I had a blast at last night's stop of the Revolver Golden God's Tour at the Complex in Salt Lake City last night. I've been to a lot of shows at that venue and find it to be one of the better mid-sized venues in town. Even better, it hosts lots of metal bands. If any readers are ever in the area, come join me for a fun night of good music, featuring Butcher Babies, Devil You Know, and Black Label Society. On to the review--
The Butcher Babies put on a good show. I've seen them twice now—first at the 2013 Rockstar Mayhem festival and now on the Revolver Golden Gods Tour—and they brought a lot of energy to both sets. Whatever listeners think of their music, the Butcher Babies know how to work up a crowd. I'd definitely recommend checking them out concert, especially for those listeners who only know this band from their debut album or, especially, from pictures online. I know the band gets a lot of mixed press, especially from those who see them only as a sideshow act based solely on the obvious sex appeal of vocalists Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey. Anyone who has taken the time to see this band perform, however, should know that the Butcher Babies are actually better than all the shocking and often-sexist internet chatter they drudge up. It helps, I think, that the band actually works really hard and that they don't entirely rely on image. Better still, the band members have all dropped the heavy makeup they wore last year. This is a good thing, mostly because the guys in the band looked rather silly with all the goop dripping from their faces; some bands weren't meant to wear lots of makeup. Now that they've dressed down, they look more like a metal band trying to connect with their fans. Better still, Heidi Shepherd no longer sports the blue line painted across her eyes and Carla Harvey has washed off the black makeup running out of her eyes. Sure, they sing about gruesome things but they don't need to look bad doing it. As I write this, I know that some readers hope the band will wear even less, perhaps even return to their days of looking like Wendy O. Williams. But that's not going to happen and it may even be a good thing.
After the Butcher Babies' set, Devil You Know kept things going strong with a tight set of material from their debut album. Most people know that this band is built on a strong foundation of guys from groups like Killswitch Engage, Fear Factory, and All Shall Perish. It's especially good to see Howard Jones up on stage, especially after quitting music for a while. I don't know the current state of his health, but he looked healthy and confident last night, especially as he shouted, growled, and sang. He has a genuinely good baritone voice, one that belongs on the stage. Yes, he wavered a bit, especially when he was harmonizing with the bass player, but I don't think it ruined the set in general. Sometimes, it's hard to hear the other guys in the monitor. Jones has a good stage presence, one characterized by off-the-cuff remarks like "this next song is dedicated to pizza or whatever" or reminding the guys in the audience that they sometimes ruin the lives of the girls they fall in love with. I'm not a big metalcore fan in general, but these guys bring plenty of life to the genre, mostly by staying away from the trap of writing easy by-the-numbers songs. Having said that, Devil You Know is much more impressive when they played faster and heavier songs. Their ballads were too slow and frankly weren't very interesting. If you can catch these guys on the road, be sure to watch Francesco Artusato's guitar playing closely. Not only is he technically proficient, he plays impressive solos.
Black Label Society also played a strong and impressive set. Though some may argue that all Black Label Society songs sound the same, we need only respond that the formula works and leave it at that. Even Zakk Wylde has joked that the new album is just more of the same with different titles. Yeah, I know it's a joke, but there's truth to it. I've actually seen Black Label Society before: once opening for Judas Priest on their "farewell" tour and once on the short acoustic tour Zakk did last year. They never disappoint. Wylde has an unflappable stage presence and is a genuinely good guitar player. He played, as always, a really, really, long solo about mid-way through the show. Zakk has fast fingers and plays with all his heart and soul. I wish he were occasionally a bit more melodic. His chops—and his speed—are unquestionably good, but it wouldn't kill him to let his guitar cry and sing. I had to laugh when Wylde chugged a near-beer on the stage and joked that it's a sad day in rock and roll when he can only drink such fare. I know that rock and roll is about excess, but I think we're better off with a sober Zakk. His playing is more focused and his energy levels don't need anything to slow them down. Zakk is a rock star, the reason why people see this band live, but I have to say that John DeServio's bass playing is pretty great. Just watch him jam with Zakk and you'll be convinced. New guitarist Dario Lorina (formerly with Lizzy Borden) is also up to snuff. Check out this tour!