by Guest Guest
October 12, 2009

Venue: The Orpheum, Vancouver BC.

Date: October 4th, 2009

Heavy metal bands love to cluster together, travel the globe and advertise their tour as the “Heaviest Fucking Tour Ever” in attempts to outdo every other “Heaviest Tour of All Time” lineup.  These shows are successful for the most part, and usually a ton of fun, but sometimes it can be tough to keep the interest of the audience for the duration of the show.  The key is to get the perfect mix of bands whose styles blend, but clash just enough to draw a diverse enough audience and meet the expectations of the majority.  Tonight’s concert had me down for all four bands, which is rare.  The lineup was promising and a show of this magnitude was definitely going to be worth the $60 ticket price.

The Orpheum, home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, is also famous for showcasing such low energy events as Tony Bennett and Monsters of Folk.  In other words, it’s not exactly known for hosting metal concerts.  Incidentally, the only buzzkill of the evening came from the permanent seating fixtures covering the entire floor area, preventing rowdy behavior and mosh-pits. Seating issues aside, the Orpheum is amazing in stature, the sound is pristine, and the stage is of ample size for bands to move around and interact with the crowd.  Tonight it was about to get a visit from four of the heaviest bands on the planet.
Due to an extremely early starting time (6:30pm) and quite the lengthy lineup to enter, we missed the entire High On Fire set. 0/1(!!)   Fast-forward to mere minutes after our arrival, and Converge had already started, only two songs into their set.  Our tickets had us seated in row 18, but due to the lax security, we were able to wander directly to the front of the stage without incident.  It was amazing to finally see a band that I’d waited for years to see in the flesh.
For those unfamiliar with Converge, they are a four-piece metal/punk/hardcore hybrid famous for pioneering said genre in the mid-late 90s underground Massachusetts scene.  Their live show is one-of-a-kind: they are known for having one of the most rabid audiences in metal, with stage diving from all directions being the staple.  Due to the restrictive arrangement (mainly the floor/pit area being non-existent due to theatre seats) the crowd at the Orpheum was limited to rocking out while standing in one place.  I found this pretty sad—even though I don’t usually venture into the pits too often anymore, tonight would have been a good reason to receive a bruise or ten.  Regardless, Converge played a short but fucking sweet set with intensity as if the crowd were killing it in front of their eyes.  I was stoked to hear some of my favorite songs including “Last Light,” “Eagles Become Vultures” (2005’s You Fail Me), “Heartache” (2007’s No Heroes), and my personal highlight of the set, a brand new, ferocious track called “Axe To Fall” from their upcoming new album of the same title.  Their choice to close the set with “Concubine” was a perfect way to showcase their destructive ability within their final minute and a half.  I was especially impressed with drummer Ben Koller’s live performance, as he tore his kit to shreds for 25 minutes straight.  One of the best and most intense drummers I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing.  It was a top-notch performance by one of my favorite bands, and definitely the best part of the night.
Muskrat Money Shots: “Axe to Fall(free MP3 courtesy of Spin.com) & “Last Light” (scroll up/down to stream track below)
Mastodon was up next.  This would be the third time I’d seen the band within a two-year span, two of which were within the last six months. I first saw the band as an opening act for Slayer and Lamb of God in 2007, and I was impressed with their stage presence and musical dedication.  With each album Mastodon has taken their unique progressive rock-metal style to greater heights and with 2009’s Crack the Skye the band once again revamped their sound, adding even more psychedelic textures, veering away from traditional metal.
A lot has changed since 2007.  The band has now includes a live keyboard player and an accompanying video montage that plays throughout the show, putting a visual concept to the journey that is the Mastodon album and concert.  It was no surprise that the set was almost identical to their show in Vancouver this past April, which included the entire new album, Crack the Skye, followed by a few older gems like “Mother Puncher,” “Aqua Dementia,” and “Cycle Of Cysquatch” from albums past as encore material.  I’ve been to quite a few shows in my lifetime and I must say that any band that is willing to play an entire hour long album and extra tracks is all about giving the audience their money’s worth, and for the second time in a row I was definitely impressed.
Muskrat Money Shots: “Oblivion” & “Mother Puncher” (scroll up/down to stream tracks below)
After a brief intermission, it was finally time for Dethklok, who seemed to be the most anticipated band amongst the majority of the audience.  For those who are unfamiliar with Dethklok, they are the invention of Brendan Small, the artist/musician/brainchild behind the animated TV show, Metalocapypse.
The show is a satirical look at the most powerful Scand American Death Metal band in the world, with each episode ten minutes in length, featuring a music video relating to the story.   Metalocalypse has become such a cult phenomenon that Small decided to assemble a band of touring musicians in order to bring Dethklok to the masses. Brendan, co-guitarist Mike Keneally, bassist Bryan Beller and human-drum machine Gene Hoglan emerged after a 5 minute animated Dethklok video to give the crowd a 45 minute shred-fest of classic cuts from Dethalbum I and Dethalbum II. Accompanying the band were the original music videos from the TV show, with new footage and skits added between each song made especially for the tour.  In between the set and encore, we were treated to a short video of the band attempting to coerce their bassist William “Murderface” from getting off the toilet to go out and finish the remainder of the gig. Definitely a nice touch!  The encore included “Thunderhorse,” a personal favorite, complete with a more sexually graphic video than originally shown on the Adult Swim channel.
The Dethklok band was flawless, and the musicianship is top notch. Brendan Small uses his TV show to take potshots at the music industry, heavy metal and music fans in general, but deep down his respect and love for metal shines through.  Small has some of the best riffs and chops in recent memory and he picked the right group of thrashers to get his vision across.  Hoglan was also a treat to watch, as his reputation supersedes him.  The man is a virtual metronome.  It’s no wonder his services have been used by the likes of Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory, Opeth, and now, Dethklok.
Final Thoughts: Definitely worth the $60 price of admission and all bands were nothing short of amazing.  The only flaw in the evening was the choice of venue as it really seemed to rob the crowd of its potential intensity.  A better venue for the show such as the Commodore Ballroom would have made this concert a ten out of ten.

- Mr. Metal Muskrat

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