Sounds of The Underground 2006: Live In Vancouver Aug. 10, 2006

Spread the metal:

Thursday, August 10, 2006
PNE Forum
Vancouver, BC  Canada


***Live Report & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

Somehow, Sounds of The Underground 2006 and Ozzfest 2006 became the polar opposite of 2005 in terms of line-up quality.  Last year’s Ozzfest featured quality metal bands like The Haunted, Arch Enemy, Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Mastodon with only a few questionable inclusions (Wicked Wisdom, It Dies Today), while the inaugural run of Sounds of The Underground (read review HERE) was plagued with a string of hardcore bands like Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, Poison The Well that metal fans had to suffer through to get to Lamb of God, High On Fire, Chimaira and Devildriver. 

Fast forward to 2006 and this year’s Ozzfest was an absolute abomination, as the hardcore contingent (Avenged Sevenfold, Walls of Jericho, Between The Buried and Me) seemed to take precedence over the few metal bands (Strapping Young Lad, DragonForce, Black Label Society) that Sharon Osbourne deemed worthy to grace her stage.  Sounds of The Underground, however, came through with flying colors landing Behemoth, Cannibal Corpse, 3 Inches of Blood, In Flames, The Black Dahlia Murder and GWAR, rendering only one painful experience with Evergreen Terrace.  Two notable absences faced the Vancouver show with teen gods Trivium, who were scheduled for a video shoot in Los Angeles, left many young ‘uns with sad faces in their wake but no one seemed upset that Christian screamo band The Chariot, featuring the former screamer for Norma Jean, didn’t play. 

The day was cool and rainy (I know…cool and rainy…in Vancouver?!  Whoda thunk it?!?!?!), which was much better than last year’s infernal heat that generated a humid sweatbox inside the Forum.  Outside, the lineup circled around the building and a few underage kids took it upon themselves to shotgun beers behind some bushes (way to help infuse the stereotype, geniuses!!) before heading inside.  The stripped-down merch tables and overall feeling is far less corporate than Ozzfest and even more so than last year’s Sounds of The Underground.  Gone were the vendors, video game booths and shame-on-you-for-eating-meat propaganda from PETA (it still puts a smile on my face picturing the empty PETA booth situated downwind from The Forum’s hot dog concession last year).  All the band merch tables were at one end of the main foyer and across the room were the labels’ tables, flogging CDs, DVDs, t-shirts and other swag from their respective rosters.  Only a few bands came out for meet-and-greet/signing sessions which avoided—or at least diminished—the area’s congestion.  Unfortunately, one’s hungry palate still had to suffer through lukewarm hot dogs ($5), flat fountain Coke ($4) and burgers ($6) that appeared to contain some unnamed “mystery meat.”  Rather than partake in another gut-wrenching aftermath, I made my contraband gum last through the day and the few litres of “GWAR juice” I swallowed in the photo pit quenched my burgeoning thirst (more on that later in the write-up).  Thankfully, the changeovers are very quick (five minutes between most bands; never more than twenty and that was at the tail end of the day) and the pacing never really allowed for a rest either, which made the day go by quickly.  The 8:45PM end time was especially appealing to working stiffs like myself, too.

Backstage and outside, the mind-numbing boredom faced by the bands was evident.  Interviews, drinking, eating, meeting with fans, hitting on women and the day-to-day minutiae seemed to occupy the long waits to hit the stage.  The Vancouver stop was the second last date on the tour and it was clear many band members were tying up loose ends, getting in one last binge drunk with their touring mates and eagerly awaiting getting some much needed rest or facing the next string of tour dates. 

Although the start of the show was delayed twenty minutes, South Carolina’s Through The Eyes of The Dead tore into things, setting the pace for a vigorous day of music with their grinding death metal assault.  Anthony Gunnels’ squawking vocals got tiresome very quickly and the fast, noisy music got sucked into the abyss of the sparsely-filled Forum, reverberating into a muddy mess of discordant, washed-out riffs and thumping bass.  Even with their debut CD, BLOODLUST, still fresh in my mind from a review last month, the band’s 25-minute set bled together with only one song—“Beneath Dying Skies”—even being recognizable.  If Through The Eyes of The Dead was plagued with the opening slot throughout the tour, they probably didn’t win over many fans through no fault of their own.  Devildriver sounded subpar last year for the same reason.  Too bad a new band leaves this as a first impression.

I will admit that I enjoy some hardcore—Throwdown, Hatebreed, Madball, Agnostic Front and Terror to name a few.  Aside from the asinine lyrics about being “true to yourself” and the ridiculous floor-punching/spin-kicking they call “dancing,” the aggression and feel of the music is great to bob your head to.  The tough-guy vocalist comes part-and-parcel with the genre (where would Agnostic Front be without Roger Miret?) and it is almost essential to the music but unfortunately, there are other hardcore bands that abstain from this guiding principle and enlist some skinny, geeky kid who attempts to fit the bill but couldn’t incite a fight at a prison riot.  Such is the case with the milquetoast screamer of Florida’s Evergreen Terrace, Andrew Carey.  The screamo vocals were bad enough but when Carey—all 110 pounds of him—flipped off the crowd, spit on people in the front row and called them “fuckers,” Evergreen Terrace’s fate was sealed.  No one was giving the band a chance to begin with but when Carey took exception to the apathetic attitude of the crowd and proceeded to trip over backwards on one of the stage monitors landing flat on his ass, a collective laugh could almost be heard.  The rest of the band was steeped in clichéd metallic hardcore (Carey does the harsh vocals; guitarist Craig Chganey sings the clean choruses) marking Evergreen Terrace as the single, forgettable low-point to an otherwise excellent day.  Like Poison The Well and Norma Jean last year, this band is absolutely terrible and should be avoided at any cost.  The fact that they got equal stage time with half of the other bands (and five minutes more than Terror!!) still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 

After missing Behemoth’s Canadian headlining tour last fall due to a recurring back problem, I was most excited to finally see the Polish death metal veterans in action, albeit for only thirty minutes.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one either, as the band garnered the first big reception up to that point.  Nergal, Seth, Orion and Inferno were all decked out in silver corpse paint, metal spikes and leather and their blasphemous setlist, drawn heavily from the brilliant THELEMA.6 and DEMIGOD releases, simply sizzled.  Considering the band’s anti-Christian stance (“Antichristian Phenomenon” and “Christians To The Lions” being two of their best examples), it was interesting to hear Nergal screaming “Fuck Christianity” while the notoriously pious As I Lay Dying headlined the tour but that is what makes these package tours so interesting—diversity.  “Demigod” and a ripping version of “Slaves Shall Serve” satisfied the masses, showing that despite Behemoth’s elder statesmanship in death metal (their first release came out way back in 1993), they are still winning over scads of new fans.

Behemoth Setlist
Antichristian Phenomenon
Slaves Shall Serve
Christians To The Lions

Having seen Detroit’s The Black Dahlia Murder twice previously, I knew exactly what to expect.  The dynamic dual vocals of hyper-caffeinated frontman, Trevor Strnad, are amazing to hear coming from one throat and the punishing riffs and leads of the newly-shorn John Kempainen (a truly underrated guitarist, in my opinion) and Brian Eschbach deliver a one-two punch of death metal malevolence.  The new rhythm section of Bart Williams and Pierre Langois more than ably fill the void left by David Lock and Zach Gibson, leaving The Black Dahlia Murder as one of the most entertaining, energetic and brutal live bands today.  Strnad removed his shirt revealing his “HEARTBURN” stomach tattoo and proceeded to stalk the crowd from side to side, his arms flailing wildly like a spastic epileptic, all while delivering fierce renditions of “Vulgar Picture,” “Statutory Ape,” “Funeral Thirst” and the mighty “Contagion” to offset the curious use of Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover” as the band’s intro music.  Straight-shooting, stripped-down American death metal all the way.

With nowhere to go but up following the rancid display of pseudo-hardcore from Evergreen Terrace, the true purveyors of New York hardcore, Terror, punctuated another Sounds of The Underground tour with their no-holds-barred, old school approach.  Madball, Terror and Throwdown were definite highlights from the genre last year and with hardcore getting virtually snubbed in favour of metal this time around, it was up to Terror to show the crowd how real hardcore is played.  The more astute fan may have noticed new bassist Jonathan Buske was replaced by former Sworn Enemy/Agents of Man four-stringer, Mike Couls.  The other new addition to the band is guitarist Martin Stewart, who served up gruff vocals behind main shouter, Scott Vogel.  Terror is one of the best hardcore bands today, without exception, and an almost unrecognizable Behemoth even joined the crowd to take in their set.  “Spit My Rage” and “Keep Your Mouth Shut” were definite highlights for me and new album, ALWAYS THE HARD WAY, hit stores just a couple weeks before giving the band plenty of fresh material to add to the songs from 2004’s ONE WITH THE UNDERDOGS and 2003’s debut, LOWEST OF THE LOW.  Vogel is a captivating frontman and band founder, Doug Weber, holds up some solid riffs on guitar, which add up to a set heavy on the breakdowns to fuel a sick moshpit.  Terror never disappoints and I welcome any chance to see them live again.   

Heading into the fourth hour and the sixth band, Vancouver’s own 3 Inches of Blood handled their one-off date with all the fiery speed, melody and old-school influence fans have come to expect.  Their new album (produced by Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, of all people!) should continue in a similar vein as 2004’s ADVANCE AND VANQUISH, the music driven by European-influenced dual guitar leads and Cam Pipes’ ear-piercing, high-pitched wails.  The band brought out one track—“The Night Marauder”—from the as-yet-untitled new album and another, “Goatriders’ Horde,” seems to confirm that despite the replacement of both guitarists, the bassist and drummer since ADVANCE AND VANQUISH, 3 Inches of Blood is still a force to be reckoned with.  Jamie Hooper’s anguished blackened shrieks are a welcome companion to Pipes’ Halford/King Diamond-inspired wails and the guitar tandem of Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark fire off one classic, galloping riff after another.  Many people write 3 Inches of Blood off as a kitschy novelty act because of their lyrics and Pipes’ vocals but songs like “Wykydtron,” “Destroy The Orcs” and “Deadly Sinners,” which saw GWAR’s Beefcake The Mighty come out and slay Hooper with his broadsword to close their set, instil the band as a dyed-in-the-wool metal entity.  Pity that “Revenge Is A Vulture,” “Curse of The Lighthouse Keeper,” “Ride Darkhorse Ride” and “Balls of Ice,” once a ubiquitous staple of 3 Inches of Blood’s live set, were omitted, though.  Watching Hooper roll out of the parking lot later in the day on his ten-speed bicycle also shows that the guys are still humble enough and feel right at home here in Vancouver.

3 Inches of Blood Setlist
The Night Marauder
Destroy The Orcs
Fear On The Bridge (Upon The Boiling Sea I)
Deadly Sinners