the Agora Theater; Cleveland, OH
Madlife, Saint Ridley, Devil You Know, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber
I don’t listen to heavy metal like I used to, but I find it’s really difficult to let go of the bands I listened to in high school. So when I saw a chance to see two of my favorites from yesteryear (and for only $20) I jumped at the chance. This is how I ended up jamming to sci-fi metal and horror metal last Sunday night when I should have been in bed resting for work on Monday.
A long Burger King line and last minute bowel movement made me just a little late to the show. I only caught the last song from Madlife, which was disappointing. Judging from my Spotify research they were the opening act I was most interested in seeing. They had a sound similar to Fear Factory, but mixed with nu-metal. Not anything I’m going to run out and buy, but something that sparked my interest.
Saint Ridley was a good heavy metal band. Unfortunately they were a typical heavy metal band. I didn’t really hear anything to differentiate them from hordes of other bands vying for my attention. They played a great set and managed to keep my attention, but this is the kind of stuff I would have been into 10 years ago.
I can’t say that I care for Devil You Know any more than I did for singer Howard Jones’ previous band, Killswitch Engage. I’m not sure what it was that turned me off from metalcore, but I never really cared for KsE. And DYK sounds very similar (though noticeably heavier). It hurts me to say that because aside from being a fellow Ohioan, Jones comes off as a really nice, funny guy. I also have to give them props on being killer musicians (I really dug the bassist Ryan Wombacher’s backup vocals), but it’s just not my cup of tea.
But all was right with the world after the lights dimmed and Fear Factory took the stage. I couldn’t help but feel a little scared as they broke into their buzz-saw guitar riffage and the mosh pit threatened to engulf the whole floor area.
(I was somewhat disappointed that the balcony section wasn’t opened. I’m a bit older now so I appreciate being able to sit down while watching a band, even if they are one of the heaviest in the known universe. Plus I’ve had a few harrowing experienced on the floor of the Agora Theater. When Primus played “Too Many Puppies” at Tour de Fromage in 2003 I thought I was going to get crushed to death and Ministry’s C-U-LaTour in 2008 resulted in several stitches on my forehead and years of Harry Potter jokes. (That Ministry show also featured both Fear Factory’s vocalist Burton C. Bell and bassist Tony Campos.))
But still, I was pumped to see Fear Factory. The last time I saw them was in 2004 and aside from Bell, it was a completely different band.* I was a little disappointed to not be seeing Raymond Herrera’s drumming again, but Mike Heller proved to be a very talented replacement. The last time I saw them I wasn’t very familiar with their material, but I’ve listened to them quite a bit over the past 11 years so I was able to sing along with “Edgecrusher” and “Replica.” I’m pleased to say I resisted the urge to hop into the pit during “Demanufacture” and only caught one elbow to the face from standing too close to the edge.
My biggest bitch of the evening is that FF only played a 50 minute set. I was thinking that they could have been the headliners. Until Coal Chamber took the stage.
I’ve hear Coal Chamber slammed a few times on sites like Metalsucks for being part of the nu-metal scene, but they’ve aged really well. I find their simplistic three chord metal songs catchy and driving. Plus they’ve definitely inspired a new wave of musicians. They’re the band that every nu-metal cover band has to cover, like a 2000’s AC/DC. I found a great spot just stage left of the barrier for the beginning of their set. You could feel the tension rising as guitarist Meegs Rascon played the opening lick to “Loco” and as soon as Dez Fafara sang “Pull” the crowd went nuts. I wanted to move around to get a better look at the pit, but I didn’t have to move very far. Little mini-pits kept popping up all around me like a whack-a-mole. One minute the guy next to you is a normal run-of-the-mill metalhead and the next minute he’s bouncing around like a three-year-old who just chugged a Red Bull. It was awesome! Within 5 songs they covered all my favorites with “Loco,” “Big Truck,” “Fiend,” and “Rowboat.” I didn’t care what they played after that. I was surprised that they didn’t play more off the new record, but I can’t complain because I knew most of the set, which helped keep me to singing along.
Perhaps the best part, and something that led me to crack up a few times, was how Rascon would spit straight up in the air and catch it in his mouth. Gross, but hilarious.
Bitch number 2 has to do with how the crowd immediately dispersed after “Sway.” Haven’t any of these people been to a show before? You stand around and yell really loud until they come back out and play another song or two.
Really though, it was the best show I’ve been to in a long time. I have to give props to the staff and roadies for their quick set changes. And though I’m not a fan of all the bands, they all gave really great performances.
I know there are only a few more shows left on the tour, but if you get a chance- get to one! You wont regret it… well, maybe you will if you get in the pit.
*2004 FF featured Bell, guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers, founding drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Byron Stroud (formerly of Strapping Young Lad) 2015 FF features Bell, founding guitarist Dino Cazeres, bassist Tony Campos (Static X, Ministry) and drummer Mike Heller.