Thursday, December 31, 2009

Latest Concert News

A numbers of show have been changed and announced since my last general update, so here's the latest concert news around the Twin Cities:


Shining has dropped off the Behemoth tour due to work visa issues and has been replaced with Metal Blade recording artist Lightning Swords Of Death. Septicflesh now moves up into the direct support slot. The Behemoth tour lands in St. Paul on Monday, January 25 at Station 4.


Reunited Christian death metal gods Living Sacrifice will be appearing at The Vault in Buffalo, Minnesota (of all places!) on Valentine's Day.


The next night (Monday, February 15) Winds Of Plague headlines a massive festival-size lineup at Station 4 in St. Paul.


Perhaps the biggest news is that original Iron Maiden singer Paul Di'Anno will be playing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, February 28. Does anyone even know the last Paul Di'Anno toured the US? Iron Maiden fans will not want to miss this!!

Swallow The Sun Album Review

Swallow The Sun – New Moon
Spinefarm, 2009


9/10



It’s difficult to find fault with the latest album from Swallow The Sun, as these Finnish doom merchants weave another intricate tapestry of sound that embraces many extremes. Their sound can best be described as the slow, dreary heaviness of early work from My Dying Bride incorporating the acoustic and progressive elements of Opeth. One of the great things about Swallow The Sun is that their songs never get drug too deep into their slow, plodding parts. Just when you think your mind may start to wander, a crushing riff or an acoustic break is interwoven into the song to leave you hanging in anticipation of the next move. The vocals can be gruff and indecipherable at times, but they fit the music well and are sung and whispered when appropriate. “Sleepless Swans” is a great example of what Swallow The Sun is capable of. After opening with a soft, acoustic melody, powerful guitars take over and launch the song into an experience between these two styles. Other stellar tracks are the title track, “Lights On The Lake (Horror Pt. III)”, and “…And Heavens Cried Blood”. Really, the entire middle of the album is amazing. This is moody, depressing, and evocative music that drips with substance and character. Swallow The Sun are one the most interesting bands in the gothic/doom realm, and come highly recommended, especially to fans of recent material from Opeth. This band is a titantic force on stage and blew the crowd away the last time they came to Station 4. New Moon is an album not to be missed.

Swallow The Sun will be appearing as support to Finntroll at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, April 17. Additional support will come from Moonsorrow and Survivors Zero.

Epica Album Review

Epica – Design Your Universe
Nuclear Blast, 2009


9/10



Holland’s Epica have released their best work to date with a magical, varied sound that amazes me with each listen. Their last album, 2007’s The Divine Conspiracy, was a bit of let down from prior records, and I was worried that the band would continue in a more pop-oriented direction. Design Your Universe seems to combine all of Epica’s signature sounds into a well-written, focused effort. Everything you would expect from this symphonic metal outfit is here – seamless incorporation of an orchestra, operatic choir vocals, and epic song structures. Following a short opening instrumental, “Resign To Surrender (A New Age Dawns Part IV)” makes a statement that Epica hasn’t lost any of their aggressive fire as guitarist Mark Jansen takes over most of the song with his death metal vocals. Simone Simons steps back into the spotlight with her beautiful, soprano voice featured in “Unleashed”. Most of the songs are mid-tempo, with fast guitars and strings interwoven with soaring melodic choruses. A great example of this formula is “Our Destiny”, a song that really takes off when the chorus explodes into a massive vocal performance by Simone. The absolute highlight of the album is “Tides Of Time”, a ballad that begins with nothing but piano and orchestral accompaniment to Simone’s soft voice that builds toward a grand climax in the final two minutes that makes your hair stand on end by the time the guitar solo begins. Other stand out tracks are “Deconstruct”, “Martyr Of The Free Word”, and the title track. Design Your Universe is the ultimate statement of Epica’s vision, executed nearly flawless. My only complaint is the length of the album – at 79 minutes this is a bit much and the album seems to never want to end (the 13:35 minute “Kingdom Of Heaven” doesn’t help in this regard). The production and entire performance is perfect, and an ideal balance between the bands, Simone’s vocals, and the orchestra is found. Design Your Universe is the definitive work to date from Epica, and their creative spark continues to burn strongly. This is undoubtedly one of the best symphonic metal albums of all time.

Epica will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, February 6. Support will come from Threat Signal, Blackguard, Echoterra, Gracepoint, and Dread Veil.

Threat Signal Album Review

Threat Signal - Vigilance
Nuclear Blast, 2009


9/10



It would be too easy to dismiss Threat Signal as a metalcore-type Pantera clone, but man I have to acknowledge that Vigilance is one monster of an album. Sure, the Pantera, Fear Factory, and thrash metal influences are obvious, but Threat Signal brings enough interesting melodies and guitar work to the table to allow the album to stand on its own merits. Aggressive, heavy riffs are the first order of business here, while clean vocal sing-alongs are kept to a minimum. This is what really separates Threat Signal from poser bands such as Avenged Sevenfold. “Beyond Recognition”, “The Beginning Of The End”, and “In Repair” are my current favorites from the album, but easily half of the record has been a favorite during one listen or another. The only misstep is “Another Source Of Light”, one of the slower numbers that features melodic singing that sounds too whiney. What pushes Vigilance up into potential classic status is this element of not knowing exactly what will come next. There are so many little twists in rhythms and riffs at unexpected times in each song that I find myself listening with rapt attention, and multiple listens become a pleasure. There’s little to find fault here as Threat Signal has delivered one of the best albums of 2009.

Threat Signal will be appearing as direct support to Epica at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, February 6. Additional support will come from Blackguard, Echoterra, Gracepoint, and Dread Veil.

Megadeth Album Review

Megadeth - Endgame
Roadrunner, 2009


7/10



With all the hype about this being a return to legendary form and Dave Mustaine’s complaining about Roadrunner’s of lack of promotion you’d think Endgame would rival Rust In Peace while being loaded with potential radio hits. There’s some bit of truth in this, but it’s a stretch to say that Endgame meets the hype. The first half of the album left me disappointed and wondering what all the fuss is about. Sure, there are great solos all over the place, but the songs plod along, feeling forced and a little lifeless. Thankfully, the second half of the records kicks into gear and saves Endgame from mediocrity. The last four songs of the album are some of the best material Megadeth has produced, and why they are dumped onto the end of the record is beyond me. “The Hardest Part Of Letting Go…Sealed With A Kiss” begins in the fashion of a ballad, then erupts with whirlwind force into a rocker with drum fills accentuating the song’s dynamics. The fury of classic Mustaine riffage finally appears on “Head Crusher”, and “How The Story Ends” has infectious beat that immediately induces head banging. There’s certainly nothing awful here, but the first half of the album sounds simply uninspired. I’m going to register a minor complaint about the album’s mix because Dave’s vocals are a bit buried, and I’d prefer his distinctive snarl to be more up front. The biggest downfall is the ordering of the tracks. This would be a much more enjoyable listen if the best tracks were spread throughout the album rather than being clustered at the end. I can’t say that Endgame is an essential purchase for most metal fans, but this is probably the best record from Megadeth in the last ten years and long time fans will definitely want to give this album a chance.

Megadeth will be performing at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul on Thursday, February 4 with co-headliner Slayer. Support will come from Testament.

Halford Album Review

Halford – Halford 3 – Winter Songs
Metal God, 2009


8/10



Since it’s holiday time, I’m going to break with tradition here and feature an album despite no plans to promote it here in the Twin Cities. Rob Halford has resurrected his Halford band for an unexpected Christmas-themed album that succeeds in delivering a serious album suitable for any fan of Judas Priest. Winter Songs features five original songs and five Christmas standards. My favorite aspect of the Christmas standards is that these aren’t tongue-in-cheek joke versions. Halford treats these with respect (not reverence, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra) while arranging them into enjoyable, rocking songs. “We Three Kings” gallops along with a classic heavy metal rhythm, and “Oh Come O Come Emanuel” sounds like it meant to have guitar solos all over the place. “What Child Is This?” and “Oh Holy Night” are treated to a more traditional, grand interpretation, while “Come All Ye Faithful” is a bit subdued to wind the album down. The original song “Get Into The Spirit” opens the album with a speed metal intensity that reminds of Virgin Steele with its unrelenting, driving rhythm. “Winter Song” is the clear highlight of the album, a sad ballad about experiencing the emptiness of a lost love during the holiday season. It’s hard not to be touched by this song, and it’s probably the greatest ballad Rob has written. The remaining three originals are enjoyable, but frankly don’t hold up as well as the other seven tracks. Everything Rob Halford touches oozes with quality, and one listen to Winter Songs tells you that this isn’t a quick, slap-dash affair in the quest for a quick buck. The band performing this album is outstanding, including Roy Z. and “Metal” Mike Chlasciak on guitars and Bobby Jarzombek on drums. If you enjoy Christmas music this time of year and aren’t sickened by the thought of Halford performing a diversionary release, you should thoroughly enjoy Winter Songs. This has turned out to be one of the most pleasantly surprising releases of the year.

Earshot Single Review

Earshot – The Ugly Truth single
Self-released, 2009


8/10



This hard rock outfit seemed to disappear from sight after putting out a couple quality albums filled with made-for-radio rock. Back in October the band announced their intentions to release future material for free through their website, www.earshotband.com, and “The Ugly Truth” is the first song to be released in this manner. This song is what you would expect Earshot to deliver – a heavy, mid-tempo rock song that could easily be played on any rock radio station. Earshot has a knack for writing catchy, tuneful songs, and “The Ugly Truth” continues this track record. It’s not going to change the world, but it’s hard not to enjoy this song. The distinctive vocal stylings of Wil Martin have always been the most compelling feature of Earshot’s sound, so it’s great to hear his voice still in fine form. If you can appreciate bands like Sevendust, Staind, and Stone Temple Pilots, you can’t go wrong here. Getting this song is simple – go to the band’s website, sign up for their email list, and you get an email with a link to the song. As a nice bonus, the download includes a lyric sheet, artwork, desktop wallpapers, and mp3 and iPhone-compatible ringtones. The band promises that new music will be available in this manner every two or three months. I admire Earshot for taking this bold step in distributing their music (similar to what Smashing Pumpkins is now doing), but I suspect they’ll have a hard time getting their new music on the radio now that they lack major label muscle.

Earshot will be performing at The Rock in Maplewood on Sunday, January 17. Support will come from Wither The Tide and Third Supply.

3 Inches Of Blood Concert Review

3 Inches Of Blood, Saviours, Holy Grail
Friday, November 20, 2009
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN

A packed house greeted me as I squeezed my way through the door as “Battles And Brotherhood”, the lead track from Here Waits Thy Doom opened the show. It’s been a while since 3 Inches Of Blood had been through town, and their underground popularity certainly has not waned judging from the huge response from the crowd. The only constant in the band the last few years is vocalist Cam Pipes, but the band sounded tight as they wasted no time and roared through a large selection of their latest album, Here Waits Thy Doom. “Call Of The Hammer” and “Execution Tank” were especially impressive, and “Silent Killer”, “Snake Fighter”, and “All Of The Witches” were also thrown down to the crowd’s delight. Only three songs were Fire Up The Blades were played tonight, but the oddest part of the show was the unusual song selection from Advance And Vanquish. Of course, “Deadly Sinners” was saved for the end of the set, but “Wykydtron” and “Swordmaster” seemed like odd choices for the only other representation from that fine album. I supposed I’m nitpicking here because the band was in town to promote Here Waits Thy Doom, and what a job they did. My review of this album was less than enthusiastic, but I must admit that these songs carried a much greater impact live. A large part of the crowd seemed to also be familiar with Here Waits Thy Doom, so the band was greeted with rousing cheers and fierce mosh pit action throughout most the 60 minute set. The only misstep was their cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Cities On Flame With Rock ‘N’ Roll”. A great step, but it’s slow, deliberate pace deflated the crowd as the band neared the end of the set. 3 Inches Of Blood have been around long enough to have earned a loyal fan base, and tonight’s show satisfied all as the night drew to a close.

Click on the photo to see more pictures of 3 Inches Of Blood (6).


Vreid, Kivimetsän Druidi Concert Review

Heathenfest – Eluveitie, Belphegor, Alestorm, Vreid, Kivimetsän Druidi
Monday, November 9, 2009
Station 4, St. Paul, MN

No promotion existed for Century Media recording artist Kivimetsän Druidi, so I was surprised to see this Finnish band on stage as I entered the venue. I only caught the last couple of songs, but the band seems to have an interesting, powerful take on folk metal. Their female singer is certainly captivating on stage, and her high trills and dancing kept the audience’s attention. Kivimetsän Druidi was well-received for an opening act, so maybe we’ll get the chance to see them again soon.

Norway’s Vreid next took the stage, and this black metal outfit was the reason I came out to this show. Both in attitude and style, Vreid comes across as militaristic, hatefilled-steamroller. Their aggressive, confrontational demeanor caught the audience by surprise, but the response was enthusiastic. The band had a generous 40 minutes or so, and used it to maximum advantage in showcasing material from throughout the catalog on their first tour of the United States. “Speaking Goddamnit” and “Milorg” from 2009’s Milorg album were featured. It was a little surprising that the set wasn’t heavily slanted from Milorg, instead, older songs such as “Raped By Light” and “Pitch Black” were placed alongside a few other catalog tracks. All in all, Vreid put forth a powerful display of their talents and seemed to win over a large number of converts this night.

Home duties called, so unfortunately I was required to take an early leave and missed the remainder of the show. The entire lineup of Heathenfest was quite diverse and the attendance was excellent for the early part of the show that I caught, so hopefully more interesting tours like this will be coming through the Cities in the near future.

Click on the photos to see more pictures of Vreid (6) and Kivimetsän Druidi (3).



Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End Of The Year Rush

December's been a busy month and the posts have been light lately! Throughout the day today I should be able to post a slew of recent concert announcements, show reviews, and album reviews. I also hope to fix the Google concert calendar, which has not been syncing properly in recent days.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Concert Announcements

A couple more new shows for 2010 have been announced recently:


Earshot will be appearing Sunday, January 17 at The Rock in Maplewood.
Also appearing at The Rock will be Cold and Nonpoint on Friday, March 5.
Lastly, the Experience Hendrix tour will stop in Minneapolis at the Orpheum Theatre on Wednesday, March 17. This tour is officially sanctioned by the Jimi Hendrix estate, and will feature an all-star slate of guitarists, including: Joe Satriani, Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, Jonny Lang, and many, many other guests.

Abigail Williams EP Review

Abigail Williams – Tour 2009 EP
Candlelight, 2009


5/10



This 5-song EP is featured as a bonus disc to the reissue of Abigail Williams’ debut album In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns, but can also be purchased separately as Tour 2009 EP from digital retailers. Seeing as the tour to promote the reissued album doesn’t begin until January 2010, it’s curious that this EP isn’t titled Tour 2010 EP. Oh well. If you’re new to Abigail Williams, they play a late-90s style Norwegian black metal in the vein of Dimmu Borgir, Covenant, and Emperor. These guys have it down pat, complete with buzzsaw guitars, parched vocals, and atmospheric keyboards and a clean, heavy production. It’s easy to view this EP as a holdover while awaiting a new full-length, since this contains four new songs (one being a short instrumental) and a demo version of the previously released song “Flood”. Opener “I Am (God)” showcases the promise of the band as its combines a symphonic black metal sound before launching into a vicious groove the second half of the song. “In Death Comes The Great Silence” is a fast wall of cacophony of noise that slows down mid-song, while “Infernal Divide” is slow, dreary-sounding track that has a fast rhythm section underneath haunting keyboards. The new songs are interesting and show a lot of potential for Abigail Williams, but it’s probably best to wait and see how the next album turns out. Right now I’m content with going back and listening to Dimmu’s Spiritual Black Dimensions.




A review and pictures from Abigail Williams' show opening for God Dethroned on October 10 can be viewed here.



Abigail Williams will be supporting Nile at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, January 23. Additional support will come from Immolation, Krisiun, and Dreaming Dead.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Marduk Album Review

Marduk - Wormwood
Regain, 2009


5/10



Long-running Swedish black metal band Marduk has long been the source of controversy, and their output in recent years has been becoming more prolific. Their latest album, Wormwood, is a split affair. A bare majority of the ten tracks are simple, dready melodies draped over blinding-fast drumming and buzzsaw guitars. A short interlude is thrown in, and the remaining songs are somber, slow dirges. Unquestionably, the highlight of Wormwood is “Phosphorous Redeemer”, a fast, technical blitzkrieg whose ominous bell tolls evoke dark forebodings. The remainder of the album doesn’t hold up as well, as the slow songs bored me and others simply didn’t grab my attention. What I find interesting is the loose, punk-like feel of many of the songs. By punk I mean the chaotic, discordant songs of older bands like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. The production of the album is fantastic, and seems to capture the raw heaviness of Marduk well. There’s many positive attributes to Wormwood, and I have a gut feeling that long-time fans of Marduk won’t be left feeling disappointed like I am.

Marduk will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, December 13. Support will come from Nachtmystium, Merrimack, and Mantic Ritual, Mashu, and Wraithian.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Primal Fear Concert Announcement

Way back on October 29 I reported here that Primal Fear would be coming to town. Their 2010 North American tour in support of their latest Frontiers album, 16.6 - Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, has now officially been announced. This tour includes a stop at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, May 30. The only support band announced so far is Madison, Wisconsin's Century Media recording artist Luna Mortis. Check out the review and pictures of Primal Fear's show at the 2009 Minnesota MetalFest.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finntroll Concert Announcement

The concert announcements for 2010 continue to pour in, and the latest tour to roll through The Cities is the so-called Finnish Metal tour. This month-long tour of exclusive Finnish bands will be headlined by Finntroll, with support from Moonsorrow, Swallow The Sun, and Survivors Zero. They will be playing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, April 17.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Official Overkill Tour Announcement

As reported here first nearly three weeks ago, Overkill, God Dethroned, and Evile will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, April 11. The official announcement of this tour was made today, and the bill has now doubled in size! The full list of support bands is now Vader, God Dethroned, Warbringer, Evile, and Woe Of Tyrants - all for just $20!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kreator Concert Announcement

German thrash metal gods Kreator have announced a North American tour for March. This tour will bring them to Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, March 14. Supporting bands will be Voivod, Nachtmystium, Evile, and Lazarus A.D.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ensiferum Album Review

Ensiferum – From Afar
Spinefarm, 2009

8/10



I gave the fourth album from Finland’s Ensiferum an initial listen with some trepidation, as I’m always leary about folk metal descriptions for bands. Usually this means silly sing-a-long melodies and an overuse of miscellaneous folk-style instruments. From Afar strikes a perfect balance of these elements and good old-fashioned Viking metal aggression to deliver an album that surprised me with how enjoyable it is. A more accurate might be symphonic Viking metal with From Afar’s heavy use of piano, horns, strings, and operatic background vocals that sit well alongside the gruff vocals and heavy guitar riffs. An acoustic instrumental openers the album before the title tracks explodes into an epic speed metal track complete with bombastic horns and operatic vocals. “Twilight Tavern” has the mid-tempo bounce of a Helloween song that’s hard not to hum along with. The 11 minute “Heathen Throne” is the gem of the album, and finds Ensiferum incorporating all aspects of their sound into a single song. Things pick up again with the frenetic pace of “Elusive Reaches” before taking a dip with the more folksy-sounding “Stone Cold Metal” and “Smoking Ruins”. All isn’t lost here, and I particularly enjoyed the calm, whistled interlude in “Stone Cold Metal”. A short barroom chant precedes the nearly 13 minute closing track, “The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)”. This epic isn’t nearly as intriguing as “Heathen Throne”, but certainly showcases the ambitious nature of Ensiferum. All in all, From Afar succeeds at expanding the scope of what a “folk metal” band can be, and raises the bar for this nascent genre. The album is dogged by a couple weak tracks, but the remainder of From Afar is a refreshing listen that should greatly enhance the international profile of Ensiferum.

Ensiferum will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, November 28. Support will come from Hypocrisy, Blackguard, Cold Colours, and False Oath.

Devildriver Concert Announcement

Roadrunner recording artist Devildriver has announced the first shows of a new American headlining tour in support of Pray For Villians. This tour will have the band performing at The Rock in Maplewood on Monday, January 18 will support from Suffocation, Goatwhore, and Thy Will Be Done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Alice In Chains Concert Announcement

Alice In Chains today announced a new run of North American headlining shows for 2010. St. Paul is slated to be the final stop on the tour on Sunday, March 21 at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. The concert calendar will be updated with ticket and supporting act information as soon as it is released. It's welcome news that this show will be taking place at Roy Wilkins. The last Alice In Chains show took place at the much smaller First Avenue, and tickets for this immediately sold out show were hard to come by since not all of First Avenue's ticket outlets received tickets when they went on sale.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Concerts At TCF Bank Stadium

Rumors that TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota was considering hosting concerts were confirmed on Monday with the announcement that U2 will perform there on Sunday, June 27. I know, U2 isn't a metal band, but there's many reasons for all live music fans to be excited about the willingness of the U to allow concerts at The Bank. First, there's finally now competition for large, outdoor shows with the miserable amphitheater at Float Rite Park in Somerset, Wisconsin. Second, sight lines at The Bank are great, and the facilities are outstanding. The Bank sports one of the 2 or 3 largest jumbotrons in any stadium in North America. Granted, there aren't many metal or hard rock bands that ban fill stadiums (much less arenas) these days, but a great, new concert venue in The Cities is always a cause for joy!

Slayer Album Review

Slayer – World Painted Blood
Sony, 2009

8/10


Seems like the latest, long-overdue album from Slayer has been endlessly promoted for months so it’s a relief that it is finally out. Slayer’s legendary status unfortunately means that every album of theirs will be over-analyzed and judged more critically than most bands, so the pressure under which the band records has got to be suffocating. I’ll just state upfront that I didn’t find much to like about World Painted Blood upon first listen, but it has quickly grown on me. My initial thoughts ran something like this – too much of a punk-rock feel to the songs, not much direction to the album, and a thin, weak production. I still don’t like the production, but multiple listens have made me a fan of the album. The title track, a mid-paced rocker, opens the album before “Unit 731” kicks in with a buzzsaw riff. Another fast track, “Snuff”, leads off with a lengthy guitar solo, followed by one of the slowest songs, “Beauty Through Order”. Most of the album alternates between fast and slow- or mid-tempo songs. The only song that sounds out of place is “Americon”, with its fist-pounding rhythm and distorted guitars. “Psychopathy” and “Playing With Dolls” are excellent tracks to wind down the album, but things fall flat with the down-tuned sludge of closer “Not Of This God”. World Painted Blood is easy to listen to all the way through, despite the weakness of just two tracks, “Americon” and “Not Of This God”. Once my shock from the production went away, I found myself really enjoying World Painted Blood and I feel a little silly for dismissing the album on the first play. Now, about the production. My main problem with the album’s sound is that the bass is buried in the mix. The guitars, snare drum, and vocals are way upfront while the bass is relegated to a nearly indistinct background rumble. This sound is just not heavy, and I feel like I’m listening to the album on a boom box. Aside from the production, World Painted Blood is a fine addition to the Slayer catalog. The band has written an album that really doesn’t sound like their previous efforts, but strangely doesn’t stray far from that Slayer sound. If comparisons must be made, the closest I can draw is South Of Heaven. World Painted Blood isn’t as heavy, but the pace of the album and the ways in which the bands is stretching their sound make these two albums sonic cousins. Give this one two or three listens before pronouncing judgment, I think there’s a lot here to make Slayer fans happy.

Slayer will be performing at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul on Thursday, February 4 with co-headliner Megadeth. Support will come from Testament.

Ensiferum Show Promotions

I just informed you about Hypocrisy being forced to cancel the North American tour supporting Ensiferum. Unfortunately, all international and national support acts are now off the original billing! Ex-Deo also had to cancel this tour due to work visa delays. Their replacement, Lazarus A.D., will hop on to the current Vader tour prior to Ensiferum's appearance at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, November 28. Support acts for Ensiferum will now be locals Cold Colours and False Oath.



To try to make some good out of this bad news, SwordLord Productions has announced special promotions for this concert. $5 has been lopped off the ticket price, so $15 will now get you in the door. In the perhaps the most imaginative promotion I've ever heard of, admission is only $10 if you dress like a Viking! Does wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey count? Additionally, Ensiferum will be doing a meet and greet session following the show, there will be drink specials at the bar all night, and discount tickets will be available for upcoming shows that have yet to be announced. The full show details can be found at the SwordLord Myspace page.



Major Concert Announcements: Slayer, Megadeth, Testament, Behemoth, Septicflesh, Shining, Hypocrisy

There's been a lot of concert announcements in the last couple of days, so here's the latest news.


First, the big one - Slayer and Megadeth have announced the American Carnage co-headlining tour that will bring them to Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul on Thursday, February 4. Support will come from none other than Testament. A special ticket presale starts at 10:00 am on Wednesday, November 18 through Ticketmaster. The internet presale password is "carnage".



Second, Polish legends Behemoth will rip up Station 4 in St. Paul on Monday, January 25 with support from Greece's Septicflesh and Sweden's Shining. Septicflesh's latest album, Communion, was one of my top records of 2008 so be sure to check out this show!


Lastly, unfortunate news. Hypocrisy has pulled the plug on their entire North American tour supporting Ensiferum due to delays in one member obtaining a work visa. The band initially planned to join the tour (which is already underway) as soon as possible. Hypocrisy was scheduled to play at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, November 28. More news about this show will be posted shortly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

3 Inches Of Blood Album Review

3 Inches Of Blood – Here Waits Thy Doom
Century Media, 2009

6/10


Canada’s metal warlods 3 Inches Of Blood are back with their fourth album, their first for Century Media. A new label home isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Except for vocalist Cam Pipes, the entire lineup of 3 Inches Of Blood has turned over since 2004’s breakthrough album Advance And Vanquish, and the dual screamer/singer vocalist approach popularized by Linkin Park is thankfully gone. The band has been boxed into a “traditional” heavy metal description (whatever that means), however, Here Waits Thy Doom is a surprisingly eclectic and varied affair. Stylistically the album is all over the map, from frantic thrashers (“At The Foot Of The Great Glacier” and “Call Of The Hammer”) to boogie-tempo rockers (“Rock In Hell”) to slow foot-stompers (“Preacher’s Daughter”). Variety is good, but the album lacks a consistent, cohesive feel that leaves me scratching my head as to what the band was trying to accomplish. The first half of Here Waits Thy Doom was a huge disappointment with its lack of attention-grabbing songs. Things pick up a bit for the second half, and “Snake Fighter”, “All Of Them Witches”, and “Execution Tank” restored some confidence that the band hasn’t completely lost direction. 3 Inches Of Blood has a lot going for them with a distinctive vocalist in Cam Pipes (he really reminds me of a screaming Jon Oliva) and quality musicianship, but the songwriting falls flat on half the record here. Hopefully the current roster of the band will stabilize and find a clear direction for the next record.

3 Inches Of Blood will be appearing at The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis on Friday, November 20. Support will come from Saviours and Holy Grail.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Album Review

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle
Atlantic, 2009

7/10


If you aren’t aware by now, Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is for all intents and purposes the latest evolution of Savatage. The Mountain King, Jon Oliva, says so himself. TSO has perfected a successful formula of performing pompous arena rock and classical standards with a revolving cast of musicians and classically-trained singers. They are certainly more accessible to the world of pop music than Savatage ever was. Some hard rock fans can’t stomach this, so if you’re expecting a Savatage record you’d be better off sticking with the solo albums from Jon Oliva’s Pain and Chris Caffery. Taking TSO for what it’s worth, Night Castle is a worthy continuation of the TSO formula. Night Castle is a dense, hefty 2CD affair, and it can be a bit much to absorb in one or two sittings. All Savatage principals perform here: Jon Oliva, Chris Caffery, Johnny Lee Middleton, Alex Skolnick, Al Pitrelli, and Jeff Plate, including some names metal fans will recognize: Jeff Scott Soto, Paul O’Neill, and Robert Kinkel. Somewhat surprisingly, Jeff Scott Solo sings a plurality (5) of the non-instrumental tracks. A massive booklet explains the storyline alongside the lyrics. Musically, Night Castle runs the gamut of grand, symphonic rockers and sentimental ballads to soaring instrumentals and quiet interludes. The song writing is excellent, and the performances flawless. Standout tracks are the galloping rocker “Another Way You Can Die”, ballad “Father, Son & Holy Ghost” and epic instrumental “Tracers”. Many songs will be recognizable to  fans since many have already been performed on recent tours, and the Savatage ballad “Believe” (from Streets) is also reworked here. On whole, Night Castle succeeds as an entertaining, yet thoughtful release. TSO is best known for their holiday-themed annual tours at the end of each year, and their massive arena show is a spectacle worth experience (even think you’d see Savatage members dressed in tuxedos, headlining sold-out arenas?). TSO fans should readily embrace Night Castle, but devout Savatage fans are likely to left feeling like this is Sava-lite.


Trans–Siberian Orchestra will be appearing at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Saturday, November 14 for two shows at 3:00 and 8:00.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Major Concert Announcements!

Alright, the concert calendar for 2010 is starting to take off. Here's a slew of recently announced shows. More details about these will be added to the concert calendar as they become available.


January 13: Agent Orange, St. Paul, Station 4

January 15: Tesla, The Wayward Boyz Klub, Medina, Medina Entertainment Center
April 11: Overkill, God Dethroned, Evile, St. Paul, Station 4
April 12: Sonata Arctica, Mutiny Within, Powerglove, St. Paul, Station 4
May 22: Pestilence, St. Paul, Station 4

Friday, November 6, 2009

Annotations Of An Autopsy Cancels American Tour

English Nuclear Blast recording artist Annotations Of An Autopsy have announced the cancellation of their upcoming U.S. tour as support to Dying Fetus due to delays in obtaining the appropriate work visas. The band was scheduled to appear at Station 4 in St. Paul with Dying Fetus, The Faceless, Beneath The Massacre, and Vital Remains on Friday, November 20.

New Album Reviews On The Way

It's a little while since I've posted some album reviews, but don't fear. Several album reviews of bands coming to the Twin Cities during the next three months will be posted over the next couple of weeks. Forthcoming will be reviews of the latest albums by 3 Inches Of Blood, Marduk, Epica, Ensiferum, Threat Signal, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Echoterra, and more!

Mushroomhead Concert Announcement

A tour to promote the Saw VI soundtrack album will be Mushroomhead to The Rock in Maplewood on Wednesday, December 2. Support will be provided by other bands featured on the Saw VI soundtrack: Mushroomhead industrial side project Ventana, The Flood, and Minneapolis's own My My Misfire. This is an all ages show, and tickets are $22 in advance. Mushroomhead nearly sold out The Rock last year, so get your tickets in advance!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lazarus A.D. Replaces Ex Deo On Ensiferum Tour

Metal Blade recording artist Lazarus A.D. has been added to Ensiferum's upcoming North American tour as a replacement for Ex Deo. This tour rolls through St. Paul's Station 4 on Saturday, November 28. Additional support will come from Hypocrisy, Blackguard, Cold Colours, and False Oath.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Echoterra Announces Member Changes And First Live Performance

Twin Cities-based symphonic metal band Echoterra, led by Avian guitarist Yan Leviathan and Pyramaze keyboardist Jonah Weingarten, have announced major lineup changes on their Myspace page. Vocalist Suvi Virtanen (ex-Therion) and drummer John Gensmer (Epicurean) have been replaced with Melissa Ferlaak (ex-Visions Of Atlantis) and Adam Sagan (Into Eternity), respectively. The changes were made due to the logistics of Suvi being located in Sweden, and John's ongoing activities with Epicurean. Echoterra is rounded out by Avian bassist Brian Hollenbeck, and the band released their debut album, The Law Of One, in September through Blinding Force Records. A new EP with the re-vamped lineup will be released in Spring 2010. A new recording of "In Your Eyes" from The Law Of One, featuring new vocalist Melissa Ferlaak, is available for streaming on the band's Myspace page.


In further news, Echoterra also announced their first ever live performance as support to Epica on Saturday, February 6 at Station 4 in St. Paul. The bands promises that additional live appearances are in the works.

Hammerfall Concert Announced

Get your cardboard swords and shields ready! Sweden's Hammerfall has announced a U.S. headlining tour in support of their latest Nuclear Blast album No Sacrifice, No Victory. This tour will bring Hammerfall to Station 4 in St. Paul on Thursday, March 18 with support from Powerglove. Special VIP tickets for this all ages show, which include a pre-show meet and greet with the band, are now available at Enter The Vault for $50, and regular tickets are $20 in advance.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ex Deo Drops Off Ensiferum Tour

Ex Deo has been forced to withdraw from their upcoming tour supporting Ensiferum and Hypocrisy due to problems obtaining the necessary work visas. While some dates on the tour will go forward, unfortunately, their appearance at Station 4 in St. Paul planned for Saturday, November 28 has been canceled. The remaining bands on the tour will perform as scheduled.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Upcoming Shows in 2010!

SwordLord Productions posted a message its Twitter page cryptically revealing some shows planned for 2010, with the hint to "unscramble for a sneak peak! RIMLAP RAFE, ROTREAK, ACEPI, ONSTAA CARCATI". This translates to Primal Fear, Kreator, Epica, and Sonata Arctica - looks like some great shows will be announced soon!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Crinn Announces Local Shows

Nuclear Blast recording artist and St. Paul natives The Crinn have announced three local shows as they gear up the release of their debut album, Dreaming Saturn, in January. Tuesday, October 27 they play at Big V's in St. Paul, Sunday, November 15 they appear at The Triple Rock in Minneapolis, and Saturday, December 5 they play at The Rock in Maplewood. Additional details about these shows are in the calendar listings.

Fu Manchu Show Details Change

A couple things have changed with Fu Manchu's upcoming show at The Triple Rock in Minneapolis this Friday, October 30. Previously announced openers ASG and It's Casual are now off the bill, and have been replaced by Bastard Saint. The show time has also been moved back to 10 pm due to an early show at the venue from Motion City Soundtrack.

God Dethroned Concert Review

God Dethroned, Abigail Williams, Woe Of Tyrants, Augury, Sangre Mal
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Station 4, St. Paul, MN


I’ve found it increasingly difficult to get out to venues for shows that start so early (this one started at 7:00), so I arrived at Station 4 soon after Abigail Williams had taken the stage. Not being familiar with this American symphonic black metal band, I was suitably impressed by their performance. Fans of Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and their ilk would take a liking to Abigail Williams. They’re still out on the road supporting late 2008’s In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns album, so hopefully new material will be forthcoming in 2010. Abigail Williams is certainly a band to keep an eye on, and they’ll back through Station 4 on January 23 with Nile, Immolation, Krisiun, and Dreaming Dead.


God Dethroned stormed on to the stage with “Under A Darkening Sky”, and proceeded through a 60 minute set that spanned their last six albums since 1999. This Dutch death metal band has been absent from the US for a couple years and the timing of their current tour couldn’t be better, as they are out promoting the phenomenal Passiondale release. God Dethroned is sporting two new members that joined after the recording of Passiondale, Mike van der Plicht (drums) and Susan Gerl (guitar), and fit in well as the band sounded tight. By the time Passiondale’s “No Man’s Land” was played almost midway into the set, selections from The Toxic Touch (“Hating Life”), The Lair Of The White Worm (“Nihilism”), Into The Lungs Of Hell (“Soul Sweeper”), and Bloody Blasphemy (“Serpent King”) had already been covered. The highpoint of the set was “Poison Fog”, the sweeping epic from Passiondale. Founding vocalist and guitarist Henri Sattler handled the clean vocals with ease. The final selection from Passiondale included “Drowning in Mud”, and the remainder of the set was rounded out by “The Execution Protocol”, “The Warcult”, and “Boiling Blood”. The band returned to play “The Lair Of The White Worm” for the encore, and then hung out on stage to talk with fans. Overall, the set was well executed and one would never know that half the band is new. The new material from Passiondale blended into the set well alongside songs from older albums. Poor turnout was the only disappointment of the night, but the band seemed to take it in stride by playing an outstanding show.


Click on the photos to view more pictures of God Dethroned (16) and Abigail Williams (5).



Friday, October 23, 2009

Amazing Metal Show Deal!!

SwordLord Productions has announced "an exclusive metal stimulus package for this shitty economy": The November to Dismember Metal Pass. $50 will get you: (1) a pass for admission to four shows in November, (2) early admission and priority seating, (3) meet and greet opportunities, (4) drink specials, and (5) discounts on other SwordLord Productions shows. This special pass will give you admission and perks for the following four metal shows, all taking place at Station 4 in St. Paul: (1) Heathenfest: Eluveitie, Belphegor, Alestorm, Vreid, Kivimetsan Druidi, Monday, November 9, (2) Monsters of Death: Vader, Decrepit Birth, The Amenta, Warbringer, Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky, Augury, Sunday, November 15, (3) Dying Fetus, The Faceless, Beneath The Massacre, Vital Remains, Annotations Of An Autopsy, Friday, November 20, and (4) Ensiferum, Hypocrisy, Ex Deo, Blackguard, Cold Colours, False Oath, Saturday, November 28.


That's four shows and 22 bands for only $50! The November to Dismember Metal Pass can be purchased at Station 4 or through the SwordLord Productions website.


Gallagher and Metallagher: Together At Last!

Okay, comedian and king of bad puns Gallagher may not be metal, but his recently announced performance at Station 4 in St. Paul on Thursday, December 10 will be a special one. That's because the ultimate tribute fusion band, Metallagher, will be supporting the legendary comedian. That's right - a Metallica tribute band with a Gallagher impersonator as frontman, complete with fruit-smashing routines and lame jokes. According to Metallagher's Myspace page, Gallagher will meet with fans from 8–9 and perform at 9, and Metallagher will take the stage at 11. Special "Splatter Zone" seats are being sold, and the seats will be removed after Gallagher is done.

Threat Signal Replaces Daath on Epica Tour

Nuclear Blast recording artist Threat Signal will replace Daath as main support to Epica on the Dutch symphonic metal band's tour early next year. No official explanation for why Daath has been replaced has been issued. Threat Signal's sophomore album, Vigilance, was released last month, and this will be the band's first tour in support of this release.


Epica will be performing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, February 6. Support will come from Threat Signal, Blackguard, Gracepoint, and Dread Veil. Note: Posted below is the original, uncorrected flyer.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Steelheart Concert Announcement

Enough with the cancellations, here's some good news. Steelheart has announced that they will be performing at Biff's Sports Bar in Spring Lake Park on November 6 in support of their self-released Good 2B Alive album.


Def Leppard Concert Canceled

There's more unfortunate cancellation news. Def Leppard announced on its website today that their entire upcoming North American tour has been cancelled "due to unforeseen personal matters". The band was scheduled to play at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul on November 6 with special guests Cheap Trick and Man Raze.

Hydrogyn Canceled Tonight!

Hydrogyn has cancelled their appearance at the Primetime Sports Bar in Burnsville tonight. The is no news of this on either Hydrogyn's Myspace or Primetime's webpages, but I confirmed this by calling the venue. No reason for the cancellation was given. Presumably this means that tomorrow's Hydrogyn gig at Primetime is also cancelled.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nile Guitarist Karl Sanders Offers Private Lessons Before St. Paul Show

Karl Sanders, guitarist and founder of Nile, is offering private guitar lessons at all stops on their upcoming US tour, including a performance on Saturday, January 23 at Station 4 in St. Paul. Lessons cost $100 per hour, and will take place at Station 4 before the show. The cost of the lesson also includes admission to the show and the opportunity to watch Nile's soundcheck. Additional details, including reservation information, can be found on Nile's Myspace page.


Arch Enemy Show Announcement

Century Media recording artist Arch Enemy has announced the Tyrants of Evil tour in support of their recently released album The Root Of All Evil, which will include a stop at The Rock in Maplewood on Saturday, January 30. Support bands for the tour are Exodus, Arsis, and Mutiny Within. Further details will be added to the calendar entry as they become available.

Use God Dethroned Ticket Stub For Heathenfest Savings

It was announced by SwordLord Productions at the God Dethroned concert that if you bring your God Dethroned ticket stub to Heathenfest you will receive $5 off admission at the door. Heathenfest will take place Monday, November 9 at Station 4 in St. Paul, and will feature Eluveitie, Belphegor, Alestorm, Vreid, and Kivimetsan Druidi.


Don Decker Dead At Age 41

The passing of Don Decker, 41, singer of Minneapolis band Anal Blast, was reported on Blabbermouth yesterday. Don was a constant figure on the Twin Cities metal scene for many years, and promoted countless shows. I never met Don, but I would encourage everyone to read the blog post at the Myspace page of SwordLord Productions to learn more about Don.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Save $5 At The Door For God Dethroned

Head on over to the Myspace page of SwordLord Productions (http://www.myspace.com/swordlord) to see how you can save $5 off admission at the door for God Dethroned at Station 4 in St. Paul tomorrow, Saturday, October 10.


Skindred Concert Announcement

Bieler Bros. recording artist Skindred has confirmed the initial dates for a U.S. tour in support of their newly-released third album, Shark Bites And Dog Fights. These first 10 dates include a stop at The Rock in Maplewood on December 10. Supporting Skindred is E1 recording artist A New Revolution.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

God Dethroned Album Review


God Dethroned - Passiondale
Metal Blade, 2009

9/10


Hailing from The Netherlands, God Dethroned are back with their 9th album, and what a monster it is. This long-running death metal outfit has put me off in the past, but reports of creeping variety and progressive elements into their sound had me intrigued enough to give Passiondale a chance. Lyrically, Passiondale is concept record based upon the Belgian village of Passiondale, and the surrounding area which was the site of massive slaughter during World War I. Musically, the album blasts through enough traditional-sounding death metal to keep the purists happy, but bouts of melody and keyboards are thrown in to make things interesting. The production is crystal clear yet massive, giving the record a clean, heavy sound that enables the sonic nuances to be heard. “Under A Darkening Sky” and “No Man’s Land” open the album with tight, brutal death metal. Things take an interesting turn with “Poison Fog”, a six minute opus that breaks down into two keyboard-drenched mid-sections with clean vocals. This is followed by “Drowning In Mud” and the title track, both of which incorporate slower, groovier structures that stand well beside their faster sections. The accelerator is pushed to the floor again for “No Survivors”, which unexpectedly includes a slow, passionately sung interlude mid-song. Keyboards accentuate the somber, pounding introduction of “Behind Enemy Lines” before exploding into chaotic riffage. “Fallen Empires” breathes like a final, desperate gasp before the album closes with the epic instrumental “Artifacts Of The Great War”. Passiondale exceeds the expectations of what a death metal album should be, and God Dethroned have delivered a punishing and thought-provoking album. This will easily rank as one of the top albums of the year and should be immediately added to the collection of diehard and casual death metal fans alike.


God Dethroned will be performing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, October 10. Support will come from Abigail Williams, Woe Of Tyrants, Augury, and Sangre Mal.

Job For A Cowboy Cancels Minneapolis Date

Metal Blade recording artist Job For A Cowboy announced via their Myspace page today that they have dropped off the remaining dates of their tour supporting Gwar with The Red Chord due to a family emergency. Job For A Cowboy will therefore not be appearing with Gwar at First Avenue on Monday, October 12. The band initially cancelled shows from October 2–5 last week before deciding to officially leave the tour today.