Sounds of The Underground 2006: Live In Vancouver Aug. 10, 2006

A GWAR show is a messy affair, no doubt about it.  Fans wear white shirts and wrestle for front row positions in order to get sprayed with the band’s stage blood and other bodily fluids.  It’s almost become a rite of passage, so to speak, to get thoroughly soaked by GWAR.  Those who are less adventurous are usually safe by staying back a dozen or so yards but for the unfortunate photographers like myself, the photo pit is open season for Oderus Urungus and his band of ne’er-do-wells to drench us with “GWAR juice.”  My rain poncho can only do so much and of course the exposed camera lens (not to mention the neck strap, which is permanently stained a pinkish color after three forays into GWAR’s wasteland over the past twelve months) is susceptible to any and all airborne fluids, so this is why the photos for GWAR have a reddish smear to them (consider it “art”).  As I look down while typing this sentence five days after the show, the hair on my arms still possesses a reddish hue.  The preparation for GWAR’s show entails a thorough layering of garbage bags across the stage and monitors and cleanup afterwards looks like a war zone.  Fifty pound bags of cat litter are used to soak up the “blood” on the photo pit floor and the crew is armed with mops and buckets to get the worst of the crimson detritus sopped up for the next act. 

This time around, one of the Slaves came out dressed as a police officer announcing the show was over and everyone was to go home.  Boos turned to cheers as Jizmak Da Gusha, Flattus Maximus, Balsac, Beefcake The Mighty and Oderus appeared to smite the offending officer, sending a shower of red across the crowd.  “I Love The Pigs,” taken from GWAR’s upcoming Devin Townsend-produced album BEYOND HELL, was of course the song played to this carnage as two more slaves proceeded to stick a spike up the officer’s backside and carry him around the stage like a pig ready to be roasted over a spit.  Clever.  Eschewing the usual string of “hits” (“Sick of You” etc.), GWAR played a rambunctious set of obscure tracks and new material including their cover of the Alice Cooper classic, “School’s Out.”  Beefcake sang lead vocals on a pair of songs while Oderus engaged in battle with The Nazi Pope (“Krosstika”) and a fan got eviscerated.  Also making a rare appearance was Gor-Gor for his namesake song from 1992’s AMERICA MUST BE DESTROYED album.  There is nothing better than seeing a prosthetic tyrannosaurus rex chewing a fake alien’s head on stage!  A GWAR show is never boring and the band seems to be setting themselves up for a recurring “half-time” slot on the Sounds of The Underground.  With BEYOND HELL hitting stores August 27th, GWAR will surely be out on the road once again, soiling fans (and photographers) across the continent.

Infernal Majesty’s Steve Terror and Brian Langley chatted with Cannibal Corpse’s Pat O’Brien and Paul Mazurkiewicz outside the band’s bus before taking the stage.  I only found out later that Cannibal vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher laid down some vocals the previous day for a track to be used on Infernal Majesty’s new album.  Very cool!  Cannibal Corpse is one of the most devastating live acts in metal and never disappoint.  This show was no different as the band, cruising on the excellent reviews of their latest (tenth!) album, KILL, swiftly played nine tracks in 35 minutes.  My earplugs must have been in too far during the first two songs because for the life of me, I cannot remember them (I also tend to tune out while shooting the bands) but a blistering version of KILL’s “Make Them Suffer” and “The Wretched Spawn” (dedicated to Infernal Majesty), featuring a shredding solo from O’Brien were definite highlights.  “Fucked With A Knife,” dedicated as always to the ladies in the audience, and “Hammer Smashed Face” are staples of the band’s live show but “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” was a nice surprise.  Cannibal Corpse was probably the most extreme band on the bill (although while they sing about bloodshed, GWAR actually does it!) and certainly was the underdog here but showed the crowd exactly how death metal is supposed to be done.  In closing, Fisher thanked everyone and made sure to advise them to keep supporting death metal.  No worries, George…we’re here for ya!

Cannibal Corpse Setlist
Decency Defied
Make Them Suffer
The Wretched Spawn
Fucked With A Knife
Devoured By Vermin
Hammer Smashed Face
Stripped, Raped and Strangled

It didn’t take a genius to realize In Flames should have been the headliners of Sounds of The Underground, not As I Lay Dying.  The mass exodus for the doors after their set was proof enough, but the pioneers of melodic death metal have earned that spot fair and square.  Many people came just to see In Flames despite the band having played a headlining show here just six months earlier.  The band has invested in a bigger-than-ever light show that seems more fitting for a Top 40 arena act than a bunch of scruffy Swedes but In Flames’ audience has grown exponentially over the past five years and hot on the heels of COME CLARITY, that fanbase continues to escalate.  The rhythm section of Peter Iwers and Daniel Svensson sounded big and full with an absolutely massive drum sound.  From the new album, “Leeches,” “Take This Life” and the title track (a ballad that drew out lighters and cellphones) all sound amazing live and fit nicely with classics like COLONY’s “Embody The Invisible” (requested specifically by Terror’s Doug Weber) and THE JESTER RACE’s rarely-played “Graveland” (“That’s Swedish heavy metal, baby!” according to vocalist Anders Friden).  Set opener “Pinball Map” is always a winner but this show was clearly focused on newer material (no “Behind Space” or “Only For The Weak”???) as only three tracks preceded 2002’s REROUTE TO REMAIN.  Older fans may have been disappointed but In Flames came, saw and conquered, taking much of the crowd along with them.

In Flames Setlist
Pinball Map
Cloud Connected
Embody The Invisible
Come Clarity
The Quiet Place
Take This Life
My Sweet Shadow

San Diego’s As I Lay Dying are riding high with 2005’s SHADOWS ARE SECURITY garnering critical praise and the band demonstrating there is more to their sound than the metalcore genre they helped launch.  Playing to about two-thirds of the crowd In Flames did did not deter them one iota either as their fifty minute set showcased all the best material from SHADOWS ARE SECURITY and 2003’s FRAIL WORDS COLLAPSE.  The band last played Vancouver in March 2005 (read review HERE) and that was at a small downtown club, so the all-ages environment of Sounds of The Underground and 7:45PM start time certainly opened up exposure to the all-important younger demographic.  Several backdrop changes and a gigantic wall of Marshall amps that doubled as risers for guitarists Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa to stand upon kept things visually appealing while the charisma of towering, tattooed frontman Tim Lambesis and superb drumming (and windmill headbanging) of Jordan Mancino propelled the music.  Lambesis’ throat-shredding roars accentuated “Meaning In Tragedy,” “94 Hours,” “Through Struggle” and “Behind Me Lies Another Fallen Soldier,” while the clean vocals of bassist Clint Norris added the right touch to “The Darkest Nights” and “Forever.”  Hipa and Sgrosso got their chance to show off on the speedy and technical “Illusions,” which was a major step forward in terms of both songwriting and musicianship from SHADOWS ARE SECURITY.  Lambesis announced the band would be returning with a new album in 2007 and I, for one, am eager to hear where the next step in their musical journey takes them. 

As I Lay Dying Setlist
Empty Hearts
94 Hours
Falling Upon Deaf Ears
The Darkest Nights
Through Struggle
Distance Is Darkness
Behind Me Lies Another Fallen Soldier
Meaning In Tragedy


In Conclusion

The second instalment of the Sounds of The Underground tour made some serious headway in the North American metal market this year.  With low ticket prices, fewer bands but longer sets, a more diverse itinerary and a more laid-back approach than its big brother, Ozzfest, Sounds of The Underground is poised to be the underdog contender of summer festivals.  The thirty minutes of torture from Evergreen Terrace was a small price to pay for nine other kick-ass bands that crossed genres and brought out fans of heavy music for an all-day event.  Suffice it to say that Sounds of The Underground will be around for many years to come.

See you in 2007…

***Thanks to Jenny from House of Blues for her help at the show.

Sounds of The Underground—Official Site
As I Lay Dying—Official Site
In Flames—Official Site
Cannibal Corpse—Official Site
GWAR—Official Site
3 Inches of Blood—Official Site
Terror—Official Site
The Black Dahlia Murder—Official Site
Behemoth—Official Site
Evergreen Terrace—Official Site
Through The Eyes of The Dead—Official Site





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