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

Vans Warped Tour 2018: The End of an Era

For the last 24yrs, the Vans Warped Tour has been been the largest traveling music festival in the United States plus the longest-running touring music festival in North America. Criss-crossing through the US (and the occasional parts of the UK and Australia), It’s been nicknamed the “punk rock summer camp” for veteran bands and those trying to making a name for themselves. The tour is not one for the weak willed. The grueling Summer heat, the traveling, vehicle breakdowns, an ever changing daily schedule, and time away from loved ones would push those to their limits. But for a lot kids (and young adults like me), this tour was a place where you can be yourself and be one with your tribe.

The blow-up schedule for the Camden, NJ stop of the Vans Warped Tour 07/13/2018

This year would be considered the final cross-country run of the Vans Warped Tour. Despite what everyone else keeps thinking, the TOURING part is over but not the festival. Who knows what the future may hold for this Summertime staple.

As I made my way through the production halls of the BB&T Pavilion in Camden NJ, a moment of melancholy loomed over me. This is the last time I’ll be getting lost in these halls for Warped. All of the friends I have made over the years in production I might never see again after this. After a moment of clarity, I pushed onward and met up with my writer for my shot list. (NOTE: I was originally collaborating with another outlet but a lot of the interviews that were originally approved ended up being cancelled that morning so I decided to share the coverage here instead.)

Tonight Alive – Photo by Henry Chung

One of the first groups I shot was Tonight Alive. Us here at neostar//media have had a long history with with the band. Some of our first Warped interviews were with various members as they were on the rise. It’s still phenomenal to see how far their careers have soared over the years and they’ve always made time to hang out and talk to us whenever we’d run into each other at shows. This was their 4th time on the tour.

Nekrogoblikon – Photo by Henry Chung

The next group I saw was Nekrogoblikon. There’s been a buzz over the last few months about this band. The crowds were too massive for me to fight my way through so I hopped up on the Monster Energy truck to try and catch a wide shot. This was their first ever run on the Vans Warped Tour.

Wage War – Photo by Henry Chung

Next, I made my way through to catch Wage War. I believe they were on the previous year but I never got a chance to see them until I caught their set during the Self Help Fest last September. Their album ‘Deadweight’ was hands down one of my favorite records of last year. This was also their 2nd Warped Tour run.

Four Years Strong – Photo by Henry Chung

Next up was Four Years Strong. I wasn’t sure what to expect from FYS this summer. Probably a “hits” show since they’ve just released an acoustic record earlier this year Some of You Will Like This, Some of You Won’t so figured they’d just stick with fan-favorites (which they did.) This is their 6th year playing the Vans Warped Tour.

Crown the Empire – Photo by Henry Chung

The buzz around Crown the Empire has been the departure of co-vocalist Dave Escamilla with Andy Leo taking over full vocal duties. You can tell that there was just “something” missing from their performance but over all, I think Andy did a great job. It was almost impossible to get a still shot of him as he kept jumping around on stage. This was their 4th time on the Vans Warped Tour.

We the Kings – Photo by Henry Chung

We the Kings opened their set each day with the crowd singing along to Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” before going right into “Sad Song” and kept the crowd singing along throughout their half-hour set all the way into their closer “Check Yes Juliet.” This was their 6th time on the Vans Warped Tour.

The Amity Affliction – Photo by Henry Chung

Another Australian band that has been making waves this summer was The Amity Affliction. The band has been gearing up to release the sixth studio album, ‘Misery’. This was also their 3rd time on the Vans Warped Tour.

Simple Plan – Photo by Henry Chung

Playing their 12th run on the Vans Warped Tour, the Canadian pop-punk band Simple Plan was also celebrating their 20th anniversary as well.

Falling In Reverse – Photo by Henry Chung

Falling In Reverse are no strangers to the Vans Warped Tour. This will be their 6th time returning to the tour.

Every Time I Die – Photo by Henry Chung

I don’t know what else there is to say about Every Time I Die that hasn’t been said a million times before. They have become a Warped Tour staple over the years, they put on one of the best live shows, and their albums are phenomenal. This is Every Time I Die’s 9th run on the tour.

Hatebreed – Photo by Henry Chung

Hatebreed was a “special guest” on two of the East Coast dates of Vans Warped Tour. Today in Camden, NJ and tomorrow at Holmdel, NJ. In the previous year when I tried to photograph them, but a massive thunderstorm erupted over the skies above us causing us to seek shelter. This year, I finally get redemption. Within the first note, they did not let up. They tore right into old school fan-favorites. The majority of their set leaned more on the hardcore side of their catalog. This is the band’s 3rd time on the Vans Warped Tour.

Senses Fail – Photo by Henry Chung

Earlier this year, Senses Fail released their seventh album titled ‘If There is Light, It Will Find You.’ It was a deeply nostalgic and personal record written by vocalist and sole original member Buddy Nelson. The entire record harkens back to the sing-along feels of their landmark album ‘Let It Enfold You.’ But being around the same age as the singer, a lot of the songs on the new record felt uncomfortably too relatable. From growing up and getting older, dealing with the loss of close ones, and having kids. Just a few songs in, Buddy dedicates the song “Elevator to the Gallows” to his daughter Penelope (seen in the bottom corner along with his wife.) The main highlight of their set was the Nu Metal mashup of System Of A Down’s “Chop Suey”, Drowning Pool’s “Bodies”, Limp Bizkit’s “Break stuff” and Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” towards the end. This was their 6th year on the Vans Warped Tour.

Motionless In White – Photo by Henry Chung

We’re getting closer to the end now. Closing the Monster Energy White Lightning stage today is our very own Motionless In White. With the recent departure of  longtime bassist Devin “Ghost” Sola, they called in the help of the group’s former guitarist, TJ Bell to fill in for the duration of the tour. This is also the band’s 10th run on the Vans Warped Tour.

Twiztid – Photo by Henry Chung

Now officially finishing the night is Twiztid. I didn’t know what to expect from them. I’ve heard of them and have had friends been fans of them over the years but I knew absolutely nothing about them. But, their stage presence was a pleasant surprise. They came out onstage with a live drummer to be honest, hearing the clean drums with a backing track was a nice relief to the ears after eight straight hours of punishing breakdowns.

So as sad it is that the tour is over. I try NOT to dwell too much on it. In the last two decades, I’ve felt that I have found an identity associated with the tour and the music it encompasses. I have watched as bands begin from playing small stages to filling arenas to becoming household names, from touring in broken down vans to becoming icons. The tour might be over but the music isn’t. If anything, it just opens up doors for others to start their own movement. Summers won’t be the same again after this but in the end, the music will continue.

Words and Photos by: Henry Chung

Video: Rise, My King – Thunder From The Mountain

The debut music video for Rise, My King has officially been released to the masses!

I was fortunate enough to be apart of the production of the video as a behind the scenes videographer as well as being a PA and grip. The production took 4 days to shoot at 3 different locations. The hours were long and the weather wasn’t exactly on our side during one of the location shoots. But the results were amazing due to each and every crew member from hair and makeup, to location scouting, to set building, to lighting, to props, to all the other PA’s on hand.

Photos: Henry Chung

 

Rise, My King Debut Music Video Release Show

Bethlehem-base Rise, My King will be doing a video premiere show Saturday, April 14th to debut their music video for “Thunder From The Mountain.” The show will be held at The Epic Center in Bethlehem, PA with theLionharted on as support. Show starts at 7pm and will run ’til 10pm and will cost $5.

A teaser for their video “Thunder From The Mountian” can be viewed below.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Rise, My King Photo by 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”