amps cranked so loud my whole body was shaking. I thought of the “brown notes” that sunnO))) are rumored to play and wondered if I might just have an involuntary bowel movement during this set. I decided to roll the dice and wait to find out. Indian are incredibly heavy and simplistic sludge but there was nothing special about their set. They put out a good effort but the first three songs all sounded the same. To their credit though, the fourth song of the set was a bit more dynamic and did catch my attention as well as the attention of the rest of the crowd. Indian left the stage to mild applause.

OK, up next was Krallice from New York. I’ve had their self-titled debut for some time and like it immensely but have to admit I have not given it the time and attention it deserves and could probably count the amount of times I’ve listened to it in its entirety with both hands and a foot, but I was really looking forward to seeing them live. After a quick changeover they took the stage and took extra time perfecting their last minute sound check. They then ripped into their short set and all I can say is they stunned the crowd into submission. They played their progressive black metal with a ferocity that I have rarely seen in my 25 or so years as a metalhead. It was simply amazing and mind blowing. These guys have so much going on at once; I was simply floored that they could all stay together. They wrapped up their phenomenal set to light applause. It was simply too difficult for everyone to clap and pick their jaws up off the floor at the same time. With one more release these guys deserve to headline. If Krallice comes to your town, you should skip work, leave your fiancé at the altar, or leave the kids home alone. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES! Do not miss this band!!!

After another quick set change, A Storm Of Light, also from New York, took the stage. ASOL are another band I have not heard of. They are a heavy, doomy , post rock-ish type of band. They had a white screen in the back of the stage with visuals of nature, sea life etc going on throughout the set. They are a trio, like Indian, but also had a young lady on stage with them for their last three songs for additional vocals. ASOL played very cleanly and professionally, and at any other time I probably would have really enjoyed the set, but they were just out of place on this bill. Krallice had me pumped, but then ASOL down shifted the energy level and left me feeling flat and unenthused. They are a good band but they should latch on to a tour with Isis or Jesu, for example, to really compliment their style.

There was another quick change, and then WITTR took the stage to finish up their sound check and that’s when I noticed something odd. It dawned on me that the crowd had thinned out! I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. How could this be? It was late, about 11:45 pm, but come on! I had to work the following morning and I was still there. For Christ’s sake, I would have stuck around if the place caught on fire! Wolves then turned up the blue lights and the fog machine and tore into their own signature style of purifying black metal. I had very high expectations for their show and they did not disappoint. They were just incredible! They were everything I had hoped for and more. I won’t let any cats out of the bag but it wasn’t a surprise that they basically stuck to their last two releases with their song selections. My old man head was thrashing like mad and I loved every minute of it! My only complaint was that the set was too short. They stopped at 1:00 am sharp. The thinner crowd gave WITTR roaring applause as they nonchalantly began to tear down their set.

I then headed out the door for my journey home. WITTR were awesome and I loved the set, but it was Krallice that really got my attention on this night, and it was Krallice that I chose to blast at full tilt on my long ride home..."

Here's Skull's t-shirt haul!

Thanks, Skull!

Here's my review of "Black Cascade" from awhile back...

Wolves In The Throne Room- Black Cascade

(Southern Lord)

Frankly, it would be hard to top “Two Hunters”, Wolves In The Throne Room’s last full-length, a transformative black metal album that vaulted Wolves in The Throne Room to the top of the avant-garde black metal heap in 2007. Not surprisingly, the album garnered the number one spot on my top ten list for that year. “Two Hunters” is a mesmerizing kaleidoscopic display of the true epic nature that can be achieved within black metal, but is exceedingly difficult to reach and is attained by only very few bands, and then not very consistently at that.

Somewhat unfairly, the expectations become enormous for a band that is able to attain greatness with an album. Most bands realize this and noticeably shift gears after setting the bar so high, but with usually mixed results. “Black Cascade”, the latest full-length from Wolves In The Throne Room on Southern Lord Records, represents such a shift. On “Black Cascade”, Wolves In The Throne Room adopt a much more straightforward approach to black metal. The calm moments of introspection and clean female vocal harmonies that were such an integral part of “Two Hunters” and, to a lesser extent, “Diadem of 12 Stars” have largely been excised. Instead, a much more traditional approach to black metal has been adopted with plenty of blasts, loud rasps from Nathan Weaver, fast chord progression riffs, and, to some extent, the typical song structures of raw black metal. The huge harmonies that wash over the listener are still present, as is the slow build to a crescendo on very long songs (the album contains four tracks), but “Black Cascade” does not propel the genre forward as “Two Hunters” most certainly did.

I suppose that I should digress here and briefly mention “Malevolent Grain”, a two song, vinyl release only EP that has just appeared from the band, as well. The two songs present on “Malevolent Grain” reside much more firmly in the realm of the avant-garde than those found on “Black Cascade”, and still show the band as experimenting with sounds outside of the typical genre elements of black metal.

At any rate, the end result of “Black Cascade” is a solid album within black metal that is still, undoubtedly, a release from Wolves In The Throne Room. Would I characterize the album as transformative? Probably not, and for that reason, probably unfairly, I would describe my reaction as one of mild disappointment. Do I still highly recommend the album to both devotees of Wolves In The Throne Room and to the casual listener? Absolutely.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Paganfest II

Bands: Korpiklaani, Primordial, Moonsorrow, Blackguard, Swashbuckle

Venue: House of Blues, Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, California.

Date: May 17, 2009

Last year’s inaugural version of Paganfest came with some heavy hitters anchoring a solid lineup. Ensiferum and Turisas gave the tour some needed weight and Eluveitie simply stole the show. Overall, that tour package was quite memorable and is one of the better outings of the last few years.

Paganfest II is the second of what may turn out to be an annual tour package. The lineup for this year’s version was, in my opinion, of lesser quality, but was anchored by a couple of solid bands. Frankly, I was here solely for Moonsorrow, one of my favorite Viking bands, but Korpiklaani and Primordial, veteran bands with solid fan bases, were on board and have never previously toured the United States. Rounding out the bill were Blackguard and Swashbuckle, relative newcomers each (Eluveitie had dropped off the tour before it began). I must admit that, although I have a passing familiarity with Primordial and Korpiklaani, I am unfamiliar with most of the other bands on the bill. Here’s my brief impression of each.

Unfortunately, I missed Swashbuckle (damn traffic), but the band re-emerged, still in full pirate regalia, during the final song from Blackguard, the first band that I managed to see. Blackguard’s brand of melodic folk/ thrash is well done and played with obvious enthusiasm by the young band members. The enthusiasm was infectious as the HOB Sunset Strip crowd immediately started a circle that continued for most of the 30 minute set.

Moonsorrow were next and were afforded an hour long set. The extra time given to Moonsorrow was well utilized by the band as they were able to play a few long epics (“Pimea”) from “Verisakeet”, one of the best albums released in 2005. Most of the crowd seemed familiar with Moonsorrow, as some were able to shout along with the band. In addition, the HOB crowd enthusiastically chanted the band’s name between songs. My overall impression was that most of the HOB crowd was there, like me, for Moonsorrow.

The crowd seemed to thin out a bit for Primordial and Korpiklaani (in addition, this year’s show was definitely not sold out, unlike last year’s show), but both bands were quite good. Primordial’s moodier brand of dark metal seemed to go over quite well with the crowd (“As Rome Burns” was particularly impressive), although there was one notable heckler. I have only heard bits and pieces of Primordial, but I’m definitely given the impression that the band’s weak point is the vocals. As for Korpiklaani, I stuck around for about six songs or so (I must say that I prefer Eluveitie, or Finntroll), but I enjoyed what I saw. The band was enthusiastically received as a rendition of the band’s namesake was particularly good.

Overall, Paganfest II was a good show, but, frankly, was not nearly as impressive as last year’s version. If this becomes a yearly event, I can’t think of two better bands than Finntroll and Kampfar to anchor the tour next year.

Special thanks to Javan!!

Here's the junk...






The t-shirt haul...






On the horizon...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Kreator and Exodus Tour Review!

Bands: Kreator, Exodus, Belphegor, Warbringer, and Epicurean

Venue: House of Blues, West Hollywood, California.

Date: May 2, 2009

The spring concert season in Los Angeles gets into full swing as the Kreator/ Exodus headlining tour roars into the HOB Sunset Strip on a Saturday night. I haven’t seen Kreator live in concert since 1985 when they opened for Voivod on their debut trek across the United States in support of “Pleasure To Kill”, and Exodus are one of the few major thrash bands that I’ve never gotten around to seeing in concert. So, as you might imagine, I was greatly anticipating this tour, as was just about everyone else in the Los Angeles area (everyone was out for this one). Rounding out the bill were the monstrous Belphegor, Warbringer, and Epicurean.

Epicurean kicks things off for the evening just as I arrive. Not being familiar with Epicurean, I was not particularly impressed with their brand of melodic thrash metal, but the band’s level of musicianship and songwriting skill was evident. Most of the crowd seemed unfamiliar with Epicurean, as well, but the band was well received for their 25 minute set.

Warbringer were up next with Epicurean drummer John Gensmer filling in for the injured Nic Ritter. I must say that I’ve never been all that impressed with Warbringer, but the band has definitely shown some growth in the 18 months or so since I had seen them the last time around. Warbringer just roared through a crushing half hour set that immediately had the crowd opening up a huge pit. The band played a couple of tracks from their soon to be released second album, and I must say that I am now looking forward to that album as Warbringer were just full of energy with great songs.

I thought that Belphegor’s inclusion on this tour was a bit unusual, as none of the other bands are flirting with death or black metal. I, for one, was looking forward to Belphegor, having been greatly impressed by their last couple of full-lengths, but I wasn’t sure what the crowd’s reaction to a blackened death metal band on an all out thrash metal bill would be. Belphegor were well received, after all, as the band blew through a 45 minute set hitting songs from their last three full-lengths. Most impressive is front man Helmuth’s absolutely roaring, brutally guttural vocals in a live setting. As an added bonus, Belphegor also had some blasphemous t-shirts; hence, my t-shirt purchase for the evening.

I’ve been listening to Exodus off and on since the release of “Bonded By Blood” (my friends and I wore out our VHS copy of “The Ultimate Revenge”), although, for whatever reason, I never got around to seeing the band live. I usually took notice when the band released a full-length (I lost track of them in the mid 90s), however, and I have generally enjoyed the band’s output since their reinvigoration with “Tempo Of The Damned”. Exodus were exceptional with a gigantic sound, and an enthusiasm (original members Gary Holt and Tom Hunting were all business and were obviously pleased with the crowd’s appreciation) not very often seen in a band that’s been through many ups and downs over such a long, sporadic career. Highlights included about half of “Bonded By Blood”, “Toxic Waltz”, and a sampling of songs from the last couple of full-lengths. Throughout the 70 minute set, Rob Dukes periodically paused to wax rhapsodic about current events such as swine flu and Islamic terrorism. The crowd ate it all up with gusto as Exodus brought down the house with “Strike Of The Beast”.

Kreator followed Exodus with a monstrous, 90 minute set. After about 25 years, Kreator can still fire on all cylinders in the studio with their last couple of great albums, and deliver in a live setting as Mille and company just blew the crowd away. A gigantic set hitting all portions of their career, Kreator also were able to bring down the jam packed house with highlights including “Pleasure To Kill”, “Coma Of Souls”, “People Of The Light”, “Hordes Of Chaos”, and a host of others. Mille, like many thrash metal veterans, is still able to project an air of enthusiasm, and he and the band continue to soldier on through a stellar career. Finally, it was all over just before 1 AM, and the truly spent crowd went home happy.

Here's the junk...

The pictures...






The t-shirt haul...

The video...





As always, thanks again to Dave and Liz.

On the horizon...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Banished From Inferno Interview

Awhile back, I was afforded the chance to review the debut EP from Banished From Infero, an old school death metal act with various members serving time in bands as disparate as Demiurg, Paganizer, and Machetazo. In addition, I was also given the opportunity to interview Rober, guitarist from Banished From Inferno.

1) How did you guys come together to form Banished From Inferno?

Rober: The band formed back in 2002 after I asked Phlegeton (Wormed, Godüs, Human Mincer, and Unsane Crisis) to join a new side project band that I was working on called Berenice Bleeding. In those days the band sound was more into some raw and filthy black metal shit, and we never recorded the tracks for the first demo, ‘cause shortly after we both got really busy with our duties on Machetazo and Wormed respectively, so we putted the project band on hiatus indefinitely. Some years later we met again at a death metal fest in Portugal, and boozed and stoned to death we had a long talk about this project, so we decided it was time to take it seriously, the alcohol-induced euphoria, you know… and so we did it, but in a more classic death metal way, some crusty and blackened metal crap. Then I talked to Rogga about the vocal duties just before getting started with the Paganizer + Machetazo tour in December ’06, he accepted without hesitating… and voilà! Then Banished From Inferno was formed and spat out of Hell…

2) Are the band members’ various other projects on hold to concentrate upon Banished From Inferno? Can we get an update on the upcoming full-length (according to your MySpace information)?

Rober: Not really. All of us have our respective full time working band. Rogga is the man behind Paganizer, Ribspreader, Demiurg, Carve, Those Who Bring The Torture… and lots more. Phlege is vocalist in Human Mincer, as well as drummer/vocalist in Wormed, Godüs and Unsane Crisis. About me, apart from Banished From Inferno I just play in Machetazo and some local garage band simply for having fun with my long time friends. I never liked playing in many bands or side projects. Personally, I got enough with BFI and Machetazo. Maybe Rogga and Phlege really feel forced to fully concentrate from time to time in some specific band/project than in any other, I think it’s understandable due to their huge number of side projects, studio bands, live acts… but that’s not for me. About the upcoming full length album, all the stuff, music and lyrics are almost finished, so we expect to enter the studio by the end of summer. We want to send the stuff to Dan Swanö for mixing/mastering not later than mid autumn, so Ibex Moon could put out the album at the beginning of next year if everything is going right.

3) Will Banished From Inferno tour to support the album? If so, any plans to reach the U.S.?

Rober: That’s what we really want! Yeah, we got some offers for touring the U.S. and Europe next year. I really hope it happens!! But at this point in time that’s fucken unreachable for us with only a 23 minute long MCD released. That’s not enough stuff for getting on the road right now or for touring as openers. So we have to wait until the full album is out. But you can be sure touring U.S. or Europe next year is a must for Banished From Inferno.

4) How did you guys end up on Ibex Moon Records?

Rober: I’ve known John and Jill for years, I had the pleasure of meeting with them when I was touring the eastern coast of USA with Machetazo some time ago, and got in touch with them for the first time many years ago. So from the very beginning of the band I always intended sending our promo to them. After listening to our stuff they came to us with a cool offer, so just after some negotiations we went ahead with Ibex Moon Records, and things are going pretty well with them, they really know how to support their bands. I must say that there were in fact some other cool labels interested on us firstly, and we’ll always be really grateful to them for their respect and support, they know who they are…

5) Great cover of “Into The Crypts of Rays”. How did you decide upon its inclusion, and why is it sort of hidden at the end of “The Solemn Bleakness”?

Rober: Thanks. Well, the idea of doing this cover came up by chance. I had played it many times with Machetazo at rehearsals for warming up, so finally I talked to Rogga and Phlege about doing it for the Banished From Inferno debut EP but much faster and heavier than the original. The song was included as a hidden bonus track at the end just because we didn’t want it to get too much attention, as it’s a cliché cover song too much hackneyed and “worn out”, you know… we simply recorded it for fun, and yeah, we got plenty satisfied with the final result.

6) Are you satisfied with the reaction to the EP from the fans and press thus far?

Rober: Well, actually I don’t pay too much attention to reviews, so I can’t say how is going that “reaction” from the people. For the time being, I’ve just heard some good impressions about our debut EP, so I suppose that’s a good thing, what the hell… Anyway, we are far from being inventors of any death metal style in the old school metal way, that’s for sure.

7) Thanks for your time.

Rober: Thanks a lot for the support. Cheers!

Ibex Moon Records

Banished From Inferno