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Not long after 7pm, first act on 2008's Taste of Chaos European tour billing, California's HORSE the band, take to the stage. Proclaiming themselves to be "fucking crazy" and "very brave", their self-funded 3 month long world tour of 45 countries is perhaps proof enough of such statements although, beyond this, I'd heard reports of their manic and lively stage shows. And the Los Angeles quintet don't disappoint. Keyboardist Erik Engstrom is clad in the Robin Hood outfit he'd purchased earlier today at The Robin Hood Experience; tight fitting and probably intended for a child, he'd promised to wear the costume this evening when I interviewed the band a couple of hours previously. Complete with a small toy bow, he fires wooden arrows into the audience before becoming frustrated with the weapon's limited range, so snaps the bow in two across his knee mid-set! Heckling the crowd with a barrage of amusing between-song banter, HORSE the band are also seriously good musicians with an array of strong material and skilfully written songs. Nintendo-core labelling aside (a subgenre invented jokingly by frontman Nathan Winneke and, now, surprisingly a genre in its own right!), the talented Americans play what can only be described as progressive metalcore (or 'Melodramatic Popular Song' if you chose to believe their MySpace tag). With a respectably sized circle pit for the duration of their set, HORSE the band are hugely entertaining on every level - genuinely original; fun; and, most importantly, musically accomplished. Overall verdict then - very brave? Well, after seeing Erik's Robin Hood attire, a most definite yes! And fucking crazy? Hell yeah.
Monday 20th October 2008
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Second on stage are Spinefarm's MUCC from Japan. Apparently pronounced 'muck', the four musicians formed in 1997, although their first European live shows didn't take place until 2005, so are largely unknown over here in the UK. With a sound that is difficult to categorise, their music has discernible elements of metal, industrial goth, and even Eurovision style pop/rock. When frontman Tatsuro appears on stage with his gothed-up visage and dark eye makeup, he resembles the kind of sinisterly ethereal apparition you expect to find in a Hideo Nakata movie. However, as the music begins, he springs into life with an energetic performance that pumps up an already enthusiastic crowd into mass movement with even bigger circle pits than for HORSE the band. Their short set includes the industrial edged 'Fukurou No Yurikago' and closing number 'Libra' with its quasi-rap verse, tremolo-picked guitar-heavy bridge and melodically rich chorus that wouldn't be out of place over the end credits of an Anime film. It is also pleasing to hear a band sing in their native language rather than opt for English as so many others do for primarily commercial-motivated reasons. Judging by the positive audience responses, MUCC will undoubtedly leave Nottingham this evening with many new fans. A great performance, and well worth checking out for those who have still yet to encounter their music.
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Only two months have passed since I last saw As I Lay Dying with their astonishingly good set at Bloodstock Open Air; particularly great considering their long and problematic journey to the festival site, resulting in their arrival only half an hour before performing. No such travel problems today, but one would expect this anyway on a Taste of Chaos European tour! Making the most of their short time onstage, their set incorporates some of the more popular songs from their back catalogue. However, for me, it is the likes of 'Nothing Left' from last year's 'An Ocean Between Us' that really shines, pertaining to early-Gothenburg idioms and elements of progressive thrash la Swedish maestros Darkane that has seen the band transcend their metalcore roots. With the liveliest performance of the evening so far, Tim Lambesis and co work their way through each track with an infectious energy that sees yet bigger circle pits develop in the audience. Tight, hard-hitting and relentlessly heavy, my only minor criticism is the volume through the PA which is perhaps a little too loud for the venue as instruments and vocals often lose clarity in the mix. Otherwise, an awesome performance from a mightily talented contemporary metal act who seem to be going from strength to strength.
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Alternative rock-metallers Story of the Year are penultimate band of the night. Formed in St.Louis, Missouri, back in 1995 as Big Blue Monkey, it wasn't until 2002 when they opted for present-day name Story of the Year. Never having been a fan of the band or, in fact, overly familiar with any of their material, it seems I am in a minority in Rock City this evening as the boisterous crowd reactions that ensue as the Americans appear on stage are indicative that many present are fans. While their music, a blend of emo-infused metalcore with more traditional rock leanings, isn't for me and fails to impress this evening, the lively performance they sustain at least makes them visually interesting. This includes frontman Dan Marsala's impromptu stage dive into the audience which kick-starts Rock City's security into immediate action to retrieve the vocalist from the crowd as quickly as they can. Crowd surfing is forbidden in the venue for punters, so I guess security make no exceptions for band members either! Overall, Story of the Year are musically not for me, although an undeniably impressive live act.
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As Taste of Chaos headliners Atreyu take to the stage and launch into their opening number, it is evident from audience reactions, including the biggest pits of the night, that they're the most eagerly anticipated band on the bill for the majority of those gathered in Rock City. The Californian quintet have been on the scene for a number of years now, and with four studio albums to date, most recent release, 2007's 'Lead Sails Paper Anchor' has seen their popularity surge, globally. Originally signed to Victory Records, their present major label deals (Hollywood Records and Roadrunner) have seen a more commercial shift in their sound and, with it, greater success. However, many have argued that 'Lead Sails...' is an accomplished and diverse contemporary 'rock' album that weaves the disparate elements of hardcore, pop/rock, mid-80s hair metal, and pseudo-punk to good effect. Perhaps, but it still doesn't quite do it for me, particularly in the live context tonight, although based on the wild pits that manifest during every song played, most would argue the contrary. Playing a very short set for a headline band, I guess with five acts on the bill, and Rock City's earlyish curfew, this was always going to be the case. As with Story of the Year, Atreyu are impressive performers although musically uninspiring. Just my personal tastes I guess.
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