by Patrick Graham
STUBB'S BARBECUE (AUSTIN, TX) -- 7/17/2005: This year marked the beginning of a new summer music festival called the Sounds of the Underground Tour. The tour brought to arenas across the country heaps of underground metal bands from record labels such as RoadRunner, Century Media, Metal Blade, and Trustkill. Unfortunately, the tour didn't come to Houston, but there were several "off-dates," where a select group of bands from the tour played shows at small venues in nearby towns. One such off-date was in Austin, at Stubb's Barbecue, where the outdoor stage attracted a mob of metalheads ready to rock.
A LIFE ONCE LOST:
The music started at 6 PM, when these guys took the stage. They played very basic modern metal, not unlike that of most other generic bands of the genre. The performance was alright; headbanging was kept to a minimum, but the members moved along with the music as much as they could. It would truly have been a good experience if only the crowd was into the music as much as the band. The crowd really reacted, however, towards the end of the set when Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe took the stage to sing back-up vocals. Before long, the band said their goodbyes and thank-yous and left the stage.
As these Cleveland boys took the stage, the crowd roared. They opened with the song "Pure Hatred," off of their 2003 release The Impossibility of Reason, whose shout-along chorus ("I...hate...everyone!") is just the thing to sing to savor a bad mood. Some bands will express their energy onstage by dancing around crazily or jumping about all over the place, but not these guys; although they headbang, Chimaira have a calm stage presence because they channel their energy into their music. That said, the music was more than enjoyable; it consisted of heavy guitar riffs, screaming vocals, and whiplash-causing hooks. Towards the end, they played "Nothing Remains," from their recently released self-titled album. The band was just the pick-me-up that the crowd needed.
Hailing from Massachusetts, Unearth sounds fairly different from fellow Mass.-dwellers like Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall. Unlike the aforementioned groups, Unearth's songs have more high-octave, catchy, punk rock-influenced melodies. As soon as Chimaira left, these guys exploded onto the stage without an introduction. As the band played songs such as "Zombie Autopilot" (the title comes from a Richard Linklater film), the headbanging, moshing, and all-around crowd craziness went instantaneously from mild to extreme. It had started raining by then, so the moshers were getting covered in mud. A highlight of the performance was the band's charismatic guitarist (either Buz McGrath or Ken Susi, I'm not sure which), who occasionally spat water out of his mouth like a fountain and played his instrument behind his back and head. At one point, he raised the guitar over his head, revealing to the audience a sticker reading "Eat a dick" on the back. Oh, the classiness of metalheads...
The sun went down, and in walked Swedish technical rockers Opeth. These were the creepiest-looking guys yet; they were clad in black from head to toe, and the frontman, with long, brown hair on his head and face, resembled the devil himself. The music they played, however, was quite different than what you might've expected from Satan. The songs were mostly down-tempo, and they alternated between heavy guitar riffs and soft, monotonous melodies. A new metal subgenre -- "lullaby metal"? Needless to say, crowd activity was at an all-time low; one guy even looked like he was about to fall asleep where he stood. The performance was saved by an exhilarating light show and the frontman's goofy comparison of his country's pop groups to all that is evil -- about halfway through the set, he said, "Repeat after me: Satan...the devil...Lucifer...Abba...Ace of Base!" Overall, Opeth was only a minor disappointment.
LAMB OF GOD:
At last, the moment for which everyone was waiting had arrived. The mosh pits grew and things got louder throughout the venue as Lamb of God took the stage. Formerly known as Burn the Priest, these Virginia natives make sure to give their spectators a bonecrushingly good show every time, with mid-tempo drums, low and heavy guitars, and equally low basslines. Singer Randy Blythe moved all around the stage as he delivered his Cookie Monster vocals, and his aggressive energy, coupled with the stoic presence of the Adler brothers on guitar, created mind-blowing synergy. They started by playing some songs from their latest release, Ashes of the Wake, such as the chantable "Now You've Got Something to Die For," and then they played some older songs, such as "11th Hour," "Black Label," "Pariah," and "Bloodletting." Despite the reduced personal space due to the cluster of fans, Lamb of God delivered.
It was hot and humid all day, and the fans felt it, with their long pants and black t-shirts. At a metal show of this quality, though, one forgets the feelings caused by the weather and revels in the music and mayhem. Covered in sweat and mud, with a hum ringing in their ears, the fans left Stubb's Barbecue that night with smiles on their faces because they saw several fine performances and heard some great music.
Lamb of God -- http://www.lamb-of-god.com/;
Opeth -- http://www.opeth.com/;
Unearth -- http://www.unearth.tv/;
Chimaira -- http://www.chimaira.com/;
A Life Once Lost -- http://www.alifeoncelost.com/