A Night of Metal: The Exodus Kick-off Tour

Despite what you may have heard, the metal genre of music is no stranger to Salt Lake.  There’s an overflowing line up of local thrash metal bands with a strict metalhead following, including some SLC’s favorites: Visigoth, Deathblow, and Necrowolf along with several others who frequent the regular venues downtown on what seems to be a monthly, if not a weekly basis. There’s also a little black metal thrown into the mix with the band Darklord, and some progressive metal from Deathrone the Sovereign. Then there’s Silence of Mortuary headbanging their way from a faraway land called Moab. These are just to name a few of the many metal bands playing Utah’s local metal scene.

Even if you wouldn’t necessarily classify yourself as a metal fan, I still recommend you catch a show or two if you’re in the mood for a little hardcore headbanging fun. However, most of these bands are still considered relatively ‘new metal’ The metal genre has been going strong for the last 40-something years and this is worth noting because what is considered old metal has helped shape each facet of the genre today.

Speaking of metal that’s been around forever, I was unexpectedly put on the guest list for the first show of the Exodus tour. The show took place at Music Metro Hall and I was excited to see a band whose career spans over the last 30 years.

The night was a fun one with Deathblow and Villain getting the metal heads hyped before the main act took the stage. As the show began, I noticed that there was a shift in the proximity of the audience from the stage. Some people were taking several steps back almost retreating as far back as the bar located on the other side of the venue. Trusting my intuition, I followed suit and I was glad that I did. Frequenting the amount of punk rock shows that I do, I am no stranger to the ways of the mosh pit, but for some reason, I didn’t really understand what that meant when one is attending an actual headbanger show. And with that, Exodus stepped out on stage and in an instant, they were bringing all the headbanging energy beginning the set with fast guitar riffs strummed in sync with flailing waist-length hair as the crowd moshed with the same intensity.  

As each song finished, the singer Steve Souza riled up the audience by appealing to their metal obsession and yelling out “You’re all just a bunch of rowdy metalheads, aren’t you?” Which of course produced a heightened reaction with said metalheads bumping shoulders and yelling their allegiance back to the metal gods. The band went on to play numerous songs from what seemed like a sampling from every album put out during their 30-year discography. I even witnessed Souza asking the audience which album they had not gotten to yet. And by the end of the show, I realized this was a fan based band- one that plays solely for its fans. One that tours for decades off the same songs that propelled their success in the first place. They understand who makes a rough metal head tour life worth every show played, and of course- it’s the fans.

 

Concert Review: Japanese Breakfast

There is an undeniable lure to the quaint charm of Kilby Court and, to an extent, an artist’s performance in the venue is defined by how well they inhabit the space. With the help of two impressive opening acts, Spirit of the Beehive and Mannequin Pussy, Japanese Breakfast did just so. Boasting ethereal beats and an impressive vocal performance by frontwoman Michelle, the band successfully created a homely but vivacious atmosphere fitting of the venue.

The fact that it was the band’s fourth performance in Salt Lake City in the last year certainly didn’t hurt either. On tour for their latest album release, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Japanese Breakfast looked as comfortable as the audience within the comfy proportions of Kilby Court, Michelle going as far as to mention the relief of performing at the venue after a long day on the road.

Just last April, her band broke into the music scene with the release of their debut studio album, Psychopomp, and evidently, she’s been keeping busy; on Soft Sounds from Another Planet, released in July, she builds upon the catchy dream pop established on Psychopomp, creating a slicker album that lets her vocals shine.

While, at first, I was primarily looking forward to hearing her perform this newer, slicker material, I was pleasantly surprised by the opening acts. Spirit of the Beehive set the mood with a well-tempered set, exchanging male and female vocals over riffs that would be right at home on an episode of “Twin Peaks”. While their music was the least varied of the acts, their performance was strong.

Mannequin Pussy

Ending their set with a raucous finale, Spirit of the Beehive created a perfect atmosphere for the next act, Mannequin Pussy, and for their part they did not let up, marching through one of the loudest sets I’ve ever heard at Kilby Court. Unlike many loud bands, however, their musicianship was not lost under the crushing weight of their volume; with a healthy variety of music, as well as a couple tamer interludes, Spirit of the Beehive proved to be a formidable opening act, leaving an air of excitement in their wake.

While forgoing the tenacity of Mannequin Pussy’s set, Japanese Breakfast kept the air of excitement alive, starting out their set with “Diving Women”, the groovy opening track from Soft Sounds from Another Planet. From there, Michelle and co. played a well-mixed set of new and old material, balancing a consistency of character with a diversity in sound. A large part of this consistency is thanks to Michelle’s vocals, which floated perfectly atop the instrumentation.

Japanese Breakfast

The only tunes by Japanese Breakfast that did not totally captivate relied upon more studio oriented sounds and instrumentation. For example, “Boyish”, while a personal favorite of mine, includes a MIDI (or a digital rendition) of a harpsichord that simply did not translate well into a live setting. On other songs, however, the band made smart changes to counter this issue; having no saxophone player, they remodeled the outro to “Machinist” to work without one, giving the guitar a more active roll in the mix. The resulting product was the best and funkiest song of the show, Michelle joining the crowd to dance along.

To just see her and her band perform “Machinist” and other such songs would have been enough, but what really made the concert special was how intimate it felt. Japanese Breakfast’s dream pop is already a perfect fit for Kibly Court, but their infective stage presence, and the homely atmosphere they created made them the right band at the right venue.

The Possibilities of Music

Some bands simply love playing music and don’t care about anything else. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is one of those bands. These Aussies are straight-up music-holics. Since their formation in 2010, they have released 11 full-length studio albums that span a variety of genres. Their music is described as psychedelic or progressive rock but is influenced by folk, jazz, and heavy-metal to name a few. Songs incorporate themes and ideas from these extremely different styles pushing the boundaries of music.

I saw them at Metro Music Hall accompanied by Ice Balloons and Tropical Fuck Storm. Ice Balloons did not impress me. They sounded muffled and messy. However, they did leave a lasting impression for one particular reason, their lead singer wore a fly’s head mask. Uniqueness aside, I was not a fan of their music.  Tropical Fuck Storm was less memorable but seemed more put together as a band.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard consists of a herd of members and more instruments than I could count. Their distinct sound is attributed to multiple guitars, synthesizers, harmonicas, a flute, driving bass lines, and two dueling drums. Drummers Eric Moore and Michael Cavanaugh are smack-dab in the middle of the stage battling the entire night. They are the heart and soul of the band whose songs constantly change tempo.

Mixing music genres is not the only way King Gizzard revolutionizes music. For their album, Flying Microtonal Banana, guitarist Stu Mackenzie, Cook Craig, and Joey Walker “modded” guitars adding additional frets.This allowed them to access microtones, semitones, and additional notes impossible on a traditional western guitar. Lead singer Mackenzie had the idea after messing around on a Turkish stringed instrument called a baglama. The result is an easter sounding electric guitar. Creating their own instruments adds to their odd unique sound.

The Melbourne musicians put everything into their performance. They are incredibly energetic and the crowd matches their energy. In all my years going to concerts, I have never seen a wilder crowd. My shoes were completely destroyed in the madness. During the slower parts of songs, concertgoers sway and headbang. When the music gets faster and heavier, mosh pits form in the blink of an eye. The crowd is tightly packed, but the proximity doesn’t stop people from dancing.

King Gizzard’s albums have related songs that blend together and are often broken into multiple parts. Their setlist is programmed in the same manner. They play multiple songs in order or slightly jumbled so that they playing music for 20 or 30 minutes with no breaks. The reoccurrence of melodies and specific lyrics makes you question whether you are still listening to the same song as half an hour ago.

By the time Mackenzie announces their last song, the audience and musicians are beat. They summon enough energy to play a 15-minute version of “Am I In Heaven?”. The crowd cheers for 10 minutes but they don’t get an encore today. After almost 2 hours of constant music, there is nothing left in the tank.

Music truly is limitless. There are innumerable possibilities to be explored and as a society, we have only scratched the surface. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is a band that is pushing the limits of traditional music both in the studio and on the stage.

Metal Alliance Tour at The Complex

It’s Monday night. My roommate is talking about some concert he wants to go to. I’m not one for turning down concerts so of course I’ll go. I’ll soon find myself in semi-unfamiliar territory. Tonight is the Metal Alliance Tour at the complex.

Metal shows are always an experience. There is an incredible amount of passion that the musicians and audience members share. People are quite literally screaming to vocalize their uncontrollable emotion.

The night starts out with a man handing my friends and me free tickets at the door. I didn’t even have to give him my email address. Amazed and bewildered at the ease of it all, I enter the complex eager to see what this show has in store for me. The lineup of the tour includes Invidia, Black Fast, Havok, Crowbar, and Overkill.

I’m a little bit late walking in. Havok is finishing their set. I didn’t come for any particular band, so it’s not a big deal. Being at a concert with relatively unknown bands can be liberating. I’m not expecting to hear any songs and won’t be disappointed when they don’t play them. I have no preconceived idea of their sound. Whatever the band chooses to play and however they sound will be the lasting memory of the night. I can fully soak up my environment. Everything else becomes irrelevant.

I buy some earplugs. Once Crowbar comes on you’ll be wishing you had too. The crowd is relatively scarce. Everyone sneaks outside or upstairs in-between sets for a smoke or a beer. The mostly male crowd is dressed in black, red, and white. My friend is wearing a blue jacket and sticks out like a sore-thumb. Only a handful of people have short hair. The rest have their hair down and are ready for some head-banging.

When Crowbar comes on stage, I’m shocked. The musicians look nothing like how I imagined. The overweight middle-aged men are wearing shorts and t-shirts. The bass player has shoulder-length hair.  The other two front men are bald with massive facial hair. I never get a good look at the drummer. I guess that’s why he’s the drummer.

The sludge metal band from New Orleans relies on slow groovy guitar riffs and aggressive male vocals to sustain their sound. Formed in 1990, Crowbar was a pioneering band of the heavy metal subgenre. The crowd nods and sways with the drum and bass. People throw up rock-on signs and chant “Crowbar”.

The room fills to capacity and overflows into the lobby. Thrash metal band Overkill increases the tempo and the volume. The crowd takes the hint. Some mosh-pits get started but nothing too crazy, it’s still a Monday night in Salt Lake City. The band is quite animated, letting their passion show. They put it all on the line and the audience loves it.

Leaving the show, I couldn’t tell you the name of one song. I might never listen to these bands again, but that is not the point of a concert. I saw musicians get up on stage and do what they love. I saw them create art and music. Personal expression is one of the most important things humans do. I was able to be a part of theirs. It’s moments like these that make life livable.

 

The Amulet: New Album from Circa Survive

The sixth studio album from Circa Survive is upon us, and since its recent release, my love for them has been revived! They’ve always strived to be viewed as more than an era-defined band that blows out the same catchy guitar riffs and for years. They want to embody more artistry in their music- To exist in their space as an evolving expression of art.

But, that’s not to say that they don’t have songs that have been replayed repeatedly, in fact, they have plenty of songs that live in their fans hearts. Songs in which the band is somewhat obligated to play on every tour in respect for their loyal following who hold these certain songs close to their heart as cherished symbols that affected their lives and personal growth at some point in their coming of age. However, these same fans have also completely embraced their art form as growing and changing expression.

Circa Survive fans are loyal and in-tune, which is good. Because they’re certainly a talented band that deserves such devotion to their art. But, there is something I love about Circa Survive, and to me, it’s not readily available in everything they’ve put out.

With that said, the new album has once again been nuanced with their signature ethereal sound, but this time it also incorporates different elements reminiscent of their first album Juterna, which has surprisingly piqued my interest.

The new album Amulet is a dream filled with prolific lines and a beautiful juxtaposition of hard and soft. The drums and guitars produce a more complex sound than prior work and Greene’s vocals ebb and flow from delicate to growling screams, these refreshing elements combine to tell an emotional story that’s easy to get lost in a surreal daydream up until the very last track.

Beyond my observations regarding the refreshing newness of the album, Anthony Green himself has spoken on how he feels about the band making new music. – “Some of these songs are so f–king fun to play live, and I really look forward to getting to play these songs. That’s what excites me. That’s not to say I don’t feel similarly about the older material, or that I am not grateful for how that material has helped us, but it’s just like – when we play that stuff it’s the same as it has always been. But this material is new, and the connection I feel to it is exciting and fresh”

Green’s own views on his music are infectious and perfectly relates to how I feel about the new album. I like the old stuff, but it’s exciting to experience them once again put effort into tweaking their sound for a different vibe. Their excitement is shining through on every track and reaching me with a renewed sense of meaning and it’s a sound I can’t get enough of.

Keep The Coffins Coming: New EP from Frank Iero and the Patience

Almost a year after the release of his sophomore album, Parachutes, Frank Iero has come out with his newly anticipated EP, Keep The Coffins Coming, on September 22nd of this year.

The four-track EP is short, sweet, and serves as a perfect transition piece between Iero’s first album, Stomachaches, and his second album, Parachutes. Because both albums had very different styles, it almost felt like something was missing in between the two. In an interview with Iero, he tells K-UTE:

“What’s really cool about it [Keep The Coffins Coming] is you really get to see the progression from this project–from Stomachaches to Parachutes– it’s very much a stopgap between those two…”

As a result, Keep The Coffins Coming gives listeners a more cohesive bridge between the two albums, while still being able to stand alone in its own musical capacity.

Fans and followers of Iero’s work might recognize a few tracks from the EP such as “I’m a Mess” and “BFF,” but it also has two new songs: “No Fun Club” and “You Are My Sunshine.” Even though “I’m A Mess” and “BFF” are from previous projects, there’s definitely a unique difference in the EP that makes it worth listening to. The most notable difference is that the EP was produced by the famed Steve Albini, who has worked with artists like Nirvana and Pixies.

Frank talks about the inception of Keep The Coffins Coming and working with Albini, saying:

“In between the end of touring on Stomachaches and the finishing writing on Parachutes, there was this time where we were discussing ‘What’s next? Where do we want to go from there?’, and I remember sitting down with my manager Paul and we just kind of made a list of all these things I wanted to do and people I wanted to work with, and one of the names that came up was Steve Albini.” 

Working with Albini had also been one of Frank’s dreams for a while.

Paul asked how long I’d wanted to work with Steve and I was like, ‘Since I was, like, 11!’ I wanted to make a Steve Albini record! Paul said he’d call him and I was like, ‘You can’t do that… that would be weird. Don’t do it.’ And he was like, ‘That’s my job!’”  Iero tells.

With only 3 days to record in Chicago, Keep The Coffins Coming was created.

Musically, the EP has a clearer and less distorted sound compared to Iero’s other albums. Also, the fact that it was recorded in such a short amount of time, gives it a more intimate and relaxed sound. Fans of Frank Iero and the Patience will love discovering the nuances of the older songs and hearing the new songs for the first time. And those who have never heard Iero’s music before will find Keep The Coffins Coming to be a perfect introduction to the band.

 

FRANK IERO and the PATIENCE Tour Dates:

11/17 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues *

11/18 – Grand Rapids, MI @ 20 Monroe Live *

12/01 – Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live! *

12/28 – Huntington, NY @ The Paramount **

12/29 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium **

12/30 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom **

 

* w/ Descendents

** w/ Thursday & PUP

 

“Keep The Coffins Coming” – Full Track Listing:

1. I’m A Mess

2. BFF

3. No Fun Club

4. You Are My Sunshine

An Epic Night of Rock and Roll

When I was 9 years old, my dad took me to my very first concert. We saw U2 at the then Delta Center. That show introduced me to a world of live music and changed my life forever. I have now been to hundreds of concerts and it is one of my favorite things to do.

I recently saw U2 in Phoenix, Arizona, making it the 5th time I have seen the rock’n’roll giants perform. U2 is currently touring their album The Joshua Tree for its 30-year anniversary. The Joshua Tree is U2’s most popular and critically acclaimed album, featuring iconic songs “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and “With or Without You”.

This album has sentimental meaning for my dad. He first saw them perform on the original Joshua Tree tour. Going to U2 concerts has become a tradition for the two of us and is a special bond that we share.

Beck opened and put on an excellent show. His hour-long set had a solid mix of old and newer songs. The singer-songwriter was very animated and seemed thrilled to be touring with the likes of Bono and The Edge.

U2’s set list was incredible. They play their songs in chronological order, with a few exceptions. They start with 2 songs from War (1983) and 2 songs from The Unforgettable Fire (1984) before they dive into The Joshua Tree (1987). The Irishmen play the entire 11 song album start to finish before leaving the stage. Their 7-song encore is comprised of songs released after ’87, playing only 2 songs released after 2000, and ending with “One”.

U2 spares no expenses when it comes to their stages. The 50-yard-wide stage sits underneath a massive video screen and hundred-foot-tall Joshua tree. The walk-way and secondary stage is also shaped like a Joshua tree. While they play, images of Joshua Tree National Park and the American South West flash across the screen.

The entire show is very political, as the band comments on the current state of the U.S. Bono says that America has been a second home to him and the band. They condone President Trump showing a video clip mocking a character named Trump who wants to build a wall. Bono voices his disapproval of the end of DACA saying, “this country was built by dreamers, for dreamers”. The project images of Syrian refugee camps, women activists, and the words, “the power of the people is so much greater than the people in power”.

Somethings change and some never do. 30 years ago, the world was entirely different and would be almost unrecognizable now. However, people are still listening to the same music and seeing the same bands perform. U2 is no longer the young rebel rockers they were but still know how to put on a hell of a show. In the end it was, in Bono’s words, “a night we’ll never forget. An epic night of rock and roll.”