DragonForce/All That Remains/HORSE The Band
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Croatian Cultural Center
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
This was one strange bill. U.K. extreme power metallers’ DragonForce headlining over Massachusetts metalcore mavens, All That Remains and Nintendo-core/spazzoids, HORSE The Band. What was even more surprising than the round-peg-in-a-square-hole line-up was the fact that the show sold-out! An all-ages crowd of over 900 packed The Croatian Cultural Center for a hot—and I mean HOT—evening of metal that crossed genres, bridged gaps and almost ended up in a mass spontaneous combustion.
Since this was an all-ages show, HORSE The Band hit the stage early at 7:30. I absolutely loathed the band’s latest CD, THE MECHANICAL HAND. It seemed like an overt attempt at pretentious weirdness—in other words, weird for the sake of being weird. The band’s quirky, spastic hardcore is punctuated by the keyboards of Erik Engstrom (a dead ringer for Napoleon Dynamite), which are programmed to sound like the 8-bit effects of old video games. Admittedly, HORSE The Band is an entertaining live act and their music translates to the stage well but I still stand by my opinion on their studio efforts. Many fans were at the show strictly to see HORSE The Band and left immediately after their half-hour set. The band received a very good response to the delight of singer Nathan Winneke whose declaration that “The Black Hole” was about new drummer Chris Prophet’s Mom’s vagina, immediately put a smile on my face. This was only Prophet’s fourth show with the band and Winneke berated him several times with humorous insults to the delight of the crowd. Another curious component of the HORSE The Band stage-show involved a triangle player in a pink shirt. Winneke introduced him with “This is Ed. He’s Black and plays the triangle” and Ed proceeded to do the yet-unseen triangle headbang. Winneke appeared to be in convulsions through much of the set and Engstrom really got into the music, rocking his Korg MS-2000 synthesizer from front to back. Energetic yes, and I did keep focused during HORSE The Band’s set, but these guys are obviously a bunch of fun-loving goofballs and really seemed out of place on this bill of guitar wizardry and technical proficiency. Still, those who came to see HORSE The Band seemed generally pleased.
The second shock of the evening came when All That Remains’ set was cut down from 45 minutes to 25 minutes. Riding the wave of an excellent new CD, THE FALL OF IDEALS, and a second stage run on Ozzfest, All That Remains is the latest up-and-coming buzz band. Twenty five minutes allotted as second band on the bill—and five minutes less than the opener!—is ridiculous, though I think the firm 11:00PM curfew dictated this. A new rhythm section (Jeanne Sagan and Shannon Lucas on bass and drums, respectively) and vocally-enhanced frontman has taken the band to new levels alongside the stunning guitarwork of Oli Hebert and Mike Martin. Hebert’s leads are among the most underrated in modern metal circles and he got to show them off during a flashy solo midway through the band’s abbreviated set. Philip Labonte is a small guy but manages to combine a bone-jarring roar (“This Darkened Heart”) with a newly-honed clean vocal (“This Calling”) and occasional death metal growl (“The Weak-Willed”) that make him a serious force to be reckoned with behind the microphone. Last time All That Remains hit Vancouver, it was with As I Lay Dying and Throwdown on The Minions of Mosh Tour (read review HERE) and they played to about thirty people who stared indifferent and clueless. It’s now eighteen months later and all that has changed as All That Remains is moving up fast in the metal consciousness. Look for the band to have an even bigger 2007.
All That Remains’ Setlist
Tattered On My Sleeve
It Dwells In Me
The Air That I Breathe
This Darkened Heart
Before leaving the stage, Philip Labonte got the crowd whipped up for the headliners by stating matter-of-factly “DragonForce…the band that made it okay to have fun at a metal show again.” Inciting excitement with a clock counting down from 3:15 at center stage, the band really knows how to work a crowd (the trampolines should have tipped off any doubters). The CCC is an unpleasant venue at the best of times but with 900 rabid fans packed into it, the heat was almost unbearable and the humidity and sweat made it stink even worse. Once DragonForce stormed the stage, all hell broke loose and the crowd went berserk. Herman Li and Sam Totman stood side by side for much of the show, trading off solo after solo, riff after riff in a dizzying display of flawless skill and showmanship. Vadim Pruzhanov dazzled with his prominent keyboards and when he emerged with his key-tar to join Li and Totman, it was a visual straight out of 1988. Despite the heat and discomfort, vocalist ZP Theart was spot-on throughout the night, hitting all the highs perfectly. Theart’s fondness for dropping f-bombs seemed a bit out of place but the fans ate it up without a second thought. Even bassist Fred LeClerq got into the action with repeated bass noodlings between songs to keep the crowd going. Former Bal-Sagoth skinsman, Dave Mackintosh, is an absolute monster behind the drumkit with a flurry of double bass and triggered kicks that occasionally threatened to overpower everything but alongside the rest of the band, the sound was well mixed for the most part. For over 90 minutes, DragonForce sizzled but “Black Fire,” “Revolution Deathsquad,” “Operation Ground and Pound” and the encore of “Through The Fire and Flames” and “Valley of The Damned” were the standouts, perfectly melding both old (if one considers music from 2003 “old”) and new material.
Storming Through The Burning Fields
Fury of The Storm
Dawn Over A New World
Soldiers of The Wasteland
Operation Ground and Pound
My Spirit Will Go On
Through The Fire and Flames
Valley of The Damned
Like All That Remains, DragonForce is fresh off a stint on Ozzfest and their prominence is at an all-time high. Whoever thought a power metal band from England could bring out a sold-out crowd of teenagers on a Tuesday night must have made a mint because this show was hot, hot, hot. Nice to see a good turnout and Vancouver supporting a slightly lopsided bill of metal.
***Thanks to Jenny at House of Blues for the press pass.