Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 3/5/22, The Industrial Strength Tour utterly destroyed the Madison Theater in Covington, KY. Ministry, Melvins, and Corrosion Of Conformity were the featured bands on this monumentally entertaining showcase of musical muscle.

Of course the Madison wasn’t literally destroyed, which is good, because it is a fine venue for displays of vulgar power. Not to mention the fact that we (the wife and I) are going back in May to witness The Bay Strikes Back tour (but that’s another story for another time). I wanted to say a few words about the Madison Theater, because it has a different physical layout than most rock palaces. This one is set up in tiers, with three separate sections on ground level, complemented by a nice balcony set back and above, providing for a pretty wide array of viewing options. We chose to be down in front, which proved to be a wise choice (it generally works out that way!) when Ministry hit the stage. More about that in a minute… I want to start at the beginning for this show.

It had been 27 years since I last saw Corrosion Of Conformity, and I was pleasantly surprised that they were equal to, if not better, than they were back in the middle of the grunge era. Original drummer Reed Mullin passed away in early 2020, but John Green (a former roadie for the band) proved to be an able replacement. The front line of Pepper Keenan (lead vocals, guitar), Woody Weatherman (guitar), and Mike Dean (bass, vocals) were a force of down-tuned ferocity, creating a swampy groove that was like a tidal wave moving in menacing slow motion. I love the way they started their set. Dean appeared from behind his amplifier, seemingly to check his bass tone, but quickly set up a repeating pattern that mutated into a serious chromosome rearranging wall of low frequency feedback. Green walked casually to his drum kit and set up a beat as Dean resumed the pattern, and then the guitarists arrived and added their sonic fury to the proceedings. Once established, COC were an unstoppable juggernaut of crushing force. Although their set only contained seven songs, the Southern sludge lords set the stage for all that followed. Paranoid Opioid, Vote With A Bullet, Albatross, and Clean My Wounds were my personal favorites, but trust me when I say there wasn’t a moment of weakness in this entire concert.

Up next were (the) Melvins, who I had last seen in 2009. At that show they had two drummers, but on this most incredible night they performed as a trio (a POWER) trio, comprised of Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne (lead vocals/guitar), Steven Shane McDonald (bass/vocals), and Dale Crover (drums/vocals). Something I always remembered about Melvins was the way their entire set was uninterrupted by any breaks the first time I saw them. Admittedly, I don’t know their material all that well, but it seemed to me that they played one incredibly enjoyable song that went through a myriad of changes and lasted an entire hour. However, this time it was easier to tell what was going on. King Buzzo and McDonald would finish a song and turn around to tune their instruments, but Crover never stopped playing. Instead, the apparently indefatigable drummer would play a mini-drum solo or simply set up a new rhythm bed for the next song. As a drum fanatic, I was fascinated with the man’s stamina (and chops…a literal boatload of chops) as this fantastic live band blasted through an immensely impressive set that included Anaconda, Queen, Charlie (Red Kross cover), Billy Fish, Evil New War God, Hooch, and Honey Bucket.

In addition to their prodigious musical skills, Melvins are a lot of fun visually. King Buzzo has this amazing mop of white hair (which was made for head-banging, which he did…a lot), and was dressed in something that was sort of like a modern wizard robe. McDonald’s clothes were similarly flamboyant and his tall stature and amusing facial expressions made for some interesting viewing. Crover was marvelous simply by his combustible energy. Speaking of energy, the buildup of anticipatory adrenaline began as soon as roadies brought out the infamous chain link fence that was set up in front of Ministry’s impressive stage set up. This was, to my knowledge, the first time that “the fence” had been utilized since the early ’90’s. Al Jourgenson’s band of industrial metal titans have had an ever-changing lineup since their formation in 1981. The 2022 lineup includes former Tool bassist Paul D’Amour, drummer Roy Mayorga, keyboardist John Bechdel, guitarists Monty Pittman and Cesar Soto, and Uncle Al on lead vocals, occasional guitar, and orchestrator of chaos.

I don’t think I can adequately describe how important Ministry is to me, but I shall try. I originally saw them at the top of their success during the second year of the now iconic Lollapalooza tour. On that date in 1992 Ministry appeared in the middle of the afternoon with no light show and still managed to be the most powerful, scary, and dangerous band I had seen up to that time. Fast forward to 2019 and an opening slot on Slayer’s farewell run of shows where I was delighted to finally see Uncle Al’s creation with a properly blinding light show. Trouble was, we were so far back that lights were all we were able to see. No complaints, because the sound and those crazy strobing patterns were incredible. All that aside, on this magical night, my lovely wife and I were poised to see Ministry at the height of their glorious power. Ground zero at a proper Ministry performance is not for the weak. It is a demonstation of sensory overload at its absolute zenith. The light show is potent enough to cause seizures in a very literal sense…the music in all its industrial metal glory is crushingly loud; battalions of martial drums, sublimely lethal bass tones, anarchic stabs of keyboards filling any sonic space that isn’t otherwise occupied, and thick waves of pulverizing guitars, all topped by Al Jourgensen’s unmistakable raging voice.

Uncle Al has perfected a production style that uses massive delay on his vocals, so that when he holds out a note or a scream, that sound is bionically enhanced and sometimes warped into unearthly noises not possible to produce by human beings. Additionally, Al Jourgensen is possessed of an extraordinary stage presence. He doesn’t move fast and he doesn’t necessarily do anything overly theatrical, but he is a magnetic presence, and it is nearly impossible to take one’s eyes off him for long. His mannerisms and subtle facial expressions ultimately enhanced this performance for me, being the first time I could properly see him up close.

Ministry hit the stage with a handful of classics (the concert was advertised as a celebration of their 1989 release “The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste” and their current album “Moral Hygiene”). Opening with Breathe, then directly into The Missing, Deity, and Stigmata, Ministry had established dominance from the beginning. They went on to drop a trio of covers (Supernaut by Black Sabbath) and a pair of songs by Pailhead (one of Jourgensen’s myriad side projects), Don’t Stand In Line and Man Should Surrender. These covers were perfectly placed, and added a blast of excitement to an already superb set list. Next up were some of the “Best Of” Ministry fan favorites; Burning Inside, N.W.O., Just One Fix, Thieves, and final song So What. Following a short break in the action, Ministry returned with three songs from Moral Hygiene (a most excellent album). First up was Alert Level, followed by Good Trouble, and finally ending this ultimately satisfying show with Search And Destroy (by the infamous Iggy & The Stooges).

In true Ministry fashion, they did an incredible job of remolding all the covers into their own utterly unique style. I have seen far too many concerts in my lifetime to legitimately rate them, but when a show is this good it tends to stand out. The Industrial Strength Tour was first class in every sense of the word. I jokingly said that Ministry, Melvins, and Corrosion Of Conformity should just exclusively tour together from now on. Come to think about it, maybe I wasn’t really joking!

Corrosion of Conformity

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 1/21/22, Geoff Tate performed not just one, but two classic Queensryche albums in their entirety at The Vogue Theatre in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis. Rage For Order was presented first, followed by an intermission, and Empire closed out the second half.

Having never seen Queensryche during Tate’s tenure with the Seattle-based progressive metal stars, this was a really cool way to experience a bit of how impressive that band was during their most successful years.

I have been attending shows at The Vogue for several decades and I thoroughly enjoy the intimate scope of the place; it’s like music practically oozes out of the walls. When you get lucky enough to secure a spot down in front of the stage, you can really feel the emotions of the singers and musicians. This was one of those times, and it was fascinating to see how much of himself Geoff Tate has invested in this music.

He didn’t talk about his former band but chose to speak a bit about the songs and basically let his expressions and hand gestures speak for themselves. He did tell a humorous story about being recognized while in a grocery store and how the person was attempting to explain how much one of the songs on Empire had impacted his life (and how badly the man mis-named the song). The song turned out to be Silent Lucidity, and the contrast between the funny lead in and the haunting beauty and delicacy of the song was something that might not have worked in an arena, but in The Vogue’s small confines it was wonderfully executed.

Tate’s band was comprised of a talented crew of young guys primarily from Ireland. While they lacked Queensryche’s complexity, they did an admirable job of performing the material and were quite good with their backing vocals. The band had good stage presence and looked the part of a young, hungry rock ‘n roll band. Tate hit the stage with the confidence of the legendary front man that he is, sporting a cool black hat and jacket, and of course some cool shades, too. He took off the hat several songs into Rage For Order, displaying a pretty righteous looking bald head, which is not always an easy look for a rocker. No-one was there to see what the man was wearing…we all wanted to hear That Voice…and what a voice it still is. Tate has one of those unmistakable sets of vocal chords, the kind where the listener knows who is singing as soon as he opens his mouth.

Geoff Tate is 63 years old and retains nearly his entire vocal range, and savvy enough to know when to back off some of the high notes and let the young guns cover for him. He didn’t back off very many, though. The soundman had him running hot in the mix, and his clarity and tone were surgically precise.

On top of all the great vocals, the man even brought out a baritone saxophone for The Thin Line…and played it! I found it pretty interesting how much growth Queensryche achieved in a brief period of time. Rage For Order came out in 1986 and Empire just four years later in 1990. Although there was a relatively brief span of years between the two (the groundbreaking Operation: Mindcrime came out in between them) the production and scope of Empire was light years beyond the earlier album. Performing these cornerstones of Queensryche’s career in chronological order was the perfect way to contrast that growth, and it worked so well on the stage.

The trend of bands playing entire albums for anniversary tours has been going on for quite some time, but I haven’t seen too many attempting to perform a pair of their best in one show, so Geoff Tate gets major props for doing such an amazing job of it on this tour. There was supposed to be a band called Ivory Lake opening the show, but according to the band’s singer (Josh Watts), he was the only one who showed up. Watts played us a selection of the band’s songs on acoustic guitar and was quite good. His between songs chatter was cheerful and self-deprecating, and apparently he played drums in Tate’s band awhile back. I would be interested to see his entire group sometime, so hopefully they can all arrive to a gig together in the future.

Josh Watts (Ivory Lake)
Geoff Tate
Geoff Tate
Geoff Tate
Geoff Tate
Geoff Tate
Geoff Tate

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 12/11/21, my wife and I took a road trip to the Honeywell Center in Wabash, IN to see .38 Special. This was my fourth time seeing them, but the first time to see them headlining their own show (at a superior venue nonetheless!), and the first time seeing them with my lovely wife (who happens to be a huge fan!). Needless to say, expectations were high, but we were both absolutely blown away by how entertaining this show was on every possible level.

Okay, the opening act was nothing spectacular, nor was it terrible, either. Dane Clark, longtime drummer for John Mellencamp, performed a brief set of original songs, strumming acoustic guitar and providing lead vocals. Clark was accompanied by another guitarist (handling electric lead guitar and backing vocals), and they sounded great, but would have been better suited to a smaller club without the support of a full band. At any rate, Dane Clark and friend didn’t overstay their welcome, and the headliners came on shortly thereafter and proceeded to show the near capacity crowd how they have remained a vibrant and passionate live act for over four decades.

First and foremost, .38 Special has an impressive collection of great songs, and they played a veritable assortment of greatest hits for the faithful fans. In addition to their hit parade, they also tossed in an inspired trio of covers…Feelin’ Stronger Every Day by Chicago, Good Times by The Easybeats, and Travelin’ Band by Creedence Clearwater Revival…all of which were delivered with reverence and unmistakable glee. That feeling of joy is something I have been really pleased to witness time and time again as bands return to the concert stages following the enforced downtime imposed by the pandemic. It appears that many artists are perhaps re-discovering how genuinely special it is to have the privilege to do what they do. All of us music fanatics are thankful to be part of the process, too. Even with all the gems in the setlist, the guys found time to squeeze in an impressive segment featuring an epic center stage guitar solo feature, and a drum solo to give equal time to the percussionist.

This current lineup of the long running Southern Rock legends includes Don Barnes (lead vocals, guitars, harmonica, keyboards) who was sensational through and through, Jerry Riggs (lead guitar) fantastic player who used to play with Pat Travers, Barry Dunaway (bass and backing vocals) very solid player with great stage presence, Bobby Capps (keyboards and vocals) added a lot of energy to the show, and Gary “Madman” Moffatt (drums, percussion) keeping the beat right in the pocket where it belongs. I have to mention some of my highlight tunes, because the entire set was basically a highlight reel, but for me it was amazing to hear Caught Up In You, Hang On Loosely, Chain Lightning, Fantasy Girl, Back To Paradise, and Rockin’ Into The Night all played in the fabulous Honeywell Center. That building has to be an absolute dream stage for any band, providing state of the art sound and lighting, with not a bad seat in the house. Come to think of it, the venue is pretty sweet for us audience members, too. Previously, I had seen the wild-eyed Southern boys as a superior support act…on this night it was exquisitely satisfying to see them as the super-worthy headliners they have become.

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 12/10/21, Nita Strauss brought her solo band to the Blue Note in Harrison, OH. Support acts were Judas Priestess, Black Satellite, and Marc Rizzo. Strauss has been one of Alice Cooper’s lead guitarists since 2014, gaining steadily increasing acclaim in the guitar community as a world class shredder. I have seen Nita with the Coop six times (so far) and was super interested to see how she would hold a crowd with a primarily instrumental set. Her show obviously shouldn’t be compared to her boss’s extravagant productions, but she certainly brings a metric ton of energy and enthusiasm to the stage.

Stauss was in constant motion throughout, vigorously headbanging while playing intricate rhythm parts and soaring leads that showcased superior technique, resonant tone, and heartfelt emotion. On two songs there were vocals, but both left a little room for complaints, unfortunately. The first, Dead Inside, which is sung by Disturbed’s David Draiman, was piped in as a backing track. I realized that lots of bands are using tracks these days, but somehow having a vocal track utilized in a concert just doesn’t work for me. I’m probably bitching because I don’t care for Mr. Draiman, but I still would have preferred him singing the song live in person. In all fairness, Dead Inside was the first song in 32 years to hit number one on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart by a female rock solo artist. It went over quite well, so who really cares what I think? I loved the guitar solo, at least!

The second vocal song featured Black Satellite’s singer, and this one was problematic for the fact that she wasn’t up to the task of covering Alice Cooper’s Feed My Frankenstein. I must give Nita Strauss credit for bringing up members of her support bands (Marc Rizzo contributed some blazing leadwork to give Strauss some fun musical competition) and being savvy enough to realize that a couple of well-placed vocal numbers would be great for the set’s overall flow.

It’s always nice to see members of different bands doing guest spots with each other. Strauss performed a gorgeous instrumental version of Queen’s The Show Must Go On, and it was probably my favorite part of the entire concert. It was so beautifully executed and Nita just looked blissful and in the zone from beginning to end. All in all, I believe Nita Strauss will do just fine with her solo career. She is an outstanding musician, and by all accounts she appears to be an absolutely first- class human being.

Playing direct support to Nita Strauss was Judas Priestess, apparently the world’s only all-female Judas Priest tribute band. They were quite good, their singer in particular. In addition to singing admirably all of Rob Halford’s soaring vocal parts, she was funny and charming in her between songs chatter. The guitar players were solid, handling all the iconic riffs and leadwork with style and finesse.

Black Satellite looked promising when they hit the stage, but I felt like they relied too much on backing tracks for enhancement of vocals and keyboard parts. It fell a little flat and seemed to point out the band’s weaknesses rather than strengthening a really cool looking group. Hopefully they will grow stronger and more confident as they move forward. They definitely showed potential, but they just didn’t quite get it done that night.

The opening act was Marc Rizzo, who had recently left the band Soulfly. Rizzo is a phenomenal guitar player, but instead of having live musicians on stage with him, his whole show was just him playing to pre-recorded drums, bass, keyboards, etc. I realize this is a cost-effective way to tour, but I grew tired of Rizzo’s act before he finished his third song, and I’m a guitar player.

The man is a major talent and I hope he can either recruit a backing band or join with an established act that he can improve with his fantastic playing. This was a fun evening, and it was certainly great to see Nita Strauss step out of Alice Cooper’s spotlight and claim some well -earned glory for herself.

Nita Strauss
Nita Strauss
Nita Strauss
Judas Priestess
Black Satellite
Marc Rizzo

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 12/3/2021, Blue Öyster Cult played a great show at Piere’s in Ft. Wayne, IN. I must qualify the word “great”…because BOC is a Hall Of Fame level band that has rocked the world since 1967. So when I say great, there is a certain assumption from some people that a band that has been around that long must be either phoning it in or just coasting at this stage of their career.

On this early winter night, the venerable hard rockers played an extended set loaded with fan favorites and a (pleasantly) surprising number of newer songs…and they did it with no warmup band. Blue Oyster Cult endured quite a few lineup changes throughout their illustrious career, but Eric Bloom (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (lead vocals, lead guitar) have been along for almost the entire ride. Both of these elder statesmen seem to have plenty of music left in them, and they were ably supported by the phenomenal Richie Castellano (lead and rhythm guitars, vocals, and keyboards), Danny Miranda (bass and backing vocals), and Jules Radino (drums). Opening the show with Transmaniacon MC and immediately following up with Before The Kiss, A Redcap, the band sounded fresh and enthusiastic. The mix is always good at Piere’s, and once you get used to the support beam that splits the visuals from the front, it’s simply time to rock, and the crowd was not disappointed for a moment. Buck Dharma quickly established his guitar hero credentials, and he and Bloom both provided their instantly recognizable vocal styles. One of the early songs was near and dear to my heart, the amazing deep cut “Golden Age Of Leather” from the Spectres album. Beginning with a rousing singalong of the opening acapella section, “Raise your can of beer on high, and seal your fate forever…Our best years have passed us by…the golden age of leather”, the song seemed to take the evening to the next level. From there, Burnin’ For You caught the entire audience in a singing mood. New songs were met with the same enthusiasm, proving that this crowd was not just sticking around for the hits. By the time they rolled through a blistering reading of Then Came The Last Days Of May, featuring extended guitar solos from both Castellano and Roeser, there was absolutely no doubt that these guys still love their jobs. The next couple of songs, ME 262 and the fan favorite Godzilla) both brought the gig to the ultimate peak, and shortly after that they played the ultimate cowbell anthem, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. All of these classic songs resonated with the primarily older crowd, but there was one that actually got away this time. As the show grew nearer to the end, I was hearing at first one, then a few, then many voices yelling for “Astronomy.” It got so noisy that I grew certain it would be in the encore. Although they didn’t play Astronomy, they did give us four more songs; The Alchemist (which was superb! Eric Bloom wearing a spooky Druid robe and singing his ass off, and a ripping duel lead guitar solo, too), Perfect Water, Tainted Blood, and finally, Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll. I have been a fan of Blue Oyster Cult for nearly 50 years and I’m thrilled to say they still deliver the greatness. Thank you guys for all you have given us! One more thing…please put Astronomy back in the set next time around!

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 11/17/2021, Cold played an emotionally charged show for a small audience at Hi-Fi in downtown Indianapolis. Waiting For Eternity provided able backup and delivered an enjoyable set of solid rock music that contained elements from a number of different genres.

My wife and I tried to decide what type of label would fit them and finally decided that the generic “rock” was the best we could do. I don’t mean to say that the band was generic; I quite enjoyed them. I actually think it was pretty refreshing that they weren’t trying to be some kind of trendy act.

Waiting For Eternity is flexible enough to open for a pretty wide variety of artists, and this will definitely benefit them as they build their own sound and reputation. This was my first time attending a show at Hi-Fi and I was impressed with all elements of the production: sound, lights, staging…everything was exceptional. I wish more clubs provided such a superior environment for musical artists to do their work.

Cold has been around in various configurations since their formation in 1986, having achieved their biggest success in the alternative rock boom of the 1990’s. Lead singer Scooter Ward and drummer Sam McCandless are original members, with Lindsay Manfredi on bass, Jonny Nova on guitars, and Nick Coyle on guitar and keyboards. The vibe of Hi-Fi was a perfect complement to Cold’s dark and goth influenced sound.

An early equipment issue nearly derailed the evening’s performance when Coyle’s gear decided to malfunction in the middle of the opening song. Thankfully, the issue was resolved after a quick tech break and Cold was back in business. Scooter informed us that it was Nick’s birthday, and the guitarist was visibly relieved to be audible once more. Following the unscheduled break, Cold had no further difficulties, sailing through a tight set that included Happens All The Time, No One, When Angels Fly Away, Ocean, End Of The World, A Different Kind Of Pain, and Just Got Wicked. They finished with Suffocate and then returned to encore with Remedy, Don’t Belong, Bleed, and ended the evening with an emotional take on Rain Song, which began with Ward on piano and then built to a powerful climax with the entire band. Kudos to the sound man for providing a flawless instrumental mix. Everyone sounded great, and the lights were on point, also. I thought at times that the lead vocals could have been a bit louder, but Ward’s voice is perfect for the songs he writes, and perhaps I just wanted more of that voice, because it carries so much intensity. Cold surprised me with how much feeling was ever-present in their songs. I hadn’t listened to them very much since the early days of their career and this prevalence of emotions was something I had not anticipated. Overall, both bands were musically solid, and both were enhanced tremendously by the ambience and superior technical setup of Hi-Fi, a most impressive rock club. I look forward to attending many more shows at this latest addition to my roster of cool places to check out concerts.

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S.Williams aka “ The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 11/10/2021, my wife and I eagerly attended a sold-out show at The Black Circle in Indianapolis featuring Baroness. Anticipation and curiosity were running rampant in my brain as I wondered if this incredible band could top the life changing show that we had witnessed in 2019. The simple answer is “Yes, they did!” The more complex answer involved a number of factors…

1. There was no opening band at The Black Circle. This allowed Baroness to stretch out and play a longer show (one that was voted on by fans). No disrespect to the opener at the previous show we attended, but I really loved seeing Baroness in its purest form.

2. I was much more familiar with the Baroness catalog this time around. In 2019 I had attended just wanting to expand my musical horizons and check out a band I had been aware of but hadn’t really familiarized myself with.

After that show I quickly went back and purchased all their albums and explored the vast treasure trove of Baroness music.

3. Both venues we have caught shows at have been fantastic. However, The Black Circle is so intimate (capacity maybe 200 if packed in as tightly as possible) that there was a perfect storm of magical musical majesty happening. Oddly enough, we were standing almost directly in front of guitarist/vocalist Gina Gleason both times. Gleason and John Baizley (band leader/lead singer/guitarist) have this wonderful symmetry to their singing and playing that is such a beautiful thing to witness and hear. Their voices blend almost into a third voice when they harmonize, and their guitars build these tapestries of sound that are like cathedrals of almost heartbreaking beauty that suddenly rage into colossal riffs of crushing power. Equally important are the contributions of the terrific rhythm section;

Nick Jost pulls double duty on bass and keyboards, contributing tons of inventive grooves and ambience throughout the show, while drummer Sebastian Thomson plays super intelligent counterpoint to all the creativity bursting form this most exceptional band. Thomson can hit with the best of them, but he was fascinating to watch as he reacted and adjusted to all the myriad peaks and valleys of this challenging music.

Their dynamic range is staggering and inspirational, truly every shade of dark to light and a whisper to a scream is displayed throughout the performance. Our view of the entire band was perfection…every facial expression, all the interactions between all four Baroness members, and of course all the physicality and exuberance that are hallmarks of their passion for their music…in short, a concert experience of a lifetime.

I’ve been attending shows since 1976 and I’ve literally seen some of the legends of all time. I haven’t been this excited about a band in a long, long time. Baroness is an elite band, and I place them among the best of the best that I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot! But don’t take my word for it. By all means, go see for yourself…you can thank me later!

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 11/8/2021, I made my first trip to the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis. Suicide Silence brought an “all ages” show to the landmark Indy venue, featuring Hudson Hill, Eye Of Malice, Death On Fire, and Voice Of Sylas.

Due to the status of the attendance being wide open, I was able to bring my oldest stepdaughter to this one, and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I have to admit to feeling pretty proud that she is cultivating an interest in heavier music as she gets older. Nothing that the opening four bands played was really reinventing the wheel for me, but they all played proficiently and with plenty of youthful enthusiasm. I can only hope they will develop their craft to the point where their songwriting can catch up to their playing level. Suicide Silence is one of the first metalcore bands I became interested in after catching their set on the inaugural Mayhem Festival back in 2008.

On that tour, they were the first band to take the stage, and they came out with a raw ferocity that demanded attention. I saw them once more with the charismatic Mitch Lucker fronting the band before his tragic early death, and then once again with new singer Hernan “Eddie” Hermida, formerly of All Shall Perish. I remember at the time feeling that Hermida had some big shoes to fill, as Lucker was not only a riveting performer, but much beloved by the band’s loyal fanbase, and he did a great job in my humble opinion.

Fast forward to this night eight years later and the new guy has grown tremendously in his role in Suicide Silence, delivering powerful vocals with a fierce, yet friendly demeanor as master of ceremonies to the band’s relentless attack. Musically, Suicide Silence brought the heat throughout their career spanning set, and still showing they’re not too old to windmill their considerable hair without missing a note. Although the Emerson doesn’t have the best sound system in the world, visibility is good from virtually any spot in the room; and these guys used all that space wisely. At one point they orchestrated a small but committed Wall Of Death from the small Monday night crowd, and they tossed in a partial cover of Korn’s Blind and appeared to really enjoy the reaction it received.

With a little work and some serious renovation money, the Emerson could be transformed into a much nicer facility, but the practice of staging all ages shows is a solid plus for this venue. I have already been back twice since this concert and will always carry a proud stepdad memory of my first time there. Suicide Silence played a killer set, and it is great seeing them still delivering on the powerful presence they established in their early days.

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “ The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 11/6/2021, the historic Vogue nightclub in Broad Ripple hosted a terrific triple bill of terror featuring GWAR, Napalm Death, and Eyehategod.

As fate (or luck…or both) would have it, my wife and I secured a spot right on the barricade, directly in the blood zone in front of the stage; but more on that later. I have to share a few words about the stage in order to set the mood for this piece.

When I originally learned of this gig, the New York hardcore band Madball was also on this bill, but for reasons unknown to me, they were not in attendance at The Vogue. This was probably for the best as there was barely a 3′ x 8′ (and I’m being generous with this estimate) patch of open space on that stage. I doubt that another drum kit would have fit up there, let alone any more amps and band members. Eyehategod eventually appeared in their tiny allowance of real estate and wasted no time in filling the airspace with their claustrophobic brand of sludge metal.

I had previously missed them way back in the mid ’90’s when they opened for Pantera, White Zombie, and Deftones, and have been looking forward to rectifying that situation ever since. Although they played a relatively short set, the New Orleans based swamp lords delivered a crushing display of down tuned brutality, both in pure sound and lyrical spewage.

Mike Williams alternated between friendly and full of hatred towards anyone who had the audacity to yell out during any silences between songs. His vocals were delivered in an agonizing combination of screams, roars, and generally sounded like he was in major pain squeezing these inhuman sounds out of his body. Jimmy Bower cranked out riff after riff of deliciously greasy sludge guitar mastery, and the whole thing was anchored by a frenetic rhythm section. In short, it rocked balls.

Following the harrowing horror of Eyehategod was the legendary English grindcore band, Napalm Death. After the previous band’s equipment was removed from the crowded stage, vocalist “Barney” Greenway and his colleagues somehow seemed to have the exact same tiny patch of stage to commandeer for their blistering attack on our senses.

Napalm Death are the antithesis of Eyehategod in sound and approach, while being equally ferocious in pure violence of their chosen style. In other words, these guys play FAST! I’m not sure how many songs they leveled the capacity audience with, but it was relentless from the moment they hit the stage, and hit it they did. Greenway never stopped moving, appearing to be having some sort of mental breakdown at times, running in place as if he could somehow escape his miniscule strip of stage. Barney delivered a few heartfelt speeches leading into songs, but for the most part Napalm Death just laid the hammer down and battered us senseless; and it was exhilarating. Bassist Shane Embury was fascinating to watch, also. He is a big guy who plays his instrument with what appears to be a surprisingly gentle touch with his picking hand, fingers brushing across the strings like manic butterflies. The sound coming out of his amps was colossal and crushing, in direct opposition to the illusion of delicacy.

All in all, the concert had been immensely enjoyable up to this point…and then GWAR appeared and took us into the frenzy of their intergalactic and apocalyptic vision of a metal show.

Shortly after we arrived, a guy who I had just met briefly at another show where his amazing band Drude played, walked up to me and told me he was playing bass for GWAR that night. I later discovered that Jordan Smith is from GWAR’s hometown (not the one in outer space, but Richmond, VA, their base on this toilet earth). This made the show even more fun for me, since we happened to be standing directly in front of the substitute Beefcake.

The Mighty GWAR is primarily known and notorious for their visual impact, but being in the front, I was able to really enjoy the music and marvel at how difficult it must be to play cleanly with not only the cumbersome costumes, but just the general chaos going on for the duration of the show.

My friend Jordan was a great Beefcake and the entire band was on point…respect. I am fairly new to the whole GWAR experience, having seen them at their latest two appearances at Riot Fest in Chicago, but my wife (who has seen them many, many times) told me that the best place to see them was precisely where we were set to experience them, from the front row at The Vogue. She couldn’t have been more correct! Seeing all the crazy costumes, theatrics, and the nearly constant dousing of the faithful with staggering amounts of stage blood of varying colors (not to mention fake urine and semen…yeah, I said semen!) was a thrill that needs repeating for certain.

We arrived with dry hair and clothes (I was sporting a white Lucifist shirt purchased from their badass lead guitarist, Van Smith) and by concerts end my shirt would never pass for white again! We took before and after pics and it is hilarious to see the transformation that occurs at a typical GWAR show.

Needless to say, this isn’t entertainment for everyone, but for those in my tribe, this was a show that delivered a variety of musical and visual styles. It would have been cool (and rather insane) if they could have squeezed Madball onto that stage, but I’m not gonna be greedy. GWAR at The Vogue ruled!

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 10/30/21, Black Label Society, Obituary, and Prong staged an epic Halloween Eve invasion at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, OH.

This was my first time at the venerable rock club and it was definitely a memorable experience. Prong wasted no time in getting the enthusiastic audience involved in their thrash-y groove metal. Lead singer/guitarist Tommy Victor remains a bundle of energy, and his joy for playing live music is contagious after 30 years in the business.

Although their set was relatively short, Prong filled it with fan favorites like Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck and their mix was rock solid, the power trio sounding like a much larger band.

Next up was the mighty Obituary, one of the founding fathers of Death Metal. Prong had warmed up the crowd quite well, but Obituary effortlessly took us to a ravenous threshold with their crushing sound. The bedrock duo of drummer Donald Tardy and bassist Terry Butler delivered this massive bottom end that anchored the monstrous riffs of rhythm guitar mainstay Trevor Peres and the scalding leads of Ken Andrews.

Topping off the death metal ferocity was John Tardy’s distinctive roar. I would have expected a more ominous set of facial expressions befitting the subject matter of their material, but Obituary smiled a lot, too. Their setlist was full of brutality, including Slowly We Rot, A Lesson In Vengeance, Turned Inside Out, Deadly Intentions, Chopped In Half, Straight To Hell, and a cover of Celtic Frost’s Circle Of The Tyrants.

Obituary’s lights and sound were excellent, with suitably Halloween friendly hues of deep greens, purples and reds throughout.

Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society put the icing on the cake with a thrilling display of musical muscle, Wylde’s distinctive earthy vocal style, and a catalog of great songs. It had been a long while since I had last seen BLS, dating back to the Ozzfest days, so I was unaware that Zakk had a guitar player in his band that is on Zakk’s playing level. Dario Lorina traded leads with Zakk in a number of songs (most effectively in a segment where both guitarists played with their instruments behind their heads in a jaw dropping display of guitar gymnastics). Lorina also covered the emotional solos in the tribute to Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, In This River. Wylde sat at an electric piano and sang the heartfelt lyrics to this highlight portion of the show. Other BLS classics like Bleed For Me, Demise Of Sanity, Fire It Up, The Blessed Hellride, Spoke In The Wheel, Overlord, Suicide Messiah, and Stillborn were played with passion, precision, and power.

I was quite impressed with the bass playing of John DeServio and drumming of Jeff Fabb. Those guys are monster players who sometimes get lost in the shadows of Zakk’s super sized persona, presence, and talent. Make no mistake: Black Label Society is a BAND, and a supremely talented one at that.

I love the diversity in this tour lineup. Each group delivered a distinctive style and it all meshed together into a thrilling evening of larger than life metal music. My wife and I will be back for more at Bogart’s without a doubt.

On This Day in History