Archive for July, 2010

Hellfest @ Clisson, France, 18-20 June 2010: Day 3

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by Noise Road

This is the final part of Noise Road’s review of Hellfest.  Click here for part 1.

Society had well and truly broken down by the third night of Hellfest… The temporary urinals were overflowing, and now every fence, bush and corner smelt of p!ss.  In previous evenings, partied-out festival goers passed out in quiet, non-urine-drenched corners.  Tonight punters were taking drunken, fatigued kips not far from stages and moshpits.  You had to dish out a friendly nudge to a comatose body every now and then, just to check that they were still breathing…

I’ve already reviewed Dillinger’s performance on day 3 here.  Review may be too kind a word for a post that reads like a teenage girl squealing for her favourite boy band…  Anyways, what about the remainder of the day?…

Clisson seems to experience every season, everyday.  When the sun was out it was too warm to wear my tired Dillinger hoodie.  But as soon as the sun hid behind a cloud, I needed to brave the stench of that hoodie which has been worn almost continuously for 7 months touring the world.

Overnight, it was cold in the rotated field, but the day break brought a hot sun on my tent.  It was not easy to sleep at any stage.  Also any possible snoozing wasn’t aided by the party surrounding my tent.  I’m pretty sure I was encircled by partiers conversing over my tent.  I guess they wanted to include me.  That was nice of them…  In the morning I felt like shyte – so I can’t imagine what they felt like, having a hangover on top of 3 days of no sleep…

Day 3 had almost as long a schedule as day 1.  So while there were interesting bands early in the day, I was trying to avoid crashing and burning in the evening before the big boys surfaced.  I was also trying to avoid another kebab breakfast – so I headed out of the festival site, to the supermarket.  But being a small French town on a Sunday, everything was closed except for the local McDonalds…  and I’ll take a kebab over McDonalds any day.

Weedeater

Weedeater were the first act that I caught for the day.  They brought harsh-vocaled, stoner rock that effectively varied tempo.  I’m a sucker for stoner rock, but Weedeater do it well.  I don’t need to smoke – I’ve got these guys, out there on the dope front line, everyday, smoking it for me.  They’re willing to make that sacrifice, just so that civilians, like me, can chill the feck out to the muzaque that they create… In fact it was stoner acts all day in the small Terrorizer tent.  Why didn’t I stay there?  There was just to much to check out around the grounds….

I wasted a lot of that potential stoner rock time waiting for Dying Fetus to show up at the Rock Hard Tent.  The audience was only notified 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, that Dying Fetus had cancelled their appearance …  Someone fecked up there.

That left me too much time to sit around, being hit by the stench of my own hoodie, without any musical distraction.  I could no longer put off its replacement.  While I waited in the cash machine queue in order to fund the long overdue wardrobe addition, Polish extreme metallers, Behemoth, were playing the main stage.

Behemoth

I have only heard Behemoth previously via their videos.  Man, they have the evilest videos around…

Now that is what a good video is capable of – making you interested enough to check out the band.  Behemoth opened with the track from the video above, Ov Fire and the Void.  Of all the black-ish bands that played the main stage (and these guys are allegedly blackened death metal – whatever that is), Behemoth were the ones who could pull of the big stage the best.

They sound like a death metal band, but they look like a black metal band…  but at the end of the day man, whatever you want to call it, it’s all riffs.  Their sound was heavy and clear and it felt at home in front of a big open field.  These guys embrace the theatre of black metal, wearing corpsepaint and armour, but they aren’t trying to fool anyone that they are actually evil.  It’s part of the show.  I think their sound and their approach worked.

Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend walks a few fine lines.  Some of the synthy parts and melodic vocals, during heavy passages, do border on cheesy.   But I think the most dangerous path he takes is with his outright silliness.

I saw most of Townsend’s set before I left early to obtain a decent position for Suffocation.  I think Townsend came out in front.  The music is cheesy in parts, but it is interesting.  He is silly – but he’s a nerd, and he embraces it.  That’s better than him trying to put on some tough metal guy act.  In fact he makes fun of the metal cliches – and for all Hellfest’s strengths, there were a lot of metal cliches coming from the mics on stage.

Suffocation

Back under the Rock Hard Tent, the ground had seen no sun and no rain for at least three days.  Instead it had been moshed on for 16 hours a day.  I had seen dust rise from the torn-up surface, during the more frenzied moments at both the Rock Hard and Terrorizer Tents.  Then one of metal’s most charismatic frontmen demanded that we stomp the ground until the dead rose.  When Suffocation’s Frank Mullen tells you to raise the dead, you raise the dead.

I’m from a dust bowl of a city, but I’ve never lost a stage in a mosh-pit induced dust cloud.  Through the haze, I could occasionally make out the band pummelling through Igniting the Crypt, and Mullen grinning at the mayhem he had created.

Suffocation alternated between slower, chunkier passages, where they sound like they are scooping your guts out, to faster, intricate, pummelling parts that ferociously stab you…  If you only ever check out one death metal band in your life, make sure it is Suffocation.

Motorhead

Never before had I seen Motorhead, or the first man of rock n roll, Lemmy.  It just didn’t seem right to pass up the opportunity.

Motorhead’s set sounded… a lot like Motorhead.  I stayed for over half of their set, but I didn’t hear any of the classics – there was no Ace of Spades, Orgasmatron, Killed by Death or Overkill.  Still as Angus Young once said about AC DC “we’ve been writing the same song for 20 years”, the same idea applies to Motorhead.  Like AC DC, the Ramones and even Slayer, Motorhead do one thing – but they do that one thing well.  So you don’t necessarily have to hear any one song in particular, as they are all kinda the same song.

They are Motorhead.  They play rock n roll.

I’m glad to have sat in front of Lemmy and Motorhead.  It warms my heart to know that Lemmy is still out there, drinking more than his share, and yelling upwards into a mic.  The world is a better place for it.

Kiss

I may have to hand in my metalhead membership after choosing to Dillinger over Slayer.  I always love Slayer live, but Dillinger is Dillinger, dude.

For the remainder of the evening I alternated between the old school, Swedish death metal of Bloodbath in one tent, and the desert rock of Kyuss Plays Garcia in the other.  Garcia had special guest after special guest, including Nick Olivieri.  In the other tent, Bloodbath were pile of fun, between making awkward Swedish jokes at the expense of Kiss, themselves and bad kebabs.

I only caught Kiss when passing between these stages and on the way out of the festival.  I’ll give them this – visually a Kiss show is quite spectacular.  They have an extensive stage show, with all the tricks – pryo, big screens…  But I’m sure that it is not a music experience.  I think the live music is not the most important thing to Kiss when they put together a show….  Just as I arrived back at my tent, Kiss hit their final note, and fireworks lit the sky…

Back to Reality

The next morning, I packed my tent and prepared to re-enter a non-metal world.  I hadn’t showered for 4 days.  I hadn’t shaved since entering France 10 days ago.  I looked like cr@p and smelt much worse.  Much, much worse.

I boarded a train to Nantes, and then a shuttle bus to the airport.  Both modes of transport were filled by fellow Hellfesters.  The big surprise was the plane though.  At least half of the plane were wearing metal band t-shirts.  Can’t say that I’ve ever experienced a metalhead plane trip.  I was almost expecting to hear over the PA “this is Captain Bruce Dickinson, I’ll be your pilot for today….  Scream for me Cityjet.  SCREAAAMMMM!!!!”

Any train, bus or plane that we Hellfesters boarded, reeked.  I felt sorry for the non-metalhead passengers on the flight.  They had paid hard-earned euro’s to be subjected to a Dutch oven of festival stench.  The collective pungent odour almost made me oblivious to my own foul scent…  But in London I separated from the rest of the Hellfesters.  I now had no one to blame for the scent that followed me.  It was a long smelly train ride of self loathing to Southampton.  I can’t remember ever taking a longer shower to cleanse the layer of filth on my skin.

The filth was a small price to pay for the most metal experience of my life.  And with Wacken Festival tickets in my hand, I’m counting days until I can forget about anything non-metal, and work up another solid body odour.


The Dillinger Escape Plan @ Hellfest, Clisson, France, 20 June 2010

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , on July 24, 2010 by Noise Road

This is part 5 of Noise Road’s review of Hellfest.  Click here for part 1.

The Dillinger Escape Plan are the best live band in the world.

A credible blog would have to qualify that statement with words like “best live band, in my opinion”, or “best live band that I’ve seen”, or “my favourite live band”…  But I ain’t making any attempt to run a credible blog.

I’ve blown my load previously over Dillinger in this post…

Dillinger @ Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, Belgium.

Dillinger played late on the final day of Hellfest in Clisson, France.  I had paced myself throughout the day to make sure that energy reserves were solid for Dillinger.  It was a challenge to restrain myself, as about an hour earlier, Suffocation’s frontman, Frank Mullen, had worked the crowd into a frenzy…  But the fact that I had a laptop in tow, prevented me from lurking too close to any punters letting loose at Suffocation.

Wait…  you took a laptop to a 3-day camping metal festival?  For reasons too boring to go into, I needed that laptop for my travels in France prior to Hellfest.  So unfortunately I lugged my macbook around the festival for 3 days.  I treated my previous laptop with the up most respect, and it died two months out of warranty.  This laptop has now seen the barrage of the front rows of Dillinger in France and Converge in the UK.  If it fails, at least this time I will have deserved it.

The best way to experience the chaos of Dillinger is in amongst it.  There’s nothing like pushing towards frontman, Puciato, as he hurls the mic into the crowd, for the punters to participate in the cathartic call of Sunshine the Werewolf …  Or having guitarist Jeff Tuttle launch himself into you, as the band’s designated crowd provaceuter…  A laptop strapped to your body is no excuse to down size your Dillinger experience.

Dillinger opened with the spastic heaviness of Panasonic Youth and Fix Your Face, before changing up into the bar-meets-90’s-alt rock choruses of Milk Lizard…. phew, is my laptop going to make it?  Is the pit behind me sporadically surging my 90 odd kilos forward, going to crush the brave, but petite, French girl between me and the front barrier?  Will she be left with a laptop print in the middle of her back?  I expect that the French don’t take too kindly to foreigners crushing their local women to death.

I saw the Dillinger dudes just a few months ago in Brussels.  And their show has even improved since then.  So what’s the difference?…

For a start, latest recruit, Billy Rymer now seems fully integrated into the band.  The kid is a bundle of energy on that kit.

The latest album, Options Paralysis, hadn’t been released when I caught their show in Brussels.  With each release, the Dillinger set becomes an increasingly potent, diverse and interesting show.   The kick @rse rock n roll of Chinese Whispers was a highlight of the new material.  But we also heard Room Full of Eyes and Farewell Mona LisaFarewell Mona Lisa is probably the best summary of what Dillinger do.  Puciato displays a near Patton-like vocal versatility.  Check it out…

The old songs also appeared reinvigorated.  I have caught Dillinger several times, but it was only on the previous tour that I heard them play Mouth of Ghosts.  It is the quietest and most different song of the set.  In Brussels that alone provided a new dimension to the show.  The performance of Mouth of Ghosts had been stepped up in the months since.  It was now the highlight of the night.  Like in Brussels, main man, Weinman, stepped out of his guitar strap to board the keys.  But unlike that previous experience, he was now replaced on guitar by a tech, which allowed Tuttle to wail on lead guitar.  Liam Wilson’s fusion bass lines also seemed far more prominent tonight.

Still not sold on Dillinger live?  Obviously they are extremely talented musicians, that take a set from their spastic riffing base of 43% Burnt, through the pop of Black Bubblegum, and the jazz fusion of Mouth of Ghosts.  But words may fail to convey the energy of the show.

Their set was held in the smallest tent of the festival, and I assume it was packed.  I was never given enough room to turn to look backwards.  All I know is that there was a mass of energy, continuously surging me in every direction.  With the amount of movement and Dillinger’s preference for smokey, low lit stages, it’s a miracle that I obtained any vaguely useable photos for this post.

The band fed off the energy from the fans.  As usual Puciato launched at the crowd for Sunshine the Werewolf.  During the frenzy of the chugg-chugg passages of 43% Burnt, he found a novel solution to the eternal problem of “what does a vocalist do during an extended instrumental passage?”.  His solution involved dangling from the light rigging.

Weinman continually throws himself and his guitar around the stage.  However, in the last few years he has developed an interesting “peek-a-boo” move.  At some point in the show, he turns his back to the crowd, the hands go up in the air, in a praise-the-lord style motion, while he conducts a full body shake.  I’m not sure what its all about, but I laugh every time I see it.

Guitarist Tuttle is the new nominated Dillinger stuntman and towards the close of the set, he ventured deep in the crowd.  All this energy is circular.  The crowd give it to the band, the band return it and the room reaches a fever pitch of intensity.

I left the best set of Hellfest, sweaty and happy…  Also my laptop still appears to work.

Click here for the final part of Noise Road’s review of Hellfest.

Hellfest @ Clisson, France, 18-20 June 2010: Day 2

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by Noise Road

This part 4 of Noise Road’s review of Hellfest 2010.  Click here part 1Click here for part 2Click here for part 3.

When I surfaced from my tent on day 2 of the festival, not only were some festival goers still drunk from the first day, some hadn’t even stopped drinking.

A steady diet of kebabs meant that I could no longer put off a visit to the toilets.  You don’t want details of what I found there.  We were now hanging on to civilisation by the slenderest of threads.

Day 2 looked like it was going to be the least busy day for me.  There were a lot of hair bands and lots of straight up hardcore on today’s bill.  So I decided to rest up and have a quick look around the outskirts of Clisson.

Usually at this time of year I’m losing a lot of sleep to the Tour de France coverage.  I am no cycling freak, but I do admire just how far past the human body’s breaking point that these athletes are prepared to push.  After a fall, athletes complete day-long tortures, with broken collarbones, for weeks.

I am also somewhat entertained by the murky ethics.  Rife drug use is nothing new.  It stretches back decades.

Chemists are way ahead of the officials.  They’re working on new endurance-enhancing chemicals before the officials discover drugs two generations old.  This sort of technology has got to hold similar benefits to humanity as the technological spin-offs from the space race.

But France itself is the reason I lose hours to the Tour de France.  Every stage, the competitors seem to pass castle after castle and crazy old churches.  Obviously they’ve chosen some of most scenic parts of France.  If you travelled randomly through France, you wouldn’t see any of these sights…  Would you?

I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of France – but from what I have seen, it IS one spectacular sight after another.  The train from Paris to Nantes to Clisson was full of historic sites.  If there is any country that I would like to aimlessly wander in, it is France.

After a quick walk amongst the vines, historic buildings and winding river, I arrived at a supermarket overrun by metalheads.  The festival must be great for the local economy, but it must be a rough site for the local oldies to have to pick up their bread and milk amongst festival goers, sporting gas masks and expletive laden, band t-shirts.

Strolling back to the festival grounds, I felt pretty d@mn French with my baguette and jambon tucked under my arm. I felt less classy with a 6 pack of toilet paper under the other arm.

I entered the grounds as Airbourne were doing their best AC DC impression… again…  Still after 7 months without, it was kinda nice to hear a fellow soothing Australian twang from a stage.  Not nice enough for me to sit through a whole song though.

When I returned to the main stage, one punter was dancing up a storm to the sounds of Nevermore

This old fella had been dancing non-stop since the warm up bands on the festival eve.  When I become a burn out, I want to burn out like that.  No matter the style of band playing, this dude danced to it.  Sepultura, Twisted Sister – it was all the same to dancing man.  Life must be one raging party after another.

Unearth were taking far too long to set up, so morbid curiosity found me back in front of the main stage for Slash.  Guns n Roses’ album, Appetite For Destruction, is one of the 2 or 3 greatest party albums.  I don’t know if I’ve ever thrown a party without spinning Appetite or Van Halen’s 1984. I was hoping for a spectacular train wreck from Slash – but it wasn’t awesome or a train wreck.  It was a bit dull really.

I was served my first beer of the day by an unshaven Frenchman, with a ciggie loosely dangling from his mouth.  I don’t think I had a more French moment over the length of my trip.

While nursing my beer, I caught corpsepaint in the sunlight with Dark Funeral and finally the last couple of songs of Unearth’s set.  Their music wasn’t quite my thing – but it had sincerity.  I’d much rather the kids jumped aboard this kind of band, instead of the Walls Of Jericho guff I sat through yesterday.

I gave Candlemass a few songs, before deciding to head to the Terrorizer Tent for Discharge.  The old geezers in Discharge covered the front rows with snotty punk.  I’m sure it was better back in the day, but they were still nice and offensive.  They enjoyed reminding the locals of the failures of the French in the World Cup.

Discharge wrapped up their set just before the end of Twisted Sister’s set.  I’m sure Dee and the Sisters played We’re Not Gonna Take It – but they didn’t close with it.  And no matter how much fun I have singing that track to the Cooper’s Alehouse jukebox after a bellyful, I wasn’t going to sit through an hour of Twisted Sister waiting for it.

Immortal/Agnostic Front

15,000 people for a black metal band on the main stage – is that a sign of the apocalypse?  For all Immortal’s talk of holocausts, there was a lot of Kiss to their performance – there was makeup, pyro and fire breathing.  Surprisingly to me their brand of black metal did translate well on a big stage.  It wasn’t a muddle of blast beats.  Their riffs were clearly defined…  But back to the side tents for more old school hardcore…

Agnostic Front’s drummer was hospitalised earlier in the day – but they soldiered on with a shorter set and a borrowed drummer.  Even with those limitations, they were still the best of the hardcore bands for the weekend…  The other hardcore acts played the main stage, where Agnostic Front played the smallest tent.  Does hardcore make sense on a big stage?  Isn’t hardcore meant to be experienced in tight, sweaty spaces?  Their shortened set had all the trademarks of NYHC – sing along choruses and harsh New York voices.  I think every other East Coast hardcore band at the festival joined them onstage for a song.  It was only a 25 minute set – but it was a good 25 minutes.

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper has always been theatre… and he’s been a best of set for 2 decades.  So expecting anything else is to miss the point.  I mean there is an element of the pop princesses here – with Alice’s multiple costume changes… But you have to accept it for what it is worth.

The old Alice songs are solid man – School’s Out, No More Mr Nice Guy, Ballad of Dwight Fry, Billion Dollar Babies, Under My Wheels, Elected…  There isn’t much filler in an Alice set.  I ain’t a ballad man, but if you are going to ballad it up, if it ain’t as good as Only Woman Bleed, put that acoustic guitar back in its case buddy.

Only Women Bleed brings up another interesting point.  That song describes an abusive relationship – consequently violence against women was acted out, on stage, a few times during the set.  The Alice character is always punished by some cruel death at the hands of the victims or the authorities, but still…  All I’m saying is that I hope that Cannibal Corpse never go theatrical with their performances.  I don’t want to see F_cked with a Knife or I C_m Blood acted out.

As you would expect, Alice is killed off in ever more elaborate ways throughout the set – he’s hanged, gutted in the iron maiden and beheaded in a guillotine.  I could use slightly less of the 3-4 minutes of guitar w@nkery after some of the Alice deaths – but I suppose they had to fill time somehow during the next stage set up.

All up, I’m glad for the chance to experience an Alice Cooper show.

Carcass

Jello or Carcass?  Jello or Carcass?

You’ll remember Jello Biafra as the frontman of Dead Kennedys.  Or maybe you remember him as a former San Fransisco candidate for mayor, whose platforms included making businessmen wear clown outfits within the city limits.  Surely he would put on an entertaining set…  And Carcass are pioneers of grind and melodic death metal.

I decided to do half of Carcass’ set then head over for the second half of Jello.  But it never happened.  Carcass was just too good to leave.

At the start of Carcass’ set I wasn’t too worried about having to leave early.  A large screen sat above the band, displaying disturbing images throughout the set.  Most of the time these images were dissections – not so odd for a band called Carcass.  However, the first song showed image after image of… pussy, diseased pen!ses.  Yep.  I found it hard to even look at the stage.  But then I felt stupid for not looking at the band performing, so I would look up and see another oozing, rotting pen!s.

Thankfully those visuals came to an end.  And I was able to concentrate on the music.

Carcass didn’t sound like a former band that occasionally plays festivals.  They sounded huge.  Musicianship with intensity.  The music grinds hard while Jeff Walker spews forth evil on the mic, then it slows for intricate harmonised passages between guitarists Steer and Amott.  And I was going to leave this halfway through?  It was clearly the best performance of the day.

They closed on the everyone’s favourite, Heartwork.  If you don’t know Carcass, start here…

What was meant to be a quiet day, turned out to have a few big surprises – French castles, ever dancing burnouts, and Carcass!  What will day 3 bring?

Click here Noise Road’s review of the Dillinger Escape Plan at Hellfest.

Hellfest @ Clisson, 18-20 June 2010, Day One: the Evening

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2010 by Noise Road

This is part 3 of Noise Road’s review of Hellfest 2010.  Click here for part 1Click here for part 2.

The evening of day one was one for reformations and veterans.  It was also an evening for the 16-year-old inside this jaded, 30-year-old shell.  Along with Pantera, Sepultura and Fear Factory’s early to mid nineties albums were the first real heavy music that I got into.  It’s fair to say that both Sepultura and Fear Factory aren’t the creative powerhouses that they were back then.  But my inner 16-year-old needed to hear the songs that brought him to the dance.

Sepultura

As the sun was falling, the first big decision of the festival arrived.  Who do I watch next?  Underground metal’s buzz band of the moment, Watain?  Or a past-their-prime Sepultura?

Watain are known for speaking the rhetoric of the black metallers of old.  None eviler.  Read Invisible Oranges interview with the band here.  Watain are also known for playing with real blood splashing out into the audience.  Call it gimmick, atmosphere or ritual – it still would have been a pretty cool experience.

But I chose Seps.  Sepultura were the first genuinely heavy band that I liked.  And despite what everyone else says, I like the first 2 post-Max albums.   I’ve seen them twice in the post-Max period, and they’ve both been great gigs.

Live, Seps still bring it.  They opened with Arise.  16-year-old Moods had to scream “I see the world old! I see the world dead!!!”.  The crushing opening riff of Refuse/Resist quickly followed “Chaos AD!  The tanks on the streets!”

The new thrashy songs don’t seem out of place.  They’re just not memorable like the old classics.  I wouldn’t call them interludes as the boys fully try to give them the sell – Derrick, the frontman, works the auxiliary percussion, Andreas wails like a rockstar in his power stance.

If you don’t buy their new records, fair enough.  I didn’t buy their latest.  But their gigs are still worth checking out.

I had to leave the jungle rhythms of Territory, for the first Godflesh reunion show.

Godflesh

Godflesh’s much anticipated first performance in 7 or 8 years was a series of technical feck ups.  First of all there was 20 minutes of main man, Justin Broadrick, trying to remove the feedback from his mic effects.  The non-believers were increasingly leaving the small Terrorizer Tent.   Then there were issues with his drum electronics, and even a rogue guitar strap held up proceedings for several minutes.  Things were not going smoothly.  And Broadrick looked rattled.

I am by no means a Broadrick super fan.  Last year, before catching his other project, Jesu, at the Primavera festival, I was schooling myself on Jesu.  I enjoyed what I heard on the net – but live, I found his vocals distracting.  He was clearly trying to sing beyond his range (at least on that day, anyway).  As Mrs Eastwood’s little boy always told me “a man’s got to know his limitations”.

So even with the high praise from my favourite bands, Broadrick, was a little tainted in my books.  I’ve tried to get into Godflesh a few times – but it hasn’t happened for me.  And this trouble plagued gig didn’t seem like it was going to be the place for it to happen, either…

Godflesh is a similar live set up to Jesu – Broadrick on guitars, vox and electronics, with a more than capable partner on bass.  But Godflesh was a far different beast to Jesu.

The programmed drums have a cold and stark industrial feel, with plodding bass lines to match.  In contrast, Broadrick wrenches out riffs and noises out of his guitar.  His voice is aggressive, but it feels tortured.  There is human frailty and pain fighting the cold machine behind it.

What I heard, I really enjoyed.  I have been checking out Godflesh in a new light since.  But its such a shame that half of the hour set was lost to technical issues.  If nothing else it has turned me on to the records.

Fear Factory

From the Godflesh brand of industrial to the slicker Fear Factory take on the genre…

I have fond memories of my first awkward steps into metal. Fear Factory’s first two albums, Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture were a big part of that.  I listened to Demanufacture in its entirety the other week, and I stand by my teenage enthusiasm for it.  The man-vs-machine lyrics match the machine-gun music…  Unfortunately after those first two solid albums, Fear Factory descended into a Nu Metal world of shyte.

So I sat my weary body down in front of the main stage, open-minded despite the better part of a decade of shyte from the Fear Factory machine…

I really dug hearing Demanufacture, Self Bias Resistor and Martyr live again.  They are great songs that translate well on a big stage.  And you can’t fault the performance abilities of the band.  Gun-for-hire, Gene Hoglan, is a monster behind that kit, Dino has that huge guitar sound and Burton C Bell still has vocal chops.  Both 16-year-old and 30-year-old Moods cathartically yelled with Burton “I’ve got no more godd@m regrets!  I’ve got no more goddam respect!”…

Unfortunately they didn’t shy away from their nu metal material.  The album Digimortal was represented with multiple tracks…  This material wasn’t raising my enthusiasm so much.

An interesting break in the music occurred during the set.  A fan boarded the stage and proposed to his girlfriend.  As far as I know, this is at least the third time this has happened on a Fear Factory stage in the last few months…  So is this a gimmick?  If so it’s some out there, performance art gear.  A metal band that has a proposal every show…  Burton C Bell smiled “how beautiful” and then the band immediately followed that act of love with a song that includes the lyrics:

There was no love,

There was no love for me,

There was only hatred…

I am r@pe. I am hate…

Well played, Fear Factory.  Well played.

So while I enjoyed a large part of the set, it was more of a nostalgic enjoyment.  The new material does sound solid, but I don’t think I would go out of my way for Fear Factory 2010.  There are so many bands today doing new, exciting things, that I don’t need to dwell in the past.  But for what it was worth, my inner 16-year-old was pretty d@mn pleased with the evening.

By the end of Fear Factory’s set, I was done.  I was curious about Marduk – but the body failed me.  I successfully passed out in my tent despite Biohazard thundering from the main stage, and my tent being encircled by partying Frenchman until daylight….

Click here for Noise Road’s review of Hellfest Day 2, and for words on performances from the likes of Alice Cooper and Carcass.

Hellfest @ Clisson, France, 18-20 June 2010 – Day One: The Afternoon

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by Noise Road

This is part 2 of Noise Road’s review of Hellfest.  Click here for part 1.

Day One of Hellfest had so many bands of interest that I’ve had to break up the review into two posts.  So either settle in for the ride…  or consume this post in a few sittings…  or leave when you get bored.  Up to you, buddy.  No guns to the head here.  This is partially because of the strict gun laws in the UK, where I am writing this post from.  Now if I was in Arizona…  Did you know that you don’t need a licence to carry a concealed weapon in Arizona?

Last week, I met a salesman for gatling guns, who proudly told me how great it was in Arizona.  “If they don’t know if you have a gun or not, they ain’t gonna rob you now are they?”  I said “But that means that any crazy can carry a gun and shoot me.  Do I need a gun just to feel safe from crazy people?”  He told me that I was missing the point.  I agreed.

Wow.  This post is already unfocused, and burning words.  Hop to it, man…

Magrudergrind

Magrudergrind were the first band that I caught for the festival.  I dug their last album, cleverly titled, Magrudergrind.  I can see how its mix of serious and tongue in check samples may not please all listeners.  But the samples do set the scene of Washington DC and its problems.  More importantly for me, the samples break up the record.  They create space between the intense grinding.

There weren’t any samples at their show, but the tracks do slow down long enough to give meaning to the intense bursts.  And man, was it intense.  The vocalist matched the crowd intensity with his jumping scissor kicks.  In order to contain the atmosphere, this show was held in the smallest tent at Hellfest.  Grind isn’t meant to be performed on big festival stages.  It belongs in clubs where you can touch opposite walls at the same time.

Magrudergrind are a band well worth seeing.  The only issue I had was with the set length.  I don’t think they cracked the 20 minute barrier.  I know that grind is about short bursts of aggression (most of the tracks on Magrudergrind’s last album are around the minute mark or less), and I know you can’t listen to 4 hours of this stuff straight, but I would hope that their headlining shows are slightly longer.

Crowbar

Next up on today’s itinerary was Crowbar, with Kirk Windstein on lead beard.  It was as big a contrast as you’ll get at a pure metal festival.  Where Magrudergrind were half minute bursts of fury, Crowbar slowed it the feck down.  It was doomy and it was sludgy.  I’ve only seen Kirk play in Down previously, where he takes a pretty low key role…  and wouldn’t you if you had the mouthy Phil Anselmo fronting your band?  But Kirk is a charismatic frontman in his own right.

The performance was tight.  Live those songs come alive.  But the most noticeable thing was how much fun the band was having, and how much they seemed to enjoy playing with each other.  After each song they would knock fists with each other, in celebration of another great performance.  Enthusiasm is infectious…  Its hard to not enjoy something when the band is enjoying it so much.

The set included one of my favourites, Conquering, and concluded with the classic, All I Had (I Gave).

Necrophagist / Finntroll / Deftones

The next act for the day that I was really looking forward to was Ihsahn.  Before his set, I had time to walk around, sampling different acts and the atmosphere of the festival.

The sun was out on day one of Hellfest – and so was the skin.  And not all of it should have been out there.  I’m not sure if lack of body image issues is a metal thing or a euro thing, but there was some pale, chubby flesh on display.

Also no wonder your northern hemisphere types get burnt when they come to Australia.  At home, we’ve got a healthy fear of the sun.  If you left pale white skin out in the sun for 16 hours in Australia you would be hospitalised.  It only takes 15 minutes to burn under our ozone layer hole.

First on the sampling plate for the afternoon was Necrophagist.  Like many technical death metal bands, Necrophagist are walking a fine line between technicality and w@nk.  Going in, I thought that they would land on the w@nk side.  I only caught a couple of songs and it was alright in moderation.  It was different to what I had just heard in Magrduergrind and Crowbar.  The riffs were off kilter.  The guitar work was super technical, but they still retained heaviness.  A couple of songs was cool, but I didn’t feel like I needed a whole set of it.…

Finntroll brought a combination of Scandinavian folk and metal to the festival.  It’s not my thing, but it was fun to see all the pagan metal fans dancing jigs, while they tried not to spill the beer in their traditional drinking horns.

I don’t like writing reviews that are too negative, but Walls of Jericho are worthy of some venom.  And even though I’d never heard of them, they seemed popular enough that no words from me could ever do them any damage.  In short, Walls of Jericho are seven different kinds of shyte.  They are just one fashionable cliche after another – hollow passages between generic breakdowns, teen lyrics about “f_ck the american dream”, a “f_ck” chant.  Stay well clear!

I would have liked the opportunity to catch more of the big rock of the Deftones, but I had to head over to the side tent for Ihsahn.

Ihsahn

Ihsahn’s latest album, After, is one of my favourites of the year.  There is so much variety on that album.  The scope and ambition is one thing – but that he was able to pull it off and successfully integrate saxophone into a metal album is monumental!

Ihsahn has an interesting black metal back story.  I believe that he is still a “you-are-your-own-god” style of satanist.  His former band Emperor was one of the founding Norwegian black metal bands.  And back in the day, a former bandmate was even jailed over the church burnings.  While there are traces of black metal in the music, his solo albums are far closer to progressive metal.

With all this hype, how was it, Moods?… It was great!

It was great – except for the two tall d!cks in front of me, who talked throughout the set complaining about the missing saxophone parts.  Get over it, dude.  Ihsahn didn’t bring a saxophonist out on tour.  If you want an exact replica of the album, stay out home and listen to the god d@mn record.

Ihsahn opened up with the first two tracks off After.  They were amazing compositions, played flawlessly.  I will never tire of intricate music performed with energy.  Ihsahn’s songs aren’t complicated for complicated’s sake.  He writes songs that convey emotion, and when he’s yelling on the mic, you can see that he is feeling it.

The previous two solo records, featuring quite Pink Floyd-y moments, were also well represented.  Although his albums are solo works, Ihsahn’s backing band, Leprous, were allowed to shine throughout.  The keyboardist even handled lead vocal duties on a track taken from the first record.

Frozen Lakes on Mars, seamlessly flowing between hammering verses and prog rock choruses, brought the set to a close all too soon. I can’t wait to catch Ihsahn at Wacken.

Infectious Grooves

After Ihsahn’s awesome set, I decided to rest the legs a bit.  I cracked my first Kronenbourg for the day, and parked my @rse in front of the main stage for Infectious Grooves….

Who remembers Infectious Grooves?  Not many of you?

Infectious Grooves’ claims to fame are

1.  They are Mike Muir’s (from Suicidal Tendencies) funk metal band

2.  They are Robert Trujillo’s (currently Metallica’s bassist) previous band

3.  They were the band that played at the school dance, at the end of the Pauly Shore movie, Encino Man.  They don’t make movies like Encino Man anymore.

Ohhh… how sweet…

But on to a youtube vid worth watching…

You don’t remember Suicidal Tendencies either?  You’ve never heard of Suicidal Tendencies?  Man, you need to watch the 3:54 of pure awesome below.  It features Bobcat Goldthwait driving to work on a lawnmower, a surly Barney the Dinosaur, an awesome hardcore punk track and one of the funniest second verses ever.  All I wanted was a pepsi, just one pepsi…  Watch it!  Now!

Those old enough (like me), will remember the golden days of funk metal, the early nineties.  Remember those early Red Hot Chilli Pepper records, Faith No More’s Real Thing album, the first Mr Bungle album and… Infectious Grooves.  Funk metal may be dated – but you can’t deny its sense of fun.    Infectious Grooves were especially having fun tonight, celebrating the LA Lakers win in their Lakers singlets.

Mike Muir is the clearly the band leader, but he assembled a more than interesting supporting cast.  The bass player had serious funk chops.  Who needs Metallica’s Robert Trujillo?…  and the drummer has got to be competing with Fear Factory’s Gene Hoglan as the fattest drummer in rock today.  The dude was a tank.  I liked how he couldn’t bring himself to hit a cymbal without twirling his sticks.  Showmanship was on display tonight.

The Suicidal Tendencies guitarist joined the lads on stage for a funked out version of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song, and to close the set, the Suicidal classic, Pledge Your Allegiance.  Muir demanded a stage invasion.  And a stage invasion he got.  I’ve never seen so many people on one stage.  Take that, Polyphonic Spree!

Woo!!!  And I thought Infectious Grooves was going to be my rest up time.  Thankfully I was able to chill out more for Sick of it All’s set.  You know what you’re going to get with New York Hardcore – punk beats, sing along choruses and shyteloads of energy.

I was now rested and good to go for the evening session…

Click here for words on sets from Sepultura, Godflesh and Fear Factory.


Hellfest @ Clisson, France, 18-20 June – Getting There

Posted in Gigs, Travel on July 5, 2010 by Noise Road

I had my final shower, and the last use of a respectable toilet in Paris, before hoping aboard a train to Nantes… and then onto another bound for Clisson…

A short walk out of town, amongst the sea of black t-shirts, and I arrived at the festival site.  Hellfest, one of the premier metal festivals in the world, is hosted in a vineyard.  A vineyard in the French countryside.  Don’t you think of expensive French wine when you listen to your old Motorhead records?  But I sh!t you not – I pitched my tent four feet away from vines in a rotated field.

A rotated field scores high on the novelty factor, but it didn’t look like it was going to provide the best sleeping surface.

The festival started early the next day, so most punters had also journeyed up to Clisson the evening before.  The Hellfest organisers had local bands entertaining the early arrivals, while the world cup played on a big screen.

I was too jiggered to walk back into town, so I grabbed a kebab and a kronenbourg and settled in for some French rock.  I saw the French version of Hatebreed, the French Converge, the French At the Drive In and a decent psych rock band, before it started p!ssing down.  After freezing at the Roadburn Festival campsite, this time I had prepared for the cold…  I hadn’t prepared so much for rain, though…  Get some predictable weather already, Europe.

However after a hectic tour of Marseille and Paris in the preceding days, fatigue was high.  And so despite the lumpy plot, and rain, I successfully passed out in my tent.

When I woke the next morning, I was in immediate need of a pit stop.  For all Hellfest’s positives, the quality and quantity of toilets were not among them.  So where do you take a p!ss when surrounded by nothing but vines and tents?  All I’m saying is think of me if you ever get the opportunity to enjoy an expensive glass of French wine.  There could be part of me in there.

It seemed that everyone had planned their morning out in order to get to the Gorod set.  Consequently it took 45 minutes to pass through security and I missed the entire Gorod set.  Never mind – there’s a long day of bands ahead.  In fact there’s a long 3 days of bands ahead.

Hellfest is very similar in layout to the Big Day Out Festival back in Australia.  There are two main stages that alternate throughout the day, and there are two side stages under tents.  However, unlike the Big Day Out, Hellfest is pretty d@mn metal.  There is ironwork everywhere.  An “Extreme Market” houses every extreme metal t-shirt, cd and record under the northern sky.  It also featured all your goth/rock/metal chick wear.  Boots and corsets aplenty, my friend.

The girls certainly went to plenty of effort dressing up during the festival.  Every morning, girls squeezed into corsets, laced up their massive boots and applied makeup.  At the same time I was rolling out of my tent, putting the same pair of shorts on as yesterday and sniff testing band t-shirts.

Costumes were a big part of the festival.  There were, of course, lots of pagan metal fans in the kit of the vikings of old.  They gulped beer from their traditional drinking horns, whilst they tried not to lose their helmets… or their kilts.  Joining the festive pagans, were businessmen zombies, cavemen, a chicken and a dude in a g-string with a massive d!ldo strapped to his head.

Day One was the biggest day of the festival – so I have decided to upload a post just for music of that day…

Click here for words on Magrudergind, Crowbar, Ihsahn and Infectious Grooves…

The Hold Steady @ Fleche D’Or, Paris, 14th June 2010

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by Noise Road

Apologies

I could start all these posts with apologies…

Today’s apology (brought to you by Heineken beer) goes to Craig Finn.  I had more than a couple under the belt when I bailed up the Hold Steady frontman.

I’m hoping that both Craig and the reader can forgive my enthusiastic drinking.  There were extenuating circumstances.  A couple of days earlier, I had just met up in Marseille with my brother, 7ichael, and our great friend, Kainy, for the first time in over 6 months.  Add to that already potent combination, the greatest bar band in the world… playing a small venue… in Paris.

So Craig, forgive me the intoxication…  and forgive me the babbling.  I was a little overwhelmed trying to find articulate words when addressing the best lyricist in music.    For his part Mr Finn was nothing but class.  He even endured a cheesy photo with 7ichael and I.

Me and my friends are like

Double whiskey, coke, no ice

We drink along in double time

Might drink too much, but we feel fine

Marseille

I left my flat in London before 4:30am, in order to make the 8am flight to Marseille.  All passengers were seated.  All hand luggage correctly stowed.  On the strike of 8am, the pilot spoke over the PA.  He said that he was too sick to fly, and that a replacement pilot would have to be sought.  Everyone needed to get off the plane.

I’m all for pilot’s not flying if they are sick – but are you telling me he didn’t know that he was sick until he completed all the pre-flight checks, and was ready to fly out?  He didn’t know 30 minutes earlier, before everybody boarded?

3 hours later and I was back aboard the same plane, with a healthy pilot…  On touchdown, I was greeted by the spectacular Mediterranean coastal city of Marseille.  My brother and Kainy also greeted me with a tasty kebab at the hotel room.

I had been given intel that Marseille might be a seedy port town.  The congregation of approximately 50 riot police, on hand after an Algerian world cup game, reminded you that this was probably a town where things could go down.  Like all port towns, I know there are some sketchy areas of Marseille, but we weren’t so adventurous as to come across them.

Instead, Marseille was the image in my head of what I thought luxury Mediterranean holidays would look like.  Beautiful calm water, marinas with massive yachts, rugged coastlines and islands.    We spent a lot of time around the marina and the coast.  We even took a boat across to the island which is the setting for the Count of Monte Crisco.  What I took from my time in Marseille is that I really need to earn a shyte load of money and buy a yacht.  I need to summer in the south of France.

Paris

We caught the express train up to Paris from Marseille.  If it wasn’t for the excellent Parisian transport infrastructure, the Hold Steady mission may not have been possible.  As it was we dumped our bags in our very old school, continental hotel room, hopped back on the metro and were near the venue in very quick time.

Paris is the most visited city in Europe for good reason.  The scale of the place is amazing.  i thought Berlin had epic size a few weeks previous – but its got nothing on Paris.  From the Louvre to the Arc De Triomphe all you can see is massive buildings and boulevards.  Its a place where you can’t help climbing every obstacle of height just for the view – the compulsory Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Basilique de Sacre Couer at Montmarte…

The food is excellent but expensive – and so we found ourselves eating a lot of kebabs.  I would have eaten at least 10 kebabs in 10 days in France.  At least 10, dude.

The Fleche D’Or

The Fleche D’Or is a little club in the centre of Paris, located above a railway track.  On the side of the venue is a lounge type area where you overlook the tracks as you sip your 7 euro beer.  7 euros!…  That’s scandinavian prices!  However it did only cost €8.50 for the gig entry – so I guess it balances out…  if you’re not drinking in double time.

Locals,  I Love UFO were the openers for the evening.  They reminded me as to what I like about alterno music.  They had raw as feck energy.  Primal noise screeched out of the guitars, whilst the frontman slurred at the crowd.  It was already an excellent live performance, from a bunch of charismatic dudes….  and then they brought out the S&M cheerleaders – including a dude cheerleader.  We were discussing if it was cool or not to grab the dude cheerleader for a quick photo, as he passed.  Explain that picture on your facebook to your work buddies.

The Hold Steady triumphantly entered to a spaghetti western soundtrack.  Craig Finn announced the first song of the evening, the Sweet Part of the City.  The mellow, almost country tinged, opener eased us into the evening, before we entered anthem rock mode for Constructive Summer.

Me and my friends are like

The drums on lust for life

we pound it out on floor toms

our songs are sing-along songs

The crowd at the venue was disappointingly small.  But I guess the band isn’t a perfect fit for Europe.  Even though the ethic and approach of the Hold Steady is indie rock, the music is the classic rock riffs of American radio.  More importantly, the strongest aspect of the Hold Steady is their storytelling.  It must be hard for someone of another first language to appreciate the depth and subtlety of lyrics.

The crowd was small, but the Hold Steady still went for it.  Finn is unable to control his spasms of enthusiasm, and his retelling of his lyrical stories differ in rhythm each performance.  Each nights vocal delivery is unique.

The Lyrics

So, Moods, what is so special about the Hold Steady’s lyrics?

The individual songs of the Hold Steady are short stories within a greater arc, 5 albums in length so far.  The stories involve the same characters at various ages told from varying perspectives.

The songs stand on their on, but for the long time listener there are references to events that happened in previous songs.  For example on the latest album, Heaven is Whenever, the track, the Weekenders, mentions in passing a story told two albums previous in the song Chips Ahoy.

Both songs were performed tonight – Chips Ahoy being a crowd favourite sing-along about a girl who uses her unusual talents to place bets on horses for drug money.  The Weekenders starts with the line “there was that whole weird thing about the horses…”

Many of the themes of the Hold Steady are familiar territory for rock bands – youthful enthusiasm, drugs, death.  From the track, Lord, I’m Discouraged:

The sutures and bruises are none of my business

She’s said that she’s sick, but she won’t get specific

This guy from the north side, comes down to visit

His visits only take 5 or 6 minutes…

from the same track

I know that she’ll never be mine

so I mostly just pray she don’t die

But probably the most interesting theme is the role of religion throughout the tales.  Kids leave strict upbringings and embrace partying far too enthusiastically.  Kids bottom out and replace drugs with a Christian crutch.


What truly holds Finn’s lyrics above the pack is the quality of his phrases.  There are just so many quotable lyrics in each track:

she said the theme of this party’s the industrial age

and you came in dressed like a train wreck

His details of the specific convey a universal message.

I remember the reservoir

I remember the metal bar

You could say our paths had crossed before

Even though he’ll name drop streets and bars in Minneapolis, he might as well be talking about my nights at the Enigma metal bar in Adelaide…  or my circle of friends underage drinking at the reservoir, next to our high school.  The experiences are universal, the details give it authenticity.

Despite these tales of death, drug addiction and succumbing to crutches of faith, both the music and Finn’s lyrics convey enormous joy and positivity, without being corny.  The corniness is avoided as it is usually conveyed by characters picking themselves off the bar room floor.  After a song about how we can all “be something bigger” they’ll be a song about a character falling short of being something bigger.  They have a whole album called Stay Positive, for feck’s sake.  How do you pull that off without raising my ire?

The Riffs

So yeah the lyrics are great – but this ain’t no poetry recital is it?  This is a bar band.

Tad Kubler is the chief writer of the music, and his riffs have to match the quality of the words.  Tales of massive nights are accompanied by upbeat sing-along choruses.  Introspective tales of kids bottoming out or questionable christian redemptions are told to quieter strumming.  And each album needs to have an epic slow burner to close.

It was a different Hold Steady line up to what I saw back at the Laneways festival, last year in Adelaide.  Sure the core was still there – guitarist Tad Kubler, vocalist Finn, drummer Bobby Drake, and bassist Galen Polivka…   But gone was charismatic keyboardist and leader of the sing along, Franz Nicolay.  And a second guitarist has been added.

There are positive and negatives to the second guitarist.  The negative being that there was no need for the excellently excessive, double-neck guitar that Tad Kubler broke out on their last Australian tour.  The positive being, that vocalist Finn is now afforded even more Springsteen/Mick Jones like moments, where he strikes the guitar once or twice during the chorus and effectively wears the guitar as a prop for the rest of the track.

Set List

I didn’t find the latest album as immediately grabbing as their previous efforts – but it is worth the dig.  The most obvious development is the continued improvement of Finn’s voice.   He basically used to talk over the songs, albeit in a very distinctive way.  But more and more melody is being conveyed.

Live it is apparent that the latest effort is a great summation of what the Hold Steady do.  They rock on the Hurricane J.  They quietly soul search on We Can Get Together and slow burn to epic closer on Slight Discomfort.

I’m like any other fan though.  Sure I want to hear a lot of the new tracks, but there is some back catalogue that I need to yell out to the lyrics to.  The Hold Steady put together a great set list, representing all the albums with multiple tracks.

There was the sing along greats of Sequestered in Memphis, Chips Ahoy and Your Little Hoodrat Friend from the previous three albums.  Even the first album was heavily represented – I loved the opportunity to yell the phrase “I did a couple of favours for some guys who looked like Tuscan raiders” in public.

I left a happy man, hearing my favourite 3 tracks off my favourite album, Separation SundayBanging Camp, Stevie Nix and Multitude of Casualties are perfect mix of catchy riffs and tales of youthful enthusiasm, drugs and redemption.

If you aren’t a Hold Steady fan and you made it through this gushing post, kudos to you.   I know the Hold Steady isn’t going to be the bag of most of the people who read this blog.  But it would be wrong to keep this to myself.  The Hold Steady are out there mixing amazing storytelling with bar rock as good as it gets.  You need to get a pint in hand and sing along with Craig…  If you can do it Paris, all the better.