February 16, 2009

Concert Review: Soilwork w/ Darkane, Warbringer, Swallow the Sun, Downfire (Poughkeepsie, 2/13/09)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the most heavily European-flavored show I think I have ever been to. It was a night that was highly invigorating and helped get my 2009 concert series off with a bang. I was beginning to feel a bit deprived of live music, having not been to a show since mid-December when I saw The Misfits. I have to say that it was great to be back in the club watching live metal and drinking a beer. The crowds, the equipment, the bustle of stage hands and sound guys, it is always an experience.

I arrived a the Chance shortly past 8PM and got at the end of the slow moving line. Somehow I knew it was going to be a mistake to show up so late. Of course, I was not expecting the line to be moving quite so slowly. It would not have been so bad had the wind not been whipping through the alley leading to the entrance.

By the time I got inside, my friends in Downfire were nearly finished with their set. This is the second time in a row that I have either missed all or part of a Downfire set. Hopefully, the same thing won't happen when I go to see them again on 2/28. Still, the most of one song I got to hear sounded great. These heavy hard rockers definitely know how to put on a solid show. I also got to see them with their newest member, bassist Jim Norton, an incredible player I have seen play with a number of acts and looks to be a good fit here. I am looking forward to actually seeing them play a whole set in the near future.

The next band fails from Finland, Swallow the Sun. Their style has been called a cross between Melodic Death and Doom metal. I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to genres, but from what I heard, that sounds about right. When the six-piece first took the stage, with five members lined up across the front of the equipment-crowded stage, I cannot say I was immediately wowed by them, but by the end of their half-hour set, I was looking to sign on as a fan. I believe my initial indifference had to do with a muddy sounding mix. It was hard to really distinguish what they were doing. That was rectified rather quickly and as the mix came into focus, so did the band, and the result was something else. Their sound is heavy, atmospheric, and aggressive. They are led by a think wall of sound that lay the bed for their dark music. Particularly impressive was their drummer, Pasi Pasanen, the guy all over the kit and it sounded great.

Swallow the Sun ended their set and the stage was set up for a little bit of an American flavor. Warbringer was preparing to bring some thrash to the stage, and I was ready for it. This is the main band I was looking forward to seeing this evening and to make it a little special, I ventured from my usual safe distance into the pit area in front of the stage.

Warbringer took the stage in a thrash driven fury and my mind became a flurry of activity. The band plays an old school style of thrash, reminiscent of bands like Exodus and Testament and as I stood in the pit watching them and the youthful irreverent energy they bring to the stage, I could not help but think that this must be like what it was was back in the early 1980's when thrash was beginning to make its style heard.

At the same time, I had to reflect on what it was like to be back in the pit. It made the music feel more alive, with all of the bodies moving in front of me the floor beneath my feet flexing to the beat, rampant adrenaline flowing freely around me, it was quite exhilarating. Then reality set in and I realized I am not a kid anymore and not really built for life in the pits. I tried to keep to the edge, but could not help getting crushed against the rear railing a few times, not to mention the scary big guy standing in front of me who would spontaneously start stomping the floor while doing the cabbage patch before being accosted by other thrashers in the pit. Yes, I was a little bit frightened.

Having learned my lesson, I retreated from the pit, grabbed a beer, and met up with Jim from Downfire. We chatted about the scene and waited for the next band to take the stage.

Darkane, a melodic death/thrash act hailing from Sweden was up next. They sounded decent, but nothing spectacular. I was not sure what I was expecting, although considering their Swedish home, I was expecting something perhaps a bit more melodic. Still, they are a slid unit and delivered a good blast of metal with that European sound.

Finally, the legendary Soilwork came to the stage to music from the Who, before breaking into their trademark Gothenburg sound. I only recently began listening to the band, but I like what I heard on CD, but have to admit to feeling a little cold to their live performance. There was a lot of energy and the crowd was really into it, but as I stood there, I liked what I was hearing, but was not blown away in the way I was hoping for.

Overall, it was a strong night of metal that I would not have given up for anything. It was a different style show for the Chance, which usually caters to a more American sound. Hopefully, we will continue to get some different style bands through.


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