Killswitch Engage / DragonForce / Chimaira Live In Vancouver: March 28, 2007

Spread the metal:

Killswitch Engage / DragonForce / Chimaira
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
PNE Forum
Vancouver, BC  Canada

***Review & Live Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

Unfortunately, a lot of metal tours are bypassing Vancouver these days after a glut of shows in 2005 forced many metalheads to pick and choose where to lay their hard-earned dollar.  Celtic Frost, Fear Factory, Suffocation…all have skipped Vancouver in the past few months however they would have been shoo-ins two years ago.  From the perspective of a press flunky like myself, it was heavenly but for those who had to shell out $20-40 for a ticket every ten days, it got to be a little pricey.  So now that the shows are more sporadic, when a big package tour rolls through town, it tends to really pack the house.  Such was the case for the No Fear Clothing-sponsored bill of metalcore pioneers Killswitch Engage, British extreme power metallers DragonForce, Cleveland’s modern thrash heroes in Chimaira and Carolina southern-rockers, He Is Legend, who failed to make the border crossing from the U.S..  The PNE Forum is a cavernous hockey arena that typically has piss-poor sound but on this night, the reverb and echo was kept to a minimum and all three bands sounded excellent and put on an excellent show.

Because He Is Legend failed to get into Canada, the other three bands moved their set times up unbeknownst to myself or the promoter until 6:00PM—an hour before showtime.  In addition, my own tardiness (thanks to a seemingly endless train and an accident on the Patullo Bridge) saw me miss my media call for photographing Chimaira by mere minutes but I did manage to catch the Cleveland thrashers’ full forty-minute set from amongst the throng of revellers.  Escaping the nu-metal confines of their first album, 2001’s PASS OUT OF EXISTENCE, Chimaira has become one of the heaviest and most ferocious live acts in the modern U.S. metal scene.  Rob Arnold is an exceptional lead guitar player, his partner in six-string savagery, Matt DeVries, throws down catchy, but brutal, melodic riffs and Andols Herrick has returned to the fold on drums.  Vocalist Mark Hunter, now sporting a buzzcut, is a charismatic and fierce frontman, unrelenting in his delivery and with an uncanny ability to get the blood pumping in a live setting.  Combined with Chris Spicuzza and bassist Jim LaMarca, Chimaira has fine-tuned itself into a punishing live act and like its predecessor, 2005’s self-titled release, the new album, RESURRECTION, heads down darker, heavier and more musically- and lyrically-intense roads.  Put to the stage, newer songs like “Nothing Remains,” “Empire,” “Salvation” and “Resurrection” are mercilessly heavy, delivered with aggression but always with a hint of groove and melody.  Even “Pure Hatred” and “Power Trip”—staples of the band’s live set—take on a heavier and more profound identity than their studio counterparts.  Once considered a late-comer to the nu-metal party, Chimaira continues to impress me in the live setting with their transition into a viable modern American thrash band.

Power Trip
Nothing Remains
The Dehumanizing Process
Pure Hatred

(**Photo access was not granted for DragonForce unless—for whatever reason—film cameras were used?!?!)

As the leaders of extreme power metal, DragonForce continue to work their way into North American consciousness following a stint on Ozzfest 2006 and a headlining run of North America with All That Remains (read review of the Vancouver show HERE) immediately after.  The entire band is over-the-top in their stage presence with a barrage of scissor kicks taken off drum risers, windmill-like riffs, cheesy banter and…need I say more…the key-tar of Vadim Pruzhanov.  However, DragonForce is also a real hoot to watch and the guitar team of Herman Li and Sam Totman are quite remarkable since endless shredding and note-perfect, lightning-fast playing are their trademark.  Sadly, the band seems to have completely dropped the trampolines from their act but fear not, Li, Totman and Leclercq still have beer holders attached to their mike stands.  Vocalist ZP Theart had some minor difficulties as his voice seemed to crack a few times but it was barely noticeable.  Theart’s high-pitched wail powered “My Spirit Will Go On,” “Revolution Deathsquad” and “Through The Fire and Flames,” while bassist Frédéric Leclercq contributed some death metal growls and Pruzhanov’s key-tar appeared for “Operation Ground and Pound.”  As always, “Valley of The Damned” leveled the house for the finale and after 45 minutes, the sheer speed of DragonForce really is enough.  Darkest Hour’s Mike Parrish and Kris Norris, in town recording their new CD, DELIVER US, with Devin Townsend, took in the show as well but kept a low profile by the soundboard.

Revolution Deathsquad
Fury of The Storm
Operation Ground and Pound
My Spirit Will Go On
Through The Fire and Flames
Valley of The Damned

A lot of people get their rankles up over Killswitch Engage for various reasons.  The use of clean vocals, the lyrics of vocalist Howard Jones, their adherence to the much-derided “metalcore” tag, the man-child behaviour of guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz…the list goes on.  Still, Killswitch Engage soldiers on, bringing in more and more fans along the way and joining up with just about any tour that will have them.  Taste of Chaos, Ozzfest, hardcore, metal, emo…the band manages to align themselves with a very diverse group of musicians.  With this being my sixth time seeing Killswitch live and covering it for Metal Rules, the evolution has been significant.  Playing thirty minutes opening for Cradle of Filth way back in 2003 (read review HERE) and later co-headlining with fellow up-and-comers at the time Shadows Fall and Lamb of God (read review HERE), to co-headlining with In Flames in 2004 (read review HERE), to being the middle act for Slipknot (read review HERE) and later Ozzfest in 2005 (read review HERE) and finally this arena headlining date, the band has come so far on hard work, dedication and endless touring.  On their newly-released fourth album, AS DAYLIGHT DIES, Killswitch Engage continues evolving, adding more and more melody, driving riffs and easy-on-the-ear songs to their arsenal. 

Dutkiewicz’ back problems forced him off the North American dates and his replacement was none other than former Halford guitarist and Damageplan vocalist, Pat Lachmann.  The band cruised through a whopping seventeen songs in an hour and fifteen minutes with very little crowd banter and many songs just flowing directly into the next.  With the animated Dutkiewicz out of the picture, the notoriously shy Jones was left to guide the ship which may have explained the lack of chatter but frankly, the result was very satisfying as the songs rather than capes, short shorts and other silliness were what stuck in fans’ heads. 

New tracks “This Is Absolution,” “The Arms of Sorrow” and “For You” would have been welcome additions but no one could really complain.  “My Last Serenade,” “Rose of Sharyn,” “Life To Lifeless,” “Fixation On the Darkness”…they were all here.  The band even dusted off their questionable cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver” for the encore.  “Self-Revolution” and “Vide Infra” were the only Killswitch songs that really should have been played.  Musically, Jones’ voice is unsurpassed and he is a killer frontman, rappelling and somersaulting from one side of the stage to the other with boundless energy.  Justin Foley (now sporting a shaved head and lumberjack beard) continues to dominate behind the drumkit, adding a vicious rhythm section to the songs with bassist Mike D’Antonio.  The squealing riffs and fiery solos of Joel Stroetzel were augmented by Lachmann who stepped up with a few tricks, as well.  The band appeared to be filming the show, so perhaps a follow-up to the (SET) THIS WORLD ABLAZE DVD is in the works??

Daylight Dies
Take This Oath
Life To Lifeless
My Curse
When Darkness Falls
This Fire Burns
Breathe Life
Numbered Days
Rose of Sharyn
Still Beats Your Name
Fixation On The Darkness
A Bid Farewell
Temple From The Within
The End of Heartache
My Last Serenade
Holy Diver (Dio cover)

Call me crazy but this was just another in a line of excellent shows by headliners Killswitch Engage.  Chimaira’s standing as a metal powerhouse continues to rise, as well, and with DragonForce plunked right in the middle, there was a whole lot of guitar mayhem to enjoy.  Each of these three bands seems to carry as many haters as fans but for those who appreciate the music, there was a lot to offer and everyone seemed to have a great night.

***Thanks to Kelli at House of Blues for the press pass.