Children of Bodom, Swallow The Sun, and Wolfheart on the “Hexed Tour” at Reverb (Ep 90 + 91)

4/18/19 – Children of Bodom / Swallow The Sun / Wolfheart – Reverb Reading, PA.

After a hearty dinner at the nearby Pike Cafe and Bar, we made our way into the venue to catch the tail end of Summoner’s Circle‘s set.  Robes, makeup and doom.  Check.  Check. Check.  

Next was Wolfheart. Hot off of last year’s ‘Constellations of the Black Light’ the band came out with an energetic set, featuring a drummer who may or may not be the Energizer bunny.  This is the latest project (yet still rather long-running) of Tuomas Saukkonen.  The bass player frequently engaged the crowd and this was the point in the evening where the audience was beginning to congregate around the stage.

Wolfheart – Photo by Henry Chung

Swallow the Sun brought a more meditative and somber set.  The lights were mostly low and the more melancholy, less doomy material on their latest album, ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ was an appropriate pairing for the set.  First single “Firelight” was featured along with “Under The Water” and “Stone Wings” the latter of which especially seemed like a crowd favorite.  To be honest, a lot of the crowd didn’t seem to know what to make of the set for the first few songs.  The evening’s consistently low vocal mic didn’t do anyone any favors though it improved slightly as the show progressed.  At a certain point, everyone seemed to wake up a bit and respond to the music with most people seeming to be on board by the end.  While half of the set was new, they ended with their traditional closer “Swallow (The Horror Pt. 1”).  

Swallow the Sun – Photo by Henry Chung

Our headliners, Children of Bodom came out and so did the red and especially purple lights which was appropriate for their latest album ‘Hexed.’  “Are You Dead Yet?” was a pounding way to begin the show

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

Interestingly, the band had recently toured on their very earliest material, so a fair amount of that was in the set along with a lot from mid-period favorites ‘Are You Dead Yet?’ and ‘Hate Crew Deathroll.’  Of course there were the new songs, the perfect first single “Over Grass and Clover,” along with “The Road,” “Platitudes and Barren Words” and “Hecate’s Nightmare.”  These tracks reflect a lot of the best aspects of ‘Hexed’ which many are considering a bit of a return to form for the band, embracing some of their neoclassical roots while having some catchier tracks than the last few albums.  

Relatively new guitar player Daniel Freyberg proved himself to be a worthy additional as he held up his end of the deal with the songs.  Of course, everyone else in the band are longtime constants so no questions there.  Seeing keyboardist, Janne Wirman, in action was especially a treat as his tremendous dexterity and manipulation of the keys is truly the X-factor that helps to set the band apart.  All of this was done on his backup keyboard which, itself, had some faulty switches, as he explained at one point in the set.  

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

One of my personal favorites “Bodom Beach Terror” was played early and the rarely heard “If You Want Peace…Prepare For War” lent a bit of extra speed and heaviness to the show. Really, the selection was very good to appease fans new and old.  Of course, with ten albums out, there are always going to be few songs that don’t make the cut for this go-round but, all things considered, everyone in attendance should have been, and seemed very thrilled.  We even had some late-show crowd surfing. 

The encore started with another of my favorites “Hate Me!” and ended with “Downfall.”

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

This package was a really rare treat as to have three wildly different bands from Finland playing in a little B-market (maybe C-Market?) like Reading in a tremendous convergence of unlikely factors.  More than that, it was a great time.

Before the evening began, I had the pleasure of speaking with Janne from Children of Bodom.  Of course, we talked about ‘Hexed’ but we also dove into their studios, some glaring omissions from the album, barbecuing, their beer and quite a bit more.

Interview with Janne Wirman, keyboardist from Children of Bodom

Pick up Children of Bodom’s ‘Hexed’HERE

Right after that, I tracked down Mikko Kotamaki, vocalist from Swallow The Sun.  The interview was conducted right outside the venue which of course, featured a passing train, passing fans, and angry yellow jackets. Distractions aside, we spoke about his vocal evolution, other projects, Nick Cave, Paradise Lost, and quite a bit more.

Interview with Mikko Kotamaki, vocalist from Swallow The Sun

Pick up Swallow the Sun’s ‘When A Shadown is Forced Into The Light’HERE

You can pick up Hedonihil ‘I’HERE

Words / Interview by: JJ Ellis
Photos by: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: Goatwhore (Ep 89)

The 2018 edition of the Metal Alliance Tour which began on Halloween came to a close on November 30th in Easton, Pennsylvania at One Center Square.

For reasons to be explained later, I was unable to see any of the local openers and much of Gozu’s set. 

For that reason, let’s resume with The Great American Ghost which brought intensity to the stage and brought their energetic stage show to a crowd that was, admittedly, still filling in. 

The Great American Ghost – Photo by Henry Chung

Georgia’s Black Tusk was next up and by this point, the room was filling up.  Their rough and tumble brand of rock, most recently heard on their album ‘TCBT’ brought a different vibe to the show, highlighting the lineup’s variety.  Being a fan for some time, I knew a lot of the music but didn’t particularly have a clear picture of the band, especially in light of lineup changes.  Seeing all four of the band members contributing vocals was very cool and showed a wrinkle that many of their contemporaries can’t boast.

Black Tusk – Photo by Henry Chung

Next was The Casualties, a very distinct punk act that dates all the way back to the 90s.  Their newest album ‘Written In Blood’ is certainly up to their usual high standard but I wasn’t aware that they had acquired a new frontman, David Rodriguez.  He contributed a ton of energy and, to be perfectly honest, they might have stolen the whole show.  The crowd was clearly pumped to see them, judging by the Casualties patches and punk attire in the crowd and the fact that the pit exploded during their set.  The set ended with Rodriguez somehow getting up to the second story of the venue and jumping down into the crowd where the audience (thankfully) caught him. 

The Casualties – Photo by Henry Chung

Finally, things got heavy and dark with the mighty Goatwhore headlining the show.  The set could be best described as unrelenting.  There were selections from newest album ‘Vengeful Ascension’ plus older favorites.  The songs varied from fast and pummeling to occasionally heavy and doomy.  This created the needed ebbs and flows for a dynamic set.  The rhythm section was tight but everything was led by the tasty riffs of Sammy Duet and the rasps and energetic stage presence of Ben Falgoust.  It was to be said, Falgoust spent a huge percentage of the set right up in the crowd’s face, slapping high-fives and fist bumps, really keeping the front row (at least) engaged.

Goatwhore – Photo by Henry Chung

As many would, presumably, hope, they ended the set with “FBS’.  There was no need for an encore as I think I can speak for many others, we were all spent.

Before the evening began, I was able to sit down with Ben to talk about all things Goatwhore.  It was also one of the relatively rare times I get to talk to someone on the last night of the tour and be able to get a true view of the tour with it being in hindsight.  We got into how to survive being the road demons that they are, the fact that this tour came on the heels of the previous tour being canceled, hot sauce, Queen and so much more.

Much respect to Ben for being such a cool guy to talk to and for the band existing and thriving for the last 20 years.

Pick up ‘Vengeful Ascension’ HERE

The Gen-X Summer Tour With Buckcherry, Lit, and Alien Ant Farm at One Centre Square

Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” When I first heard the announcement of the Gen-X Summer Tour, my first reaction was that this was just another nostalgia tour. Buckcherry, Lit, and Alien Ant Farm (no P.O.D. on this date, unfortunately) whose hits have been radio mainstays for the last 25 years are the definition of nostalgia in terms of modern radio rock.

While waiting outside of Easton’s One Center Square for doors to open, I was scanning the crowd and was delighted to see a mixed demographic. There were those who only knew Buckcherry via “Crazy Bitch,” and that might be the only song they know. Then there were those who weren’t even born when their first hit “Lit Up” first hit airwaves. Overall, I ended up in pleasant conversation with others about our own experiences with these artists.

Alien Ant Farm:

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Alien Ant Farm – Photo by Henry Chung

Alien Ant Farm was the first act on the bill. While I was upstairs setting up my gear and checking out merch, I saw they had a stack of CD’s laying on a table. I ran into my friend Hailey who was working with the promoter tonight. I mentioned to her that I used to be a part of the band’s street team and handed out these exact CDs to people at shows so many years ago. Within the first few bars of “Movies,” I noticed I was laying there with my back pressed up against the barricade singing along without skipping a beat. I haven’t heard this song in over 17yrs and I knew every single word.

The band played a mostly from ‘ANThology’ but also touched upon ‘Up in the Attic’ and ‘truANT’ then ending their set with Micheal Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

Lit:

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Lit – Photo by Henry Chung

Lit came out and opened with a cover of “American Girl” by Tom Petty before rolling right into “Four.” The band who proudly wore sunny California on its sleeve warmed the audience with their brightly colored pop rock.

Though the members might have a few extra greys in their beards, it’s clearly not slowing them down one bit as they hammed it up for the audience who loved every second of it.

A majority of the set leaned heavily on ‘A Place in the Sun’ while still touched on ‘The View From the Bottom’ as well as new tracks “Good Problem to Have” and “Someday Maybe” off of their new record ‘These Are the Days.’ Of course, their set had to end with “My Own Worst Enemy.” It’s pretty much mandatory, now.

Buckcherry:

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Buckcherry – Photo by Henry Chung

The greatest memory I have of Buckcherry was that it was the show that Cory (Neostar co-founder) first crowd surfed.

Having been the longest-running band of the night, Buckcherry had a greater catalog to choose from. Despite picking select tracks off of each of their records, the band leaned heavily on ’15.’

A trend of the night was that each band played a cover song. Alien Ant Farm had “Smooth Criminal” (Micheal Jackson), Lit did “American Girl” (Tom Petty), and for Buckcherry, they did “Say Fuck It” (a clever twist of Icona Pop’s “I Love It”).

From the bands playing together on this tour, right down to the venue itself, it felt like everything has come full circle. One Center Square is basically a reincarnation of the once great Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown. It is utilized by the same promoter and is (mostly) staffed by many familiar faces. Despite all that has changed from venues, to band lineups, to musical directions, and popular trends, rock clearly isn’t going anywhere.

Words/ Photos: Henry Chung

Tour Dates:

06/28 @Summerfest– Harley Davidson – Milwaukee, WI 
06/29 @ Corbin Arena – Corbin, KY 
06/30 @ Stars and Stripes Festival FREE SHOW – Novi, MI 
07/03 @ Miramar Amphitheater – Miramar, FL 
07/05 @ The Stage on the Bay – Savannah. GA ^ 
07/06 @ The Beaver Bar – Murrels Inlet, SC 
07/07 @ Pier Six Pavillion – Baltimore, MD 
07/26 @ The Amphitheater at Bald Hill – Farmingville, NY 
07/27 @ The Palladium – Worcester, MA 
07/28 @ CURE Insurance Arena – Trenton, NJ 
07/30 @ Exhibition Hall – Watertown, NY
07/31 @ Mavricks Music Hall – Barrie, ON
08/03 @ Bluestem Amphitheater – Moorhead, MN
08/06 @ Iron Horse Saloon FREE SHOW – Sturgis, SD
08/09 @ Choctaw Casino & Resort FREE SHOW – Pocola, OK
08/10 @ Golden Nugget Casino – H20 – Lake Charles, LA
08/11 @ Griffin Music Hall – El Dorado, AR
08/12 @ Summers at the River – Nixa, MO
08/14 @ Stampede – Aurora, CO
08/17 @ The Northwoods Rock Rally – Glen Fora, WI
08/19 @ Providence Medical Center – Bonner Springs, KS
08/21 @ Concrete Street Pavilion – Corpus Christi, TX
8/22 @ HEB Center – Cedar Park, TX
08/24 @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music – Irving, TX
08/25 @ Speaking Rock Entertainment FREE SHOW – El Paso, TX
08/26 @ Smart Financial Centre at Sugarland – Sugar Land, TX
08/28 @ Abilene Civic Center – Abilene, TX
08/30 @ Tyson Events Center – Sioux City, IA
08/31 @ DuQuoin State Fair – DuQuoin, IL
09/01 @ Naperville Last Fling – Naperville, IL
09/03 @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis, MO *
09/06 @ BLK Live – Scottsdale, AZ
09/07 @ BLK Live – Scottsdale, AZ

^ No P.O.D.
*Pointfest Radio Show with Offspring, 311, and more

Exclusive Interview: The Lawrence Arms ‘Are the Champions of the World’ (Ep 82)

TLA : RCR Tour

A slightly chilly night in Lancaster, PA was the setting for The Lawrence Arms, Red City Radio, and Sincere Engineer as they came to the Chameleon Club as a part of the North East portion of their tour.

Sincere Engineer

Sincere Engineer (aka. Deanna Belos) sometimes plays with a full band, but at least for this tour, she was touring solo and acoustic. Her performance was largely in support of her debut LP Rhombithian which came out late last year. She also covered “My Friend Peter” by the Alkaline Trio with copious amounts of crowd participation. The future is bright for Sincere Engineer. Keep an ear out for her to be making some real noise in the future.

Red City Radio

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Red City Radio – Photo by Henry Chung

 

Red City Radio is the band that always seems to be playing when I’m there to interview a band. With that said, they lived up to the other times seeing them and brought the four(!) part vocal harmonies and guitar interplay to the party. Of course, there were some of the usual highlights “Two Out of Tree Ain’t Rad” and “Electricity” but they also introduced new material from their first release on Red Scare Industries an EP called Sky Tigers.

The Lawrence Arms

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The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

After releasing their sort-of best of collection We Are The Champions of the World, one might think it would be appropriate for the Lawrence Arms to draw heavily from that for their live set.

Well, that’s exactly what they did. As such, this meant that they played a variety of their biggest songs, touching on all of their eras, much to the delight of the crowd. We got oldies like “Ramblin’ Boys of Pleasure,” “On With The Show,” “Right As Rain Pt 2” some ‘Oh Calcutta’ goodies “The Devil’s Takin’ Names” “Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, God” and some recent favorites (“You Are Here” “Seventeener”).

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The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

They began their encore with “100 Resolutions” and by the time they walked off the stage for a final time, it was clear that the band has a lot left in the tank and a lot left to say.

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The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

Would you expect anything less from the champions of the world?

Before all of that, I had the pleasure of sitting down with 2/3 of The Lawrence Arms: Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan. We dove deep into a lot of the thought process behind putting together their sort-of best of collection ‘We Are The Champions of the World’. Plus, we got some insight into where the band is at in life now and what their intentions are for the future.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

 

Beach Slang Brings an Intoxicatingly Good Time at The Blast Furnace Room at ArtsQuest

The Blast Furnace Room at ArtsQuest is used for a ton of events, mostly comedy, but on some occasions, music events. On this particular evening, Friday December 1st, Beach Slang, Dave Hause and friends came to town.

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The Homeless Gospel Choir – Photo by Henry Chung

If you aren’t familiar, The Homeless Gospel Choir is a one-man acoustic project that plays like part Listener’s spoken word ramblings and part angry, stripped down punk. The set was full of protest songs, as boldly declared for nearly every song and autobiographical musings, many of which were humorous.

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Digger – Photo by Henry Chung

Local favorites Digger brought their triple vocal attack to the party and inspired a lot of nostalgia among many in the crowd who remembered the band from their 90’s heyday.

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Dave Hause and the Mermaid – Photo by Henry Chung

Dave Hause brought his band The Mermaid, still fairly fresh off of the release of ‘Bury Me In Philly.’ The album is a brighter, more upbeat and bolder effort from him, partially inspired by the newfound collaboration between he and his younger brother Tim. With 3 solo albums and of course two Loved Ones albums to theoretically cull from (no Loved Ones songs were played tonight), he has the material to put a very varied set together.

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Dave Hause – ‘Bury Me In Philly’ LP

Things began with the title track off his new album and dipped into his previous release for “Autism Vaccine Blues” and “We Could Be Kings.” To be honest, as a long time fan, the song selection was perfect as he got to nearly all of my personal favorites from his solo work. It’s also a surprising thing to note that his newest material easily got the biggest reactions. Their nearly 150 shows this year have sharpened the Mermaid into a very formidable band. Another highlight that they have been doing lately is a cover of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.” Hard to go wrong with that gem.

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Beach Slang – Photo by Henry Chung

Beach Slang‘s frontman James Alex did his part to live up to the “Drunk Or Lust” title of the tour…well…at least the first part. By his own admission, he is usually intoxicated when he plays but never to the extent he was on this day. Alex was drinking what appeared to be a big gulp sized vodka and cranberry juice and some beers that were passed up to him. At first his voice seemed a little shot, perhaps from many weeks of touring. Then, after just a few songs, he found the right mix of grit and clarity, perhaps having become warmed up. Despite a few early minor mishaps, the set was fun and loose, frequently lapsing into micro-covers of 80’s and 90’s songs on a whim. As Alex pointed out, the band usually goes off course eventually in the set, but by the third song, he was happily taking requests from the audience. As an Allentown resident, he seemed thrilled to be home and even had the bass player FaceTime their manager in the middle of the set to show him the crowd and to remind him to have them play in Bethlehem again.

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Beach Slang – ‘[Quiet Slang]’ EP
Despite never seeing the band live before and them playing some of my favorites of the tracks I had heard on records early on, the excellence was sustained throughout the evening, inspiring me to revisit their discography. From the first time hearing the band, their debt to the Replacements was apparent. They paid their respects with a cover of “Bastards of the Young.”

There was no pretense of walking off stage and walking back on, they just KEPT PLAYING. Despite frequent pleas from the tour manager than they only had x number of minutes to go, they just kept going until about at or just after midnight.

Toward the end of the night, Alex informed everyone that they would be off from touring for the next few months and after playing the next night in Philadelphia, he was gong to hunker down at home and concentrate on writing a new record. He even went so far as to give out his email address and inviting people to be creative with him and to maybe see him around town at open mic nights trying out material.

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Beach Slang – Photo by Henry Chung

It was a great night that went into overtime with two headlining-quality bands for the price of one in a really intimate setting.

Sounds like an intoxicatingly good time to me.

 

Words: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Ice Nine Kills and Chasing Safety Sells Out Planet Trog

Whitehall, PA – Tonight’s SOLD OUT event takes place at the famous Planet Trog. Upon squeezing into the venue, all I could see was audience from wall to wall. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this place has been this packed. As I try to fight my way in through the crowd I noticed the band up on stage was my friends in Cedar Green finishing their set. I wish I had known they were opening as I would’ve arrived a little bit earlier. The thing you should know about this venue is that this place isn’t huge. It’s a small club with a 400+ person capacity. It is connected to an indoor laser tag arena.

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Every date of the tour has been SOLD OUT!
Continue reading “Ice Nine Kills and Chasing Safety Sells Out Planet Trog”

Carcass, Deafheaven, and Inter Arma: North American Tour

carcass-deafheaven-inter-arma-na-tour-2016 Continue reading “Carcass, Deafheaven, and Inter Arma: North American Tour”

Transcending the Coma Tour

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9/15/16 – Transcending the Coma Tour – The Devin Townsend Project / Between the Buried and Me with Fallujah – Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA

Traffic and parking prevented us from witnessing opening act Fallujah’s performance. Reports seem to indicate that they put their latest release Dreamless firmly in the spotlight.

Between the Buried and Me were the second act of the evening and, as promised, played their latest album Coma Ecliptic in full. Coma Ecliptic was my favorite album of 2015, so seeing it in person was an experience that was perhaps best appreciated by those of us who had a familiarity with the concept and story. Then again, fans of progressive rock can also enjoy it as it may be the most accessible collection of songs the band has put out yet. The narrative helps to make it cohesive as a collection. Continue reading “Transcending the Coma Tour”

Exclusive Interview: Less Than Jake

Photo by Jamie Heim
Photo by Jamie Heim

A few years ago, Henry and a mutual friend conducted an interview with Buddy (trombone) of Less Than Jake written by me. In a lot of ways, even though I had never spoken to Chris (guitar and vocals), this felt like a follow-up. They didn’t have a lot to report in terms of new developments, but we dove into the election theme of their Warped shows, why they have been putting out some of their best work lately, possible future ways they will be releasing music, releasing a live album…. that was recorded 15 years earlier and their 5th annual Wake and Bake Festival in Gainesville, FL. Continue reading “Exclusive Interview: Less Than Jake”

Exclusive Interview: Reel Big Fish (2016)

Photo by Jamie Heim
Photo by Jamie Heim

You can see a ska show at any point in the year, but there is something about seeing Reel Big Fish outside in the summertime. The combination of sunshine, Hawaiian shirts, horns and upbeat songs goes together so well.

Photo by Jamie Heim
Photo by Jamie Heim

A few years prior, I had the pleasure of talking to then-drummer Ryland Steen about Candy Coated Fury. Since then, they have put out an EP of holiday-inspired songs Happy Skalidays. This time, I spoke to Derek Gibbs (bass) about releasing Happy Skalidays on gold vinyl, future recording plans (and difficulties complicating that), future tours and the hot sauces that they just released.

Words by JJ Ellis
Photos by Jamie Heim