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


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


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


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


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.