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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.

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.

This is here

8 Feb

Insightful, informed, articulate. If this was Jeopardy!, who would really go with “What is a punk rock frontman”? Probably only those who have witnessed the crafty spoken word performance of wordsmith Henry Rollins. Having graduated from the gritty stages that Black Flag and The Rollins Band toured many moons ago, Henry has been “getting intense on the mic” for a few years now without the help of those angry vocals his fans knew and loved him for. What you see before you when you go to a Henry Rollins show today is a rock icon that delivers anecdotes, stories and thoughts with the kind of clarity you’d want some of your country’s leaders to have. The topics range from politics and music to Henry’s travel, friends, versatile work engagements like National Geographic documentaries or his role in Sons of Anarchy to the hair-raising stories about his “time at the office” where he is joined by an assistant referred to only as “The Demon”.

Henry Rollins @ Gloria Theater, image courtesy of

If you’ve never been to one of these spoken word shows, there are three things to keep in mind. 1. You will be laughing out loud. 2. You will feel intense pain as your body and the usually quite uncomfortable seating fight it out for three hours. 3. You will only get to experience and cherish memories of 1. and 2. if you act fast as Henry sells out pretty quickly. As I am a veteran Henry-goer, I scored my ticket early for this last tour – or rather, my veteran Henry-goer ally scored it for me. So off we went to the Gloria Theater in Cologne which sounded pretty glorious at first but still managed to greet us with said rock-hard chairs. However, I knew from the start it would be worth it. So in I went and down I sat, looking forward to being mesmerized for that bitter sweet eternity.

The thing with Henry is: he really keeps his promises. He answers e-mails in a flash, he doesn’t forget those less fortunate and he always comes to town with an amazing amount of stories you really want to hear. This last week, Henry told us about his travels to India, where he discovered the culinary delight that is rat’s liver; his trip to North Korea, where nothing is as it seems and humor is misunderstood; and his trip to Haiti, where soap and footballs made the eyes of children light up with delight. He also told us about visiting Tibet, where the sad faces of the people under Chinese surveillance made him appreciate the trial and error English of his guide as a philosophical notion. After all, saying “This is here” upon arrival at a sightseeing destination is pretty existential stuff, when you take the time to think about it.

Henry also talked about the numerous biographies written – or not written – by former president bush and his associates, his work with Drop in the Bucket, screaming a Frank Booth impersonation at Dennis Hopper and his ladder-buying experiences at the hell that is CostCo with “The Demon”, whose actual name is Heidi. While all these anecdotes are truly entertaining, the thing that makes Henry stand out of the wordsmith crowd is his talent to story-arch back and forth, effortlessly weaving and intertwining the plots until you’re left with a neatly packaged Henry experience that will stay with you long after you leave the venue. And when a sweaty Mr. Rollins exits the stage after 180 minutes of an intense verbal roller-coaster ride and a standing ovation or two, you can bet everything you have on the fact that you are going home with a few blown synapses and a smile. Inspiring stuff. If you’re punk-rock enough for it.

Find out more about Henry, The Demon and the tour here!

Pale Horse Part 2

7 Feb


After the rocking show in Wiesbaden, I just had to go see A Pale Horse Named Death again in Saarbrücken, supported by solid doom metal four-piece No Hope.

A Pale Horse Named Death @ Garage Saarbrücken As always, A Pale Horse Named Death did not disappoint. Although it was my third time at a show in support of the debut album “And Hell Will Follow Me”, the set just doesn’t get old. Beautifully dark songs, masterfully crafted tunes and an awesome attitude from the band itself once again. I get the feeling this is exactly how music is meant to be performed and bands are meant to interact. Kudos. APHND really knows how to make their fans happy.




Flickr APHND here.
More on A Pale Horse Named Death here.
Tickets to Garage Saarbrücken here.
Flickr NO HOPE here.

Mighty Mastodon

4 Feb

I dropped history as quick as I could in high school. Still, I did think I knew what a Mastodon was. Prehistoric, huge elephant-type, right? Now, I am not so sure. I am thinking a Mastodon is an animal of magic. Or at least that’s what it was last week. And it had a number of tricks up its furry sleeve.

1. No-frills rockers Red Fang in the support slot
Hailing from Portland, this authentic four-piece is lovable for so many reasons. They make awesomely insane videos. They seem totally down-to-earth. They look like they immensely enjoy being on stage. They make you wonder how they ever found each other. And they really, really rock. A solid circa three-quarter hour set long. It was awesome to see these guys do their things someplace else than youtube. And what a monster groove. My buddies, all Red Fang fanboys, were elated. It definitely calls for getting all the music available and diving headfirst into it (possibly holding a liquid refreshment in each hand).

Mastodon @ Frankfurt Batschkapp and Essigfabrik Cologne2. Letting The Hunter speak for itself
There are chatty bands and there are not so chatty bands. I usually like it when there’s some talk between songs but for a band as atmospheric as Mastodon, shutting up really suits the show. They simply let the songs do the talking. Lots of stuff from the new record “The Hunter” on this tour, but also a few favorites from previous albums, lined up snuggly to form what feels like a narrative one could get lost in. I’ve never been to a show that told a story before. It semi-boggled my mind.

3. Charisma
Yes, I used that word. It’s usually reserved for self-important press outlets and frontmen like Bono. And it’s usually not used for four guys based out of Atlanta, sporting some very individual concept hair. But, regardless of the billions of years of jading gigxpertise under my belt, Mastodon did manage to create the illusion that they were truly playing for me – well, and everyone else there, obviously. Experiencing that is like the rock-version of finger-pointing, and it wraps you up in this beautiful gig bubble. It’s an incredible feeling and contagious, it seems – looking around the audience I saw a lot of blissed-out faces. And the best news is: this “high” lasts for a day or so. I mentioned this to a bearded ally of mine who has close ties to Mastodon and there was little surprise. Supposedly, I got a full dose of the Mastovibe. Which would explain why I went to see them again just four days later.

4. Sound you want to wrap your head around
Mastodon’s thickly layered sludge rock is the metal equivalent of 500 count Egyptian cotton. You can sink into it. You can feel it’s layers. It’s densely woven and intricate. It’s almost impossible to wrap your head around. But when you do, it’s like somebody pressed play in your mind. And the movie that follows is one of the best you’ve ever seen.

See, it was magic. All the way from the highly energetic “Dry Bone Valley” to the sing-along set-closer “The Creature Lives”. If you’re not intrigued yet, I fear you may have the emotional landscape of a Keanu Reeves character. If you’re a little petrified of experiencing this for yourself, I totally understand. However you feel about it, I would recommend that you do go see Mastodon for yourself. But if you come out a relentless fangirl/fanboy, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

More on Red Fang here.
Read Red Fang’s awesome blog here.
More on Mastodon here.

P.S.: On the subject of connections in metal, I read that bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders’ brother is Kyle Sanders of Bloodsimple, one of my all-time favorite bands. Looks like some families get all the talent.