Metal Marathon – The First 3 Days

Well it’s Tuesday the 8th as I write this, and I’ve been to four metal shows in the last three days. I saw two metal fests in Richmond on Saturday, the Virginia Extreme Metal Festival at the Canal Club and A Rockin Massacre at Alley Katz, both are just blocks away and I walked back and forth between them all day. Sunday I headed up to Bourbon Street to see Cradle Of Filth and Monday night I was at the Metal Mondays/La Noche De Metal weekly metal spotlight at So Addictive Lounge in Herndon, Virginia. With seven more concerts in the next six days (starting tonight!), I just don’t have the time now to do full reviews of these shows, but here’s some highlights of my metal adventures the past three days.

As I mentioned in my last post, my car is not sounding good and Monday morning I brought it to the mechanic for what is going to be at least a few days worth of work (ugh!). Because it has been sounding bad, I got myself a ride down to Richmond on Saturday with the very cool Clinton Eickelberg, the bass player of local thrash act Death Penalty. His band was playing the Rockin Massacre at Alley Katz that afternoon so we left early to get there in time for the bands to load in. Everyone seemed to get there a bit late due to traffic but I think everything started pretty much to schedule at Alley Katz at least. The first band of the day I wanted to see was Loculus. They’re a pretty sick death metal band from Northern Virginia and they were playing second at the Canal Club. Their drummer is the new drummer for the legendary Pentagram, and their bass player will be touring with Wretched this spring, but that’s not what makes them cool. Their brutal death metal assault on the ears is! They played a tight but short set and when they finished I found myself headed up the street to catch Death Penalty who were just starting. Their set was pretty much the same as when they played at the State Theatre with King Giant in January (my review of that is here), though this time when they played a cover of Iron Maiden‘s The Trooper they had Nina Osegueda of A Sound Of Thunder doing vocals with them. After they played I headed back down to the Canal Club and talked with a few people and watched a few random bands. The schedule for the Virginia Extreme Metal Fest was not the same order as they had posted, so it was a bit crazy catching the bands I wanted to see. I ended up missing Ethereal Genocide, who I wanted to see, but I got to check out Hatred again at least. Then I saw a band called Blood Tribe which was a sort of metalcore band I didn’t have much interest in. I headed back up to Alley Katz after that and watched the last few bands there, A Sound Of Thunder, Chopper Trike Rebels and Division. A Sound Of Thunder vocalist Nina had recently been in a car wreck and she did a pretty good job of hiding how sore she was, though it you’ve seen them before you could probably tell she was a bit less crazy on stage than usual. Their set wasn’t bad though I noticed they had to cut off a few songs from their setlist to keep the show on schedule. That kinda sucked cause I wanted to see them play My Name Is Doom but that song was axed. I ended up bumming a ride back to NoVA from their guitarist, Josh Schwartz, at the end of the night so a big thanks goes out to him on trusting that I wasn’t a serial killer. Yes, I went down to Richmond not knowing how I’d get back, haha. The Chopper Trike Rebels were up next and while their guitarist had some pretty cool custom guitars on display through their set, the sound mix was pretty shitty and you couldn’t hear them that well. They had a LOT of fog on stage, and their singer ran around and had good stage presence but unfortunately the mix was too poor for me to fairly judge their sound at all. The final band of the night was Division who actually had a pretty good mix. They really killed it and while a lot of people had gone home by the time they played, it was worth sticking around to catch them. They’re a great local band and Catherine Lewis of the Washington Post named their latest album one of the top five local metal releases of 2010 (link here). In all it was a great day for two metal fests, I just wish the promoters/venues had worked together to make everything more cohesive. After Josh gave me a ride back up to the area I was really tired, that was a long day and I still had 8 more days of metal shows ahead!

Sunday I again needed help getting a ride out of town to a show, this time to Bourbon Street in Baltimore to catch Cradle Of Filth. One of my followers on Twitter, Sarah aka @murrainofswains, decided that I probably wasn’t a crazy murderer and gave me a lift up to the show with her. Really awesome of her and she had some cool stories about seeing music festivals in other countries and working with Iraqis. Neither of us had been to this venue before, but it was pretty nice. More deep than wide, they had a great lighting system set up and the stage was really high too. When I got there the venue couldn’t find my photo pass until luckily someone I’d contacted weeks ago came into the will call booth and got me set up. He told me they were only allowing the photographers to shoot from the photo pit for the first two songs, but after the band’s opening song, Heaven Torn Asunder, they kicked us all out! Not sure what happened there, I think perhaps the bouncers didn’t know the band’s material at all and since Cradle has long songs, they assumed when the first ended it was actually two songs. The lighting wasn’t great for shooting though and I felt kind of rushed since I got up front just as the band was heading on stage. After watching a couple songs from the side of the stage I figured I’d shoot some video for you guys and headed back into the crowd a bit. Their set was really great, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Cradle Of Filth show these days. I am not really a fan of their more recent releases and I kind of expected them to play a lot of their newer material. I was pleasantly wrong though as they played a nice mix of tunes from all eras of the band, even a couple from the first album. I saw them last about ten years ago at the 9:30 Club and that show was really over the top, contortionists on stage and some girl doing acrobatics from these rings hanging over the stage. The whole thing was sort of a goth circus. This show they turned down the ridiculous a lot. No goofy side show shit on stage but they did have their normal uh, costumes on and corpse paint and such. Dani Filth has a short hair cut, which while not really metal, it’s better than fucking neon blue dreads and crap like that. His voice isn’t holding up and he couldn’t scream like he used to though. He isn’t able to sustain for as long that high pitched scream he’s known for, but that’s bound to happen with age. He did still scream a lot though and the show was really entertaining, especially because of their great set list.

Monday the 7th of March was day three of my nine day Metal Marathon and I found myself getting a ride out to So Addictive Lounge in Herndon, Virginia for the weekly local metal showcase there called La Noche De Metal. I got there a bit late and missed the first band, Wolventhrone, apparently a black metal act. Next up was the band I came out to see, Wolfnuke, who are a pretty kick ass blackened thrash act that just doesn’t slow down on the energy level. Check these guys out if you haven’t already, great stuff and even better live. They probably should have played last though as they seemed to have the largest audience of the night and the longest set too. After they played another black metal act was up, Xeukatre. They’re a very raw black metal band obviously drawing from the Darkthrone school of keeping it “trve”. Their show was VERY dark, only a strobing set of colored lights on stage lit the room, which they also filled with smoke. I took a few shots but nothing too great due to those conditions. I think they were wearing corpse paint, and their drummer may have been a woman, but it was so dark you couldn’t really tell any of that. They’re so kvlt that their lighting is so dark that you can’t see their theatrics, haha! The last band of the night was Palkoski. They were the only band not from Maryland this evening and they’re a pretty good grind act. They were formerly a band called The Seventh Gate but they have since changed their format to a grindcore concept band where the lead singer plays the persona of his alter ego, a fictitious serial killer named Frank Palkoski and their live show is supposed to be a sonic representation of that. While some grind can get pretty damn stale by the end of a set these guys always keep it entertaining and mix things up a bit throughout the set. They aren’t the kind of band that’s going to stage dive and have lots of breakdowns, they’re going to basically shred your face off in raging bursts of aggression. They also set up a table with free stuff for anyone to take, and I got what appears to be a previously used flask with a bumper sticker on it with a bunch of nekkid dudes bound in duct tape on it, haha! It was another great Metal Monday at So Addictive and I’m glad I got to see such great metal for just $5!

It’s been a crazy first three days and I can’t wait to see how the rest of this adventure goes. My car is totally MIA right now but I’m doing my damnedest to keep this metal marathon alive! If anyone wants to give me a ride to Baltimore on Thursday to see Atheist at Sonar that would be awesome, please don’t rob/kill me and I promise the same in return (and I don’t mind chipping in for gas or whatever). If you’d like to help me buy beer/gas/fix my car feel free to kick a couple bucks my way via Paypal here. I’ve made a set of pictures on Flickr of all the shots I’m taking during my Metal Marathon and you can see those here, more will be added as I go to more shows. I’ve posted one video by each band I’ve seen so far on my Metal Marathon below but you can see the rest on my YouTube page here, I particularly recommend checking out the Cradle Of Filth videos as I think they came out rather well. So it’s three days down, six more to go!

Recap of Mandatory Metal 3 at the State Theatre

Mandatory Metal 3 was the third local metal night at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia held on 16 December 2010. This was the first Mandatory Metal to take place on a Thursday night, instead of a Friday, and that combined with the fact that it snowed a couple inches that day unfortunately kept the turn out rather low. For those who did make it out though, it was a really entertaining show. As usual there were four local bands who played and this time they were Scream/Ruin, A Sound Of Thunder, Iris Divine and Division. While the previous Mandatory Metal show had been more death and black metal based, this one was more melodic and most of the bands used clean vocals (aka non-growling/screaming) at least some of the time. Now if you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that’s not usually my preference, but of course there are exceptions and this show was a great way to stay out of the cold.

The first band of the night was Scream/Ruin, a hardcore band with some thrashy elements based in Loudoun, Virginia. They had a lot of heavy breakdowns and some nice shredding in parts. The vocals were mostly somewhere between shouting and screaming. One thing that sort of set them apart from your typical hardcore metal band is they had atmospheric keyboards in parts of some songs. I’m generally not a huge fan of most hardcore, but these guys were entertaining. The drummer seemed to come from the Lars Ulrich school of drumming, not really too fast but high drama most of the time. I really enjoyed the parts of their songs that had the faster drum beats most, but that might just be my bias for extreme metal talking. Their stage lighting was very dark, with a couple of flood lights on stage that blinked on and off throughout the set. I was right up front most of their set but I’m not sure how well people farther back could see the stage. The video I shot of them is pretty dark too, but the audio is still decent. They were a good opening act and started the show off with a lot of energy.

The next band to play was A Sound Of Thunder. Their lead singer is a very charismatic woman named Nina Osegueda. While they may have a female lead singer, they don’t really sound anything like other local bands that also do, like say Todesbonden, This Means You or Rain Fell Within. This band is more in the vein of traditional and power metal stylistically. While Nina sings very cleanly, it’s not in that operatic style but more of a female rock or metal style. The band itself was more talented than the bulk of the metal bands that have a woman up front just as more of a gimmick. The guitarist had a cool solo with the spotlight on him for a bit at one point, and you could tell the band was really in tune with each other on stage. While they did rock out a lot they had some slower and more melodic parts too, showing some range in their songs. The stage was still fairly dark for them, and since my camera sucks in dark lighting you don’t really get as good of an idea of how they looked on stage, but the audio is listenable enough. They were certainly fun, and while I wish I’d gotten to record their song Walls, probably my favorite song of their set, I did get their closing song Wings Of Steel at least.

The next band to play was Iris Divine from Alexandria, Virginia. They’re a more progressive style band, though that genre label has always seemed a bit vague to me. They reminded me a lot of Maryland’s Periphery, though I wouldn’t call them a djent band. They do have some complex song structures that are also catchy, not a lot of bands seem to be able to do both. The songs have lots of rhythm changes, and the vocals alternate from a rough yelling to singing. Their keyboard player, Farhad Hossain, would step away from the keys to play guitar in some parts, as well as share the singing with their other guitarist, Navid Rashid. Probably the biggest issue I had with their set was that sometimes they had problems harmonizing their voices on the parts where they were both singing together. Either one by himself sounded fine though. Really that’s a minor issue as this band is one that you focus more on the musicianship anyways. The clean vocals as well as the programming and keyboards did seem to fill their sound out with some atmosphere, and there were some more heavy and energetic parts too. You could definitely tell they had put a lot of thought into all these songs. In all I was impressed by them, as this was the band that I knew the least about going in to this show.

Next up was the fourth and final band of the night, Division from Woodbridge, Virginia. I met some of the band members at the first Mandatory Metal show back in August and they had given me a copy of their latest CD, Control Issues (buy it here). It’s definitely grown on me and I was glad I knew some of their material by the time I got to see them live. They opened with their song Hunt, which is probably my favorite song of theirs. Their setlist wasn’t only songs from the new album, but also songs I didn’t recognize from older albums. Both were fun to watch live though. They really put on a show, members of the band were constantly shifting position on stage and their showmanship certainly made it easy to watch them as they walked around on the stage like they owned it. The thrashy and heavy riffs were fun to listen to as well. The two guitarists seemed to be playing dueling solos at points too. I guess you could call them power metal, but vocalist Nick Kelly doesn’t overdo it in that annoying way that reminds me of 80s hair bands like plenty of power metal bands do. He has a good voice and knows when to sustain and when not to, the latter being noticeably rare in the world of heavy metal. They were my favorite band of the night, and they were a great headlining act. The highlight of the entire night was definitely their closing song, a cover of Metallica‘s Disposable Heroes. They really had the audience participation going, and also had Alan Margazano (the guy who organizes the Mandatory Metal shows) of Death Penalty singing back up vocals on that. Those of you who missed the show or left early are lucky that I shot video of it and have posted it below. They really put on a great show, my only gripe was that they didn’t play their song Short Attention Span Society, which is another tune I really like of theirs. But that’s ok, gives me something to look forward to the next time I see them.

In all it was another great night of local metal at the State Theatre. I enjoyed all four bands, none of which I had seen live before. I just wish more people had shown up, the bands really deserved it. I suppose nobody can control the weather, but people really should have come out, it wasn’t THAT bad out. Alan told me there were a lot of people who had bought presale tickets and didn’t even show up! If you missed out though, you can check out three of the bands that played, Scream/Ruin, A Sound Of Thunder and Division, who all have free mp3s you can download on my Download’s page here. You can also see A Sound Of Thunder, Iris Divine and Division play with a few other bands in Richmond at Alley Katz on March 5th, 2011. There will also be another metal show coming to the State Theatre, though not a Mandatory Metal (the next one will be in February). In late January King Giant and Death Penalty are playing a gig, the State Theatre’s first non-Mandatory Metal concert. Details are on the calendar of upcoming concerts. AND don’t forget I’m giving away a pair of tickets to see Gwar on 29 December 2010 at the 9:30 Club, you can enter here for free. You can check out the rest of my pics from Mandatory Metal 3 on my Flickr account here, and as usual I’ve posted all the videos I shot at the show below. Enjoy!