December 19, 2006

Concert Review: Killswitch Engage w/ Hatebreed, Bury Your Dead, Two Cents (12/18/06)

Walking into The Chance Theater, you could feel the electricity. The air was practically crackling with the energy that was pulsating through the sold out crowd. It has been quite some time since I have felt anything like it. Of course, there hasn't been a show quite like this in some time. This was a bill that could have easily sold out a venue four times its size, but this venue brought everyone that much closer. This even with the lineup change. Originally, Shadows Fall was slated to be on the tour, but they dropped off, opting to remain in the studio working on their new album. They were replaced by Hatebreed, that softened the blow.

By the time I got inside the first act was nearing the end of their set with a rousing rendition of Slayer's "Reign in Blood." You could already feel the quickly increasing crowds energy coming off in waves. Two Cents was the band on stage, and they were putting forth some high energy, and the crowd was giving it right back. I didn't hear much, but they sounded pretty good. They were a four piece which featured their drummer as their lead singer. I cannot recall the last time I saw a drummer as frontman, the last time I saw a drummer sing lead for as how was when I saw Anthrax's frontman, Joey Belladonna, at a solo show sing a show from behind a kit.

As Two Cents cleared their gear, the excitement began to grow. Bury Your Dead was setting up to play, and they have been growing in notoriety since the release of their latest, Beauty and the Breakdown. This is a band that injects a little humor into the normally humorless hardcore genre with their fairy tale inspired song titles, and the Tom Cruise inspired cuts from their last album. They opened up with what may be my favorite song from them, the first song off of Beauty, "House of Straw." As soon as the song hit, the crowd went nuts and the band was in constant motion running back and forth across the stage, to say they had a kinetic presence would be an understatement. One of the guitarists and the bassist would do spin kick jumps and swing their instruments around their body in unison. They were on the small stage moving about, making it feel like a stadium. The crowd was going in insane, a few pits formed for the kids to go about their spin kicks and windmill punches.

Bury Your Dead may not be at the top of my musical heap, but they are definitely a great live act. They brought out some heavy as sh!t breakdowns and some excellent drumming. They closed their set with "Magnolia," followed by some crowd participation in the chant "We Are.... Bury Your F__king Dead!" By now the crowd was all warmed up and ready to go. My skin bristled with the energy unlike I have felt since I saw Bob Dylan this past summer, an odd comparison to be sure, but the energy was definitely comparable.

The stage was torn down and reset for Hatebreed, playing a homecoming of sorts. The drummer is from this town, and was a good friend of mine growing up. It was great to finally get the chance to see him play live. The last time I saw Hatebreed live was nearly 10 years ago and before he joined the band. As soon as they hit the stage, there was this incredible roar from the crowd. I knew Hatebreed was big, as one of the upper echelon of hardcore bands, but I never could have imagined this reaction. They opened with "To the Threshold" and the attack never let up. Jamey Jasta led the mayhem with his growled vocals, while Matt Byrne attacked the drums so hard he actually broke the skin on his snare, fortunately he had a backup for just the occasion.

The set was highlighted by a mix of new and old. Songs such as "Empty Promises" and "Before Dishonour" standing side by side with newer cuts like "Defeatist" and the pit churning "Destroy Everything" before closing with a rousing performance of "I Will be Heard." If there is one hardcore band that has won me over as a fan, it is Hatebreed. They have great energy and really throwdown onstage, with the crowd churning and with a life of its own. It is something feeling like a small part of something much bigger.

The crowd calmed down, ever so slightly, as we gathered our strength for the powderkeg whosefuse has been lit. Killswitch Engage came to the stage with nothing resembling the rockstar ego. Guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz (in his Mastodon tank top, shorts, cape and aqua shoes) stood on the side of the stage trading licks and squeals on their respective axes as the roadies got the rest of the equipment set up. Then the lights went down, the rest of the band took their places and the show began.

"I will bid farewell..... Sever... the ties!" The sold out crowd sang each word in unison. It was even better than I had hoped. They are good on CD, but the stage is their home, combining their musical abilities with a bizarre sense of humor. It was more like a party with a live band rather than a concert. They were like a group of old friends back after a long absence. No rock star pretensions, just some guys out to put on a show. The metalcore subgenre exists just for these guys, they are the flag bearers, and the stage is where they defend it.

If Bury Your Dead got them warmed up and Hatebreed brought them to a boil, Killswitch Engage brought the roof down. Adam roamed the stage like a complete madman, Howard held the crowd in the palm of his hand. They tore through songs like "Daylight Dies," "Unbroken," "My Curse," "This is Absolution," "When Darkness Falls," "Rose of Sharyn," "Breathe Life," "This Fire," and "My Last Serenade." A perfect blend of cuts from their albums, heavy riffs, wicked drumming, sing along melodies, Killswitch Engage knows how to put on a show. The show came to a close with a cover of the Dio classic "Holy Diver," after which we were spat out into the night, cold, sweaty, and exhausted, but thirsting for more.

It has been quite some time since I was at a show where the crowd was into every band from start to finish. It was an insane night of heavy metal. If these guys come anywhere near you, go, you will not be disappointed.


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