Concert Review - Arch Enemy & Exodus
I had never before been to the Palladium in Worcester (and yes, it’s pronounces wuss-ter,) but I must say I was fundamentally impressed with the place. I’m a sucker for metal venues that clearly used to be performance theatres back in the day, and the Palladium did not disappoint. It perhaps lacks the sheer character of The Chance (my personal favorite venue, and we all have one,) but it’s a great wide space with a good mix of casual seating and open floor space.
(Side note: I knew I was getting close to Boston when the guy at the parking lot had that unique and perfect mix of high-pitched Boston twang and the hot dog vendor as a ballpark. “TEN dahlahs tah pahk HEREAH!” I was a stranger in a strange and wonderful land.)
When I arrived at the venue, the house mix made me wonder if I was in the right place. The first two songs I heard, in order, were “Jukebox Hero” (more on this later) and “Easy Like Sunday Morning.” Now, I like me some Commodores, so no complaint there, but it didn’t feel right. I was concerned the evening was getting off to a bad start.
First band up was Mutiny Within. Here’s the brief synopsis. Not the worst thing I’ve ever heard, not the best. Next.
Arsis came next, and I had very little hope coming into this set. Something just didn’t quite feel right watching them walk onto the stage. But son of a gun, these guys aren’t bad. I admit to not really being intimately familiar with their catalogue, but they didn’t waste time telling me the title of every song, or continuing to mention that they had an album available at the merch table. So points for that. On top of that, I may have to look into these guys more, as I was impressed with the general tone of their playing, even if it borders of being a shade too unfocused.
Exodus is one of the legendary fathers of American thrash metal, so it was only fitting that I finally got the chance to see them live and in person. They have reached that unique status in the metal world where they no longer have to go to incredible lengths or showcase a grandiose display to gain attention. They need only appear and play. It comes to them naturally now; the band is relaxed and taking the moment to actually enjoy themselves. That kind of bravado requires a certain combination of both reputation and confidence, and Exodus has both in abundance. Sure, it’s not nearly the original members, but they’re all metal veterans, from Garry Holt on down. All of the American thrash acts from that golden era of metal have a distinct guitar tone; it's akin to a runaway buzz saw, and Exodus has it nailed down to perfection. Whether it was turning the crank on classics like "Piranha" or “Bonded by Blood,” or banging out a new crowd favorite like "Deathamphetamine," and a very tight “War is My Shepherd,” Exodus still has all the grit and grins it takes to be an icon of metal. They also managed to exhort the crowd into the ole’ ‘two halves of the audience crashing into each other’ gimmick, which I had never seen work to such perfection. It was like watching two field armies rush headlong into each other with shields and swords swinging, as crowd members crossed the Rubicon into frenzied combat. Bodies, limbs, girlfriends and articles of clothing were dashed in all directions as the crowd paired off to do individual battle. It was quite a spectacle. Finished off with a thunderous sing along of “The Toxic Waltz” and then a hammering “Shovel Headed Kill Machine,” Exodus thrilled the crowd, and left them with just enough left for Arch Enemy.
If Exodus is the free-form, catch as catch can metal experience, then Arch Enemy is their rehearsed, practiced counterpart. Every movement of the band is calculated and precise. They never stand in each other’s way, do everything in unison, hit switches for each other, think and breathe as one. My favorite gimmick of theirs was that whenever Angela would take time to speak to the crowd, the other band members would disappear behind various props and curtains, leaving only the sultry singer left to converse with the crowd. As she would announce the next song, they’d all come dashing back out, and start the next song on a perfect cue. The band’s seemingly boundless energy sent the crowd reeling, as they kinetically moved their way through a powerful set of favorites old and new. Angela as a singer is both strong and possessed of a tempting, sexy grace. She serves as the centerpiece that captivated the audience and as the lens through which the skillful playing is observed.
I am seldom impressed by the all-too-common time sink known as the drum solo, but Daniel Erlandsson is a captivating drum artist who managed to hold my attention throughout.
If you were looking for stuff off of “The Root of All Evil” (which is technically old stuff,) there were a handful of highlights to be had. “Bury Me An Angel” might have been the jewel of the entire set, along with excellent reproductions of “Pilgrim” and “Diva Satanica.” Other crowd pleasers included “Revolution Begins” and “We Will Rise.” Truth be told though, they might well have played just about anything, and the sheer ferocity that their music was imbued with would have been enough. The crowd was drinking it all in, as much as they could take.
Eventually, the crowd started to get tired, but the band never did, finishing with a ferocious encore of “Nemesis” and “Snow Bound.” Really, really good stuff, if I can be allowed to understate it.
And naturally, after four bands and almost four a half hours of metal, what did I find stuck in my head a half hour into the drive home? “Jukebox Hero.” Damn it.
(Big thanks to Brian at Fresno for having a really big band in making this all come together.)