Tag Archives: High on Fire

Decibel Tour 2016- Cleveland Edition

decibel tour

It seems to be a thing this year for popular, extreme metal editorials to put on tours.  Maybe it’s always been a thing but I’m only just noticing it.  First MetalSucks now Decibel.  The Decibel Tour offered a great variety of genres, a little something for almost everyone, but had a nocitably black metal bias.  Death metal wasn’t represented at all, but the lineup was diverse enough to attract all sorts of metal heads, from the laissez-faire fans to the die hards.  The turn out was pretty unbelievable.

The show was scheduled at the infamous Agora Theatre.  Ever since Peabody’s closed a few years back The Agora has been the go to place for extreme metal in Cleveland.  The club has that perfect balance between a kind of DIY, dark bar ambience and bathroom cleanliness to be versatile enough for all types of people.  The reasonable ticket and beer prices and cool staff create the perfect atmosphere for a good time.  Needless to say, I was happy about the choice of venue for this event.

I arrived a few minutes late and only caught the last half of Mythrias’ (the local opener) set.  Mythrias has been tearing up the Cleveland/Akron scene with their particular brand of DIY melodeath since the release of their debut, Absolving the Treacherous, last year.  The band is always professional onstage and definitely worth giving a listen.  I couldn’t be more excited for my buddies in this band for getting the opportunity to open for such a huge event.  They definitely deserve it.

Next up was Tribulation.  This band gets a lot of hype and I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why.  Sure, they take showmanship seriously, but I really wish they’d take their music more seriously.  You can’t just dress up like a bunch of girls and make rock star poses and call yourself a band.  You actually have to write good songs.  Tribulation is ultimately more gimmick than anything else.  Although I get what they are aiming for in their sound, they don’t have enough oomph to pull off that whole metalized Slade/New York Dolls atmosphere.  They best thing about their set was the light show and their outfits.  The music itself was lacking.  A total snooze fest.

tribulation
This is what happens when glam metal bands die and become zombies.

Next up was Skeletonwitch. A horde of flannel shirts surged to the stage.  Skeletonwitch has seen great success over the years amongst metal’s fence sitter fans, making them accessible to a larger audience.  I thought it was mere luck until I witnessed their set. Professionalism is an understatement for the band.  The band played crowd pleasers like and Beneath Dead Leaves and I am of Death.  Their sound was impeccable, almost identical to the quality of the album and their energy was high.  Did it make me a fan?  No but that’s just because there are other thrash bands that are more exciting than Skeletonwitch.  But at least now I get it.

High on Fire was up next.  They’re a band that many, more death metal oriented fans can’t really get into, but I have to say that Matt Pike is looking more like a middle-aged Lemmy every day and it’s fucking awesome. Riffage reigned supreme throughout the set and it’s really Matt Pike’s fault that my neck hurts.  They played mostly their higher energy songs and the set was lively and sounded great.  Though the majority of the bands took advantage of a high quality light show, High on Fire’s set was mostly dark which made for a really gritty atmosphere.  It was cool.  Snakes of the Divine and Luminiferous were particularly cool and memorable parts of the set but all in all Matt Pike put on a killer show as usual.

At last though, the moment everyone had been waiting for had arrived. Abbath was set to play. A true rock star, Abbath put on a killer show. It was like KISS if they were a black metal band. I couldn’t help but feel star struck. Abbath gave the fans what they wanted, playing five Immortal covers, including All Shall Fall, In My Kingdom Cold, and my favorite, Solarfall. It’s clear the man doesn’t take himself too seriously. He gave fans plenty of the crab walk and for that we were all grateful.

crab

His showmanship was truly professional and the light show was arena worthy. Also, there was a pretty smashing pit during his set, which doesn’t always happen at black metal shows. I couldn’t help but get into it. Overall, the entire show was incredible and it’s something I’ll remember for years to come. That means something coming from a person who ends up at a show about once every week. If the Decibel Tour is coming to your hometown anytime soon, be sure to catch it. It’s well worth the money.

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Metal Alliance Tour 2013

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I wouldn’t normally attend a “concert” at a big commercial venue, preferring instead the intimacy of small shows held at metal pubs and DIY clubs, however, there are those instances when the lineup is so impressive attendance is absolutely imperative. The Metal Alliance Tour was an absolute Thrash-stravaganza featuring Municipal Waste, Exodus and “big four” legends Anthrax on the same bill. Bloody Hell! To much dismay the concert was held at the House of Blues, a dreadfully disappointing venue for a metal show, equipped with waify cocktail waitresses, overly priced beverages and bathroom attendants. Upon entering my friend and I were wanded, stamped and purse searched only to enter the club and immediately be assaulted with the sight of a snack bar. Who the hell orders nachos at a metal show? Not only will they be ridiculously overpriced but they will inevitably taste like bland topping-less poo.

I got these crappy nachos and a beer and it only cost me 25 dollars
I got these crappy nachos and a beer and it only cost me 25 dollars

Go to Perkins after the show like the rest of the civilized world. Not only was there a snack bar, there were advertisements on the big screen and lotions in lieu of graffiti in the bathroom. It was commercial hell but with good purpose.

The first band up was Pasedena, California’s heavy/power act Holy Grail. With a solid live performance, flawless and intricate guitar work and a stereotypical “Power Metal” presence (complete with gauntlets and flowing manes) Holy Grail delivered the goods. The success of such bands as 3 inches of blood and Dragonforce has bought about a resurgence of Power Metal and rightfully so. Holy Grail is enjoying great success as a result. If you haven’t heard of Holy Grail before they are definitely worth giving a second look. Check out their latest full length release from Nuclear Blast, Ride the Void for good, old-fashioned, Maiden-esque Power Metal!

Holy Grail kicked ass. Unfortunately for me the next band on the bill was not what I expected. I was under the impression that High on Fire was supposed to be playing, not because I dreamt it up or am delusional but because of this misleading “official” tour poster…

imagesCAGTTXJ5Dirty liars, the next band up were Metalcore veterans Shadows Fall. Gahhhh! Why is it that whenever you go to see a quintessential metal band there’s always at least one “core” opener that you have to endure, or in my case ignore while perusing through the merchandise tables, smoking cigarettes, and making small talk with the opening bands, until the set is over? James explained to me that the reason High on Fire was not playing was because they had to drop the Metal Alliance Tour to finish their own European tour. While completely understandable, it did not make the reality of Shadows Fall onstage disappear. I kept pondering what horrors might reside clandestine within Brian Fair’s ridiculous dreadlocks.

Just some birds live here. Not just any birds, endangered birds.
Some birds live here. But not just any birds, angry birds.

Tough guy chest pounding and squatting, three cord riffs played in drop D, and poorly delivered screams followed by whiny, sing-song choruses about relationships and politics (uhgg just sing about the devil) are the backbone of Shadows Fall’s distinctive sound. Still the band never fails to deliver a good performance to their audience, which is most likely the reason they’ve achieved such great commercial success. Here is a live version of the title track from the latest release Fire from the Sky for anyone interested.

Just like all good things must come to an end, so too the bad. Municipal Waste was scheduled to hit the stage next and I was not going to miss it. One of the better New Wave Thrash/Crossover bands among many, The Waste put on a great performance, playing everything from classics like The Terror Shark, Headbanger Face-Rip and Beer Pressure, to fierce new tracks like You’re Cut Off. Rowdy and tongue in cheek, Waste vocalist Tony Foresta joked with the audience and ingeniously fired up the crowd, having expectations of inciting no less than a full on heavy metal vomit party. The Waste generated a full-fledged pit with crowd surfing, blood and sweat. Beautiful. Witness for yourself the metal party prowess and masterful musicianship of Municipal Waste as they perform the classic, Mind Eraser.

While Municipal Waste did not fail to “Fuck Me Up!” things would only get better from here as Exodus would soon hit the stage to bludgeon the crowd with pure Bay Area Thrash. A sea of black, denim and leather-clad Hellions chanted EXODUS! at the top of their lungs in anticipation. The lights grew dim and the melodic acoustic intro to The Ballad of Leonard and Charles began emanating from the loud speakers. The crowd’s hunger grew as Gary Holt hit the stage, shredding to perfection. The set list was ingenious, including songs such as Fabulous Disaster and Blackened and no one was left wanting for Paul Baloff as Rob Dukes flawlessly belted out classics, Lesson in Violence and (with the help of Holy Grail vocalist, James Paul Luna) Bonded by Blood.

Do not fuck with this man!
Do not fuck with this man!

Exodus further engaged the audience with theatrics as a blast of confetti spewed from the stage at the end of Bonded by Blood classic, Strike of the Beast. Forming huge circle pits and crowd surfing, the audience was riled up. The band fittingly concluded their set with Good Riddance from the 2010 release Exhibit B: The Human Condition. The conclusion was followed by the band’s gifting of guitar picks, drum sticks and set lists to the crowd. I managed to procure a set list. A brilliant performance as usual from thrash metal legends Exodus. Here is a glimpse of what you may have missed. The band is in San Francisco performing my favorite Exodus song Lesson in Violence.

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The climax of the evening, Anthrax was set to hit the stage. Performing the essential Anthrax album Among the Living in its entirety, Joey Belladonna took the stage belting out the title track to perfection. Before they could begin Caught in the Mosh, Frank Bello lost sound and Scott Ian roared with conviction “You guys are too metal for this club!”. Damn straight! The crowd cheered in unanimous agreement. Anthrax really knows how to get a crowd going and aside from the fact that Scott Ian has sold his soul to VH1 (Satan is pissed) good showmanship, impeccable performance and catchy anthemic licks have marked Anthrax’s success.

Playing side one from the 1987 LP, then taking a short break from the album to play AC/DC cover TNT and Grammy nominated track I’m Alive, the band broke up the set nicely. Joey beckoned audience participation during the classic track Indians and everyone went wild. As a precursor to the encores Joey handed out slices of pizza to crowd. I’m sure whoever snatched those up enjoyed the most metal slice of pizza they will ever eat. He then proceeded to raise him arms and shout “CAN YOU DIG IT!”, a quote from the cult classic The Warriors. I felt the urge to shout back “CAN YOU COUNT SUCKAS!” but remained silent in the realization that I may have been the only one picking up on the reference.

I can dig it Joey. Yes I can!
I can dig it Joey. Yes I can!

Scott Ian asked for a “moment of rage” in honor of the victims of the tragedy in Boston before the second encore. The whole crowd roared, enraged. The band concluded the set with I am the Man to everyone’s approval and began tossing guitar picks and drum sticks into an enthusiastic crowd. They ended the show by bowing in appreciation of proverbial diehard fans. To give you a snip-it of what you might have missed here is Anthrax performing Indians in Anaheim, California.

Overall The Metal Alliance Tour is worth catching if the metal masters haven’t already invaded your town. It dripped with showmanship, flawless performances, circle pits and Thrash Metal Hell. It’s a must see event for thrashers, well worth the 40 dollar cover charge. Hails!