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: Cattle Decapitation and Cannibal Corpse Interview

Cannibal Corpse Fall 2015 Tour

October is meant to be a spooky month, culminating in Halloween. Aside from some seeing some incarnation of the Misfits, the best musical way to prepare for the season is a good old-fashioned death metal show, especially one surrounded with horror imagery.

On Tuesday October, 13th Reverb in Reading, PA was host to Cannibal Corpse, Cattle Decapitation and Soreption.

My press commitments only allowed me to catch the last song from Soreption’s set, but from what I was able to gather, the crowd had plenty of love for these Swedes.

Continue reading “Exclusive: Cattle Decapitation and Cannibal Corpse Interview”

Album Review: Iced Earth – ‘The Plagues of Babylon’

Iced-Earth-Plagues-of-Babylon

With all of those death metal bands lurking around the swamps of Florida (Obituary, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Death, among others) sometimes it can be easy to forget about Iced Earth.

Their newest album is called The Plagues of Babylon.

The band’s “Something Wicked” concept is picked up for the first six songs of the album, concluding with one of the absolute highlights “The End?”.  For the second half of the album, we are left with songs that are meant to stand alone. Thematically, it would have made more sense for this to be divided into two EPs, but if you aren’t one to get hung up on lyrics or overarching narratives, it’s really not a noticeable point.  Besides, having it as one full-length certainly makes it more marketable.

“If I could See You Now” is a sing-along keeper while “Democide” is a shot of adrenaline.  Come to think of it, the first half of the album is extremely varied in terms of tempo and feel while retaining the Iced Earth sound we have become familiar with.

On the other hand, this is a front-loaded affair.  Starting with “Peacemaker”, a halfway-decent track that reveals a bit of an outlaw country fascination, the pace slows way down and things never truly right themselves again.  A cover of the song “Highwayman” featuring guest vocals from Michael Poulsen (Volbeat), Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Hansi Kurch (Blind Guardian) is capably done and a fine collection of talent, but it still misses a chance to end things on a truly memorable note. The outro is an absolute waste of studio noise that would have been better left off.

The theme of member turnover continues for this album as a new rhythm section is employed (Luke Appleton on bass and Raphael Saini on drums).  They hold up their end of the bargain quite nicely.  Lead guitarist Troy Seele remains on board and the continuity helps as there are some fantastic solos throughout.

This album isn’t quite the vocal showcase for singer Stu Block that Dystopia was.  For most of the songs, he sticks to his lower register which isn’t far off from his predecessor (and who many feel to be the band’s definitive singer) Matt Barlow.  Block has shown himself to be capable of approaching the range of one-time contributor Ripper Owens, but he largely relegates this vocal approach to layering it into some of his background work and only occasionally bringing it to the forefront.

It’s also worth noting that this album sounds a little more raw than Dystopia so you’ll either praise the slightly less processed sound or will be hoping for a little more polish.

The Plagues of Babylon is fine album from the long-running Iced Earth.  It would have been a stronger collection of songs it if was only made up of the first 8 songs which would have been a respectable, nearly fat-free 45 minutes.

As it stands, the decision to let some different influences come to light will test some longtime fans, leaving them to decide for themselves whether this is a good album or a great one.

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When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!