Dark Tranquillity / The Haunted / Into Eternity / Scar Symmetry Live In Vancouver: April 9, 2007

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Dark Tranquillity / The Haunted / Into Eternity / Scar Symmetry
Monday, April 9, 2007
Croatian Cultural Centre
Vancouver, BC  Canada

***Live Review and All Photos by Lord of The Wasteland

To paraphrase the U.S. patriot, Paul Revere, “The Swedish are coming!  The Swedish are coming!”  Dark Tranquillity, The Haunted and Scar Symmetry—along with Regina’s Into Eternity—took over Vancouver for one huge night of heavy metal dubbed the “Metal For The Masses Tour.”  This was the first visit to the city for both Dark Tranquillity and Scar Symmetry but the crowd at the near sold-out Croatian Cultural Centre made all four bands feel welcome.  The performance of Gothenburg melodic death pioneers, Dark Tranquillity, ready to unleash their brilliant new CD, FICTION, upon the masses on April 24th, was eagerly anticipated, while the red carpet was rolled out for Into Eternity, now fronted by Vancouver’s own Stu Block, for their first visit supporting last year’s THE SCATTERING OF ASHES.  The Haunted seemed to divide fans and Scar Symmetry was given the thankless opening slot at 6:30PM, so it was a bit of hit-and-miss for this four-band bill.


Peter Dolving explains how he likes his morning coffee.

To get fans warmed up for the show, Scrape Records hosted one of their always-excellent in-store autograph sessions—this time with all four bands.  Or so the plan was.  For whatever reason, Dark Tranquillity was missing in action and no one seemed to know where the band was [NOTE: The band’s driver got lost but Dark Tranquillity eventually showed up at 6:15, after I had already left].  Scrape head honcho, JJ Caithcart, finally gave up, opening the doors twenty minutes late at 5:20, however it didn’t leave much time since Scar Symmetry was set to take the stage at 6:30.  About one hundred fans lined up West Broadway to pose for pictures and get their swag.  The members of Scar Symmetry and Into Eternity were squeezed near the front door, while The Haunted was seated at the main table.  Anyone who has ever visited the west coast’s finest metal emporium knows space is at a premium inside Scrape Records but when fifteen musicians and a banquet table take up the doorway and lobby, it becomes an especially “cozy” environment.  Because of Scar Symmetry’s early set time, they left by 5:45 but Into Eternity and The Haunted hung around until almost 6:00.  Into Eternity seemed very cordial and friendly, shaking hands and posing for pictures whereas the members of The Haunted seemed like they would have rather been just about anywhere else.  The Swedish people are notoriously aloof but judging by the faces of Anders and Jonas Björler, meeting fans was not at the top of their agenda on this evening.  Since Metal-Rules.com has a long-standing professional relationship with the band, an air of familiarity broke the ice when I introduced myself but things still seemed to be a bit prickly.  Then again, maybe they just had their “game faces” on, ready to terrorize the fans waiting at the venue…

Into Eternity @ Scrape Records

The Haunted @ Scrape Records

Upon arriving at The Croatian Cultural Centre, the usual line-up circled up the stairs and around the building.  For whatever reason, the venue didn’t even open the doors until 6:20 and then the “bend over and cough” security check at the door made entry even slower.  Thinking Scar Symmetry would start later as a result, I was surprised as the lights dimmed and the band took the stage promptly at 6:30.  Maybe thirty people were inside at the time and the sound guy didn’t even have the house CD shut off, leaving guitarist Jonas Kjellgren (ex-Carnal Forge) visibly angry.  When vocalist Christian Älvestam took the stage, a look of utter dejection crossed his face at the slim turnout but the band soldiered on with a six-song, twenty-five minute set covering last year’s PITCH BLACK PROGRESS and 2005’s SYMMETRIC IN DESIGN.  Älvestam’s clean vocals sounded great on “Chaosweaver,” “The Illusionist” and “Slaves To The Subliminal” making it clear how people make the comparisons to Soilwork given the growled/clean vocal dynamic, rich keyboards and melodic guitars.  However, what plagues Scar Symmetry is just how close in sound they are to Soilwork leaving many to ask, “Why not just listen to Soilwork?”  The reason, of course, is how surprisingly well Scar Symmetry translate to the stage, as Kjellgren and Per Nilsson’s blistering guitar work and Älvestam’s vocals were note perfect to what is heard on CD.  Still, it was evident the band was none too pleased about playing to such an empty room although about 200 people eventually found their way inside before Scar Symmetry finished up.  Disappointing, too, because this band has delivered back-to-back albums that have been amazing but because of over-zealous security, the band missed a golden opportunity to bring in a new batch of fans.  Pity the band didn’t play the godly “2012 – The Demise of The 5th Sun,” too.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Mind Machine
Slaves To The Subliminal
The Illusionist

To say that Into Eternity’s latest album, THE SCATTERING OF ASHES, is helping push them up the metal pecking order is an understatement.  Tim Roth, founder and the sole survivor of the band’s previous release, 2004’s BURIED IN OBLIVION, must be given insurmountable credit for keeping Into Eternity alive through endless line-up changes and hardships.  Recruiting former Omega Crom vocalist, Stu Block, was a major surprise to Vancouver metalheads in 2005 but Block’s amazing range has added a whole new dimension to the band’s already stellar progressive death metal sound and his stage presence is among the most entertaining I have ever seen (plus, he’s a nice guy to boot).  This was Block’s first hometown show in support of THE SCATTERING OF ASHES and the fans went absolutely crazy!  Whether it was the shredding of Roth, Block’s insane vocal warm-ups, non-stop mugging and shenanigans, or his final piercing falsetto declaration to the crowd that “each and every one of you is METAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL,” Into Eternity was certainly the crowd favourite of the night.  “Spiralling Into Depression” featured a stunning duel shred-fest during the solo between Roth and new guitarist Justin Bender.  The personification of progressive death is found in “Beginning of The End” and mixed with new tracks like “Timeless Winter,” “Nothing” and “Severe Emotional Distress,” Into Eternity’s thirty minute set was just far too short.  Along with bassist Troy Bleich and new drummer Steve Bolognese (ex-Beyond The Embrace), Into Eternity have once again morphed into a tight, brilliant live band that delivers a killer show.  This is a massively important tour for Into Eternity and based on the crowd’s response, the band is on a meteoric rise to the next level of the heavy metal food chain.

Novus Inceptum (Intro)
Severe Emotional Distress
Splintered Visions
Timeless Winter
Spiralling Into Depression
Beginning of The End

Since Metal For The Masses is a co-headlining tour, The Haunted and Dark Tranquillity were alternating the top spot on each date, with the headliner snatching 75 minutes and the co-headliner getting an hour.  Early technical problems were obvious as the crew setting up and doing final soundchecks were shaking their heads in frustration but once The Haunted hit the stage, everything seemed to be fine.  Peter Dolving is an excellent frontman—a screaming, growling maniac whose stage moves simulate those of a boxer, continuously bobbing, weaving and jumping.  His much-maligned singing voice was on full display on newer tracks like “The Flood,” the moody “The Guilt Trip” and the dark and sinister “Abysmal” but his fury and intensity on the always vicious “Hate Song,” “D.O.A.,” “99” and “All Against All” was nothing short of fierce.  At one point declaring “Canada is the cherry on top of a big pile of…you know” in reference to the U.S., Dolving seemed quite surprised at the turnout as he “expected 300, but this place is almost full [900].”  The Kyuss-like riff of “The Drowning” and the spot-on solo of “99” showcase the legendary guitarwork of Anders Björler and Patrick Jensen, giving fans plenty of six-string mastery to ingest.  Along with the set staples of “Hate Song” and “Dark Intentions/Bury Your Dead,” to appease older fans, “In Vein” and “Trespass” were dusted off from THE HAUNTED and MADE ME DO IT, respectively.  Material from 2003’s ONE KILL WONDER was once again kept to a minimum and eleven of the seventeen tracks came off the band’s two latest releases, so those looking to hear early gems like “Choke Hold,” “Hollow Ground” and “Bullet Hole” were left unfulfilled.  Many fans seemed divided with the experimentation The Haunted took with their new album, THE DEAD EYE, but “The Flood,” “The Medication,” “The Reflection,” “The Drowning,” “The Guilt Trip” and “The Fallout” are all excellent additions to the band’s live set.  The Haunted are clearly expanding their musical palette and while they may be alienating some of the less open-minded fans with albums like rEVOLVEr and THE DEAD EYE, it is refreshing to hear both styles played out in the live setting.

The Premonition (Intro)
The Flood
The Medication
In Vein
The Drowning
The Reflection
All Against All
The Guilt Trip
No Compromise
The Fallout
Hate Song
Dark Intentions
Bury Your Dead

Maybe it was the excitement over seeing Dark Tranquillity for the first time but as good as Into Eternity was, it was hard to argue the fact that the Swedes simply annihilated the crowd on their first visit to Vancouver.  Playing three songs from their new CD, FICTION, due April 24th, and leaving no album untouched since 1995’s THE GALLERY, the band’s performance was nothing short of flawless.  With his perfectly-styled, curly red hair, dress shirt and smooth, almost feminine movements, Mikael Stanne is the antithesis of the typical death metal frontman.  Once he opens his mouth, though, the ferocious roar of one of melodic death’s the most respected vocalists is quickly established.  Stanne had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, too, as he leaned way over the rail and bellowed into people’s faces.  The guitar team of Niklas Sundin (now sporting long black hair) and Martin Henriksson are an absolute delight to watch, too, firing off arpeggios and the band’s trademark riffs to the delight of many.  When they finally tore into the speedy intro of “Punish My Heaven,” the crowd simply lost their minds.  Bassist Michael Niklasson, looking painfully thin due to recently-diagnosed type 2 diabetes, kept his movements to a minimum but still gave his all.  The keyboard flourishes of Martin Brändström—a key element of Dark Tranquillity’s sound since 1999’s PROJECTOR—mingle with Sundin’s riffs on “Final Resistance,” “The Wonders At Your Feet,” “Lost To Apathy” and a stunning new track, “Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive).”  In all, three new tracks were played—“Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive),” “Focus Shift” and personal favorite “The Lesser Faith”— all of which are in the same vein as 2004’s CHARACTER, flawlessly combining brutality with melody.  Closing with “The New Build,” a track which epitomizes the band’s style, everyone wished Dark Tranquillity could stay longer and play just one more song, but sadly it was not to be.  Unfortunately, the tracks where Stanne exercises his love-it-or-hate-it clean vocals, like “Therein,” “Freecard,” or the new song “The Mundane and The Magic,” remain absent from the band’s live set.  A bit surprising was the omission of DAMAGE DONE’s “Monochromatic Stains” and THE MIND’S I classic “Zodijackyl Light” but with “Hedon,” “The Sun Fired Blanks” and “Punish My Heaven,” the band’s older material was given fair treatment.  After Dark Tranquillity’s set, the band briefly met with fans on their way to their dressing room but Stanne hung around longer signing autographs (you owe me a pen, Mikael LOL!!), posing for pictures and seeming genuinely pleased to hear people’s stories.

Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
Final Resistance
My Negation
The Wonders At Your Feet
Lost To Apathy
The Sun Fired Blanks
The Treason Wall
The Endless Feed
Focus Shift
Punish My Heaven
The Lesser Faith
Damage Done
The New Build

At almost the six-hour mark between the Scrape Records in-store and the show—plus an eight-hour workday beforehand—I was tired and my feet were sore at the end of the night, but it was all worth it.  Dark Tranquillity’s show will surely stand out as one the best I have ever seen and Into Eternity simply slaughtered the crowd.  However, Peter Dolving aside, The Haunted is not one of the most exciting live acts and as hard as they tried, Scar Symmetry just couldn’t seem to find their groove.  Overall, though, this tour was an excellent bill that should go down as one of the year’s highlights.

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

Dark Tranquillity—Official Site
The Haunted—Official Site
Into Eternity—Official Site
Scar Symmetry—Official Site