Empire’s final concert

It was the best of venues, it was the worst of venues. Empire, Jaxx, Zaxx, whatever you called the movie theater turned concert venue located at 6355 Rolling Road in Springfield, Virginia, it was certainly one thing: the most important venue in Northern Virginia to heavy metal fans. It had been a club that transitioned through a few names and hosted many bands of various musical genres but it wasn’t until Jay Nedry took it over in 1994 that the venue became Jaxx. Jaxx became a place to see rock and heavy metal bands come through on tours and they would regularly book performances by underground and European metal bands that you just couldn’t see anywhere else in the area. In January 2012 new ownership took over Jaxx and rebranded the nightclub Empire. I personally attended literally hundreds of concerts at Jaxx/Empire over the past 20 years or so, far more than I’ve seen at any other concert venue.

It was pretty surreal going to Empire/Jaxx’s last concert on Sunday, May 3rd of 2015. I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t the venue’s final show ever and I think a lot of people there would have said the same thing. I said hi to lots of friends, most of whom I’d been to concerts with at the venue in the past, and I talked to a lot of the staff throughout the night. I had a lot of great concert memories at this place. I remember seeing Arch Enemy on their first US tour with Angela Gossow on vocals there and people were blown away by her stage presence. I remember seeing David Vincent’s sweaty return to Morbid Angel there, a sold out show where the AC didn’t work. I got drunk and saw Napalm Death play there on Easter one year. I saw Electric Wizard open for Macabre and Enslaved there (the only metal show I ever convinced my mom to attend with me). I saw plenty of other shows with eclectic line ups like when King Diamond played with Entombed and when Cannibal Corpse, Dimmu Borgir, The Haunted and Lamb Of God all shared the stage for a night. I remember taking a piss in that awful men’s room troth while talking to Lord Worm of Cryptopsy as he cleaned live worms in the sink to feed to fans from the stage. It was at Jaxx that Rob Dukes, at the time the vocalist for Exodus, stage dived right on top of me while he was wearing a cheerleader costume during Kreator’s encore, all while I was shooting video. These memories and more floated through my head at the final show.

But it was a show, not some flashback montage, and while my mind often wandered throughout the night there was plenty to remind me that hindsight isn’t always 20-20, it has a way of looking at things through those rosy lenses of nostalgia. The same old problems the venue had were still very apparent at the final show. The farewell show itself had way too many bands on the bill, a total of eight, only two of which were on the tour package. I had brought my nice camera hoping to take some shots of the final show but the lighting was so bad for most of the bands I didn’t even feel like bothering. And of course the same old issues of bands not being allotted enough time, or being put in the right order, were glaring. Locals Iris Divine and Oberris had been on the bill for several weeks before the announcement on April 23rd (here) that Empire would be closing on May 5th, though once word of that got out bands started jumping on to the line up. I can understand that, but the bands that were already busting their asses to promote the show shouldn’t have been bumped to play earlier and had their amount of stage time reduced. The sound guy cut off Iris Divine’s set mid song, which I thought was a technical issue at first. Then Yesterday’s Saints played, and their set wasn’t bad but I’ve seen grindcore bands put on longer sets than they were allowed to play, something like 15 minutes. A shame since they had driven home from Louisville, Kentucky the night before to be able to play this show. The final local to play, A Sound Of Thunder, was also cut off while on stage. It was all just handled poorly and left most of the locals feeling slighted to differing degrees.

After a longer break than Yesterday’s Saints was even allowed to play the first touring band came on. Next To None is a lesson on what nepotism can get you. The Pennsylvania based prog band is made up of teenagers aged 15 to 17, the most notable being Max Portnoy, son of the famous ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. Mike was even on hand to introduce his son’s band at the start of their set. I guess they were technically proficient but like most bands made up of kids, they don’t really do much besides mimic other bands. There wasn’t anything new or innovative about what they were doing, it was well rehearsed and safe, but they’re just teenagers so I guess you have to cut them some slack. I could totally see them touring with Unlocking The Truth and playing shows for younger kids.

After Next To None finished it was time for Haken to perform. I had heard they were planning a two and a half hour set this evening, which I suppose is fairly normal for prog bands, though it actually ended up being a little under 2 hours. The band is based in London and I believe this was the final date of their first US tour. I wish they had gotten a band that had played Jaxx many times over the years to close the place out, or even one that had played it once before, but that wasn’t really a practical request. The Haken vocalist, Ross Jennings, made some comments between songs about the closing a few times, wondering why the place was closing because it was so awesome and commenting that it was a strange privilege to be the last band to play there. The crowd had thinned out quite a bit by the time Haken got to their scripted encore, though the final two songs were definitely the highlight of their set. To close out the venue they played a cover of Metallica’s “Fade To Black” then Mike Portnoy got behind the drum kit and Haken covered “The Mirror” by Dream Theater to end the set, their tour, and the venue’s history of concerts.

At the end of the show I hung out and talked to a few friends while the bands tore down their gear. Eventually I said goodbye to the staff as well, who have always been good to me (going back to the Jaxx days) but that probably has something to do with the blog I run, local bands seem to have mixed reviews. The show was over but I didn’t want to say goodbye to the venue, I think I was the last person to leave that wasn’t an employee or part of the tour. I’ve spent a lot of time in that place, complained about plenty of its problems over the years, but I still kept coming back. When I first started going to see concerts that weren’t at giant amphitheaters or arenas Jaxx was there to let me see the bands I was into perform live, and to discover more bands as well. Jaxx was there showcasing locals from around the region before I even knew of any of our local bands. When I first started attempting concert photography, several years before I started this blog, the first shows I shot were Behemoth and Watain at Jaxx. I lived about a mile down the road from Jaxx for a few years as well, sometimes if I was bored on a particular night I’d check their calendar for what was playing that night and head over if it sounded interesting, or at least not terrible. Empire/Jaxx had a lot of problems though. The room wasn’t a great shape and the speakers were set up in a way that the sound was really bad in several areas of the room, and there were the days the AC would be turned off in the summer to increase drink sales at the bar. On some nights Empire would actually charge for water at the bar, a practice that isn’t illegal but is pretty underhanded and potentially dangerous. However the most polarizing aspect of the venue was always its pay to play policy, which had the local bands pre-selling tickets to the shows they were added to. It was great that they allowed locals to play on a stage that size but it was awful that they had to shake down their friends time and again to do so. Many bands boycotted playing the venue because of this policy, and many people refused to even see shows there because of the policy. The fact that after the closing announcement was made so many people took to social media to comment about it, even people that hated the venue and were glad to see it go, is a testament to the impact it had on our area’s metal scene.

Empire/Jaxx definitely wasn’t perfect, no concert venue is, but it is the one we had for so many years, a constant in our metal scene. This is officially the first day that there is no Empire, no Jaxx, in Springfield. It has been bought by the kabob restaurant next door, they want to expand to add a banquet hall for weddings and other special occasions. There is a part of me that is sad to see the end of Empire/Jaxx. I made a lot of friends and memories there, I saw many bands close up, and I probably wouldn’t be the metal concert addict that started a local metal blog if it didn’t exist for all those years. But like the overdue end to a long term relationship, I’m also glad that I don’t have to put up with its bullshit any more either.

Behemoth at Jaxx in 2007
The first concert I ever shot, I’d like to think I’m a little better by now

Rob Dukes stage dives on me while Kreator plays at Empire

King Giant tickets and album give away

Hey everyone, I’ve got another contest for you this week. Local southern metal act King Giant is playing Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, Virginia this Saturday the 21st of January and DCHeavyMetal.com is giving away a free pair of tickets to one of you lucky readers of the site. This isn’t just any ordinary King Giant show though, in addition to headlining it is also the release show for their new album Dismal Hollow. At the show they’ll have copies of it on both CD and vinyl and to sweeten this week’s contest I’ll be giving away a copy of it as well. You get to pick which version you want, CD or vinyl, and I’ll get the entire band to personally autograph it for you! And since I’m feeling so generous this week I’ll throw in a free DCHeavyMetal.com t-shirt with the Joshua Brettell artwork! So that means this week’s winner gets a copy of the new King Giant album in the format of their choice signed by the band AND two free tickets to the show on Saturday AND a free DCHeavyMetal.com shirt! All you have to do to win is tell me why you want to go to this show in the comments below and I’ll pick a winner at random using Random.org to win the prize package! Your reason can be to pick up the new album, to hear some of the new tunes played live, to get loaded at the bar or anything you want really. The winner will be picked at 5pm EST on Friday 20 January 2012. Be sure to use a valid email address you check regularly when you post a comment so I can contact you if you win, though the email address doesn’t have to be in the comment itself. And don’t worry, I won’t add you to any lists or spam you in any way, I hate that shit too.

King Giant puts on a great show however there’s a kick ass line up for the whole night so be sure to get there early and check out some of the other bands playing. Starting the night off will be a band called Weed Warlock and I honestly don’t know much about them but I’m going to guess they’re a stoner band just from the band name alone. After them will be Auroboros, one of the area’s rising sludge bands. You sort of have to mention that the band features former members of both Baroness and Salome, however they’re a great band even if they didn’t have a pedigree. I’ve also heard they have just made t-shirts and this will be the first place you’ll be able to get one at. After they play there’s The Crimson Electric who are coming up from the Virginia Beach area. You may recall that they played with King Giant at the State Theatre back in January of 2011. So I guess this is becoming an annual thing for them but that’s not a bad thing at all because they put on a great show. The final opening act before King Giant plays will be Borracho, a stoner/doom band from DC. Their name is Spanish for a drunk or lush and as you’d guess they write some great riffs to knock a few back to between rounds of shots. This is really an excellent line up of similar yet distinct and talented bands. If you don’t end up winning you can get a ticket online from Amped & Alive for $13.50 here OR you can buy a ticket at the door $12 (add $2 to that if you’re under 21). This show is all ages and the doors open at 6:30pm. I’ll also be selling DCHM shirts and hopefully have a new batch of DCHM stickers in by then and I’ll be giving those away for free to anyone who wants one. Now check out this kick ass King Giant video for their new song Appomattox and enter the contest below it:

Another Mega Sized Concert Recap

Well, I haven’t posted any concert reviews lately, but as usual I’ve still been going to lots of concerts. Things have slowed down a bit here in late December concert wise but this is normal since bands don’t usually like touring during the holidays. I’ve been to some great shows since my first mega sized concert recap. I’ve set each show as a separate paragraph so if you don’t care about a particular gig you can easily skip to the next one. And of course all the band names will link you to a place you can stream that band’s music. Click on any picture to see more of my photos of that band as well. Now, on to the awesomeness that is going to see metal shows in the DC area.

On Saturday the 12th of November 2011 I headed out to the Velvet Lounge on U Street in the District. Warchild was headlining a show and I had heard they were good live, though I hadn’t gotten a chance to see them yet. I got there right when their set was starting and the upstairs of the Velvet Lounge was absolutely packed! I’ve never seen it that full before and it’s cool so many people came out to see a local metal band play there. Warchild is a thrash metal act who likes to party hard. Everyone in the band was shirtless and sporting lots of tattoos. The vocalist, also from the 80s throwback rock band Rattler, told everyone in attendance to not hold back and stage dive and crowd surf as much as they wanted. The audience complied and people were even hanging from the fan in the middle of the room, just going nuts. They brought some people on stage to pound beers in a beer bong and even had two guys race to see who could smash the a can of beer open on their head and then drink it the fastest. And you thought Municipal Waste was a party thrash band, this show was crazy. They played a solid thrash set and ended it with a kick ass cover, with plenty of crowd participation, of Metallica‘s old school classic The Four Horsemen. Such a great show, I can’t wait to see them live again. Highly recommended!
Warchild

Beer Eating Contest

The following Thursday, the 18th of November, I went to the Black Cat in Washington DC to see Fu Manchu play. The opening act was the Austin, Texas based three piece Honky. Somewhere between hellbilly and stoner, they were a pretty solid opener. Their bass player is JD Pinkus who is better known for having played in the Butthole Surfers. They had some hilarious song titles and subjects, which you’d expect more from a humorous grind band. My favorite was their song about masturbating at work called Gittin’ It. They were fun and obviously didn’t take themselves too seriously and they made for a good opener for Fu Manchu. On the final song of Honky’s set Fu Manchu guitar player Bob Balch came out to play a tune with the band. Fu Manchu is one of the main influences in stoner rock and metal, and most of their songs deal with modes of transportation like souped up cars and skateboarding. They had played the upstairs main stage at the Black Cat in September of 2010 but this concert was in the smaller back stage downstairs. The place was pretty crowded when Fu Manchu hit the stage, but the crowd wasn’t too rowdy. They started the set off with a few of their 90s classics before launching into this tour’s main draw, performing their entire 1996 album In Search Of… straight through. They walked off stage for the encore thing and came back to play a couple more songs, finally ending the set with King Of The Road which was still stuck in my head as I drove home. King of the road says you move too slow!
Honky with Bob Balch

Scott Hill of Fu Manchu

On Tuesday the 29th of November I found myself at the Cellar Door in Annandale, Virginia to see the Chapel Hill, North Carolina based band Black Skies play. There were four bands playing that night but I only caught two of them. The first band that I saw was Admiral Browning, a Frederick, Maryland band that was formerly an instrumental band with four members. To my surprise, at this show they had vocals and only three members. A bit of a change, and although I have a fondness for instrumental metal bands, the vocals fit in to place with the rest of the music. They were entertaining but the main reason I came to this show was to see Black Skies again. I saw them play back in September and they blew me away. This show was no less exciting. Even in the tight basement of the Cellar Door they just burst with energy. They’re the only band I’ve seen someone play a guitar solo with their teeth in a basement, and I’ve seen them do it twice now! I ended up buying a poster and it came with a free download of their debut album, On The Wings Of Time. This is a band worth checking out and I can’t wait to see them play in the area again.
Admiral Browning

Michelle Temple of Black Skies

Skip ahead to Sunday the 11th of December and I was at Jaxx to see the notorious Norwegian black metal band Mayhem again. I had seen them on the first show of their tour in Baltimore on November 2nd, but now they were back in the area playing the final show of their tour. The set list was the same as the first show, however vocalist Attila Csihar had a different costume on (he is known for having a wide range of stage costumes). This time he did not have any fake blood, and he held a skull in his left hand for the entire set. The audience seemed much more dead than the crazy pits that happened in Baltimore a month before, and the band didn’t seem to get into the show as much either. Being the final show of the tour they were probably a bit worn out. The audio mix at Jaxx wasn’t as good either. Overall I wouldn’t say the show was bad, it just wasn’t great, and the Baltimore show definitely felt more like a real Mayhem show. The fog machine was on thick all night though, and camera conditions weren’t optimal, however I still got a few decent shots and Mayhem even posted one of my photos from this show on their Facebook wall.

Mayhem

The following Thursday, the 15th of December, I found myself at the Black Cat once again, this time to see the killer line up of The Body, Zoroaster and Black Cobra. The first band to play was The Body, a two man doom band from Rhode Island (though I hear they are relocating). They set their gear up in the middle of the flood of the Black Cat’s back stage area and just played there on the ground, with the audience around them. They were very loud, a theme that would recur throughout the night. After they played Zoroaster took the stage. They’re a psychedelic sludge metal band from Atlanta, Georgia. They have a really trippy vibe while being heavy as well. They had a bunch of lasers shooting around not just the stage but the entire room and it looked pretty cool. Midway through my favorite song of theirs, Odyssey, the power abruptly cut out and the lights came back on for a few minutes before the band finished their set. Then came the headliner, Los Angeles, California based Black Cobra. They’re a sludge metal duo and their latest album, Invernal, is heavy as all hell. They ended up playing every song off of it, though not in order, as well as some of their older songs mixed in. A truly crushing set, it’s amazing how much heavy just two people can make. Take note all you folk bands with like a dozen members, these three bands on this tour had just seven total members between them, and they kicked major ass. Sometimes less really is more.
The Body

Zoroaster

Black Cobra

The next night, Friday the 16th of December, I went to the Velvet Lounge to catch a show I spent a good deal of effort promoting here on DCHM. Borracho was headlining an album release show, the official launch of their LP Splitting Sky. However, there were other bands who played before them. First was a band from Glen Echo, Maryland called Rezin. The guys seemed nice and all but I have to say they weren’t very good. Most of the crowd who had assembled had left by the time their set was over, and honestly I can’t really blame them. The band was very monotonous and they just didn’t do it for me, or apparently that many other in attendance. They didn’t seem to fit with the two other acts on this bill either. However, the next band to play, Kingsnake from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was simply outstanding on stage. They played a style of stoner that was almost southern, though rather dark as well. They had fine tuned their songs and obviously put a lot of effort into practicing them as well. It was a great performance by a band I didn’t really know anything about going in. After they played I got up on stage and swore at the audience about giving out free shit, and then Borracho started their set. The guys were on point this night, really putting on a great show. I’ve seen them a few times this year and this was definitely my favorite of their performances. Before I’d always seen them open for someone so it was great getting to see them play a full length set live for once. Also, it was a good turn out for the second metal show in a row at the Velvet Lounge, which is awesome. Hopefully they’ll continue to let us metal heads take over their spot on U Street more often on the weekends.
Rezin

Kingsnake

Borracho

On Saturday the 17th of December I went to my third metal show in as many days, this time to see locals Ilsa and Midnight Eye play with two Harrisonburg, Virginia bands, Earthling and Orthrus. They were playing at a small Ethiopian bar, named Asefu’s, that is just a few doors down from DC9 and the U Street corridor. I got there as Midnight Eye was setting up though I really only saw their first song. However, it was a brand new song and it was pretty sweet! I went a few doors down to eat dinner (I was starving) and came back while Orthrus was playing. The thin venue was packed and so I watched the show from the doorway and didn’t take any pictures (the band wasn’t facing my direction anyways). Regardless, they were pretty awesome. They play a sort of catchy black/thrash with death metal style deep vocals. Next up was Earthling, a band I had seen before at the now defunct Corpse Fortress back in March. They were just as fun to see live and I had forgotten how catchy I their tunes are. The final band of the night was DC’s own masters of doom/death metal, Ilsa. They have a dirty and crushing sound, very raw and primal and yet still very listenable. Some of their songs slow almost to a halt but the intensity never wanes. Ilsa is always fun to see live and this show was no different. However, at the end of their set they also played a new song for the first time, titled Man Made Monsters. Lucky for you who missed it, I’ve posted video of both Midnight Eye’s new song and Ilsa’s new song below. You might not be able to see much but you can at least hear them well enough.
Earthling

Ilsa

Well that wraps up another mega sized concert recap. I have a couple more shows to see before the year is done. You might be wondering why I didn’t cover the Mastodon show at the 9:30 Club in late November, and that’s because I’m not a Mastodon fan. I wanted to see Obscura and Abysmal Dawn play on December 7th but the weather was horrible that night and I didn’t want to drive to Baltimore in it as I knew traffic would be bad (Kyuss played the same night in Balti as well). Also, my camera’s lens was damaged during this time period and I had to wait a few weeks for it to be fixed (wasn’t cheap either!). And no, it wasn’t damaged at a show. Next week I plan on posting a big recap of 2011, from the local scene to the biggest metal stories of the year and it will include a preview of 2012 as well. Until then be sure to check the upcoming metal concert calendar and remember, support the scene you’re a part of!

Venue Changes Around The Area

There’s been a lot going on at several concert venues in the area recently. The biggest story is probably that the Fillmore will be opening on September 15th in Silver Spring, Maryland. The original Fillmore is in San Francisco and during the 60’s helped spawn many of the era’s biggest hippy bands, such as the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. Now there are several Fillmores around the country and it’s the DC area’s turn to get one. The Silver Spring location is a two level 2,000 person capacity venue. For comparison the 9:30 Club holds around 1,200. The first concert there is Mary J. Blige on September 15th, but the first metal show will be on Friday, September 23rd with Bring Me The Horizon. There are more metal shows coming as well, including Yngwie Malmsteen and Between The Buried And Me with Animals As Leaders. The venue is located inside what used to be a JC Penny and is run by Live Nation (who have merged with Ticketmaster) who also runs Jiffy Lube Live. I am excited to check out this brand new venue in the suburbs of DC and hopefully they’ll get even more metal concerts in the future.

Another big change happening in the area is the management of Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, Virginia. The venue has been run by Jay Nedry since June 1994 but he has decided to sell Jaxx to Jason Malhoyt and Jeff Cohen of Outerloop. They will run the day to day operations of the venue starting on January 1st of 2012 though Jay will still book several shows a month for them, mostly the glam/hair bands, death metal acts and various European black and power metal bands. You can read Jay’s statement about the sale here. You can already see some changes at the venue though, the new website design is an obvious one. Unfortunately the calendar is awful to navigate and opening local bands are often not listed on it either. The new logo and site layout does look nice though. Outerloop has also recently taken over Alley Katz in Richmond, Virginia and renamed it Kingdom. It is still closed right now, but it will be opening for the first time under the new management on October 8th when Periphery plays there. Both Jaxx and Alley Katz/Kingdom appear to be switching their ticket sales to a company called Amped & Alive, which also seems to have ties to Outerloop, though I’m not 100% sure what they are exactly.

Up in Baltimore you’ll see that Bourbon Street hasn’t been booking any more shows. The venue is apparently closing down, though the people running it appear to be moving to a new Baltimore venue named the Baltimore Soundstage. This new venue is in the inner harbor area and will hold 1,000 people. However, on select nights they’ll have seated shows that will hold 500 people. I think this is going to be a table setting similar to what you’d find at the State Theatre or the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse. There will also be a full menu with things like crab cakes as well as a full bar with wine, beer and liquor. The venue will open on Saturday, September 3rd when Milkman plays there, though the first metal show will be Devin Townsend and Anathema on Wednesday 12 October. The venue is going to sell its tickets through Ticket Fly, the same company that handles ticketing for the 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Aside from Bourbon Street, there have been a few venue closings and other problems of late with area venues. The Hexagon, a DIY space in Baltimore, closed on May 20th. Really it was more of an eviction and you can read their post about that here. So Addictive Lounge in Herndon, Virginia had long been holding Metal Monday local metal band spotlight shows every week before they decided they’d convert to being a gay bar seven days a week. However, the Metal Mondays are not entirely dead as the people behind them have been hosting various metal shows at the Old Firestation #3 (aka Firehouse Grill) in Fairfax City. Now you can see local talent as well as touring bands play there, and it’s still just $5 to get in. Hole In The Sky, a DIY venue in Northeast Washington DC, was shut down by police in the middle of a concert on February 16th. They’ve since done things like build a fire escape staircase to get up to code and have reopened, though they don’t seem to be hosting concerts very often and certainly not metal shows. Silver Spring, Maryland’s DIY space dubbed the Corpse Fortress has been condemned after 5 years of awesome shows. Everyone has to be out by October 1st but there will still be a final show there on September 24th. More info on why it is being shut down is here. This is a huge blow to the area’s DIY scene, metal or otherwise. It had just recently gotten a kick ass paint job in the basement where bands perform, which you can see here.

All is not lost though! There’s the Palace Of Wonders and The Red & The Black which have merged to form the Red Palace on H Street in Northeast DC. They get occasional metal shows, including a special free performance by Clutch that’s coming up on Monday the 29th of August. And while Sonar had a big problem with liquor licenses and almost shut down temporarily back in May (more on that here), it seems it was just a hiccup and they are back to running things as usual again now (although the lot across the street from venue is now metered and thus no longer free to park in). The Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring, Maryland seems to be getting more metal shows as well (Auroboros will be performing there this Sunday, the 28th of August for a matinee show at 2pm) and I’d expect to see more metal gigs get shifted there once Corpse Fortress is gone. There’s also a new DIY house venue that’s starting to host a few metal shows in Annandale, Virginia that is called the Cellar Door.

So there is a lot changing in the area’s venues and hopefully this article will help encourage some of you to get out to an extra concert or two that you might not have before. Remember, if you’re looking for info on any of these venues’ upcoming metal shows be sure to check out the DC Heavy Metal upcoming concert calendar here. If you want to know more about any of these venues, including their addresses, links to their website, Facebook page or Twitter, or even on how to book a show there check out the Venue page here.

Review of Psycroptic gig at Jaxx

While many people are returning home on the Sunday night following Thanksgiving, I found myself heading down to Jaxx again on the 28th of November 2010. Psycroptic and Keep Of Kalessin, the opening bands on Nile and Ex Deo‘s fall tour were playing a few extra shows without the headliners, and this was the date they came through the area. It wasn’t a long show, only four bands played, and it ended early at around 10pm. Pathology was supposed to be part of the touring line up, but they were involved in a major accident in November (more details here) that ended all touring plans for them. There wasn’t a huge crowd for this show, but that was sort of to be expected. It was still a lot of fun and I finally got to see Psycroptic play live.

The first band to play was local death metal act Orgy Of The Damned. I had seen them play before at the Blood And Fire Festival back in July. They’re still really young, most of the guys had black Xs on their hands. That’s fine though, as again their youthful excitement for the music comes through as a big plus in their set. They played Reanimator which was pretty fun to see live. It’s one of the songs they are giving away for free on my download page if you want to check it out. They also played a cover of the Cannibal Corpse classic Hammer Smashed Face that was pretty cool. In another cue taken from Cannibal Corpse, at the end of their set the vocalist, Jeff Wright, said he “lied” about them not playing Feces Fiend and they closed with that song. The next band up was another local act, Trihexyn. They’re pretty good, just not my kind of metal really. I knew what to expect since I’d seen them before at the State Theatre as part of the second Mandatory Metal night there. They rely heavily on using clean vocals which is something I generally am not a fan of (there are exceptions of course). They are pretty good and have well written songs that they play pretty well so don’t get me wrong here, I’m just not their target audience. They do switch to a more rough vocal style for some parts, and I do find that to be more enjoyable, but I seemed to be in the minority about a few things this evening anyways. Also, the bass player had pink hair, which was a bit weird too but hey metal isn’t supposed to be about fashion anyways (don’t tell that to Cradle Of Filth though!). I’ve got a video of them below so check them out, maybe you’ll like them more than I do.

The next band to play was Norway’s black metal band Keep Of Kalessin. I really didn’t like their newest album, Reptilian, and sadly (for me) their set was mostly made of material from it. It’s all about dragons which wouldn’t be so bad except there’s a lot of that clean vocal singing going on again. So yeah, I’ve become that fan of theirs, the guy who likes only the old stuff. I seemed to be in the minority about that because the audience was reacting well to their performance. And they did play Crown Of The Kings, which is one of their older songs that is totally awesome, but they didn’t play Come Damnation, which is my favorite song of theirs. Their set was only about 40 minutes or so, so I guess they were just doing the same basic set list of songs from their Nile tour, mostly just supporting their new album. I thought they would have played a bit longer, and while I figured they’d play a good amount of their newer material, I also thought they’d play some older stuff since they had the chance to play a longer set. They closed with Kolossus which is a solid song, so overall it wasn’t bad, just not my favorite material for most of the set.

The final band of the night was Psycroptic coming all the way from Tasmania. I’ve wanted to catch them for a long time, as they’re probably my favorite technical death metal band these days (Decrepit Birth is up there too though) and I’ve waited a few years now to catch them live. I didn’t see them earlier this year at Sonar with Nile because I knew this show was coming up and I’d rather go to the closer venue, for less money when they headline. They did play an awesome set, though again it was short. I enjoyed the show a lot and got so caught up with it that when it ended I was kinda mad I’d only shot video of two songs! For me the highlight of the evening was when they played (Ob)Servant, which is just a kick ass metal song. Really, all the songs they played are pretty damn sick. It was like they were putting on a tutorial how you do tech death! I was hoping that since they were headlining they’d play a longer set but they didn’t really. They didn’t play The Colour Of Sleep nor Alpha Breed, two of my favorite songs of theirs. Same as with Keep Of Kalessin, I really wished they’d taken advantage of the headlining slot to play a longer set and included more older material. Their vocalist was a temporary fill in on this tour while their normal singer was staying home to be with his newborn. He did a decent job, his stage presence wasn’t bad and he had a hell of a lot of energy up there, literally jumping around and helping to keep the audience excited. Really though, nobody goes to see Psycroptic because of the vocals, their guitar work is crazy and the drummer is pretty damn tight too. They didn’t have a huge crowd and Keep Of Kalessin seemed to have a larger audience when they played. That didn’t matter to me, I was there to finally see Psycroptic play, and other than the set being so damn short, they didn’t disappoint at all. And I’ve got the videos below to prove it, check em out:

Review of Loculus gig at Jaxx

Ashburn, Virginia based Loculus headlined a local metal night with openers Above The Altar and Apothys at Jaxx on Saturday the 20th of November 2010 and it was pretty damn awesome. This was the release party show for Loculus’ new EP, Sinew, which they were giving away copies of for free to everyone in attendance. Not only that, but it was a great showing of the local death metal community. There was a great turn out for such a late show with no national headliner and hell, I’ve been to Jaxx plenty of times to see touring bands with far less people in attendance. I’d never been to one of these “late” shows at Jaxx before, where they have one concert going on earlier in the afternoon/evening and another later that night, and this one seemed a bit disorganized, though that was no fault of the bands involved. Apparently the earlier show got out late, and while the first band of the late show was supposed to go on at 10:30, they didn’t hit the stage until 11:30. I talked to a few members of the bands playing after I got there and they not only had no idea when their sets would start, they didn’t even know how long they would be allowed to play if at all! Though once the bands did start playing, the show really was worth the wait.

By the time Apothys hit the stage you could tell the crowd was starting to get restless. Originally the band Shotgun Surgery was supposed to play, but they had to cancel and were replaced on the bill by Apothys a week or two before the concert. Apothys always seems to put on a good show live and this time was no exception. They kept the crowd fired up the entire set and the band looked like they were having as much fun up there as anyone in attendance. I noticed that they didn’t play Of Writhing Eyes, a killer song which they have been closing shows with the last couple of times I have seen them. I wonder if that was due to time constraints because the show was running so late. I had just seen them the previous Monday at So Addictive (my review of that concert is here) and while that show was kind of cool for it’s lack of a stage so the band really mingled with the audience, it was nice to see them up on a proper stage with decent lighting again. Sadly the camera I shoot video with had its SD card take a shit and the video I took of them playing Terminus at this show has some error that makes the file unplayable. I didn’t know this until I got home that night and the card also lost one of the videos I shot of the headliner, Loculus. Sucks but what can ya do?

The next band to play, Above The Altar, is a death metal band from Loudon with a lot of thrashy elements and even a few breakdowns giving them a sort of ‘core element to their sound. I had never seen them play before, but they were a good addition to the night’s line up, putting a bit of variation (but not too much) between the two other more standard death metal bands in the line up. Their songs were pretty well put together though they didn’t really grab me too much. Maybe if I was familiar with some of their material beforehand I’d have been a bit more into it. Their lead singer, Toby Gomez, was pretty entertaining with his banter between songs and he helped to keep the mood light between the heavy songs. By the time they ended their set it was getting late though and I was wondering how much time the headliner would have to play.

The next band to hit the stage was Loclus and it was already after 1am when they started playing! They had a big, professional banner with their logo and some artwork up behind the stage that must have cost a bit of money to have made. It was pretty cool looking though. Their guitarist, Steve Miller, had given me their demo a few months back that I really enjoyed, but I still hadn’t had a chance to catch them live yet. I’m glad I made it to this one as they were really on fire. You can tell they had put a lot of work into getting this show together and when they hit the stage it really paid off! They took the stage and really played a no-nonsense very tight set. This was some fast, brutal death metal and Loculus really killed it on the stage here. They were well practiced and they executed their material very well (from what I could tell at least). The drums were pummeling, the guitars were furious and the vocals were out of control. They didn’t talk much between songs, I’d guess that was partially due to the fact that time was becoming an issue this night. However, they did pause at one point to tell everyone to pick up a free copy of the four song EP they were releasing. The mosh pit was going strong the whole set and I think everyone in the room could feel the intensity of their performance. The worst part was that it was so short, they only played five songs, though I think if it was any longer they’d have run out of time for the venue to be open.

It was a great show, and while it wasn’t the first for Loculus it had a sort of debut feeling to it. If you were there and didn’t get a copy of Sinew for some reason, the band has said you can bring your ticket stub to their next concert (date and venue still to be determined as of this post’s writing) and they’ll give you a copy. It was great to see so many people come crawling out of the woodwork to a late gig for local death metal acts. It sort of reminded me of that first State Theatre metal show (my review of that is here) back in August where it was also cool to see how many people came out in support. These kinds of concerts, plus the Blood & Fire Fest, various weekly and monthly metal gigs starting at venues around the area, and the willingness of more and more local venues to host metal concerts are showing this scene really start to come together! I’m glad so many people came out, and glad Loculus not only set this show up, but really killed it Saturday night when everyone was watching to show people this isn’t all just hype. Metal in the greater DC area is on the rise! Now check out the videos from the night that my SD card didn’t corrupt below, and be sure to check back later in the week for my review of Sunday night’s Dying Fetus and Cannibal Corpse as well as the re-opening (finally) of the Downloads page on the site that will have free mp3 downloads of over 20 different local metal bands of various sub-genres.

Review Of Hate Eternal gig at Jaxx

Disclaimer: I’ve been rather busy and also gotten sick since this concert happened so I’m not going to do a complete review of the gig, and it’s late getting posted too so deal with it. It was Friday the 27th of August and I went to Jaxx to see Hate Eternal, Cannabis Corpse and Order Of Ennead play. There were some local bands that played first, but I didn’t get there in time to see them. I did hear that a band called the Dead End Kids performed some rap and so many people left the main room because of this that that they were having a problem with crowding in the hallway.

I arrived at the venue a few minutes before Order Of Ennead played, which was good because I certainly wanted to see them again. They’re a Tampa, Florida based death metal band, and their drummer is Steve Asheim of Deicide fame. I’d seen them open for Deicide a while ago, but it was good to see them standing on their own this time. They played a tight set and I liked it more than the first time I saw them. Partly because I caught the entire set, and also because I think they’ve practiced a lot more and gotten their sound really down. I guess I mean their performance just seemed more professional and polished. In all, a brutal way to start of the night, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Next up was Cannabis Corpse, a sort of joke band from Richmond. Their song titles are all parodies of Cannibal Corpse songs, but changed to make them about smoking pot. For example Skull Full Of Maggots becomes Skull Full Of Bong Hits. That said, their songs are not covers or Weird Al style humorous lyric swaps, they’re more thrashy really. You may recognize their bass player, Philip Hall, from the band Municipal Waste, though the stand out on stage was vocalist, Andy Horn. Even though Cannabis Corpse was the band I was least interested in seeing, he was by far the most entertaining person on stage all night. He was almost constantly moving around, making strange and funny expressions and hand gestures, and even doing things like stumbling around like a zombie on stage. He really kept their set entertaining to me, and he was good at getting the pit going too. Going into the show I thought they should be playing before Order Of Ennead but I think they were a good fit between the two Florida death metal bands. They were a nice change of pace and kept the show from getting monotonous. And even though they weren’t headlining, they finished their set with an encore song, the rarely played live Chronolith (video below).

The next band set to play was the headlining act, Hate Eternal. The other Florida death metal act on the bill, this three piece band is technical and relentlessly brutal. Vocalist/guitarist Eric Rutan is probably best known for his time spent in Morbid Angel, but Hate Eternal is his own baby. Most of their songs aren’t particularly catchy, but then you don’t go to death metal shows to grind on sluts all night do ya? No, you go to hear fast, brutal tunes with insane solos and gutteral vocals so you can let off some steam in the mosh pit. Hate Eternal delivered big time this night, and though the crowd wasn’t by any means the biggest I’ve seen at Jaxx, there were enough people there that the place didn’t feel empty. The band didn’t move around a whole lot on stage, tho Eric would walk to the edge of the stage in a few choice spots and get right up in the audience’s face which seemed to get people excited every time. The band was really tight and really crushed it, especially on songs like I, Monarch and King Of All Kings. They were definitely worth seeing and my ears loved the pummeling.

Well, that’s about it for my “short” review which seems to have gotten to a decent length now. The people at Jaxx were cool and didn’t give me any gruff for shooting video this night, so I shot a lot. The guys in Order Of Ennead actually posted links to their MySpace and Twitter feeds of the vids I posted of them, which is cool. Well, on to the videos: