UG Articles Archive

Monday, April 25, 2011

In Pursuit of Vikings in the Land of Vikings (one week late, drop a letter grade)

I never thought I would pay money to see vikings in Minnesota. Last (last) weekend's Amon Amarth show was the best Death Metal show I've ever seen, and only a crappy venue prevented it from making my top 5 concerts of all time. Allowing beer on the floor was definitely a redeeming quality. Anyhoo, I will try to not talk too much about the venue in this concert review and focus on Amon Amarth's (from here on out abbreviated as "AA") stage performance.

The concert:
As promised, the entirety of Surtur Rising--their latest album--was played for the first half of the show. No offense to the songs on that album, but the energy level of the crowd was average at best because we knew which song was coming next, where as when you don't know what the next song will be, if it's a song you like, you're more inclined to go crazy. I think the crowd was still warming at this part of the show, or maybe the songs were not favorites with the crowd yet. War of the Gods--my personal favorite from the album--was a powerful opener to both the album and the concert, and was the highlight of the first half.

After the intermission is when things took a turn for the awesome. Opening with Twilight of the Thunder God, one could tell that the crowd was given a jolt of electricity. From there on out, AA played all of the fan favorites, including two of my personal favorites Cry of the Blackbirds and Live for the Kill. The closing song was In Pursuit of Vikings, with a phenomenal sing-along from the crowd which was the perfect capper for the concert.

I must confess, I only paid attention to one member of the band during the show, so I cannot accurately grade the stage performance of the rest of the band, but lead singer Johan Hegg is a master of showmanship. From his ability to control the crowd to his unfaltering growls, he was able to amplify the enjoyment of the show. When I go to a concert, I look for the frontman/lead singer to make banter with the crowd between songs to establish a connection with them, and I also expect the lead singer to allow the crowd to participate in the song--either by singing, clapping or something along those lines. Hegg was easily able to do these and establish a link with the crowd, which made for a stunning performance combined with their already rockin' songs.

Lastly, I would like to talk about the set list. I will admit that the second half "classics" were more enjoyable than the first half with the new album, but I respect the shit out of AA for doing this and not solidifying themselves in a few good tracks. Like any good band, they continue to make albums and present them to their fans, hoping songs like War of the Gods or Slaves of Fear will be added to their arsenal of awesome songs.

This reminded me of when I went to see Iron Maiden play primarily songs from the 2000s. I read numerous mixed reviews saying it was a crime to leave out many of their classics in favor of new songs not everyone likes. I always imagined these reviewers to be middle-aged men who are to stubborn or stupid to allow themselves to enjoy Maiden's new material. Maiden is too damn talented to lock themselves in as a "Greatest Hits" band, and I truly pity anyone thick-headed dumbass who is too ignorant to enjoy songs like "Dance of Death," "Paschendale," "Brave New World" or "El Dorado." Like Maiden, AA knows what songs the fans like, and they performed most of them. I guarantee a few of the song off Surtur Rising will become fan favorites in the not-too-distant future, and these songs will surely be included among other hits on the next album tour. If I would change one thing, I would have AA only play maybe half or 3/4 of the songs off their new album and mix it in with the old classics--much like Metallica did on the Death Magnetic tour.

tl;dr quick stats:

Overall concert rating - 8
Band performance rating - 10

Best part of the show: fantastic set list, better than I could have hoped for.
Worst part of the show: Crummy structure for a venue, fucking pillars in the middle of the floor!

Top 3 favorite songs:
1. Pursuit of Vikings (phenomenal energy from band and crowd)
2. Cry of the Blackbirds
3. Live for the Kill
Honorable mention - medley of 4-5 songs

Top 3 most missed songs:
1. Fate of Norns
2. Embrace of the Endless Ocean
3. Death in Fire (full version, it was lumped in a medley half way through the show)

I'm still trying to digest Surtur Rising, but look for an album review in the near future!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weird Al's newest single "Perform This Way" comes with a bit of controversy

Yeah, that's right.  Weird Al.  I know he's not similar to my typical subject matter here, but his music is awesome and hilarious and I'm gonna write about it anyway.  

Yesterday, "Weird Al" Yankovic posted his newest single, "Perform This Way," a parody of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."  Now, I'm gonna be honest, I'd hadn't even heard "Born This Way" when I listened to Al's version, and it still had me in stitches.  The song's a not-so-subtle critique on Gaga's image - he points out that she's just acting crazy and dressing strangely for performance's sake.  If you've seen her before she was famous, you'll see that he's pretty much exactly right.  It's the same thing Slipknot does with the masks and jumpsuits - looking strange and sometimes downright stupid just to sell more albums. 

Anyway, the song got damn near a million views yesterday.  This is largely because of the controversy that Al mentions at the beginning of the video.  You see, Weird Al refuses to put a song on any of his records unless he gets the consent of the artist he's parodying.  Usually these artists are honored to have Al parody their stuff - I believe it was the great Chamillionaire who once said: "Weird Al is not gonna do a parody of your song if you’re not doing it big. You gotta be a big dog."  Well, it at first seemed that Gaga didn't agree. 

Weird Al sent a copy of the lyrics to the Gaga management team, who responded by saying that Gaga had to actually hear the song first.  So Al quickly recorded the full song, which he intended to be the album's "big single," something he NEVER does.  He made an exception for Lady Gaga, worked night and day, and cranked out the song.  He sent it to the Gaga camp, and was told that Gaga had said "no."

Angry at the whole situation, he released the song on youtube, and apologized to fans for not being able to include it on his album, despite the fact that he planned to donate all of the song's revenue to the Human Rights Campaign, a charity Gaga supports.  The video got, as I said, nearly a million views in one day. 

Later in the day, it became known that Lady Gaga had never actually heard the song, and that her manager had been speaking for her and being a real dick to Weird Al.  Turns out, Gaga loves the song, and gave Al her permission to put it on his record.  Now he'll be ready to release his new album in a few months.  So the controversy was all for naught, it turns out, but the song is still awesome. 

Al promises the music video for this song will be "disturbing on many levels," and it would have to be in order to top Gaga's "Born This Way" video.  I tried to watch it yesterday and had to close the window after 2 and a half minutes of stupid pretentious spoken word pseudo-poetry before the music even started.  Don't watch it.  I beg of you.

Do watch this, however.  It's the newest from Weird Al, and it's awesome:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Children of Bodom Announce North American Tour with Devin Townsend

When my buddy Sam posted on his facebook the other day with a photo of Alexi Laiho and a status saying "Anticipating..." I called him out, and told him "you know they haven't announced any kind of tour right?  What are you anticipating?"  Well, turns out he was right and today they've announced a big North American tour taking place this summer.

Only problem?  No Wisconsin dates.  They are, however, playing at Station 4 in St. Paul, which is rapidly becoming a venue I've found myself traveling to frequently.  I'll be there this Friday for Amon Amarth and I was there in February for Eluveitie.  It's that, or go to Chicago for the show at the House of Blues, but I'd have to get a hotel room and all kinds of hassles would be had.  Best to just return to the motherland for a weekend of rocking. 

Anyway, they'll be touring with Devin Townsend (always wanted to see him live), Obscura and a band called Septic Flesh (lovely, right?).  Heard good things about Obscura.  The full list of dates is here:

June 24 Los Angeles, CA           House of Blues
June 25 San Francisco, CA Slim's
June 26 Portland, OR Roseland
June 27 Seattle, WA Showbox at the Market     
June 28 Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom
June 30 Calgary, AB MacEwan Ballroom
July 2 Edmonton, AB Edmonton Events Center
July 3 Saskatoon, SK Odeon
July 4 Winnipeg, MB Garrick Center
July 5 St. Paul, MN Station Four
July 6 Chicago, IL House of Blues         
July 8 Atlanta, GA Masquerade
July 9 Orlando, FL BeachamTheater
July 10 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Revolution
July 12 Pittsburgh, PA Mr. Smalls
July 13 Norfolk, VA The Norva
July 14 Springfield, VA   Jaxx
July 15 Springfield, VA   Jaxx
July 16 New York, NY Best Buy Theatre
July 17 Philadelphia, PA Trocadero Theatre
July 19 Worcester, PA Palladium
July 21 Halifax, NS Multipurpose Centre (No Devin Townsend, this date only)
July 23 Toronto, ON Downsview Park (* as part of Heavy TO w/ Megadeth, Rob Zombie, Slayer, etc.)
July 24 Montreal, QC Parc Jean-Drapeau (* as part of Heavy MTL w/ KISS, Motörhead, etc.)

The show in St. Paul is over July 4th weekend, which is traditionally the same weekend as the Summerfest music festival in Milwaukee.  Looks like the Summerfest lineup will be determining which show I go to.  Or maybe I'll be living in Minnesota by then.  Who knows, my life is a mess.

Keep rocking, hope this news was happy for you.  I know at least a few people that will be very pleased with this announcement.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: 3 Inches of Blood - Here Waits Thy Doom

Now that I am no longer burdened with working at Panera, returning home each night burned out creatively trying to find a way to make working there tolerable, I can finally put some real effort into blogging again.  That's a good thing, if you were wondering.  At least I think it is.

3 Inches of Blood's Cam Pipes (which has to be a stage name, right?) belts one out at an outdoor festival.

Having not reviewed an album since Apocalyptica's latest offering (I think that was in October or November?  I'm not very good at this, am I?) it's certainly high time I did another one.  I've selected the latest album by Canadian heavy metal act 3 Inches of Blood for review largely because I'll be seeing them live tomorrow at the Annex in Madison, but also because they're a band that I think most of you will enjoy, whether you're a fan of classic rock like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden or heavier stuff like Slayer, Exodus and Overkill.  They were discovered by their current label and gained a following while opening for The Darkness, (of "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" fame) so that should provide you with a frame of reference for their sound.

"Here Waits Thy Doom" represents a definite stylistic change for the band, necessitated by the departure of backup vocalist (harsh wailer/screamer) Jamie Hooper, whose damaged vocal cords did not fully recover by the time the album was recorded in late 2009.  Guitarist Justin Hagberg took on the growling vocals himself, making the band a four-piece.  Hooper's absence put the vast majority of the vocal burden upon Rob Halford-esque Cam Pipes.  Pipes' high-pitched wail has become part of the bands' trademark sound, and for good reason.  The dude nails it on every song, bringing energy and power to every verse and chorus.  Pipes simply has no off-switch. 

Not only does the album represent an evolution in membership, but in sound as well.  "Here Waits Thy Doom" puts the focus on bluesy, anthemic riffs more often than scorching, technical licks.  It has its share of fast, punishing tunes, but this album demonstrates that 3 Inches of Blood are beginning to become masters at emulating the classic heavy metal sound popularized by bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Saxon, hell, the entire New Wave of British Heavy Metal.  The riffing is melodic and polished, but Pipes' vocals always bring an edge to the song, keeping it brutal and aggressive. 

The tracks are by and large winners, with a few here and there that aren't particularly memorable.  The album starts out strong with the ale-swilling anthem "Battles and Brotherhood" and the rockin' "Silent Killer."  The middle section has a gem or two, but nothing that truly sticks out.  What really surprised me was the tenth track, titled "12:34:" it's an acoustic instrumental piece!  A really good one, I might add.  This was totally unexpected and it helped to break up the album a bit and prevent things from feeling too same-y.  The final track is titled "Execution Tank," and in case you haven't guessed, it's about an awesome tank that shoots stuff and crushes enemies; reminding you that yes, you're still listening to a 3 Inches of Blood album, and it ain't over yet.

An undisputably solid effort that finds the band moving in a slightly new direction, I put the Weaponized Wisdom Stamp of Approval on this record.  Give it a listen if you're a fan of classic metal with a modern twist.  Or listen to it and become a fan of classic metal with a modern twist.  Either way, give it a listen.

Rating: 8.6 Orc Warriors / 10

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Foo Fighters streaming entire new album online

Yeah, you read that right.  The Foo Fighters have responded to early leaks of their new album by saying "Leak?  Rad.  Ours is better."  They actually said that, via Twitter, right before they uploaded "theirs" to their web site.

I've yet to listen to the whole thing, only heard "Rope" and "White Limo" so far, but it's definitely promising.  The band went lo-fi on this one, recording the entire album in Dave Grohl's California garage on analog tapes.  As Fred Durst once said, this is the real effin' deal, yo. 

Here's the link to the page with the stream, I'll probably spend my afternoon giving it a listen, in between my near-continuous plays of Amon Amarth's "Surtur Rising," which I picked up (in a store!) on Tuesday.  I'll have a review of that album soon, but believe me when I say that it lived up to the hype. 

In anticipation of Vancouver's 3 Inches of Blood playing a show this Friday in Madison, I'll also be reviewing their most recent studio effort, 2009's "Here Waits Thy Doom."

Stay tuned, got a lot planned for this week.

Keep it metal, and have a good Sunday.