Steel Panther Proves That Heavy Metal is Alive and Well in Cleveland

by Emmy Susani

I’ve had the privilege of seeing this outlandish group so many times
I’ve lost count. Their stage presence, humor, and musical talent never fail.
These guys are one of a kind. Not much can be said about this group that hasn’t been said already. This scandalous band has been breaking walls down since they burst onto the scene in 2009.

Stitched Up Heart is support for this leg of the tour. The group was founded in 2010 by vocalist Alecia ‘Mixi’ Demner, and the current line-up consists of James Decker – drums/backing vocals, Merritt Goodwin – lead guitar and Randy Mathias – bass/backing vocals.

This group really surprised me with how energic they are on stage and how they captivated the crowd when I wasn’t expecting them to.
I’ve been a casual fan of them for a long time, but I didn’t feel like
they fit the bill. I am one to admit when I am wrong and boy, was I wrong.
They put on a fantastic set and I would love to see SP bring them out on the road again.

The boys have been touring in promotion of their fifth studio record
“Heavy Metal Rules’ which came out back in September.

One doesn’t exactly go to a Steel Panther show without knowing what
you’re getting into (except for me but that story is for another time.)
Their show is a sexual explosion met with comedic banters, catchy riffs,
and lots of hair spray. Their show never disappoints, the energy and the
undeniable talent of these musicians are incredible.

This band is killing it right now, and at the very top of their game.
I try to take new fans or people who haven’t heard of them before to their
shows, and every single time their show makes these people into new fans.
If Steel Panther is coming to a city near you, Do not miss the chance to see them.

All photos Emmy Susani © 2019

Whitechapel @ Mr. Smalls

Supporting Atreyu on their twenty year anniversary tour, Whitechapel made an appearance at Mr. Smalls for the first time since their sophomore album (This is Exile) came out. So yes… it has been quite some time since Millvale has had the luxury of hosting the metal band from Knoxville! With a little bit of a “lighter” lineup than I am used to seeing Whitechapel play with, it was a nice change of pace since it gave everyone the chance to see Phil Bozeman sing clean vocals for three different songs that night.

 

Whitechapel’s latest album, “the Valley,” showed off a different side of Bozeman’s usual vocal style with the addition of clean vocals, which impressed more people than not. Seeing it live though gave an entirely new experience for long time fans attending that night. That being said, it did not take away from the vigorous set Whitechapel is known for playing. Blistering through the first few songs of their set, there was no wasted time as they jumped right into “Forgiveness is Weakness” followed up by “Brimstone” and then one of their more groovy metal tracks, “Black Bear.”

 

When Whitechapel started playing another song off of their newest record, I was surprised to hear them play “Third Depth” and then later on, “Hickory Creek.” Once again, the change of pace gave us a new outlook for them, and I had not a single complaint with the maturity and diversity that this band has started to apply to their song writing capabilities with every record and performance they’ve done. No need to worry though, because they didn’t forget to play a few older songs Monday night (setlist below). So the intensity from their more deathcore style songs wasn’t for a second lost in translation with the new material being played on top of everything.

 

With the relentless touring Whitechapel has been doing over the past year or so, they just seem to keep trucking along without any signs of stopping it seems. If they aren’t headlining, they’re the direct support, and either way the professionalism of this band has always shown why they are always in one of those top two spots. This tour with Atreyu has once again shown that. As Whitechapel continues to tour and support their latest record, one can only imagine what else is in store for them. It is more than safe to say that since Pittsburgh happened to get three separate visits from them since some time last year that we might be waiting awhile until we get to see anymore Whitechapel stage time in the area without traveling outside of the city. Needless to say, I wouldn’t miss the next show for anything!

 

Setlist:

  1. Forgiveness Is Weakness
  2. Brimstone
  3. Black Bear
  4. Third Depth
  5. When a Demon Defiles a Witch
  6. This Is Exile
  7. Hickory Creek
  8. Our Endless War
  9. The Saw Is the Law

Knocked Loose @ Mr. Smalls

By David Mondine

With the release of their latest album, “A Different Shade of Blue,” Pittsburgh lucked out with a second appearance this year from the hardcore band Knocked Loose. Both times were headlining shows, and both lineups were stacked so there was never a disappointing moment. Knocked Loose has always been one of those bands though that multiple people from other touring bands have stated that they will pass everyone up at this rate; so far that has shown very true as they’ve continued to climb the later with their aggressive playing style and diehard fans.

Aside from stories I’ve been told, I was unsure about what kind of experience I would be having seeing Knocked Loose live for the first time at Mr. Smalls. I wasn’t disappointed though I can assure you of that. The crowd was already pretty amped up to begin with thanks to the supporting acts which included a Pittsburgh favorite, Stick to your Guns. But as soon as Knocked Loose came out onto the stage, they came out swinging hard. Barreling through an insane eighteen song set, they played basically their entire new album plus more than handful of others to send the crowd into oblivion. The sure raw intensity of their stage presence would make a lot of bands envious of them I feel.

As Knocked Loose just kept on pummeling the stage, there was really no break or moment where anyone could catch a breath before it all started back up again. From crowd surfers galore to the cyclone of a mosh pit, seemed to me that everyone needed to get out some aggression that night. The only medicine for such a thing just so happened to be Knocked Loose delivering a hard hitting set that which they’ve always done from the looks of it. It is quite interesting to see just how far this band can keep going and who else they can pass up at this rate. One way to find out that’s for sure.

Setlist:

  1. Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory
  2. Intro
  3. All My Friends
  4. Blood Will Have Blood
  5. Belleville
  6. Oblivion’s Peak
  7. By the Grave
  8. Denied by Fate
  9. In the Walls
  10. Guided By the Moon
  11. Mistakes Like Fractures
  12. Forget Your Name
  13. Deadringer
  14. Small Victories
  15. …And Still I Wander South
  16. A Serpent’s Touch
  17. Billy No Mates
  18. Counting Worms

Ghost leaves a haunting impression in Youngstown

To say that the band Ghost has gone through changes since their first album is an understatement. If you follow the band you probably have a clue as to how the nameless ghouls have been shuffled in and out over the years with the only constant being the man behind the mask, Tobia Forge. Love them or hate them, Ghost has left an impression on the rock n roll world and Tobias’ genius has left them in the somewhat uncategorizable column. Part metal, part classic rock, part pop, part dance, part humor, part horror…you get the idea. But in order to grow what started out as a side project into an arena band has taken some playing with the formula.

Skipping what many long loving Ghost devotees have come to see as tradition, the opening intro of Joycelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball” from Eyes Wide Shut was nowhere to be heard, the incense was nowhere to be smelled, but the anticipation was nevertheless mega-high. Hitting the stage from the side, Cardinal Copia (Forge) belted out “Ashes” from their last full release, Prequelle. As the band and the Cardinal blasted through “Rats” and “Faith” (also from Prequelle) a few things became apparent. First off, the band and Copia were in peak form having had plenty of time to gel since the same ghouls have been together touring since the ‘A Pale Tour Named Death’ theater run and all the European tour opening for Metallica. Secondly, the stage was very wide open like only an arena type show can handle. Some may see this as a great thing and some bad. The Ghost that many fell in love with and saw as ‘their band’ is no longer a dirty little secret. Major radio play has a tendency to do that. So, the blasphemy is a bit down and the camp is quite a bit up.

The various incarnations of Papa’s and the current Cardinal all used humor to enhance the show and offset what some would call ‘devil worship’ but really is just the love of horror films and not far from what Sabbath/Ozzy, KISS, Alice, Mercyful Fate, etc. etc. have been doing for ages. It’s entertainment pure and simple. But as Tobias may have had the goal of doing the arena shows, he has lost a bit of that element that made Ghost shows so special. There was an intimacy and connection that is much harder to come by at a large show, even at half-house like the Covelli Center was last Thursday. Maybe that’s just a fan bemoaning losing their fave to the masses, but while the large scale pyro and lighting are nice, there seems to be a missing element in spots.

Hearing the recently released songs “Mary on a Cross” and “Kiss The Go-Goat” was undoubtedly a ton of fun along with the usual banter from Tobias, even if the Cardinal looks like the bastard child of Father Guido Sarducci and Vincent Price. It will be super exciting to see Papa IV either take his place or see Copia morph into the role next album cycle as Forge has promised. Other big highlights were “Cirice”, “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen”, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”, “Year Zero” and ” Square Hammer”. But gone were huge faves “Monstrance Clock”, traditionally the closer, the heaviest tune and most killer bass line from the first record (Opus Eponymous) “Con Clavi Con Dio” as well as the acoustic version of “Jigolo Har Meggido”. Of course, this is to be expected as a band grows, but it does not stop one from missing it.

All in all, Ghost was impeccable, the band had a bit more time to play instrumentals which really showed their chops and Tobias’ voice was outstanding as he hit some seriously challenging notes. This will be the last time to see the band as they ride into their first decade, of what will sure to be many, for the Tobias is taking 2020 off to write, record, and spend some much deserved time with family. His direction is rumored to be back to “riffage” and some heavier tunes as Prequelle was a bit ballad-heavy. Let us hope he is true to his word and he pairs that heaviness with a creepy Papa (maybe a red skull?) back to the Tri-State area in 2021.

Opener Nothing More was super intense and energetic. Hailing from San Antonio Texas, the band is no stranger to opening for fantastic bands and headlining on their own. Frontman Jonny Hawkins is pure kinetic energy as he runs around barefoot, jumps off a crazy metal contraption, and jumps behind some drums all while using his ultra-talented vocals. The rest of the band, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, Ben Anderson, are also super talented and mega tight. It will only be a matter of time before this band breaks out even bigger as they certainly are a crowd-pleaser.

Thom Yorke mesmerizes Pittsburgh baring his Anima

Largely known as the lead singer for Radiohead, Thom Yorke has managed to make quite a solo career separate from the alt-rock giants. Although there are some similarities to his band’s sound, his solo work has a concentration in electronic music. Arriving on stage amid producer Nigel Godrich who plays keyboards, bass, guitar, and “atmospheres”, along with visual artist Tarik Barri, who live-mixes abstract projections, Yorke handled vocals, keyboards, bass, guitar, and computer operations at various times throughout the show. Grinning from ear to ear as he visually addressed the sold-out crowd it was readily apparent the Yorke really enjoys this.

With his new release Anima (Italian for soul), Yorke also put together an accompanying Netflix film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. His penchant for frenetic dance moves could be seen in the film and he definitely replicated that self-abandonment at Stage AE. Concentrating on new material Yorke presented a rave-like atmosphere with visuals that were stunning, dizzying, and dreamlike. The music at times seemed trancelike amid the impression of spontaneous lyrical content, much like an artist might paint without too much thought, deriving from the subconscious. Playing for over two hours, Yorke gave his fans more than their monies worth while indulging his own artistic avenues, which is rare for many solo projects. Pittsburgh has been fortunate to see Radiohead and Yorke within the same year. Hopefully, history will repeat itself.

Setlist: Interference, A Brain in a Bottle, Impossible Knots, Black Swan, Harrowdown Hill, Pink Section, Nose Grows Some, Cymbal Rush, The Clock, (Ladies & Gentlemen, Thank You for Coming) Has Ended, Amok, Not The News, Truth Ray, Traffic, Twist, (Encore): Dawn Chorus, Runaway, Default, (Encore 2): Unmade

The ALT-IMATE Tour @Stage AE Pittsburgh: BUSH AND +LIVE+ CELEBRATE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF ICONIC ALBUMS SIXTEEN STONE AND THROWING COPPER

Hard to believe that it has been 25 years since the pivotal records of Sixteen Stone and Throwing Copper was on everyone’s radio and CD player. Fast forward to August 26, 2019, and a sold-out crowd at Stage AE was witness to three bands that dominated that area and can still captivate a crowd. With the lineup of Our Lady Peace, Bush, and +LIVE+ any alt-rock fan would be ecstatic.

Canadian band Our Lady Peace opened up the night by delving straight into familiar territory. Lead singer Raine Maida’s voice was spot on and as the only original member and that signature vox was a welcome sound as he belted out their huge hit, “Superman’s Dead” from their second album, Clumsy, which was released January 1997. Although they have gone through line-up and stylistic changes, the band is pretty solid, but not exactly hugely dynamic. They put on a musically tight performance but there is not a whole lot of movement.

Bush, on the other hand, was kinetic from the get-go. With drummer Robin Goodridge playing a dramatic opening to “Machinehead” (from Sixteen Stone) the energy level of the audience went up 200%. Singer Gavin Rossdale has actually gained steps instead of lost them since his fame exploded in 1992. His voice, guitar playing, and stage presence are mesmerizing and completely pulls you in. Dancing to “This is War” or slamming into “Everything Zen” in a cut-up tee, all eyes were on the legendary musician. His band still has Robin from the original crew, but Nigel Pulsford (guitar) and Dave Parsons (bass) fit perfectly and add their own dynamic as well. The craziest part of the set had to be when Rossdale went fully into the crowd and all the way to the back lawn to interact with fans during “Little Things” (pretty sure one girl licked his ear). Rossdale was an amazing sport about the whole thing and closed the show out with “Glycerine” and “Comedown”, set the standard and stole the show for the evening.

LIVE has been performing with and without singer Ed Kowalczyk since 1984 and first really broke out in 1994 with their record Throwing Copper. Having achieved a lot of success in the mid-nineties the band really blew up with the hit “Lightning Crashes”. In 2009 Ed left the band to be replaced by an excellent Chris Shinn only to rejoin the group in 2016.

Primarily playing songs from Throwing Copper, LIVE came out to stunners “All Over You” and “Selling the Drama” only to bring out a very faithful cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion for its third tune. later they would also play “Paint It Black” from the Stones amid other hits “Dolphin’s Cry”, “Lightning Crashes” and “I, Alone”. The lights pretty much concentrated on Ed with guitar player Chad Taylor once in awhile coming into the light and multi-instrumentalist Zak Loy peaking through at times. Bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey stayed pretty much in the dark red lights. Ed is known for staying behind his mic a bit too much, but after a few songs, he interacted with the crowd a bit more and even danced a bit. Unfortunately, some of the Bush fans left, being a school night and all, and they missed a very memorable musically, if not dynamically, performance.

AWeldingphoto © 2019

The Struts ‘Roll Up’ to Cleveland

(Photos and Review by Tess Casto)

On any ole Sunday, most people are at rest with their family at home. That was not the case for many patrons at The House of Blues in Cleveland this past Sunday night. Many people dwelled to the concert venue in support of seeing the up and coming band known as “The Struts”. 

The Struts are a band that comes from the UK. For the last four years, they have been touring, primarily here in the USA, nonstop. If you were to ask any of the fans how they discovered this powerhouse of a band, you would get many different stories. Some have seen them open up for “The Foo Fighters” back last year. Some have been long-time fans since the beginning. The diversity amongst the age of the audience was also a notable sight. As someone who is only 23, I’m at an in-between. I saw kids who were barely ten coming with their parents. I saw those who were in their fifties singing all the words to the songs. To know that music breaches and touches all generations, was a fantastic sight to see. Especially when you overlooked the venue.

To begin the night and set the mood for what was to follow, opened up with JJ Wilde. This young singer-songwriter is flourishing with energy and spirit. I had the pleasure of seeing her open for The Struts when they came to Pittsburgh this following July. At the time I knew not much about her genre and music. I can reassure you though, she is someone to look out for! Her songs are packed with power and meaning. Two songs out of a hand full that she performed were “State of Mind” and “The Rush”. “State of Mind” being one of my favorites, I could not help but sing along. She delivers raw sentiment behind every word she sang. 

Once when JJ had wrapped up her set, the concert-goers eagerly awaited the main act. Seeing the crew set up the boys stage made all of us antsy with excitement. One when it hit around 9:20 pm, the lights went down. Everyone roared with delight. Adam, Jed, and Geth came on stage taking their positions. Last but not certainly least, the lead man himself “strutted” his way on stage, Mr. Luke Spiller. They led off with “Primadonna like Me”, a fantastic intro for what was to come for the next hour and a half. The slue of songs for the setlist was notably amazing. The variety offered to new and old fans is surely to please most, if not, almost all. Playing a mix of old and new material flowed seamlessly. Halfway through the night, they did a medley compromised of songs from their first album, those songs being, “The Ol’ Switcheroo”, “Black Swan”, “Roll Up,” and “Young Stars”.

The rest of the night went by in the blink of an eye. When you know the band, it’s history, their songs, their presence, and so much more, such a situation always seems to happen. The show felt a wildfire that didn’t want to be repressed. Every single person in that venue relished in the energy radiated by the boys. The undeniable rare ubiquity is astonishing. 

The Struts wrapped up with an encore consisting of “Ashes” and “Could Have Been Me”. I must add a personal touch from a fan insight. When CHBM came on, I sang my heart out. CHBM is a track I heavily relate to. The one lyric (which I have tattooed on me in Luke’s handwriting) that I make sure to give my all to is, “Don’t want to live as an unsung melody”. To the unseeing person, it’s just another lyric in another song. Not for some of us though. I’ve come to know so many Strutters who live by that song as a mantra. It’s the perfect way to send off the audience into a positive and upbeat mindset when the show is done. It did just that.

The Struts are the future of rock and roll. They are the future of a generation that laid down what was set many generations ago. Following in the footsteps of their predecessors while paving a new path of music and individuality. To me, that is exactly what The Struts are doing, and they’re “doing it so well”.

Papa Roach, Bad Wolves, and Asking Alexandria rock Stage AE Pittsburgh

review and pix: Emmy Susani

Outdoor shows are among my favorites to shoot and tonight at Stage AE, on the North Shore in Pittsburgh, Papa Roach is going to rock the place.

Bad Wolves kicks the night off and let me tell you these guys blew my mind. I had never seen them before and they packed a punch! They played some of their recognizable songs such as “Remember When”, “Learn To Live” and their most notable cover of The Cranberries “Zombie”. They had the crowd captivated throughout the entire show and participating with their insane intensity.

Next up, Asking Alexandria, kept the party rockin’ and blasted right on stage with their latest single “The Violence”. Danny Worsnop (vocals) was for sure ready to party, rockin’ a snazzy 3 piece suit. I’ve shot these guys a couple times and they don’t mess around with the chit chat, keeping conversations between songs almost non-existent and just keeps rolling one song after another.

The main attraction for the night, Papa Roach comes storming onto the stage blasting “Who Do You Trust?”. Jacoby Shaddix is one of the most energetic frontmen in the game right now. He never fails to get the entire crowd losing their minds whether he got everyone jumping to “Elevate” and “Born For Greatness” or if he gets the crowd captivated by his story
telling about previous anxiety and addiction and how he overcame it before “Scars”.

Papa Roach is one of the best live bands around right now if you get the chance to see them. You won’t wanna miss these guys!

Slipknot’s Knotfest bring international flavors of metal to Pittsburgh

When Slipknot created their very own festival in 2012 with the likes of Deftones, Lamb of God, and Cannibal Corpse there was a ton of people who wish they could afford the trip to Iowa to see the inaugural bash. The tradition continued and grew to be held in Japan in 2014, and California in 2014 and 2015. Ozzfest meets Knotfest came about in 2016 and 2017, along with a Mexico outing in 2016 as just Knotfest and a 2018 lineup in Columbia. There was also a Knotfest meets Hellfest in 2019 which finally brought us to the Knotfest Roadshow in 2019.

With a fantastic line-up of Behemoth from Poland, Gojira from France, and Volbeat from Denmark, Slipknot brought an international flavor to be combined with their own brand of American metal. It’s not surprising that Knotfest Roadshow has been selling out wherever it goes.

Friday, August 23, 2019, was no exception at Key Bank Pavillion just west of Pittsburgh. With a 5:30 start time many people were cutting work early or altogether to get some tailgating in before showtime. Behemoth opened up the festivities with their dark brand of metal. Visually and audibly Behemoth had to be the most stunning of all the acts. Though some may have been familiar with them when they opened for Slayer, some in the crowd were newly initiated to the satanic/anti-religion element of Nergal, Orion, Inferno, and Seth. Appearing on stage wearing masks, spitting blood, and billowing smoke like the old US Steel stacks, Behemoth did not come to screw around. Lead singer and guitar player Nergal was absolutely brilliant as he used his eyes, makeup, and clothing to convey the darkness of his music to the masses. Orion was an imposing figure with his blacked-out eyes, muscular frame, and pounding bass. Seth with a pentagram in black marked on his neck, played riff after riff of heavy downbeats as his long hair blew about. And Inferno, hidden mainly behind his drum kit, showed a precise mastery of percussion from the dais. The pyro was engulfing, Nergal’s black miter hat and upsidedown crucifix were transfixing, and the music was as good as dark metal gets. The band is so good at delivering a show it would be incredible to have them come back and do a smaller stage and not play in daytime hours.

setlist: Solve, Wolves ov Siberia, Daimonos, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, Bartzabel, Conquer All, Sabbath Mater, Chant for Eschaton 2000