Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Vancouver, BC Canada
**Live Report & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
Unlike our metal compatriots across the pond, big, all-day festivals are a real luxury in North America. In fact, up until this summer, Ozzfest was our only respite of marathon-length headbanging however with Megadeth?s Dave Mustaine kicking off his Gigantour and the Sounds of The Underground just wrapping up, 2005 will separate the men from the boys. The one thing that splits these three tours is that, with the exception of Sweden?s Opeth, Sounds of The Underground is made up entirely of bands from North America. That certainly keeps the power metal fiends at bay but considering the fact that seventeen bands made it to Vancouver, there was a fairly unique and diverse grouping of acts to entertain the hordes.
One thing that was immediately apparent was how much less corporate-driven Sounds of The Underground was than Ozzfest. As good as the bands at Ozzfest are, one cannot help but feel a mysterious pulling at one?s wallet the second you are through the gate. Now, Sounds of The Underground certainly had its share of sponsors and the banners and logos were everywhere but the hard sell was never overly put on. Granted, the confiscation of any outside food or drink (including gum!!!) left a bad taste in many people?s mouths, especially when confronted with the concession prices, but at the same time, this is how the venue makes its money. Merch boots were the first thing seen once inside and the $20 CD prices had a less than ?underground? feel to them but that didn?t seem to stop fans from scooping up swag left, right and center. Bands were trotted out to sign autographs at their respective merch booths and fans circled around them getting anything and everything signed they could. Across the floor, PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) had a booth set up showing the horrific scenes inside a cattle slaughterhouse, however the irony seemed to be lost on them with the concession stand selling hot dogs and flipping burgers not 30 feet from their booth. On the flipside, vegetarians were given the option of following their diet with veggie burgers?at $6.00 a pop! Oh, and the venue only had FIVE of them on hand! Shame, shame, shame!!!
The Forum is notorious for having poor sound and this show was no exception. Once the place filled up later in the day, things improved but bands that were stuck playing in the early afternoon really suffered as a result. Hollow, feedback-filled sets plagued the early risers and a lot of feathers were ruffled on stage, including Devil Driver?s Dez Fafara, who looked like he was ready to kill the sound man. Mic problems and various other technicalities reared their ugly heads but overall, the day seemed to go pretty smoothly. Set changeovers were never more than ten minutes and even after ten hours of non-stop bands gracing the stage, show closers Lamb of God were still right on track when they hit the stage at 9:55PM. A DVD crew was on hand filming various acts throughout the day, as well as getting the requisite crowd shots. It was a scorcher outside and the combination of intense heat and a few thousand bodies made for sweltering, jungle-like conditions inside. Still, the fans made the best of the Forum?s ?no in/out? policy and settled in for 11 hours of getting smacked around, all in the name of heavy music.
A delay in getting my press pass forced me to miss the first band entirely?Massachusetts metalcore act, All That Remains?and sadly the first half of Madball?s set was also missed. The New York hardcore legends seemed to hold the building crowd in the palm of their hand and had no problem getting a decent-sized circle pit going. Personally, I knew of Madball in name only and was genuinely interested in catching their show. What I did see of Madball, they definitely deserve their legendary status.
Devil Driver was up next and right from the get-go, things seemed to go wrong. Screeching feedback could be heard throughout their set and Dez Fafara scowled endlessly at the sound man who looked totally perplexed and helpless. The few times when there was no feedback, Fafara?s vocals were barely audible. The rest of the band sounded good but Fafara was definitely suffering the burden of the sound woes. Still, Devil Driver played a solid 25-minute set drawn from their self-titled 2003 debut and the newly-released THE FURY OF THE MAKER?S HAND. Fafara thanked everyone for ?coming out so early in the morning? (since when is 1:00PM early in the morning?!?) before inciting a circle pit by launching into the new heavy hitter ?Hold Back The Day.? Besides the vocal troubles, the band was faithful to the originals and Fafara is a charismatic frontman. The new CD should put any lingering comparisons to his previous nu-metal roots in Coal Chamber to rest that dogged him previously. Opeth?s Peter Lindgren and Martin Lopez took in the band?s set from stageside and seemed to be digging another of the new tracks, ?Driving Down The Darkness.? I was hoping to hear the blistering ?Before The Hangman?s Noose? from the new album but it was not to be. As the day went on, people were buzzing about Devil Driver?s set and unlike Fafara, people seemed generally pleased. This was my third time seeing the band and they are definitely improving as a live act. With a killer new CD on store shelves, expect 2005 to be a banner year for Devil Driver.
DEVIL DRIVER SETLIST
Hold Back The Day
Driving Down The Darkness
Cry For Me Sky
End of The Line
I Could Care Less
I was new to A Life Once Lost and did not know what to expect. The screeching vocals of Bob Meadows didn?t do much for me and the spastic metalcore of ?Needleman,? ?Hunter,? ?Vulture,? ?With Pitiless Blows? and ?The Wicked Will Rot? seemed to leave a good chunk of the crowd indifferent, as well. An energetic frontman, Meadows suffered more microphone problems, at one point even throwing a mic to the ground, but all in all, the band seemed to do their thing well, even though their thing certainly isn?t my thing. One trend that seemed to run rampant amongst bands of this type on the bill was the wearing of 80s metal shirts. Both guitarists of A Life Once Lost were sporting Whitesnake and Destruction t-shirts and while I am assuming the inescapable string of Whitesnake videos may have seeped into these guys? brains at some point as kids, I would bet my left nut that they have never heard a Destruction song in their life, let alone be able to name one. Retro cool would rear its ugly head again later on?
The genius of High on Fire was one of the big draws to Sounds of The Underground for me personally. Matt Pike?s post-Sleep band is riding high on 2005?s critically-acclaimed BLESSED BLACK WINGS and their set would eventually turn out to be one of the best of the day. As the band took to the stage, Pike remarked, ?Where is everybody,? as the bulk of the crowd inexplicably disappeared after A Life Once Lost?s set. Those who did stick around were treated to 25 minutes of rumbling sludge that was way too short. Pike commanded the stage with bassist Joe Preston lurking in the shadows next to his cabs and drummer Des Kensel pounding away behind a good-sized kit. ?Cometh Down Hessian,? ?Devilution? and the punishing ?Anointing of Seer? from the new record rocked the house and the bass heavy instrumentation must have peeled the paint from The Forum?s walls. I hope High on Fire comes around again on a headlining tour, or even as part of a package which affords them longer on stage, because this band smoked!
Going from High on Fire?s downtuned sludge to the aggressive hardcore of Terror was a difficult transition but the band kept the momentum up and delivered another memorable set. I recognized the cover art of Terror?s latest release, 2004?s ONE WITH THE UNDERDOGS, immediately but that was my only familiarity with this band. While I would hardly call myself a hardcore fan, some of the music does appeal to me and forsaking the usual stereotypes of that genre, Terror piqued my interest. Vocalist Scott Vogel announced the band would be back in October with fellow hardcore stalwarts, Converge, so I just may have to check that show out. Driven by guitarists Frank Novinec and Doug Weber, the band cranked through ?Overcome,? ?Keep Your Mouth Shut,? the title track and ?Keep Your Distance? and ?Push It Away? from their 2003 debut, LOWEST OF THE LOW. Novinec actually resembles uber-villain, Jaws, from the James Bond movies with what appears to be a mouthful of metal teeth! The energy displayed on stage by Terror was commendable and is definitely the sign of a young, hungry band eager for the big time.
For some reason, the crowd seemed to be particularly eager to see Norma Jean, another band whose popularity escaped me. Their blend of noisy, spastic math metal seemed like more of a Dillinger Escape Plan-lite than anything else but the crowd was going nuts for them. Norma Jean?s pretentiously-long and cryptic song titles certainly make them stand out from the pack but ?Vertabraille,? ?Murderotica,? ?Dilemmachine? and ?Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste? did nothing for me at all. Maybe I?m getting old, too, because as the next band?s drummer circled through the crowd to prepare for their set, the dumbfounded looks and questions of ?Gene who?!? left me shaking my head?
The sole Canadian act on Sounds of The Underground (or ?Sounds of My Underpants,? as vocalist/guitarist Devin Townsend would call it), hometown heroes Strapping Young Lad were a bit of the oddballs on this tour. Taking the stage to the theme from ?The Trailer Park Boys? television show, Townsend & Co. showed the audience just what being underground and extreme is all about. Townsend strode on stage with his usual swagger and yelled, ?Scream for me, Long Beach!!? although I think the nod to Iron Maiden?s LIVE AFTER DEATH album was lost on many in attendance. It was immediately revealed by Townsend that, no, the slim figure on bass guitar was not Byron Stroud showing the results of the Slim-Fast diet, but in fact it was Devildriver?s Jon Miller filling in. Stroud also plays in Fear Factory and his touring commitment with that band kept him from playing the Sounds of The Underground dates however Townsend first joked that he was, in fact, doing gay porn in Los Angeles and later said that he had joined the ?Enuff Z?nuff reunion tour. Townsend?s humor continued throughout their set as he told the crowd to ?buy a shirt and then fuck off? and earlier inciting the crowd to shout out the chorus to that most-Canadian of hard rock anthems, Helix?s ?Rock You.? Musically, the band?s set was criminally short at only 25 minutes (especially given that later bands like the god-awful Poison The Well were given longer) and with Townsend?s endless banter, that left even less time for songs. Surprisingly, ?Love?? was the only song played from this year?s underdog ALIEN, but that track definitely killed live and every Strapping release was focused on in their five song set. The band was tight, Gene Hoglan showed the ill-informed just who ?Gene? was and the raucous booing signaled that the crowd wanted more, but this tour is run like a tight ship and their calls remained unanswered. In typical SYL fashion, Townsend left the stage after telling the hungry mob ?We rule! We own you! Stuff yourself with a turd!?
STRAPPING YOUNG LAD SETLIST
All Hail The New Flesh
In The Rainy Season
After seeing Throwdown on the Minions of Mosh tour with As I Lay Dying earlier this year (read review here), I knew the hardcore foursome was something. True, they do embody every clich? of hardcore music known to man but there is just something about the band?s live performance that slays everything in its path. The good thing about hardcore is that a band like Throwdown can squeeze in eight or nine songs in 25 minutes, so fans got a good sense of what their music is all about. Frontman Dave Peters is hardcore to the bone with baggy, cammo shorts, shaved head and more tough guy attitude than Henry Rollins and Roger Miret combined. I usually loathe these qualities but Peters wears it well and has a charisma that extends beyond the cookie-cutter hardcore frontman archetype. His dedication of the anthemic ?Unite? to ?all hardcore kids, metalheads and punks? seemed genuine and summed up the whole reason behind the Sounds of The Underground. When Throwdown trotted out a damn fine version of Sepultura?s ?Roots Bloody Roots,? the entire crowd got whipped up and moshed together like one big happy family. Other highlights from Throwdown?s set included ?Family,? ?Hopeless,? ?Step It Up? and ?Forever,? while songs from the brand-spankin?-new VENDETTA CD included ?We Will Rise? and ?Speak The Truth.? Throwdown was a welcome addition to this tour and when combined with Terror and Madball, this show was a real treat for hardcore enthusiasts.
Intro (Never Back Down)
Speak The Truth
Roots Bloody Roots
Step It Up
We Will Rise
Much like A Life Once Lost and Norma Jean, Every Time I Die?s popularity defies logic. I skipped this band?s mix of emo-core whining at last year?s Ozzfest and should have done the same here. Unoriginal in look and sound, the only description fitting of Every Time I Die is that they are absolutely terrible and everything that is wrong with heavy music in 2005.
Somehow, I have lived to the ripe old age of 33 without having bore witness to a live GWAR show. I have been a fan of the band for years and own all of their CDs but somehow, I was just never able to get down to see them perform, so being front row and center with camera in hand had me as giddy as a schoolgirl. The scene in the photopit was amusing to say the least, as my fellow camera-toting compatriots were dressed head to toe in plastic rain slickers. I had my camera wrapped in a plastic grocery bag with just the lens and flash sticking out and I decided to let the torrent of fluids wash over my head and face. As the stage began to take shape, the wasteland of the transplanted Antarctic aliens along with the blood cannons, skulls and plastic tarps was a sight to see. As the lights lowered, Oderus Urungus came out accompanied by the Nazi Pope and it was not long before the two took to battle. Of course, the Nazi Pope lost in a duel with Oderus? seven-foot broadsword and the Pontiff?s decapitation saw the first crimson shower bathe the crowd (and intrepid photographers) for at least 3-4 minutes. Other characters adding to the bloodbath included George W. Bush, ?The Reaganator? (uttering ?ketchup is a vegetable and so am I?) and something Oderus described as a cave troll. The ?half-time show? led by GWAR was as interesting as legend dictates and in the span of a half hour, the band left a mess that was almost as fascinating to see getting cleaned up as the show itself. As quickly as GWAR left the stage, a team of people armed with fire hoses, gas-powered leaf blowers, mops, buckets and towels were left with the unenviable chore of erasing any traces of the carnage that preceded them in order for Opeth to take the stage twenty minutes later. While ducking the blasts of blood and green ooze and keeping track of all the sights on stage (not an easy task with the five-piece band and at least a dozen club-wielding slaves scurrying about), I was left unable to get a complete setlist however I did catch ?Saddam A Go-Go,? ?Womb With A View,? ?Bring Back The Bomb,? ?Maggots? and the perennial GWAR hit, ?Sick of You.?
LotW & Dan from The Megalith after the GWAR bloodbath (Thanks for the pic, guys)!!!
Opeth?s first (and last) visit to Vancouver was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Drummer Martin Lopez bailed on the tour at the eleventh hour leaving Opeth with no choice but to cancel several Canadian dates and employing Lopez?s drum tech and finally Strapping Young Lad drummer Gene Hoglan for the Vancouver show (read review here). In what was scheduled to be a full show, the band played for little more than an hour and left many fans feeling bitter. Unfortunately, Opeth?s luck wasn?t much better this time around as Hoglan was once again behind the kit and Lopez?s absence was cited as being treated for a pre-existing medical condition. Opeth?s epic-length songs aren?t suited for an abbreviated set of forty minutes and they only played four tracks, including ?The Grand Conjuration? from the upcoming Roadrunner Records debut, GHOST REVERIES. Opeth is not the most exciting live band and when they finally knuckled down with a blistering version of ?Demon of The Fall,? the crowd seemed to awaken from near catatonia. To make matters worse, the band?s subdued show was made even drearier after following GWAR?s sideshow. Vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt promised a return to Vancouver with a proper, full-length show soon and many fans are eagerly waiting to see what Opeth can do at full strength.
To Rid The Disease
The Drapery Falls
Demon of The Fall
The Grand Conjuration
Unearth have become local favorites, having visited Vancouver three times in a little over a year, and getting bigger responses each time. This date was my fourth time seeing the band and as always, they were a highlight. Unearth seems to have fun on stage?plain and simple. Granted, they play heavy music but guitarists Ken Susi and Buzz McGrath feed off of each other and Susi never stops moving, providing the on stage comic relief. Susi had ?FUCK OFF? written in black Jiffy marker up his arm, did some impromptu push-ups and sampled from a beer bong provided by All That Remains? Phil Labonte?all while playing. Unfortunately, because Unearth has only two albums under their belts, the setlist is becoming a bit tired to those who have been to all three shows, but there is no denying the power of tracks like ?The Great Dividers,? ?Black Hearts Now Reign,? ?This Lying World? and ?Only The People? in a live setting. Unearth?s popularity will continue to snowball and being on a bill like Sounds of The Underground will help them immensely.
The Great Dividers
This Lying World
Only The People
Black Hearts Now Reign
Definitely a low point of the show, Poison The Well?s emo/metalcore drivel had me wretching alongside the stage. I skipped photographing them altogether and will give them no more space other than to say that the fact they landed a 30-minute slot over other far superior (and deserving) acts on the tour was a travesty. Terrible, terrible, terrible?
Being the oddball group out of seventeen other acts is quite an accomplishment (especially when sharing the stage with Strapping Young Lad and GWAR!) but veteran heavies, Clutch, seemed to dumbfound the audience with their eclectic mix of stoner/sludge/metal/hard rock. These guys are now approaching their fifteenth year as a band and they have settled into a comfortable niche with a devoted core fanbase. People who love Clutch really LOOOOOOVE Clutch, but I just don?t get them. I have always considered Clutch to be a heavy jam band and nothing takes the wind out of a live show like extended jam sessions (*sound of millions of Grateful Dead and Dave Matthews fans gasping echoes in the distance*). The inclusion of an organist amped things up a bit but the diminutive Neil Fallon?s bizarre lyrics and the complete lack of any stage presence by the band (guitarist Tim Sult must have had his shoes nailed to the stage as he barely moved) left many in attendance looking for some paint to watch dry for excitement. The seemingly never-ending jam outro of ?Escape From The Prison Planet? was as tedious as nails on a chalkboard and left me thinking how much better it was watching Opeth?s long-windedness two hours prior. New tracks like "The Incomparable Mr. Flannery," "Burning Beard" and "10001110101" smoked live but the band and their style just did not seem suited to the this tour. There were quite a few Clutch devotees there to cheer the band on but they were certainly in the minority. I would be hard-pressed to imagine Clutch gaining a lot of fans on this tour based on their live show and focusing their set on last year?s BLAST TYRANT and the brand-new (and brilliant) ROBOT HIVE/EXODUS must have left older fans a bit disappointed, as well.
The Incomparable Mr. Flannery
Sea of Destruction
The Mob Goes Wild
Profits of Doom
Escape From The Prison Planet
Love ?em or hate ?em, Chimaira are a killer live band. Comparisons to Machine Head have plagued Chimaira since their first album, PASS OUT OF EXISTENCE, was released in 2001 but the band premiered two songs from their forthcoming self-titled third release and they have clearly shed those parallels if they are any indication of what is to come. The brutality of ?Nothing Remains? is instantly felt as Mark Hunter?s ferocious roar is laid over top of a driving riff and punishing groove. This track alone has me VERY anxious to hear CHIMAIRA in full and the older songs in the band?s live set set them up to be a clear winner on the tour. ?Pure Hatred? and ?Power Trip? were equally devastating as a sampled bass thump resonated throughout causing an unsettling rumbling effect that could be felt deep inside your gut. Matt DeVries and Rob Arnold are a solid guitar team with meaty riffs that translate well on to the stage. The presence of keyboardist Chris Spicuzza still puzzles me, though, as he seems to do nothing more than thrash about behind his gear but new drummer, Kevin Talley (ex-Dying Fetus, ex-Misery Index) is a welcome addition to the band with his heavy hitting style. Hunter?s charisma is a real bonus, too, as he stalked the stage and provided plenty of between song banter. CHIMAIRA should move the band to the next level and if they get paired up with the right acts, the crossover potential is definitely there to make this album their biggest yet.
The Dehumanizing Process
At the ten-hour point of the day, Lamb of God cranked up the energy and gave me a second (or was that seventh???) wind with yet another brutal and unrelenting performance. Bestowed with the honor of headlining Sounds of The Underground, Lamb of God had 50 minutes to unleash the fury on the crowd and their chosen setlist was brilliantly crafted. With six songs taken from last year?s breakthrough release, ASHES OF THE WAKE, and a liberal sampling from their other two releases (including a Burn The Priest track), the band?s thirteen song set introduced new fans to their entire catalogue as well as pleased long-time fans with well-chosen selections. ?Black Label,? ?11th Hour,? ?Laid To Rest? and ?Ruin? have always gone over well but the massive circle pit created when ?The Subtle Arts of Murder and Persuasion? was played demonstrated just how much of a following Lamb of God now possesses. If the hulking security guard stationed at the left side of the stage wasn?t proof enough (ask the dude who got on stage and was rather abruptly tossed off by said gorilla), the much larger stage show is a testament to the fact that Lamb of God have officially ?struck it big.? The jump to a major label (Sony Music) for ASHES OF THE WAKE was a no-brainer given the momentum and buzz created by AS THE PALACES BURN and Lamb of God deserve every shred of success they receive. The band continues to tour endlessly and puts on an unbeatable live show each and every time I have seen them. Mark Morton and Willie Adler deliver flawless riffs and leads, while Randy Blythe is a predator behind the mike. His ruthless attitude and powerful voice is that of a man twice his size and his brief rant about ?dudes who wear white belts? was hilarious. The mighty Chris Adler is quickly becoming one of the leading drummers in metal and witnessing him play live is truly an experience as he lays down a brick wall of a rhythm section with John Campbell. American heavy metal done right?so is the magic named Lamb of God.
LAMB OF GOD SETLIST
Laid To Rest
As The Palaces Burn
Now You?ve Got Something To Die For
What I?ve Become
The Subtle Arts of Murder and Persuasion
The Faded Line
When Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe asked the crowd if they would be willing to come back for a second installment of Sounds of The Underground next year, the response was overwhelming. Given the competition faced by package tours these days, it is a welcome addition to see this many bands together and at an affordable price, too. Ozzfest may get the bigger names (and bigger ticket prices) but for its first year, Sounds of The Underground not only showed it is a force to be reckoned but had the courage to throw so many different styles of heavy music into a pot and still managed to pull it off. Naturally, there were low points (A Life Once Lost, Norma Jean and Every Time I Die are totally interchangeable and generic, while Poison The Well should just fizzle out completely) but the good certainly outweighed the bad and a few surprises (Terror and High on Fire) were found along the way. The price is right as fans get plenty of bang for their buck and the ability to see so many different acts in one day is rewarding but tiring but a god time seemed to be had by all.
See you next year?
***Thanks to Jamie at House of Blues for the ticket and photo pass.
Sounds of The Underground
All That Remains
Every Time I Die
High on Fire
Lamb of God
A Life Once Lost
Poison The Well
Strapping Young Lad