Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Nevermore / Opeth / Angel Dust / God Forbid / Psychotogen
May 6, 2001 (Jaxx Nightclub, Springfield VA)
by Alex Bischoff

Jaxx Nighclub seems to be the epicenter of Metal in Virginia (or, at least in Northern Virginia). I've seen some of the metal greats play there, including In Flames and King Diamond. This time, I went primarily for Nevermore, but there were some other excellent bands there as well. Before Nevermore (the headliner) played, there was Opeth, Angel Dust, God Forbid, and Psychotogen. The concert started at 6:15pm, with the doors opening at 6:00pm.

I arrived at 7:00pm, on purpose. I generally prefer to skip some of the opening bands, since they're often poor. As my friends and I walked through the door, the ticket-person informed us that God Forbid was about to start (Mike wanted to see God Forbid, but Brian and I hadn't heard of them). But, it did seem that we cleanly missed Psychotogen. I wasn't going to lose sleep over that.

Out of place with the rest of the bands on the bill, God Forbid was a bit in the death metal genre. They had good enthusiasm, but I didn't really care for their music. Primarily, the lead singer's ("Byron D") growling turned me off. It's not that I don't like growling (I like growling from In Flames and At The Gates, for instance), but his was very low and unintelligble, without any clear singing to break it up from time to time.

Next up was Angel Dust. I was really looking forward to this. I own two of their albums ("Enlighten the Darkness" and "Bleed"), and I would have even come to the concert even if it was only Angel Dust playing. (I have to give EvilG credit for my discovery of Angel Dust -- I bought "Enlighten the Darkness" without even listening to it first, just based on his review) After the concert, I listened to Angel Dust's albums so that I could be sure of which tracks they played (I also did this for Nevermore as well). Here're the tracks that I recall:

Angel Dust: Enlighten the Darkness (2000)

  • Let me Live
  • The One You Are
  • Enjoy!
  • Fly Away (maybe played this, I'm not certain)
  • Come Into Resistance
  • Cross of Hatred

Angel Dust: Bleed (1999)

  • Bleed
  • Black Rain (maybe played this, I'm not certain)
  • Never (fairly certain)

They opened the show with "Let me Live". This is one of my favourite tracks, with its keyboards and such, but it wasn't mixed very well at the show. Going on the assumption that the album-sound is the way that the band intended their sound, the keyboards at Jaxx were way too weak, while the vocals were a bit overpowering. It wasn't that bad, but something that could have been easily fixed. Really, I felt bad for Brian (a friend of mine at the show), since he hadn't heard Angel Dust before.

The setlist also included "Come Into Resistance". Before playing the song, the bassist Frank Banx commented about the song's meaning. He explained that it describes Germans who fought against the Nazis during World War II. Of course, Angel Dust is a German band, making such subject matter all the more interesting. This song also features keyboards, but I thought they were mixed too weak (just as with "Let me Live").

Angel Dust really is masterful, and I can't wait for their next album. Interestingly, CDNow appears to list a pre-order for Angel Dust's next album, to be released June 12, Border of Reality, even though the band's webpage makes no reference that the album is not-yet-released in the US.

As a point of interest, their guitarist (which would be Bernd Aufermann, assuming that they don't have a tour-only guitarist or anything) drank Budweiser (out of the can) during the show. Not that he'd drink while playing or anything, but just at times when he wasn't playing that moment. This miffs me a bit, not just because it was cheap domestic beer, but because I would expect better from an entertainer. I would think that drinking would impede his playing ability, and I would have preferred if he drank water or such instead.

I found Angel Dust to be quaintly German. When Banx commented about "Come Into Resistance", he had a bit of a German accent. And, at the end of the show, Dirk Thurisch (vocalist) thanked the audience saying "You are very great".

After Angel Dust, Opeth played. As a big fan of melodic death metal, friends have often recommended that I take a listen to Opeth. But, I never really got around to it -- now I'd have a full dose! Of course, not having heard Opeth before, I didn't recognize any of their songs. But, they did play beautifully (though the growling was a bit much for me). I recognize their technical skill and I don't blame others for liking them, but I didn't care for Opeth too much. After the set, my friend Mike commented to me that I should probably listen to some Opeth on CD anyhow, since some of the detail is lost in a live setting.

There was a good bit of wait between Opeth and Nevermore (for setup and sound checks), but I suppose that's understandable since Nevermore was headlining. So, in the meantime, I went up to the bar (Jaxx has two, but only one was open that evening). I ordered a Heineken, which was quite delicious. As I was sipping it, a girl approached me and asked me about where I got my shirt. I was wearing my Metal-Rules.com shirt (of course), and so I replied that "I ordered the shirt right from Metal-Rules.com." She then explained that she too visits the website, daily. I wasn't expecting to see another Metal-Rules visitor there, and so we had a nice little conversation about our favourite areas of the site (we both agreed that the CD Review and MP3 areas were especially good).

Nevermore soon took to the stage, and ripped right into it. They opened with "Inside Four Walls", if I recall correctly. As compared with other Nevermore songs, I don't care too "Inside Four Walls", live or otherwise. But, to make it interesting, it does include the lines:

"Its a cold fact, that in the United States Of America, typically drug offenders do more time than child molesters, rapists and murderers. Is this justice? Is this the American way?"

Since this is just a music review, I'm not going to comment on whether or not I agree with the line.

Nevermore played almost the entire "Dead Heart in a Dead World" album, but also songs from "Dreaming Neon Black" and "Politics of Ecstacy". These are the tracks that I recall, but they didn't necessarily play them in this order:

Nevermore: Dead Heart in a Dead World (2000)

  • Narcosynthesis
  • We Disintigrate
  • Inside Four Walls
  • Evolution 169
  • The River Dragon has Come
  • The Heart Collector
  • Engines of Hate (maybe played this, I'm not certain)
  • Sounds of Silence
  • Believe in Nothing
  • Dead Heart in a Dead World (fairly certain)

Nevermore: Dreaming Neon Black (1999)

  • Ophidian
  • Beyond Within
  • The Death of Passion
  • I Am the Dog (maybe played this, I'm not certain

Nevermore: Politics of Ecstacy (1996)

  • Next in Line

Before you start asking questions, I don't actually own the "Politics of Ecstacy" album, so that's why I couldn't be sure about that many tracks they played from it. I have listened to it in the past, but I didn't like it enough to buy it at the time. That's not to say that it's a bad album. I mean, after all, CDNow rates it "All Music Guide Pick: Best of Artist". Personally, my favourite of those three is "Dreaming Neon Black". It's also has my favourite metal-album cover art of all time -- that hand reaching out of the abyss is just killer :). But, speaking of cover art, the cover art from "Dead Heart in a Dead World" graced the stage in the form of two wall hangings on each side of the stage back-lit with blue lights. They were about three or four foot wide each, and it gave a nice atmosphere to the show.

Going on, Nevermore also played "Evolution 169". I never really liked this song, but hearing it live just changed my mind. As with any of the Nevermore songs that I knew the words to, I sang along to "Evolution 169" (along with the rest of the audience). But, to my surprise, I could actually hit the right note for the word "Nine" right along with Warrel Dane (the vocalist). Not that I'm an expert singer, (I'm sure I messed up most of the rest of the notes), but it was kinda cool to me that I could at least get one note just right.

Warrel seems like a fun guy. His costume was a studded black leather outfit, which was almost goth-like. But, I've seen him wear it at other shows, so I presume that it's just part of his stage presence. Between songs, as I'm sure has happened at any concert that you've been to, fans yelled out requests for songs (in my case, I yelled out "Poison Godmachine!", since that's one of my absolute favourites from Dreaming Neon Black). During one such exchange, a fan yelled out a request and Warrel replied "Be patient, that's coming up later in the show!". But, after another yelled request from another fan, Warrel replied back "What are you -- psychic? Or, did you just read the fucking setlist taped to the wall?".

Much to the joy of the crowd, Warrel got off on a tangent between one of the songs, about MTV. It started with him commenting that the band had just finished shooting a video (sorry, I don't remember exactly which one), and then saying that "Of course, you'd never see it on MTV. Then again, I think I'd shoot myself if I were ever on TRL". In true metal-fan spirit, that generates a good response from the crowd, including "Fuck MTV!" and "Kill Carson!". It was rather amusing.

Since I mentioned the Budweiser from Angel Dust, I'll mention also that Warrel drank Heineken during the show. Now, at least he had the good taste to drink decent beer, but I still found it to be unprofessional. I mean, especially as the vocalist, I would think that pure water would do better for his singing ability.

I did mention that Nevermore played almost every track from "Dead Heart in a Dead World", but they played some from "Dreaming Neon Black" as well (ahhh). In case you don't recognize its name from the list of songs above, "Ophidian" is the sound-effects-only track from "Dreaming Neon Black" that serves as an intro track to the album, and also an intro to "Beyond Within". And, "The Death of Passion" may not ring a bell with you, but the refrain to that one is "I Feel So Hollow" (remember now?).

Nevermore really saved the best (idea) for last. As usual with any band, they played their "last" song, and then walked off stage. But, we all knew it was just a ruse (we could even see Jeff Loomis smoking a cigarette just off stage, taking a break before the finale). So, of course, the crowd cheered for "Encore!" and Nevermore came back out. For the finale, I believe Warrel introduced it as "Here's a song from the 60's we're going to fuck up!" For those in the audience who couldn't figure it out from that clue, the opening licks soon revealed that they were going for "The Sound of Silence". As it happens, I thought the original (by Simon and Garfunkel) was pretty good, but I still preferred that to the Nevermore cover.

But, about a minute into the song, Warrel made a suggestion to the audience: "Let's get up on stage." At first, we all kinda looked at each other -- we thought he was only kidding with us. Then he cajoled us on: "Come on! Who's going to be first?" With that remark, the security guards looked a little uneasy, to say the least. What then started out as a trickle of one or two people soon became a swarm as fans climbed over the aluminum railing and bounded on stage (me included!). Man, you might not think it, but jumping around on stage (right next to Nevermore!) is a blast. That lasted a good couple minutes, but then the security guards went into action (at this point the stage was virtually packed with band members, stage hands, and fans). The guards lined up shoulder-to-shoulder at one end of the stage and just marched towards us, forcing us to back up and jump down off the stage. It was a bummer at the time, but I suppose I don't hold it against them, since it was their job. But, it was a whole lot of fun while it lasted!

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