The annual concert and horror convention known as Rock And Shock brought me back to Worcester MA once again and right in time to get into the Halloween spirit. Three plus day affair is always a good time for all and usually has something for everybody. The convention gets better every year with great guests like Robert Englund, Lance Henriksen, William Forsythe and Camille Keaton among the many name actors in horror in attendance. Even though I was only interested in the second night of the music portion of the proceedings which had a pretty amazing lineup of talent. I certainly enjoyed the convention at the DCU Center and you can see my coverage of it and another funny story here.
Although there was a bevy of side stage bands I only caught the main stage acts between the convention activities and some bands interviews I needed to do. I managed to catch THE OCEAN who put on the top performance of the early evening. For those not in the know these guys are inventive, philosophical and tight musically. Even though the venue was alarmingly empty when they began, they definitely had their own heads in the house who were feeling it. Opening with “Firmament” the band tore into their short set with abandon. The group plays music beyond the scope of typical bands and shifts in motifs and tempos fall on each other like dominoes. In particular vocalist Loïc Rossetti and guitarist Robin Staps make a compelling case for the future of metal. I urge you to check them out if you don’t know them already. They not only played part of their “Grand Inquisitor” suite they closed with the hypnotic and sick “Origin of the Species”. Also up early was reunited hardcore kings EARTH CRISIS. The room filled in a little more by now with some core dudes ready to karate kick and pick up change like crazy. The rest of the crowd just starred blankly and disappointed me with their lack of respect. EC’s militant hardcore and metal mix per-dated today’s mosh-core, tough guy bands and deathcore except, they had something smart to say. Even if you didn’t love the music vocalist Karl Buechner (FREYA) and company played their balls off as always. Mixing classic cuts like “All Out War” and “Wrath of Sanity” with newer cuts from Neutralize the Threat (Century Media) they put on a great, high energy show. At least by the end of their set there was some decent moshing by the end of their set, but I think it just was a weird crowd that would prove to be even more adversarial and weird as the night wore on.
Next up was OTEP who always puts on an awesome show. By now the floor had filled up pretty well and the band always draws well when they come to Massachusetts so they also had a lot of heads in the house. Otep herself makes every show an emotional ritual and the crowd was ready for some heavy mental music. Hitting the stage with a frightening baby mask on, the famous blend of theater and artistry was already on display as the band launched into “Eet the Children”. Backed by members of OTEP’s Victory records label-mates DESTROPHY, the band was tight and Otep was as usual dominating as a live performer. She sang, she screamed and generally led the crowd in a communal exorcism. Next up was the bands live staple “Battle Ready” which is still a killer track to hear after almost ten years. For the most part “Battle Ready” represents the remaining vestiges of Otep’s rap style that she doesn’t rely much on anymore. Still, she has an effective flow and combined with her severe growls it is a winning combo. “Fists Fall” off of Atavist is also a killer track. The energy of the crowd was significantly raised and Otep tries to connect with them to make a personal connection. Even though I was conscious of the short set I was unconcerned when the band led into “My Confession”. The song is one of the best of the bands has an the release it brings is far worth the sacrifice of other songs that may have been played in its stead. Closing out the all too short set with “Blood Pigs” they left the stage triumphant as if it was a headline set. All par for the course for this band.
Eet The Children
Next up was another headline worthy name in THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT. Devin definitely brings his own crowd and easily could have filled this venue by himself on this night. Many DevyHeads rushed the front after OTEP to get a spot. Still other camped out for later acts held the rail and we not going to budge no matter who was coming on next. The band has been playing deep cuts and long sets on their headline run, but on this night they would play half their total number of songs in the middle slot. Still a DTP show is superior to most other acts mainly due to Devin being on of the premier forces in modern heavy music. The music played before he they hit the stage and the hilarious video projections are all from the crazy mind of Townsend. Be sure to pay close attention to this before the band hits the stage next time you see them.
Meanwhile The bands gear was set cross the stage side by side, even the drums! This was due to the rest of the back line being so huge. The band hit the stage one at a time with Devin coming out last, resplendent once again in his silvery suit. Before the band played a note he remarked that “Zombies are stupid!” Opening with “Truth” always seems like a good bet to combat the fans who only want to hear STRAPPING YOUNG LAD songs. The track is super heavy and Devin relishes playing it, clearly. He jammed out on his axe, grinned and humped it as he soloed like a modern day JIMI HENDRIX. Of course he is also a stupendous singer and skilled performer too. “Om” and “By Your Command” quickly followed in succession. Both tracks are also top notch and very hard even though not classically heavy like his earlier material is. Complimenting the music was all manner of bizarre videos and images projected over head on screens. Trippy! The band was also tight and in fine form, especially drummer Ryan Poederooyen whom I got to watch up close and personal. The man is a powerhouse behind the kit. “Kingdom” was next and was truly flawless to see and hear again. Dev is so in skilled and in control of his playing it hardly looks like work to the veteran star. “Supercrush!” is so slow and beautiful that is made the whole front row of Devheads loose their minds and me too. The track is almost like a mantra it is so singular and perfect, Dev’s operatic singing in particular. Just once in my life I’d like to see Anneke van Giersbergen perform her part of the song live rather than piped in. Sigh. I need to move to Europe! Meanwhile Dev was great as usual between songs and he baited the crowd by say he wanted to see more of them look disinterested and bored. I think this was a jab at a block of MUSHROOMHEAD fans who didn’t seem to even remotely like any other band. More theatrics abound on “Stand” and its grinding chug. “Juular” is likely the one track that states the ears of the doleful stubborn fans, not that the band cares any. They just go about being professional and awesome. “Vampira” closed things out in style with the hilarious video plying behind the band. It would prove to be hard to follow this act.
By Your Command
As the stage switched over for CAVALERA CONSPIRACY I got really excited. Even though I was totally mind jobbed by the previous two acts it had been years since I had seen either CAVALERA brother anywhere so I was intrigued to see them together again. The band came on strong opening with “Warlord”. Max took his customary spot center stage and led the charge. Right off the bat the band was cooking and Igor was just decimating his massive kit. I t was great to see him up there where he belongs. The crowd seemed to be eating out of Max’s hand the entire time too. The pits were pretty consistent since the band played a very up tempo set. Aside from the brothers the star of the band is guitarist Mark Rizzo. He was a madman on his side of the stage shredding his face off on solos and holding down his rhythms with a lot of style. If it’s possible he is almost underrated in the current scene and should be more top of mind when people do their best of lists. Bassist Johnny Chow was also solid held down the low end. “Inflikted” and “Sanctuary” came next as the band asserted their own material rather than go to the easy cover route too soon. “Inflikted” has an amazing solo by Rizzo. Both songs are solid, were performed great and had the crowd singing a long. Finally they did “Refuse/Resist” the place went bananas. It was a really treat to see the brothers doing this classic song together again. Max’s vocals still sound great after all these years too. This also set the pace for the rest of the night as well. “Killing Inside” is solid, but not too special. The mid-tempo groove allowed everyone to catch their breath a bit. “Thrasher” is also a solid song live too. Another gem came in the form of “Arise/Dead Embryonic Cells”. The old-school thrash anthem was awesome and the breakdown of DEC is one of the best ever with everybody on the floor moving, jumping and even skanking! “I Speak Hate” is one of the better CC songs to hear live. Max is more focused on being a front man at this point in his career than guitar work, but the axe work on the track crushes. Closing out with “Roots Bloody Roots” the entire place went ape shit as the band destroyed the stage practically. The ending groove of the track was amazing to hear and the band ended jamming a little bit of the “Troops of Doom” riff at the end of it all.
Arise/Dead Embryonic Cells
I Speak Hate
Roots Bloody Roots
Now the preparations for MUSHROOMHEAD to take over the stage began. The now totally full venue buzzed to life by the end of the last set. I had not seen the band in many years, but I was pretty excited to see how they would do. As they set up the stage for the band the crowd rumbled in anticipation which disappointed me somewhat considering how luke-warm the crowd had been most of the night. Sometimes fans of a band can squash a good time for everyone else.
Meanwhile the band hit the stage with a sense of theatrics and style as black lights the band imported washed over everything. They kicked things off with “Come On” and they crow ate up the bands antics of eight guys running around like crazy and their two percussionists St1tch and Lil Dan playing the light up water drums. Drummer and band leader Skinny played on giant drum kit resembling a car, complete with spinning rims. Newsflash: rims are passe unless you are Fred Durst and not metal at all. Both co-front men Jeffrey Nothing and Waylon traded vocals and complimented each others styles well. The band raged to their anthemic style of industrial metal and the crowd seemed to lap it up. Next track “BWOMP” added a little danceable beat to the proceedings. The performances were certainly fine even though the music was a little generic. Everyone in the band is certainly talented and each member of the band puts on a worthy show. Nothing is really charismatic in particular and is really compelling to watch. He has some fine singing chops and even raps well at times. Waylon has more of the screaming voice of the two. “12 Hundred” amounts to the bands hit song or one of them I suppose. Everybody in the place seemed to know the words and the band seemed to feed off of that energy as well. Other songs like “Sun Doesn’t Rise” have the band showing their song writing chops and their alt rock and metal influences. “Save Us” seemed to slow things down to a crawl, killing the momentum they built. “43” was at least more interesting since Gary and Jake Busey came out and played the water drums during the song. There were appearing at the convention and them showing up to jam was funny and cool. That was really the high point of the set for me. The group certainly played hard and well, but I found little of their music varied or heavy enough for my tastes save for “Simple Survival”, “Becoming Cold” or “Burn The Bridge” which ended the night. Even now I still can’t figure out their fans though. So die-hard they flipped off greats like Devin Townsend and then acting like a solid, long running band is the second coming of I don’t know what? I just don’t get it. I guess there really is no accounting for good taste.
Sun Doesn’t Rise
Save Us/Embrace the Ending
Harvest the Garden
Erase the Doubt
Becoming Cold (216)
Never Let It Go
Burn the Bridge
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes