Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews


Tuesday, May 11, 2004
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada

Review and live pictures by Lord of the Wasteland

“In the blue corner, with a combined weight of 900 pounds and hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden…the masters of melodic death mayhem…IN FLAMES!!! And in the red corner, a fearsome fivesome from Massachusetts and frontrunners of the new American metal movement…KILLSWITCH ENGAGE!!! Llllllllllet’s get ready to rrrrrrrrrrummmmmmblllllllllllllllllle…………….”

This was how I imagined things would begin as In Flames, Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying stopped by Vancouver on the tour billed as “The Ultimate Battle.” Unfortunately, Michael Buffer, the golden voice of ring announcers, was not in attendance and no one tapped out of a submission hold. Still, this was a great bill that had The Commodore Ballroom packed full on a warm Tuesday night. As co-headliners, In Flames was supporting their brand-new CD, SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR ESCAPE, while Killswitch Engage’s new disc, THE END OF HEARTACHE, dropped that very day. Both bands have become familiar faces around these parts as, including this show, In Flames has been here 3 times in less than 2 years and Killswitch Engage has graced us a whopping 3 times in 10 months. Despite these frequent stops, the crowd was hungry for a killer show and all three bands delivered.

Touring in support of last year’s Metal Blade debut, FRAIL WORDS COLLAPSE, As I Lay Dying played a 30-minute set of high energy, speedy metalcore. The band came on stage with both guns blazing and didn’t stop thrashing spastically around throughout their entire set. Vocalist Tim Lambesis’ relentless screams and boundless energy makes him the perfect frontman, while guitar riffing is traded off between Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa. Some excellent clean vocals courtesy of bassist Clint Norris offset Lambesis while maintaining some seriously heavy moments. I was familiar with As I Lay Dying by name only before this show, so as far as songs go, I can’t really offer a list of what they played, but the crowd seemed very enthusiastic and even chanted the band’s name at several points. They have a very good stage presence that livened up the crowd, so I would say As I Lay Dying is a band to watch.



A lengthy changeover between As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage (Thirty minutes?? COME ON!!!) threatened to lose some of the momentum, but as the lights dimmed and the sound of Body Count’s “Smoked Pork” came over the P.A., the stage was set for the first of many metallic shenanigans from Killswitch Engage. For lack of a better word, the “leader” of the band is guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. Besides sharing guitar licks with Joel Stroetzel, Dutkiewicz was the drummer on the band’s breakthrough CD, ALIVE OR JUST BREATHING, as well as handling production duties on all three of the band’s efforts thus far. Dutkiewicz is also a frenetic character, endlessly mugging and making wiseass remarks. Last time the band played Vancouver, he promptly fell right on his ass as he ran on stage. This time, Dutkiewicz, sporting a pair of the biggest pork chop sideburns in metal history, dedicated “My Last Serenade” to all the ladies in the audience. He also laid out a blanket offer to them to come back to the bus for a tryst over rancid McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. (What woman couldn’t resist that?) New drummer Justin Foley seemed to be having the time of his life behind the kit as he cracked up at Dutkiewicz and was grooving right along to all the songs. Foley replaced previous drummer Tom Gomes who left just prior to last year’s Headbanger’s Ball tour. Despite a rather bookish appearance, Foley is hard-hitting and, having seen both drummers in action, Foley is a much better skinsman than Gomes. Hulking frontman Howard Jones finally got a chance to get out from under the shadow of former KSE vocalist, Jesse Leach, as he performed his own material from THE END OF HEARTACHE. Jones has an excellent range and can deliver a roaring growl in one breath and a clear clean vocal the next. I had only heard a couple tracks from the new CD prior to the show and admittedly, it will be difficult to top the brilliant ALIVE OR JUST BREATHING, but these new tracks sound no less appealing. From the new CD, the band played “A Bid Farewell,” “When Darkness Falls,” a very well-received “Rose of Sharyn” and “Hope Is…” The better tracks from ALIVE OR JUST BREATHING remained a part of their set, including “Life To Lifeless,” “Element of One,” “Fixation On The Darkness,” “Vide Infra” and a stunning version of “My Last Serenade” to close their all-too-brief fifty-minute set. Like many others, I was hoping for an encore that never came. This band has gotten better each time they have visited Vancouver and with good early buzz happening for THE END OF HEARTACHE, the rollercoaster doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, either.

I have openly criticized The Commodore’s choice of house music in my reviews before and this occasion was no better. This being a metal show, one would expect to hear metal, or at the very least, hard rock. Not so, in the venues’ eye, as someone saw fit to play some god-awful ambient/trip-hop. This isn’t the “Ultimate Battle” between Bjork and Portishead! It’s a metal show!! Usually, they dust off their copy of the NATIVITY IN BLACK tribute or the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 soundtrack hoping to appease the metal masses and while those discs have grown tiresome, at least they contain metal. Unforgivable.


Another ice cold Granville Island Honey Lager helped me get over my bitterness just in time for In Flames. Ten years into their career, the band is finding unparalleled chart success around the world with their brand new CD, SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR ESCAPE. While their glimmer may have dulled in the eyes of older fans with their more melodic sound of late, there is no denying that In Flames is a powerful live act. Their 80-minute set was heavy with post-COLONY material (where many “fans” say they “sold out”) but only two songs (“Behind Space” and “Episode 666”) were played from earlier albums. The band wore matching black Dickie’s gas station attendant shirts with their names emblazoned on a patch. Guitarist Bjorn Gelotte now resembles Cousin It from the Addams Family, as he has more hair on his face and head than visible skin. Gelotte and Jesper Stromblad traded off impressive guitar riffs and solos, while Peter Iwers, who I’ve never paid much attention to in terms of his playing, ripped away at his six-string bass all night, most notably on “Trigger” and “Clay Man.” Anders Friden whipped around his dreadlocks while emitting some impressive screams alongside his death growl and clean vocals. The songs played from the last two In Flames albums, REROUTE TO REMAIN and SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR ESCAPE, take on a much heavier sound when played live, especially “Touch Of Red” and “My Sweet Shadow.” On record, the dominance of samples and keyboards sometimes dampens the heaviness of these tracks, but in a live setting, Gelotte and Stromblad’s guitars play the keyboard parts and only the occasional pre-recorded sample slips in. Before “Only For The Weak,” the band’s merch guy appeared with a video camera and it was announced that every show on this tour is being filmed for a live DVD. Naturally this whipped the crowd up to a feverish pace and the entire floor went crazy, eager to be captured on film. Like their last visit, In Flames did not come back for an encore despite rowdy cheers of “IN FLAMES! IN FLAMES!” The fans wanted more (don’t they always) but I suppose the band follows the old show biz theory of “always leave them wanting more.”

While the “ultimate battle” seemed to be a bit one-sided (Killswitch Engage was granted 50 minutes, while In Flames got 80 minutes), the fans in attendance were treated to a stellar show and welcomed all the bands with equal enthusiasm. Even the guy in the audience with the Mr. T haircut and beard seemed happy! So who won? I would give the edge to Killswitch Engage, though In Flames went a full 15 rounds and got their licks in. Short of seeing Adam Dutkiewicz holding Bjorn Gelotte in a “camel clutch,” while Anders Friden gives Howard Jones a piledriver backstage, I guess we’ll never know.

Pinball Map
Episode 666
Embody The Invisible
Cloud Connected
Touch Of Red
Like You Better Dead
In Search For I
Clay Man
Only For The Weak
Behind Space
The Quiet Place
My Sweet Shadow

In Flames’ Official site — www.inflames.com

Killswitch Engage’s Official site — www.killswitchengage.com

As I Lay Dying’s Official site — www.asilaydying.com

Thanks to Hannah at Nuclear Blast for the ticket and photo pass.