Monday, December 18, 2006

Concert Review: Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed, Bury Your Dead, 2 Cents at Rams Head Live!, 12/15/06

Rams Head Live! Baltimore, Maryland

As slick and well-designed as Rams Head Live! is, you can't really end up in a bad location for a show there. The place is only two years old, has nice bars, flat screen TVs all around, and bathroom attendants. Yes, I went to a hardcore show and had a man pump soap into my hand and offer me a spritz of Drakkar (OK, the Drakkar reference belongs to my dear friend who yet remains unnamed as this individual has not consented to my use of her name, even with prior request herein, indicating she has much in common with most of the world, as she must not have read that post).

2 Cents features a singing drummer. I tend to consider that a laughable situation, since the singer then becomes attached to his instrument and can't really move. The singer's stage persona is 100% bogarted from Jack Black, sharing JB's cadence and with his typical petty commentary and inane teenage-minded humor, not to mention the lack of respect for women. The performance was surprising, if only because it relieved the audience's having to listen to the singing drummer speak. The lead guitarist displayed some fancy fingers as he channeled Metallica's Kirk Hammett with blazing solo work. Not at all bad for an opening band, 2 Cents set the show off right so long as they played and didn't let the singer speak.

Bury Your Dead followed up with a crushing set including material from the current and previous albums (the latter of which featured songs named after various Tom Cruise films), and showed why they were so loved on the Family Values Tour this past summer. Bury Your Dead doesn't write complex songs (listen to the bonus track on Cover Your Tracks in which a chugging riff complements the vocal repetition of the band's name with an F-bomb thrown in for flavor), they write tough-guy hardcore. Dropped tuning, power chords, and screaming are the lot of their skill set. But live performances of "Mission: Impossible", "Top Gun" and "Magnolia" explain how this is a band best seen live than heard on CD, even with the poor behavior of throwing full bottles of water into the audience and spraying mouthfuls of beverage into the crowd. As I said, tough-guy hardcore. The singer is especially demanding on stage, jumping on top of half-stack amps and climbing the metalwork of Rams Head to join the balcony audience before dismounting to crowd-surf.

My most anticipated performance of the night was Hatebreed, who joined the tour after Shadows Fall dropped off to finish recording their forthcoming album. Hatebreed tours relentlessly, and as soon as this current tour ends, they will begin their own headlining tour which stops at 9:30 Club on December 26. After adding an additional guitarist (hardcore hero Franky "Three-Gun" Novinec, who sported a GG Allin t-shirt on this particular evening) this year, Hatebreed's sound has become even harder, and their live show even more bone-crushing. Material spanned the Hatebreed catalogue, from Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire's "Before Dishonor" as well as a healthy serving of Perseverance, The Rise Of Brutality and plenty of Supremacy, including "Destroy Everything" which is one to really amp up the crowd. Hatebreed's infectuous love for the genre and the scene make them one of the best bands to see, even if Jamey Jasta's deceptively positive lyrics (which have become somewhat less inspired on the most recent album) don't strike up the artistic stroke most critics seek. An instrumental onslaught, championed by Jasta's solid vocals, and cornerstoned by a commendable work ethic make Hatebreed one of my favorite live bands.

As for the headliner, Killswitch Engage, they are much more technical than their tourmates, but don't carry the same weight that other bands in their scene do. Their songs are much more accessible, because even with the death-metal vocals, they include melodic and anthemic choruses and pop influence that draws a cross-over audience. Cape-sporting guitarists aside, Killswitch makes more critically impressive music, and are poised for an even more popular breakout with their new album As Daylight Dies, but somehow lack the progressive metal reputation they've developed, and strike as less metalcore than crossover metal with their aforementioned anthemic choruses as well as breakdown bridges. Definitely a tight, respectable live performance, but less energy on this night than Bury Your Dead and Hatebreed.

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