It comes as no surprise that this year’s Aftershock Festival was once again sold out. I mean, how could it not with big-name talents such as Slipknot, Tool, Korn, Rob Zombie, Blink-182, Lamb of God, Dropkick Murphys, Marilyn Manson, Bad Religion, Chevelle, and many others. And with the über-early announcement of next year’s headliner—Metallica, for those of you living under a rock—there’s no question that 2020’s Aftershock will sell out as well. In fact, as of this writing, VIP weekend passes were all gone. A year in advance! So, how was this year’s outing? Damn good, in our humble opinion. Continue reading
It’s the final cross-country voyage of the Vans Warped Tour. Since 1995, the unofficial punk rock summer camp has introduced us all to iconic acts from Bad Religion to Katy Perry. Continue reading
A little off the beaten path compared to L.A. and San Francisco, Bakersfield resides in in the California suburbs. The town is actually more well known for its legacy of punk rock more than a hotbed of metal, so it was a little surprising to see the major tour of metal legends Slayer, the well—loved thrashers Testament and death metal leaders Carcass planned a tour stop here. No doubt many resident has driven the traffic heavy, palm-tree lined highways of the 101 and I5 for glimpse of these bands in other towns. But tonight all you had to do if you were a fan of classic metal bands of the last 30-plus years, would be to roll downtown and get a ticket to the big show.
Slayer and Testament are regulars on the annual touring circuit, rarely taking time off to record these days. UK bred Carcass is still on the road supporting 2014’s Surgical Steel album (Editor’s Note: The Ghost Cult Album of the Year for 2014), and have been regular visitors to the USA since their return. You never know these days the way this year has gone if the next time you see a band will be your last, so it was good to see a lot heads in the house early. Carcass ripped through a short set of “hits” the fans seemed to lap it up’ Jeff Walker was seated for the show due to a broken foot, but it made little difference to him. The band is talking about having a new album out in 2017, so hopefully we will see Carcass again sooner than later back on our shores.
Testament themselves are well-known road warriors. Bay-Area bred thrash metal titans, the band serves as a great opener to Slayer. You would be hard-pressed to find a fan in the building that didn’t like both the headliner and this band, and maybe some preferred the former. Testament has been busy working on their new album, but we heard no new songs tonight. They played their set with an energy and a hostility of the much younger, hungrier band. They slammed through their songs, ran around the stage, and basically had a great time. Led by hulking front man Chuck Billy, his voice is the only thing bigger on stage than his form. Testament knows how to put on a show worthy of the top spot on any bill, not just this one.
Considering that Slayer has toured so much, the crowd here tonight was decidedly pumped up, again owing to the choice of market too. The band as masters at setting the pre-show mood with their mysterious 30-foot tall curtain. When the lights go down the crowd gets pumped as the only soft part of a Slayer show; the intro music and the lights against the curtain, right before the first notes take hold. Once the curtain drops it’s pure madness as the band opened with the title track from their most recent album, Repentless (Nuclear Blast). The band played a good number of tracks from that recent album, but ultimately leaned on older songs. That is what the crowd wants from Slayer: the classics, every time. It’s not really a Slayer show without hearing ‘Mandatory Suicide’, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’, ‘South of Heaven’, and ‘Chemical Warfare’, is it?
The band still get high marks for showmanship, especially Kerry King and Tom Araya. With the three year anniversary of the passing of founding member Jeff Hanneman near, the band pays tribute to him nightly, not just with his music, but with a huge banner draped in hiss honor. Closing of course with ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’, Slayer continues to be a thrash metal institution. I can’t wait for them to come back!
Slayer Set list:
Die by the Sword
God Send Death
When the Stillness Comes
You Against You
Pride in Prejudice
Seasons in the Abyss
Dead Skin Mask
South of Heaven
Angel of Death
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Senses Fail just put the cap on a terrific 2015! they reunited as a band, put out a cool new album Pull The Thorns From Your Heart (Pure Noise Records) and headlined The Warped Tour. When you do all that, what do you do for an encore? Go out and slay venues all over the world of course! The band spent the last half of the fall co-headlining with another seminal post-hardcore/screamo band, Silverstein. Each band has had a similar career trajectory and much in common (huge followings, Warped Tour alums) so touring together made sense. Bringing along hardcore heads like Hundredth and Capsize (not pictured) this was a slick bill that played to many full houses with tons of passionate fans moshing, screaming a long, and having a ball. Meg Loyal of Meg Loyal Photography caught the tour at one of Ghost Cult’s favorite venues, The Worcester Palladium. Keep going out there and supporting these bands in 2016 and you might just be rewarded when your favorite band reunites and comes to your town for a show!
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For over a decade IndieMerchStore has been an indispensable partner to bands and record labels as a great place to sell band merchandise and music. You may not know this, but many bands only make money off of stuff they sell on tour and with the prowess and power of IndieMerchStore, they have a partner with a vested interest in making online sales easy and seamless. In the time since the company formed, they have also been a great help to the touring industry, sponsoring huge tours all the way down to small, get-in-the-van type artists. This holds especially true for underground bands in rock, metal, and death metal. So to celebrate their 10th year the brand booked a tour featuring death metal acolytes The Black Dahlia Murder and a cadre of killer bands. These tours also represented TBDM’s first tours in support of their recent album Abysmal (Metal Blade) Booked in two legs across the USA, the recently completed second leg featured Goatwhore, Iron Reagan, Entheos and Artificial Brain. Each band brought their own special something to the tour. It was loud, it’s was sweaty and in general, everyone raged. Ghost Cult’s Meg Loyal of Meg Loyal Photography caught up with the tour for us at The Sinclair in Boston, and you can see for yourself a sample the energy delivered each night.
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I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to their sound check due to a parade in the city slowing traffic down. I finally get to the Gramercy Theatre and bassist Ryan Zweifelhofer comes outside to get me. My heart is pumping and head is racing. It’s been 9 years since I’ve talked to or seen some of the guys in Acceptance. I used to go to all of their shows in or near Los Angeles. I spent hours upon hours with these guys, but I was nervous to see them. I was excited for this to be happening and happy to be in the presence of some very good, long-time friends who are amazing musicians.
I walk in and I wave to everyone and start to tear up. It’s that moment your heart explodes from happiness because you’ve realized that pieces of your heart are all in one room again. I take a seat for a little bit to watch them. They start sound checking and I close my eyes, I’m instantly taken back while listening to them rehearsing ‘Glory/us’. It was as if the band never broke up and they have been doing this non stop. It was perfect.
It’s show time!
The show opens up with Modern Chemistry from New Brunswick, NJ. Their music was catchy and you can hear a distinct Brand New feeling to their writing and sound. Definitely worth checking out if you see that they are playing in your town!\
Back in the dressing room Acceptance gathered in a huddle before hitting the stage. The most nervous I have ever seen them, but the music starts playing and they start walking out on the stage. The crowd goes insane! This was the first time Acceptance has ever headlined a tour, let alone a tour that has sold out for the most part faster than you can flip a record. They started the show with ‘Take Cover‘ playing everything from In Too Far and Different. The crowd sang along perfectly with Jason Vena to every song. During ‘Different’, Sean Mackin from Yellowcard joined them on stage to play violin for the song. Sean is an amazing musician who adds that extra special touch to such an already amazing night. The guys ended the show with their new song ‘Take You Away’ and the promise to come out with a new record in the near future. Now we can rejoice Acceptance is back, they’re selling out show after show and letting all of us know that ‘nothing is permanent‘.
GWAR is on the road again for the GWAR Eternal tour, searching for their missing leader, Oderus Urungus, and steamrolling every venue, and every fan with madcap mayhem in the process. The band is out on their first tour since the passing of Dave Brockie earlier in the year and they last show of the current leg ends tonight in Seattle with Decapitated and American Shark. With Decapitated leaving and, the band is being joined by their fellow metal/punk brethren in Corrosion of Conformity for the next leg beginning on 11/15. The current stage show, which addresses the disappearance of Oderus, and features of who’s who’s of scumdogs, including new additions Blothar and Vulvatron, in a hilarious, wholly reprehensible and heartfelt way that Brockie would have loved. Meg Loyal caught GWAR in front her lens during their stop at this years’ Rock And Shock Festival in Worcester MA. Check out her photo set:
MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Skeletonwitch continues up their climb up the modern metal ladder. They seem to be a band generally liked by many, with no real haters as far as I can tell. Their infectious combination of blackened thrash metal frames them as a crossover act for fans of many genres of metal. It doesn’t hurt that they are a tight live act and a lot of fun to see on stage. Waiting patiently for a legit headline tour, not just off dates here and there, the band promised to reward faithful fans with a deep set list. I rolled with Ghost Cult photog Meg Loyal, and we got there early, mingling with a lot of Boston Metaldom’s usual suspects.
Starting things off right was Black Anvil. They immediately ripped Cambridge a new hole from the jump with the lively, caustic stage show and brutal sounds. I was an immediate fan of their album Hail Death (Relapse) which is a modern masterpiece, and it took me by surprise as the venerable NYDM and NYBM scene, although historically great, hasn’t turned out a band that really captured my heart a long time. I think even the early crowd in the venue was shocked at how killer their set was. They played with the energy and power of a headliner and really inspired the early crowd to move around a bit and hurt each other. This is a band definitely on the rise, so don’t sleep on them.
Ghoul is always a lot of fun live and they were the perfect band for the middle slot on this tour. Our heroes from Creepsylvania always come to party with GWAR-inspired fake blood, and all kinds of crazy characters as a part of their performance. More than anything, Ghoul is a killer band with sick chops playing a fun take on a deathly take on old-school Bay Area thrash metal. There were circle pits galore, crazy breakdown and mass hilarity ensued. They definitely had their own core of fans in the house based on all the Ghoul merch being sported (fail!), and also bought and toted (good job!). It’s rare that you laugh as much as you headbang at a show. GWAR (RIP Dave Brockie) is one band that has always done that for me and Ghoul carries on that tradition to the hilt. Do yourself a solid and go pick up their latest EP Hang Ten (Tankcrimes) or any of their albums really.
Time to die for the Witch! The thing I like about The Sinclair is they do run a tight ship. The change over was fast and the band hit the stage with a quickness. There isn’t a bad place to watch the show from in the entire room and I had a good spot. I was interested to see if the crowd had any energy left at all since the Ghoul set was a non-stop mosh-pit frenzy. When Skeletonwitch opened up with ‘I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)’, their past go-to closer, it was a glorious moment. It can be hard for bands to break their own mold and change things up, so kudos to them for that. This was a portend of things to come with an excellent set list of “hits” and deep cuts they promised.
And what a set is was! The band brandished their musical might this time with a relentless performance that definitely had the mark of greatness. The fans drank, danced, headbanged and screamed along with every word. Chance Garnette and crew whipped the crowd into a frenzy with cut after cut from their repertoire. Chance paced the stage, inciting more and more fury from the pit and the rest of the crowd. Even up in the rafters, you could see people were feeling it too. This was an awesome night rushing towards an awesome finish; as the band closed out the night with mostly old-school tracks. On this evening if you were in the house, you knew you were witnessing one of the ascendant bands in the American metal scene. Hailz!
Skeletonwitch Set List:
I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)
More Cruel Than Weak
From a Cloudless Sky
Burned From Bone
Upon Wings of Black
Choke Upon Betrayal
Fire from the Sky
Stand Fight and Die
Beneath Dead Leaves
This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)
Crushed Beyond Dust
Cleaver of Souls
Beyond the Permafrost
Baptized in Flames
Limb from Limb
Of Ash and Torment
Within My Blood
Skeletonwitch on Facebook
WORDS: KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES
This has been a mighty year already for quality heavy and experimental music. When Boris puts out new music, it is a major happening across the fan base of many genres of music. Praise from critics is always nice, and Ghost Cult gave Boris a 9/10 for their new album. But when you hear more people talking up Noise (Sargent House) than many other big-ticket band releases this year save for a few, you know something cool is happening. Adding to that mix, The Atlas Moth, riding high off of their June album The Old Believer (Profound Lore), you have two of the most dynamic and interesting bands right now on the same tour. Then top it off with some avant-doom madness from Subrosa, and you have a can’t miss show top to bottom. While having three bands of a certain mystique and quality (especially Boris) brings out the super fans, it was a weird mix of indie hipsters, death metal beardos, bro dudes (hey it’s Boston) and even a few vest wearing dudes and chicks all together in a weird soup of humans on a Tuesday night in Beantown. Every metal show is basically an interesting social experiment!
Subrosa was up first and I was a little stunned at the hefty early crowd, already entranced by the first notes. Playing their deft, drone-y sludge, they hit you hard and deliberately. It’s hard not to be transfixed on the performance of front woman/axe slinger Rebecca Vernon. Her soul shaking vocals and skillful playing just smokes fierceness. Violinists Kim Pack and Sarah Pendelton pack in the drama with their intense, layered parts. I have spent reviews complaining about the the weird room that The Paradise is, and how it doesn’t do bands any favors sonically. Some of the highs from the strings were eaten up by the depth of the room, which is a shame since on record they are towering. Kim’s vocals were also a highlight tonight. The set leaned heavily on No Help for the Mighty Ones and More Constant Than The Gods (both on Profound Lore), and between the two, I favor the earlier album. Despite that, the bands’ best song on the night was ‘The Usher’ from More Constant…, and featured Dave Kush from TAM on guest vocals. Still, it was impossible at the end of their set not to feel tipsy from the strength and creativity of this band. I need to see Subrosa play a headline set, just once in my life. Just once.
Over the years I have learned how to spot greatness in bands, sometimes before they even know it. Usually, I am usually right about these things and The Atlas Moth is going to be a band that years from now, we point to this moment when they took off. They hit the stage tonight with a purpose and the poise of a veteran band that they have become. I have seen others shoot their collective load too fast when opening for Boris (because Boris is Boris), but not these guys. They just went up like any other show and eased into their set with ‘Jet Black Passenger’. The now mostly full room was just feeling it big time! Or it could have been some of the superb herb I sensed going around nearby me. Bathed in a wash of blues and reds (cool to watch from the crowd, crap for photographers), front man Stavros Giannopoulos and Kush on the conjoined vocals of shrieking despair and smoothness just melted the entire room. The entire band was just crushing tonight, as they jammed mostly new material from The Old Believer. The now modern classic of ‘Holes In The Desert’ was also welcomed to my ears on this night, and its a track that I hope never leaves the set. Kim from Subrosa came out and lent her playing to ‘The Sea Beyond’, which also was a treat. When the entire band gets to singing, screaming together as it does, it can be quite moving. Andrew Ragin, who produced the new album, also chimes in with synths, guitars and vocals is a powerhouse live. He is a difference maker. The secret weapon of the band is Dan Lasek on the drums. He has really upped the ante in terms of power and groove since he joined. Not since the mighty ISIS played some of their final shows in this very building a few years ago has post-metal been so well executed here. Bring on the headline tours boys!
Finally it was time for Boris. Some of the beardos had left after the penultimate act and there were some drunken bros who were loud as fuck the rest of the night, which pissed me off to no end. Moving right a long, Boris hit the stage with a boom, launching right into ‘Melody’ from Noise. Professional;, perfectly played, and most of all fun; Boris knows how to start an album or a party with uptempo, melodic bliss inducing rock. Takehashi Ohtani rocks the double-neck guitar/bass and moves flawlessly between either neck depending on what the parts require. Vocally he is a wizard: able to morph his voice to whatever the style of the songs call for. Atzuo Mizuno behind the kit is a powerhouse, as both a drummer and a performer. His vocals are also excellent and when he and Takehashi sing together, it is magical. Plowing right into ‘Vanilla’, another new song, the crowd let out a loud cheer. It was almost like a sporting event atmosphere in the room with many “oohs” and “ahhs” all night long. The opposite of her cohorts, Wata on guitar is quite restrained in her performances physically, but she is a beast on the axe. Her stoicism is only matched equally by her mastery of riffs, the occasional lead part, and feedback of course.
Although the band leaned heavily on the just released Noise, they mixed it up well with Pink and Amplifier Worship also represented too. The set list was constructed expertly as you would expect from this band. Raging rock and metal, introspective mellowness, followed again by waves of crashing melodies and other weirdness. Mid-set cuts such as ‘Ghost of Romance’, ‘Heavy Rain’ and ‘Cosmos’ just send you on an emotional rocket ship to space and back . Speaking of space, Boris has never been afraid of the space rock, but really labels can barely describe what this band does. They are reference points for those who need a paint by numbers experience. It’s much better than to let go and feel the show, rather than make mental notes such as “pop song, drone song, instrumental, thrash number”. Or maybe that is just me.
Closing out the night with panache, they chilled out with the somber ‘Angel’, then rocked with ‘Quicksilver’. After a drawn out feedback and noise rave-up, a friend of the bands’ came on stage and there was a sudden wedding proposal! The things you see at a show, man. Then the band returned and played ‘Vomitself’ and bid us all a good night!
Boris Set List:
Ghost of Romance
Taiyo no Baka
WORDS: KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES
The first annual Deathwish Fest was met with a ton of enthusiasm from hardcore and metal fans far and wide. Set in Cambridge MA, at the legendary Middle East Night Club over two days, near the home base of Deathwish Inc. (Records), it was a near immediate total sell out, before changing venues. Headlined both days by Converge and Trap Them, Day One also featured Cult Leader, Doomriders, Blacklisted, Modern Life is War, Self Defense Family, and Harm Wulf. Picking up on Day Two with the review is our own Sean Pierre-Antoine.
I was almost certain I wouldn’t make it to Deathwish Fest since tickets kept selling out mere minutes before I could get online to buy them when I had the money to. And by the time tickets had run dry, I was too financially disadvantaged to even fathom attending, and thus I thought my life was spared from the madness sure to unfold during this showcase of the best that Deathwish Inc. -run by Jacob Bannon of Converge- has to offer to our perpetually rotting world of pain. Luckily, a friend/musical collaborator scored a couple of extra tickets from someone at non-extortion prices, and long story short, I didn’t have to see Devourment instead that night. I hear they were kind of disappointing anyway, but we’re not here to discuss the merits of something I didn’t attend. These are the facts.
Unfortunately I ended up missing the first handful of bands because I was not in possession of my own ticket. Poor planning on my part, and my benefactor being a little later than planned factored into my not catching Boston’s most negative wrecking crew in New Lows, Harm Wulf, a project run by George Hirsch of Blacklisted (celebrating the birthday of Robby Redcheeks), and what I have heard described as “Deafheaven if they were hardcore”, the angular Oathbreaker. No matter, as I have seen and caused my share of mayhem during NL, am unfamiliar with Harm Wulf and Blacklisted, and I’m sad to admit, but Oathbreaker just doesn’t pique my interest.
I was, however, quite interested in catching North Carolina’s YAITW (mercifully short for Young And In The Way), a mixture of Cursed style hardcore/crust/sludge and the most cruel black metal their side of the Mason-Dixon Line, drawing from the legendary Mayhem, among others. For three years they have done this, and for three years it has been good, for there was equal amounts headbanging to the sections that were reminiscent of Norwegian masters, and hardcore pit thuggery that reminded you of their Deathwish heritage. With Black Metal and Hardcore imagery becoming ever more intertwined in a morass of inverted crosses, endless images of our beloved moon in varying states of decay and occult significance, and desolate wastescapes dispensing of all colour schemes in favour of nihilistic monochrome, is it any small wonder that a band like YAITW is here to fill the void our souls once inhabited before we picked up out first Misfits record?
Next up were the Louisville delegation, Coliseum, fronted by artist extraordinaire Ryan Patterson, who has penned album and merchandise designs familiar to anyone into hardcore with a sludgy bent, which is, coincidentally, the kind his crew plays. I really do want to like this band more; they simply fall into the same camp as their peers in Doomriders, who have killer imagery and a respectable mix of sludge, hardcore, and good old fashioned home-cooked rock’n’roll -I call it ‘rock’n’core’, spread that term if you want-, but unfortunately the music just doesn’t get me excited in that visceral way, and I see that as a huge impediment to their appeal. It’s no fault of theirs, as they do wield riffs massive as the hands of a bearded giant, and their tempos are certainly foot-tapping enough to keep them out of the ‘smoke break band’ category for me, but even during their most rousing songs, the crowd moved nary an inch except to either nurse their drinks or socialise while the band dutifully chugged away on stage for the whole of their set.
Blood stayed at a low boil until hometown heroes of Boston Hahdcoah, Shipwreck Ad took the stage for what was one of the shortest but also more fulfilling opener sets of my show-going career. Packing in only three or four songs of intense East Coast hardcore the way only witnessing Lansdowne Street on Game Day can provoke, this rare but special appearance was quite a treat for those both familiar and not. Being gentlemen and not overstaying their welcome, they allowed Salem, NH/Seattle, WA hardcore polymaths in Trap Them to perform their evil works unimpeded. For an unlucky 13 years, Trap Them has been a caustic fusion of face-fucking grind, low-fi crust, and dizzying metalcore, topped off with that infamous murky Swedish deathsludge guitar tone. Consistently potent and amusical in its hateful delivery. Opening with a new track entitled ‘Salted Crypts’, which is just as negative as the material before, this band shows no signs of ever brightening their musical worldview, and perhaps it’s best/worst if they keep it that way. Whether their assault is a dirgey 3-4 minute long breakdown interspersed with ear-piercing feedback, or tumbling down a mountain of human skulls at breakneck gallop speed, I felt my lips peeled back in a perpetual, hateful snarl that just wouldn’t disappear until each song, or rather, nihilistic sermon, was over. Is it really true what your parents say about rock’n’roll making you evil?
By the time the night’s honorees in Converge made it onstage, you can guess I was already a little tired from the earlier acts, because one has to get their money’s worth. It is with great pleasure that I may now announce that I survived Deathwish Fest without injury. The boys opened up with ‘Dark Horse’, and comboed immediately with ‘The Broken Vow’ and ‘Aimless Arrow’, which ensured that few lungs were left unshredded even in their first few minutes. The nightmare in summary; ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ roared past in what seemed like merely a minute when in reality it is four; ‘Axe To Fall’ crushed like a fallen monument upon the helm of a once grand civilisation; ‘Drop Out’ crept in and out of the shadows before disappearing in a flurry of semi-melody; ‘Trespasses’ and ‘Last Light’ reached out to crush the exposed and wounded hearts of all who can identify with the countless disappointments that Converge’s lyrics detail in resplendent tortured aesthetics. Joined onstage by Stephen Brodsky of like-minded metalcore pioneers Cave In, the band ended their set with a special encore of ‘Plagues’ leading into their celebrated 9-minute epic from No Heroes, the coveted ‘Grim Heart/Black Rose’, for a rare performance. God, if you exist, cross out my curséd soul; it would bring me to tears were I hydrated enough.
WORDS: SEAN PIERRE-ANTOINE