New Core of American Metal Tour
Freeport Convention Center
Freeport, IL 2/11/05
by Dr. Abner Mality
IT DIES TODAY, TWELVE TRIBES, ANTERRABAE, IF HOPE DIES, WINTER
SOLSTICE, MAN MADE MAN, CHAPTER 7, TRADING IN DECEMBER, HASTINGS WAY,
BLOOD OF CREATION
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
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
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
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...