Sabaton / Kreator / CyHra at The Fillmore Silver Spring

On a Wednesday night, on the outskirts of Washington D.C., a flood of people packed into The Fillmore Silver Spring for a night of metal mayhem.  Camo pants were being sported by a great many, and I even noted one individual wearing a pauldron.  Everyone was fully prepared to rock out this Wednesday evening, March 7, 2018, and rock they did to sounds from European soils: CyHra, Kreator, and Sabaton.

CyHra: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

The opening act was one I had only begun to hear about: the part Swedish, part Finnish, part German conglomerate known as CyHra.  Formed of former members of In Flames, Amaranthe, Shining, and Annihilator (as well as a concurrent member of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), the mere thought of this band peaks the interest before any music hits your ears.  Described by vocalist, Jake E, as “really catchy metal,” you can totally understand what he says from the opening notes of their debut, Letters To Myself.  After listening to this release, which truly doesn’t copy any of their previous acts, I was surprised, wondering how they could possibly pull off this material in concert without losing some aspect of the studio magic.  But you know, they made it work surprisingly well!  In fact, the band was extremely animated and had the audience in the palm of their hands.  “Pretend you’re at a 70s Scorpions concert!” Jake E shouted, answered by the glow of hundreds of cellphones waving in the air, screens ablaze.

For whatever reason, bassist Peter Iwers couldn’t make the North American tour.  Regardless of this unfortunate occurrence, the veteran foursome who were present put on one hell of a performance, and fans were saddened when they had reached the end of their set.  I heard at least one person who hadn’t heard them prior to this proclaim, “I’ve got to get a copy of this album” after the music had ceased.

 

Kreator: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The thrash legends, Kreator, were up next.  Personally, I thought this would be a jarring change from the melody-driven music of the opener, and I wasn’t wrong!  The night took a left turn from its existing direction and entered a world claimed by the Flag Of Hate.  This world was full of staccato stage lighting (not recommended for those with epileptic episodes), circle pits, crowd surfing, and headbangers in the rafters.  Frontman Mille Petrozza pronounced “We heard Maryland is known for one thing…its moshpits!” much to the chagrin of the security in the room.  Not less than a few times were myself and other photographers moved aside to catch impending crowdsurfers.

The German metallers pulled out songs from nine albums of their catalog, going all the way back to their 1985 debut, Endless Pain, though the majority of tracks came from their two most recent albums, Phantom Antichrist and Gods Of Violence.  Needless to say, fans were overjoyed.

 

Sabaton: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Sabaton, I am sad to say, is another failure on my part of not being familiar with them sooner.  The name has rung a bell for years, but I had never sat down and listened to their material.  I was surprised to find myself in the realm of anthemic, military heavy metal.  Caught between dueling guitars, war helmet mic stands, and goofing off…I was caught filled with joy.  This is what I imagine happens when every member of the band is an extrovert.  I swear, every word of every song was sung by the audience, mirroring Joakim Brodén’s lead vocals, to the point where it was difficult to differentiate who I was actually hearing.  Every so often the crowd would be moved to the point of leaping in unison, and I felt the building trembling by the combined force of their return to Earth alongside the reverberating speakers.

But I think the point where I really realized this band is truly amazing was when, mid-verse, guitarist Tommy Johansson came over to Joakim, who was kneeling down, and literally knocked him over. “What the—?!“ sputtered the frontman, before Johansson sat on him, all while continuing to play guitar and Brodén struggled to get up.  After a couple of seconds the guitarist ceased his assault, and Joakim returned to his feet, singing while attempting not to laugh, and throwing the bird at Johansson.  The crowd ate it up, and so did I.  In the words of Frank Zappa, “shall we take ourselves seriously?”  The answer, my friends, is clearly no.

With each brief intermission the band took, whether to get a drink of water or to change guitars, chants of “SA-BA-TON!” echoed through the venue.  From my vantage point, I could see the band members laughing each time it occurred, because it arrived so quickly after they ceased playing!  “We should tour here more often,” Brodén stated, “because you all, on a WEDNESDAY, are a more lively audience than some places we’ve played on the weekend.”  And it’s true.  I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a more energetic crowd, here or at any other venue.  There was a remarkable electricity running through the building, and it was one I was sad to see come to an end.  And while the North American tour has come to an end as well, you should do your darndest to catch any of these bands in concert, wherever you might find them.  You will not find disappointment.

Live Review: In Flames, Kataklysm, and White Knuckle Riot on Tour with guest Cloak

Atlanta’s own Masquerade was packed out on Sunday, May 21, with metal heads, both young and seasoned, eager to see the legendary band In Flames currently on tour with Kataklysm and White Knuckle Riot and guest Cloak, a local Atlanta band. Before the doors for Heaven even opened for the night, there was a line to get in that snaked around the alley at Underground Atlanta. Even after the doors opened and the line trickled in, a steady stream of rockers kept flowing into the venue. Within minutes, the front of the stage was already packed with attendees taking stakes in their own moshing territory. Elsewhere, groups of fans gathered around conversations reminiscing on past shows and speculating on shows yet to come. And yet others were enjoying libations and smokes to prepare for a night of raging and thrashing.

To kick off the night, Cloak took over the stage with a warm welcome of whoops and hollers from the crowd. Before even starting their set, their drummer Sean Bruneau lit incense onstage in a ritualistic fashion that defined the mood of their set. The band truly embodies their genre of black metal in both showmanship and sound. The dark, heavy screams of vocalist and guitarist Scott Taysom matched well with the guitar howls and bass beat down pumped out by Max Brigham and Matt Scott respectively. The succinctly syncopated drum beat of Sean kept their set tight overall. Cloak overall proved their salt as performers and a true flag-bearer of metal music for the Atlanta music scene.

White Knuckle Riot continued the show as the second act of the night. A new act out of Nor Cal, the band has been in unfamiliar territory while on tour with In Flames and Kataklysm. However, catching up with their guitarists The Pagan and Sever revealed that although the band is still up and coming, the hospitality and kindness the band has seen while on tour has been humbling. After witnessing their set at Masquerade, I can see why. With each member of the band having over 20 years of industry experience, White Knuckle Riot makes a live show feel like a studio session with their precision and polished performance. From their open track “Nightmare” the audience quickly warmed up to White Knuckle Riot’s set. Their drummer of over two years, Brian “Beatdown” Kelly, apparently lives in the pocket as his sticks kept the thunderous heartbeat of the band trucking forward. Guitarists Sever and The Pagan along with original member and bassist Misfire kept the set tight with their slick melody tradeoffs. And we can’t forget original member and vocalist Johnny Schizo who crushed it with his rapid vocals that are a fresh change up to the usual screams heard from most heavy metals acts. White Knuckle Riot is a band to see with a very bright horizon in store for future shows.

As the last supporting act, Canadian band Kataklysm turned Heaven into a giant mosh pit. The melodic death metal act entered the stage to an ominous orchestral intro that was super metal. Drummer Oli Beaudoin, guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais, and bassist Stephane Barbe transitioned the intro from ominous to dark and deliciously gritty with their seasoned sound. To add to the showmanship of their show, front man and vocalist Maurizio Iacono came on stage spewing a mist of water in the air with an aura of confidence only seen in professionals who have mastered their craft. Immediately Kataklysm broke into “Breaching the Asylum” complete with their iconic hair-spinning head banging. Almost as if summoned by the head banging of the band, a void formed in the center of the crowd with contestants circling inwards to complete the circle pit. The pit stayed consistent throughout their entire set, even with one fan getting the boot after an altercation. In the midst of the musical mayhem of their set, Maurizio spoke to his old and now new fans alike, saying “if you don’t know us you will by the end of the night… We are not Justin Bieber. This is something called death metal!” This honestly made my day. And when he introduced “Crippled and Broken” the crowd went crazy, turning everything up a notch. Kataklysm is true death metal and proved once their prowess.

Now, for the main course. The one and only In Flames. As soon as their opening song “Wallflower” pervaded Heaven, everyone’s attention snapped towards the stage. The crowd was giddy, well as giddy as a bunch of metal heads can be, as the decades of practiced metal filled the air, with circle pits and general chaos as the new law of the crowd. I couldn’t find one person not jamming out to the mad riffs being bounced between veteran member guitarists Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engein. And the switch ups between the crisp guitar interplay to Anders Friden’s iconic vocals gave chills every single time while recent addition Joe Rickard kept the set on lock with his metronome-like drum beats. The stage presence of In Flames is truly a well-polished act but not because of rehearsals alone; the level of showmanship led by the core group of Anders, Bjorn, and Niclas can only be achieved through the test of time. It almost seems like the band is in their natural element, as if they were born to bring true metal to the realm of mortal men.

Taking a break from the music, Anders talked up the crowd in a casual way, like catching up with old friends. A sole member of the crowd belligerently shouted out at Anders, who replied by asking how many beers the man had had. When he replied with “I’ve had three bud lights” Anders said “[you should] drink real beer… if you do, you won’t make a fool of yourself”. So metal.

The rest of the night was filled with classics that both from old albums and more recent ones. For their hit “Cloud Connected” the track became more of a karaoke night for the crowd as everyone joined in. When they reached the end of the night, In Flames parted ways with their top hit “Take This Life”. If you missed seeing In Flames, you truly missed out.

All four metals acts made a Sunday night feel like a Friday with the energy and talent they all brought to the table. To catch a stop on In Flames’ tour, check out http://www.inflames.com/tour/.