Heart of Steel: Concert Review

All Ages Metal Fest
August 15th, 2003, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Review by JP (Co-host of Megawatt Mayhem)

 

Line-up: Radio Chaos, Plague, Blood Stained Knife, Omega Crom, Paracidic, Passado, Conch, Divinity, Thorazine.

 

I don’t write a lot of live reviews because if you have missed the show there is not much point in my mind. With reviewing a tour, others could read the review and perhaps decide to buy tickets for their hometown but a festival is a once in a lifetime thing, so it defeats the purpose of a conventional review. However, documenting an event like a Metal Festival can be very important historically for three reasons. To encourage fans to attend live shows, to encourage other bands to play in future festivals and finally for all the talent scouts that are out there! Accordingly my comments are more about my overall impression than a critical analysis of individual bands performances. I hope people will take the time to check out all the individual bands mentioned.

The promoter and organizer, known only as Andrew, is a young dude with balls of steel. He put together on very short notice what was the largest event of this kind in Calgary for many, many years. He just decided to do it and without a lot of help, money or experience he did what many have merely talked about. He is to be fully congratulated and hopefully he will be involved with the next one.

Bridgeland Community is slated for destruction and has a sense of metallic history in Calgary so it was fitting that this big ol’ empty hall was the setting. The venue had a small concession run by friends and family, a few volunteers, a high stage and the back wall had tables for the bands merchandise. Nothing fancy but for over a dozen bands for $15.00 it was extremely good value.

Let’s get the bad out of the way early. Logistically, Andrew needed a bit more experience in dealing with musicians. The line-up changed by my count five times! This is not his fault as bands cancelled at the last minute, some were added on at the last minute, time-slots changed leaving many fans confused and frustrated as to who was on when. The event suffered from lack of adequate promotion leaving an empty hall at 1:00pm when the first band was getting ready to go. Making a hard but virtually necessary decision, the entire show was delayed three hours.

I blame some of the bands and I will name them. The second, third, fifth, tenth and thirteenth bands on the bill; Tempered, Red Hot Lovers, Timeless, Sitting Idol and One-900 all cancelled at the last minute. This is completely unacceptable. It is a betrayal to the promoter who worked hard to give them exposure and more importantly a betrayal of the under-18 fans who paid to see them. The fourteen-band bill was quickly chopped to nine and consequently the schedule was doomed from the first minute. If the singer of Thorazine can bust his ass, take a bus for almost four hours for a journey of over 300km to be on time, the local Calgary bands who came up with stupid, unacceptable excuses like “I couldn’t get off work” should be ashamed. Omega Crom drove all night from another province to there on time and some bands could not get off their asses to be on time for a 20 minute drive across town. The lousy attitude and selfish behavior of these bands left a bad taste in the mouth of the fans. They may consider themselves lucky if they get another chance to play at an event of this size.

By 4:00pm it was time to get going. Special mention should go to Rogan. He was the very first fan in the door. He not only made a donation but he stayed upfront for almost every band and supported the bands buy buying merchandise. He was the #1 fan of the festival in my mind. I was pleased to see the crowd was a nice mixture of guys and girls. The ladies were not just girlfriends but actual female fans who came out to have a good time. The stage was set and the soundmen were doing the best they could with what they had to work with.

 

4:00 RADIO CHAOS (punk)

RC might just well go down as the first band to play the largest All-Ages Metal Fest in Calgary’s history. This very, very young four-piece was very inexperienced and announced themselves to be more punk than metal. They ran through six tunes including a Green Day cover and a Nirvana cover. I admire their courage and every band has to start somewhere. The crowd of 25 people was small but supportive of these first timers. A bit more practice and a few more shows will calm the nerves and they look like will have fun in the future. They had a small kit so the change over was very quick.

 

4:30 PLAGUE (Death)

Plague ripped into a tight set of primitive death metal with a decent death-rock vibe. The bass tone reminded this old timer of the NWOBHM band Raven and the lack of competent solos kinda irked me. By now the crowd had swelled to about 40 and it was good to see everyone up at the front. After being to so many club shows were jaded metalheads stand at the back sucking brews it was good to see a mini-mosh pit! The following bands had cancelled so Plague played almost a double set. It seemed to drag on a bit and I’d like to see a bit more variety in the composition and arrangements of the songs. A decent and entertaining band.

Next came along, long break as the schedule was changed, re-changed and bands were called in early to compensate for the bands who just could not be bothered to show up. This long break hampered the flow of the show. This long delay might have been overcome but a funny (sad) thing happened. The DJ decided to play some mallcore band while Plague was taking down their gear. (I later found out it was a band called Rage Against the Machine) Every single person left the hall. I’m not joking.

It might have been coincidence but I fell it was obviously the repulsive mallcore that drove everyone outside. No word of a lie, the kids all streamed out of there like rats on fire deserting a sinking ship, leaving only myself and the two concession ladies in the entire hall.

And then it went from bad to worse. The DJ had left the disc on ‘track repeat’ so I had to endure the song again! I couldn’t leave as I was tending my merchandise booth. I was trapped! (Fortunately whenever I venture into the public I take a supply of gag-suppressant pills in case mallcore befouls my ears. Good thing I had lots of pills!) Then the DJ came back and I thought to myself, “Oh good! He has realized his horrible mistake, feels responsible for driving away 100% of the audience and is going to change the CD.” How wrong I was. He merely took the disc off track repeat! Sigh…. It was going to be a long afternoon. It was living hell sitting inside by myself on a beautiful, sunny, summer day forced to hear (by default, not actively listening) utter crap. I even put in my earplugs but that didn’t help. I felt aurally violated.

The only positive point of this long break by myself is I had a chance to reflect and I now have some faint hope for the future of our youth. Moments ago they were moshing to death metal and they bailed at the first strains of the rap-rock that filled the room. Maybe there is hope for the future after all. Somebody must have said something to him because for the rest of the night the tunes were a mix of power metal (Rhapsody, Blind Guardian) Thrash (Soilwork) and Black Metal (Dimmu Borgir) so everyone was happy and hung around inside while bands set up and tore down.

 

6:30 BLOOD STAINED KNIFE (Power/Thrash)

By now the kids who had got off work had arrived and the demographic of the crowd had changed quite a bit. Older kids, mostly male and there were fewer Korn and Slipknot shirts. At first I was worried as BSK came to the stage. Three of the four guys looked like Vanilla Ice (or Criss-Cross or something) with the baggy jeans slung real low to show their underwear, lots of dangling chains, short spiky hair…not a pretty sight. The bassist looked like the quintessential prog-dude with a long pony tail, short beard and a vintage 1976 Rush shirt. They sound checked to a Slayer cut so I was very relieved it wasn’t going to be rap-rock!

BSK were tight, energetic death metal with hints of thrash and what’s that I hear…!? A guitar solo!! Awesome. I only had to wait six hours at a metal fest to hear a decent solo! The crowd had grown to about 50 people and the band got the best response of the festival so far. The bassist took the mike as BSK ripped into a version of Maiden’s ‘The Trooper” reminding me a bit of the Sentenced version, namely faster and heavier. Three guys shared vocal duties and the drummer hammered on his china like there was no tomorrow. Very entertaining!

 

7:15pm OMEGA CROM (Power/Thrash) www.omegacrom.com

This Vancouver five piece was the buzz band of the show with not many knowing what to expect but having heard many good things about the singers inhuman vocal prowess. Fresh out of the van after a long drive from Regina on their Western Canadian tour Omega Crom were my favorite act of the night. Not afraid to sing or play guitar Omega Crom were tight and very professional. They had excellent stage presence and actually announced their songs, and interacted with the crowd. They had cool spoken word intros, lots of atmosphere created by interesting song arrangements and tempo changes. They were the most ‘European’ and ‘metal’ sounding band of the night as evidenced by their ripping cover of Priest’s, Painkiller. They were crushingly heavy and fast with tons of rippy solos but the highlight were the vocals. Imagine a man with the range and power of Halford and King Diamond, the baritone of Fernado Riberia of Moonspell and the death shrieks of Devin Townsend. Simply astonishing. Omega Crom does with one vocalist that most bands do with two or three. Tight and pro, these are the guys to watch.

 

9:00pm PARACIDIC (Modern Metal) www.paracidic.com

Rumoured to be enjoying vast amounts of recreational pharmaceuticals and festive malt beverages BEFORE the show the band buzzed through a sloppy (in a good way) set of modern down-tuned type aggro-rock. They had lots of props and a charismatic and engaging frontman who was exuberant and enthusiastic, even though his Anselmo inspired yell/shout style of vocals with a rap cadence was not to my liking. The drummer was a maniac just hammering those tubs…probably the hardest hitter of the night. The show tended to drag on because there was not a lot of diversity in the songs. Many fans (and upcoming bands) had hoped the band would cut their set short as the festivals was already hours behind schedule and curfews for some of the younger fans was looming as anxious parents kept peeking their heads in the door. Unfortunately this was lost on the semi-inebriated band as they exceed their time and the crowd thinned noticeably to about 20 people. They ended with a fairly derivative Il Nino and Sepultura based tribal drum thing that was like a copy of Stomp (those guys who hits pots and pans with brooms and stuff).

 

10:15pm PASSADO (Modern Metal) www.passadoband.com

This veteran local four piece was an obvious crowd pleaser as the crowd came rushing back in when they started. Many bands claim to be heavier and faster live but Passado deliver. By now the lack of lights started to hamper the show as the poor band had to, load, tune and play in almost total darkness. They were tight and dynamic and there was another noticeable increase in the age of the crowd with more death metal shirts filtering in. The band had a decent mix of clean guitar, funky interludes and lots of drum and bass driven tunes. They worked in more solos which also suited me. These guys are tight and having been out east for a number of showcase gigs I would not be surprised if they are signed quite soon.

 

11:00pm CONCH (Modern Metal) www.conch.ca

It was a shame that the scheduling was so messed up because the whole point of the All Ages show was to give kids a chance to see great bands like Conch in safe, fun daytime environment. Well, by 11:00pm most of the kids had to bail and catch busses and trains home so the remaining acts did their best. Luckily the crowd that had dispersed out of the hot hall came back in by the end of the first tune. Conch were a class act. They cut their set short so the remaining bands could have a better time to play. They all had by far the best merchandise with stickers, pins, a shot-glass, discs, shirts and more. Much like Passado, Conch is heavier and faster live and for the first time in hours a moshpit swung into action! The driving tunes with a slight hardcore edge got the crowd moving and the band blasted through a short, tight set. A class act and fully pro, their extensive touring of Canada has tightened up their live act.

 

12:00am DIVINITY (Thrash) www.divinity.8m.com

Divinity brought their own black-lights which cast an eerie glow over the dark community hall, and just after the witching hour they ripped into a thrashtastic set. They were probably the loudest band of the night with lots of licks and riffs driving the thrashy songs along a great pace. The three previous bands were not as driven by guitar so it was good to hear ripping fast solos with lots of shred. Divinity are not the Quebec Black Metal band but play a mean breed of heavy modern thrash; mostly tunes of their disc ‘Intensify’. The songs truly were intensified. The crowd was fading but the band raged on, also making the classy move of cutting things short out of respect for the headliner.

 

12:45am THORAZINE (Death) www.thorazine.ca

For the 30 or so remaining faithful, Thorazine, perhaps Calgary best known metal band showed why they were the eventual headliners. Although originally slated to go on third from last in the best time-slot the band showed class and played as hard and fast as ever. Easily the heaviest and tightest band of the festival, the band (fronted by ‘Drifter’ who as mentioned earlier traveled for hours to be there) put to shame the local bands who couldn’t even be bothered to show up. They ripped out a brutal set of crushing death with many hints of grindcore. As the night rolled on, people drifted away as the fatigue was evident on the faces of the final few die-hards. Thorazine being a world-calibre act didn’t let that phase them and treated the crowd to a few new songs from the their forthcoming CD, ‘The Day The Ash Blacked Out The Sun’. Great songs, and another great performance from a great band.

 

Conclusion

The biggest all Ages show in Calgary, (perhaps ever) was a qualified success. Great value, good performances all round, good variety of styles, and a good venue all contributed to the success of the day. Under the circumstances I think the experience of many of the bands could be described as ‘paying your dues’ to small crowds who might normally never get to see these bands. Congratulations to all the bands who played that night.

That is what metal is all about; the blood, sweat and tears, frustration and fun all that help form the unique bonds between the fans and the bands that comprise the underground metal community. Hell, even Wacken started in their first year in a farmers field with only 100 fans. The next All Ages Metal Fest in Calgary will be bigger and better. I can’t wait!