Pillbox

Big Al’s Metal Shop

Dear Readers,

This being the last column of the semester, I want to mention a few of the nice things coming our way this summer. Of course, there is Ozzfest. The annual metal day camp hits town in July, and you can expect yet another rock-hard second stage. My favorites, like Strapping Young Lad, Full Blown Chaos (FBC), and A Life Once Lost all open for the mighty Black Label Society. With Ozzy taking it easy this summer, it seems Zakk is taking it in stride by playing the sweaty, sun-burnt crowds earlier on and fitting in a few extra cold ones before nightfall. Or so I’m guessing.

In the few times I witnessed the fury of FBC, I stood wayyyyy in the back. Yes, I am old, and I know a good thing when I see it. Musically, FBC comes from the same school of hardcore that spawned Hatebreed, Sworn Enemy, Madball... you get the picture. Namely, an equal love of Cro-Mags and Slayer, Bad Brains and Pantera, DRI and Sepultura. It all makes for compelling music and frightening circle pits. With Hatebreed graduating to the Main Stage, it’s nice to see them blazing the path for bands like Sworn Enemy and FBC. With a dense set of bands, all competing for tour slots (and your attention), the cohesiveness of this scene never ceases to amaze me. The thought of a hardcore band on Ozzfest a few years ago, when, say, Korn or Limp Bizkit were headlining, was far-fetched. Now, FBC — with one awesome album under their belt and another on the way this summer — has a serious platform to offer an alternative to lame music.

Then again, if Ozzfest isn’t your thing and you crave a little Slayer in your diet, you can check out the Unholy Alliance tour in Cleveland at the end of June. With Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, and others, this is the über-thrash metal revival you’ve been waiting for. That this summer will also see Slayer’s first album under the original line-up since Seasons in The Abyss is also noteworthy. There is something about Dave Lombardo’s drumming that sets him above all else. That almost jazz-like touch, combined with speed that laid down the backbone of Reign in Blood and South of Heaven, is incomparable. In the time he was away, Dave worked with avant-garde artists like John Zorn and Mike Patton among others, and the result was far from ordinary rock; how that translates back into Slayer remains to be seen.

If you’re still not convinced, then I suggest the Sounds of the Underground tour, also hitting Cleveland this summer. Coming off the stellar Kill, Cannibal Corpse have inched death metal slightly beyond its tight existence. Slowing down the jackhammer attack for impact works very well on this album, and it doesn’t lose the aggression inherent in Corpse. Since they headline this year’s fest, you’ll get a chance to compare the old and the new.

Finally, before classes let out, two shows of interest hit Mr. Small’s. First, on Wednesday, is Brave the Fire opening for Every Time I Die. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, there is a buzz building for Brave the Fire locally, mostly due to their work ethic and musicianship. If you’re curious about the local Pittsburgh metal scene, this is as good a place as any to start. Saturday night brings Arch Enemy and Cleveland’s own Chimaira, a perfect pairing in my opinion. Take Mike Arnott’s honed guitar sound and put it up beside the best of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, and Chimaira is certainly a contender.

It’s all out there for you to explore — this year is shaping up to be a defining year for the scene in this town. Please go out and support!

I would like to dedicate this article to Ronaldo and the Selecao Brasileiro for this year’s World Cup. Much respect to Ronnie for disregarding the “experts” who say he’s off his game. And to all the pundits who doubt the Beautiful Team will bring home the Hexa this year, let’s see who raises the Jules Rimet trophy come July.

Till next time,
much love and respect.