It was billed as the Metal For the Masses Tour, and for good reason, as this bill seemed to have something for every fan of heavy metal. Featuring Dark Tranquility, The Haunted, Into Eternity, and Scar Symmetry, this was a tour that one could expect plenty of thrash, melodic death metal, and progressive metal, as this mostly Swedish, and one Canadian, batch of bands crept across the East Coast and made stops at both New York City's Gramercy Theatre and New Haven, Connecticut's Toad's Place. Sea of Tranquility's Ken Pierce was at the New York show, and Pete Pardo was in attendance in New Haven, and they bring their full show reviews.
Read on for all the details!
Ken Pierce: I have to say that right off the bat there were a few reasons that I wanted to check out this show and the first of these would be my exploration into a newly opened venue. Conveniently located on E23rd Street off Lexington Avenue, The Gramercy Theatre is a former movie house that has been modified to handle music performances. The venue is served up like a miniature version of the Nokia Theatre and has both a general admission standing area and seating. Whether the seating will be assigned for some shows is not clear to me but it could very well be the case depending on who is performing. I wasn't sure of the capacity of the place, but guessed around 800 which makes it smaller than both Irving Plaza and B.B. Kings at full attendance. This allows the fan to get up close to their favorite players should they pay a visit. Tonight's show would also be exciting because it was the first appearance on US Shores for Scar Symmetry and I have been loving their latest Nuclear Blast Records release Pitch Black Progress. Into Eternity would perform and it's always nice to see these guys. Tonight they would have two new members with Justin Bender of guitar and Steve Bolognese on drums. Labeled "The Metal For The Masses" Tour the event would be headlined by The Haunted with the co-headliner being Dark Tranquillity. On my arrival to the venue I was pleased to find that tonight's show would be one of the Dark Tranquilllity headlining spots as the two groups had been switching it up as they rolled through America. Here is how it went down for me so pay attention.
Scar Symmetry would come up first and this was a solid lineup of bands to be supporting for the group. As they came on I was convinced that no one would know who they were because after all this would be their very first performance in New York and on US Soil as well. Instead I was proved wrong and pleasantly surprised to find some people singing the lines to their songs. The album they issued last year was being listed as many Metal writer's favorite of the crop of releases and given the amount of music we saw in 2006, this was an impressive statistic to behold. Fronted by Christian Alvestam, the band was on point but clearly suffering from one of the worst sound mixes I had heard any opener deal with in a long time. Christian was commanding up on the stage and perhaps he heard the band better through the monitors than we did down in the front. The lighting of the club is heavy on the dramatic, but limited for those that are taking pictures. It was about then that I realized any shooting that I would do tonight would end up being sub-par at best. I loved how tight they were and they definitely won over some fans tonight as they blasted us with an unfortunately short set. The material was primarily focused on the latest release with great songs such as "The Illusionist", and they also delivered some stuff from Symmetric In Design their Nuclear Blast debut. Having both albums I can strongly suggest them as a worthy addition to your collection.
Into Eternity: Have you picked up a copy of The Scattering Of Ashes yet or do you own Buried By Oblivion? for if you don't why are you still calling yourself a Metal fan? Yes, Into Eternity was back in New York City and we welcome them here every time they are able to drop in. The group has been through our town so many times on some stellar slots over the past two years that when they come through its like old Friends are coming to visit once again. As a band they slay, and as dudes they rule. I arrived early enough to see them before show time while they grabbed some grub and while they settled on pizza, lead singer Stu Bloch really wanted to have one of the street vendor hot dogs before the night was done. Lucky for him there is a 7-11 on the corner near this venue. The return of Into Eternity found them supporting the latest release "TSOA" but this time they would be with new members once again. Yes, there have been some constant changes in the band over these short couple of years but sometimes change is good. Joining Tim, Stu and Troy would be Justin Bender on guitar and Joe Bolognese on drums. Joe comes to the band from Beyond The Embrace and of course both are welcome additions to the Metal fold of Into Eternity. Being the second band on a dual headlining bill caused their set to be on the short side as well and that sucked for me and the crowd but no matter what they still delivered. A couple of the expected tracks from "BBO" and of course some of the new stuff we are all enjoying off of "TSOA". I found them to be among the tightest that I had heard in the dozen or so times I have seen them play and lucky them the issues encountered by Scar Symmetry seemed to have been worked out. Stu seemed to be enjoying the new stage as well, and the downside was that the band was on top of one another based on all the equipment that was being used on the tour. Still a killer set was delivered and I know for certain they had won over some new fans as I brought IE newbie's with me and they loved them. They are really bridging the gap between Progressive Metal and Technical Death with their sound and I think we are only seeing the beginning of what they can actually do. Keep it coming guys, we can handle it.
The Haunted: These guys are really one of the more influential of the Thrash bands to come out of Sweden and they feature the Bjorler Brothers who everyone remembers from At The Gates. Tonight they would be the first of the co-headliners and while some might be mad at me for saying I was actually happy to see Dark Tranquillity headline since I personally enjoy them a lot more. I'm someone who never really followed the band and got into them rather late with rEvolver and caught them with Meshuggah a couple of years ago. It would be great to see them commanding a longer set in this new venue. Tonight they would be supporting their newest album The Dead Eye and singer Peter Dolving would be at his most intense tonight. While I know the band hails from Sweden and is a strong proponent of the Thrash scene over there, I felt that Dolvings motions and activity on the stage was quite reminiscent of the old NY Hardcore scene. Musically, The Haunted is an aggressive unit and don't really possess the whole Gothenburg thing that the Brothers helped to form way back one. It's forceful music and serves up well behind Dolving as he stalks around the stage like an angry tiger seeking food. He spoke to the audience often and I think a couple of times he had them shaken by the level of seriousness he was keeping. The set they did was long, and I felt that even though I was enjoying them that it was a tad too long. There are some bands that you want to see blast through numbers and others you want to see extended set from. I am thinking that The Haunted is one of the bands that I would rather see deliver a 45-60 minute set from and not longer since they can get to the point fastest. I think this audience had more folks wanting to see Dark Tranquillity and lucky for us it would be soon in coming. Even though I had my fill of them it was good to see the group getting a chance to play a lot of stuff for a good sized crowd.
Dark Tranquillity: As it stands I have luckily seen a couple of hundred bands in the official capacity of Metal journalist and while you are able to observe wide varieties of performers as result of this role – every so often you find a performer who stands out from the rest. I find this in Dark Tranquillity and why wouldn't I, since this group is one of the leaders in the movement of Melodic Death Metal and without their contributions the scene that many of us enjoy would be vastly different. Formed in 1989, the band has continually impressed audiences and tonight would present some new music off the forthcoming release Fiction. It is the perfect follow up to Character and a natural progression of their style. Lead singer Mikkael Stanne is insane on the stage and the last time I caught them, I recalled that he jumped into the photo pit to sing right on top of the crowd. The distance was a little higher and farther tonight so we would see no display like this. He was however able to reach out over the span and touch the waiting hands of his screaming fans. The audience really came back to life as soon as DT hit the stage and making no offense to The Haunted, I had felt that towards the end that the crowd was growing a little restless. It was 10:30pm before DT would come on and this whole shebang began at about 7:15pm. That's a lot of Metal on a Monday night for anyone. As the headliner tonight I felt that the guys were the most consistent in sound and tightest in their delivery and it seemed as though the audience knew the words for every single song. This was amusing when it came to the new material which was yet unreleased "officially", and on noticing this Stanne told the audience that "it was nice to see everyone singing along to the song we have not yet released" and laughed as he teased them for being sneaky downloader's. Having seen how the fans responded to the material and observing the crowds at the merchandise booth I think Dark Tranquillity needs not fear that practice for those people are buying every record no matter what. A good thing in this tumultuous time of musical upheaval. In addition to their amazing back catalog of material that was showcased I was glad that they delivered a couple of new tracks and if these are any indication of the level of Metal we are getting on the new album then this one is guaranteed to be a fast favorite. I don't think anyone in the audience left expecting more from these guys.
Pete Pardo: Due to a prior committment that had me unable to attend the NYC show, I made sure to not miss this great tour by trekking out to New Haven, Connecticut for the appearance at Toad's Place, a venue I had never been to but was quite aware of its storied history as a great club for rock and metal shows over the years. Well, it certainly was a trek, but when we finally arrived (to a mostly empty room) it was great to see how large this place was, and I hoped that the club would fill up once the bands started playing. Sweden's Scar Symmetry came on first, and considering this tour was their US debut, they came on stage and the 50 or so fans who had made it inside instantly went nuts and started singing along and thrashing about. Ripping into stellar tunes from their latest Pitch Black Progress like "The Illusionist", "Mind Machine", and the title track, the band was going over like a house of fire despite the sound, which was a mess for the most part. The guitars were all muddy (leaving the scorching leads of Jonas Kjellgren and Per Nilsson virtually inaudible) and the bass & drums way too loud, but singer Christian Älvestam had no problems cutting through the dreadful mix with his combination of soaring clean vocals and death metal growls. At about the 30 minute mark the band left the stage to plenty of applause, giving way to the Canadian phenoms Into Eternity as the club slowly started to fill.
If you are a metal fan, especially an extreme metal or power metal fan, chances are you've seen Into Eternity live over the last two years, as they have supported countless bands in recent memory. Hot on the heels of their recent mindblower The Scattering of Ashes, Into Eternity charged out of the gate, without any of the sound problems that befell Scar Symmetry, and played a blistering set. Highlighted by songs like "Severe Emotional Distress", "Nothing", "Splintered Visions", and more, the band mixed complex progressive metal with aggressive death metal, led by the virtuoso guitar work of Tim Roth and the commanding vocal range of Stu Block. In fact, out of all the times I have seen Into Eternity, I don't think I have seen Stu as sure of himself and so on top of his game as he was this night, going from high pitched Rob Halford styled screams to gutteral death metal growls in the blink of an eye. The two new guys fit right in, and my first thought after the band left the stage was that these dudes seem ready to take things to the next level. With a tour supporting Dream Theater coming up, we could see Into Eternity approach the big leagues in the very near future. Considering all the hard work they have put in, it would be well deserved.
With both The Haunted and Dark Tranquility sharing the headliner slot on this tour, this night would see DT go on after Into Eternity. The crowd bulged to the front of the stage area (at this point about 200 or so were in attendance) to see the conquering Swedes make their way out. If you haven't caught Dark Tranquility live, they are a sight to behold. Not only is the band one of the legends of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene, but they are a formidable live act, led by the charismatic Mikael Stanne, who not only is a great melo-death singer (perhaps one of the best) but a great frontman in general, as he prowls the stage, a never ending blur of movement and energy. At the date of this show, the band's latest CD Fiction had not yet been officially released, but it was obvious that the fans had heard the songs, as DT played a few this night in which the crowd hungrily sang along as if they were old classics. "The Lesser Faith" and "Terminus" were two of those tracks, and they are good ones, certain to become live staples for the band for years to come. In addition to a handful of songs from Character, the band also dipped into a few older songs, giving a little something for everyone. It really matters not what they would have played, as the entire DT catalog is basically prime Swedish melodic death metal, and in the hands of these musicians, bone fide classics.
Unfortunately for The Haunted, it seemed like many of the folks who turned out this night in New Haven came to see Dark Tranquility, and seeing as it was also getting close to midnight, more than half the audience left before The Haunted came on. When they did, whoever was left were subjected to their high energy brand of Swedish thrash, heavy on riffs that at times bordered on doom, and the hardcore like vocals of the maniacal Peter Dolving, who looms around the stage like a madman or serial killer searching for a victim. His banter in between songs was sort of bizarre, as he talked about things pertaining to the local college with the fans in the audience, made some odd jokes, and just seemed to be having fun with the surroundings. The band played tunes from their new album The Dead Eye and their previous one rEvolver, which can be best classified as doomy thrash with hardcore like vocals, which for a handful of songs is pretty cool, but their material starts to wear thin after a while. Soundwise though they were spot on, and the band was completely on top of their game, spewing out plenty of meaty riffs and rock solid rhythms. As was the case with Soilwork a few years ago, it's hard to follow Dark Tranquility on stage these days, and I think it's about time that many of them forget about trying and let DT do their own headline tours from now on.
All in all, a great night of metal, and despite some early sound problems all the bands kicked ass and were really on target.
The Haunted Set List
All Against All
Dark Tranquillity Set List
Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
The Wonders At Your Feet
Lost To Apathy
The Sun Fired Blanks
The Treason Wall
The Endless Feed
Punish My Heaven
The Lesser Faith
The New Build
Official Web site: www.darktranquillity.com
Official Web site: www.intoeternity.net
Official Web site: www.scarsymmetry.com
Official Web site: www.the-haunted.com