Music

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch at the Big Top

I wrote this post on Wednesday morning, however I didn’t post it as I was in a rush to get to work and then once work was over I had to rush over to the Richie Sambora show. Then I spent Thursday morning writing up the Richie Sambora post and after posting that, I was off to work and then after work I was off to see Mrs Browns Boys at WIN Entertainment Centre. So here I am, three days after the event, back to this post.

I attended the Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold Sidewave on Tuesday, 25 February at the Big Top in Luna Park. It was my first time seeing them both live so I didn’t know what to expect.

Did I mention that Asking Alexandria opened up?

Yep, they opened up and regardless of how much Revolver Mag creams their pants over them and cross promotes them in corporate sponsorship deals, the bottom line is this; They still need a lot of work. I caught the last three songs of their set and it didn’t make me want to go out and buy them. The best releases the band has done are the cover songs.

I caught up with an old school friend at the show who came one out to watch Avenged Sevenfold. I asked him if he had heard any music from Five Finger Death Punch and he told me that he hasn’t. Half way through the set, he yelled in my ear that he will be downloading their collection when he gets home tonight.

So on to the mighty Five Finger Death Punch. They started with “Under and Over It”. A great selection for an opener and a surprise one. “Burn It Down” came next and to me, the song just didn’t really work in a live setting. “Hard to See” and the show was back on the road.

“Lift Me Up” actually lifted the Big Top. It was anthemic all the way and what a great live song it is. “The Ultimate Sin” vocal melody was sung word for word and the crowd chanted chorus drowned out the band.

“Burn MF” didn’t really do much for me on the recording, however as a live song and the way Ivan Moody gets the crowd involved in the chant, it works brilliantly. This song was the biggest surprise on the night.

Another big surprise was Chris Kael. He looks like a cross between Kerry King and Zakk Wylde and what a performer he is, backing up on clean tone vocals and deep guttural vocals. Definitely a great choice for the FFDP band.

“Coming Down” actually kept the energy levels up for a mid tempo song and the band finished off with “Never Enough” and “The Bleeding”. As a live band, Five Finger Death Punch nail it. It’s no wonder that when they hit a city, sales of their albums increase the next day.

One thing about Five Finger Death Punch that a lot of people don’t understand is that they are sort of like a supergroup of independent bands. Each musician in the band has paid their dues in other bands. Some of those bands had small record deals, some of them played on large tours and some of them just played the club scene. So when you see Ivan Moody, Zoltan Bathory, Jeremy Spencer, Jason Hook and Chris Kael on stage, you are seeing a group of talented musicians who have over 50 years combined in the music business.

On a side note, it looks like Ivan Moody got into some trouble on his Qantas flight from Brisbane to Sydney due to being an intoxicated unruly passenger and assaulting a stewardess. With his past alcohol struggles well documented in his lyrics and interviews, the latest occurrence is just another chapter in this saga. As a fan of the band, let’s hope that the other band members don’t over-react to this, because Ivan Moody is the key ingredient as to why the band resonates and connects with the audience. Changing him will be the death of Five Finger Death Punch.

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch along with Machine Head, Protest The Hero and Shinedown are currently providing the music for the soundtrack of my life. It is the familiarity of the songs and the energy that familiarity brings that provides the connection. I have this drive home playlist that is littered with A7X and FFDP songs.

So up next was Avenged Sevenfold, with their Machine Head inspired curtain logo opening up to the “Shepherd Of Fire” stage set. Some people in the audience wore Machine Head tops and they were getting heckled for it. It was all in good taste and everyone was having a laugh about it.

It is safe to say that “Shepherd Of Fire” and “Hail To The King” are great live songs. The best of the night along with “Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch. So regardless of what people call those songs or from what bands A7X and Five Finger Death Punch borrowed from in creating them. They are undeniable in a live setting. And didn’t we resonate and connect with them.

As is the norm, “Shepherd of Fire” opened up the sing along. It’s all about roots. A great song to kick off a concert with a sing along chorus.

“Critical Acclaim” from the 2007 self-titled album followed. It’s a hard song to pull off in the live setting, especially when you are playing a song that has “The Rev” on vocals via a backing tape.

“Beast and the Harlot” from the “City of Evil” album came next. The “City of Evil” album was the one that resonated with me and it was the album that got me into Avenged Sevenfold. I loved that whole Dream Theater meets “A Night At The Opera” approach.

Then it was back to the sing along with “Hail To The King”. I was actually singing “Sign Of The Cross” from Maiden throughout it as a test. “Eternal Rest” from the “Waking The Fallen” album came next and it hasn’t been played live since 2009. Personally, I would have loved to hear “Second Heartbeat” instead.

Then it came to the Nightmare vs City Of Evil part of the set. “Buried Alive” from the “Nightmare” album kicked it off, followed by “Seize the Day” from the “City of Evil” album.

Then the song “Nightmare” was played, followed by “Burn It Down” from the “City of Evil” album. It was also the first time they have played “Burn It Down” live since 2008.

The songs from the “Nightmare” album worked really good in the live setting. It gave me a new appreciation for those songs, as I saw that album as a very confused album and missing some direction.

A little Guitar Solo by Synester Gates introduced “Afterlife” from the 2007 self-titled album , that has that unbelievable shred solo that Synester made it to look completely effortless.

The main set finished off with “Almost Easy” from the 2007 self-titled album.

The Encore kicked off with “Unholy Confessions” from the “Waking the Fallen” album and finished with The Rev masterpiece “A Little Piece of Heaven” from the 2007 self-titled album.

In the same way that all the great bands had a definitive guitar player, Synester Gates is up there from the current trend. He worked that fretboard all night, sweeping up and down it, tapping it, pulling off and hammering on fast legato style leads on it and then doing some machine gun picking on it. This was a TRUE guitar hero.

And memories came back of practicing in my room, honing and refining my skills, hoping that one day, I will get a band together and have people appreciate what I do. It was never about riches. It was about the art of creating and connecting. I look at my kids and if I mention the words “Guitar Hero”, they think of the game. They fail to realise the hard work that goes into the practice.

It was entertaining and I got my money’s worth.

Compared to the Richie Sambora concert, Richie wins hands down. Sambora didn’t play it safe, taking us into improvised jams and sing alongs. Metal bands are not renowned for doing that. They are too scared in case they lose the audience.

What are the chances of metal bands playing it safe? Metal music is known for its rebellion and you have two of the big metal bands today, playing it safe in a live setting.

On a bad note, the $32 parking was a dead set rip off, especially when other venue parking stations charge between $12 and $16 dollars.

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My Stories

What A Crazy Month December Is?

By the time the 31 days are up. I would have celebrated two sixteenth birthday parties, one twenty-first birthday party and my youngest sons second birthday party. One 15 year wedding anniversary (mine), two work Christmas parties, Christmas Day and New Years Eve. One “Bon Jovi” concert, car registration, car insurance, plus Christmas presents for my three boys, four nieces and two nephews. Finally, two concert tickets to a “30 Seconds To Mars” concert as an anniversary gift to my wife and four summer passes for a water theme park.

All of the above puts a severe dent in the finances. As much as I try to plan for December, it’s all to no avail when the month hits. I still go into debt during this month.

Society and life have been twisted when it comes to Christmas. If we get one gift for our children, we feel like a failure. So we buy another gift. We feel better for a day and then realize that two gifts are not enough, so we buy one more.

Now each child is sitting at three gifts each. You feel content and then your children mention in passing that they hope Santa gets them and updated bike. So I am like, god damn. I don’t have that gift. So I go around for the 4th time and in the process grab a few more extras like updated helmets and some DVD’s.

So each child is sitting at six gifts each. That is enough I tell myself and my credit card bill is screaming “Please Stop”.

And then that neighbour who is known as “Mr Righteous” meets you in the street. In a simple conversation, you find out that his wife is busily wrapping up a lot presents. My first thought is “I need more presents”. The logical thought that they have fewer children doesn’t compute. The only thought is that I need more gifts because once my children find out that the Neighbours kid got more they “could” be disappointed.

“Here I Go Again” from Whitesnake plays in the background at this crucial moment and the title more or less sums up my feelings.

“Could” is the crucial word here. Due to “could” more money is blown and each kid will be receiving more gifts than they really need. I did it. The kids would be so happy and I will deal with the debt fallout later. What a great dad, who just can’t sleep at night as one side of the mind thinks of the debt. Then the other side thinks that you only live once so enjoy it.

The thing is, the kids would have been happy with the first three gifts plus the bikes. Now they will have so many it will be hard for them to enjoy them all. The one year old that is turning two in three days time still wants to destroy the wrapping paper and then play with all the gifts that his brothers got.

I don’t normally recover financially until March, however as one side of the mind says, “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, SO ENJOY IT.”

Merry Christmas to all.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Question Everything – Inspiration From Killswitch Engage and Jesse Leach

After overdosing on the new Protest the Hero album “Volition” for some reason the last song “Skies” got me thinking about Killswitch Engage. So out come the headphones and on goes the new album “Disarm the Descent.” I haven’t listened to it since about July. Our favourites don’t last long in the times of today. With so much new music coming out, we move on very quickly. As Jesse Leach pointed out recently in an interview with Lithium Magazine, the title is a creative way of saying redemption or rising again.

“You’re in a state of your life where you’re approaching rock bottom and you find a way to pick yourself up again before you hit the floor.”

I came to Killswitch Engage late. I didn’t listen to their first three albums. The only song I heard was “My Last Serenade” back in 2004 and that was via a bass player friend. However at that time, nothing really connected with me and that was it. There was no urge to commit to the band for me.

Fast forward a few years and the “Guitar World” issue arrived in the mailbox. I don’t recall which month; however it was a magazine from 2007. At that time the magazine still came with a DVD of bonus content. One of the bonuses was a lesson from the Killswitch guitarists on how to play “My Curse” and after watching it, I was hooked.

So I asked my bass player friend to burn me all of their albums, which he did. At the time, I had no idea that vocalists changed, which after hearing “Alive or Just Breathing” in 2007, I realised that the tones of the vocalists didn’t match up. So what do we do when we need information? We Google. We click on Wikipedia. In addition, “My Last Serenade” suddenly mattered. The song sucker punched me and I was hooked. The timing was right in 2007, for Killswitch Engage to enter my life on a full time basis.

By the time, their 2009 self-titled album came out; I was purchasing it without even listening to a single note. As a bonus their back catalogue was on special at the time, so I picked them up as well and added the official releases to my collection. That is why I always say that no metrics can ever measure the reach or pull of a band at the time of a release.

Of course, sales data can show what is in demand at a certain point in time; however the reach and the popularity of a certain band or a certain album cannot be properly measured until years later. Remember that history is written by the winners. In music, the winners are the artists or bands that outlast the competition.

Going back to the different singers, since Jesse’s split with the band, he kept busy with other projects, like the stoner-rock outfit “Seemless” and the metalcore/hard-core influenced “The Empire Shall Fall”. During this period, he also appeared with Killswitch Engage, performing the track “My Last Serenade” alongside Howard Jones at the Roadrunner United concert in 2005.

Then in 2011, I was blown away by “Times of Grace”. Everything about that album connected with me on so many different levels. I saw “Times Of Grace” open up for “Machine Head” at the Uni Roundhouse in Sydney in February 2012. Adam Dutkiewicz had his leg in some form of a support cast and he still went ballistic on stage, commenting frequently that “Aussie girls are hot.”

In relation to “Times Of Grace”, I could hear the regret in some of the songs. When Jesse jumped ship from Killswitch he was fighting a pretty serious depression. He had just gotten married and he couldn’t deal with being on the road all the time and away from his new family.

Songs like, “Fall From Grace (my best song on the album)”, “The Forgotten One”, “Hymn Of A Broken Man”, “In The Arms Of Mercy” and “Where The Spirit Leads Me” capture the more personal side of Jesse Leach. I remember reading in an interview in the “Revolver” April/May issue with Jesse mentioning that at the time of leaving Killswitch he was “broken and unconfident”.

So when Killswitch Engage announced that Jesse Leach is the vocalist again, I was more than pleased. His redemption was complete. When Jesse left Killswitch Engage the album he worked on “Alive Or Just Breathing” was just another album in a burgeoning metalcore scene that helped to kick start the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement.

Today, “Alive or Just Breathing” is seen as a classic. I always state that music is all about creating great music now so that it is recognised later for its greatness. As an artist grows their body of work takes on a new life of its own. It takes a while for something to be assimilated. Artists or bands have to hang in there long enough until they get their turn, getting better while they wait and releasing quality music.

“In Due Time” was the lead-off single.

“All that we suffer through leads to determination
The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on 

Something within us burns, desire feeds the will to live
A reason to believe I will see redemption”

As the chorus lyrics go, in due time, the shadows will gave way to the light. You just need to be patient and resilient. The words could even reference Jesse’s redemption to Killswitch and the knowledge that he had to go through all these trials so that he could come back a better person.

“A Tribute To The Fallen” has that hook that resonates. In my view this song should have led the album.

“With a new dawn we rise in renewed strength
Knowing we’ve just begun to fight this war within”

Think about all the crap that is going on in our democratic nations. Governments are spying on their own people. The Corporations and their lobby groups drive legislation. Government granted monopolies like the copyright industry are doing their best to kill innovation and when that fails, insert the corporations and their lobby groups. Transparency is promised however it doesn’t exist. Every communication is suddenly classified. Enables of pirated goods get more jail time than actual criminal offenders.

“New Awakening” has the legend behind it about how Jesse blew his voice while he was recording it in the studio. After the Doctor told him about the strain on the vocal chords, Jesse saw it as a badge of honour.

“There is more to life than this
We are more than just this flesh
We are alive and our time has come
For a new awakening”

It’s the Killswitch revolution. Killswitch wants you. Where do i sign? I’m all in.

“You Don’t Bleed For Me” connects with me because it more or less sums up our politicians and how even though they are voted in by the people, they do not work for the people. Of course there are the rare ones who do their best to speak for the people but in the end money wins the game.

“Fly your flag of righteousness
When underneath it is deviousness, it is greed and lies
Don’t pretend to know me you martyr of disgrace
With your plastic smile
I don’t believe a word you say
You don’t speak for me
You don’t bleed, you don’t bleed
You don’t bleed for me”

The closer “Time Will Not Remain”.

“None of us should be thought of as anything less than a potential to change the world”

What a lyric and what a statement. That is the reason why Jesse Leach’s return means so much to Killswitch Engage and to metal fans in general. He never stopped being who he was. He was not corrupted by the modern era. He questions social norms and ideals. He questions the crap our politicians and news outlets throw at us. He questions everything. The great vocalists always have something to say.

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