Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois 6/3/2006

by Dr. Abner Mality

This was one of the better underground metal packages afloat in 2006, offering a ton of headbang for the buck with seasoned bands at the top of the bill. Was there any way that I could pass it up? Is a hog's ass ham?

So it was that I hooked up with my frequent companion for these events, the effervescent and somewhat whacky Mistress Hydra to head down to Logan Square Auditorium. This was a new venue for me and I was rather pleased with it. It was pretty easy to get to with Hydra behind the wheel, even though I got a lecture on the etiquette of moving from her. "Most important rule: pack your shit," she exclaimed with gravity as we dodged bad Chicago drivers on the way to the LSA. I can always count on words of wisdom from this blonde philosopher, as well as a tasty visit to the Nhu Hoa Vietnamese restaurant, which we both highly recommend.

We got to Logan Square a little early and amazingly, were able to walk right up
stairs without any kind of a check at all. The House of Blues this ain't. Although it's quite a nice older place on the second floor, somewhat reminiscent of Milwaukee's Eagles Club. It boasted a full service bar, which Hydra and webmaster Sgt. Deth took full advantage of. Sarge and wife Kathy joined Hydra and me for an evening of neck-challenging metal. Many of the photos here are courtesy of Sarge and Kathy.

First band was highly touted newcomers, The Absence, supporting their debut record on Metal Blade. As you might expect for a first band, the sound was far from perfect. These guys came across like a Black Dahlia Murder mixed with the Gothic feel of a Daylight Dies…sad but aggressive and occasionally dropping tempo for a twin guitar lament. Vocals were pretty monotonous ripped lung shrieking. I thought they were OK, but nothing special…but Hydra kind of liked them because of their Gothy feel. Crowd response was actually pretty decent for a first band.

From Italy came Graveworm, a band I never particularly cared for that much. Hydra got a snicker out of the slogan on the back of their T-shirts: "Unleash Italian Darkness"…and I can't say I blame her. This was a band that mixed high velocity black metal with Lacuna Coil style Gothness. The keyboard sound I thought was smothering throughout, and the 5 million-word a minute trollish croaking from the singer was wearying after the first song. I didn't get much out of these guys, but they definitely had their fans, and the Mistress gave them thumbs up as well.

Next up was a band I was looking forward to checking out, Speed/Kill/Hate,
featuring the most underrated lead guitarist in American metal, Dave Linsk of Overkill, mangling the strings. Dave's former Overkill brother Tim Mallare was originally drummer on this project but his place tonight was taken by Tony Ochoa. Another Overkill member, Derek Tailer, was also out for "personal reasons", but his spot was taken by Prong bassist Mike Longwood. With such a hodge-podge of thrown-together talent, the set could have been sloppy and half-assed, but instead it provided a nice stiff jolt of oldschool thrash.

Overkill resemblances were naturally present, but I could detect a good bit of Nuclear Assault and Slayer in the mix as well. The choruses were extra catchy and got the old neck bobbin' just fine. Linsk cut loose with some great wailing solos...what a cruelly neglected talent this guy is. Maybe he doesn't look enough like a guitar hero, but I'd put him ahead of just about anybody else who played tonight. Speed/Kill/Hate was very entertaining given the mediocre sound and short set time and I look forward very much to checking out more from them. Hydra considered this her fave band of the evening, even though she often mangled their name by calling them "Hate/Speed/Kill", "Kill/Speed/Hate", and the close-but-not-quite-there "Speed/Hate/Kill".

It was rather gracious of German graybeards Destruction to accept the third slot on
the bill, considering that they are the longest serving band on the tour. They were one of the bands that kick-started the great age of German thrash in the 80's, but that was over 20 years ago and the times, they are a changin'. Tonight's headliners Vader hit with a precise ferocity than Destruction could only have dreamt of in their heyday. Still, they're a fun oldschool band and one of Sarge's favorites for sure. Tonight they hit the ground running, filling their brief set with relentless thrash and looking every inch the classic thrashers. Schmier just looks like thrash metal personified, with leather and studs, long black hair flying and huge bass held up in Lemmy Kilminster fashion. Shame these guys had such a muddy sound. It made their material sound kind of mushy and formless when it needed sharpness and precision. I think their drummer Marc Reign is terrible. Monotonous, unadventurous beats that didn't enhance the proceedings at all. These guys need a new skinsman bad because based on what I saw, Reign just doesn't fit the bill at all.

Despite the drawbacks, Schmier and Mike put on a great show and played killer tunes like "The Antichrist", "Thrash Till Death" and classic "Curse the Gods". Destruction had a lot of fans, including the living embodiment of their mascot "The Mad Butcher", whom you can see in the accompanying pics. Appropriately enough,the band's final tune was "The Butcher Strikes Back". It was a fun set from Destruction but to be honest, they are no longer what they were and Kataklysm and Vader were about to demonstrate who really rules the roost in the 21st century.

I missed the first few songs of Kataklysm's set due to my interview with Vader's Peter. It was great to talk to Peter (thanks to tour manager Woody for helping with this) but I sure wish I could have seen the whole Kataklysm gig. What I did see convinces me that the French-Canadians are an absolute killing machine. The sound quality had greatly improved for Kataklysm, allowing the precision of their technical and melodic death metal to become apparent. Needless to say, Max Duhamel is a blast beat fiend. He showed more versatility and energy in 30 seconds than Marc Reign did in Destruction's entire set. He's the underpinning of the Kataklysm war machine. The rest of the band easily keeps pace. I always thought the band would suffer live because of one guitarist, as their studio work is multi-layered, but this was not the case. J.F. Dagenais managed to sound like two or sometimes even 3 guitarists as he ripped into his instrument. Bassist Stephan put on his own show and took now back seat to J.F. at all, bouncing around the stage with intensity. Singer Maurizio is one big, tough looking dude...he looks like he has 20 inch arms and could go toe to toe with Triple H! His voice held up well, too, whether it was screechy rasps or guttural roars.

Highlights of Kataklysm's set included "To Reign Again" and "Crippled and Broken" from the new "In the Arms of Devastation" album as well as old favorites like "Ambassadors of Pain", "Shadows and Dust" and final raging cut "Face the Face of War". The pit size and fury had increased with each successive band and now had grown to cyclonic proportions. Next step for Kataklysm has got to be a headlining tour. Check out my interview with J.F. elsewhere at Wormwood!

It was sure a daunting task to follow Kataklysm's intense performance but Poland's Vader was more than up to the task. Chicago has quite a few Polish metal fans, who showed up tonight in force at Logan Square, brandishing the Polish flag and shouting out in Polska. They had a lot to shout about. Vader is simply one of the best live death metal bands on the planet. They attack from the word go, finding the perfect balance between Slayerish thrash and Morbid Angelish death metal, with just enough of their own touches to stay unique. They featured a lot from their great new EP "The Art of War", including "Lead Us!" and incredibly jamming "What Color Is Your Blood?", but also dove into some very old faves like "Dark Age" from the very first Vader album "Ultimate Incantation".

I have to compliment the superb death vocals of grinding, so intense and yet much more articulate than the usual mush-mouthed muttering of death metal vocalists. Even more than Kataklysm, Vader is a band that has been honed and tested by years of battle out on the roads. The result is pure deathly delight, lean and mean, packing as much adrenaline into a short set as possible.

Vader also treated us to the only encore of the night, a run-through of Slayer's
"Raining Blood". This is one of the most cliched songs for a metal band to cover, but Vader not only did it justice, but probably surpassed what Slayer itself could do these days. It capped off a furious night of metal thunder.

Hydra's fave band was still Speed/Kill/Hate (or was it Hate/Kill/Speed?) but if she wanted metal, she got it. We headed home and tried unsuccessfully to get some late night cheesy fries. Don't try to get anything late night at Franco's in Chicago...they got only 3 people working there and every ghetto freak in 10 blocks was there waiting for something. Well, you can't win 'em all! But luscious chow at Nhu Hoa and a night of chest-thumping metal mayhem made for a more than entertaining Saturday night in Chicago!