Opeth and In Flames Storm Warehouse Live, Swedish-Style

Photos by Francisco Montes
In Flames has long since ditched the death growls, but Friday's rabid Houston fan base didn't seem to care.
Opeth, In Flames, Red Fang
Warehouse Live
December 12, 2014

A Houston winter must be a strange thing for a Swede to behold. The only real discernible change from autumn is that the mosquitoes fly south every year. The air outside of Warehouse Live on Friday was a good 40 degrees or so warmer than the weather in Stockholm right now, and it was a hell of a lot warmer inside, where fans crowded in to catch a couple of Scandinavia's longest-running international metal acts.

Though Opeth and In Flames might hail from a region that is fiercely proud of its contributions to the uglier, more extreme end of the metal spectrum, both groups have largely eschewed the brutal trappings of death metal in recent years, pursuing instead an interest in their homeland's popular and pleasant strains of pop and folk. The audience that showed up to see them last week didn't always resemble a death-metal crowd, but it certainly looked big, with people crammed into the big ballroom from the stage to the doors.

If there's been a larger heavy-metal show at Warehouse all year, I didn't see it, and I saw quite a few.

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Spectral Manifest's Wraith-Metal Will Haunt Your Dreams

We're a little terrified right now.
I have a soft spot in my heart for wraith-metal, because it always feels like I'm listening to someone else having a nightmare in a language I don't understand. It has a kind of throbbing madness that makes it a bit bloodier than other metal forms, and Houston's own Spectral Manifest has produced a pretty awesome collection of tunes on their new self-titled LP.

Spectral Manifest has been a long time coming. I remember discussing the song "Fate of the Disgraced" with drummer Cryptos Granamyr Grimm two years ago. At that time I was looking to answers about why someone would bother writing lyrics no sane person could readily understand amid animal growls, and there's no doubt vocalist Depravis Nocturna is a king bear when it comes to primal roars.

I sort of get it now. You're not really supposed to latch onto these lyrics; that's like riding a seat belt on a motorcycle -- a safety measure that completely misses the point. Instead, the voice become an instrument of brutality, leaving you forced to interpret the meaning the way people used to do with classical music. Something like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring doesn't need to say anything to unnerve people, and neither does Spectral Manifest.

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Back Off Emmure a Little, Haters

Categories: Metalocalypse

Photo by Hanna Marren via Flickr
Emmure performs in Jacksonville, Fla., April 2014
This Sunday night at Warehouse Live, Emmure and the Acacia Strain will headline the Eternal Enemies Tour. It's a tour name with multiple meanings. First off, it's the name of Emmure's latest album. It is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the two groups have had a long-running feud in song and in real life for some time.

But lastly, it refers to Emmure's position against the world, and more specifically the vast majority of the metal community. Though they're immensely popular among a group of dedicated fans they refer to as their "Decepticons," they're also, according to many, the poster children for everything wrong with metal today.

Still, if you're a metalhead, it might be time to put your money where your mouth is and give this band their due.

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Revisiting Dio's First Two Albums, 30 Years Later

Categories: Metalocalypse

Photo by Badulake/Wikimedia Commons
Ronnie James Dio in his natural habitat -- in front of a microphone.
It's hard to believe that it has been four years since legendary metal front man Ronnie James Dio passed away from cancer. His body of work and contributions to the metal world will never be forgotten, and that was hammered home recently when Foo Fighters released their Sonic Highways single "Something from Nothing," with a huge riff clearly culled from Dio's first solo hit, "Holy Diver."

Dave Grohl is a metal guy, so this very clearly isn't a coincidence. It's an obvious homage and tribute to the departed metal god, and it sticks out clearly to those of us who have been Dio devotees for most of our lives. Hearing that song, as great as it is on its own, immediately made me want to bust out Holy Diver all over again, and it reminded me that this year is the 30th anniversary of that album's follow-up, The Last In Line.

How do those two records hold up today? What is their legacy in the metal landscape? For all the praise heaped on Dio before and after his death, does his solo work truly hold up?

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Doomstress Alexis's Top 5 Desert Island Discs

Photo by Helene McCarron
Project Armageddon anchors the third annual "Doomsgiving" at Rudyard's on Saturday.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Today we're starting a new column on Rocks Off, where we ask local heroes for their top five absolute desert island discs, the records that made them the musicians they are today. This week; Doomstress Alexis, vocalist and bassist of Project Armageddon.

Iron Maiden, Live After Death
While this isn't a studio album, it is a live collection of five great albums Iron Maiden put out and it captured such energy from their show and from the audience. Steve Harris' bass playing and Bruce Dickinson's vocals are probably the two biggest influences on me musically, both as a singer and a bassist, as well as being a performer onstage.

This was also my introduction into heavy metal around the time I was five or six years old listening to all my older brother's records, so those early years probably have had the biggest impact on me. I also liked that they could write a short, three-minute, single-worthy song or a 14-minute epic and they would play them both live. This album just has it all.

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Houston's 10 Best Metal Bars and Clubs

Cecil's cranks on more than just the cheap drinks.
This West Gray institution is best known for its cheap drinks on Mondays and gigantic, covered patio, but its darkened, Bohemian charm and bitchin' jukebox have long made it a favorite among Montrose metalheads. Expect to hear a healthy dose of the heavy stuff inside, especially on weekends, when the old-school juke is pumping out everything from Iron Maiden to the Deftones. Keep an eye peeled for fresh gig flyers, and don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with a few of the longhairs puffing away outside.

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What Songs Should Metallica Play on The Late Late Show?

Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Metallica at Toyota Center in 2008
Tonight Metallica will begin a week-long residency on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as a sendoff for the departing late-night host. It marks one of the highest-profile television appearances the band has made since the '90s, all at the request of Ferguson himself.

During the residency, they'll have a sit-down interview and five nights to play. Anyone who has been watching Ferguson's last few months has discovered that he basically no longer gives a fuck and is putting anything he wants on the air. That means good news for Metallica fans, since the band should be free to play whatever they want to.

That leads us to the obvious question, though: what should their set list look like this week?

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Anthrax's Scott Ian Spins Tales From the Thrash Side

Photo by Clay Patrick McBride/Da Capo Press
He's the man who was caught in a mosh: Scott Ian today
Like many men currently in their mid-to-late forties, Anthrax co-founder/rhythm guitarist Scott Ian was a huge, practically obsessive KISS fan growing up.

"My KISS window was about '75-'78, when I was 11 to 14 years old," Ian says. "The older kids all hated KISS because they thought it was only about the costumes and makeup and effects. But I heard and loved 'Rock and Roll All Nite' before I ever saw the band!

"And as someone who was into rock and horror movies and comic books, now I had all that wrapped up into one package," he continues. "And I loved the music."

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Slipknot Is Back...But Who's Buying?

Photo by Victor Pena
Slipknot stopped by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion during Rockstar Energy Drink's 2012 Mayhem Fest.
Last month Slipknot rose from the ashes, releasing their first new record since 2008 and their first since losing drummer Joey Jordison and bassist Paul Gray. .5: The Gray Chapter is currently being praised as a return to form for the band, going back to the roots of their more successful sound on the album Iowa back in 2001.

This renaissance for the band is surprising, to say the least. For their fans, it's welcome and overdue. For the rest of us, it's just raising all kinds of questions. You see, full disclosure: I always hated Slipknot, growing up in the era where they were at their peak. But could that change? Could all these years have melted my icy heart?

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Thanks But No Thanks, The Contortionist

When the Contortionist released their first full-length record, Exoplanet, in 2010, they were one of the most exciting things to come out in the realm of progressive metal for a long time. Where the genre so easily verged into tired cliches or overused tropes, as in the later releases of bands like Dream Theater and Between the Buried and Me, the Contortionist had the right mix of heavy-ass death metal and progressive tendencies.

Now it's 2014 and their third album Language is hitting the stores and online distributors. However, after hearing the first two singles, I'm about ready to throw in the towel on this band. This has all been done before, and better.

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