Review of Altar Of Plagues gig at the Black Cat

When I heard there was going to be a black metal show at the Black Cat I have to admit I was intrigued. This is a venue known for getting punk and indie rock bands mostly, though they do get metal shows from time to time. I’ve never heard of a real black metal band playing there before, so Friday the 30th of July 2010 I had to be in attendance. The line up was set to be Altar Of Plagues, Castevet, Velnias and local doom trio Salome, but they canceled just days prior. Apparently their guitarist, Rob Moore, was mugged Wednesday night in Springfield and was unable to play. I hope he recovers quickly and they can play again soon. As a side note, you can read my take on Salome when I saw them play with Jucifer in January here. The turn out wasn’t very large for this concert, unfortunately, and I wonder how much of that was due to Salome canceling. It was held on the upstairs main stage of the Black Cat but really it probably should have been on the smaller backstage. Regardless, one band off the bill wasn’t going to keep me from showing up and I’m glad I was there.

I got there at about 9:30pm, the time the first band was supposed to be playing, though they were still setting up when I walked in. They didn’t start playing until about 9:45 which was fine by me, gave me time to grab a beer. This band, Velnias, is from Colorado. They were definitely the most doomy of the three bands. Their barefoot red haired bass player started the set by crouching on all fours and screaming something over and over while rocking back and forth. They didn’t face the crowd much, most of the time everyone (except the drummer) was facing toward the amps, which I found kind of odd. The first few minutes of their set was so slow it was almost drone, though eventually their music built up in intensity. The microphone on the left, being used by one of the guitarists, was pretty impossible to hear in the mix (and I was pretty centered). This wasn’t a huge deal as he split the vocal duties with the bass player. Regardless of minor technical issues, they were pretty entertaining and their sound combined a sort of atmospheric black metal with the slow build up and sudden crashing of doom metal. They only played for half an hour but I could have watched them play for a full hour. They ended their set by doing the old Motorhead trick of putting the guitars in front of the amps to rain feedback onto the audience, while the bass player again rocked on his knees screaming a chant of some sort. Rather powerful way to end a set I have to say.

The next band up was New York City’s Castevet. I enjoyed their latest album, Mounds Of Ash, so I was curious about their live show. They are a three piece band who does the wall of sound rather well, though the vocals this night were turned way up in the mix. This wouldn’t be that big of a problem if I didn’t find them rather monotonous to the point of being annoying by the end of the set. On their studio work the music was much more front and center, but here the vocals were up rather high in the mix. This might have simply been the fault of the venue, I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever was doing the sound at the Black Cat had no idea how to mix black metal. It could have been overcompensation for the low mic level the previous band had too. A few times I found myself getting into the music a bit, but then the vocals would come in and jar me back out. I wouldn’t say they sucked live, but this set up wasn’t ideal for these guys, unfortunately. Since they’re from New York I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up coming by this way again at some point and I’d like to see them again, though in a more ideal setting.

Next up was the headliner, Altar Of Plagues, coming all the way from Cork, Ireland. I felt kind of bad that there was such a poor turn out for these guys after coming from so far away. They were certainly my favorite band of the night to watch. Their sound isn’t far removed from Wolves In The Throne Room. Very atmospheric black metal with lots of build ups of momentum in songs that had some rather catchy riffs too. I wouldn’t say they were exploring any new territory with their sound, but they were very good at what they did. I noticed their drummer was using a hihat which is not something you see a lot in black metal. He was a very proficient drummer though, really punching it when he had to but also keeping interesting beats when the tempos slowed down. The band didn’t have much lighting just three red lights on stage and it was kind of hard to see them since the light from the bar was keeping the room lit more than anything. They didn’t move around a lot on stage, but they didn’t really have to, their music was easy to get caught up in. Their set was very distortion heavy and it was very loud, one of the loudest sets I’ve seen at the Black Cat, though part of that might have been due to the lack of people filling the room. They started going a bit crazy during their last song when they ended up also putting their guitars in front of the amps to do the feedback loop thing Velnias had done earlier. While Altar Of Plagues didn’t have a lot of surprises in their set, they were playing some great atmospheric black metal, and I’m glad I made it out to this show, it was a nice black metal warm up for the Enthroned show coming to Jaxx next week. I didn’t shoot any video at this concert because the lighting was so poor I didn’t think it was even worth it. Hopefully I’ll get some better footage soon, as I’ve got a few concerts lined up here in the coming week.

The State Theatre To Host Their First Metal Night

The State Theatre in Falls Church will host its first ever Metal Night on Friday 20 August 2010. The concert will feature four local metal acts of various heavy metal sub genres, all sharing the stage for a night of metal. The bands that will play this epic local concert are Timelord, King Giant, Invader and Croatoan. Each band will have tickets for sale for $10. You will also be able to get tickets directly from the venue, but there will be some service fees depending on how you pay. The State Theatre box office will have tickets starting at $10 advance and $12 the day of the show, but buying them at the door will incur a $1 service fee, over the internet will be a $4 service fee and over the phone will be a $6 service fee. The State Theatre also has a $3 security fee for people ages 18 thru 20. You can buy tickets from the State Theatre online here or call the box office directly at (703) 237-0300 from noon to 6pm Mon-Sat (or noon to 11:30pm days there is a show). Remember, you can get tickets directly from the bands themselves for just $10 with no fees so I highly recommend that. You can buy tickets from Timelord by emailing them at TimeLordMetal@Yahoo.com (they will accept Paypal) and you can buy tickets from Croatoan by emailing them at CroatoanMetal@Gmail.com and you can contact Invader for tickets by messaging them through their MySpace page here. If the event does well financially for the venue, they plan on making it a monthly event, so lets show them the Northern Virginia metal scene isn’t dead!

The event will be 18+ though it can be all ages if accompanied by your parent (it must be your parent, not an older brother, uncle, friend’s parent, etc…). There will be a full service bar and food will be available too, selling standard wings, burgers, fries and the like. As per the State Theatre’s policy, all unattended beverages will be thrown away with no refunds to help prevent under age drinking. The venue has an outdoor smoking section as well (and they do allow re-entry from the smoking area) and you can bring your drink with you so there’s no reason to leave one unattended anyway. The event will have doors open at 7pm and the first band will probably be on at around 8pm. Bands will have merch for sale at the venue, so bring some cash to pick up a shirt or a demo or something if you particularly enjoy some of the acts. This kind of event should be a great way to check out some of the best metal acts in the area as well as hang out with fellow metal heads, network, and help build the metal community in Northern Virginia. Again, if it does well this event could become monthly and will feature different bands every month, so if you’d like your band to play on this stage at some point, help get people out to this event! We can build the community here in Northern Virginia and get more and more bands exposure, but only if people actually, ya know, come out and watch some bands play.

The whole event got started when Alan Margazano, a metal head employee of the State Theatre, had an idea for a metal night at the historic venue in Falls Church. He started a Facebook page to see if people were interested in the idea at all and there was a positive response backed with a rapid viral spreading of the Facebook page. After the group swelled to over 500 members in under a week, Alan proposed the idea to the management at the venue and got the green light. You can join the group by going here and he has also created an event page on Facebook you can join/send to your friends here. The bands have now been assembled and the first metal night should be a fun event catering to fans of various sub genres of metal. Timelord and Croatoan are thrash based acts while King Giant has a sort of southern sludge sound along the lines of bands like Down and Baroness and Invader has a more old school vibe I could see fans of NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden really getting into. You can listen to these bands on their MySpace pages by clicking their names above. Timelord has tickets for sale via Paypal if you send $10 to the band’s email address: TimeLordBand@Yahoo.com If you don’t have a Paypal account you can purchase tickets from them in person in Springfield by contacting them with that same email address. If you’d like to purchase tickets from Croatoan just email CroatoanMetal@Gmail.com. You can purchase tickets from Invader by messaging them on their MySpace page here. I will have info on how to purchase tickets from the other bands soon. You can see the State Theatre’s event page on their website here. I’m hoping this goes well and we’ll get to see more metal bands of all sorts of genres at the State Theatre in the coming months.

Again, you can buy tickets online from the State Theatre here, and if you’d like to help spread the link to this page around on the internet, you can use this short link: http://wp.me/pDCET-qn

Review of Iron Maiden gig at Jiffy Lube Live

This is a review of their 2010 concert at Jiffy Lube Live, for the 2012 concert review go here.

Whenever Iron Maiden comes to town you can bet most of the metal heads in the area are going to find their way to that concert. Tuesday the 20th of July 2010 was no exception when Iron Maiden played the horribly named Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia. The concert was fun as always, though there were several problems with it too. Also of note, it was the final show of the US leg of the Final Frontier Tour. I totally missed the opening act Dream Theater. This was partly because of the weather, partly because of some minor navigational issues getting to the venue, and partly because (or so I was told) they played a short set.

When we got to Jiffy Lube Live (formerly known as Nissan Pavilion) it was pouring rain, though by the time we actually got the car parked it had mostly let up. The rain never got that bad again, but it was still a damp and humid night, and the lawn area had a lot of mud on it that only seemed to get more slick as the night wore on. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a large venue concert like this one. Part of that is because there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of bands that play arenas and amphitheaters that I actually want to see, and part of it is because the experience kind of sucks. Sure seeing the band is fun, but paying $11 for a can of beer that would cost me $2 at a 7-11 is ridiculous. Leaving the venue is always horrible too, and Jiffy Lube Live is known for being one of the worst. Things like finding your friends can be tough in such large places, and of course these outdoor shows leave you vulnerable to the elements. On top of it all, the ticket prices are astronomical if you want to be anywhere halfway close to the stage. Now I understand the whole supply and demand part of it, but I’m sorry I’m just not willing to pay a few hundred bucks to see a band one night, I don’t care who it is. This concert expectedly had all the same problems, at no fault to Iron Maiden, though I suppose they could make tickets a bit cheaper if they wanted, but they were pretty typical in price. They did have a rather elaborate setup on the stage, and I like how they have a backdrop that changes for just about every song, and that stuff costs money to do. At one point they brought out some guy in a full body costume of the newest space alien version of the band’s mascot, Eddie. Kinda goofy and a bit Gwar-ish I suppose, but entertaining none the less. The band’s singer, Bruce Dickenson, is always entertaining on stage, jumping around and climbing on the elaborate stage sets as well as getting everyone to sing along with him on those classic chorus lines Iron Maiden is known for. At one point between songs he asked the audience who was there for their first ever Iron Maiden show. I don’t know if people weren’t paying attention and going along with the herd, or if they were all just n00bz or whatever, but most of the audience put up their hands and yelled. Bruce didn’t seem to believe it and made a comment about how this can’t be EVERYONE’s first Maiden gig. He also dedicated the song Blood Brothers to the late Ronnie James Dio which also pleased the crowd. The three guitarist attack of Iron Maiden is pretty fun to witness too, the guys really know how to make solos fun to watch AND listen to at the same time. If you’re not up close it can sometimes be hard to tell which of the 3 guitarists is playing the solo, especially when they start switching off, but that’s part of the fun of watching an Iron Maiden show. The stage was set up to look like the inside of a space ship along the lines of something you see in the Aliens movies. It had a door that Bruce would occasionally duck into to let the focus of the audience stay on the rest of the band for certain parts of songs, such as the aforementioned guitar solos. He’d later appear on top of the set materials above the band or run back out the door just before his next line. The showmanship was great and all, and the concert was really awesome except for one thing, the setlist…

Iron Maiden Setlist Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA, USA 2010, The Final Frontier Tour

The setlist was not what I had been hoping for, and I’d imagine many of the people in attendance would agree. If you’re a big fan of Iron Maiden’s material from the year 2000 on, you were in luck. If you wanted to hear lots of their old classics and maybe a few newer songs sprinkled in for good measure? Well, this wasn’t your night. Do you know how many people went to this concert hoping to get a chance to hear The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg instead of The Trooper? Zero. You’ll notice in the setlist posted above which was actually played though. This was the biggest problem with this show. Yeah, it was Iron Maiden and they are damn fun to see live, but where were all the songs? No Wasted Years? No Powerslave? They didn’t even play Run To The Hills and I thought for sure they’d play that one. They played ten songs that were released in the years 2000 to 2010, including the new single El Dorado which was expected, but come on! They played just one song released between the years 1983 and 1999, Fear Of The Dark. That’s a huge part of their discography that was completely ignored. They only played one song from 1980 to 1982 until they closed the show with four straight songs from that era, three of which were part of the planned encore. Those songs were great to watch live, don’t get me wrong, but aside from Wrathchild being played early, where the hell were these classic tunes during the first hour or so of the concert? When I last saw Iron Maiden, in 2003 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, they basically played their best hits CD live. That was an awesome experience, everyone knew all the songs and everyone sang them like they were in the shower or driving in their car alone. People were playing air guitar to songs they’d learned to play when they were growing up and banged their heads to beats they have loved for many years. That nostalgia, that’s what everyone (well, at least me!) wanted at this concert too, but unless you’d been following their more recent material, you didn’t really get that experience. As I said above, it’s always fun seeing Iron Maiden, but the set list really left me feeling glad I hadn’t decided to fork over a few hundred dollars for a spot up close. I did get to shoot a couple videos while there, and you can see them below. They’re a little shakey as I was doing my best to hide the fact that I was shooting video, though midway through The Number Of The Beast I grew some balls and tried to keep the camera steady. I hope you enjoy them! I know a lot of people who will read this were there, feel free to tell me about your experience at the concert in the comments below.

Review of Blood And Fire Festival at KC’s

On Saturday the 10th of July, 2010 I headed down to Fredericksburg to a gathering of bands from Washington DC and Northern Virginia. This was the first Blood And Fire Festival and was held at KC’s Music Alley. The doors opened at 2pm but there was no way I was going to get down to Fredericksburg that early. I got there a little after 6pm and found the parking lot packed. I’d never been to KC’s before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I hadn’t counted on the lot being completely full. I did find a spot eventually, and made my way inside. Orgy Of The Damned was on the stage when I went inside. I had met their drummer back in May at Maryland Deathfest and I’m glad I got there in time to check them out. They were a group of pretty young guys with a lot of youthful excitement and seemed to really be enjoying themselves on the stage. They had some technical difficulties (an unfortunate theme for the night really) and someone mentioned to me that their vocalist had been sick, but they made the best of it. During one of the breaks to fix equipment they played an impromptu cover of Napalm Death‘s one second song You Suffer, that was pretty entertaining. I thought it was kind of funny when the singer got a member of the audience to sing into the mic “I’m a fieces fiend”, haha. They also played a cover of Belphegor‘s ridiculously titled song Bondage Goat Zombie when they were told they had time for one more song.

The next band I saw was a black metal band from Leesburg, Virginia called Immortal Decay. Their bass player was in full corpse paint, and they had some deer antlers on the mic stand. Their singer had a lot of fun poses to watch, and the band had a lot of energy on stage. It was during their set I realized just how shitty the sound set up was at this venue. For most of their set I was standing in the middle very close to the front of the stage. From there you couldn’t hear the vocals at all. I didn’t shoot any video of these guys because I thought the mic was just out and didn’t want to make a shitty recording. At the end of their set I moved around a bit and realized that if you moved to the sides of the stage near the speakers you could hear the microphones much better. By the time I figured that out their set was almost over. I did enjoy their set though, and even if I couldn’t hear the vocalist he was putting on a good show. While most bands would try to get the audience moshing by spinning their hand or just telling the crowd to, this guy actually jumped off the stage and ran into the mosh pit, mid song! Now that is getting the audience into the show, haha! One of their guitarists, who was rather tall, was also helping with the showmanship. Between him and the vocalist it was hard to keep your eyes away from the stage. Their sound was certainly black metal, heavily distorted guitars making a wall of sound with rather aggressive riffs and fast paced drumming. They were pretty entertaining and I wouldn’t mind having some of their mp3s on my iPod. UPDATE: Immortal Decay posted a video of them playing the song Rotting Altar at the Blood And Fire Festival on their YouTube page here.

After they finished playing I went to the bar area for a bit. The entire venue is divided down the middle, one side with the stage area and the other had the bar and pool tables, as well as a foosball table and a lonely Tekken Tag arcade game. This created a bit of a problem, since you really couldn’t drink while watching the bands. I asked the bartender about this, and she said that apparently the guy checking the door was just looking to see if people were over 18 and not if they were over 21, so they didn’t have a way of knowing if people underage were drinking or not if they allowed people to bring their alcohol into the stage area. They had pretty cheap beer, I’d forgotten how cheap it is to drink the farther away you get from the city. They had $1.50 PBR drafts, and $2 Corona bottles, can’t find that anywhere inside the belt loop. Since I wanted to eat, drink, and talk to people a bit, I had to miss a few of the bands because of the set up though.

Anyways, the next band I watched was Apothys. They’re probably the most popular death metal band in Northern Virginia these days, and for good reason. They put on a good show and play some cool tunes too. I certainly got into the show when they played their song Venomcrest. They moved around on stage quite a bit, and kept the audience excited with their guitar solos and general stage presence. They had the largest size crowd of the night, partly because they’re fun to watch, but also because when their set ended, everyone under 18 was kicked out of the venue. I don’t know if Fredericksburg has a curfew or if the Virginia ABC has a law about it or maybe it was just the venue’s decision. Regardless, the bands who played after certainly had a smaller crowd to play for, and since the place was divided, this meant just as many people were left hanging out in the bar area, including me! I found myself talking to various locals, fans, band members, girlfriends, and pretty much anyone in my vicinity. I got the bartender to put one of my bumper stickers on the edge of the shelf holding up the TVs over the bar, which was pretty cool, and I handed out a bunch more of my stickers to people. It’s always cool when people recognize me from the site too, especially since you can’t really see my face on there since I’ve got corpse paint on. After a couple more bands played it was time to check out the final act of the night, Hatred.

Hatred has been playing the DC area since the early 90s. They’re a sort of old school thrashy death metal band. They were pretty fun to watch, as usual. Most of the people in the bar area moved out to see them play too, which was cool. It was nice to see people had stuck around to watch them. They played songs from most of their back catalog, not just stuff from their 2009 album Burning Paradise. At one point during the set they switched bass players, I’m not sure what happened there but that was kind of strange. The second guy sure had a lot more stage presence, as evidenced in the videos I posted below. They played a rather long set and the people there were chanting for them to come back after the last song was played. I don’t know if it was scheduled or not, the set list didn’t mention it, but they came back to play a final song that ended around 1am. That wrapped up the first Blood & Fire Festival, which I have to say was a pretty fun experience. I don’t know if anyone ever claimed the ticket raffle prizes (the winning ticket numbers were 55 and 57) and I didn’t even know there was a raffle until Apothys announced they were picking the winners on stage. They did have some of the coolest concert tickets I’ve ever seen, much nicer than the generic blue & white from Ticketmaster. They were black and red with flames and shit, pretty metal. There were certainly sound problems throughout the event, and the curfew thing was strange, but in all it was nice to see a bunch of local bands take some initiative and get together like this. I know Apothys had a big hand in organizing it, I’m hoping they put another one together in the future, just maybe not as far away as Fredericksburg next time. With that, I leave you with the videos I shot at the concert, the first is Orgy Of The Damned, the next two are Apothys and the rest are Hatred. Enjoy!

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