Headbanging is back!
No more blanks stares. No more mindless moshing.
Backwards hat-wearing frat boys, please keep to your kegs. Spooky kids, stick to your basement wannabe-tombs. Generation Y, go enjoy your extreme games. Its time for the real metal fans to return, as there is real metal to be heard.
Don't get the wrong impression, spandex and feathered mullets have no place either, this isn't c–k rock. This is the next generation of metal, the proper offspring of Slayer and Pantera. This is groups like Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage.
The Syndicate's 3rd Annual Metal X-Mas Ball proved to be a triumphant coming out party for both groups. Not to say that they are overnight success stories, but all of their hard work and dedication was on display at New York's Irving Plaza in front of a near-sellout crowd and man oh man was it amazing.
After a slew of raving reviews and music television airplay, KsE and Shadows Fall came in with a decent amount of hype. December 9th they proved to New York City that they deserved every kind word and every spin.
Blending melodies and harmonies in with a brutal metalcore sound is a difficult task within the closed, acoustically-correct walls of a studio. But to somehow recreate that in a venue, with wood floors, plywood walls and a lesser mixing board, is a near-impossible task. KsE pulled it off with ease as they tore through a set of tunes from their debut Road Runner release, “Alive Or Just Breathing“.
Howard Jones, KsE's frontman, had the funniest moment of the night. After getting the crowd to scream and put fists in the air on cue, he smiled and said “Ha, how does it feel for all of you to obey a black man?!?” As he proved by settling into the vocalist position after the band's split with Jesse, color doesn't matter. Talent does, and both he and the rest of KsE proved that they have it in spades.
Not to be shown up, Shadows Fall closed the Ball with a sweaty, blistering set that featured songs from all three of their releases – “Somber Eyes To The Sky“, “Of One Blood” and the new “The Art Of Balance“. Playing with precision and grace, Shadows Fall managed to recreate the death/thrash/power metal on those albums to perfection. Brian Fair's guttural growls and three foot long dreads flew among the wail of guitarists Matthew Bachand and Jonathan Donais' solos. They provided the hammer to bassist Paul Romanko and drummer Jason Bittner's thudding anvil. Far from radio-friendly, their songs occasionally prove to be long even for them. After one epic tune that featured two solos and numerous choruses, even Fair had to stop and say “Shit, that was one long song, gimme a sec.” With music like theirs, they can take all the time they want …
Leading up to the two heavyweights were a quartet of hardcore bands, each playing a short set to prepare the crowd for what was to come. Starting things off was Underoath. Playing to a young crowd that was starting to thaw after standing outside in the New York winter, the Florida metalcore quintet played a five-song set of tracks off their impressive new album, “The Changing of Times“. Unfortunately as the crowd started to warm up, and warm to their music, their set was over. This Day Forward would soon take the stage and proceeded to play their poor brand of Thursday-clone emocore. Their lead screamer, who's name I can't be bothered to look up, had to use echo on his vox to enhance his screams. I was so disgusted that I spelled scream wrong in my notes (screme). After TDF's unimpressive set, New Jersey's own Nora ripped into the night with some good, old-fashioned NYC Hardcore that got the house moving. Preaching against prima donna groups that complain about their buses and “take out full page ads in Spin”, lead singer Carl Severson bashed Amen and Primer 55, much to the crowd's delight. Nora's powerful, tight set made them look like men to the boys in TDF. As a sometime-photographer, I gave Nora bonus points for their song title, “No One Takes Pictures Of The Drummer” – sad but true. Most Precious Blood was the final opener, and took to the stage like they owned it. They proceeded to bludgeon the crowd with straight-forward, testosterone-filled hardcore. Not bad, but not my taste.
With a show like this as a gift from the Syndicate, who needs some fat man in a silly red suit?