Hard Rock Cafe, Chicago, Ill

by Dr. Abner Mality and Thrash-head

Humanoids, I have had a deeply inbred dislike of the Hard Rock Cafe for many years. Yuppie tourist trap,sneered I. $7.00 for a hamburger! You gotta be shittin' me! Never would a countercultural deity like myself ever venture into such an abode! Leave it to Nevermore to make a liar out of me!

Now, dammit, I give credit where it is due. A concert featuring Nevermore, Opeth, Angel Dust and God Forbid is a hell of a metal show! In fact,this was the very first "true metal" show at Hard Rock. So what else was there to do but swallow my pride, hop in Thrash-head's aged SUV and head to downtown Chicago to take in the mayhem?

After a ride that featured the usual traffic shenanigans, a downpour and some scary noises from Thrash's vehicle, we made our way to the world-renowned tourist trap. Man, I cannot lie! They treated us great there, a lot better than House of Blues did when Dark Starr and I saw Dio. Thanks to a very cool tour manager named Digger, we got in free of charge to see the show...and we weren't even on the list! Digger, the Wormwood Chronicles thanks you.

Let's break this sucker up. I'm gonna take God Forbid and Opeth (whom I also interview in this very ish) while Thrash offers his take on Angel Dust and Nevermore. God Forbid have just released their first LP "Determination" on Century Media and drew the opening slot. Hence, they became guinea pigs for the sound crew and hence, they suffered for it. Frontman Byron Davis' leather-lunged screamings were inaudible the entire set, which really hurt them; But not to the point where I couldn't see the promise in this band.

Although the fact that four-fifths of the band were African-Americans would usually be of little interest, I noted it because I could detect absolutely NO hiphop or even blues influences in God Forbid's music. Instead, we got very fast and high-powered metal with a lot of complexity and melody. An American answer to In Flames, perhaps? Really ripping guitar work, many time changes, major velocity. The band was good! Not a million miles away from labelmates Shadows Fall. Shame about the vocals, I look forward to seeing them develop.

THRASH-HEAD: Angel Dust is one of the power metal bands that it at least takes a while for it to get cheesy. The music is harder than most of it's ilk, the lyrics are more passionate than most of it's ilk, and the overall sound and performance is just plain better than most of it's ilk. This performance was nothing short of spectacular, comprised mostly from their last couple of Century Media releases.

Frontman Dirk Thurisch was a show by himself, at times weaving around the mic in an emotive frenzy, and at other times picking up a guitar and handling rhythm duties while at the same time coaxing powerful Kiske-esque screams out of his diaphram. Behind him arose a powerful band that delivered riffage only rivaling the newer stuff by Helloween, and a superior presence was felt by all in attendance.

DR. MALITY: I can honestly say I have never seen a metal band that operates the way Opeth does. There is a complete lack of cliche and histrionics surrounding the Swedes. They just come out and smile while laidback frontman Mikael Akerfeldt cracks a softspoken joke. No screaming , posing or other such stuff. The band is about the music, pure and simple. And they proved it in spades! The band is so musically intense and focused. You really have to concentrate on what they are doing and frankly, a lot of the low-attention span headbangers will probably not get it.

They put just as much effort into the soft melodic stuff as they do into the roaring metallic material and amazingly enough, the crowd responds just as well to it. Never thought I'd see bald and tattooed headbangers cheering a ballad like "Credence" but I did here. The only track they played off the new "Blackwater Park" was the very long and vaguely Floyd-like "The Drapery Falls". A real epic of gothic metal.

Akerfeldt's vocals are beyond amazing. The death roars will scare the shit out of you but are still articulate while the clean vocals are sweet enough to warm the heart of many a folky. Opeth had to cut their set short because of time restrictions, which caused grumbling both in the band and the crowd, but they made their point: heavy metal IS music and Opeth are the masters of it. Take it away,Thrash...

THRASH-HEAD: I gotta confess that Nevermore was the band I came to see. Ever since my compadre Dust turned me onto them three years ago I've been hooked and would consider them my favorite band by now. This set reaffirmed my beliefs easily.

The band, now a permanent four piece but with the addition of energized rhythm guitarist Curran Murray, for the purposes of touring (for a temporary member, he can sure as hell put on a show!), took the stage and broke into a set made up of the better stuff from the past three albums. (Why not the kick-ass EP and at the least "What Tomorrow Knows" off the debut?). They tore through select cuts off the new CD, proving that they can indeed hold up on their own amidst the older, less-groove-infested material. Among them, there was, "Inside 4 Walls", the label-requested first single "Believe in Nothing", and the absolutely killer rendition of "The Heart Collector".

The band gave a seriously energized performance and all musicianship was on display here, even giving Curran a solo fill at the end of "Next in Line". Two incidents really stuck in my mind though, as true testament to the bands respect of their fans.

The first, occurring during the cut "Beyond Within" off their "Dreaming Neon Black" CD, was when I made a Pentagram sign out of two "devil Signs" and my thumbs. Upon seeing it, vocalist Warrel Dane gave his thumbs-up, and when the solo came around, bent down and asked "Didju learn THAT from Gene Hoglan?!?", to which I gave my over-enthusiastic "Yeah-ha!".

The second incident was when in the parking lot, I gave my words of approval to Jim, Jeff ("You are my favorite guitar player!!!"), and Curran. Curran especially was cool, who when I incquired about his regular band in Seattle, Aggression Core, he happily handed me a demo CD and told me to keep it. Killer!!! If only all rockstars were like that (no names, Fr__ D__st!). All in all, killer show by all who performed, as I'm sure Dr. Mality would agree, don't you Abner?

Yes, my boy, I would. Heavy metal at the Hard Rock? Believe it!

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