Gojira, Burst - September 21st - The Music Hall of Williamsburgh, Brooklyn

It was my first outing to this Brooklyn venue. I met up with my brother Rich and and the intrepid Jeanne Fury before the show. I wasn't surprised to find a building close in spirit to The Bowery Ballroom, one of my favorite NYC venues.

They corralled us in the basement bar for a while, as per Bowery standards. A line of eager beavers champed at the bit, waiting to get into the main room. Gojira inspires a deep sense of bromance among their fans, and these dudes exuded anxious excitement in their hopes of being front and center for the Duplantier special. I'm always super psyched for some Gojira, but it was Burst who stole my heart on this evening.

When they let us out of the bar, I moseyed over to the Burst merch table. I was psyched when my Katatonia shirt was complimented, but it took me a few moments to realize that I was talking to Burst singer Linus Jägerskog. The dude was ridiculously cool, normal and nice. We chatted a bit about the disastrous start to their first (and last?) U.S. tour. Having already missed two shows due to their DOA tour bus, Linus admitted that the tour was already guaranteed to be a financial disaster for the band. With an almost conspiratorial smile, he said he hoped that now they'd just be doing the tour for the fun of it and for the fans. Right on.

Zoroaster came out first, and played a decent set of their doomified sludgery. Troubled by a few technical difficulties, the band didn't seem particularly pleased. Their sound is not my cup of tea, so neither was I.

Burst came out to some epic movie soundtrack that I know but couldn't name. The band didn't have a lot of space to move. Linus came out on stage looking ridiculously excited and used every inch of space to pace. Jonas and Jesper assumed standard metal poses while Robert Reinholdz spent the entire show seated at stage left. The man looked like he was already seceding from the band.

They launched straight into "(We Watched) The Silver Rain." Burst fucking ruled. From the first notes, I headbanged so hard that I launched my own glasses (they were successfully recovered.) Righteous. The sound was loud but excellent, and they absolutely killed the 40 minute set. The crowd wasn't totally filled in when they went on, and clearly a good many folks had no idea who Burst were.

"Where the Wave Broke" slaughtered, and Linus' enthusiasm was completely infectious. He tore up the stage like a madman. By the time it was over, there was a smile on pretty much everyone's face. After a track from Prey on Life, "I Hold Vertigo" closed out the set with brutal delicacy. It's a shame Burst are going on "indefinite hiatus." Based on the converts they made this evening, I really think they could have done well in the states. I got a chance to see Linus again at the merch table and expressed my gratitude for some righteous metal.

By the time Gojira turned down the lights, the place was packed. As the first notes of "Oroborus" kicked in, the crowd went berserk. My brother Rich once again disappeared into a writhing Gojira pit.

A couple of things struck me about the set. The band was just as animated as the show back in May, but Joe Duplantier's stage banter revealed a not-so-subtle road weariness. I think Gojira have reached that point where they know folks are going to show up and thrash when they play. Now they can go so far as to make demands of the crowd - ask them to be louder, be more animated and tear shit up harder. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it gives the show a different vibe than before.

Having said that, it was an intense and awesome performance. I was incredibly psyched that the setlist contained so many From Mars To Sirius tracks. "Ocean Planet" put a smile on my face and "Where Dragons Dwell" was pure insanity. "Vacuity" is still an excellent closer. In the end, the crowd was perhaps a little bit more intense than the last show, if that can be believed. All told, an excellent night.

The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
Lizard Skin
Ocean Planet
The Art of Dying
Drum Solo
Flying Whales
Where Dragons Dwell
Toxic Garbage Island

Here's a video I filmed of "Ocean Planet:"
From 20090921


Baroness - Blue Record (Relapse, 2009)

If you already like Baroness then I'm preaching to the choir, I know. But this is one of those albums you put on, and on the very first listen you know it's a classic. I mean, straight up classic, a no doubter.

Baroness straddle a cauldron of sludge metal, southern and progressive rock. Throw in some scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, Witches' mummy and a bit of the ravin'd salt-sea shark. Make the gruel thick and slab, and you've got Blue Record.

Red Album ruled, but Blue Record is sublime. New guitarist/vocalist Pete Adams must have some freakish synergy with main-man John Baizley. The album is wall to wall riffage, with acoustic passages and fuzzy leads that channel Blue Öyster Cult. The scariest thing is that some guitar lines here make me think of Hendrix. No shitting.

I guess the most righteous aspect of Blue Record is that all the melodies ring true. The vocals are original and infectious. If you don't walk around singing these songs you are an android. All the parts of this stew are scrumptious. The drumming and bass are fantastic. The production is perfectly innocuous.

You won't have to take my word for it - I can assure you this will be the album of the year for many people. I'd recommend this to all but the most brutal of my metal friends.


Baroness Myspace


Down, Melvins - September 11th - Nokia Theater, NYC

Phil Anselmo and I have a rocky relationship. It all started at my very first concert, on Pantera's Far Beyond Driven tour in 1994. To an impressionable metal lad, the man was a living legend. Up on stage next to Diamond Darrell, the two put on a performance that I'll never forget. Legendary.

Fast forward to 1997. After a lackluster showing at Ozzfest that summer, I saw Pantera play at Roseland supporting Official Live: 101 Proof. Phil was deep in the throes of substance abuse, and could neither stand on his feet nor remember the lyrics to the songs. My most vivid memory of the show was complete embarrassment when Phil repeatedly sang the wrong verse of "Cemetery Gates." It was an ignominious ending to my Pantera years.

When Jeanne Fury offered me a chance to see Down on 9/11, I wasn't expecting much. I've followed Down since NOLA and enjoyed each of the albums, but it didn't give me much hope that the performance would be worthwhile. A not-so-flattering write-up of the tour by umlaut was discouraging. Jeanne asked me to be her photographer for the show, so the chance to witness the madness from the photo pit added a bit of incentive.

Jeanne and I soaked in a couple of pints and a lot of rain, then headed to The Nokia Theater - my favorite venue in New York that's bigger than a bread box. We got there in time to see Weedeater stomp the shit out of the stage. It was an unexpectedly excellent performance. Got to scrape that shit right off your shoes.

I finally got to meet the famous Justina Villanueva, which was very cool. At least I'd have some protection from the pro photographers in the pit if they decided to turn on my amateur ass.

I've never been a huge Melvins fan, but I dug Houdini back in the day and the last two albums are pretty awesome. Again, it was a surprisingly stellar performance. I won't go too much into detail about it - Jeanne already wrote it up in the deciblog here and Justina wrote it up for Noise Creep over here.

Having lived through those Pantera concerts, I was fairly concerned that I might be killed in the photo-pit once things got started. When Down came out and started to throw down, I wasn't disappointed as bodies started to fly everywhere. The security tried to chase us away after a couple of songs, but Pepper Keenan told them to let us stay for a while. The man is extremely cool, and also a total ham.

Down were completely awesome. The sound was beautiful, the guitars were screaming and Phil Anselmo was manly perfection. Totally on target, in key and in control of the crowd. My head really wanted to snap off my body. The set-list was fantastic and represented all 3 albums well. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the legendary performance of "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love" blew everyone's minds and the roof off the building.

Sometimes the best shows are the ones that you don't over-anticipate. That's what happened for me on this evening. After all these years, the Phil Anselmo bromance is back on.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a pro at this photography thing, but I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. The rest of the photos from the show can be seen here.


Eyes of the South
The Path
Lysergik Funeral Procession
Ghosts Along the Mississippi
Losing all
New Orleans is a Dying Whore
Pillars of Eternity
Nothing in Return (Walk Away)
Ain't Talkin''bout Love
Hail the Leaf
Stone the Crow
Bury Me in Smoke


Fen - The Malediction Fields (Code666/Aural Music, 2009)

Fen are the impressive sum of disparate parts. Imagine the acoustic progginess of Opeth's Damnation mixed with atmospheric, melodic black metal. Clean vocals sit alongside awesome black metal screams. Blast beats and acoustic guitars. Bouncing rhythms that make me think Orchid. These guys don't give a fuck, and it rules.

The guitar work, performed by The Watcher, is great stuff. The black metal riffage is infused with oceans of melodic originality. The numerous clean passages are the most impressive piece of the pie. I'm really impressed. This compliments the melancholic singing well and paints a stark contrast to the black metal undercurrents. Completely epic.

The clean vocals bring to mind a young Jonas Renske, circa Discouraged Ones. There are some excellent and compelling melodies here. The black metal vocals are perfection in my book. Not too raspy, and just raw enough. There are tasteful keys throughout, either in an atmospheric capacity, or as excellent pure piano accompaniment.

The production on the album is wide open and airy, doing great justice to Fen's sound. As I mentioned earlier, Fen are not content with the standard clean/heavy dichotomy. All of the elements are mixed up in a pleasing fashion. The songwriting skill is quite evident. The Malediction Fields evokes an array of emotions, from funereal disconsolation to complete triumph. The album holds my attention from start to finish, and never turns itself into background music.

If you think you can stomach their concoction, then I highly recommend checking out Fen. If you're a fan of epic, dark, melodic metal that's bursting with originality, then you should give this a shot. Opeth fans take heed. This album embodies progress, to me, as I've never really heard anything like it. The Malediction Fields is riding high on my list of the year's best albums.

Fen hail from the UK, and Code666 records are located in Italy, so as you can imagine, it's difficult to get your hands on this album, especially in America. I was able to order The Malediction Fields here from The End records.


Fen Myspace



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