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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Poppin' Cherries

You really can't beat Sundays for a shit night to go giggin'. However, as it was Black Stone Cherry, me and Hot Chick knew that we'd have to make the long arduous journey from Tunbridge Wells to glorious Brixton in the pissing rain and freezing cold because to be honest, missing Edmonton, Kentucky's finest was not an option.

Got there, queued, beers, down the front for the first support act - long time since we've got anywhere early enough for to do this. So there we stood as Sevendust, Georgia's most dated metal band, took to the stage. Don't get me wrong; these guys had a fierce energy but to be honest, the massive muscles and backwards baseball caps were a bit Fred Durst-tastic. To give them their dues, Morgan Rose on the drums was a fucking nutter but even his gob-up-in-the-air-and-catch-it-in-your-own-mouth and Tommy Lee stickwork couldn't stop me feeling a little bit like I'd seen this yeeeeeears ago. Lajon Witherspoon's vocals were good but when they were joined by BSC's Chris Robertson, there was a gulf of difference between them - ironic seeing as Chris would have been about 4 when Sevendust formed (under one of their many different names).

Next up were Stone Gods. Having recently seen former Darkness man Justin Hawkins in his new fucking abomination of a band Hot Leg ("Eat My Beer", November 19th), I was apprehensive to see what his brother Dan and the rest of the Lowestoft boys would come up with. However, in the interest of not being a stereotypical judgemental metalhead, I thought I'd give these guys a chance. Richie Edwards on vocals (I'm pretty sure not the long-missing Manics guitarist) did vibe with the crowd pretty well and their music was good old fashioned rock and roll. Nothing about them changed my life but they were enjoyable, and should their album "Silver Spoons and Broken Bones" be available on a "3 for £20" at HMV, I may consider investing.

And then Black Stone Cherry took to the stage. My prediction of them opening with "Blind Man" was a poor shout as they kept it old school, the thundering floor tom and bass line of "Rain Wizard" merging straight into "Backwoods Gold" was a great opening to their debut album and an even better opening to their live shows. Chris Robertson has a phenomenal interaction with the crowd and the fact that this was the biggest headline show they have ever played made them even more humble than usual. I'd like to also nominate Guitarist Ben Wells for "Fucking Nutty Headbanger Of The Year, 2008" as his head looked like it was going to fall off his neck on a number of occasions. Rob Flynn would be impressed.

As they continued to mix up the tunes from their first and second album - "The Bitter End" was a particularly intense breakdown that instigated a surprisingly swirling pit - the real BSC moment came from when the guys from Sevendust came out and took over some of the guitar duty, whilst John Fred Young left the skins and came stage front with a harmonica, leaving Chris to take care of the drums. A truly exceptional display, serious fucking groove from all involved.

John Fred still ain't exactly the world's best drummer - he can play like a demon but struggles to keep time as he gets a wee bit excited! His trick of throwing the sticks away and carrying on with just his hands is funny as fuck though; I watched the dude from Whitesnake doing exactly the same thing round a mate's house the night before.

Unfortunately we had to leave early due to the spasticated nature of Sunday trains but the hour-and-a-bit we saw of Black Stone Cherry reaffirms my belief that they are going to be bigger than they ever thought possible. Hailing from a town of 1,500-odd in the dirty South, I can see these guys reaching venues ten times this size. The crowd was a mix of 40-year-old rockers, bikers, emo kids, metallers - all of whom belonged there. BSC are a truly universal band - I just hope their ever-growing popularity doesn't dilute the rawness of their music.

Friday, 12 December 2008

And then it happened...again

As you can see from my last post ("And then it happened", December 6th) Slipknot have recently exposed me to the most exquisite visual/aural spectacle that metal can offer. I really thought I'd struggle to find something comparable in terms of sheer experience. Whoever the next gig was, it was going to be a tough one...

I got tickets for Trivium's intimate gig at London's Borderline ("I Stand Corrected...", November 23rd) and have been looking forward to it a fair ol' bit. Unfortunately Hot Chick couldn't make it to the show with me, which is kinda like Page without Plant, or an XL cheeseburger without bacon. So, with teary resolve, I found a surrogate gig buddy in KillerLeah, a sound Kiwi mate of mine. She's not in to metal in any way, shape or form but is interested in music, likes the Foos, Chilis; that kinda rock ting. A couple of beers, quick Guinness in Crobar (baptism of fire for a girl not used to the metal vibe) and in we went.

Happily there was a merch stand - don't tend to get those in the intimate settings. The thing that surprised me the most was how small and pretty empty The Borderline was. It has an official capacity of 275 but you could easily shoehorn another couple of hundred in there. This is metal, after all; we're used to the taste of each other's sweat. Chugged a few Tuborgs and on the Florida thrashers came to a pretty loud reception, considering the size of the crowd.

First song was "Kirisute Gomen" off "Shogun" and if I'm 100% honest, at this point I thought it was just going to be an A-Z "Shogun" run through. Which would be fine but a bit, well, predictable. Yet again, keeping to form, I was fucking miles off.

Bearing in mind the last gig in this size of venue was the dire Staind affair at the Hard Rock ("Um, hello???", September 23rd), I was apprehensive that we'd get some diva behaviour from these boys but once they'd blown "Kirisute" out, the banter started. Matt Heafy, fucking massive hair and all, was more than up for a bit of chat. Refreshing, considering he's often portrayed as a bit sullen and "frontman" in the music press. However, the biggest surprise for me was that only a few minutes in, they introduced "Like Light To Flies" from "Ascendancy". This is the song that got them their major airtime and as far as I'm concerned, one of their greatest achievements. Heafy dutifully caned himself for the laughable hair he has in the video before fucking shredding the shit out of this tune. I chucked my (well, Hot Chick's) camera at KillerLeah and got my white ass right into the shit. Now, I say "into the shit" but a pit of about 5 people doesn't really count. However, being about 5 feet from the stage whilst they were hammering through this tune was something else.

As the night continued, a few more beers were consumed by crowd and band alike and the banter increased. Trivium were having an absolute blast and subsequently, so were we. Travis Smith, Paolo Gregoletto and Corey Beaulieu ripped the piss out of each other, had some "in" jokes, and at one point, indulged in a Dave Chappelle "Lil' Jon" exchange of "Whaaaat??? Yeeeeaaaah!" That might make no sense to anyone reading this but YouTube it - funny as fuck.

The set list was virtually non-existent and 90% of the gig seemed to come about after a quick exchange between the lads on stage. For example, the first verse and chorus of Maiden's "The Trooper" ended because Heafy couldn't remember any more lyrics and Metallica's "Cyanide" from "Death Magnetic" opened when he said "apparently we sound like them so we may as well play one", a sentiment greeted with roars of appreciation from an increasingly lubed crowd. Heafy did play one comedy mainstream song but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Something by The Darkness, perhaps?

Trivium managed to make two guys' nights at The Borderline. One lank haired, sweaty looking metaller was offered the opportunity to get on Travis's kit and play along with one song and to be fair, he did a good job (the over-the-top double-pedal solo when he sat down is EXACTLY what I would have done). A chubby dude with glasses then got hauled up to play rhythm guitar with Matt for an entire song and his elation was obvious. Lucky c*nts.

However, when the boys started coming in to the crowd, that's when my night was made. I held Matt Heafy's arm aloft as he was roaring into the mic, and now officially think he considers me his best mate...perhaps... KillerLeah had her arm around Corey Beaulieu as he shredded his way through the crowd and the whole place was more like a sweaty garage in Florida, where a load of mates were watching a few more of their mates play some tunes, not a few super fans watching a 3,000-room band.

At not one point over the whole evening did Trivium make me feel anything other than respect for them. They know they have their critics - a lot of critics - but they played up to this. Heafy finished one song and began chanting "Slayer! Slayer!", which is what was happening on their recent Unholy Alliance tour with the thrash gods. They had a drink with us, let us play their instruments, and made my mate KillerLeah think seriously about her choice of gigs for the coming months. They got in the crowd, they sweated with us, they let one of their guitar techs use the stage to propose to his girlfriend (very sweet moment). They were a group of four lads having a fucking top time on their last show of 2008 in the smallest venue since they played Barfly in 2005.

I never thought Trivium would top Slipknot. But they just might have done it.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

And then it happened

The day after Filth Fest was one of the most exciting of my life. Chugging a brew on the train into town, I got that "I'm so excited I might need more then a few poos" gut. I was only hours away from finally seeing the mighty Slipknot.

Public transport conspired against me and Hot Chick and we got to the venue late, which meant we missed Children of Bodom. To describe this as annoying or frustrating would be like describing Robert Mugabe as "a bit tetchy". However, Hot Chick helped me not go mental and kill someone by leading me to the merch stand. I do love a tour T. I found out Bodom are playing a headline show at the same venue in February so it's not the end of the world.

Machine Head came on with the inevitable "MACHINE FUCKING HEAD" chants reverberating around the room. And they absolutely destroyed it. When you watch Machine Head you feel like you're at the apex of the evening. After them, it must be time for bed. Hammering through "Imperium" and new banger "Halo", the crowd was immersed in their Bay area thrash from start to finish. Rob Flynn managed to cane some of the lazier members of the crowd, asking them if they were ever going to headbang or whether they'd prefer a sandwich and a glass of milk, before chucking some Jaegermeister their way. I couldn't believe there was anyone standing still; as Flynn said, this wasn't a fucking Good Charlotte concert. He is an awe-inspiring front man and truly adds to the performance. This is the third time I've seen the Fucking Head and every time, Flynn has owned the venue. He never fails to introduce the whole band, is grateful for the support and hates people who don't headbang. Oh, and he loves a good pit. I have never seen a band that could follow these guys............(you can see where this is going)....

Until now.

Joey Jordisson's new mask/gloves have become the new face of Slipknot and as the curtain opened, there he was atop a fucking epic drum kit. The rest of metal's biggest line-up followed and quite simply, it went off.

Pounding through "Surfacing", "The Blister Exists" and quite awesomely, "Eeyore", I felt like I was being raped in the ear by a selection of large mammals. The lights, sounds, pyro, vocals all combined to make the most intense live experiences I have ever been witness to. Corey Taylor is the only front man I have ever seen who could follow Rob Flynn for interaction and entertainment. After virtually every song he gave us a bit of chat, told us how much they loved us fucking maggots - really makes you feel wanted. The crowd interaction on "Eyeless" and "Duality" was predictably perfect but it was during "Spit It Out" that you couldn't help feeling like you were part of something special. Allow me to explain; you all sit down as the song builds and then, guided by Mr. Taylor, the whole crowd jumps the fuck up as the tune crescendos. Simple but effective. 4,000 people sitting in lager and spit, brought together as one. The cock in front of me who didn't sit the fuck down got half of my beer over him - I do hate a killjoy.

Throughout the whole show, DJ Sid went a-wandering, doing pull-ups on Clown's barrels as they were continually lifted up and down on a pneumatic plinth. The cameras pointing at the crowd and playing on a screen in front of Mr. Crahan was inspired as it kept the maggots in the pit going insane. If you looked at any area of the stage, from the gargantuan form of Mick Thompson to the unexpected windmill headbanging of Jim Root, to Chris Fehn beating off his dick nose to Craig "133" Jones standing dead still apart from a vicious nail-ridden headbang, there was always something going on. The whole band were immersed in the gig and this really affected the crowd. It's not just Corey Taylor's passion that gives this lot momentum but the fact that each and every one of them add a different, equally important ingredient to the recipe. I'm going to stop gushing now before I end up felating them.

An encore of "(515)", "People = Shit" and "sic" kept the intensity until the very end. Joey's now infamous pneumatic drum stand went up tilted, rotated, and kept us going ballistic up to the final chords of the evening. "Thank you"'s were uttered, horns and drum sticks were thrown - in one instance, Joey personally singled out someone in the crowd for his burly security guard to give a stick to. If he'd have gone in himself, we would have almost definitely witnessed an Alice Cooper/chicken incident.

I cannot think of enough positives to describe this night. With the exception of the fucking queue for the cloak room, it was simply phenomenal. Slipknot performed material from all four main albums and didn't rely on the singles. A personal highlight for me was "Disasterpiece" - love that tune. For a band to combine such brutality with eloquent expression and respect for the people that got them where they are shows that they are some of the most level-headed rock stars out there. And for a band that used to puke on each other and throw shit across the stage, that's a big fucking surprise.

The bar for every future gig has been raised, beaten up, kissed, punched and shat on. Slipknot: I love you.

Aaaand relax

I may be bruised, scratched, full of cold and aching but this week was worth every second. Let me take you back to Monday.
Filth Fest was made up of this lot; Asrai, Septic Flesh, Moonspell, Gorgoroth and Cradle of Filth. I met a mate for a few looseners before making the journey to Kentish Town as I didn't really feel like standing in the freezing cold on my own for hours - Hot Chick was going to be down about two hours after kick off. I got there at 18:00, a little after the doors were scheduled to open at 17:00. But they didn't. An the queue was fuckin' massive.
Popped into the Bull & Gate for a quick Guinness, recalled seeing one of Bro Dude's bands playing there about 8 years ago, went back to the queue. The doors still weren't open. Back for another Guinness. About 90 minutes late, I was in.
By the time I got in I'd missed Asrai but nothing to worry about here. Septic Flesh were predictable dark but during their set I was mainly getting my merch, chatting to a mate who I found inside and chugging beers.

Hot Chick arrived as Moonspell took to the stage. Nicely beered by now, I led her down towards the front. The Portuguese doomers played a blinder and really got the pit swelling. Unfortunately, a massive cut in sound, light and power about two thirds into their set took the edge off an otherwise highly entertaining performance. I shall be investing in some of their work forthwith.

And then came Gorgoroth. This notorious clan of reprobates have a reputation for shocking the crowd and media with their crucified nudes and sheep's heads on spikes, so I was looking forward to the show. However, as the crosses were erected and the topless man and woman walked out, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed. When you watch someone hauling themselves onto a cross, putting a bag on their head, then standing a la Jesus, it doesn't have the same impact as if it all went on behind curtains and then is suddenly revealed to the crowd with a dramatic curtain drop or something. I know little of Gorgoroth's back catalogue but they got the crowd going insane. True to form, and mainly due to my large intake of Tuborg, I entered the pit, had a row, went over the top (really caught the bug for that at Alter Bridge) and hit the bar again. I felt their performance was lacklustre and if it wasn't for their notoriety and aggression of the songs, this would have been a bit, dare I say it, boring.

You know who ain't boring? Cradle of Filth. I forget what they opened with now but song two was "Guilded Cunt" (cue the most offensive singalong in history) and this led seamlessly in to "Dusk and Her Embrace", which is the first Cradle song I ever heard. I was going mental, as was the pit. I have never been involved in such a ridiculous shitfight in my life. Due to the inclement weather outside the floor was like an ice rink and, again, beer not helping, I stacked it backwards and landed on my elbows. The crippling pain didn't set in until I'd left the pit so I carried on regardless.

The tightness of COF's set shows a band that have been doing this for years. Unfortunately, due to the epic nature of their songs, the set was probably only 6 or 7 long but hey, it's the way of the black. Hot Chick doesn't feel black metal at all and spent more time being amused by Dani Filth's insanely high-pitched screams than anything else. I, however, appreciate the variety of his range as all too often, the black bands will rely on growling and leave it there. Cradle mix it up in a big way. There was great interaction with the crown, Dani was having a great time and the pit was an extension of the band (if the band was a sweaty mass of tattoos and hair. Oh, actually...). I'm surprised these guys don't play the bigger venues as they are by far popular enough but at the same time, it's good to be in a situation where you can get right up and personal with these cross-over black metal Gods.