Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

In Flames / Chimaira / Soilwork

Monday, July 21, 2003
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

Review & Pics by Lord of the Wasteland

These days, the mere mention of In Flames will typically bring about 2 terms: "SELL-OUT"! "MALL-CORE"!

I, for one, do not agree. Some bands (AC/DC immediately comes to mind) have made a successful career out of churning out essentially the same album year after year, most see the well run dry in a hurry. After 7 years and 6 full-length CDs, In Flames released REROUTE TO REMAIN in 2002, while long-time fans voiced their displeasure over the band's "new sound", comparing them to mallcore giants, Soulfly and Korn. Fans wondered how a band who pioneered Swedish melodic death metal could abandon their roots for a more commercial sound. My answer to the band's critics is this: EVOLUTION! Did Metallica remake MASTER OF PUPPETS again and again? No. They made the "mistake" of changing and saw their fan base simultaneously crumble and blossom. The die-hards cried "sell-out", while the masses bought the new albums up in record numbers. Sometimes it works (Metallica's BLACK ALBUM) and sometimes it doesn't (Celtic Frost's COLD LAKE or Van Halen 3). Did In Flames keep cranking out clones of their 1995 masterpiece, THE JESTER RACE? No. If one looks at 1999's COLONY and even some traces on 1997's WHORACLE, the change was subtle yet evident. I don't see why everyone seemed so utterly shocked when REROUTE TO REMAIN came out! It is because of this backlash that I eagerly anticipated the band's Vancouver headlining date with Chimaira and fellow Swedes, Soilwork, supporting.

Thanks to the good people at Nuclear Blast, I was granted a photo pass for the show and the chance to interview In Flames and Soilwork for Metal Rules. Despite being warned that, this being the last date of the tour, the bands may be more apt to drinking and partying than sitting down for an interview, I made a promise to myself that I would corner Speed from Soilwork and either Bjorn or Jesper from In Flames for a few thought-provoking questions.

Unfortunately, my wings were clipped early on. The tour had the bands stop in Seattle the night before and thanks to our "service with a smile" customs agents, they were forced to spend 6 hours trying to get into Canada! An in-store autograph session at Scrape Records (www.scraperecords.com) had to be forfeited by In Flames due to their late arrival in Vancouver. Though almost an hour late for the 3:00 PM scheduled start, Soilwork made it and about 100 or so fans waited in the scorching heat for a chance to get their CDs, guitars and posters signed.

I was told to be at the venue around 5:00PM for an interview, so I showed up The Commodore about 10 minutes early. After asking around for the band's respective tour managers, I was told that Soilwork's manager was refused entry into Canada, but Tom Kubick, the man behind In Flames, would try to help me out. He explained how frustrated everyone was with the hassles they had all faced at the Canada/U.S. border earlier in the day and said the band was not even at the venue yet. He said he may be able to get something set up for later but that it did not look good. I took that as a subtle hint not to bother waiting around…

I showed up back at the venue around 9:00, thinking it not a big deal if I'd missed Chimaira. I'd been waiting to see Soilwork since I first heard them in 2000 and in all honesty, I was looking forward more to their set than In Flames' since I already saw them in 2001 on the Extreme Steel tour with Pantera and Morbid Angel. Their new album, FIGURE NUMBER FIVE, is already in my top 5 for the year's best CD. At precisely 9:15, the lights went down and out stormed Soilwork to a house packed with rabid fans. This was the band's first visit to our city and we were hungry for them. After some initial technical difficulties with Speed's mike, the band tore through a 40 minute set of "Needlefeast", "Follow The Hollow", "The Bringer", "Light The Torch", "As We Speak" and "Rejection Role". The crowd went crazy for Soilwork and certainly made them feel welcome upon their first visit. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was hoping Devin Townsend, producer of their brilliant 2001 CD, NATURAL BORN CHAOS, would join them on stage for a song since he was in the audience, but sadly he did not. For some reason that I'm still unsure of, drummer Richard Evensand, was using Chimaira's kit. Maybe it didn't have the right paperwork and was refused entry into the country, too?! I can't wait for Soilwork to come back to Vancouver because their set was far too short. Personally, I was hoping to hear "Shadow Child", "Black Star Deceiver" "Razor Lives", "Sadistic Lullaby" and "Bastard Chain". Maybe next time they'll be headlining?!?!




After Soilwork, I was fully expecting In Flames to come out but I began to notice that Chimaira banners were being raised on stage. I thought to myself, "Surely Soilwork wasn't the OPENERS?!" A few minutes later, my suspicions rang true: Chimaira was higher on the bill!! Now I'm not completely averse to mallcore. Let the wrath begin, but Slipknot's first CD is one of my favorites of the last few years and Disturbed fits nicely between Dio and Dokken in my CD stands. In other words, unlike many others, I will not instantly dismiss mallcore as "crap" (editor's note: you're fired! haha). I had read many good things about Chimaira and how, along with bands like Lamb of God, were putting North American metal back on the map. When the band hit the stage at 10:15, I let the fact that dreadlocked/hoodied lead singer Mark Hunter immediately ordered the crowd to "JUMP THE FUCK UP!" roll off my shoulders. I let it go that they had a keyboardist who would rap a few harmonies. I thought to myself, "These guys are pretty heavy!" Drummer Andols Herrick really is a great drummer. His double bass work is phenomenal and along with bassist Jim LaMarca (whose "cool" quotient instantly went up for me when I saw his Gene Simmons tattoo and wristbands!!), gives Chimaira a pretty heavy bottom end. I was unfamiliar with the band's music before this show but they did interest me enough to pick up their 2 CDs, 2001's PASS OUT OF EXISTENCE and 2003's THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF REASON afterwards. Check out "Pure Hatred", "Down Again" and "Dehumanizing Process". They aren't exactly reinventing the wheel but with the state of affairs that American metal is in, you can't go wrong with Chimaira. Their 45 minute set won me over, but still, they had NO business playing AFTER Soilwork!



Between Chimaira's set and the headliners, I decided to take a walk around and see who was in the crowd. Drum legend Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Testament, Death, Old Man's Child, Strapping Young Lad) has become a staple at Vancouver metal shows, so I thought, "What the hell?!" and chatted with him for a minute and got a picture. I'm a big guy, but Gene has got to be 6'3" and 300 lbs., so with that physique and enough hair to make Cousin It from The Addams Family jealous, you'd think he'd be a pretty nasty piece of work, but he's one of the nicest guys I've met in the music industry. Thanks to his lovely lady friend for snapping the picture, too! I was hoping to ferret out Devin Townsend for a picture and a few words, but I think he had disappeared backstage by this point to rip it up with his protégés in Soilwork.

Between my interactions with the "who's-who" of Vancouver metal, I couldn't help but notice that The Commodore's PA system was torturing us with the abysmal sounds of the new Radiohead CD. The Commodore Ballroom is a legendary venue that has been voted the "Best Live Venue in Canada" for a few years running. The sound is great, the dance floor has some weird bounce to it and there isn't a bad seat in the house. They pride themselves on the "classy" décor but they really need to invest in some more music. I've seen many shows there over the years ranging from Nashville Pussy to Type O Negative and their only "metal" CD that they seem to play is the NATIVITY IN BLACK II tribute album!!! With all the metal shows that come there, wouldn't you think that some more metal music should be played during band changeovers than the same CD OVER AND OVER AGAIN?!?! And surely not Radiohead!!!!

Before In Flames hit the stage, Manning from XFM's Xtra Loud program strode on stage to let the cat out of the bag for an upcoming show: Dimmu Borgir/Nevermore/Children of Bodom/Hypocrisy!! The crowd went nuts as many remembered the debacle of last March's Dimmu show, where the promoter booked a rave club for the show (?!?!) and then failed to get the roadies access to the venue until 4 hours before showtime! Krisiun didn't get a chance to play, Cryptopsy played for all of 20 minutes and Dimmu-the headliners--had a half hour on stage because the promoter promised the show would end by 10:30 so the ghouls would be out and the ravers could begin their ecstasy-fuelled lovefest for the rest of the night.

At 11:30, In Flames hit the stage for their first headlining show in Vancouver. This was their second visit here after the 2001 Extreme Steel tour and an unfortunate last minute cancellation on the Iced Earth/Jag Panzer bill last year. The crowd seemed pretty whipped up to see them and any detractors of the band's new sound were not present. It was obvious though that any death-heads have long abandoned In Flames. This was a crowd of mostly 19-25 year old meatheads in wife-beaters looking to throw elbows in the moshpit and take any opportunity to crowd surf or stagedive. One guy even made it on to the stage 3 different times while the security guys were attending to other matters! I still don't understand the point of hurting people and why being passed over the heads of other people is fun, but maybe I'm just showing my age. Why spend $35 to push people around to music? Anyway, before anyone asks, no, In Flames weren't wearing white jumpsuits and I don't recall Anders Friden telling anyone at any time to "JUMP JUMP". There weren't really any surprises in their 75 minute set. All the favorites were played including "Episode 666", "Only For The Weak", "Pinball Map", "Behind Space", "Colony", "Jotun", "Scorn (with a jam of Slayer's "Reign In Blood") and "Gyroscope" as well as some new songs like "Cloud Connected", "Trigger" and my favorite cut from REROUTE TO REMAIN, "Drifter". Anders let loose a diatribe against the border guards who kept them waiting but said he was happy to be in Vancouver. His voice sounded strong throughout the set without any problems. Jesper played some great riffs and Bjorn Gelotte hammed it up on stage, mugging for fans. He even went so far as to take an enthusiastic Chimaira fan's CD booklet over to the side of the stage for the band to sign, which I thought was a nice gesture. Unfortunately, there wasn't an encore despite chants of "IN FLAMES…IN FLAMES…IN FLAMES" shaking the walls. There was still time left before the "last call" lights had to go up so I'm guessing this was a band decision.


Overall this was a great show. The three band bill was one of the better to come through Vancouver this year. I was excited to see Soilwork, indifferent about Chimaira and unsure of In Flames but all three made a positive impact on me. Unfortunately, my questions surrounding In Flames' choice for covering Depeche Mode and Genesis songs, the Hammerfall connection, and whether or not the band's follow-up to REROUTE TO REMAIN will be heavier to silence their critics are left unanswered. If anyone at Canada Customs reads this, please take it easy on the body cavity searches next time, huh?!