By Mark Gromen
Originally planned for six weeks earlier, but Hurricane Sandy threw a monkey wrench into that date. Fans in costumes (some females undressed to impress!), it was a fitting bill for Halloween night: the animated DETHKLOK rising from the "dead" (inanimate) to perform as flesh and blood, but for me, the only treat was MACHINE HEAD, on a rather small stage (compared to massive European counterparts where they've been witnessed playing to 50,000+ at Wacken). Ah, what might have been, but alas, on Dec 11th a kiddies show reconvened at Philadelphia's Electric Factory, opening acts BLACK DAHLIA MURDER and ALL THAT REMAINS were also on the bill.
Digital "blood" dripped down the blank, two-story video board behind the band, gradually revealing the MACHINE HEAD logo. Phil Dremmel took the stage with polka dot painted guitar, as they launched into 'This Is The End', the opening salvo of a (sadly) shortened set, comprised of only a half dozen (almost exclusively recent) tunes. We photogs had to watch Rob Flynn's spitting, guess that's why they recarpeted the stage with a fuzzy felt prior to the band going on, providing extra traction in the sea of sweat and expectorated matter. Since Flynn had completely recovered from emergency hernia surgery that cost him a week on the road, I could say he was screaming his balls off, but that might be in bad taste. Blue lights greeted 'Imperium', while 'Beautiful Mourning' followed. Three banks of headlights, one behind each of the stringed musicians, blinded those down front with flue and green beams, as a giant replica of The Blackening artwork shone on the video monitor. Between songs, chants of "Machine F**king Head" came from the adoring crowd, just as on the recently issued double live CD of the same name! The bouncy intro to 'Aesthetics Of Hate' say Flynn ask the audience to "jump, jump" which sounded awfully hip-hop, although at times (ancient history now, in a two-decade career). A solitary fluorescent (radiation) green light and drum beats introduced 'Locust', a close-up of the titular insect now hanging overhead. The drums were thunderous. Prior to the closing 'Halo', alone onstage Flynn thanked the fans, referring to the original Halloween date, saying that upon leaving" neck should be sore, ribs sore, head sore. Thanks for coming out, You could have watched the concert on YouTube tomorrow." Apparently he knew who was in the crowd! Dremmel returned sporting a Flyers jersey (anybody remember hockey in 2012?) and during the song moved his Rocky Balboa action figure (which had been perched atop his amplifier rig since the beginning) down to the stageside monitor. Almost no one, apart from those directly in front of him, had any idea what he was doing. He and Flynn, dueling FLying Vs, traded licks center stage, before the drop to near a cappella section (backlit in blue), which was sung by the crowd. KNow it's an opening set, (predominately) for the under 21 set who might have only discovered Machine Head in the last decade, but the setlist left out most of their strongest material (if they wanted to win new converts, wisely selling the aforementioned double CD for just $10!) No 'Old', 'Ten Ton Hammer', 'Take My Scars', 'A Farewell To Arms' nor 'Davidian'. "Let freedom ring with a shot gun blast," in Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty? Come on!
Have to admit, never "got" DETHKLOK's lame characterizations of metal musicians (first saw them live at Heavy MTL, in '08, then reviewed the entire first season, on DVD), watched by couch potatoes without a clue of what real metal is, even if it broke in their house and "raped & murdered their wife." Guess if you're under 18 and haven't seen a real concert, it might hold some appeal, but otherwise... Sorry, but for 30 years I've fought for the respectability of heavy metal and to piss that all away in an hour multimedia show, with its emphasis on anything BUT the music, count me out! Does it affect anyone's sensibility that the live drummer Gene Hoglan (the only one to consistently make a living at extreme metal, outside this glorified cover band) is larger than the hulking Nathan Explosion and there's only four musicians onstage for a band that's "supposed to be" the Dethklok quintet? Creator Brendon Small, who voices the cartoon singer, is behind the mic, center stage, with guitar, leading the band through a third rate, plodding industrialized metal hybrid. The jumbotron serves several purposes, including showing the nonsensical lyrics ('I Ejaculate Fire'), playing montage of clips from the TV series (preaching to the converted, who enjoy every scene) and, on occasion, deliver hysterical PSA (public service announcement) styled bits. Case in point, asking the guys in the crowd to act politely towards the (relatively few) ladies in attendance (hoping they have a good time, will tell their friends and bring more girls the next time), then juxtaposing that with R-rated, nudity-filled footage that recalls the 70s Heavy Metal magazine and trippy '81 movie. There was a noticeable exodus post-Machine Head and gradual trickling out the door throughout the Dethklok set. A little goes a long way.
Additional photos can be seen here