Hi all. More tickets to show off – of particular interest this time is an old stub from Operation Rock & Roll from 1991. That’s the Toronto show where Rob Halford beaned himself riding out on the Hog during “Hell Bent For Leather” and decided after the show to leave Priest. Teenaged me almost lost his mind!
Archive for In Flames
…from my concert tickets. A lot of metalheads save up their gig tix for trophy value. Especially in the days before cellphone cameras, they were a great way to say “I was there!” Back then, bands and venues would confiscate pocket cameras and recording devices; now of course everybody wants you to tweet their names far and wide.
I’ve never been very organized, so I’ve lost a lot of my stubs over the years. Recently I was cleaning house and found a stack of them which were very faded, so I decided to throw them on the scanner before consigning them to the circular file. Check it out:
A fun walk down memory lane. What do you do with your old stubs?
Hey all, now that there’s snow on the ground here it’s probably time I got off my ass and shared some thoughts on this year’s edition of Heavy MTL. You know, while it’s still the same year. The 2012 edition will likely be remembered as The Year It Finally Rained, and rain it did for much of the Saturday. That didn’t stop the bands, however, and it certainly didn’t stop me and my crew from getting down and especially dirty in the mud pits of Montreal.
Big Hit: The word of the weekend was OldSkool, with both Overkill and Suicidal Tendencies absolutely laying waste to the place before a crowd that was eager to receive their 80’s thrash offering. Both bands seemed fresh and vital, with ST in particular back from the dead with a parade of rock-solid hits.
Big Miss: Marilyn Manson was an unmitigated disaster. Sloppy play, uninterested banter, poor singing. And this from a band with one of the prime stage slots, which makes it insulting, considering there were so many small, more interesting bands working their asses off on the same weekend. From what I’m hearing, this unprofessional behaviour has continued, as well. Slipknot was a bit auto-pilot as well, truth be told, presenting us with a lot of clown-goes-up, clown-goes-down and a distinct lack of the same chops that captivated folks back in the day.
Great as Expected: Gojira, Kataklysm, Cannibal Corpse. Killswitch Engage had a powerful set with new/old frontman Jesse Leach, holding audience attention even at the height of the rainstorm.
Pleasant Surprise: Who knew the NWOBHM was alive and well in suburban Quebec? 80’s rockers Sword put on a clinic on the third stage, putting me in mind of Grim Reaper and Mercyful Fate. Late on Saturday, Battlecross tore up the place in front a few in-the-know folks, making it feel like a private show. Very cool.
Mo’ Canada: In addition to Sword, we had more Canuck action than ever this year, with Voivod, The Agonist, Diemonds, battle of the bands winners Hollow and many more. Hell, even old chestnuts B.A.R.F. put foot to ass for our listening pleasure. The local scene is always one of my favourite things about Heavy MTL, and this year was stellar.
Organization Bad: C’mon, guys. Let’s talk about line-up. Here are the headliners, year by year:
2008 – Iron Maiden + Motley Crue
2010 – Rob Zombie / Korn + Slayer / Megadeth
2011 – Godsmack / Disturbed + KISS / Motorhead
2012 – System of a Down / Five Finger Death Punch + Slipknot / Marilyn Manson
It’s not what I’d call a direct decline, but does show evidence of corner cutting, as did the late arriving, inaccurate, single-page “programme”. Let’s hope we can see them lure at least one Metal God here in 2013.
Organization Good: The nuts and bolts stuff seemed well in hand, with better access to drinking water, and more (and more interesting) foods than years previous. It rained and they gave out raincoats, so that wasn’t too shabby. Heavy MTL remains the most consistently easy festival to enter in my experience, with the journey from the subway car, lining up, scanning tickets and searching bags all taking less than 15 minutes.
The Vibe: As always, the best in the biz. It’s what keeps us coming back. These are our people, gathered together in an easy-going place. The fact that we have such a place and that they offer a variety of bands to enjoy and complain about is something to be celebrated.
Sounds of a Playground Fading is a bit like watching your favourite team’s Alumni hockey game. The skills are still there, the action is entertaining, but there’s no sense of urgency or stakes because the game doesn’t really count for anything.
The album has thirteen tracks, which seems about three or four too many, especially both (!) spoken word pieces. There are some portions around the middle where the riffing comes to life, but the record is all around quietly unremarkable.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the departure of founding member Jesper Strömblad, and whether the band would continue writing strong material without him. Personally, I don’t think that’s the issue. All of these songs are clearly identifiable as In Flames, but there is a malaise in the material that seems symptomatic of a creative slide that began some time ago. The band continues to emulate their heroes Iron Maiden in almost all respects, including some unfortunate self-plagarism and an tendency to rest on their laurels. “Fear is the Weakness” in particular seems pulled directly from No Prayer for the Dying, right down to the Nicko McBrain beat and the title itself.
This is two lackluster efforts in a row now from In Flames, and while I’m open-minded enough to refrain from immediately howling for a return-to-form record, I certainly wouldn’t find one amiss. 6 out of 10
White Zombie – La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume 1 $3.77. How did I not have this before? Sure, it’s a classic but it’s overhyped, so I was biding my time…until now. Nightcrawlers: The KMFDM Remixes $2.09. Same thing, really.
The Kovenant – In Times Before the Light $2.64. Kovenant’s lost album. Should it stay lost? I figured it was worth finding out.
Spahn Ranch – Retrofit $1.10, Beat Noir $1.24, and Anthology 1992-1994 $3.27. I know I said I’d filled in my Spahn Ranch collection last time, but look at those prices! Cheap at twice the price for Constantine Maroulis’ gothier (and more musically adventurous) older brother. One’s a remix EP, the second a cabaret record and the third a catch-up compilation. The last one, a double set, was obliterated by the US postal service. I’m hoping that my bros at Beat Goes On can help me buff them back to life, but I think I can see light through the second disc. Ah, well.
Skrew – Dusted $1.66. I know it’s their best record, but it took me 15 years and a red tag less than a Starbuck’s Venti to get me over the stupidest album cover of ever.
Danzig – II: Lucifuge $5.59 and III: How the Gods Kill $4.89. This time the big money’s on the little guy.
Powerman 5000 – Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere $5.59. After this review, I’d be a hypocrite not to get this one. Still loving it!
Arch Enemy – Rise of the Tyrant $4.89. No-brainer.
Nailbomb – Point Blank $6.29. Record sounds exactly like the band’s name. This is a remaster with extra tracks, which is nice as the orignal was both noisy and short, if brilliant.
Music from the TV Series Angel – Live Fast, Die Never $6.29. Uhh, it’s for the missus. Really.
Laibach – WAT $5.59. In which Slovenia’s angriest anarchist art-robots show those youngsters in Rammstein that they Can. Not. Hang.
Anthrax – Anthrology: No Hit Wonders 1985-1991. $9.09. What a shelf filler! Two discs crammed with at least 75% of their Island tracks.
And today’s winner for value:
In Flames: The Jester Race/Black Ash Inheritance $5.59. Digipak with both releases together remastered. My interest in early In Flames was rekindled by the inclusion of “Goliaths Disarm their Davids” on a certain heavy metal video game.
Twenty bucks shipping – still puts me close to under $100 after the Canadian conversion. Not bad! — Slim
Decade Review: Ten Bands that Rocked the 2000’s
This isn’t a best-of, more of a reflection on who had a good decade in my musical universe. Some artists are old masters making a comeback, some are newer bands that hit right around the Millennium, and some are just hard-working dudes who cranked out a good ten years’ worth of tunes without having any kind of meltdown.
- Amon Amarth – With every record, they just keep getting better and better. Not too shabby, especially when they keep banging them out every 20 months or so like clockwork. While the past few years have been their time to shine, AA’s pagan thunder has people excited to see what’s next.
- Ministry – After starting the decade in rehab and stumbling out of the gate with Animositisomina, Al Jourgensen roared back into focus with his “Dubya Trilogy”. Ministry’s best moments have always been collaborative, and these supposedly final slabs of finger-pointing are fortified with the likes of Tommy Victor, Burton Bell and Paul Raven (RIP). If he really is done this time, the Alien has capped off his career with head held high.
- Iron Maiden – In early 2000 I received a promotional postcard with a picture of Eddie on one side and one sentence on the other: “Bruce is Back.” Exciting, but that wasn’t the whole story, as Dickinson brought songwriting partner Adrian Smith with him and the band kept bonus guitarist Jannick Gers. Now a six-piece, the big boys of metal released three albums in the Zeroes. All of them are long, noodling and by no means The Number of the Beast, but at the same time they are consistently better than anything since Seventh Son. Maiden were also smart enough to realize that the new material isn’t as rousing onstage – their solution was elegant and ingenious: Dust off your ass-kicking 1985 World Tour gear, pack it on your own jet plane and just do it all over again. This is captured in all its glory in the highly recommended documentary Flight 666.
- KMFDM – In 1999 KMFDM released Adios, their farewell album. They’ve cheerfully made fun of this while making six studio albums and about a bazillion singles, remixes and side projects since. Bringing in Lucia Cifarelli brought an end to hired-gun female vocalists as well as adding another songwriter to the fold, and the often underrated Tim Skold had his fingerprints all over their third decade of bold-faced rip offs “conceptual continuity”. Still political, still angry, KMFDM have nonetheless loosened up a bit, presenting a little more Blackadder than black leather.
- Amorphis – If Entombed and Chrome Division define Death n’ Roll, Amorphis created a kind of DoomPop with Tuonela, a record filled with the rich textures, lyrical imagery and saxophone (!) you’d normally get from artists associated with the singer/songwriter world. It’s the heaviest U2 album ever made. After that, things got a bit weird with two straight-up psychedelic releases before Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger returned us to the land of the Kalevala with Tomi Joutsen as our upgraded tour guide. By mining the national epic for narrative, Amorphis became a band with stories to tell, the Neil Young of the metal world.
- Arch Enemy – Obviously, it’s been a good decade for the “A” section of my shelves, and AE really got cooking with the addition of pint-sized punk menace Angela Gossow. Debate as you will about who did what first, Gossow has become the poster girl for female contributions to extreme metal. She’s made enough of an impression that the Arnotts have retroactively made her the sole vocalist of the band by putting her up front in early-hits redux record The Root of All Evil. Sorry, Johan! The band put out four studio albums in the Aughts (two great, one good, one so-so), toured relentlessly and recorded tons of live material. We don’t know what the Teens will bring, but as of right now, they are Kind of a Big Deal.
- Rob Halford – I wonder if the Metal God likes to make lists? If he made one for the 2000’s, it might look a bit like this: Reunite legendary metal band Judas Priest – check. Successful solo records praised for their heaviness (thanks Roy Z!) – check. Clothing line, recording studio – check and check. Just for fun, make a well-received Christmas album – check. Do all of this as a gay man in his fifties – ka-check!
- In Flames – I’m still learning to love 2004’s Soundtrack to Your Escape (and might never), but otherwise it’s been full speed ahead for the Jesterheads. Arguments over which of Clayman or Reroute to Remain is better are futile, since both are excellent. The choruses have gotten punkier over the years (they do tour with hardcore bands a lot) but the band still lays a firm claim to their piece of the Gothenburg Sound.
- Danko Jones – He’s “big in Sweden”! Thus Danko complains to typically lackluster Toronto crowds whenever he plays at home. He can be moody with his non-emotive Canadian fans but it hasn’t stopped him from releasing several chunks of straight-up rock. They’ve all got some great numbers on them, and very little filler. Danko’s also one of the few guys operating today who sings about girls without sounding either emo or femicidal.
- Apocalyptica – There’s that “A” again. 2000 was the year Apocalyptica stopped depending on cover songs and took off on their own with Cult. Each subsequent release added new elements to the cello quartet’s classical sound: Reflections has drums and a touch of piano, Apocalyptica throws in some vocalists and Worlds Collide finally fully embraces the big goth-rock mess of the genre they basically invented. I’m not as much a fan of the latter album, thinking that they lost some of their unique charm by putting too many kids on the vocal side of the teeter-totter. As a whole, however, they make this list by rising above the tide of “A Gimmick X Tribute to Band Y” to become their own masters.
Honourable Mention: Motörhead, but then, it’s always their time.
Times were when you knew what you were getting with In Flames. As one of the Gothenburg originals, they could be counted upon for bright, wide open spaces in order to give the soaring melodies room to duel. On the page would be a story of the evils of mankind, or maybe just the Man. All that changed in 2002 with Reroute to Remain, as the band experimented with shorter, quicker structures and a more introspective storyline of the evils within.
People reacted well to the evolution, reasoning that this band needed room to grow, and if they had a yen for cover paintings featuring the biomechanical denizens of red-skied wastelands, there were other people mining that vein.
Encouraged by the inch given, In Flames veered away the full mile on Soundtrack to your Escape, and things got a little too Korny and weird. Either they got it all out of their system or took a peek at the reviews, because Come Clarity was a much simpler record which set the tone for this one, managing to steal away scot-free with a whole new demographic in the process. The masters of melodic death were filling venues with hardcore, of a sort. They’re not quite Possessed to Skate, but you do see awful lot of Jesterhead stickers on Jeep FJ’s these days.
A Sense of Purpose is more or less Come Clarity II, and that’s not a bad thing. This is the logical progression of the tighter, compressed aesthetic begun with Reroute, with all the focus on brief, intense moments. Acoustic bridges with whispered vocals dot the terrain here and there, but overall it still has the same hurried vibe of Clarity. The fencing exhibitions of the 90’s have become a 4-round boxing match: twenty seconds of moshpit madness and then it’s time to throw up your hands and sing along big and clean with Anders. Repeat and ring the bell!
If you’ve followed In Flames out of the Citadel of Spikes and up the Ski Hill of Chronic you won’t find anything wrong here. Maybe nowadays we know where this band is going after all. 7 out of 10