Once in a while, often after a
long drought of shows during which you begin to feel a certain skepticism
that the citizens of your hometown may ever appreciate metal like they
used to, a show comes along that reaffirms your faith.
You go in to a slate of excellent bands recognizing the potential
the show has to be truly over the top, yet given recent events you’re
almost afraid to be too hopeful, lest you be disappointed when the lights
come back up. You’ve heard
most of your friends are going, but still count on a couple of missing
faces. Not quite sure what to
expect, you go in, grab a beer, start listening to the music, and find
yourself on a short, slippery slope to a flaming metal Valhalla that
teaches you all over again what metal is all about, and why you love it so
show was like that. Three
bands packed in a sweaty club on a Friday night, and all of them turned in
top-notch, stellar performances that stoked the vibe of the crowd in
exactly the right way to cause a virtual chain-reaction of holy metalness
that you just couldn’t help getting caught up in.
With the exception of Wacken, In Flames/Nevermore is the best metal
show I’ve seen in the year 2000, and probably (Wacken again excepted)
the best metal show I’ve seen since Death and HammerFall razed the same
club to the ground back in 1998. I’m
not sure I can even describe this show in any meaningful way, or at least
do so without baring more of myself than I probably ought to in a metal
We arrived at Satyricon on a
rainy, bitterly cold, windswept Friday night that was a little ominous.
(Ice Maiden's Commentary:
O.K., Muertos isn't giving the full background here.
He and I work together, and Friday night was also the night of our
firm's "Holiday Party" at the local country club.
We knew we had to attend this company event, but we also knew that
we would NOT miss a metal show, especially one with such an incredible
line-up. So, after work, we
changed into formal wear and, after a discussion about which tie Muertos
should wear that would be most offensive to the "must wear a
tie" policy of the country club, went to the company party, at which
we stayed for about an hour and a half.
Basically, it was a chance to gulp down free alcoholic beverages.
We then quick-changed again and headed over to the venue.
I only give this background so that you will understand our
emotions as we entered Satyricon—the stark contrast as we left the
shackles of the corporate shmooze-fest world for the vibrant world of
METAL. It was a very "Calgon,
take me away" moment).
We could almost feel the power of metal tugging at us as we went
inside. We arrived a bit late
and found SHADOW'S FALL already in-progress.
I didn’t see the beginning of the set, but judging from the
energy they were putting out midway through when we walked in, I
wouldn’t be surprised if they had come on-stage with a pretty furious
intensity from the get-go. This
was thrashy sorta-death-metal from a band I’m not very familiar with.
The mallcore-ish dreadlocks on the lead singer had me skeptical at
first, but I have to say Shadow’s Fall treaded very carefully and gave
the crowd exactly what they wanted – hard, punishing metal.
The perfect opening band is like a great appetizer before a big
meal. Ideally the appetizer
is a little meaty, very tasty, and gets you prepared for the main course
while still giving you something a little different than what you’ll be
eating later. Shadow’s
Fall, therefore, was the perfect opening band, whetting our appetites
admirably for the main course(s). (Ice
Maiden's Commentary: Hmmm….Shadow's
Fall was fine, but to use Muertos' analogy, they were a little more like
Cheese Whiz on a Ritz cracker than a fine brie on a baguette to me.
They got the job done, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way
looking for them in my local grocery store. ;) )
The anticipation for NEVERMORE was
a juggernaut. Part of this
may be from the fact that much of the Portland metal crew I hang out with
is comprised of die-hard Nevermore fans, and their energy was infectious
as we waited for the arrival of their patron band.
I didn’t even mind the fact that I couldn’t get a Black Butte
Porter at the bar (tap was busted!) and had to settle for India Pale Ale.
This was my first time for Nevermore and I have to say I had high
expectations, hearing my friends praise Warrel Dane frequently and express
repeated awe at the intensity of Dreaming
Neon Black and Politics Of
Ecstasy and various other reputed masterpieces from this thoughtful
Seattle power act. When
Nevermore finally did take the stage, I was surprised and impressed.
Riffs were very thick and heavy, on-stage energy and charisma was
very high, and the carping I’d been hearing about frontman Warrel Dane
flirting a bit too much with a mallcore image seemed completely unfounded.
(Ice Maiden's Commentary:
Ummm…Muertos? He was wearing a weird tight little black leather jacket.
I don't know if I would call it mallcore, but he was certainly
trying for some image that was….errr…different from your average pure
metal vocalist. Not that an
outfit or clothing make a band-- far from it-- and the music was
definitely true metal, but I did find the outfit strange.)
Indeed, he was metal to the core, and knew that the crowd wasn’t
here to see anything other than a real metal
band. I confess as a
first-timer to Nevermore I’m not really familiar with their set list and
can’t offer a truly informed opinion as to what it covered and what it
didn’t, but hey, that’s what Ice Maiden is here for!
The band did play some tunes from their new album, including the
title track to “Dead Heart in a Dead World,” and the odd cover of the
Simon & Garfunkel song “The Sound of Silence.”
(Ice Maiden's Commentary:
Oi! Fabulous set
list, I thought. They started
with "Narcosynthesis" at top energy, and played "The River
Dragon Has Come", "Evolution 169", and quite a few off of
Politics of Ecstasy and Dreaming Neon Black.
I guess it was too much to hope for the title track to DNB (even I
admit it would have been a little slow for this show), but other than that
there was a great mix of their old and new stuff.)
However, I can report truthfully that the energy of the crowd was
ratcheted steadily up, song by song, until by the end of the Nevermore set
the die-hard fans (including my friends) were getting up on stage,
shouting along to every word, and generally raising hell.
I was close enough to these guys to nearly have to duck to avoid
being hit by bass guitar necks and microphone cords snapping through the
air with impassioned force. Indeed,
I can’t really pick any bones with the Nevermore set at all, and having
the pleasure of meeting Warrel Dane after the show was merely an added
bonus! (Ice Maiden's
Commentary: This show
was pure heaven in terms of proximity to bands and (almost) crowd type.
Aside from the occasional freak who decided he was going to become
a mosh-pit all by his lonesome, the crowd was pure metal, and was surging
forward to scream along with the band.
EVERYONE in the front few rows was head-banging like crazy, and I
was lucky enough to be right in the very front, center-stage, in spittin'
distance from the band. Since the lads from Nevermore were literally less than a foot
away from me, they started hamming for the camera, which is why you'll see
more than one tongue-shot in my pictures.
What was also cool is that most of the band members came out into
the crowd after they played, to mix with the crowd and cheer the other
bands on. Ahhhh….metal
With these two acts behind us, the
pent-up energy inside Satyricon’s grimy, band-sticker-covered walls as
we waited for IN FLAMES was truly frightening.
Again I was almost afraid to be optimistic.
In Flames played a badly-organized show at the Pine Street Theater
in August, on the unfortunate bill which included Earth Crisis, and I was
hoping they’d take advantage of better surroundings, better sound and a much better crowd. Luckily
I wasn’t disappointed. These
melodic Gothenburg deathsters, who have taken a completely
vicious and unnecessary slagging during this Y2K, opened with the
astonishing “Bullet Ride” from their new Clayman
album, and it was a perfect choice to announce that In Flames had arrived
to kick everybody’s ass. Guitars
roared, drums blazed, Anders screamed, and through it all they wove a
tapestry of molten metallurgy that left no corner of the place – and
indeed no one in that room – unmoved by the power they exuded.
One blast followed another, with a fair amount of stuff from
earlier albums including Jester Race
and Whoracle, but for me the
ultimate moment of the entire show came during the Clayman
song “Only For The Weak.” During
this song, played with ultimate bone-rattling power that only the greatest
of metal bands could muster, the wonderful loudness and heaviness of the
music finally wove together with a beauty that was nothing short of
astonishing. Once in a while
a band’s music can be like a scalpel, cutting through and stripping away
levels of your consciousness until it leaves, open and exposed, an open,
raw, emotional core, unsullied by any shred of rational (or irrational)
coloration which changes your purely visceral response to the music.
In Flames did that, and in that moment nothing existed outside of
that room, and the whole universe became metal.
this point, you are probably reading and thinking that we are a bunch of
cheese-balls. The whole
universe became metal? What?
Unless you've experienced one of those perfect concert moments, you
can't understand it. This is
one of those times when it all came together, when we all came together.
The crowd was on fire. Everyone
was singing in unison. The
bands were having fun and it showed—Jesper couldn't help himself, every
so often he would break out into his Cheshire Cat smile.
They played a set list very similar to the show we saw a few months
back—"Bullet Ride," "Clayman" and "Pinball
Map" off of Clayman, along with "Episode 666", "Embody
the Invisible," "Scorn," "Ordinary Story" and
"Food for the Gods" are the ones I remember—but this time it
audience on hand appeared to be very pure.
While some of my friends complained of seeing posers, I don’t
recall seeing any mallcore T-shirts or anything else that was obviously
non-metal. Thankfully there
was not a mosh pit that was fully active for the entire show. A few times some weird isolated incidents of moshing broke
out spontaneously, but it was clear that most people at the front of the
stage were interested in just hearing and experiencing the bands.
There was some tussle up front at one point, though I can’t say
it seriously detracted from the show for me.
(Ice Maiden's Commentary:
and Jesper were so close to us in the front that at some point I got
knocked in the head by Anders' microphone stand and he had to pat my head
in apology, and all of us in the first row developed personal
relationships with the sharp points of Jesper's guitar).
For all my corny sentimentality I
can express only one real truth about this show, and that was that it kicked
ass. It was nearly perfect in every way: a cozy club setting on a
cold late-autumn night, surrounded by nearly all of my friends, with good
beer, good cheer and three bands that presented top-notch performances.
When the show was over it felt like the very air was still ringing
with its aura. Friends
chatted, band roadies struck equipment – I got my T-shirt signed by
Jesper Stromblad! – but all of us were pretty much dazed, or at least it
seemed that way to me. (Ice
Maiden's Commentary: With
Warrel sitting right there at the bar, I decided to ask him for some pics.
He ended up talking to us for a bit about the tour, the
cancellation of Dark Tranquillity from the bill, and the Metal-Rules.com
site. He said that this tour
was surprising in that every single show had been fun for the band.
All I can say is that if I could play with those folks, I'd be
having fun, too. Note to
self—practice guitar more.) So
we shuffled out into the cold December night, smelling like cigarette
smoke, covered in sweat, our ears ringing, and our hearts full of metal.
This is what it’s like
to be a metalhead, and why it’s all worth it.
If I ever come to question metal or my devotion to it, I dare say
it won’t take me long to come back to my senses.
I need only remember this show, and others like it.
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Nevermore - Live
In Flames - Live
Shadows Fall - Live