Clutch / Orange Goblin / Lionize / Scorpion Child @ Sound Academy, Toronto ON, April 18, 2013

18 08 2013

 This review was originally written for Hellbound.ca and published as a headliner on the front page of the website. The article along with photos can be viewed here: http://tiny.cc/7b3z1w

Arriving to the Sound Academy before the doors opened at the early hour of 6:30pm, I was surprised to discover a lineup that was sparsely populated. It was one of the warmest days Southern Ontario had seen since spring had officially been declared sprung, so while most ticket holders were enjoying the last of the sunshine my accompanying party and I staked claim to a spot with a decent vantage point of the stage (practically a luxury in this venue). The nice weather had put everyone in a jovial mood, and with the promise of an interesting lineup before us the small crowd was poised for an evening of good old fashioned rock n’ roll.

One of the lesser known bands on the bill, Scorpion Child made it clear right away that they have their musical roots planted in the same 70s hard rock soil as that of Nuclear Blast labelmates Graveyard and Witchcraft. Not content to display their influences on one mere sleeve however, the Texas five-piece have chosen instead to construct an entire bell bottomed wardrobe. Vocalist Aryn Black in particular radiated with the aura of bands that came before, approaching the frontman role with obvious relish as he performed. From his leather vest to his soaring falsetto, he moved with a flamboyance that channeled a young Robert Plant with eerie similarity. While certainly entertaining, there came a point when the constant Led Zeppelin comparisons made it difficult to look at Scorpion Child as their own entity. They definitely have talent, but in the end I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d heard it all before.

As Lionize began their set they struck me as a band that might feel more at home in a dusty little jazz club. I can see them now; improvising jams while fedora clad gentleman down whisky and smoke cigarettes. They could be best described as an indie blues band with rock sensibilities, combining elements of jazz, reggae and stoner rock in a way that somehow still feels organic. There is an ease in the way they play off one another, a sense of comfort in their grooves. At one point they wandered into a jam only to be joined on stage by Clutch’s Tim Sult and Orange Goblin’s Joe Hoare on their guitars. The band comes across as one big, music loving family and the crowd clearly fed off the positive vibes. With all that was going on you might expect some level of pretense, but Lionize only beamed with natural humility and humble pride throughout.

Opening with their latest single “Red Tide Rising” from 2011’s A Eulogy For The Damned, Orange Goblin managed to arouse the first mosh pit of the night. Since this was their first time playing in Toronto since forming the band in 1995, it was evident that the crowd was ready to make up for lost time. While their particular brand of whisky soaked biker metal goes down smoother on record, it has much more impact live. It’s louder, grittier even, which makes the set that much heavier than the bands that came before. Vocalist Ben Ward has a massive physical presence and he uses it to energize the crowd with appropriate response. Fun, celebratory and just a little bit dangerous, Orange Goblin was a perfect precursor for what was to come.

I had heard many great things about Clutch’s live performances, but this would be my first time experiencing the Maryland legends for myself. With the venue packed to the rafters and beer flowing freely, the lights dimmed and the moment we had all been waiting for was upon us. Vocalist Neil Fallon walked out on stage and with a wave of the hand and just two little words he managed to incite an entire mob of onlookers: “Let’s party,” he said simply, and with that the positive chaos ensued. As the band tore into a blistering rendition of “Crucial Velocity” off of this year’s excellent album Earth Rocker, the crowd began its metamorphosis into one singular entity; a living, breathing cyclone of energy. For the next 90 minutes Neil commanded the stage like a preacher gone mad, pointing his fingers wildly in the air while delivering lines about who stole his rock and roll in a sermon-like fashion. The band churned out one rocking track after another, playing most of the new album as well as fan-favourites like “The Mob Goes Wild” and “Burning Beard”. Even drummer Jean-Paul Gaster was given a moment to shine, delivering a brilliantly organic drum solo with technical precision. Definitive pure rock fury.

Clutchhttps://soundcloud.com/mgm-distribution-1/clutch-earth-rocker

Orange Goblinhttp://candlelightrecordsusa.bandcamp.com/album/a-eulogy-for-the-damned

Lionizehttp://pentimentomusicco.bandcamp.com/album/superczar-and-the-vulture

Scorpion Childhttp://www.reverbnation.com/scorpionchild





Graveyard / The Shrine @ The Shelter, Detroit, MI, February 4, 2013

18 08 2013

As you can probably tell by reading it, this review is one that is pretty near and dear to my heart. The trip I took to see Graveyard for the first time live was special for a number of reasons. Mostly, it was an amazing show but secondly it was a cure to all that seemed to be ailing me at the time. I wrote this review for Hellbound.ca and you can see the original review along with photos by yours truly by clicking the following link: http://tiny.cc/6n1z1w

Good things come to those who wait, or so the adage goes. It’s meant to extol the concept of patience as a virtue, but patience doesn’t come in infinite supply. Sometimes you’ve got to take action. For these situations I have another saying: good things await those who seek them. Graveyard taught me that.

I first heard about this tour back in July when, hot off the heels of tremendous crossover success and critical acclaim in the form of their sophomore album Hisingen Blues, Graveyard announced via their Facebook page that they were planning a “proper North American tour”. When the dates were finally revealed in November, the fact that a full tour had been reduced to U.S. only markets was a disappointing blow. Prior to this they had played shows in the U.S., but never in Canada and never any closer to home than New York City. I had been waiting for a Canadian date but my patience had worn as thin as gauze. If they wouldn’t come to me, I would have to go to them.

This is how I found myself in Detroit on a snowy Monday evening, enjoying the warmth and refuge of The Shelter, an aptly named venue if I’d ever heard one. Located in the basement of the larger St. Andrew’s Hall, the surroundings evoked a strange sense of familiarity despite having never been there before. The low ceilings, dim lighting and knee high stage were not unlike the small clubs I frequented for metal shows in Toronto or Hamilton, and the crowd wasn’t much different either. It was a nice contrast to the drab and sketchy city streets I had just escaped, and for the first time since arriving in Detroit I felt right at home.

With no local openers, California’s The Shrine was the first band on stage. Playing a fast and loose combination of stoner rock and skate-punk, they struck me as a laid-back, west coast version of Barn Burner. With music tailor made for long nights of drinking in biker bars and getting into fights, songs like the fun-loving “Zipper Tripper” and raucous “Deep River (Livin’ To Die)” had an air of reckless celebration. Guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau shredded his guitar in a manner that suggested it might catch on fire at any moment, while bassist Court Murphy and drummer Jeff Murray maintained energetic levels of low end fuzz and rhythmic debauchery. Graveyard might have been the major draw for the night but it’s fair to say that The Shrine left the swelling audience suitably impressed.

With a full capacity crowd finally in place, there was a discernible level of anticipation in the room. It seemed I wasn’t the only one with a hearty fondness for Graveyard. When the opening siren call of “An Industry of Murder” from 2012’s Lights Out sounded, the crowd erupted with joyous fanfare. In reciprocation, the Swedes stomped through a magical 60 minute set that ranged from 70’s influenced rock ‘n roll scorchers (“Seven Seven”, “Ain’t Fit To Live Here”) to swirling blues ballads (“Uncomfortably Numb”, “Hard Times Lovin’”) and everything in between (“As The Years Pass By, The Hours Bend”). Each song was encompassed by a layer of warmth and richness, the buttery tones proving a perfect complement to the plush velvet of Joakim Nilsson’s vocals. His voice was just as powerful as on record, something I expected, but live it dripped with a new level of emotional intensity that gave me chills. As a band, Graveyard plays with near telepathic ability, silently communicating through fleeting looks and nods. When they’d lock into a groove or wander into a jam they did so with an ease of comfort that was truly mesmerizing. It all culminated into an unforgettable, show stopping performance highlighted by an encore rendition of their bluesy masterpiece “The Siren”.

When it was over I stood by the stage for several moments, unable to speak. It felt like every emotion had just been exercised; happiness, love, sadness, regret. I realized that it doesn’t matter whether you’re on stage or in the audience, when you strip everything back we all have the same beating heart, the same vulnerability. Graveyard had tapped into a human condition that made a roomful of strangers no longer seem strange. It’s not something you can experience every day, but it’s certainly something worth waiting for.

Graveyardhttps://soundcloud.com/nuclearblastrecords/graveyard-hisingen-blues

The Shrinehttp://theshrine.bandcamp.com/








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