Through Space and Grind Tour at Baltimore Soundstage

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, February 8, 2015

Napalm Death Voivod Tour

Winter into spring always seems to be one of the busiest times for concert goers in North America, as it tends to be when a lot of international acts are able to make it over for tours. 2015 has been no different, as it began with the Mayhem, Watain, and Revenge tour (which Mayhem unfortunately had to miss for the Baltimore date). Shortly after that tour had kicked off and began working its way around North America, another highly anticipated one started its own run. The Through Space and Grind tour features co-headlining sets from Napalm Death and Voivod, with support on all dates from Exhumed, Iron Reagan, and Black Crown Initiate. There were also regional openers Ringworm, Dayglo Abortions, Theories, and Phobia, making this particular tour package one of the most stacked I’ve come across in a while. I made my way over to Baltimore Soundstage on January 31st for what promised to be a long night full of great music.

Reading, PA’s Black Crown Initiate started the evening off with a short opening set. While I had seen the band’s name around since their formation in 2012 and knew they had signed to eOne Music last year, I hadn’t heard their music before and wasn’t quite sure what they would have to offer. As this was the opening slot, there was only room for about four songs but the group made the most of it and focused on songs from their debut full length The Wreckage of Stars. After a clean guitar intro the instrumentalists launched into a mix of technical death metal and progressive metal, though I did notice that compared to some of the other death metal bands that go for this more technical sound Black Crown Initiate did spend a bit more time chugging away at slower speeds. I was definitely a fan of what the guitars were doing throughout the set, as there was a great blend of soaring melodies, aggressive riffing, and the slower chugging. But I wasn’t quite as into the vocal performance, which was split between extremely low growls and mellower clean singing. The growling wasn’t bad and did bring some intensity to the performance, but the clean singing just didn’t grab me at all and sometimes sounded like it wasn’t quite in key. This wouldn’t be an issue if it was just an occasional element, but as there is singing in almost every song it made the set not grab me as much as I had hoped. I’d be willing to give them another shot on a different show though, and perhaps it was just my personal tastes that made the set not click as there were people who were into it.

Ringworm was the regional opener for the Baltimore date and they were a band I had wanted to see live for a while but hadn’t managed to catch yet. Chances are good if you’re into metallic hardcore you’ve heard these guys before, as they’re one of the originators of the sound in the U.S. and have been going strong for almost twenty five years now. Their newest full length Hammer of the Witch showed no signs of losing any of the killer riffs and intense vocals that have made their material so enticing over the years, and the combination of aggressive hardcore and blistering thrash riffs still works perfectly. Although the crowd seemed a little tame throughout their set, I’m not sure this was because some of them weren’t familiar with Ringworm’s material or were just saving their energy for the four bands that were still to come. The group didn’t let this phase them though, as the instrumentals hit even harder live and vocalist Human Furnace’s trademark screaming style sounds downright intimidating live. What was great about this set was that it offered a little bit of everything, as there was a good deal of focus on Hammer of the Witch but they also went all the way back to some of the earlier songs in their discography, during which Human Furnace joked that some of the material might be older than some of the audience members. As with most opening slots on a tour with this many bands, the set was fairly short but Ringworm chose to cram in as many songs as they possibly could and quickly moved from one to the next rather than talking a lot in between songs. My first live experience with this band may have been a short one but the riffs and vocals sounded even more aggressive than on record and they played a great mix of songs, so I’ll definitely have to check them out again next time they’re in town.

The crowd may have been quieter than expected for Ringworm, but they leapt into action as Iron Reagan took the stage. Although they’ve only been around for a couple of years, it didn’t take long for the band to attract a fairly sizeable fan base and start getting added on tours across the country. It certainly helps that they have a lineup consisting of guys that have been in other well-known acts, as vocalist Tony Foresta also fronts Municipal Waste, Landphil Hall is in Municipal Waste and Cannabis Corpse, and Ryan Parrish was Darkest Hour’s drummer for many years. Seeing as two of the members of Municipal Waste are involved, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the overall style isn’t that different. But even though Iron Reagan may have the same crossover thrash sound as Municipal Waste, both bands do have their own respective nuances and there are some noticeable differences between them. I do think that this is one of those groups I am into more in a live setting though, as seeing the crowd go nuts and the energy level on-stage is infectious. Foresta is a great front man who provided plenty of witty banter in between many of the songs, and his vocals came through perfectly. The riffs were razor sharp, and it was a lot of fun to watch these guys fly through their songs on-stage. Iron Reagan’s set was one of my pleasant surprises of the night, as despite the fact that I don’t tend to listen to this genre nearly as much as others on record the live set was one of my highlights of the night with its incredible energy level and fun banter between Foresta, the crowd, and other members of the band. Whether you’re crazy about this genre or only listen to it occasionally, I think that Iron Reagan will win you over live and they’re worth watching.

Exhumed has been one of the longer running death metal/grindcore bands out there, and while they took a five year break from 2005 to 2010 once they reformed they’ve been on fire. Both 2011’s All Guts, No Glory and 2013’s Necrocracy absolutely destroyed everything in their path and made it clear that even after some years apart and lineup changes Exhumed were still at the top of their game. This year the group released a newly re-recorded version of 1998’s Gore Metal, and as a result their live set was split fairly evenly between older and more recent material. The one thing I noticed throughout their set was that the instrumental work sounded absolutely fantastic, as the heavier tonality really comes out in a live setting and punches you right in the chest, but the vocals had a tendency to get buried under the wall of sound. This is admittedly not that uncommon when it comes to death metal or grindcore, but I did find myself wanting to hear just a bit more of Matt Harvey’s higher screams and Matt Slime’s guttural growls as I like both vocal styles quite a bit. But aside from this minor complaint, the set was excellent and delivered just the right dose of dirty and intense death/grind that I had been looking for. Exhumed threw in a cover of Negative Approach’s “Ready to Fight” from their 2014 split with Iron Reagan which was a nice touch, and towards the end they even had a guy on-stage dressed in surgeon garb come out with a chainsaw and put one of the guitarists into a guillotine. I didn’t know that they did this at all, but it definitely fit the set perfectly and made it even more fun to watch. There’s a reason people are still clamoring to see these guys perform when they come through, and they’re a great addition to the tour.

Voivod has always been one of those bands I’ve been meaning to spend more time with. I have quite a few friends that are avid fans and talk up the group on a regular basis, and while I’ve always been interested in learning more the sheer amount of material that I get to review sometimes make it hard to go back and check out albums I missed out on. It’s for this reason that tours like this are so great to come out to, as it provides me with an opportunity to experience some of these longer running metal acts for the first time and get a wider look at their discography. What I quickly discovered once Voivod took the stage was that I’ve been missing out on quite a bit over the years, as they put on a fantastic set that captivated me from beginning to end. For someone like me that hasn’t explored the group’s discography super in depth it was a great mix of material that pulled from older efforts like Killing Technology and Nothingface as well as newer albums like Target Earth. Voivod’s music still has roots in thrash, but they’ve always had a more progressive/experimental slant that makes their material sound different from most of the others in the genre. The songs are often unpredictable, with sudden changes in tempo that come without warning and it was interesting to see the chemistry between all four members that allows them to move between these elements with ease. Newcomer Rocky replaced Blacky on bass when he left last year, but watching the interplay between him and vocalist Snake you could tell that he fits right in. Speaking of Snake, he delivered an energetic performance and his vocals were easy to make out throughout the course of the set, even when the instrumentals went full speed and upped the heaviness. Although there were plenty of great bands on this bill, watching Voivod fly through various points in their discography was my highlight of the night and their experimental slant made each song feel like an adventure that I was following in real time on-stage.

I have to admit that after how floored I was by seeing Voivod for the first time, Napalm Death’s performance was a bit overshadowed by this. That’s not to say that they didn’t put on an intense set though, as they sounded like they were firing on all cylinders and I’m sure there were plenty of people in the audience who would have said they were the best band that night. Napalm Death’s last few albums have seen them on an upswing, as despite how long they’ve been around each one has been consistently heavy hitting and offered some standout moments. Apex Predator – Easy Meat, the group’s latest effort, had just come out a few days prior to this show and found the instrumental work diving into a little bit of the experimentation that marked some of their late 90s and early 2000s output while better integrating it into the core grind sound. As one might expect, there was significant emphasis throughout the set on songs from this newest effort and they sounded fantastic. But as with the recorded output, my attention tended to turn to vocalist Barney Greenway. His screams are just as aggressive and ear piercing on-stage as they are on record, and watching him jump around the stage gave the performance that much more energy. The crowd reciprocated, and there was plenty of crowd surfing and mosh pitting towards the front (as well as a new infamous shit the pit incident that I don’t need to go into further details about, Google it if you feel the need). Napalm Death made sure that the intensity didn’t waver for a single second, and between many of the songs Greenway would give a bit of insight into what some of the lyrics were focused on which I appreciated. This is the second time I’ve seen the band play but it was the first time I was able to truly focus on what they were doing, as the previous encounter was during a hazy Maryland Deathfest weekend, so it was great to find that they were able to fully deliver everything one could possibly want from a grind set. Voivod may have been my personal highlight, but both bands put on lengthy and standout performances and it’s still kind of crazy to think about how fans are able to see them on the same bill.

 

Music:

 

Links:

Napalm Death- http://napalmdeath.org/
Voivod- http://www.voivod.com/
Exhumed- https://www.facebook.com/ExhumedOfficial
Iron Reagan- https://www.facebook.com/IRONREAGAN
Ringworm- https://www.facebook.com/Ringworm13
Black Crown Initiate- https://www.facebook.com/BlackCrownInitiate

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