CALIBAN / FADED EMBRACE / SWORN ENEMY / LYGATE / ION DISSONANCE /
KILL ME DEAD / RHOMBIC / SELF FULFILLED PROPHECY / DARKER SIDE OF
Freeport Convention Center, Freeport, IL - 05/20/06
by Dr. Abner Mality
has proved to be the death of many a metal show. Too many bands, too
long of a show, too much going on...it causes things to crash and burn
almost every time. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
That was kind of the story of tonight's show. A touring national line-up
was linked with a show loaded with local bands, all of whom I'm sure
had to scramble frantically to sell the tickets they bought from the
promoter. The result was a pretty intense and powerful concert that
surprisingly kept its momentum up fairly well, but which definitely fell
victim to the "too much" syndrome.
I was told the show would start at 6:00. I get there and naturally the
start time had changed to 7:00, which gave me an hour to catch up on
reading David Yeadon's "The Back of Beyond" (excellent travel book, by
the way). And still another extra half hour got tacked onto the gap to
iron out sound problems. The line-up also changed from what had
originally been announced. National metalcore band Embrace the End
apparently had dropped off the tour with no word given and advertised
locals like Powertrip and Blood of Creation did not show. That really
didn't bother me because NINE BANDS wound up playing anyway!
First band was Darker Side of Reality. If a concrete mixer had busted
through the walls and dumped its load all over the mixing board, the
sound couldn't have been any worse. Sheer mud, with the drums sounding
like somebody slapping packing crates. "First band syndrome" struck hard
with these guys, featuring a front man who offered dialogue like
"Here's our next song, hope you like it" and "Check us out on
Myspace.com". To be fair, they put a lot of energy into their incredibly
angry music and the dude's high pitched shrieks were truly horrifying,
but this was really local band stuff with a vengeance.
Unless I miss my guess, local favorites Self-Fulfilled Prophecy were up
next. Their line-up changes so much, it's hard to tell. If so, they now
have the services of the infamous "Afro Dancer" dude on bass. This
fucker is the biggest show on the local metal scene with his berserk and
uncontrollable antics. When he's not lurching around on stage like he's
been hit with an electric cattle prod, he's doing cartwheels and kung
fu moves in the pit when other bands play. God bless him, every scene
needs a guy like this. The rest of the band was equally manic as they
blasted through a set composed of psychotic tech-metal like Dillinger
crossed with Unearth. There were some great riffs buried in the
shrapnel, but the band never stuck with them for long and there was no
real coherency to the material. Yet they were so goofy on stage that you
can't help but be entertained by them.
After this was one of the real surprises of the evening, a band named
Rhombic hailing from Belvidere. Based on that, I was expecting a Man
Made Man/Powertrip/Abcent kind of band, but instead, this was probably
the most corrosive all-out death metal I have ever seen in Northern
Illinois outside of Chicago. No metalcore or melo-death here...this was
intensely ripping blast beat death metal like the old Florida stuff with
a touch of modern dissonance ala Meshuggah to it. The twin vocal attack
was absolutely nuts, featuring TWO raspy, shrieking lunatics working in
concert. Not the usual "low and guttural" guy teaming with "high and
shrieky guy" or "clean vocal" guy...these were two "high and shrieky
guys" who sounded like they wanted to flay skin off the Devil's ass.
Rhombic could do with a bit more attention to songwriting instead of
all-out aggression, but man, if all out aggression is what you want,
you'll get it with these guys! The crowd responded warmly to them.
If Rhombic was a pleasant surprise,then Kill Me Dead was nothing short
of a revelation. I was shocked by the energy and quality of their set.
Whereas so many of the local extreme bands are content to act crazy and
jam as many parts into their music as possible, KMD is much more
concerned with strong and coherent songs. These songs had not only
intensity but a powerful groove. Their slower riffs were not the
predictable and typical breakdowns which even tonight's headliners churn
out, but more like the power-packed mosh parts of old. Great variation
in speeds and riff without flying off the hook...good stuff. I couldn't
say it was totally perfect...the few clean vocals from the mohawked
frontman were a little shaky and I don't think they needed a sampler
(though his guttural death vocals were good)...but it was far, far
better than many local bands. And wouldn't you fuckin' know it? Tonight
was their farewell show! Now that makes me pretty sad, because Kill Me
Dead had nothing but huge potential.
NOTHING could have prepared me for Ion Dissonance...nothing! Maybe being
at Ground Zero the day the Towers fell or perhaps in Hiroshima when the
bomb went off...that might have come close. But I doubt it. Montreal's
Ion Dissonance is not heavy metal as we know it, but rather a
fifty-megaton blast that takes every atom of your body and scrambles it.
Maniacal, diabolical extremity that squeezes the breath out of your
body and leaves you completely exhausted is one way to describe it. I
always thought these guys sounded like a dumpster full of golf balls
falling down a stairway on CD. Live, they STILL sound that way, but when
a band attacks you like this, you go with the flow just to survive. Ion
Dissonance were 5 shrieking madmen convulsing on stage, making goofy
faces like somebody just pissed in their Pepsis and playing the most
chaotic, noisy metal music I've heard. Lead singer Gabriel was literally
hanging from the ceiling and kicking people in the face! This was a
sprint, not a marathon. Despite looking like the very embodiment of
Lucifer on stage, Gabe is a super nice guy who urged the crowd to give a
big hand to Kill Me Dead...a class act for sure. These guys don't look
crazy at all offstage, but when they plug in, watch out! I felt like I
had run 20 miles with a pack of feral pit bulls on my tail after Ion
Dissonance had played...sheer catharsis!
Chicago's Lygate had the totally unenviable task of following Ion
Dissonance's scorching set...something which I don't think any band on
Earth could have done effectively. To give them credit, they put on a
good show and inspired several mosh pits in the surprisingly energetic
crowd. Their music had elements of Pantera, Meshuggah and metalcore,
which was competently delivered. But again, Ion Dissonance had all the
aces tonight. Lygate's frontman was personable but spent too much time
talking between songs. Could have squeezed a couple more tunes in if he
had eased up on the blab.They had a substitute drummer who really
impressed me a lot. Lygate kept the momentum going and the energy high,
which was commendable.
The energy peaked again with Sworn Enemy. This was the band I had come
to see and they did not disappoint. Just a plain old fashioned
ass-whuppin' from a band that crosses Slayer and Agnostic Front and adds
their own bad-ass New York attitude. About as fancy as a $2.00 steak,
these guys were brutal. Less breakdown prone than Throwdown and faster
than Hatebreed, there was indeed the smell of Slayer about Sworn Enemy's
set, but minus the Satanic bullshit and stripped of all frills. The
vocalist's shrill rasps were like a drill bit on sheet metal...no clean
vocals here! There were a few drum problems during which the frontman
delivered some funny business. "I hate to tell you bad news, but we
found out our drummer has a serious medical problem. He will be dead in
three hours if he does not get some weed." That was a good one for sure!
Nobody who was there to slam could be disappointed in Sworn Enemy's
Fatigue was finally starting to kick in on folks now. The crowd thinned
noticeably for Faded Embrace who were up next. These guys, arising from
the ashes of Hastings Way, have made great strides in a short amount of
time and delivered an extremely tight and professional set in front of
fans who still had the energy to dance, mosh and yell. Kind of a mixture
of the sort of no-nonsense brutality Sworn Enemy just demonstrated and
the harsher end of metalcore, I couldn't complain about Faded Embrace
except that my battery is starting to run low and I need to sit on the
floor. Considering seven bands including two awesome nationals and the
farewell of an excellent local had went on before, the response to these
guys was still fairly strong.
All the way from Germany came headliners Caliban, to play in front of a
diminished crowd whose energy was starting to flag. The proliferation of
bands definitely hurt these guys and I could sense some disappointment
from them. Caliban is the very definition of trendy metalcore, but they
have perfected the style about as much as it can be. Breakdowns were as
predictable as Mexicans picking up sticks after a windstorm...really,
you could set your watch by them. To their credit, they were playing
their heaviest, thrashiest stuff, but it seemed kind of hollow after the
insanity of Ion Dissonance and straightforward menace of Sworn Enemy.
Their lead singer looked like he escaped from Atreyu with black
eyeliner, skinny build and solid black clothes...ugh. He could roar like
a demon,though...and one of the guitarists handled clean, poppy vocals.
I had to take off about halfway through Caliban's set, for which I
apologize. My brain and body were both starting to shut down and I had a
long ride back to Rockford. Yet this show made me happy for the most
part despite the plethora of bands. I gotta say once more, you will
NEVER experience a band crazier or more intense than Ion Dissonance.
They were the talk of the show.
We'll see what promoters Break the Surface come up with next, but they'd
be wise to concentrate a bit more on quality than quantity in the