GIG REVIEW: SOULFLY, SOILWORK & SHATTERED SUN Live At Ottobar, Baltimore
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
Being a 35-year veteran of attending live shows, I’ve seen literally thousands of shows in hundreds of different venues. In many show reviews, the venue is often overlooked, especially if there is nothing overtly good or bad about it. The venue for this show was the Ottobar (2549 N. Howard Street, Baltimore, MD 21218), a ridiculously small dive bar on the west side of Baltimore City. Upon walking into this place, I was immediately inundated with memories of youth, going to small shows in tiny, dark smoke-filled rooms, some of my first metal experiences. While this venue brought back many fond memories, it also reminded me how difficult it can be to watch a packed show in such a small room. Because of the construction of the building, there is a support column right on the front of the stage which obstructs the view from pretty much anywhere in the room. So, no matter where you position yourself, there is something or someone in the band that you can’t see.
Despite this fact, the Ottobar hosted a fine array of bands on this mild fall evening. At any given metal show, on average, there will be at least two local bands appearing in support of the main acts. It is also a safe bet that said local bands either don’t have the experience or the combined talent to pull off a great show. This was NOT the case with ANY of the bands appearing this night. They all were tight, talented and deserving of a second look.
The openers for this show came in quick progression, most of them sharing equipment given the space is too small to accommodate each respective band’s equipment, and there was also a curfew. So, time was also constrained. Enemy Within started off, a 6-man band from Elkton, Maryland, followed by Suffer No Guilt, a 4-piece out of Falls Church, Virginia. Both of these bands appeared extremely young but were well rooted in their metal influences. Next up was Crawling Manifest, a 5-piece from Greensboro, Maryland. These guys are also young and haven’t been together long which shows in their musicianship. However, the double guitars and clean vocals were good and showed great promise. Luminosity followed, a nondescript bunch of guys with a good, heavy sound. I actually could not find any information on this band. They need an easily findable website or Facebook page to get their name out there. (Hint) Earthside was next, a 4-piece out of New Haven, Connecticut making their debut on the tour. It may have been their first tour gig but it was not obvious as they played together really well. They have a mostly instrumental vibe, sort of Death metal meets Rush meets Pink Floyd. Their keyboardist was entertaining to watch, he slightly resembled the Howard Wolowitz character from The Big Bang Theory. I don’t have anything bad to say about any of these bands. All five enjoyed a civilized mosh pit, delivered energetic performances and could boast quality songwriting and solid musicians that can only improve with experience.
Shattered Sun was up next, another 6-man group hailing from Alice, Texas. Included in these 6 individuals are two guitarists and three vocalists, along with drums, bass and keyboards. They had a dynamic sound which was enhanced by the three sets of vocals. They enjoyed a fairly civilized mosh pit which is not exactly common at metal shows currently.
Soilwork then hit the stage, opening with the title track of their new album, ‘The Ride Majestic’. It was clear that it was a Soilwork crowd in attendance with another spirited mosh pit bordering on uncivilized. Dave and Sylvain on guitars wove an amazing mesh of riffs that danced cohesively with Sven’s keyboards, Dirk’s thundering drums and Markus, brand-new on the bass. Bjorn’s vocals topped off a monster set that included more songs off the new album such as “Alight in the Aftermath” and “Father and Son”. It was unfortunate that their set seemed to be cut short because of the venue’s curfew. Maybe next time the show promoters should stick with 6 bands instead of 8. ‘Less is more’ has been a recurring theme at the shows I’ve seen recently.
Finally, the headliner of the night’s festivities hit the stage, Soulfly. Max Cavalera seemed to be feeling great, screaming with a smile on “We Sold Our Souls to Metal”, and the title track to their new album, “Archangel”. Cavalera is a metal legend and puts his heart into every performance. The fans responded accordingly with a fairly brutal moshpit that left the onlookers with their jaws gaping. Max continues to keep his bands a family affair with his son, Zyon, on drums. With Marc Rizzo on lead guitar, the Soulfly family is a brutal machine of groove metal greatness eclipsed by no one else in the genre.
Bottom Line: This show got two horns up ( \m/ x2 ) from the very first chord. All bands, and I do mean ALL bands appearing tonight were on point, in line and bad ass. The younger, less experienced guys and the stage veterans alike all played from the heart and the result was a virtual chaotic Zen that one was lucky to have witnessed.