Review & photos by Rachel Jablonski
Sounds of the Underground Tour, my choice for the best national tour in 2005, I’ll once again highly acclaim in 2006. First glancing at the list of bands when the tour was announced, the line-up seemed somewhat weak as opposed to last year which had bands like Strapping Young Lad, Clutch, and Lamb of God. However, my decision to attend the show in St. Paul, MN was not to be regretted. The most organized music festival out there, Sounds of the Underground was, once again, a constant metal outpouring with some pleasant surprises that satisfied all my heavy music urges.
Behemoth: THE BAND TO SEE IN 2006!
Poland’s Behemoth OWNED the stage early in the day with a performance that was untouchable. Extreme energy brought out by explosive guitar riffs, one of the fastest drummers I’ve heard, death metal growls, and fantastic stage choreography was a surprising delight. Hair twisting in windmill-like patterns during portions of the set with all members in synch, impressively even the drummer despite being occupied with his complicated beats; the crowd ate it up and became quite involved. The set ended with front man Nergal’s stern exclamation, “Stay fuckin metal! Stay fuckin evil!” Behemoth is definitely the must see band this year!
Machine Head: HEAVY SURPRISE!
Ferocious energy radiated from the stage as Machine Head performed their final set of the tour. Having been on Sounds of the Underground for only six dates, St. Paul marked the end of the stretch for the band before they would return to the studio to continue work on their upcoming release. I had not seen Machine Head live since the band was on tour for The Burning Red album back in 1999. I remember being doused in heaviness then, heaviness much more severe than translated on album. But the set in St. Paul was an extreme force of heavy metal that was splendidly surprising. Key moments included: “Aesthetics of Hate,” a rigorous new track dedicated to Dimebag Darrell Abbott which will be on the upcoming Machine Head release; annihilating guitar jams; an attempted Wall of Death failed only due to the fact that the crowd just could not contain themselves; and guest appearances made by members of Behemoth, Trivium, and Terror, hair swinging, jamming out, and sharing the mic, before the finale of the set. Machine Head tore it up and presumably so will their new album.
In Flames: Should have headlined.
The auditorium rang in echo of voices flowing from front to the back. Huge crowd participation consumed the In Flames set which seemed to be the performance the majority came to see. A magnificent light presentation accompanied the mix of ballads and heaviness excited the audience. Front man Anders Fridén praised the multitude saying St. Paul was the best crowd so far this tour and that he hadn’t said that yet at any show. “Ask your friends, it’s true! Swedish people don’t lie.” The performance by In Flames spoke for itself making a strong argument that the band probably should have headlined the tour.
The Black Dahlia Murder: Just doing their thing.
Having the tough chore of following Behemoth, The Black Dahlia Murder produced an effective set by just doing their thing. A band of guys that look like your average Joes with day jobs, what you see is not what you get. The high and low pitched growls made sense as the BDM vocalist Trevor Strnad constantly moved about on stage flailing his arms. The chaotic musical backdrop fit the band as they played fast, hard, and intense. But the most amusing aspect of BDM live was seeing such normal looking guys play a song about “fucking the dead.” I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a normal, little bit chubby, vocalist without a shirt on as opposed to the tight ass emo pants shit plaguing stages everywhere. Much respect to BDM for being real and true to their thing.
Cannibal Corpse: Pure Hair.
Cannibal Corpse spouted a performance that would have had Locks of Love drooling. Hair galore, swinging around and constantly covering each band member, I began to wonder if there were even faces behind the thick mops. But the Florida band played their instruments extraordinarily fast consistently whether they could see what they were doing or not. Though I could not understand a word of the low growl produced in song, I did pick up on some amusing words by vocalist George Fisher between songs. “We’re not here to talk about sunny days; we’re here to kick your fuckin teeth in. If you see someone who is not in the pit, MAKE THEM SUFFER!”
It’s GWAR, what else is there to say?!!!!!!! Blood and spew flying every which way, human sacrifices, dinosaurs giving head (“I said no teeth!” vocalist Oderus Urungus exclaimed), and more, the set was a pure messy delight. The set concluded with a cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” which can be found on GWAR’s upcoming release Beyond Hell.
Terror: Passion with a side of cheesiness.
Terror showed huge heart in their time on stage displaying a lot of passion. Short periods of speedy metal followed by long bouts of slower rhythms comprised the set. Particularly motivated was the bassist who threw in a few bucket walks, jump tucks, and ballerina twirls. The downfall of the set was the overzealous Terror front man. Corny speeches saying, “This is our lives!” kind of thing did not do much for me. Please. But the band gave it their all and was entertaining to watch.
Trivium: Breaking Concert Rule #1 and then some.
If you go to concerts with me, you know Concert Rule #1: Never wear the shirt of the band you are going to see. Someone should have informed front man Matt Heafy of Trivium of this rule. Wearing a t-shirt advertising his own band, Heafy and company proved to be uninformed and ultimately unimpressive live. The Trivium set had a total 80s feel to it complete with a disco ball, the bassist dressed in a jean jacket, arm bands, and white tennis shoes, and a cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” To their credit, Trivium really got that pit going with their hit “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr,” but the overall showing was not quite as notable.
As I Lay Dying: Through Struggle.
Headliners As I Lay Dying erupted on stage in front of a crowd that had struggled on its feet for the last 7-8 hours. But no one seemed to mind. The audience responded well to the heavy guitars and high/low screams. Even more enticing was the drummer’s crazy ability to swing his hair windmill-style, similar to Behemoth, while immersed in drumming. The accompanying light show enhanced the set, which was not anything too spectacular as far as stage presence. Often running stage right to stage left and back, vocalist Tim Lambesis was humorous and entertaining to watch. When the band broke out in “Through Struggle,” my favorite As I Lay Dying song, the audience was PUMPED. From beginning to end the band sounded sharp. The set was a rather heavy performance that included more melodic instrumentation toward the end of the performance. Ultimately, As I Lay Dying wrapped up a great day in metal.