Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Metal Meltdown III
Asbury Park Convention Center - NJ, USA
Friday April 6th, Saturday April 7th 2001

Review by EvilG
Photos by Imaginessa & EvilG

I decided to split my review for the festival onto two pages to accommodate people with dial up modems because these pages are very graphic intensive. This page will cover the what I say on Friday. Since we don't get anything in the way of live bands where I am located, this is my debut attempt at writing a concert review, so don't be too hard on me ok?! Regarding the pictures - those that I thought turned out the best are clickable so you can see them full screen. The so-so ones are left at reduced size on the page.

I had been looking forward to making the trek to NJ, USA for months. I'll begin my tale with the ride into Asbury Park, NJ. I had heard it called a "war zone" and now I know why. Many of the businesses on the way into the downtown had steel fences around them topped with razor wire. Of course all the windows had bars on them as well. We were looking around thinking, "where in the hell are we?" However after we got out of that section of town, it was not so bad in some places and can actually be a very pretty town. I'm sure in it's day Asbury Park was a very popular tourist spot. Luckily our home during the festival was the hotel right across the street from the venue (the Asbury Park Convention Center)!

 

DAY 1 - FRIDAY APRIL 6, 2001

The opening day of the festival…myself and Rick decided to go over early in the afternoon to see the vendor booths and to check out some of the opening underground bands. Not a lot of people were milling about but all of those who were looked like metalheads. Never had I been in a place where there were more longhaired guys then shorthaired. Cool, I actually fit in for a change ha!

The way the stages were laid out was great. I've heard complaints from previous years but this one had a fine setup. There were three stages. The smallest one was the Relapse Records stage that was in the main room with all the vendor booths. That being the only slight problem because it was hard to talk metal with a band playing in the same room. On either side of the main room were short hallways connecting to the other stages - the Digimetal stage and where I made my home for 95% of the festival - the Snakenet Metal Radio stage. The Digimetal stage was a big room with a large concrete floor surrounded by bleachers. The Snakenet stage was in an old styled theatre. This meant that there was seating and no standing room for watching the bands. However a comfy seat was at times appreciated when you have two days of metal to watch! As you may know, myself and Rick are DJ's on Snakenet Metal Radio....so please check out the show and the station! :-)

So back to the bands…on Friday afternoon no one was playing who we had heard of so we wandered from stage to stage and the three bands that were on all sounded very generic and similar. It wasn't quite mallcore, but it was pretty close. The bands for the most part were comprised of "metal looking" dudes but the common annoying factor amongst them all was the lead singer. Picture your typical mallcore kid with shaved head, baggy pants and screaming like Phil Anselmo in the heavy parts and whining like K**n in the "emotional" parts…ughh. Needless to say we headed off to the vendor booths and poked through the stuff for a while. We decided to go have something for supper and return for the "real" bands after.

 

TAPPING THE VEIN
By about 7:00PM myself, Rick and Imaginessa return to the venue well fed and ready for a night of METAL!!!!! A press conference was soon to begin but before that we managed to catch most of TAPPING THE VEIN's (www.tappingthevein.com) set at the Digimetal stage. We didn't know who they were, but the lead singer caught our eye (see below) and besides, she was the first person we had heard that day that was SINGING! That's right - not barking, not hissing, not whining, not belching, not screaming…. just very well done clear melodic vocals. I happen to like some death /black vocals but these guys mentioned earlier were doing the sore throat screaming - very un-cool and untalented. Tapping The Vein's vocals reminded me of bands like Lacuna Coil but the music seemed more like a heavy Alice In Chains. They were great live and I unfortunately don't know their music yet so I can't comment on what they played. The band is comprised of their lovely female vocalist, Heather Thompson, guitarist Mark Burkert, drummer Eric Fisher (also handles the sampling and programming) and bassist Joe Rolland. The band mentioned they were recently signed to Nuclear Blast so I'm sure we'll be hearing more about them soon. I checked out a few of their MP3's on MP3.com and it was nothing like their live performance!!! The guitars were hidden and it sounded very techno / goth...hmmmm weird. Maybe they were playing newer stuff live which is a little heavier. Either way, they were great live and worth seeing.

 

PRESS CONFERENCE
After Tapping The Vein finished their set it was off to the press conference where Amorphis, Opeth, Vintersorg, Pain, Diecast, Bludgeon, God Forbid AND Primal Fear were represented. It was kind of bizarre seeing these guys sitting behind a table as opposed to being on stage. Some big dude was acting as ringleader for the event keeping things flowing along nicely. No groundbreaking information was divulged so my initial disappointment with not having a recorder on hand didn't bother me. It was just cool to be in the same room with these guys and to hear them talking. Representing Amorphis was guitarist Esa Holopainen, a happy to be there Peter Lindgren (guitars) was there from Opeth, Vintersorg himself was at the table, Peter Tägtgren of Pain was there in all his undead glory looking rather malnourished and sleep depraved yet way cool. Mark from Bludgeon was at the table but I don't know anything about them except that they are the first band signed to Manowar's new record label. Members of Diecast and God Forbid were there toting their backwards baseball hats looking very un-metal and more like college frat boys. They seemed nice enough but I don't know anything about them at all. Lastly and most importantly was Ralf Scheepers from PRIMAL FEAR!!!!!! Some of the questions asked concerned the bands playing in the States, Vintersorg's new role as Borknagar's vocalist, Opeth's beginnings (when they wanted to be the "evilest" band ever), etc. After the press conference ended most of the "metal gods" were whisked away pretty fast. However Peter from Opeth was chatting with people so over we went!! We had a quick chat about their live set and them playing in Toronto, Canada the next night. Then we snapped a couple pictures and off we went to the Snakenet stage where all the bands wanted to see for the rest of the night would play.

We have a lot of pictures from the press conference. We picked out the best ones and put them all on the one page here.

 

VESPERIAN SORROW
After securing front row seats in front of the Snakenet stage we got to see a band called VESPERIAN SORROW. The band is from Austin Texas where the singer said at least twice that it was "nice and fucking hot, unlike cold-ass New Jersey." Well we thought NJ was pretty damn nice compared to our 20ft high snow piles we'd left behind! I guess the style of metal Vesperian Sorrow play is black metal, US styled. They didn't have the panda bear make up on though! Both guitarists looked like Anton Levay with their shaved heads but man could they ever rip on the guitar! Excellent melodic leads by both impressed me. The vocalist, although decent, was kind of one-dimensional with his screaming. In parts he had an effect on his voice that made him sound like a demon. The singer threw out a number of t-shirts during their set which people went savage over. No shirt was thrown my way though. 

 

VINTERSORG
Coming all the way from Norway, Vintersorg took to the stage with a sizable and enthused crowd in attendance. I bought the new Vintersorg CD after witnessing his live performance, so when he played I wasn't overly familiar with all the music except for "Rainbow Demon" (a Uriah Heap cover) that they do. Vintersorg introduced the song with "the next song is Rainbow...??" - we all yell  "DEMON"! That song was my highlight from their set. For the live setting Vintersorg was playing bass (along with doing vocals). They also played "A Dialog With The Stars" and "Cosmic Genesis" and my other highlight song from them "Till Fjälls" - awesome chorus, sung in Swedish, memorable! Vintersorg sings in a black metal voice for about 40% of the music. The other 60% is in a clean yet deep voice - very nice! Their music, like the vocals, is also diverse. From heavy black metal styles to melodic, atmospheric almost folk-like moments. One thing we noticed during Vintersorg's set was a very young kid, between 12-14 yrs old in attendance with his dad! What a cool dad huh? Besides that we started calling him "Adrian Son of Satan" (those of you who visit the MR bulletin board will know who we are talking about). Like Adrian Son Of Satan, this guy knows his lyrics! He was singing along with all the stuff word for word!! We even heard him talking to some other people between bands and he really knew what he was talking about. So young, yet so knowledgeable about metal! Cool! For more info on Vintersorg drop by www.vintersorg.com.

PAIN
This was my biggest surprise of the festival. My previous knowledge of Peter Tägtgren's Pain was limited. I didn't expect much from it because I had heard the music was techno influenced. However, it was not far into the first song that I was yelling to Rick "these guys are fucking awesome!" The music had that techno keyboard feel, especially noticeable during the intros but once the drums, two guitars and Peter's vocals came it it was HEAVY!! Live, Pain didn't have a bass player and I couldn't  tell from listening if there was a prerecorded bass track playing in the background or not. The guitars were so heavy and thick that the bass probably would of been buried anyway!

To me, one mark of success for a live band is if you can go to them without knowing any of their songs but leave remembering them! The songs that I remember them playing include "Suicide Machine", "On and On", "Breathing In, Breathing Out" and "End of The Line." I am going on memory here plus I've since obtained Pain's latest album REBIRTH and I recognized some of the songs! Besides Pain's crushing music they had an AMAZING stage presence. Peter OWNED the stage!!! He was not one of those boot gazers nor was he afraid to walk around, come to the edge of the stage, etc. His Pinhead leather trench coat, massive boots with evil buckles (that he liked to plop down on top of the monitors while singing), his leather apron thingy and leather pants...fuck he looked cool! Several times the band were swinging their head in circles - hair flying everywhere, total neck wrenching insanity! One of the guitarists (the dude with the Charles Manson look and beard) appeared very intimidating. When the guitars would stop he'd stand there staring into the crowd making eye contact with people and would stand still, just staring you down doing this heavy heaving breathing from the exertion. When the guitars would cut back in his face would contort and again the hair would fly....COOOOOLLL!!!  Needless to say Pain has made some new fans!

Sidenote: Funny moment regarding PAIN. At 6am on Sunday morning some "brilliant" partier decided to pull the fire alarm in the hotel. Most didn't make it out or were too passed out to care but I went outside. The fire trucks were there and a few sleepy/grumpy metalheads were outside seeing what it was all about. Amongst the sleepy metalheads was a very wide awake Peter Tägtgren along with the rest of Pain! One of them and some chick proceeded to wrestle on the ground....quite entertaining and made up for getting awoken so early in the morning for a false alarm!


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OPETH
After the excitement of Pain, things switched gears rather quickly with Opeth. When they walked out on stage the band got quite the reaction from the crowd. In fact, Opeth got the biggest audience reaction for Friday and the second biggest crowd appreciation that I witnessed at the festival! I admit I'm not all knowledgeable about Opeth, but I do like them and I had heard their new CD BLACKWATER PARK quite a bit prior to seeing them live. Opeth have the exact opposite stage presence from Pain. They hardly move, hardly talk, and are just plain boring to watch. Maybe the band was having an off night or maybe the song selection was not the best?!?! All I know is that I felt like I was going to fall asleep during their set - especially during the slow acoustic moments. Talk about a never ending, dragging on, mind numbing set!! If you are a big Opeth fan you are probably ready to kill me now but I am not going lie and say how awesome and energetic they were because they unfortunately were not. Based on this one performance I would say that Opeth are a much more enjoyable listen on album. The amount of material they played from the new album was not enough for me. Anyway, below are a couple of pictures of the band - I don't want to rag on them any longer because there are a great studio band and deserve the accolades they've been getting...just not for their live performance.


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AMORPHIS
By now the bands were running late...no surprise there. When Amorphis hit the stage it was already heading close to 2am and due to noise laws or some other crap the bands had to be off the stage at 2am. This meant that Amorphis would be the last band to play for the night and it meant they didn't get as long as they deserved...well in my opinion they didn't. Maybe it's because I'm such a big fan of Amorphis that the time they played flew! The one negative thing I will say about Amorphis is regarding their (lack of) stage presence. The singer hardly moved except for making these odd hand gestures throughout their set. The rest of the band kind of stood there as well?!?! What's with that huh? The most challenging thing was my attempts to get a picture of the vocalist, Pasi Koskinen's face! The way he'd hang his head meant his face was 80% obscured with hair. When it wasn't hair in the way it was his microphone! He insisted on holding it right over his face with two hands in front of it...he also would not ever look out into the crowd. Maybe we distract him from his hand gesturing routines? (hehe!) Anyway, despite the bands lack of visual excitement I was still stocked to see them live because I was loving ever second of the music!! They played "Divinity", "Greed" and "The Way" from TUONELA. Pasi introduced "The Way" in a calm voice saying "since the stars have shone, the devil has shown ME the WAY."  They played a few songs from their brand new album AM UNIVERSUM which at the time I was not familiar with. I believe they at least played "Alone" and "Goddess (Of The Sad Man)" from the new album. I guess my biggest disappointment was the lack of older material in the setlist. I know their time was short but they should of thrown in at least one track from TALES FROM THE THOUSAND LAKES or from ELEGY. I'm sure on their tour they must be playing some of the older material?!?! In any case, although I was stoked to see Amorphis is was bittersweet. My first comment after they finished their set was "that was too short!!" Maybe I'll get a chance to see them again someday.

 
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DAY 2 - SATURDAY APRIL 7, 2001
Read on for coverage of Primal Fear, Exciter, Anvil, Flotsam & Jetsam and others!

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