A Year of Concerts: Part 1 (Jan-Jun)

Zombies during JoCo's RE: Your Brains

In December of last year I hastily decided that in 2010 I would attempt to attend at least 1 concert every month.  Why?  I could wax philosophical about music being a performance art but, truth is, I just like music.  Was it perhaps a bit fiscially irresponsible?  Arguable, but I had fun doing it.  So who did I see in the great year of 2010?

January 3t, 2010 / Trocadero Theatre / Philadelphia, PA:

Scale the Summit, Cynic, Devin Townsend and Between the Buried and Me.

This was an excellent show to start the year with the main act, Between the Buried and Me putting on such a solid, energetic performance that it was a show I was constatnly comparing later acts with.  With frequently indecipherable screaming of Between the Buried and Me can be off-putting to many (re: most) it takes nothing away from the phenomenal talent of the band members and drummer Blake Richardson is perhaps one of the best up and coming metal drummers (there was a supposed Mike Portnoy sighting at this show if that says anything).  In the progressive metal scene acts can vary widely in style and tones and in this show in particular was split 50/50 with both Scale the Summit and Cynic tends towards a more mellow style while Townsend and Between the Buried and Me tends towards a more aggressive style.   I only mention this because because the show was arranged as follows: Scale the Summit, Devin Townsend, Cynic, Between the Buried and Me.  Now Townsend frickin’ killed, he had the audience absolutely pumped and more-or-less bouncing off the walls (and each other ‘natch) when Cynic took the stage.  The unleashed agression of the audience was a bit of a tough nut for Cynic to crack and I don’t think they ever managed to win the crowd over completely, something that was not at all aided by their mid-set pause to have us do “metal yoga.”  It was a weird way to arrange the acts, one that I don’t think benefited the talents dudes in Cynic at all.  Between the Buried and Me absolutely destroyed their set.  In fact the mosh pit grew so large in the admittedly small Trocadero that me and my friend found ourselves wedged uncomfortably against the sound booth with a protective wall of  Event Staff between us and the pit.  It was a damned awesome show.

February 20, 2010/ Brighton Bar /Long Branch, NJ

East of the Wall EP Release Show w/ Rosetta, Fake Gimms, A Fucking Elephant, Restorations

With the February 26 Flogging Molly show sold out I was saved from breaking my New Years quest early when my friend Matt of A Fucking Elephant let me know that East of the Wall was playing an EP release show.  I ventured out into the frigid cold on the promise of good times with friends and a trip to Long Branch’s own Jr’s; all of which I got in spades.  As typical for shows at the Brighton Bar things ran late so I unfortunately missed most of East of the Wall’s set but I was impressed with the energy, enthusiasm and talent of the Fake Gimms (now Zombie Club America).  I’ll be honest I do love bar shows, I don’t know why but there is something kind of special about loud music, beer, and good friends.  Maybe it’s the beer.  Just kidding…kind of.

March 26 & 27, 2010/Hynes Convention Center/Boston, MA

PAX East 2010 Concerts: Metroid Metal, The Protomen, Anamanguchi, Video Game Orchestra, Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, and MC Frontalot.

The Protomen w/ audience members

This was a pretty epic weekend and both Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th were amazing nights.  Sure we were all exhausted from a full day of convetioning and not all of us would make it through the evening on our feet but there is a special kind of magic specific to PAX that is difficult to describe.  Some of the pre-show waits were long but they were never short of fun; I never thought the wave could elicit such simple childlike joy, but apparently it can.

Video Game Orchestra

While all the acts on these two nights were top notch I was particularly impressed by The Protomen and Video Game Orchestra. The Protomen take the bare story of Mega Man and add a bit of rock opera flare.  Which is both ridiculous and awesome.  Though it might lack the budget of of similar mainstream acts it has twice as much heart.  Video Game Orchestra was present with their chamber group  and creative director/arranger Shota Nakama quickly won over the audience with humor and charm.  This is a phenomenally talented group of musician who are professional and well homed as any symphony orchestra.  I desperately hope that one day I’ll a chance to see them again live (note: they are still working on their CD).

Coultron!

Jonathan Coulton’s set was particularly notable since it birthed Coultron, the gestalt of JoCo himself and members of Metroid Metal lend a bigger, fuller sound to JoCo’s tunes.  This combination was sucessful enough that JoCo has been working on an album with a full band and, if his set in March is anything to go by then it is most definitely something to look forward to.

April 7, 2010/Terminal 5/New York, New York

Opeth

Opeth (I only had my shitty cellphone camera)

When I talk about music, and any band or artist in particular it is best that you add a silent “They’re not Opeth but…” before any praise.  I’ve only seen Opeth once before, at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ; but when I heard they were doing a limited engagement tour to celebrate their 20th Anniversary I was damned exiceted.  The Evolution XX tour was only six shows and I jumped at the chance to grab tickets.  The band played the entirety of Blackwater Park during their first set then came out and played one song of each of their other albums in chronological order; with historical notes and introductions by front man Mikael Akerfeldt.  Opeth are a live act that are as impeccably precise and spot on as they are on their studio recordings.  I, quite frankly, love this band and this was an absolutely amazing show.  If you’re at all interested in the Black Metal scene, and are coming from more mainstream corners, I could think of few better places to start.

April 20, 2010/Starland Ballroom/Sayreville, NJ

River City Extension/Big D and the Kids Table/Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

A rescheduled show due to snow earlier in the year meant I was able to grab tickets to see Flogging Molly; a band I’ve been waiting to see live ever since I first listened to Drunken Lullabies .  This is actually they only concert I remember actually posting about so for my thoughts on this show see here.

May 3, 2010/Championships Bar/Trenton, NJ

Swashbuckle/Blackguard

The gents of Swashbuckle

When I struggled to find shows it always helped to turn to people I know.  If you had told High School Me that Justin Greczyn, AKA Swashbuckle’s Commodore Nosebleed, was going to be the lead guitarist in pirate themed thrash metal band (signed to a major metal label no less!) I would have glanced at the somewhat scrawny red-headed kid across the lunch table (maybe playing Magic: the Gathering) and scoffed.  Of course the idea that there would even be a pirate metal sub-genre would just have likely have baffled my fragile young mind.  As always the “gentlemen” of Swashbuckle put on a furious, energetic, and typically lyrically indecipherable show that still managed to win over the audience at Championships.  Championships is a tiny little dive bar in Trenton that books local, and some not-so-local metal acts, its a neat little place with cheap beer and loud music…really really loud music.  The gentlemen (and lady) of Blackguard power a little more from the power metal side of things than Swashbuckle does and they have practiced the art of synchronized hair swinging to near perfection.

Blackguard amazing hair swinging!

While the intersection of pirate lovers and thrash metal fans isn’t necessarily a large one it is nice to know that they are a number of bands catering to that group.

June = NOTHING

It was June where my year long quest failed.  No specific reason I can remember.  The only two concerts I was interested in being Scorpions at the PNC Bank Center and Entombed at the Grammercy Theatre.  I made it to neither.  However, things picked up again in July.  Stayed tuned next week when I catalog the remainder of  2010!

Review: Warp Riders by The Sword

Warp Riders / The Sword
Warp Riders / The Sword

Austin based metallers The Sword are one of my favorite bands of 21st Century.  Age of Winters and Gods of the Earth with their mythology and fantasy themed songs are some of the best, groove-heavy metal of this millennium.   Warp Riders, their 3rd studio album, released today and it blows both earlier efforts into tiny particles of space dust.  I won’t lie; I was excited about this album.  Excited to a degree where I was already starting to cope with my inevitable disappointment; no album could possibly live up to the album that existed in my head.  Well, turns out I was wrong about that.  Warp Riders is exactly as amazing I hoped it would be and then some.

This also marks one of the few specific instances  wherein I feel a little less strange about posingt a review of a metal album on a mostly science fiction and fantasy book blog.   Why is that?  Take a quick look at a  synopsis of the story told on Warp Riders (courtesy of the band’s official website):

Warp Riders tells the tale of Ereth, an archer banished from his tribe on the planet Acheron. A hardscrabble planet that has undergone a tidal lock, which has caused one side to be scorched by three suns, and the other enshrouded in perpetual darkness, it is the background for a tale of strife and fantasy, the battle between pure good and pure evil. ….The story of Warp Riders, entitled “The Night The Sky Cried Tears Of Fire” (written by Cronise), follows Ereth as he discovers a mysterious orb and meets the Chronomancer, a being beyond time and space who enlists him in a quest to restore the planet’s balance. Along the way he encounters strange warriors, mysterious witches, ancient androids, and a crew of space pirates with a vessel that will alter the course of history…  a vessel known as, The Sword.

The Sword manages to tell this story not only through the lyrical content of each song but through the music that drive each track as well.  Album opener Acheron/Unearthing the Orb starts off with a quiet synthesized introduction that evokes the science-fiction theme quite nicely right before the Unearthing the Orb section takes off with a furious crunch of guitar. Tres Brujas, released earlier this year as a single, and show some improvement on J. D. Cronises’ vocal skills; though he never strays far from his “barely sung” style.  There are no metal wails or power metal screeches here and Cronises’ vocal style suits the band’s sound perfectly.  Both Cronise and Kyle Shutt take ample opportunity to show off their guitar chops, more than in any other album and I found myself grinning on multiple occasions as one or the other burst into a solo.  Production on Warp Riders sounds a bit cleaner than on previous albums.  While the sonorous drone of the heavy distortion favored by the band is still present and accounted for Warp Riders sounds tighter than the band has ever sounded in the past.

Hands down I love this album from start to finish.  While I found that the galloping rythmn of Lawless Lands to be my particular favorite every song on this album is an absolute winner.  As of right now, with just over 3 months left in 2010, Warp Riders is my favorite album of the year and it will likely take something impossibly amazing to unseat it.  I have no real complaints except that the damn thing ended!  Thankfully I have a video trilogy to look forward to (Tres Brujas, Lawless Lands, Night City) as well!  You can check out The Sword on their website or  listen to some samples on their myspace.