Jewish Community Center
Rockford, IL 5/20/05
by Dr. Abner Mality

It's probably been 38 years since I've been in the Phillip Behr Jewish Community Center in Rockford, Illinois. Yes, this locale was once used as a daycare center, harboring the likes of young Dr. Mality and a passel of other rugrats.

Now, though, I return to the JCC as a full grown mad scientist and oh, how times have changed. The Center is now mostly shuttered , but opens occasionally for a concert. Tonight it was to play host to more than just a was ground zero for MAYHEM INCARNATE!

Wow! Hard to believe that the up and coming extreme metal terrorists The Red Chord are playing my former Romper Room! Not only that, but they bring with them other top notch young lions of the metal scene, A Life Once Lost and If Hope Dies. This show was hotly anticipated by many, and managed to surpass the already high expectations of those in attendance.

It's certainly not a big place. The bands set up on the floor of what looked like a large family room with all the furniture taken out of it. No chairs were in evidence. Except for the merch tables and sound board in back, there was only room for the bands and the crowd. A more intimiate, in-your-face set up could hardly be imagined. I for one thought it was damn cool and it made tonight's show one of the most memorable I've ever been to.

First, before we delve into the meaty main events, I must tell you of...Leviathan. No, not a Mastodon tribute band, I am very hard pressed to describe exactly what the hell these guys are. There's a lot of smart-ass jokers in the underground metal scene right now and I would say Leviathan are among them. Check out the accompanying pics to see what I mean. None of these guys could have been over 20. Wearing cheap ass masks, tight gym shorts full of strange bulges and "silly" T-shirts sporting pictures of the biker from the Village People and Campfire Brownies, this was one of the dumbest looking bands to ever exist. Just as they intended. Add to this the fact that the lead singer played a ridiculous mini-guitar the size of a ukelele and you had a visual experience that even the most jaded kids in the crowd had difficulty comprehending.

Musically, I don't know, there might be something worthwhile. It was mostly slower, sludgy hardcore with a lot of
shouts and strange breakdowns. But the real capper came when the band suddenly stood as still as mannequins on the stage as a weird synthesized instrumenal played...and played...and PLAYED! I mean, this fucking kiddy music went on for 12 or 13 minutes while Leviathan stood frozen on the stage. Finally, crowd members started having their pictures taken next to the motionless geeks. And then boredom really set in. Finally, the band attacked their instruments with a noisy fury, but only for a couple of minutes before stopping. The end. Without taking off their masks, they broke down their gear. It was about the goofiest goddamn thing I've seen in a musical context in a long time and truthfully, I think Leviathan were making fools out of everybody, including themselves.

With that hilarity out of the way, we got a much more "traditional" band next with In The Wake Of... I expect you will be hearing more of this Chicago band soon. They play super technical and violent metalcore with a very sizable dose of classic Norwegian black metal injected into it. Yes, this band owes as much to Emperor and Satyricon as they do to Converge and Bleeding Through. The lead singer was a vocal maniac who squealled, grunted and rasped with such intensity that I almost had to laugh. This guy is REALLY wild! But it works and the band is quite tight as they play their fast and furious ditties. They also have a good sense of humor. During a track called "Cowboys", the singer tried to get the crowd to make lassoing motions with their hands. The response was tepid, but it shows In the Wake Of... don't take themselves that seriously. They were about as intense a local opener as you could want for a show such as this.

If Hope Dies don't get the recognition they deserve. Their monicker makes them sound like a bandwagon-jumping metalcore band but they have been around for seven long years and their brand of melodic thrash is more akin to Shadows Fall than anything else. They kicked ass earlier this year in Freeport and tonight was no different. Opening with the blistering "Roddy Piper's Magic Sunglasses", they got the ninjas doing their thing out on the dance floor. I've said it before, I'll say it again, if any of these buffoons ever hits me with their silly kung fu moves, I'll decapitate the motherfucker.

Back to IHD, vocalist Alan French showed energy and class as the band hit tracks like "Time Is On Our Side" and "So It Goes". What I like about these guys is that their twin guitar work is impeccably melodic but their crunchy breakdowns are equally effective and not quite as predictable as most metalcore bands. Their set was broken up by a brief and violent dispute between French and bassist Gary Mann over the merits of the latest Star Wars movie. French loved it and Mann gave it the thumbs down. Check out my interview with Gary elsewhere.

I next managed to speak to Guy Kozowyk from The Red Chord. Actually, "speak" is a pretty poor description of what Guy and I did. We sat and exchanged some incredibly detailed opinions about the extreme music scene. It was one of the more intellectually stimulating discussions I ever had. The only bad side: I missed the first half of A Life Once Lost's set.

After finally concluding my business with Guy, I raced back inside the JCC to find chaos unleashed on the floor.
This was my first encounter with A Life Once Lost either live or on record and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised by them. This band had a lot of hardcore swagger but they sure knew how to hit a groove. I mean, prime Pantera couldn't have matched some of the swampy, dirty riffs kicked out by ALOL. I muscled my way up to the front lines and I mean, the FRONT lines. I was virtually on the stage and singer Robert Meadows was literally in my face most of the time. With veins and eyes bulging and sweat flying, this dude left nothing behind in his was all right there in front of us, a raw and bleeding wound. It was completely exhilerating and the old Doctor was starting to lose his cool and headbang derliriously despite his delicate neck. A Life Once Lost actually tired out the kids on the floor, they were too much. It was a total adrenaline rush seeing this ferocious explosion of metal fury so up close and personal.

You wouldn't think there would be anywhere to go after A Life Once Lost, but you would be wrong, for the Red Chord were the headliners tonight. This band is really the future of extreme music. Whether you are into Napalm Death, Hatebreed, Dillinger or what-not, they've got something for you. I cannot believe how tight the band is. As far as studio goes, sure, you can sound that way, but live? I wouldn't have thought it possible. But Red Chord did it. Guitarists Kevin and "Gunface" were the picture of furious concentration as their fingers blurred over the strings. Bassist Greg not only kept up, but put on a very entertainting show in himself, often lifting his bass high and playing to the crowd.

But of course, it's Guy who is the frontman and the pivot for the Red Chord live. Bellowing demonic roars and screeches, he is right there in the crowd's face and urging them on to new heights. We didn't have a world class crowd at the JCC but we did have world class energy from the fans who were there. Nobody was disappointed. Guy interacted superbly with everybody and even threw a shout out to yours truly, who was now shaking like an epileptic. The guys mostly hit stuff from their awesome new album "Clients", including "Black Santa", "Antman" and "Dragon Wagon", but they did find the time to pound out some old favorites from their debut "Fused Together In Revolving Doors" such as "Like a Train Through A Pigeon" and "Dreaming In Dog Years". The titles may be funny, but if you would have fired a Fouth of July rocket off in that room, you couldn't have seen more fireworks. Despite the relentless pace of Red Chord's set, the technical abilities of the band never flagged. And I would be very remiss if not completely stupid if I didn't give props to the cyclonic drumming of Brad Fickeisen .

There was a great vibe during this concert that you hope and pray for every time you see a metal show. The fans were into it, the bands were into it and everything clicked. I saw Mossy, Corey and Toast from The Heavils there supporting their labelmates The Red Chord and guys from Blood of Creation and Hastings Way were also there. I wish more of the local bands could have come out tonight, not only to show unity, but to see what sort of performance they should be shooting for.

A lot of people remember being at Rockford's legendary concerts of the past, whether it was Ted Nugent and
Nazareth at the Speedway in 78 or Deicide in 91. Well, you will hear people talking about this one for a long, long time to come. I am more optimistic about the future of extreme music than ever after seeing these bands in action.