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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Earth -- Kansas City, MO -- April 1st, 2014

To the uninitiated, Earth would look like just any other band. A three-piece with a modest set-up, some members with a few tattoos, and introducing themselves to the crowd and politely asking people to not use flash, but encouraging them to record the show. However, Dylan Carlson and company make up one of the most influential underground bands of the 90s heavy rock/metal scene. On a chilly Tuesday night at the recordBar in Westport, the band trudged through seven songs in 80 minutes to a crowd that was receptive to the music when they weren't zoned out in the droning riffs.

Earth is, has been, and always will be firmly rooted in drone metal. But within that planting, they dabble around in riffing and beats that are more Boris than Sunn O))). Speaking of Boris, opening song "Old Black" from the 2011 album "Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I" is proof that Carlson's guitar playing and song structures have directly influenced the Japanese band, namely the album "Flood." The band switched back and forth between old and new songs, performing three tracks off their upcoming album to be released in July. They seem a bit more darn and ambitious than their past few albums, especially on the new track "There Is A Serpent Coming." The rest of the set featured "Coda Mestoso In F (Flat) Minor" from 1996's "Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons," albeit with a reworked intro. Carlson joked that it was the last album of theirs before this upcoming album to feature vocals. The trio also performed "The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull" from the same-titled 2008 release, and ended with "Ouroboros Is Broken," which was far and away the heaviest song of the night, which is saying something when it comes to Earth.

Earth seemed to have reworked all of their songs into a live setting. Take "Ouroboros Is Broken" for example. Originally a 20-minute drone piece on a 1991 EP, it was later re-worked into an 8-minute track in 2007, however it was much softer there. Live, the band seemed to straddle the line between the two song lengths, but performed the song heavier than it has ever been recorded. The same can be said for "Coda Mestoso," a groovy, drone-y piece on album but absolutely crushing live. It's the sign of a great band - rework the songs for a live setting that can make fans appreciate both the recorded and the live versions. Not every band can pull this off, but Earth do it easily.

Opening the show was local band Expo '70. They were a perfect blend of Kyuss and Earthless - at times being very catchy heavy stoner rock before melting into a huge, long, psychedelic metal jam session. I'd heard of the band before but never got around to checking them out, but I might just have a new favorite local opening band. I haven't been this impressed with a first listen to a local band in a very, very long time.

1. Old Black
2. There Is A Serpent Coming (new song)
3. The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull
4. Rooks Across The Gate (new song)
5. Coda Maestoso In F (Flat) Minor (with re-worked intro)
6. Badger (new song)
7. Ouroboros Is Broken

Earth: 9/10
Expo '70: 8.5/10

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Terror -- Lawrence, KS -- March 26th, 2014

It might be a cliche now but last night at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, hardcore music fans came together and became one big family. One giant, aggressive, moshing, stage-diving and smiling family.

The "Fuck The Message" tour landed at The Bottleneck in the midst of a cold and rainy evening, but that didn't stop the mass of hardcore fans from coming out early to see the first band, Expire from Milwaukee. Expire's music fit in perfectly with Stick To Your Guns and Terror - short, extremely aggressive songs that make for great crowd scream-alongs, and punishing breakdowns that induce slam dancing and stage dives. Their song "Abyss" had the biggest crowd reaction, with the crowd dogpiling on Expire's vocalist to sing along. If an opening band's duty is to warm up the crowd, Expire may have done it so well that they stole some energy from the acts that followed.

The next couple of bands had more of a meldoic take on hardcore music. The first was Counterparts from Ontario. Although their music is definitely a take on hardcore, it was focused more on melodic riffing and even contained some clean vocals - the only of the night. The crowd seemed a bit more subdued for Counterparts, especially compared to Expire, but there was a small contingent of fans up against the stage singing along with every song.

After Counterparts was the South Carolina-based Hundredth. Hundredth is a band that has blown up in popularity in a very niche-genre of melodic hardcore. Again, they performed with a lot of melody and more emphasis on riffing and vocals. They had a bit more reception from the crowd, especially on their final song "Desolate," which is probably their most straight-forward hardcore song. Lots of singing along and hardcore dancing for that one.

It's been a while since Los Angeles' Terror has been around these parts - they opened for Suicidal Tendencies in Kansas City back in 2008 and the 10 for $10 tour at the Midland with a myriad of bands, but that's it. Their reception was frenzies from before the first song even started. Frontman Scott Vogel is legendary in the hardcore scene for his crowd interaction, and that night was no different. Between songs, he'd get the crowd to move in, but made sure everyone knew there would be no violence and no fights tonight. "Friendly aggression" is what he called it. More than once, he reiterated that the stage was as much the crowd's as it was the band's, and the crowd took that to heart. During "Stick Tight" it seemed there were more people in the air stage diving than were on the floor at The Bottleneck. At one point, people were using the crowd-surfers near the front of the stage as launching points for their stage dives. It was truly insane, but everyone had smiles and were high-fiving and hugging each other throughout the show. Terror ripped through classic songs like "Out Of My Face," "Spit My Rage," and the old-school "Push It Away." It was far and away the most energetic, active, and absolutely crazy crowd that a Lawrence or Kansas City show has had in a very, very long time.

It was Scott Vogel's 40th birthday that night and he said that he believes in the power of hardcore. He believes that it can bring everyone together, no matter the race, religion, hair-length or anything else, and everyone can release some pent-up aggression for a couple of hours. It seems like Lawrence gave him the best birthday present he could ask for - a perfect hardcore show with the perfect hardcore audience.

Stick To Your Guns:
Diamond
Empty Heads
Against Them All
Some Kind if Hope
Bringing You Down
What Goes Around
We Still Believe
The Bond
Life In a Box
Such Pain
D(I am)ond
Built Upon The Sand
This Is More
Amber
Terror:
Out Of My Face
Stick Tight
Spit My Rage
Push It Away
You’re Caught
Live By The Code
Your Enemies Are Mine
Always The Hard Way
Keep Your Mouth Shut
Keepers Of The Faith
Hundredth:
Weathered Town
Carry On
Demons
Ruin
Free Mind/Open Spirit
Desolate
Counterparts:
Witness
(You Think You’re) John Fucking Locke
Slave
Outlier
Reflection
The Disconnect
Compass
Expire :
Bark
Anchor
Reputation
YDN
Anxiety
Spit It Out
Pretty Low
Abyss
Focus
Just Fine
- See more at: http://millsrecordcompany.com/caught-mosh-terror-live-lawrence-ks-03262014#sthash.kGKfl7x0.dpuf
 Stick To Your Guns:

Diamond
Empty Heads
Against Them All
Some Kind if Hope
Bringing You Down
What Goes Around
We Still Believe
The Bond
Life In a Box
Such Pain
D(I am)ond
Built Upon The Sand
This Is More
Amber

Terror:

Out Of My Face
Stick Tight
Spit My Rage
Push It Away
You’re Caught
Live By The Code
Your Enemies Are Mine
Always The Hard Way
Keep Your Mouth Shut
Keepers Of The Faith

Hundredth:

Weathered Town
Carry On
Demons
Ruin
Free Mind/Open Spirit
Desolate

Counterparts:

Witness
(You Think You’re) John Fucking Locke
Slave
Outlier
Reflection
The Disconnect
Compass

Expire :

Bark
Anchor
Reputation
YDN
Anxiety
Spit It Out
Pretty Low
Abyss
Focus
Just Fine

Terror: 10/10 (best crowd I've ever seen at a show)
Hundredth: 7/10
Counterparts: 6/10
Expire: 8/10 
Stick To Your Guns:
Diamond
Empty Heads
Against Them All
Some Kind if Hope
Bringing You Down
What Goes Around
We Still Believe
The Bond
Life In a Box
Such Pain
D(I am)ond
Built Upon The Sand
This Is More
Amber
Terror:
Out Of My Face
Stick Tight
Spit My Rage
Push It Away
You’re Caught
Live By The Code
Your Enemies Are Mine
Always The Hard Way
Keep Your Mouth Shut
Keepers Of The Faith
Hundredth:
Weathered Town
Carry On
Demons
Ruin
Free Mind/Open Spirit
Desolate
Counterparts:
Witness
(You Think You’re) John Fucking Locke
Slave
Outlier
Reflection
The Disconnect
Compass
Expire :
Bark
Anchor
Reputation
YDN
Anxiety
Spit It Out
Pretty Low
Abyss
Focus
Just Fine
- See more at: http://millsrecordcompany.com/caught-mosh-terror-live-lawrence-ks-03262014#sthash.kGKfl7x0.dpuf

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Between The Buried And Me -- Lawrence, KS -- March 7th, 2014

This isn't your grandpa's progressive music.

Between The Buried And Me headlined a progressive music package at the Granada Friday night that included three other bands that are continually pushing the package for conventional music, and ever pushing the "progressive" moniker to places it hasn't been before. A very full Granada Theater was extremely receptive of all four bands, filled with lots of singing, lots of moshing and lots of smiling faces.

The first band of the night was Canada's The Kindred. The Kindred is normally a progressive metal band in the vein of Last Chance to Reason and maybe even Protest The Hero. However, they were performing without their vocalist, so everything was instrumental. Their performance without vocals didn't take anything away from them at all, and actually might've even benefited them in some places. Definitely a modern take on progressive music, they combined the breakdowns and palm-muted riffing of djent with the technicality of guitar solos and keyboards to great effect. However, it seemed like without their vocalist, the music was catchy enough to stand on its own for a bit, but it was obvious the songs were written to have a singer carry it along. They didn't have the outrageous riffing or heaviness that Animals As Leaders has, but they could get there if they wanted to. A respectable first band of the night.

California's Intronaut was up next, and personally it was my first time seeing them since 2008 with High on Fire at the Bottleneck. They've changed since then, mellowing out a bit and really embracing the stoner and progressive sides of their music. Their half-hour set included mostly cuts from their latest album "Habitual Levitations." The song "Milk Leg" showcased their incredible bassist - he even had a couple of solo's during their performance. Definitely one of the highlights of the set. Overall, Intronaut was a different kind of heavy from the rest of the night, but their sound was very welcome.

There isn't a more polarizing metal band today than Deafheaven, but you wouldn't have noticed it at this concert. As soon as the band started their opening song "Dream House," the crowd barely let up with moshing and headbanging. At one point during the song, vocalist George Clarke hopped down into the crowd and everyone screamed along with him. Deafheaven's set comprised of material solely from their latest album "Sunbather," which took the metal music world by storm last year. Deafheaven is obviously influenced by shoegaze and post-rock bands such as Explosions in the Sky and My Bloody Valentine, but the majority of their sound is extreme, blast-beat laden and shrieked-vocals black metal that they do just as good as the Norwegian masters of the genre. George Clarke is one of the most impressive frontmen I've ever seen, not only from his impeccable black metal vocal abilities, but he was constantly bounding around the stage, acting like a man possessed. An explosive performance and the best of the night.

Between The Buried And Me are at the center of this new-school progressive metal movement, and they proved it Friday night by performing all of their new album, The Parallax II: Future Sequence, which has enough twists and turns to make even the staunchest of Dream Theater supporters' heads spin. However, for the uninitiated, playing through all of their latest album might be too much. "Parallax II" might be the band's most ambitious release yet, with interludes and movements-within-movements everywhere and music genres going from metalcore to death metal to pop music to everything in between in the span of one song. Luckily for BTBAM, they have some of the most talented musicians around today to keep things interesting for those not vested heavily in their music. Guitarist Paul Waggoner and bassist Dan Briggs provide enough jaw-dropping moments per song that is worth the price of admission alone. There were several moments during BTBAM's set that stood out from the rest, particularly the songs "Telos," "Lay Your Ghosts To Rest," and "Silent Flight Parliament." However, the encore performance of the brilliant "Sun of Nothing" from the equally brilliant "Colors" album further cemented it as maybe the best progressive metal song of the 2000's.

All in all, the lineup of this tour is proof that progressive metal is no longer just confined to Rush and Dream Theater and is quickly moving to the heavier side of things. Based on the performances from all four bands, that's undoubtedly a good thing.

BTBAM:

1. Goodbye To Everything
2. Astral Body
3. Lay Your Ghosts To Rest
4. Autumn
5. Extremophile Elite
6. Parllax
7. The Black Box
8. Telos
9. Bloom
10. Melting City
11. Silent Flight Parliament
12. Goodbye To Everything Reprise
====
13. Sun of Nothing

Deafheaven:

1. Dream House
2. Irresistible (over PA)
3. Sunbather
4. The Pecan Tree

Intronaut:

1. The Literal Black Cloud
2. Vernon
3. Harmonomicon
4. Milk Leg
5. The Welding

Between the Buried and Me: 7.5/10
Deafheaven: 10/10
Intronaut: 8/10
The Kindred: 7.5/10

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Amon Amarth -- Lawrence, KS -- February 9th, 2014

"Oden! Guide our ships
Our axes, spears and swords
Guide us through storms that whip
And in brutal war"

These lines from Amon Amarth's "The Pursuit Of Vikings" were chanted so loudly by a packed house at the Granada on Sunday night that people passing by the venue outside might have mistaken it for a Viking rally from Valhalla itself.

The Swedish melodic death metal band may just be the most popular and recognizable foreign death metal band right now, and the passionate crowd attests to that. From the second they took the stage to the last note of the final song, Amon Amarth had everyone at the Granada in the palm of their hand. Whether it was their punishing opening song "Father Of The Wolf," the subdued "Cry Of The Blackbirds," or the absolutely punishing "Destroyer Of The Universe," the five Norsemen on stage were greeted with plenty of headbanging, crowdsurfing and singalongs to whichever song they performed. It's a rare thing for a metal band to get such a raucous reception to both old songs and new. One of the biggest crowd reactions was from the title track of the band's 2008 album "Twilight Of The Thunder God" - the crowd just about sang half the song on their own.

Frontman Johan Hegg had a giant smile on his face every time a crowd surfer went over the barrier. At one point, a little kid came over the barrier and Johan just grinned and gave him a thumbs up. The guys in Amon Amarth might look like terrifying Vikings, but they just wanted everyone to have a good time. The band performed for over an hour and a half and hit songs from six of their eight albums and sounded perfect the entire time. One of the best pure death metal performances the Granada has seen in a long time.

For most people when this tour was announced, the support band Enslaved was the main reason to get excited. Norway's Enslaved doesn't tour the United States nearly as much as Amon Amarth, but it's a mystery why not. Starting off as one of the main bands of the second wave of black metal out of Norway (along the likes of Mayhem, Darkthrone, Satyricon, etc.), Enslaved now injects a healthy dose of progressive and psychedelic music into their music. It was evident on songs like "Death In The Eyes Of Dawn" and "Ruun" that the band has evolved so far from their beginning black metal stage. However, when the band played "Allfaðr Oðinn" off their 1992 demo Yggdrasil - older than many of the fans in attendance that night, they showed that they can still belt out fast, evil black metal with the best of them. Enslaved's performance was just magic. Maybe it was the inclusion of some clean vocals and keyboards or maybe it was frontman Grutle Kjellson's drawing of runes in the air during songs that just made them so fascinating to watch, but they were the best band of the night. Truly a sight to behold!

The lone American band on the tour was none other than Ohio's Skeletonwitch. Their brand of blackened thrash metal (with just about every other type of metal mixed in) served as the perfect combination to get the show kicked off at maximum speed. Their first album is a landmark of recent American thrash metal, but more recent songs like "Beneath Dead Leaves" and "Crushed Beyond Dust" show that Skeletonwitch only gets faster and heavier with time. Their set closer "Within My Blood" is also quite possibly the greatest closing song in live music history. A swirling torrent of riffs and headbanging - the type of metal to throw some beer to!

The sound was nearly perfect the entire night - everything was mixed great and was loud, as metal should be! All three bands put on amazing performances and left the crazy crowd satisfied. The town of Jayhawks left that night as true viking warriors!

 Amon Amarth (9:30 - 11:00):

Father Of The Wolf
Deceiver Of The Gods
Death In Fire
For Victory Or Death
As Loke Falls
We Shall Destroy
Runes To My Memory
Varyags of Miklagaard
Last Stand of Frej
Guardians Of Asgaard
Shape Shifter
Warriors Of The North
Destroyer Of The Universe
Cry Of The Blackbirds
War of the Gods
====
Twilight Of The Thunder God
The Pursuit Of Vikings

Enslaved (8:15 - 9:00):

Death In The Eyes Of Dawn
Ruun
Ethica Odini
RIITIIR
Allfaðr Oðinn
Isa

Skeletonwitch (7:30 - 7:58):

The Horrifying Force (The Desire To Kill)
I Am Of Death (Hell Has Arrived)
Burned From Bone
Sacrifice For The Slaughtergod
Beyond the Permafrost
From A Cloudless Sky
Crushed Beyond Dust
Beneath Dead Leaves
Within My Blood

Amon Amarth: 8/10
Enslaved: 9.5/10
Skeletonwitch: 9/10

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Upcoming show: Windhand!

If you saw Windhand opening for High on Fire and Kvelertak at the Granada in Lawrence back in December, you're probably still getting your hearing back. But, if you can stand the audial assault one more time, Windhand will be back in Kansas City at Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club (3402 Main St) on March 8th!

DOOOOOOOOOOM!!!






Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Origin -- Lawrence, KS -- January 16th, 2014

It was very comforting to see a good-sized crowd filling out the Granada in Lawrence on a freezing Thursday night for what was to be a raucous homecoming for one of Kansas' most prized possessions in music, rounded out with some of the best of the local metal scene.

Kansas' own Origin might just be the biggest musical export from the state in decades. The band has a storied history that includes tours with extreme metal bands such as Immolation, Nile, Vader, Arch Enemy and Necrophagist, just to name a few. The band has toured all over North America, Europe and Asia and is on the cusp of releasing their sixth album on Nuclear Blast records - quite a feat for what started as just some guys from Topeka in 1997. Despite all that worldwide recognition, there might not be a crazier crowd for Origin than with a hometown show. Jason Keyser, the recent addition on vocals, is a master of showmanship, constantly interacting with the crowd, helping crowdsurfers onto the stage, only to push them off into the waiting sea of madness, all the while delivering an extremely impressive vocal performance. Backed with some of the most on-point, technically proficient metal music from Paul Ryan on guitar, Mike Flores on bass and John Longstreth on drums, it's easy to get lost in bewilderment at just the music being played, but you've got to be on the lookout for the rogue stagediver landing on you.

Origin touched on each of their releases, including a hilariously too brief snippet from their upcoming album, "Omnipresent," but it seemed like the crowd was most receptive to their last two albums, "Antithesis" and "Entity". The torrent of moshing and crowdsurfing kicked into overdrive with crowd favorites "The Aftermath" and "Wrath of Vishnu", where newer cuts like "Saligia" and "Evolution of Extinction" showed more of the progressive side to Origin's madness. In the end, each song was met with an explosion of passionate crowd movement to match the explosion of ferocity on stage. Most of the attendees down near the stage probably left that night bruised and covered in sweat, blood and beer, but that's just normal for a hometown Origin show.

Providing direct support was the infamous Troglodyte. The band needs no introduction to those paying attention to any part of the local heavy metal scene, but the masked quintet plays one of the best deathgrind sounds not just in the Midwest, but in the country. Using up just as much energy for the headliners, the crowd exploded in movement and screaming along for Bigfoot-themed anthems like "Murderous Bi-Pedal Hominid Rampage (Where are My Legs?)" and a particularly vicious performance of set closer "Caught (On Super 8)". The band knows how to marry brutal riffing with infectious grooves and brings the best of both worlds to the stage to make for an unforgettable performance every time they perform.

The show was opened by three more local acts. The first band to take the stage was A Plague In Faith. This young band combined elements from several modern death metal bands and puts on a very entertaining show. Their vocalist has some serious pipes, and the performance went very old-school when the bassist hung up his guitar for a second mic, putting on a guitar-only death/grind performance for one song. Just like the old gods would have it!

The second band to take the stage was Species. The band injected the most groove into their sound of the night, fitting right in with bands such as After the Burial or The Faceless. Very energetic and very tight sounding.

Third up was Confined In Flesh. These guys take old-school death metal and inject it with new-school life and the output is very catchy, yet brutal at times, metal that's easy to mosh to. The crowd gave a huge response to it, and hopefully the band plays many more shows very soon.

Origin (maybe incomplete/definitely out of order):

The Aftermath
Wrath of Vishnu
Echoes of Decimation
Staring From The Abyss
Finite
Expulsion of Fury
Purgatory
Swarm
Saligia
Banishing Illusion
Evolution of Extinction
Portal
Implosion of Eternity

Origin: 10/10
Troglodyte: 9.5/10
Confined In Flesh: 8/10
Species: n/a / 10
A Plague In Faith: 8.5/10