Soilwork @ Highline Ballroom (2/15/2009)

Logo - Soilwork
Artist: Soilwork
Venue: Highline Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Swallow The Sun, Warbringer, Darkane
Date: 2/15/2009
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

There was a time not too long ago where I felt as if I was catching the band Soilwork more often than I would like to and that was causing their sound to be something that I was not always excited about even though I always managed to enjoy the shows. This happens when you see bands again and again and let’s face it they did tour relentlessly for their “Stabbing The Drama” CD and even after a short break to record “Sworn To A Great Divide” they would be right back at it as champions of their own new music. Having passed on a few appearances I was happy to be present as the band headlined the very comfortable space of the Highline Ballroom. This is a great room and to help Soilwork level the place would be Swallow The Sun, Warbringer and Darkane. We got in place nice and early to be sure we wouldn’t miss any of these great bands. Swallow The Sun would be up first.

Swallow The Sun: The guys in Swallow The Sun (from here on in referred to as “STS”) are a dose of dramatic Finnish thunder that I feel bring a lot to the Metal table. The last time I got to see them perform was during the show with Katatonia and for that event they shared the stage with both Insomnium and Scar Symmetry. That night found the band performing with many similar sounding artists and while I enjoyed them I felt that their full impact was lost just a little based on the common vibe being laid down. Tonight would be a great chance to enjoy them a little better because they would really be the only Doom Metal band on the set. They had a lot of people inside already who were interested in them and that was great to observe because often the very first band suffers in audience numbers. The group is fronted by Mikko Kotamaki who was definitely making some fans for this awesome band and by going back and forth between clean and growling vocals was rather intense. The down side was that he and his companions would finish rather quickly and if they played just over 40 minutes it would have surprised me. Their brief set included songs like “The Justice of Suffering”, “Out of this Gloomy Light”, “Don’t Fall Asleep” and “The Ship”. The guys would convene at the merchandise booth and talk to the fans and sign the CD’s if such action was required of them. They hope to return to play a longer set sometime soon so let’s cross our fingers. Pick up their CD “Hope” when you can because it is rather good. Warbringer was up next.

Warbringer: Tonight marks the third time that I will be seeing Warbringer in concert as one of the openers and while I always find them to be energetic in concert I have to say that I would have preferred that they not been on this particular bill and instead on one where their particular style is more suitable. They were actually off this tour for a short time and filled in by Daylight Dies who I felt were an exceptional choice and one I would have loved to see reach NYC. They last destroyed the Big Apple in May of last year as openers for Candlemass so I hope that they return soon. As I said I do admire their energy without question and while they were the only “traditional” styled Thrash band on the bill this evening, they did not start off the mosh pits. It seemed as though some of the crowd felt that the ebbing drama of the Finnish Doom Metal band was perfect for them to start that up during and while many of the others in the audience looked at them curiously, the cold stares didn’t seem to stop them. Warbringer is a tight band and I give them that and with lead singer John Kevill guiding the charge they seem to be on the rise for the NWONATM2, that’s the “New Wave Of North American Thrash Metal 2” which I have just coined. Musically I would like to see a lot more changes from these guys and not just the constant thrashing, stop, thrashing, stop that I get from them. The audience tends to eat them up and Kevill runs around like a younger version of Into Eternity’s Stu Bloch so he is a good showman. Their current release is entitled “War Without End” and they are set to release something new on Century Media Records in the coming months. I am happy to see that such a young group has chosen to uphold the Thrash Metal vibe and wonder if the regular activity of legendary Thrash giants such as Testament, Overkill, Exodus and the like will find them needing to work all the more harder to maintain ground. Let’s face it, there is hardly ever room for the new kids on the block when the giants still walk among us. Good luck to Warbringer and watch out for their new stuff. I am curious about just how many up and coming bands doing this style will make the once again freshness of the genre seem tired in the fans eyes, so lets hope that this does not get overdone before it enjoys some positive reaction. For me, I probably don’t need to see them in action for awhile after these three times but if they find their way to a bill that I am reporting on, you can be assured that I will fill you in on their activity as well. Darkane was next and it was even longer in lapsed time since I had seen them on the stage.

Darkane: The band would be supporting their new album on Nuclear Blast Records entitled “Demonic Art” and this recording continues the bands delivery of Technical Melodic Death Metal in a superb fashion. I had only recently received the album before this show and was impressed with it to say the least. I had only caught Darkane once before in concert and if memory serves me correctly it was also on a bill with Soilwork, but one that they were also opening up on and the headliner was Fear Factory. This incredible show also featured Strapping Young Lad. Since that time there had been a notable change in the bands lineup that found Jens Broman now handling the vocals once delivered by Andreas Sydow. They are still a crushing force in Melodic Death Metal with hints of the classic Thrash side tossed in for good measure and their set was being very well-received by the now packed to the doors Highline Ballroom. I liked Broman’s voice and felt that his delivery was on the money tonight even though I had never heard him in action before this evening. He handled the audience like a seasoned pro and had some very intense glaring going on during the set. Musically they were inter-twining the melodies and razor sharp notes with ease and I am sure that if they should choose to come back to venues of this size that they could do so as a headlining act. The new CD had only come out a few days before this show and as result the band would only add two new tunes to the touring set. This made sense as we were many weeks into the run of this show and having too many new songs might have distanced the crowd from the band just a little bit especially since there would have been no means for them to have an idea of the material. For the most part, the remainder of their set was made up of tracks from “Layers Of Lies” and having this album in my collection I could say that Jens was handling the work of his predecessor very well. Kudos were also to be handed out to the guitar shredding of Christofer Malmstrom and Klas Ideberg who were doing some great things this evening. After about fifty minutes or so, it would finally be time for Soilwork to return to their fans on the headlining stage.

Soilwork: To the outside observer it must sound like something out of the Godfather movie when it comes to guitarist Peter Wichers in the sense of “just when you thought you were out they pull you back in” because after a couple of years absence from the bands lineup he has returned much to the appreciation of all of his fans. He left shortly after the touring for “Stabbing The Drama” had completed and was replaced by Daniel Antonsson who recorded “Sworn To A Great Divide” and was now gone himself in light of Wichers return. The other interesting aspect of Soilwork today would be the departure of Ola Frenning who has been replaced by Scarve’s Sylvain Coudret. Now that you are caught up with the whole process we can continue on to the bands performance this evening. As I mentioned the club was now full to the entrance doors and while some regions were doing smaller circle pits there was really insufficient “give” from the attending crowd to allow it to happen for too long and that was fine by me since I was there to rock out and not need to watch my back every second from the idiotic karate kicking dancers that the scene has somehow given us. It was great to see Soilwork headlining here again and with their founding member back in place the crowd was quite enthusiastic. The set list would be interesting this time around and to make it all the more so, the band had opened up their catalog of material to the fans and did an internet poll that would determine the songs that would be included on the set. After a specified open pitch time they would compile them and set up a proper order for it to make sense and this idea would guarantee that the set kicked extended levels of ass because the audience had plenty of time to let their voices be heard – and they were heard indeed.

The band is fronted by Speed who really in an intense person on the stage who brings you into his world during the show. He sounded great as always and spurred on the activity that was happening in front of him as often as possible. Wichers was getting a lot of attention tonight and appeared to be very focused in his playing. I am sure that he had not lost an ounce of his edge but to look at his stoic visage one could think that he was double checking everything in his mind as he delivered note after note. There was also a lot of stage interplay with bassist Ola Fink and new guitarist Sylvain who were doing acrobatic things with their own guitars in their quest to rile the audience up all the more. There was not a whole lot of talking during the show and I was cool with that since I come for the music as opposed to the lecture and since Soilwork has a lot of great material, this was time better spent in my opinion. When one looked at the set list, it read off like a greatest hits live set from the band and I can only hope that somewhere along the lines that some of these nights were recorded for future use.

I would have to say that this was a killer night of Metal and a great way to start off the week. February had started off rather strange for the Metal fans with the likes of Wednesday 13 and then Goblin Cock last week and before this week ends we have the long awaited return of Meshuggah who will be appearing with Cynic. We expect to be there as well and will bring you the news on that one – 2009 sure looks to be a promising year for shows from the looks of it.

Darkane Set list:
1. Intro
2. Leaving Existence
3. Convicted
4. Fading Dimensions
5. Chaos Vs. Order
6. Distress
7. Execution 44
8. Secondary Effects
9. Innocence Gone
10. Outro

Soilwork Set list:

1. Follow The Hollow 
2. Like The Average Stalker 
3. Exile 
4. Needlefeast 
5. Rejection Role 
6. Black Star Deceiver 
7. 20 More Miles 
8. Soilworker’s Song Of The Damned 
9. Shadowchild 
10. Sworn To A Great Divide 
11. Distortion Sleep 
12. The Chainheart Machine 
13. Light The Torch 
14. Stabbing The Drama 
15. As We Speak 
16. The Pittsburgh Syndrome 
17. Nerve 

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