New Core of American Metal Tour

Freeport Convention Center
Freeport, IL 2/11/05
by Dr. Abner Mality


Confession time: for a brief period a couple of years ago, the Good Doctor was employed as a substitute teacher
in this area. If you think I'm corrupting the youth of America now, HAH! As might be expected, though, the experience took a toll on even my steely nerves.

That's why attending this metalcore show in Freeport made me uneasy, because I felt like I was in charge of the detention room again. Holy cats, it's one thing to have a young crowd but this was fuckin' ridiculous. I mean, 85% of the fans here couldn't have been old enough to drive, drink or vote! It's a good thing to see the youth involved in heavy music, but the constant junior high antics served not only to make me feel about 102 years old but to remind me of a chapter in my life I thought closed.

Another thing I learned tonight is that metalcore breakdowns are getting as lame as hell. These slow and easy beats
are the lazy man's way to get a desired crowd reaction and they often sound nearly identical regardless of what band is playing them. Very much a Pavlov's Dog response from the kids in the crowd and very much an unoriginal form of songwriting from the bands.

Freeport Convention Center is basically a reworked banquet room of the old Ramada Inn. Two stages were used for the show tonight, one for the local bands, one for the nationals on the "New Core of American Metal" tour. Guess which stage got lights and better sound? Yup, you got it...

First band I saw was Blood of Creation, formerly known as Novacaine, and I was very
pleasantly surprised by these lads' heaviness. In fact, they were one of the more death metal oriented bands of the evening, mixing the more typical hardcore-meets-Maiden sound with something that sounded an awful lot like old Swedish death metal to me. Third song in actually reminded me of Grave, with deep growls to match. These guys seriously need to get a tougher look than the almost preppy appearance they had here, but they are quite an impressive new name on the scene and I look forward to their EP "The Noble Gentlemen".

The first national act to play was up-and-coming Winter Solstice, who should have their debut album "The Fall of Rome" out on Metal Blade Records by the time you read this. It is definitely what I call the standard metalcore sound, with a lot of influences from melodic Swedish death metal bands mixed with choppy breakdowns, but they play with a lot of fire and intensity. I could not figure out the lead singer's Garth Brooks fixation...he praised Garth between almost every song as "The Man". Sorry, fellas, when it comes to country, only Johnny Cash is "The Man".

Hastings Way were up next and got a good reaction from the crowd. These dudes are definitely getting a rep now.
It's a raw and chaotic kind of metalcore they purvey, with near death metal heaviness at times. I didn't care much for singer Gabe's clean vocals, which just seemed flat, but his rougher stuff is very good. Visually, they are pretty entertaining, with one guitarist sporting an absolutely awesome mohawk that you could cut your hand on while the bass player with his curly afro goes nuts and mugs it up for all he's worth. They know how to put on a show, let's put it that way...

Based on their name, I thought If Hope Dies was going to be a cookie-cutter metalcore band. But instead they were probably the most talented bunch to play this evening. I'd call their style pure melodic death metal, not too far from their Metal Blade labelmates Beyond the Embrace in style. Lots of great twin guitar harmonies and catchy riffs played at high speed. I'm not familiar with their material so I can't name the songs but all of them had at least one hook that was great and a couple of them were all-out monsters. I will seek more by this band, who actually looked like a metal group, with long hair and appropriate T-shirts. Even the short haired drummer sported tattoos that would make Thrash-head weep with envy. Good metal, good band, check 'em out!

Chapter Seven I had not seen play in about a year and they've had a line up change with a new bass player
coming on board. Their sound has also undergone a change. For the better, I feel, but the teenyboppers in the crowd sure didn't get it. I was very dismayed by the mediocre response to this band. It makes me wonder if kids can appreciate anything beyond simple, done-to-death breakdowns and pit riffs, which is definitely NOT what Chapter Seven is about. Their new stuff seemed to be intricate and layered, with the first song in the set being a good example. This gradually built and built and finally uncorked into the thrashy chaotic hardcore C7 has been known for in the past. The twin vocal approach, which I felt had flaws before, is now greatly refined and vastly improved.Even though it may not be "flavor of the moment", I would urge C7 to continue down this unusual path, which combines tastes of many metal sub-genres.

The strangely named Anterrabae was up next, I wish they were as unusual as their name. Instead, very typical metalcore was their bag. Competently and enthusiastically played, but what's different about it? Nothing that I could detect. There are legions of bands like this out there now and in about 3 years, most will be defunct.

Trading In December was the next local, who I had zero familiarity with. Based on their name, I was dreading emo-influenced crap or an Atreyu knock-off. Wrong again! These local kids attacked the stage with such an onslaught of youthful energy that nobody watching them could be bored. The music is not really all that special, but they just put every ounce of blood, sweat and adrenaline into their performance, running wildly across the stage and beating their instruments with fury. A lot of their supporters were in the crowd and helped kick things up another notch. If they can work on more memorable songwriting and harness the same amount of energy to it, a monster will be born. I wish they'd ditch the name, though, because having "months" in your name is overdone and lame these days.

Twelve Tribes kept the adrenaline level high. I have a feeling this is a band I would hate on record, but live, they were pretty impressive. They were also notably different from most of the other bands. Ditching the melodic metalcore influences, they reminded me of a much angrier and pissed off Sevendust. Those type of grooves were present and another similarity was their dread-locked African American frontman, who commanded the stage with vigor. Their music tended to run together in my head after a while but the overall effect was one of fire and force.

Man Made Man I'm not going to dwell on too much, we have covered them plenty here at Wormwood. I think it is
time for them to start taking chances. They could keep going the way they are now...opening for national bands and headlining for their dedicated "Pit Crew" fans...until doomsday, if that's what they want. I think they should up the ante and take it on the road. I know they got burned in Chicago in the past, but Chi-town would be a good first step. There is something here that could possibly grow to Godzilla sized proportions, but they've got to add some new songs and move out of the "comfort zone" of the local scene. Tonight they were the purely heaviest and noisiest band, creating an avalanche of brutal sound. The clear singing on "Undisputed" sounded out of whack, but the four pronged vocal shouts on "Wartorn" and "Get In" are awesome. In what has almost become a ritual, their amps blew again, leading to an awkward break, but they soon recovered. Singer Sean started a wall of death for DVD purposes tonight and it looks as cool as hell, but I'm worried some kid will get mangled during one of these things some day.

Finally we come to the tour headliner, It Dies Today, who are very hot right now and touring on a well-received record "The Caitiff Choir". These guys are barely older than the kids in the crowd and sported a kind of "gothic gangster" look, complete with skinny ties and eyeliner. Once again, what I heard was a band that had plenty of energy and musicianship, but trapped in the metalcore style with few distinctive characteristics. The clean vocals came into a bit more focus here but to tell the truth, I was getting pretty tired by this time and It Dies Today did not do enough to keep my interest up. The kids were into it without a doubt, though, and if you are a metalcore buy-all, then these guys will be gods to you. They probably played a couple more after I left but unless they suddenly decided to play bluegrass or Carcass-style grind, I don't think I missed too much.

So a long night was over. It was pretty entertaining but I would have wished for a bit more diversity in sound. The big
winners of the evening for me were If Hope Dies...they are a band I would gladly see again. Out of the locals, keep an eye out for Blood of Creation and Chapter 7, but really they all came across pretty well.

Class is now dismissed, time for teacher to go home and sack out...