Monday, November 30, 2009

11/24/09 - Rob Zombie w/ Nekromantix and Captain Clegg & the Night Creatures - Broadbent Arena - Louisville, KY

Since bursting onto the scene 25 years ago as the frontman of the seminal New York metal outfit White Zombie, Rob Zombie has established himself as one of the last great rock and roll monsters - worthy of mention alongside legends like Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. Now, 10 years after becoming a highly successful solo artist with the multi-platinum Hellbilly Deluxe, the rock monster/horror film director is embarking on a world tour in support of his upcoming fourth solo release, the highly-anticipated Hellbilly Deluxe 2.

To some, it may seem a bit pretentious to name an upcoming album after your most successful work, but if Zombie & co.'s performance at Louisville's Broadbent Arena is any indication, the album should live up to the hype surrounding it. Storming onto a stage adorned by two large banners featuring a giant skull against a background of stars and stripes on either side of a large video screen, the band tore through classic cuts like "What Lurks on Channel X?," "Superbeast," "Never Gonna Stop," "Living Dead Girl," and "American Witch" against a backdrop of animation and vintage horror, television, and burlesque erotica. Showing up from the White Zombie back-catalog were the grinding numbers "Super-Charger Heaven," "More Human Than Human," and "Thunderkiss '65" - the latter of which was split by a lengthy solo break by guitarist John 5, who left the crowd awestruck with a note-perfect rendition of Van Halen's "Eruption" before placing his guitar pick in his mouth and playing the national anthem with his teeth. Thrown in for good measure were new tracks "What?!" and "Sick Bubble-Gum," and a three-punch encore of "Demonoid Phenomenon," "Dragula", and "Lords of Salem" that still left a rabid crowd begging for more.

Opening the show were Captain Clegg & the Night Creatures, a Texas psychobilly band that has appeared in or contributed music to several of Zombie's films. Although the audience was first confused by the band's stand-up bass and addition of a steel guitar, the band soon won them over and left them ready for the Nekromantix, another psychobilly band (complete with pompadors) whose furious cover of the Misfits' "Hollywood Babylon" worked the audience into the night's first frenzy.

Try as the openers might to own this November night, it was clear who the night truly belonged to once the Nekromantix left the stage and the chants of "Zombie" began. Twenty-five years into a musical career known for shows that deliver a shock to the senses, Rob Zombie is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon - and gods forbid he ever does.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Death Metal Pioneers Continue Breathing New Life Into 21-Year-Old Corpse

Twenty-one years and eleven albums into their career, the top-selling death metal band of all time could easily have pulled the AC/DC rabbit out of their filthy hats and put out an album that sounded like a remake of one of their classics. Instead, Cannibal Corpse opted to create Evisceration Plague - an album that not only displays an increased sense of melody, but is almost catchy.

Don't be fooled, as this still isn't going to be anything you'll hear on the radio anytime soon, or ever. This album features all of the hallmarks of a typical Cannibal Corpse album. The drums deliver concussive sixteenth-note blast beats, the guitars are still distorted far beyond just being heavy, and George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher's evokes the sound of -- well -- whatever an actual corpse grinder would probably sound like.

Though Evisceration Plague features the characteristics that diehard fans have come to expect, it switches up the Cannibal Corpse playbook in several respects. Unlike previous albums, Plague features an overarching concept as opposed to songs that are individual narratives. As the title suggests, that concept is based around a sort of "mad human disease" type of plague that causes those infected to eviscerate, much like zombies - or at least that's the impression given by the discernable lyrics. Many tracks such as "Priests of Sodom" and the album's title track also display melody that sets them apart from much of the band's past work and many of their American death metal contemporaries. At times, the songs on this album even dare to be catchy and feature a fair portion of vocals that can be understood without necessitating reference to the album's liner notes.

Don't get me wrong, the band that brought the world such heart-warming musical gems as "Blunt-Force Castration" and "Hammer Smashed Face" aren't trying to cash in and appeal to the masses - and this album never aims for that to begin with. Death metal tends to be an acquired taste and, like most acquired tastes, there are still many people it will never appeal to under any circumstance. Regardless, Evisceration Plague displays an impressive amount of continued musical growth and is the most palatable Cannibal Corpse has ever been - but don't expect your girlfriend to fall in love with the band anytime soon.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

9/28/09 - Down w/ the Melvins - Headliners Music Hall - Louisville, KY

Few frontmen are capable of creating the same vibe in a crowd as Phil Anselmo. There was no question whether the crowd at Headliners Music Hall belonged to the former Pantera vocalist on this night - if the multitude of Pantera t-shirts didn't give it away, the throng of "Phil" chants that rose from the crowd throughout the evening did.

Since the murder of Pantera's guitarist, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, put a definitive end to that band's legendary career, Anselmo has been dedicated primarily to Down - a New Orleans-based southern metal supergroup formed in 1994 consisting of Anselmo and former Pantera bassist Rex Brown, Corrosion of Conformity guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, Crowbar guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein, and EyeHateGod drummer Jimmy Bower. The band's sound has best been described by fans as what would happen if Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd had a bastard lovechild, and that description holds true live.

Despite Rex Brown's noticable absence due to his recent diagnosis with acute pancreatitis, Down still managed to pull of an impressive set composed of songs spanning three albums with Danny Theriot filling in for Brown. Opening the set with longtime fan favorite "Eyes of the South," the band locked in a steady, solid groove that pulsated throughout the venue throughout the rest of their nearly two hour set.

The Melvins were a pleasant surprise in the truest sense of the phrase. The Montesano, Washington-based sludge metal quartet fronted by Buzz Osborne (no relation to the Osbournes) delivered a thunderous set which shook the venue to its very foundation thanks in no small part to their duo of drummers (who played in perfect synchronization, no less). Judging by the looks on the faces of many in attendance, the Melvins made more than a few new fans in Louisville.

As is the case with the final date on most tours, hijinx are bound to ensue after the end of the headlining band's set, and tonight was no different. Following Down's encore of "Stone the Crow" and "Bury Me in Smoke," members of the Melvins and openers Weedeater (whose set I missed) joined Down onstage - some wearing Down "booty shorts" - covering the members of the band in a mixture of silly string and beer, and capping a night of solid performances off with a little humor.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Polish Death Metallers Behemoth Spread Their Blackened Wings with 'Evangelion'

After an album like 2007's Apostasy, which was as equally abrasive as it was successful in breaking the band through to new audiences on tours like that year's incarnation of the Ozzfest, many bands would have taken it easy on a follow-up. For Poland's Behemoth, who have been touring almost non-stop between albums for over a decade, slowing down was never an option. Evangelion, the band's ninth studio album, builds on the evolution of sound evident over the course of its eight predecessors, allowing Adam "Nergal" Darski & Co. to try things they may not have necessarily tried in the past.

Don't be alarmed, though. You're still not going to find any power ballads here. Darski's vocals still pack all the intensity of a plague of locusts, the guitars still convey the blackest depths of a raging maelstrom, and Tomasz "Orion" Wroblewski's bass lines are still, if not more so, worthy of comparison to the rumblings of the San Andreas Fault. Robert "Inferno" Prominski's drumming, however, is one of the most noticeable, and best, improvements of this outing. While the drums on previous efforts had the sound of a non-stop barrage of artillery, Evangelion sees Prominski utilizing complex tempo shifts to give his chaotic sound a sense of discipline and control.

The album's songs feature common Behemoth themes such as mythology and the occult, such as album opener "Daimonos," which invokes the name of the Greek lust and wine god, Dionysus. Its first single, "Ov Fire and the Void," raids the senses in a manner befitting a Roman Legion while not maintaining the speed of an all-out Blitzkrieg. The thing that stands out most on the majority of Evangelion's tracks is Behemoth's embrace of their newly found sense of experimentation with melody, especially on tracks such as "The Seed Ov I."

By adding this extra melody and experimentation to their sound, Behemoth succeed in keeping their established sound interesting without ever coming close to abandoning it; a feat sure to bring in new listeners without alienating longtime fans.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5