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: Exmortus (Ep 88)

Friday, September 7th Reading, PA – Reverb

A violently rainy Friday night couldn’t stop truly devoted metal fans from a show. Eyes of the Living Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch any of Eyes of the Living’s set, as I was….occupied by an interview. They could be heard slightly from up in the green room and an excited concertgoer shared his enthusiasm about them as I stood in line for the bathroom. So…that’s something. Secret Face They were certainly energetic and the singer had a capable yell, but the detail that dominated was the drummer who provided nearly constant double bass thudding. I’m a fan of Kataklysm, but even they mix it up once in a while. Exmortus
Exmortus – Photo by Mark Morton
Oh man. Exmortus (Facebook, Instagram) was the band I truly came for and they did not disappoint. Judging by the rapidly increasingly crowded, pit, it’s probably a fair assumption that many others felt the same way. Since they were promoting their latest album ‘The Sound of Steel‘ they leaned on that release, heavily. So much so, they started the set with the first three songs on the album. From there, they mixed it up a little with some older tracks and did a rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” before ending with “Metal Is King.” Exmortus - The Sound of Steel This was all the more impressive considering their regular co-guitarist, Chase Becker of Warbringer, had other commitments and couldn’t make the first half of this east coast tour. He was replaced by Richie Brown from Mindscar with only one rehearsal. Considering the neoclassical guitar pyrotechnics on display and the number of jaws that were on the floor, Exmortus made at least a few new fans this night. Obituary This marked only my second time seeing Obituary. The first time was in a dingy VFW hall in Wind Gap a few years ago. It was cramped, no-frills and just seemed like the perfect environment to see the band. This was a more traditionally produced show with bright lights, smoke and a stage that was more than 12” off of the ground. Of course, Obituary still puts on a great show under these circumstances, most bands would, but it seems a little counter to their aesthetic. Their latest addition and secret weapon, guitarist Kenny Andrews, has added a lot to the last few albums with his leads and this extends to the live show. That said, he stayed tucked away in a corner of the stage and dutifully shredded away. The sampling of new material “Visions In My Head,” “A Lesson In Vengeance,” and “Sentence Day” played to this. The set was varied and touched on all eras of the band. The encore included “Chopped in Half” (which audience clamored for all night), “Turned Inside Out” and “Slowly We Rot”. The headliner’s set seemed a bit short (about 45-50 minutes of the main set and maybe 15 with the encore for about an hour’s work) with a protracted introduction replete with southern rock and copious moments when the band seemed to check in with each other and joke around. It was still a quality show, though. I guess it’s always better the leave them wanting more, right? Before all of this happened, as alluded to before, I conducted an interview with Exmortus main man, Conan. There was a lot of ground and we covered every inch of it. There was the new album ‘The Sound of Steel,’ Conan keeping the band going despite being the last original member, Youtube, changing things up, keeping things the same, art, food, being underrated, movies, giving lessons (hit him up on the band’s socials!) and more.
This was a fantastic talk. Exmortus is a band that continues to grow, evolve and perseveres even though their first album came out a decade ago. The next time they come to your town, check out Exmortus, that is if you’re ready for the shreddy. Words by JJ Ellis Photos by Mark Morton

Warped Final Thoughts

Less Than Jake Photo by Henry Chung

I was late to the Warped Tour party: my first one wasn’t until 2012.  No particular reason but I had been perfectly content going to club shows to see 2 or 3 bands at a time. Baking in the hot sun for 10 hours to see abbreviated sets didn’t really interest me.

Chelsea Grin Photo by Henry Chung

I finally relented and saw it as an interesting opportunity to knock out a few interviews and get samplings of a few acts both familiar and new.

State Champs Photo by Henry Chung

In hindsight, that’s exactly what I wanted and exactly what I got.

Unearth Photo by Henry Chung

While some felt that this year’s lineup didn’t acknowledge the earliest years enough, it really is a fair representation of what the tour has evolved into. There are some faces that have never left (Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish, come to mind) some long-running acts that never really got a proper run before (Unearth) and the next generation is still being given a big boost (Sharptooth, Doll Skin).  There were some familiar bands who hopped on when they could fit it into their summers.  While this was a nice bonus and led to some last-minute surprises, in many ways, 2018 was just another year of the festival.

Sharptooth Photo by Henry Chung

If anything, this year was one of the least I was able to soak in the actual performances as my interview schedule and the layout made me less mobile.

Ice Nine Kills Photo by Henry Chung

With so many acts that have been on the tour over the years, there was no way to represent everyone and make everyone happy for this final run.  Would the older crowd even turn up for a nostalgia-fest?  Would the kids appreciate the history lesson?  What about the acts that did it for one year, got huge and never returned?  Would focusing only on all of the newest and hottest acts be financially feasible and even capture the spirit of the festival?  If you think about it, there’s really no way to appeal to everyone. It’s been the same argument every year and that’s been one of the most consistent parts of Warped.

Silverstein Photo by Henry Chung

These last seven summers have been truly important to me.  The festival has brought me scorching heat, pouring rain, the chance to see some bands I never thought I’d get to experience, introduced me to some new artists, allowed me to meet and interview some incredible people, made me push through some overwhelming crowds, and walk many, many miles.

Kosha Dillz Photo by Henry Chung

No one knows what the future will bring.  That’s not really important.  What is important is the great memories we have already made and will fondly recall forever.

Motionless In White with Kevin Lyman Photo by Henry Chung

Besides, it’s not like music is going anywhere.  There will always be something to lure us out for a day full of fun.

Doll Skin Photo by Henry Chung

Words by: JJ Ellis
Photos by: Henry Chung

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

Exclusive: Maximalism With Olof of Amaranthe

Standing outside the venue of Reading, PA’s Reverb, the moon slowly peeks up over the hills. It’s 28ºF outside and the line is beginning to wrap around the building. Some passerby might wonder why anybody would subject themselves to sub-freezing temperatures just to wait in line. Well, the answer is simple. This is the final night of Amaranthe’s Maximalism USA/ Canada tour. Continue reading “Exclusive: Maximalism With Olof of Amaranthe”

Exclusive: Psychic Warfare Comes to Bethlehem

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As we prepared to welcome 2017, 2016 proved that it had a little life left in it when Clutch came to the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem on December 29th… Continue reading “Exclusive: Psychic Warfare Comes to Bethlehem”

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”

Bad Cop/ Bad Cop with The Interrupters at Underground Arts

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Photo by: Jared Lagler

On a rainy Sunday Night (All Hallows’ Eve, to be specific) Philadelphia’s Underground Arts hosted a punk show made up of bands that are rapidly growing into formidable musical entities: Bad Cop/Bad Cop and The Interrupters. Continue reading “Bad Cop/ Bad Cop with The Interrupters at Underground Arts”

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”