The Atlas Moth - It is 6:20pm at a stripmall in Springfield, VA. There are enough people here to see the beginning of a long show featuring enough metal to reopen a Flint assembly line for a week. It is the Metalliance tour with a well booked variety of bands. First up are the Atlas Moth from Illinois. They have three guitars in front of the bass and drums, although one guitarist plays keyboards quite a bit. They succeed with the nice mid tempo droning songs for the most part. Some underlying guitar parts have a nice feeling to them. The cliched death metal screams are a bit tiresome, but that is par for the course for me. Their 20 minutes went well enough for the growing crowd.
Howl - This four-piece from Providence also features the death metal growling (or rather, howling) vocals. I thought their riffage was quite good. They are probably derivative, but not many bands are not in any genre, let alone a well seasoned genre live metal. The main thing was that the music was catchy and I latched on easily enough for their 20 minute set. Like the last band, the vocals came out far too loud through the PA. As I found out, this would continue...
Red Fang - I have to say that the crew on this tour along with the club are doing a splendid job of keeping things moving. There was a fifteen minute break between the first two bands and only a twelve minute break here. This is also a 2-guitar four-piece with a heavy sound. They incorporate old hard rock moves with a modern metal feeling. They kind of lost me in the middle with the sludgier portion of their set, and a sound that was coming out too harsh (critique of PA, not band). However, they closed with two ferocious, fast paced rockers. Molten metal showering down upon the welcoming crowd. Powerful enough to make this a memorable thirty minutes.
Kylesa - From the start, Kylesa has been one of the most genre-bending bands in the metal scene. Tonight's forty minute set was every bit as fine as previous times I have seen them. And they tour hard, so do try to take in their exciting act when you can. They have a couple of guitars, bass and two full-time drummers. Even that isn't enough percussion as one guitarist joins in on drums at times and the finish was four of them drumming away for the last three minutes of the set. But their are loads of great guitar moves and some keyboards/synthesizer from the bass player. They have a lot of prog moves amidst the metal and some very cool psychedelic touches as well. Their projections are extremely psychedelic and are nice in their steady feeling. It helped to have a triple projection with so much wall space in this club, that everyone was surrounded by the swirling patterns. And it is pretty hard not to get into any metal band that uses a theremin, more than once. I even detected a vocal line that practically mirrored the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs", which worked for me. Their sound is a great merging of heavy psyche band like Black Mountain with a creative metal band like Mastodon, who they have toured with. Do catch this band in a club or arena near you.
Crowbar - Straight ahead two-guitar four-piece, here. They played 35 minutes of droning sludge metal that had a moderate pace at times and even moved into what might even be called pace. That variety helped a lot, as otherwise this long night could have been a bit long. But it must be said, that these guys do what they do well and they offered yet another variation on the metal theme which is saying something to all who think everything sounds alike. The sludge was appreciated by the masses.
Saint Vitus - Man, are these guys still around? Guess, so as the sound that greeted me from this one-guitar four-piece was the classic Sabbath-metal that I recalled from the one metal band signed to SST records way back in the days when Black Flag decided to head in that direction. They also mixed tempos well and really did have a heavy sound throughout. The bass playing reminded me of Dave Alexander of the Stooges with the drumming a bit more classic rock than that of Scott Asheton. But it was similar in the "dumb" rock rhythm section that allowed both Stooges and St. Vitus guitarists to go wild with heavy riffs and wah-wah solos. No Iggy, here, but the vocals were good and these guys won me over in spit of myself. Maybe it was the faster pace song that reminded me of the Stooges "I Got a Right" that did the trick. I am talking way too much about the Stooges, when Black Sabbath is the better comparison. But, therein lies this band's skill, perhaps. Great set.
Helmet - This the first time for me to witness this influential band from the Amphetamine Reptile days. I was into them early as I followed that label closely, yet briefly. I strayed away for a couple of reasons. First, I thought Helmet moved into a too cold and brutal sound. Second (related to first), I headed more into folk and psyche territory back then. But, Page Hamilton is back with a newer band that were quite strong tonight, especially in the drumming. They played their second album (Side B first), "Meantime", in its entirety. I was surprised to find moments of warmth in the songs. Sure, its precise, high charged futuristic metal sound is fully intact, but there is more going on than I originally thought. I think there has been a lot of bands trying to follow in this mold, or going off in other cold, bleak directions that make the originality of Helmet more refreshing today than even back in their heyday. Whatever the case, their hour long set had time for a few other songs along with this album and the the crowd was eating it up. Page Hamilton is only 50 and looking and sounding quite healthy, so hopefully they can keep working their magic for years to come. They have earned their creative niche in history and bring their great sound to this century as well.
Quote of the Night: Interplay between Saint Vitus singer and fan...
"It's a pleasure to be back in this neck of the woods."
"You already said that!"
"No I didn't, it was (our guitarist)."