IN FLAMES and SKINLAB, Pine St. Theater, Portland, Oregon
EXHUMED, ENGORGED, and BENUMB, Satyricon, Portland, Oregon
August 15, 2000
This was a bizarre double-barreled evening of metal, and actually a first for me: two shows at separate clubs in one night! At first I thought it was a little weird that Satyricon
(ed. note: the club, not the black
metal band) would schedule a death metal show the same night as the appearance of In Flames, one of Sweden's premier melodic death metal acts, but as the night wore on I began to see the logic of doing that. In fact, it worked out quite well.
The first show was In Flames and Earth Crisis at Pine Street Theater (formerly La Luna). This was an early show, 6:30 PM, which struck me as strange -- I've never seen a show start so early here in Portland. Well, Ice Maiden and I arrived at about 6:45, and met a group of our friends, some of them Wacken veterans. I was eager to see the re-done La Luna for the first time since S.O.D. played there in November, and the first time I've seen the remodeled building (it was all torn up during S.O.D.) since Dokken played there in December 1998. I was SORELY disappointed. The show was on "The Balcony" which turned out to be a room about the size of a college dorm room, very hot, very stuffy, and dreadful acoustics. Come on, people! There's a HUGE stage downstairs at La Luna -- what's the deal with forcing these bands to play up there when you have all that wasted space?
Earth Crisis -- which none of us had any intention of staying to see -- was the headliner on this bill, which explains the presence of a lot of hardcore and punk straightedge kids. The straightedge kids were easily recognizable by the little Xs, most made with electrical tape, on the backs of their hands. There was a whole crowd of them on hand right from the start, front and center for the first band, WALLS OF JERICHO. This band was absolutely dreadful. Dull hardcore riffs microwaved up from the dead, and a female vocalist screeching through "militant" lyrics about the typical "activist" topics you'd expect to play well with an Earth Crisis crowd. And play well it did. The kids were buzzing and jumping around like flies in a microwave oven. Of course they were mosh maniacs, turning almost every square inch of floor space into a mosh pit (which us mosh-less metalheads didn't appreciate), except instead of moshing they basically much ran in place swinging their arms wildly. If you think it looked pretty silly -- you're right! All of us in our group got a big laugh out of such antics...
(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I'd like the thank the vocalist for her "profound" teachings. "Umm, like, Rape is really bad. Fuck it, don't rape people!" It's combining music with education in such an insightful way that really improves the world. I bet all those little hardcore boys really learned something that night. Next time they have a hankering to rape, I bet they'll think of that Walls of Jericho vocalist and think twice before proceeding.)
After an adjournment to the bar -- which was virtually deserted (I don't imagine they sell much beer at Earth Crisis shows!) -- SKINLAB was up next. This is the fourth time I've seen this crushing Bay Area group and their meaty offerings of neo-thrash metal. This was not their best performance, but they put a lot of effort into it and their music is generally of very high quality, so I can't complain. They were betrayed by the poor acoustics and nonexistent sound engineering at this venue, and they unfortunately had the straightedge crowd against them from the very first minute. Some of the straightedgers were heckling them from the front row, which kind of pissed off frontman Steev Esquivel, who at one point commented, "It's too bad you're not allowed to drink, 'cause I could really use a beer right now." The mere mention of beer got scowls and insults from the hecklers and I saw a few X-spangled fists with upraised middle fingers pointed in Skinlab's direction. To their credit, Skinlab tried to make peace, thanking Earth Crisis for putting them on the bill, and commending the crowd for "checking attitudes at the door and enjoying the music." Unfortunately they did not play "Paleface" (again!), but I'm sure there'll be another chance, since Skinlab drifts through Portland on a pretty regular basis.
When IN FLAMES finally took the stage, all the true metalheads in the room were redeemed. This fantastic Swedish band fuses traditional Gothenburg-style death metal with a very melodic and catchy edge, which is why In Flames has spawned or had something to do with numerous other great Swedish bands including Dismember, Dark Tranquility and HammerFall. They blasted on stage from the first second with some great tunes, very dry technical riffing, and solid vocals. Despite the poor acoustics and terrible set-up, In Flames was extremely enthusiastic and kept the energy very high. In fact they gave one of the most powerful performances of a metal band in Portland for quite some time! They plowed through a fair number of their really great songs from their last few albums.
(Ice Maiden's Commentary: Actually, the show was very heavy with Clayman songs-I remember hearing Bullet Ride (a personal fave), Pinball Map, Only for the Weak, ...As the Future Repeats Today and the title track. Also Scorn from Colony and Jotun from Whoracle. Peter Iwers (bass) was missing in action, apparently home waiting for the birth of his child-what about our needs?? Huh?
Dick Lövgren was filling in on bass. He has been playing in different
bands as a substitute, on tour as well as on albums. He has been on the
road with for example Eucharist and Arch Enemy (replacing Sharlee).. Absolutely no complaints -- at least from us. While many of the hardcore kids were getting into In Flames, some of the straightedgers stood back and scowled through the whole set. One kid, who glared at me with obvious distaste when I applauded Skinlab earlier, was laughing with his girlfriend at one point as they mocked the metalheads, made fun of the devil-hand stuff, and generally showed their contempt that a metal band was even at the club. Meanwhile, three young girls decided to liven up the mosh pit by joining hands and plowing through the crowd at top speed, knocking over as many innocent bystanders as possible like chain-shot through a Civil War infantry brigade -- in my opinion, a completely unacceptable way to "enjoy" a show, and I'm generally pro-mosh pits as long as they do not involve innocent bystanders. After one such assault, my friend Black Metal Chad -- who at a solid 6'2" is pretty much insurmountable by normal means -- simply pushed them aside and stepped into the middle of the pit, breaking up their "chain". One of the girls was very put-out by this and glared at him contemptuously, but there was nothing she could do about it.)
In Flames finished at about 9:45, and what followed was an immediate exodus of almost all the real metalheads who had come to Pine Street -- many of them bound for Satyricon. This was the beauty of the Exhumed show: it started at 10PM! Obviously someone was smart enough to figure out that few of the people who'd come for In Flames would stay for Earth Crisis and people would be hungry for more metal. They were right!
We quickly high-tailed it over to Satyricon and found things just getting started down there. Also I was surprised at the number of people -- an excellent turnout for 10PM on a Tuesday night. The first band up was called BENUMB. They were metal, but had a considerable hardcore influence, particularly evident in the vocalist. He frequently registered his rage and displeasure at the world by falling on the floor, contorting into a painful pose, and squeezing a vile-sounding shriek out of his stomach. This was certainly one of the most sincere metal vocal performances I've seen in quite a while...
The next band was ENGORGED, which featured the very tall, very thin, very talented guitarist from Thy Infernal. This guy is the "Cheshire Cat" of Portland metal. You know how in Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat disappears but his smile remains hanging over the scene, unchanged, no matter what's going on? Well, in Portland, the local band you're watching may change, but this dude always seems to be there playing guitar and playing it well -- Engorged is one of a number of bands he's in besides Thy Infernal, including Lord Gore and I think at least one other. Engorged also features the bassist from Thy Infernal, and with these two top-notch veterans at the helm, you can't go wrong. Indeed, I liked Engorged very much -- blistering death metal with just a little bit of a black metal style to it -- but their vocalist needs a little work. Also, moshing and jumping around through the crowd like G.G. Allin while you're trying to sing -- uh-uh. Not a good idea. Don't get me wrong, I liked this band, but I just think there's room for some improvement.
(Ice Maiden's Commentary: It's a shame about this vocalist-with his mirrored glasses and bald head he looked like The Cop from the Village People). Other than him these guys were awesome!)
The last band we stayed awake for was EXHUMED. I saw these guys at EJ's last year and was not impressed at all -- I recall they didn't live up to their hype as one of the most extreme "gore metal" bands out there, and their music was only so-so. I'm very happy to report that Exhumed certainly bounced back, and in fact gave me at least the strongest performance of the night with the exception of In Flames. Snappy guitars, suitably tortured vocals, and catchy but still sludgey-death songs -- all very well executed (pardon the pun) and done with style and fun. Exhumed are smart enough to not take themselves as deadly serious as some other gore bands, and it comes off pretty well. I liked everything they played, and their three little stage show touches -- one guy menacing the crowd with a chainsaw, the bassist barfing on cue, and a plastic severed head which was ripped open to have fake blood pour out -- were amusing. I would definitely see Exhumed again, and I hope I'll have the chance! (Ice Maiden's Commentary: Don't forget the drummer almost torching the stage lights while fire breathing! Had I known I would be asked to do reviews for Metal-Rules.com, I would have brought my camera in for this show. I'd love to be able to show you the bassist puking. The visuals were amazing! Dammit! This was the day their new album Slaughtercult was released, and we got to hear a few off of it, including the charmingly-titled Decrepit Crescendo, Forged in Fire and Vacant Grave. Interesting to note that the vocalist (Matt Harvey) thanked the crowd "for showing up for the true metal underground instead of that In Flames poseur shit across town." Doh! Although the crowd was definitely more appealing at Exhumed, I have to say that there were quite a few true metalheads at the In Flames show. A couple of folks had trekked all the way from Vancouver, B.C.-a six-hour drive-and were heading back the same night for work in the morning!)
There was at least one more band on this bill -- Cephalic Carnage, whom I've seen twice now -- but it was getting awfully late and we were very tired, so Ice Maiden and I took off, leaving Black Metal Chad literally bouncing off the walls and swinging from the rafters after the Exhumed set. Bed felt very good after this long evening of metal.
The next metal show to come to Portland will be former Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society, next weekend. We all have high hopes. Until then, stay metal...
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In Flames Pictures
We apologize for the graininess of the
Skinlab pics but they came out dark.