Archive | March, 2012

In the meantime, 20 years have passed

21 Mar

Helmet @ Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg

I bought Helmet’s album “Meantime” shortly after it was released in 1992. I listened to it, loved it and then obviously got into a time capsule and stepped out in the present. Or at least that’s the only explanation I have for being able to attend the 20th anniversary tour of that same record. I mean…20 years…really?

Anyway, there was no way I was going to miss this show. Having seen Helmet only once before at Dynamo Festival in 1997 and then having to deal with the fact of maybe never seeing them live again, I quickly learned what it sounds like when opportunity knocks. So, my allies and I made our way to Aschaffenburg’s Colos-Saal to celebrate an album we all grew up with.

Supporting Helmet in their anniversary quest were Derry’s heavy rock/punk outfit Fighting With Wire. Unexpectedly raw and ultimately confrontational, the three-piece set the stage for their headliners with their sometimes melodic, sometimes scything garage-rocky tunes. Definitely a band to watch out for.

Helmet @ Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg

Helmet @ Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg

Next up: Helmet. With a setlist comprised of a complete back-to-front “Meantime” amongst others, Helmet once again proved why they are a staple of the true rock diet. Uncompromising from the first note, the NYC-based rockers blessed their audience with their signature no-frills performance and unique staccato riffs. With their dissonant, abrasively repetitive sound and Hamilton’s angry vocals, Helmet once again succeed in touching us deeply, carving every little bit of left-over teenage angst out of these now adult souls and bringing it to the surface for the night. They remind us that it’s ok to be totally pissed off, but they do it on an almost philosophical level. From it, we understand that aggression and stupidity don’t have to go hand in hand. I guess it’s the outlet that makes the difference. And if the outlet is a masterfully crafted as “Meantime”, it’s certainly an intelligent way to vent.

So, re-listen, re-live and re-comprehend. And then check out their new album “Seeing Eye Dog” when you’re ready for more.

Find out more about Helmet here.
Flickr the Helmet performance here.
Find out more about Fighting With Wire here.
Flickr the Fighting With Wire performance here.
Get tickets for Colos-Saal here.

MonstrO

16 Mar

Choosing to go to SXSW always comes with the browsing of uncountable schedules. To really “not miss that one thing you wish you had gone to”, you’ll have to read through the official schedule, check out unofficial showcase notices and grow elephant ears while you’re there.

MonstrO @ Barbarella Patio, SXSW

MonstrO @ Barbarella Patio, SXSW

But sometimes, you also get lucky. One my first look through the bands that were playing, I immediately saw MonstrO on the line-up. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was already well aware of the Atlanta-/Miami-based band that grew out of Bloodsimple’s and Torche’s respective demises, although the self-titled debut produced by Alice in Chains’ William DuVall is only available as an import here for the time being.

When listening to MonstrO’s record, you’ll find rolling riffs and a flavor of the Seattle sound, but also some elements that are more classic rock, stoner or even psychedelic. What you won’t find that much of is the thing that has everyone linking them to Alice in Chains. I would even go as far as saying that Charlie Suarez’ vocal quality reminds me more of Chris Cornell than any other Seattle singer. Nevertheless, the album is magical. Partly heavy and energetic, partly progressive and otherworldly, it fuses some of rock’s greatest sounds into a full-bodied listen. And who wouldn’t want to see that live?

On the MetalSucks stage at Barbarella Patio, the MonstrO sound really came to life. Slightly heavier live than on record, the performance showed off the truly rocking melodies and vibrant chords that make up the essence of their debut tunes. With this set, they proved to me what I had suspected all along. There’s more to MontrO than meets the “ear”, so to speak. And then there’s even more. And some more after that, too. My only question after this show is: when do we get to see them in Europe?

MonstrO @ Barbarella Patio, SXSW

MonstrO @ Barbarella Patio, SXSW

MonstrO is Charlie Suarez (Sunday Driver) on vocals and guitars, Juan Montoya (Torche) on guitars, Bevan Davies (Bloodsimple, Danzig) on the drums and Kyle Sanders (Bloodsimple) on the bass.
To find out more about MonstrO, click here.
Flickr the show here.
Check out Barbarella Patio here.

Trail of Dead

14 Mar

Trail of Dead @ Hotel Vegas, Austin TX, SXSW

Trail of Dead @ Hotel Vegas, Austin TX, SXSW

Years ago, a dear ally of mine got me hooked on …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. I spent the next few years on the lookout. I had heard that Trail was a “live” band above all things. I watched some snippets online. And then – through a happy chain of events – I finally got to see them in 2009 when they performed in New York City’s Webster Hall. Apart from the mind-blowing acoustics of the venue, I was extremely impressed by the show. I finally got to see why any fan should see Trail live. And the moment I left, I couldn’t wait to see it all happen again.

I did have to wait, though. But finally, the stars – or schedules – realigned in my favor at this year’s SXSW. Trail was due to headline the Frenchie Smith showcase at Hotel Vegas.

Trail of Dead @ Hotel Vegas, Austin TX, SXSW

Trail of Dead @ Hotel Vegas, Austin TX, SXSW

The thing that always gets me about Trail is their filmic quality. Sometimes, when I listen to one of the many albums, it feels like I am listening to a movie in my head. Combine that with a live performance and you’ve got a vibrant, eventful narrative. From instrument switcheroos to some very awesome stage behavior, a Trail show comes at you with full speed. It’s exhilarating, fast-moving, complete. The unseen and unheard are dealt out per second and the musicianship is extraordinary. It’s an unexpected twist here and a surprising turn there that will stretch the average fan’s attention span from the first note to the last. In short, this is musical escapism at it’s best and most intelligent. How could you not squeeze your way to the front row for that?

On a side note, Trail has just finished recording a new album in Hannover, Germany. Let’s hope that means more touring. Needless to say, I can’t wait for my next show.

Trail is:

Conrad Keely
Jason Reece
Autry Fulbright II
Jamie Miller

Find out more about Trail here.
Flickr the show here.
Get the program for Hotel Veags here.
Find out more about Fenchie Smith here.

Black Bone Child

14 Mar

I love it when I find music that I like by accident. When I go from “I could get into this” to buying the entire catalogue. And this usually happens by association. Someone from a band I like joins a new band. Someone from a band I like recommends another band. Or I go see a band I like and get a line-up full of wonderful tunes.

Black Bone Child @ Hotel Vegas

Black Bone Child @ Hotel Vegas

The other thing I love is real “rock”. You know, the kind of sound you hear in your head when you think “rock”. The sound that smells like sweaty biker jackets and old pick-up trucks.

At the Frenchie Smith showcase held at Hotel Vegas, I got both. No-frills, Texas-style blues rock that I didn’t know was coming my way. Austin-based Black Bone Child, the opening act of the night, is really all you want from a rock band. They have the raw riffs, high intensity grooves, contagious melodies and some truly soulful vocals. The live performance is a 10 out of 10, as is the musicianship displayed on their recorded material. It’s rare to find a band that will get the whole house rocking but I am prepared to put my money on these guys to make anyone get up and move. And I am not only saying that because of the slide guitar.

Black Bone Child are Donny James, Kenneth M, Steve Hudson and Jason King.

Find out more about Black Bone Child here.
Flickr the show here.
Check out Frenchie Smith Records here.
Check out Hotel Vegas here.

Dax Riggs

13 Mar

Dax Riggs @ Hotel Vegas, SXSW

Dax Riggs @ Hotel Vegas, SXSW

Slightly folky. Slightly dark. Slightly glam. Totally underrated. And all in all really hard to describe. That’s Dax Riggs for you. Or at least, that’s Dax Riggs for me. Another gem in the Frenchie Smith showcase, Indiana-born, Lousiana-raised Austin resident Dax Riggs (ex-Acid Bath) and some of his musically talented friends put on a magnificent show at Hotel Vegas.

Next to the masterfully crafted songs which were just as masterfully delivered, there were undoubtedly some other unique things about this Dax Riggs performance. First of all, there was magic. The magic of each and every musician standing on stage seeming to be 110% dedicated to producing the finest sound they can. A beautiful thing to see. Secondly, there was is mystery. And this centered around Dax Riggs himself. Caught somewhere in-between the proverbial weird kid and a man enlightened, Dax seems to sing and dance along the verge of understanding what it’s all about. He brings deep thought and dark melodies to the table as much as he brings beauty and ease. It makes for a thrilling combination. An enigma, if you can bear to call anything that.

You see, I wasn’t kidding when I said “hard to describe”. I guess, some things you just have to see for yourself.

Find out more about Dax Riggs here.
Flickr the show here.
Find out about Hotel Vegas here.
Get news on Frenchie Smith here.

Penny for your tunes

13 Mar

Pennywise @ 1100 Warehouse

Recently, I watched an Oscilloscope distributed documentary entitled “The Other F Word” which portrayed the the lives of rockstars that are also dads. Now, contrary to popular belief, it seems that rockstars are actual human people and do follow actual human life patterns. You know – find a girl, settle down and all that. One of the main protagonists of the film was Jim Lindberg, former vocalist of Pennywise and father of three pretty adorable little ladies.

As interesting as the whole Punk Rock Dad story was, the biggest impact the film had on me was rekindling my love for Pennywise. So, I rummaged around in my iTunes playlists, found most of the catalogue and listened to it all again. Coincidentally, this was just before leaving for SXSW where Pennywise was due to play a few shows including the one at the VANS 1100 Warehouse showcase.

For anyone not updated, Jim Lindberg reveals towards the documentary’s end that he is quitting Pennywise to spend more time with his family. Since then, about two years have passed and Jim has been replaced by none other than former Ignite frontman Zoli Téglás. For an Ignite fan like myself, this gives Jim’s exit the proverbial silver lining.

Before Pennywise came on, I watched the “No room for rockstars” VANS Warped Tour documentary which featured mostly younger bands. While I appreciate a lot of upcoming musicians, it was nice to see a band on stage I could totally relate to afterwards. As expected, the California punk rockers burned through much of their best-loved tunes with skill, energy and their trademark positive attitude. Zoli’s performance, intense and honest, couldn’t have been better suited for this killer set. So I walked out thinking my standard thought after any Pennywise show: Sometimes, I wish I could be a bro. Just for a moment.

Find out more about Pennywise here.
Flickr the show here.

No room for rockstars

13 Mar

I’ve been wearing VANS on a daily basis for as long as I can think. They are my “trusted source” in the shoe department, if you so want. The same applied for music. At least once they made the Warped Tour a regular thing. Although I have never been to said show, I would check the line-up regularly, scoring it for upcoming bands.

This year, VANS premiered their documentary “No Room for Rockstars” at 1100 Warehouse during SXSW. Complete with popcorn, swag and Vitamin Water, the screening was one of the most rocking scenarios ever. As was this movie. With insights into the 2010 tour and featuring awesome footage of everyone from Suicide Silence to Never Say Never, the documentary painted an authentic picture and left out nothing – not even the criticism offered by some of the artists on the tour.

But now to the really heart-wrenching stuff. Also featured in this documentary were the struggling “Forever Came Calling” from Nowhere, California. Their story, one of playing Warped Tour parking lots and trying to get their tunes heard and CDs sold around the tour, is the definition of rock n roll hardship. Luckily, all the running out of gas money and pissing in bottles while driving across America does have a happy ending. I won’t go into detail. Don’t want to spoil the story for you.

To make a long review short: if you’re into festivals and live shows and rock stories, put on your favorite VANS and watch this honest and somewhat courageous documentary. It’ll be available on iTunes shorty.

For more info, here’s the website.

Dualistic Textures

5 Mar

Textures and Sylosis @ Schlachthof Wiesbaden

In my opinion, being in flux is a big part of progress, as it seems a thing that does not change also cannot grow. And the Dutch six-piece Textures is my proof. Listening to their catalogue of work, it’s obvious that these guys are all about vicissitude. They seemingly travel to and from those proverbial opposites that attract with mind-blowing swiftness, producing smart, highly technical metal wherever they tread. The outcome is a four-album package, brimful with IQ, awesome song-writing and never-tedious musicianship.

Textures recently came to town with their newest work, Dualism, which – needless to say – is nothing like their other albums. Performing it live at Wiesbaden’s Schlachthof and supported with an awesome set by epic UK thrash band Sylosis, the Dutch metal outfit confirmed what a listen to the current album could have foreboded. While the stuff you love about Textures – the stellar drumming, intricate composition and acute riffs – were still a constant of the show, the Dualism tracks prove that this band isn’t called Textures for nothing. With new additions Daniël de Jongh on vocals and Uri Dijk on keyboards, the set oscillated more flexibly than ever between the many often opposing layers that are the make-up of this outfit. Armed with wars where technicality vs. groove and brutal growl vs. tear-jerking melody, Textures hit the stage. But judging from the reaction of the crowd, it seemed everyone there got the equation.

I would hate to generalize that everyone in the audience has the tools to comprehend Texture’s highly mathematical approach to a good tune. So I’ll just say that the band has figured out how to make their complexity something to rock out to instead. Whichever it is, I walked out a fan with changed eardrums. And if you don’t see that as progressive, I suggest you reread sentence number one.

Find out more about Textures here.
Find out more about Sylosis here.
Flickr the Textures set here.
Flickr the Sylosis set here.
Find out who’s playing at Schlachthof Wiesbaden here.

Ghost Brigade

1 Mar

For my last birthday, an ally of mine gave me a set of CDs, most of which I had never heard of. When I listened to them in the days that followed, it was uncanny how spot-on my ally had been in choosing the music. I really liked all of the albums. And I really loved one of them in particular. Ghost Brigade’s “Until Fear No Longer Defines Us”.

Ghost Brigade @ Underground Cologne

Ghost Brigade @ Underground Cologne

Hailing from Finland, Ghost Brigade’s sound is more ethereal than it is strictly Nordic or progressive or Death/Post/Doom. It resounds with a beauty that is stark and a pain that is intrinsic to the mind that contemplates. Set against a backdrop of masterfully crafted, heavy riffs, the honest yet soothing melodies on “Until Fear No Longer Defines Us” produce an atmosphere that is dark and  all-encompassing. Listening to the album repeatedly, it did, however, make wonder: is it too “intelligent” to be delivered live?

When Ghost Brigade came to Germany supporting Enslaved this February, I decided to go see for myself at Cologne’s Underground. In just under ten songs from both “Until Fear No Longer Defines Us” and “Isolation Songs”, the Finnish five-piece turned my doubt into astonishment as they ferociously breathed life into their unmistakably evocative tunes. They rocked what I thought couldn’t be rocked while staying true to the introspective nature of the Ghost Brigade sound. And it was standing there that I realized what really makes Ghost Brigade. The constant musical flux between opposite ends makes for an almost unsettling balance of light and shade that hits you right in the gut and still makes you come back for more. So in short: if you’re hard enough to handle what could spark a proverbial “look inside”, you may be just the rocker Ghost Brigade have come to play for.

Find out more about Ghost Brigade here.
Flickr the show here.
Find gigs at the Cologne Underground here.