Written by Abel Carmona
Jul 21, 2006 at 06:00 PM
ImageI have seen many of metal shows in my past but when the Sounds of the Underground made its way into Houston on July 21, 2006, I was like a born again virgin. For those unfamiliar with SOTU, it consists of bands that are on the rise in the metal community as well as bands that are trying to break out. The tour is heavily promoted through many outlets such as Music Choice, Ibanez Guitars, Hot Topic and the major supporter of Metal these days, Jagermeister. Exclusive merchandise such as CD/DVD’s can be picked up at your local Hot Topic stores along with limited edition of this, special issue edition of that and blah blah blah. I think you get the picture………

When I got the assignment to cover the show, I was expecting your standard 3-4 band, support and headliner. To my surprise, the line up included 11 bands! So with the event starting at 2 P.M. and scheduled to end at 10 to 10:30 P.M., I knew I was in for a lengthy day. Having to deal with a few hick-ups in my schedule, I arrived at the venue at 2:55, just missing the first 2 acts. I really wanted to catch the opening act being that they are a local band that goes by the name of “The Last Star Fighter”. I have yet to check them out but will look them up on Myspace.

The acts that followed were, (in no particular order due to some band dousing the crowed with fake blood and causing me to lose my set list) Through the Eyes of the Dead, Horse the Band, Evergreen Terrace, The Chariot, Behemoth, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Terror. You could call this line up the under-card for the heavy hitters such as G.W.A.R. (remember the comment about my set list) death metal veterans Cannibal Corpse, Trivium, In Flames, and headliners, As I lay Dying.

As far as the up and comers, the bands that really stood out for me were Evergreen Terrace, The Chariot, and Behemoth. Evergreen Terrace’s music is very structured, melodic being topped of with throaty vocals. Many of there new fans assumed that they were a really heavy Christian band. In the bands early development, they catered to a more Christian crowd “mainly because that was the area that we were most familiar with/big in our town” according to the band. Wanting to put to rest any rumors that may be out there, the band responded with “there are members that are Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, and Gay. Ha. So get over it, if you only listen to bands that have one spiritual belief then we aren’t that band for you!”  I highly recommend that you check them out. The Chariot is similar in comparison to Evergreen Terrace. I think the difference in the two is the continuous onslaught of furry that The Chariot displays with each and every song.

The stage performance is very emotional and intense. I think these guys are going to develop an even bigger following as the tour goes on. Next we have Behemoth. Hailing from Poland and emerging in the early 1990’s, the band has put out its fair share of albums over the years and their stage presence showed that the whole were veterans of death metal. Fully clad with shin guards, shoulder pads laced with spikes and makeup that resembled the skull commonly associated with the comic book character The Punisher, I was a little pretentious at first but found myself digging the music and their set. While most of the crowed were clueless as to whom they were, the majority listened inattentively and the ever so infamous “horns” were on display from the front of the stage to those few who bought reserved seats in the upper prom sections.

Following up Behemoth were self proclaimed interplanetary warriors, G.W.A.R. If you’ve never experienced a G.W.A.R show, you must amend that hastily! Man what an experience that was! This was such a treat. I have personally never listened to the group’s music but have often heard friends and fans marvel of the live shows. Stories of crowds leaving the arena covered in fake blood, alien bodily fluids and smiles on every one of their faces. Each person gleaming with the satisfaction that they experienced the theatrical performance of the enslaving of the human race with their sexually perverse and gory stage performance.

Costumes fabricated of latex, papier-mache accompanied with the legendary bodily fluids that are generously showered onto the crowd. I knew this was going to be a tricky act to photograph after I seen all the stage security dawning ponchos to shield them from the rain of blood. I threw the big lens on and prepared to get my shots from the side of the stage when I was approached by one of the security personal. “You’re not going to photograph them are you?” he asked. “Yes” I replied,” I am just going to stand over here, motioning to the entrance of the press pit”. “Buddy, you need to be up there!” My eyes shifted towards the guards extended index finger and I continued to direct my gaze upward until I found the imaginary target he was pointing at. From the upper prom? You have to be kidding me right? As I was soon to find out, pressurized bodily fluid dispensing canons can fire up to 30 feet away and have no limitation of direction. Just as soon as the band hit the stage, the show was on!

Take it from me folks, if you are anywhere near the stage during a G.W.A.R. show, you will be soaked! After standing WAY off to the side of the stage, I was able to get a couple of shots of the band in close quarters. After the standard three songs to photograph, I just watched the show and took in the whole experience. Musically I was very impressed. Not exactly what I call hard core but more like good ole’ Rock-n-Roll with a little bit of sledge hammer mixed in to it! I found it quite clever that the last song of their set was a cover of Alice Cooper’s 1972 summer anthem “School’s Out.”

Taking a few minutes after the lengthy G.W.A.R. performance, I found myself in search of a tasty beverage to quench my thirst. And then I heard one of the guitar tech’s on the stage yell, where are Matt’s guitars? I knew right then and there he was talking about Matt  Heafy of Trivium. This got me excited because I knew exactly who was hitting the stage next.

I was anticipating this performance all night long. I never heard of Trivium until a few months ago when I covered the In Flames tour and Trivium were in the line up as direct support. I will never forget that moment. The band hit the stage with such force that I actually forgot to start photographing. My jaw was on the floor. This would be the case again today. This is a band that feeds off of the crowds’ energy like no other. Heafy and crew really know how to put on a metal show. They remind me of a young Metallica on speed. Fierce, dominating and in control they open with a song, a song I can remember.

I am telling you I was so caught up in the music, the crowd, the moment, it was one of the most surreal feeling s that I have ever had. As soon as the music started, the crowed got to moving! It was just as I expected. Bodies started flying over the barricade and the security guys had their hands full trying to ensure the safety of the young concert goers was they were hurled towards the stage. The music was intense and extremely powerful. You could tell that the band felt at home on the stage. This is one of the most dedicated and hardest working bands out there and it shows with the love of their fans and their work ethic. For any metal fan, they are a must see act. They preformed a few notable songs such as A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation and Metallicas own Master of puppets.

Concluding the night were Cannibal Corpse,  In Flames and As I lay Dying. I have never been a big fan of the “throaty” death metal style and CC reminded me why.  There was absolutely no way for a normal person to understand what the singer was growling. Maybe I am just a little too bias but I just cant get into it. Most of the crowd just “watched.” I seen very few who were into it? As mentioned earlier I have covered the In Flames before.

One of the funny moments of the night happened just as the band took the stage and I was having a brief conversation with guitarist Björn Gelotte, and in an instant he made a face at me that was just, well, it was a perfect photo opportunity. So I grab my camera as it was resting on the strap that had started eating into my neck. I raise it up to my eye to focus and get the shot and low and behold! I did what you should never do! I left the lens cap on. Björn saw this and started laughing hysterically! I couldn’t help but laugh too. Just as I removed the $2.00 contraption that was blocking my pristine optics, the LED back lighting that the band is famous for using blinded me as the music jolted from the speakers and Anders Fridén started belting out vocals.

The band moves extremely fast on the stage and with the blinding back lighting, its almost as if you are watching 5 illusionist on stage morphing from one place to the other in mere seconds.. The crowd sang along and again, body surfers made waves to the front of the stage. Seeing the In Flames perform is always a good thing. They have a great fan base and the music is just good too. Their set seemed to be over a little to quick for me but there’s always next time! To conclude the night’s festivities were As I lay Dying. I have never seen them live and after the show they put on, I will make every effort to attend the next time they are in town! This band is intense. The group was a breath of fresh air compared to recent unseen acts before. Concentrated music with immaculate control. From reviews of the band in the past,

I would have to say that they are much stronger and more cohesive as a unit at this point in there career. In conclusion I think the SOTU Tour will tourn out to be quite a success as it narrows towards the end of its short lifespan of two months. Many of the fans that attend will see many great acts that they would normal over look and yet some legendary bands that made their mark in the music world before many of them were born. It just goes to show that you can keep a good thing down. Music is life for many of these fans. The fans are life for many of the bands. They feed off of each others energy to produce a love that is so pure and free that it’s out of this world.

Although I was disappointed about Slayers Unholy alliance tour, Houston’s metal community has shown us that they are not deceased. Metal will always be around. It will soon be a superior force to deal with. I will see you at the next tour!