Venue: The Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Mastodon, High On Fire, Converge
Label: Williams Street Entertainment
The question remains is there any stopping the Metal juggernaut that is Dethklok? Having witnessed their onslaught in both the video and in the live sense I would have to answer a resounding “No”. They are a force of nature in terms of both their appeal and impact upon the minds of the young Metal keepers of the faith, and these same spenders of the hard earned concert buck seem to rally en masse whenever the band makes it known that appearances are reaching their vicinity. Shows sell out almost instantly and people who don’t get in are left wailing in the streets as they lament their sad fate. That’s some powerful feelings when it comes down to it and oh, and did I mention that this was a cartoon band? Yes indeed it is, and Dethklok are the stars of the Adult Swim program “Metalocalypse” which was created by Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha. The show follows the misadventures of this futuristic Death Metal band who based on their incredible earnings are viewed as an economy unto themselves in the world’s scenario. This status finds them with numerous enemies, but we shall discuss those folks a little later. Tonight was the second of two shows being held by the group and it was sold out for quite a few weeks. Interestingly enough, this was actually supposed to be the sole show, but the response was so great that a second night was added and it would fall before this one, making our show this evening the closing New York visit. The last time around they played with Chimaira and Soilent Green but tonight would bring along the mighty Mastodon, Converge and High On Fire. It was sure to be a raucous night at The Hammerstein Ballroom. Here is how the night played out.
High On Fire & Converge: I had caught High On Fire when they last performed in NYC as the opener for the mighty Opeth and I thought that their brand of Stoner Noise Metal meets Motorhead was pretty good and something I would definatley see again if the opportunity arose and while tonight could have been that chance it was not meant to be based on the timing of getting myself into the venue. I forget that the Hammerstein is one of those places that take forever to get inside and coordinated in based on the lengthy line and amount of people that they check in, so I ended up missing a good 98% of the bands set and only heard some rumbling guitars and a hearty goodnight. The crowd seemed to be in place rather early and my guess was that they wanted a good space to enjoy the show and that they were also into who was coming up next which was Converge. I’ll be honest right here and say that I don’t personally “get” the appeal of what Converge does but the whole hardcore vibe was lost on me for the most part no matter how hard I tried to get my head in sync with what they were presenting. I caught Converge opening for Mastodon a couple of years ago with other friends and while not one of us cared, the entire venue seemed to disagree and were flying into the air and onto the mosh pit floor. Even though this is not my own thing I was happy to see a heavy band that is opening going over well and entertaining their fans. The guys clearly seemed into it on the stage and the singer is a madman and a veritable flurry of motion as he performs. Singer Jacob Bannon’s best line of the night was when he told the audience to “choose to live every day and not to die every day” which I just was impacted by very much and felt was a powerful statement to make. We got a kick ass and short drum solo from the bands skin basher that showcased a talented guy and in the end I can safely say if you love the blending of Hardcore with Metal than perhaps this is the band for you. I need to hear their newest album “Axe To Fall” which is receiving a fair amount of praise from reviewers and perhaps this shall finally sell me on the band. They thanked Mastodon for always bringing them out on tour with them and apparently this tour would be the bands fourth go round as an opener for them. Either way, they were now done and off the stage and it was time to enjoy a crushing set from Mastodon, one of the two main reasons that I was in the venue in the first place.
Mastodon: Mastodon are never a band that disappoints in the live sense and tonight would be no exception as the band hit the stage and launched into a full performance of their most recent album “Crack The Skye”. Having missed them when they did a tour of the region for a couple of nights doing the exact same thing I was happy to find them giving the audience that came here for Dethklok what appeared to be the exact show in terms of how it flowed with the “Crack The Skye” portion. Some of the friends I was speaking to who had attended and actually caught Mastodon on those occasions mentioned how the whole set seemed to mirror those that I had missed. Lucky me, and luckier still for those fans of Dethklok. I didn’t mind hearing the bands album in full because it was on my music player and I had been listening to it at some length of late. Watching them do it in front of me was fantastic and I can honestly say that the band executes it to perfection in the live sense and this release is something that every Metal head needs to have as a part of their collection. It’s more of a Progressive Hard Rock thing with a twist of Psychedelia in my humble opinion. It was interesting to find the band performing in a very low lit setting and my guess was that this was to showcase the films and artwork being shown on the screen behind them. This art was by Paul Romano who had worked with the band extensively over the years and when it came down to it, the show being performed for this part of the night was both sonically and visually stimulating.
From my vantage point I was focused on singer/bassist Troy Sanders, who was singing with pure passion. It’s great to hear the band do almost all clean vocals as opposed to any growling stuff as it shows they have really good voices as well in terms of the melody and harmony they are capable of. The drumming this evening of Brann Dailor was nothing short of extraordinary and I am convinced of his being one of the most fluid players on the music scene today. When he plays it looks almost effortless and while I might have said this about someone else when I watched them, it really applies to Dailor as well. Since Halloween was just around the corner from us, it did not surprise me that guitarist Brent Hinds was wearing some sort of costume. He had tighter than skin spandex pants on and a big afro type wig which was very seventies in appearance. After the completion of the “Crack The Skye” album the band took a moment’s breather and then returned for their encores or closing numbers, however you want to denote them. The touched upon every one of their previous releases and did it in such a fashion where they went from now back to then. It was almost like watching a musical rewind of the bands history and after paying a visit to both “Blood Mountain” and “Leviathan” they called out the bassist from Converge who helped them sing the Thin Lizzy classic “Emerald”. Perhaps Hinds was meant to resemble the late Phil Lynott. Come to think of it, he did kind of look like him in that disguise. Now it was time to clear the stage and make way for Dethklok and the unique manner of destruction that they bring along with them. I was happy to find the audience backing Mastodon and I had not expected less from them this evening.
Dethklok: It was really something to behold when you think about it and that was the fact that a couple of thousand insane Metal fans were packed into the Hammerstein Ballroom to watch a live band playing in dim light while the cartoon of the guys in Dethklok ran in the background along to the melodies that they were playing. Having seen this group do their thing last year I was expecting pretty much of the same thing, but of course since that time, a second season on the “Metalocalypse” show had aired and a second CD of music had been released, so perhaps there would be more differences than not. While the road crew scurried about getting the stage prepared the screen above came to life with the words “backstage” and the audience went crazy when the images of Dethklok standing in the back halls came into view. The guys were talking about their new roadie and whether or not he should be fired. Some of the guys viewed him as a dildo while another felt he was cool and looked like Danzig when such a thing actually mattered. This line struck me as funny for tomorrow I was actually seeing The Misfits perform at B.B. King’s. Of course Danzig is no longer a part of the band and will likely never do that again, which is a big of a shame, but I digress. The roadie in question appeared and when he did it was the Jack Black character from the new video game “Brutal Legend”. He would protect the band from an insane robot and destroy it beyond repair and it was then that the boys deemed him worthy enough to stay among their number. Now it was show time and you could feel the raging excitement building up in the fans.
For those in the unaware, Dethklok in the true live sense are creator Brendon Small who plays guitar and handles all the vocals. The drums come courtesy of Gene Hoglan while second guitar and bass are Mike Keneally and Bryan Beller. They all play in dim light to not take away from the visual presentation of the characters and it really works out rather well. The show began once again with The Tribunal who had convened to discuss their mutual plight which is Dethklok and how they were going to unleash a virus on the bands fans to turn them into mutants. When questioned about how would anyone notice anything different or how it would hurt Dethklok, the answer was that said virus would prevent the fans from spending any money on the bands products and hence starve them into extinction eventually. From there it was on and from the first note of the Dethklok material the crowd was insane. I found it amusing the last time to see a few bodies surfing the crowd during the bands set, but tonight was far, far worse and the kids were launching themselves into the air and into the security hands. It was sure keeping them busy and it seemed to come at the front relentlessly and while it was all happening one could only imagine how creator Small was feeling watching the activity that his babies had wrought. The new recording is entitled “Dethalbum II” and it keeps within the context that we wanted Dethklok music to run with and since there was new material to perform, the set and images happening in the background would reflect this. All of the video that was working along with the new songs seemed to be new to my eyes but those older tunes from the first season of the show were the same as that which we saw previously. In watching the audience it didn’t seem to matter a bit because they were going ballistic. At one point I took a chance to see how this looked from a little higher a vantage point and when I did that it was like watching a swirling sea of bodies. Since the general admission area was packed solid, all of the moshing was making the floor look like rough seas and human waves. Wild to say the least and something that made me realize I should have captured with the camera phone for posterity. Oh well, there are no doubt a great number of videos on YouTube already that deliver this image very clearly. The skits that were the same ones were the “Facebones” clips about how the band gathers their groupies and the scientists explaining how to mosh and how failure to pick up the person in front of you who might fall down is nothing less than a “dick move”. Musically I think they managed to get to all of the older songs that were the most popular in the fans eyes.
From the new CD the band delivered no less than five tunes and I had to say that they were a lot of bloody destructive fun as well and not something run of the mill as much as they were well executed and planned numbers. “Deth Support” showed us the origins of the bands hooded minions while “Burn The Earth” pretty much delivered just what its title tells you about. As the set came to a close Small would first talk to the audience in the voices of the shows characters and then his own. This was met with great approval and through it all the bodies did not stop storming the barricades. During the final tune the group would play in full light while the logo of the band was behind them on the screen. It was not as long of a set as one might have wanted but there was no one in the venue who was disappointed at the end of the night based on what I was seeing. Only time will tell if the boys in Dethklok will ever come to the big screen as a live action feature film and before you laugh me off the planet for such a wild theory as this, let us remember that “Transformers”, “GI Joe” and “Speed Racer” were all cartoons and they managed to get live action films done over the past couple of years. Given the recent knowledge that board games like “Candy Land”, “Battleship” and “Monopoly” are all being worked on for feature film releases can the audacity about an imaginary Death Metal band be far from someone’s pitching table? I think not. Imagine the casting that this would bring forth.
As I walked back to the train to return me to the hallowed halls of the PiercingMetal Sanctum Sanctorum, I realized that I was hearing a lot of Michael Jackson music as I wandered and that didn’t surprise me since his concert documentary film “This Is It” had just opened up two days prior to the Dethklok show. When the source came into view I was also not too surprised that the reason I was hearing the music was because it was from all the bootlegged copies that were up for sale on the corners of 34th street and 7th avenue as the pirating thieves snared cash from the lazy consumer who could not wait for a higher quality version to be officially released. These are the same idiots who wonder why the music industry is in the shape that it is. Oh well. It amused me that no cops were about to shut them down.
So there you have it – another incredible Metal show and now my fifth event in six days…..tomorrow was Halloween and that meant The Misfits were going to be at B.B. King Blues Club. I would be there as well because there didn’t seem to be a better way to celebrate the Feast Of Samhain.
Mastodon Set List:
4. The Czar
5. Ghost Of Karellia
6. Crack The Skye
7. The Last Baron
8. Circle Of Cysquatch
9. Aqua Dementia
11. Mother Puncher
12. The Bit aka “Emerald”
Klok Set List:
1. Intro Video
4. Burn The Earth
5. Facebones Video
7. Black Fire Upon Us
8. Birthday Dethday
9. Coffee Video
10. Coffee Jungle
11. Moshing Video
12. Deth Support
14. Bathroom Video
15. The Gears
18. Eyes/Elect Video
19. Go Into The Water
20. Brendon Speaks
Earlier in the year, Dethklok’s creator Brendon Small performed at B.B. King Blues Club with students from The School Of Rock and together they played music from the hit show “Metalocalypse” and some classic covers. You can check out that narrative by clicking HERE.