THE KOVENANT /
SINGLE BULLET THEORY
The Trocadero; Philadelphia, PA; 05/03/00
Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter
When the news came that Amorphis was going to tour the United States for
the first time since 1994 I literally jumped out of my seat with excitement. Of all the bands that I had discovered for myself in
the past year and a half Amorphis is certainly the band that has impressed me the most.
The trio of Amorphis, The Kovenant, and Moonspell was simply too good to pass up - I was going to see this show no matter what. As I had commitments on this tour's stop in Maryland I had to make the journey north to Philadelphia which as luck would have was the first night of the tour. Also, I was excited to see what the Trocadero was like as I'd heard many good things about this old theater. The Trocadero is a great place to see a show - great acoustics and a high stage makes for a very pleasing venue.
Single Bullet Theory, a Philly-based band, made the cut to open up this devastating show. I only caught the last three songs of Single Bullet Theory's set, but it was enough to get a feel for their style. The overall impact of Single Bullet Theory was in the vein of old-school metal with the modern pulse of Sevendust without sounding like Sevendust. Single Bullet Theory will be on tour with Hades during Summer 2000 and will release a CD in July 2000.
The Kovenant have taken a lot of flak for supposedly abandoning their wonderful style of cosmic metal that they fashioned for "Nexus Polaris" for the more modern rhythmic stomp of "Animatronic." However, the reality is The Kovenant haven't strayed from their "Nexus Polaris" sound too much. Having just heard "Animatronic" for the first time just a few days earlier, I knew this wasn't going to be Marilyn Manson in a Scandinavian style. Better yet, the live set proved to me how good The Kovenant really was.
Much like Queen did in the '70s, The Kovenant played over a backing track; the bass, electronica elements, and female choir vocals were played out over a tape while the rest of the band played their instruments. Lex Icon strictly sang vocals; guitarist Psy Coma was joined by another six-string basher who is apparently new to the scene; the ever-talented von Blomberg punished the skins. Tracks from the new CD "Animatronic" included "New World Order," "In The Name Of The Future," "Prophecies Of Fire," a couple of other tracks from the new disc, and the set closer "Jihad." "Chariots Of Thunder," the best track from "Nexus Polaris," was included in the early part of the set to much enjoyment of the fans. The thing I was most impressed about was the versatility that Lex Icon displayed in his vocals.
This was the second time I had witnessed Moonspell in concert. I have to admit I was even more impressed the second time around. I decided to watch Moonspell from the balcony because the first time I'd seen the band I watched from the front row. The band is amazingly physical on stage with their heads thrashing about, the band members bobbing in unison to the aggressive rhythms, and the occasional use of props to providing a medium to interact with the fans.
Moonspell played, among a few other songs, "Soulsick," "The Butterfly FX," "Lustmord," "I Am The Eternal Spectator," "Eurotica," "Opium," "Wolfshade," and "Vampiria." A cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was thrown in and it was certainly done in a heavier style, but it is still a good choice for cover material. Overall, it's easy to see why Peter Steele is pretty candid about how he and his Type O Negative bandmates are actually ripping Moonspell off, not the other way around! Moonspell are quickly gathering worldwide acclaim for setting new standards in the melodic heavy metal genre and tonight's set was ample proof that Moonspell are going to stick around for a while. An interesting side note was that I realized I had witnessed Moonspell's last show in America in 1999 and also their first show in America in 2000 even though the two shows were nearly six months apart.
The pent-up anticipation for Amorphis was quite incredible. Everyone in the hall had heard of Amorphis and were eager it to see the band perform. When Amorphis hit the stage a huge swell of cheers engulfed the room - Amorphis tore into "Morning Star" before yielding to the supple power of "The Way."
Pasi Koskinen is the kind of vocalist that sounds very different in a live setting, yet still has a very good voice outside of the studio. Pasi did all the vocals including Tomi's death metal vocals from the older songs (i.e. the songs from "Tales From The Thousand Lakes"). Esa Holopainen displayed a wealth of guitar talent as his leads cut through the room like a sharp knife. Rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari, now free of vocal duties, can concentrate on playing the demanding backing rhythms that are integral to the Amorphis sound. New bassist Niclas Etelavuori seemed to fit in very comfortably. Drummer Pekka Kasari and keyboardist Santeri Kallio rounded out the band's familiar sound.
The set continued with songs that included a harsh "The Castaway," a smooth "Tuonela" complete with generous improvisation at the end, a devastating rendition of "Greed," the jazzed "Better Unborn," and "My Kantele." The set closed with the dark and brooding "Summer's End."
Despite orders to not break the 11:30pm curfew Amorphis was enticed back on-stage by the fans for a one song encore. The audience was not disappointed as a crushing version of "Black Winter Day" sent everyone home with smiles on their faces.
Overall it was a great show. All four bands were well received and the sound was pretty good all the way around (Tesla recorded parts of "Five Man Acoustical Jam" there - thanks to Brian for pointing this out to me). Even the stage lighting was superb; you have to remember that I see most of my concerts at the Phantasmagoria which does not allow for too much flexibility in the lighting.
It's been my experience that most tours dominated by European bands in the line-up start on the West Coast and finish on the East Coast. This tour is starting in the East Coast and I have the rare opportunity to implore you to see these bands before they head back across the Atlantic to their homelands. You won't be disappointed.
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Revised: 04 Sep 2002 00:37:07 -0500.