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/.

CD Review: “The Immortal Wars” by Ex Deo

Ex Deo’s members don their armor once more to unleash a barrage of epic death metal on its third album The Immortal Wars. The band’s love for Ancient Roman history is in full effect on this record, focusing on Carthaginian military commander Hannibal. The opening track “The Rise of Hannibal” stomps like a Roman legion with its militaristic drumming and pummeling guitar riffs. The song captures the war-like theme of the album and captures the listeners attention from start to finish. “Hispania (Siege of Saguntum)” mixes symphonic strings over tremolo picking and a galloping beat to stunning effect. This track deals with Hannibal’s victory in Sanguntum Spain, which ignited the Second Punic War. Guitarists Stephane Barbe and Jean-Francois Dagenais seamlessly shift from doomy riffs to classical arpeggios while drummer Oli Beaudoin’s relentless blast beats maintain the pace of the battle. Album closer “The Roman” ends this record in glorious fashion. One instantly feels the victorious emotion of vocalist Maurizio Iacono as he proudly declares that he is Roman. A fitting end to an aggressive album that’s as education as it is brutal.

The Immortal Wars is musically and lyrically a captivating album. Maurizio has researched Roman history as the song titles deal with major battles and the politics during the Second Punic War. The band is sure to draw comparisons to Nile, whose founder Karl Sanders is known for his love of Ancient Egyptian history and mythology. That is not a bad thing, as it disproves the stereotype that heavy metal fans are ignorant or uneducated. Musically, the band plays as tight as a Roman unit. The syncopated musicianship is disrupted by chaotic blastbeats that only heightens the record’s energy. The production is clear and gives the instruments breathing room to blast from all directions.

Ex Deo pay high tribute to Caesar on The Immortal Wars. The band accomplishes its mission in a mere 38 minutes, which solidifies the saying “brevity is the soul of wit.” Fans of epic death metal in the vein of Nile and Amon Amarth should purchase this album. Furthermore, fans of Maurizio’s main band Kataklysm should buy this record. Rome eventually fell, but the spirits of its warriors are present on this album.

For news and tour dates, check out Ex Deo’s Official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/exdeo/