Decapitated - We begin with a Polish one-guitar quartet playing straight ahead tough metal. There is a lot of pace and they have all the chops, but ultimately it is a little dull and cliched for me. Someone is going to have to explain to me why hard as nails metal bands like shaking their hair in circles so much. The guitarist does have some really odd and cool twists in a few of his solos and they do the job of getting the crowd revved up well enough, so hey, it's an opening band at a metal show. The arena is fairly full and the crowd is actually about the most polite crowd I have seen. But they dig their metal and are stoked for what is next.
Baroness - This Savannah band also has four members, but with two guitars. They have a fascinating sound that is really hard to pin down. They begin with spooky music that goes on maybe a bit too long. Although anything beats the time I saw Type O Negative and they looped children singing 'It's a Small World' over and over for about ten minutes which seemed more like six hours (we really don't need waterboarding). Anyway, I am hearing some tuneful early Iron Maiden type compositions, but there is some classic rock ala Thin Lizzy at work, too. However, they do some psyche shifting and I am hearing something between Kattatonia and Kyless. Maybe a bit of Algarnas Tradgard even? Forget it, this band is extremely creative in pulling out whatever tricks they have learned over the years and making it work in their own style. They rock hard, but are one of the more tuneful bands you will see on a metal stage. A perfect band for metal dabblers like me, who really take to the bands that add some prog or psyche elements to move above the cliches. But they really have to rock, and these guys bring it. Kudos to the vocal work with both guitarists often singing in unison and even dovetailing each other in one song. That takes some thought, but I am not surprised anymore at what these guys can do. This was one excellent 45 minute set.
Meshuggah - I do enjoy my Scandanavian music of all varieties and I look forward to seeing what this popular Swedish death metal band is doing these days. I saw them in Denver four years ago and enjoyed the set, but it was a challenge. These guys play tough physical music and can conjure up a frighteningly steady stream of metallic jet engine intensity. They don't confront you as much as some bands do, but lock into a thick sound and manage some intricacies that I can not quite pin down. I bought a couple of their albums recently and I need to take some time to study them a bit more. I think it takes some time with this sound. But the crowd knows this band a lot better than I do and dug right in. In a first for me, I watched a guy in a wheelchair crowd surf twice. I liked the band's slower passages as it created a bit more tension in the set. And for me, the vocal style gets a bit monotonous, so the rhythm changes and tempo shifts really help the overall power of the band maintain itself over time. This is an interesting band, well worth experiencing.
T-Shirt spotting - I had a nice laugh at a Slayer shirt that had the usual tour dates on the back, but there were only three over-sized dates from Massachusetts shows with the line "World Tour" above them. There was some regional explanation, but a nice effect. Far better than a Night Gallery shirt that had the tour dates with "the On the Road tour" above them. Wow, they named the tour "On the Road". I would have liked to see the band meeting to see who offered up that creative gem.