Live Review: Metalliance Tour in NYC, 03.25.11 (Including Photos)

I don’t remember the last time I looked forward to a tour the way I looked forward to the Irving Plaza, NYC, stop of Metalliance. Usually, I’ll get down with a couple bands on a bill, maybe even three or four on a great night, but this lineup was insane. Helmet playing Meantime, Crowbar, Saint Vitus, Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl and The Atlas Moth. Even the bands I was ambivalent about seeing I wanted to see. It’s been a while since that was the case for a single show.

The difference, I suppose, is that Metalliance is essentially a traveling festival. That means shorter sets — 20 minutes each for The Atlas Moth, Howl and Red Fang, then gradually more for Kylesa, Vitus, Crowbar and Helmet — but still, the thought of seeing this many bands on one bill made the show an absolute must. It’s been on my calendar for months. Whatever else happens, Metalliance.

There was a meet and greet before doors and I was invited for that, so I went and chatted awkwardly for a couple minutes with the bands, mostly the dudes in Red Fang about bassist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ recent interview, but also got my picture taken with Wino, which was cool despite the lengths at which I’ll protest about hating that kind of thing (both having my picture taken and my picture taken with dudes in bands). The conversation steadily fizzled and everyone, myself included, went about their business. I grabbed the first of the evening’s several $8 Guinnesses, made my way upstairs to stake out a spot. It’s Irving Plaza instinct. I’ve seen more shows from that balcony than I can remember to count.

It was early, though. The Atlas Moth didn’t go on for maybe another 20 minutes, and the place was still basically empty, so the beer went fast. When they took the stage, I went downstairs to take the first of the evening’s many, many photos, and check out their set. I had been served a digital promo of their Candlelight Records debut, A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, when it came out, but it must have slipped through the cracks. They were post-metal, and apparently down one of their three guitarists, but not terrible. They said from the stage that they’ll have a new album out in the fall. Maybe I won’t have my head up my ass about it this time. No promises, but it could happen.

If I’m not much familiar with The Atlas Moth, I’m a little more directly “take it or leave it” on Howl. The Rhode Islanders don’t really do it for me musically, but even they put on a good show, and I heard from several showgoers over the course of the night how much they enjoyed their set. They were heavier than I recalled them being, but just tipped to the far side of the doom/metal equation, and watching them made me feel old. Think I’d be used to that by now.

Part of my “meh” factor for Howl‘s set might also have stemmed from anticipation for Red Fang. Having never seen them before and so thoroughly dorked out over their forthcoming Murder the Mountains Relapse debut (second full-length overall), I was more or less dying to see their set. They opened with a couple tracks from their self-titled, and hit the new single “Wires” before closing with “Prehistoric Dog.” I felt justified in my excitement by their performance, as they more or less ripped through the material — not in the sense of rushing it — just making it all sound meatier and meaner. They were the first of the night’s several killer acts.

As I mentioned, with Kylesa, the set-times began to lengthen, but even a half-hour of stuff from them seemed short. Bathed half in darkness by the projected art of their Spiral Shadow album, the dually-drummed five-piece were also much heavier than the production on their record might lead you to believe. “Running Red,” from 2009’s Static Tensions, was a particularly welcome inclusion, and though the vocals were high in the mix, everything still came through well enough.

With the double-guitar/double-vocals of Laura Pleasants and Philip Cope, it’s probably really easy for some of Kylesa‘s complexity to become a wash in a live setting (I’ve seen them before but not yet on this touring cycle owing to January’s ridiculous snowfall) depending on who’s working the sound. I think they got a decent treatment at Irving Plaza and was glad to get the chance to have “Don’t Look Back” from Spiral Shadow injected straight into my head from the amps as opposed to the CD. I also got a new appreciation for bassist Corey Barhorst, who I think is a much bigger part of what makes Kylesa so damn heavy than anyone gives him credit for, myself included. I know they tour like bastards, but I was glad to see them this time around, especially after enjoying the album so much.

What can I possibly say about Saint Vitus? I felt like life was doing me a personal favor by their reuniting at Roadburn 2009, and I’ve seen them twice now since then, and I feel the same way. “Dying Inside,” “Born too Late,” “Clear Windowpane” — they were all fucking fantastic. The only challenge I had was trying to decide which I was most into (I finally settled on “Dying Inside”), but the whole set was earth-shakingly heavy. I don’t know how Crowbar felt about having to follow them, let alone Helmet, but I know I certainly wouldn’t want to. They also played the new song “Blessed Night” from the impending whatever-they’ll-put-out, and it was even better in-person than on the YouberTubes clips of it I’ve seen.

I’ve done plenty of worshiping at the altar of Saint Vitus before, but it’s worth noting that even just in terms of the chemistry between the members of the band, they’ve got it down. Even since I saw this lineup — Scott “Wino” Weinrich, vocals; Dave Chandler, guitar; Mark Adams, bass; Henry Vasquez, drums — in Brooklyn late in 2009, their time on the road has made them tighter as a group, and the songs sounded all the more killer for it. Vasquez, who came aboard as a replacement for founding drummer Armando Acosta owing to the latter’s failing health (Acosta died last Thanksgiving), does an excellent job driving the material, and watching Adams, Chandler and Weinrich on stage is like calculating a geometrical proof to discover why the word “legendary” so often appears directly before the band’s name.

If they’d been the only band of the night, I still would have made the trip into the city for the show, but to then have Crowbar follow them was when things really got surreal at Metalliance. It’s like one of those “But wait — there’s more!” infomercials, except that instead of useless, easily-broken shit you get high-grade metal. Crowbar were in sludgy fashion, and the guitar sound, which I bemoaned after their set at the Championship Bar and Grill in Trenton this past December, was much improved coming through the Irving Plaza P.A. They ran through a smattering of the highlight cuts from their career, offering a post-“Planets Collide” mini-encore in the form of latest single “The Cemetery Angels,” from their first album in six years, Sever the Wicked Hand.

It was interesting to compare the Saint Vitus and Crowbar sets in that the two long-running (admittedly Vitus longer running than Crowbar) acts have very different stage presences. Crowbar guitarist Kirk Windstein is clearly the star of the show. It’s his band all the way through, he’s the last of the founding members, the only songwriter and not to disparage the contributions of his band, because they sounded good, but you could probably have any number of musicians up there filling those roles. In terms of presence, Chandler is one of two very strong focal points in Saint Vitus, the other being Wino. Bassist Mark Adams, while a founding member of the band, is overshadowed personality-wise by the guitarist, and from the look of it this past Friday, that suits him just fine, but still, Saint Vitus — even apart from the aura their decades of influence carries with it — are more of a total band experience, where with Crowbar, it’s Windstein‘s gig and everyone knows it.

What that rounds out to, at least as regards Metalliance, is two unmistakable, diverging roads leading to a killer set. The place cleared out a lot after Crowbar with Helmet still to go, but those who stayed were ultimately rewarded for their effort. The truly unfortunate thing about Helmet is how their dissonance got bastardized in the later part of the ’90s by the nü-metal movement. That’s not to say their own burgeoning commerciality didn’t have a role to play, but the sound they became known for fostering wasn’t necessarily the way they actually played. As Meantime nears its 20th anniversary (originally released June 23, 1992) and Helmet has become a more melodically-centered band — the staccato riffing of guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton taking a back seat — the songs themselves remains eerily relevant.

Hamilton is without a doubt the central figure, though, even more so than Windstein is to Crowbar. Though he’s had roughly the same band with him since 2006, Helmet is his band. All the same, their rendition of the Meantime album was welcomed by those who stuck around to see it, and an appropriate salvo to the evening’s unbelievable gait. When I left, it wasn’t yet 11PM, but I was already dead tired. Six hours of show will do that to you.

Feels redundant to even say it, but if Metalliance hasn’t hit where you are yet, you need to cancel whatever it is on your plate and go. As I noted previously, I took over 2,100 photos at the show, and most of them were crap. About 280 weren’t, and if you want a small sampling of that batch, click the “Read More” link below. Special thanks to Steve Seabury for making the night happen.

The Atlas Moth


Red Fang


Saint Vitus



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3 Responses to “Live Review: Metalliance Tour in NYC, 03.25.11 (Including Photos)”

  1. Scott says:

    Nice work on several of the photos you posted from the show. Solid!

  2. goAt says:

    If I had the energy, the talent, and the ability to give enough of a fuck, I’d have a blog just like this one…nice!

    The Worcester MA date, I arrived just in time to see Crowbar, who sounded like shit-a buddy commented-“it took me a minute to figure out they were playing “All I Had I Gave.” More of the venue than the band, really. “Planets Collide” is always good to hear, fucking regardless.

    Vitus went on AFTER Crowbar, for which I was thankful. I pretty much would have paid the $30 just for “Dying Inside” and would have gone home happy. They really haven’t lost a step-scary good. Wino enjoyed his whiskey, and didn’t know where he was.

    I’m a Helmet nerd, and have “suffered” through the years with Page…I even saw Gandhi twice. The batch of kids he has rocking with him now are tight as hell, and I dug the set big time…DOWNTOWN JULIE BROWN!!!

  3. Drake says:

    (I acknowledge I blab a little bit with this comment, but this show was just so awesome; forgive me, haha)

    Hands down, this was the best show I’ve ever seen. Before the show even started, I got to see and say hi to Kirk; needless to say that was an awesome start.

    To the best of my memory I will try to remember the merch:
    Atlas Moth: Didn’t get around to seeing the prices of their merch (sorry about that)
    Howl: All shirts looked to be $15, I didn’t get around to seeing other misc. stuff of theirs
    Kylesa: All shirts also looked to be $15, didn’t see misc.
    Crowbar: All shirts were $20, I believe they were selling a hoodie for $30-$35, all CD’s were $10, vinyl was $25, stickers and buttons and other misc. stuff was $1-$5
    Saint Vitus: Tour shirts were $20, special “born too late” shirt was $25, girls shirts were $15, necklace(s) for $60, vinyl for $7-$10, lighter/bottle opener $2, stickers were a buck, and there was still more merch
    Helmet: Sorry, I never got around to seeing their stuff (really wish I did now)

    Anyways, the show started off with The Atlas Moth. They were pretty solid and the singer was a funny guy. They sounded pretty good, but the singing wasn’t totally for me (I’d still say it’s worth your time to check them out). Overall, a good set by them.

    Howl was next to come, and I enjoyed their sound a lot more. They seem to incorporate a black/death feel with really heavy doom that I enjoyed thoroughly. They played their asses off, and the guitarist was right in our faces playing guitar. Once again, a great band that I’m going to check out more of.

    Red Fang was awesome. I had heard a little bit of their stuff before the show and thought they sounded pretty good, but by the end of their set they totally won me and the rest of the audience over. “Prehistoric Dog” was definitely the pinnacle of their set.

    I was pretty ecstatic to see Kylesa, and they did not disappoint. Their energy was really good and the bassist was fucking insane! “Scapegoat” and “Running Red” were definitely big highlights of their set. I was also pretty excited to see for the first time live a woman playing metal and two drummers playing at the same time, 2 things to check off my bucket list. Really glad I got to see them.

    When Crowbar got set up, the audience was definitely way more filled out. They started off with “Conquering” which got the audience really hyped up – first circle pit of the show – and itching for more (one could hear “Kick my ass!” being yelled from the audience many of times). I was stoked as hell when “The Lasting Dose” was played and then followed up by “All I Had I Gave”. I was in the front row and Kirk was playing right in our faces and it was awesome. He was giving high fives the whole time and so was Pat. “Planets Collide” was one of the best moments of the show and then right after playing that they finished off their set with “The Cemetery Angels”, which really got the crowd crazy. I got the setlist at the end and was about ready to shit my pants. Later on I found out they were supposed to play “I Have Failed”, but never got around to it, which was a little disappointing, but I understand that they probably had a schedule to follow and needed to cut out a song, hopefully you get to hear it at whatever date you’re at. Overall, Crowbar was awesome.

    Saint Vitus was next and was one of the main reasons why I came to the show. The crowd was definitely a lot more calm this time around and the audience looked entirely different. They started off with “Living Backwards” and “I Bleed Black” which were killer. Wino throughout the show was an excellent singer and frontman and seemed literally bat-shit insane. Mark Adams (bassist) was a pretty calm/shy sort of dude but was really cool and I think it’s a shame that he’s sort of overlooked. Meanwhile, Chandler was hilarious and overall throughout the set was a pretty goofy but energetic dude, awesome stage presence. They played their new song “Blessed Night” which was awesome and got me very excited for the new album. At the end of the set, Chandler and Wino were way more all over the place; Wino was giving high fives and handshakes while Dave was playing right in our faces and yelling the lyrics at us. Chandler got into the solo of “Born too Late” and was playing like a madman, getting as much reverb and fuzz as he could. He came over to us and rubbed the neck and body of the guitar against my buddy’s head, which was just too badass. He then stepped down into the crowd and was playing and we all stood in awe and watched as he played literally right in front of us. That was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the whole show to me.

    Helmet was next, and once again, it seemed like the audience had switched out. As my friend pointed out, when Vitus played, there seemed to be hair all over, when Helmet got on all we could see were bald dudes (not that there’s anything wrong with that, haha). Page was right in front of us and was pretty calm but still had tons of energy while playing. We got about a third of the way through the set before our exhaustion started catching up with us after standing for almost six hours. We decided to relocate to the merch booth after dealing with enough drunk jackasses; that was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

    When we got there, Kirk was just hanging out at the merch booth. I could not say enough good things about this guy. He was one of the most humble, cool, down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in my life; he carried himself just as a regular guy without any ego at all. Even after seeing many times that night (I had even already gotten a photo with him) he didn’t seem annoyed or anything. Right after getting my setlist autographed and exchanging words and a handshake, we saw Dave Chandler come up to the Vitus merch booth! My buddy got his autograph and my girlfriend got his autograph and got to talk to him. The guy was such a jokester the whole time and was just like Kirk, humble as hell, cool, and just a guy who seems like any old buddy of yours. We all got photos with him, and it was just unreal. I also saw members of The Atlas Moth and I was pretty sure a dude from Red Fang hanging out in the crowd as well, so keep a look out. At the same time, getting to hear every song from “In the Meantime” was another awesome feat. We were all pretty beat and it was near the end of the concert already, so we decided to leave after “Wilma’s Rainbow” (which was amazing) so we could get our shit at coat check before everybody else.

    All in all, this show was unreal and was the best show I’ve ever seen. The vibe was awesome and getting to be that close to the bands and meeting some of your idols was the best. Buy your tickets NOW to this show, it will not disappoint.

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