Bar 3, Rockford, IL

Nov. 3, 2010

By Dr. Abner Mality

Shows as metallic as this one rarely come to Rockford, so I had to make sure I showed up to throw the horns and show my support. Making my way downtown to Bar 3 (former legendary home of the Surf Club), I found out why these shows avoid us. It's because there are very few real metal fans left in this burg. By "metal fans", I don't mean kiddies that think Bullet For My Valentine is heavy metal or even worse, out of date horseshit like Hed (PE), who seem to play here about every other month. I mean, Hed (PE)? Give me a fuckin' break, that stuff is so 1998 and the rest of the country seems to have gotten over it.

So we had a show packed with great talent that played mostly to the members of other bands, their girlfriends and a few others. Sure, it's a Wednesday night, but the show started at 7:00 and you got six bands for five bucks! To continue my bitching, it is goddamn disrespectful for the fans of the local bands on the show to take off once their "pet" band is done playing. It is not cool and it does not support live, original music. It gives a pretty bad impression of our town, as well. So show some fuckin' class and stick around to see the show, you paid money for it, so why not?!

For the time being, that'll take care of my gripes, but that was something that needed to be said. Now let's turn to the show and the first band up is Nihilist Nation, a new name on the local metal scene and one well worth checking out. This was my first encounter with the band. On first listen, it seems to be based on the well-worn Lamb of God/Pantera pattern that so many bands favor, but listen a little more closely and you can see there's more going on. They mix up riffs, speed and styles more than your typical bar metal band and in fact feature some pretty smoking solos and hooks. It's pretty brutal stuff but just short of all out thrash or death metal. The vocals are blunt and hate-filled but could use a little variation. Stage presence needs some work but that will come in time. Nihilist Nation is a promising addition to the metal militia in Northern Illinois.

I saw Aftermath (not to be confused with the great Chicago band of many years ago) at the Devil's Night show a couple of weeks back and was impressed with them then. Tonight they again left a favorable impression, despite being a part of the tired and worn-out metalcore scene. What propels these guys above the norm is their overall intensity, which comes across in the inhumanly raw shrieks of their vocalist and their OUTSTANDING drummer. Their technical skills are also sharp and there's plenty of scorching solos and even twin guitar work in there. These guys obviously work on their songwriting and tunes like "Rise", "Ashes" and "Bite And Pray" manage to stay distinct from each other. This is clearly one of the better heavy bands in the Stateline area at this time.

Warmouth are the veteran local band on the scene and these guys have been kicking heads in for at least 10 years or so, which is an eternity on the fickle area metal scene. They lay down the same no-nonsense smack as they always have, but with more confidence and refinement. Yeah, it is that Pantera/Lamb of God type of brute force metal I spoke about earlier, but since these guys have been plying their trade so long, I can overlook it. Warmouth is good sweaty thrashing fun full of hate and antipathy, particularly towards politicians. On this day after one of the nastiest elections ever held, bassist Nic spoke for many when he roared "Fuck all these fuckin' thieves...the rich get richer, the poor get poorer!" These guys are fun to of the guitarists busted a string, spent a couple of minutes at the bar fixing it, then jumped back in with a grin on his face and ready to kick ass! Warmouth actually had the biggest "crowd" of the evening, if you want to call it that, and drew a good reaction.

Armed for Apocalypse from California was the first of the "big" bands to play and within ten seconds, it was obvious these guys were a different kind of heavy than what we're used to around here. Absolute skull-stomping fury, with some of the most brutal drop-tuned guitar noise I've ever clapped ears on. The low end would cave in your rib-cage and furious drummer Nick Harris not only broke drumsticks on a regular basis (I got one) but actually smashed his way THROUGH a set of cymbals. Bassist Corey told me after the show that it was a godsend that Nick has a drum sponsorship or they'd be spending hundreds a week on sticks!

This band is not the fastest or "sickest" I've seen but certainly among the heaviest All three guitarists rampaged across the stage, colliding into each other Dillenger-style. It was singer Kirk's birthday, so the other guys were intent on getting him as drunk as possible with shots. I suspect that on record Armed For Apocalypse might come across as a bit monotonous with their super-brutal beatdowns, but live, they are a real revelation and one hell of an act to see.

Havok from Denver was an act I WAS familiar with, based on their debut disk "Burn". These four Latino gents are nothing less than pure technical thrash of the highest caliber...sad to see them in front of a crowd that struggled to reach double digits, they deserve to have a massive pit in front of them. They remind me of the faster Testament, with exquisite lead guitar breaks, tremendous precision picking and higher pitched melodic vocals. Every track was a lesson in what real thrash is all about and if the new track they previewed for us tonight ("Time's Up", I believe it is called) is anything to go by, their next album is gonna really scorch. An excellent cover of Slayer's "Post Mortem/Raining Blood" brought their raging set to a conclusion.

Six months ago, I wouldn't have had a clue who Wretched were, but in the last 3 months or so, their name has popped up all over the place. Obviously they are getting a good push, to be considered the headliner on this tour. Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, the band can best be described as classic melodic death metal with a bunch of thrash and "core" influences. They put on a real energetic show despite the circumstances and their determination to blast out the tunes as frantically as possible was real admirable. That said, Wretched is one of those bands whose music sounds too stuffed to me...too much going on, tons of solos and fills flying every which way, jabbering non-stop vocals, lots of extreme changes. I tend to like stuff with more flow and coherence to it. It's not tech-core but it veers fairly close. I can chalk my reaction up more to personal taste than any lack of energy or showmanship on Wretched's part.

This was a good quality metal show that deserved a lot more turn-out than it got. Bar Three needs a tip of the hat for signing something beyond the usual nu-metal and bluesy bar rock that's the norm in Rockford and I hope they will do something like this again.