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Byzantine / Dark Tranquility, Opeth - Cincinnati, OH - February 18-19, 2006

I had been looking forward to this weekend for quite some time. It's not often that Cincinnati gets more than one good metal show in a month, much less two in two consecutive days. The first was Prosthetic Records own Byzantine at Sudsy Malone's on Saturday February 18th. The second was Opeth, Dark Tranquility, and The Devin Townsend band right across the street at Bogart's on February 19th. So without further ado:

Saturday was a mess of a day. I felt like I was getting sick (turns out I was) and I was feeling pretty shitty all day. The time came to get ready to go to the show and I realized that I'd have to trek it alone as Cassi had other obligations. No matter, I had to see Byzantine. I've seen these guys a total of three times since last Spring and every time they are great. Actually, the last time I saw them down at Sudsy's nonetheless, there were a total of five people in the entire place, so I actually got to chat with Chris Ojeda (lead singer a.k.a. "O.J.") a bit before the show. That being said, I decided to go up a bit early and grab a few (or 12) beers, because I wasn't sure exactly what the crowd would look like plus I like to support Cincy Metal so there I was flying solo at 8 p.m. Local act Skintrade hopped up on stage at about 8:30 or so. I was definitely surprised by this band due to the fact that they had a bit of a Dark Tranquility edge with the synths combined with the melodic aggression of At The Gates. The lead vocalist who handles the screaming vocals sounds a bit like Robert Meadows from A Life Once Lost with more of a hardcore edge. The additional vocals sounded a bit more along the power metal lines but fit the musical presentation quite well. I thought these guys put on a great show, check them out at myspace.com/skintradeowns. Lust Hive Motor was next on the bill. Another local act that combines influences such as Dillenger Escape Plan, Converge, Meshuggah, and Lamb of God. All of these are represented in The Lust Hive Motor's music but for some reason their live show just didn't stick out to me that much. Nevertheless, check out their page at myspace.com/tlhm. The band just prior to Byzantine was entitled Assault Machine. Their musical style combines old school thrash with screaming turned to Tool-like vocals meshed with aggression that (at least to me) seemed forced. I'm not sure what it was about these guys but I just wasn't very impressed at all and I doubt you all would be either (myspace.com/assaultmachine).

Onto what I came here for, Byzantine. In talking to O.J. for just a short time prior to the show I actually got a chance to look at the tracklist for that night's performance. "Five Faces of Madness", "Jeremiad", "Stoning Judas", "Hatfield", etc. Although the guys were only playing 9 tracks, I knew this was going to be a great show. Opening with the aforementioned "Five Faces of Madness", Byzantine tore Sudsy's up. Sliding effortlessly through song after song, it almost felt like their set went by too fast. However, there are many impressions left in my head from that performance. First and foremost, Tony Rohrbough (lead guitarist) is amazing. His riffs were immaculate, solos were well-timed, and his transitions were awe-inspiring. Although the entire band was awesome, his play alone was worth three times the price of admission. O.J. belted out the screaming vocals as "new" bassist Skip Crower (joined Byzantine right after their sophomore "...And They All Shall Take Up Serpents" was released) added singing vocals to the tracks. The drumlines, handled by Matt Wolfe, were both brutal and smooth. Almost effortlessly, they ran through a balanced mix of both of their albums producing the best Byzantine performance I've seen yet and making Saturday night a night to remember.

Onto Sunday night (February 19th), as I already stated before I still didn't feel all that great, so I slept most of the day away. I woke up, took a shower, and headed to Bogart's for a show that I wasn't that thrilled about in the first place (Opeth, Dark Tranquility, and The Devin Townsend Band). I know what you're saying, "What??? Not thrilled about???". Yep, sorry but anyone that has followed my reviews (and etc.) knows that Opeth and The Devin Townsend Band do not really excite me whatsoever. But anyway, I get down to Bogart's with the intention of hearing The Devin Townsend Band and Dark Tranquility and suffering through as much of Opeth as I could possibly stand then vacating the premesis. That being said, I entered Bogart's hearing The Devin Townsend Band already on stage. Now I enjoy Devin Townsend's Strapping Young Lad outfit however the mix of power metal, interlocking fecocity, coupled with numerous eclectic tracks in The Devin Townsend Band just doesn't interest me much at all. Needless to say, it sounded as though most of the crowd enjoyed The Devin Townsend Band, however I felt that only one of their tracks really left me feeling halfway satisfied ("Vampira") and the rest hardly kept my interest. Finally, the moment had arrived that could give any validity to my trip to this concert, Dark Tranquility. I cannot tell you how absolutely pumped I was for this show, seeing as though I had never seen DT live before. Dark Tranquility lived up to all of my expectations and more. Opening with "Wonders At Your Feet", Dark Tranquility stunned me with how great they sounded. I know that during production of a melodic death disc, the synths can sometimes be skewed to sound this way or that and the overall feel of a track might be lost during a live show, but Dark Tranquility sounded like I was listening to each song right off the record. If that isn't a tribute to Martin Brandstrom, one of the best keyboardists in the business, I don't know what is. Not only did the keyboards sound dead on but so did every second of their entire repertoire. Shooting back and forth on "Character", they found time during their short 30-minute set to grab of few of the old goodies to play ("Final Resistance", "Punish My Heaven", and one off "Projector" that I can't specifically remember). From "Character", they played "The New Build", "Lost To Apathy", "Mind Matters", and my personal favorite "My Negation". The latter completely made my night. I didn't think that they would play that track because of how melodic it is but seeing as "My Negation" is one of my top three favorite tracks by Dark Tranquility, that one definitely made the night worth it. Cincinnati presented itself well here with nothing but cheers for one of the best melo-death bands in metal. My only gripe is that they weren't the headliner.

Now for one of the most overrated bands on the face of the planet in my opinion, Opeth. Sometimes, I feel like there is something wrong with me due to the fact that everyone seems to love this band. I just don't see it, are they acoustic, melodic, furious at times? Do they really have a style? Opeth is really all over the place when it comes to metal, meaning take a listen to "Blackwater Park" and then listen to "Beneath the Mire" or "The Grand Conjuration" or hell, even some tracks off "Orchid" and tell me that they can be classified. Classification aside, they just don't seem to really grab the listener in any way: ferociousness, melody, beauty, brutality, at least nothing that I see. Not to mention, I saw Opeth back in the summer (Sounds of the Underground) and they seemed lifeless to say the least, but nonetheless, I figured so many people like them that there has to be something I'm missing. So finally Opeth takes the stage to a screaming ovation from their apparently heavy legion of fans at this show. Opening with "Beneath the Mire" (one of the few songs I know by this band), the place went completely nuts. I actually stayed through about five songs of this hour and a half set before my preconceived notions were satisfied and I left. I'm sorry, maybe there is definitely something I'm missing but this band does absolutely nothing for me. As a matter of fact, Opeth actually irritates me to the point of absolute insanity. I just don't understand how this band can headline over one of the best bands in the world, Dark Tranquility, but I digress.

This past weekend, I'd have to say was one of the better ones in recent memory. Although neither show was so outstanding top to bottom that I'll remember it for the rest of my life, both were at least fairly enjoyable. Byzantine once again proved why their melodically relentless assault will always compel me to keep up with their releases and tours. Dark Tranquility proved that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the metal genre and can put on an outstanding live show. And finally, Opeth showed me nothing new and perhaps further proved my dislike for the band. But nonetheless, still a helluva weekend. 'Til next time, stay brutal,


February 24, 2006
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