Soilwork was, uh, ok, I guess. Certainly a lot better than when I saw them at last years Milwaukee Metalfest where they were just throwing up a chaotic and indecipherable wall of noise. It helps that their new material is far less chaotic, despite of the title of their latest album. Their sound was pretty good, not too loud, and properly mixed to highlight the new material (lots of vocals and rhythm, kinda low in the guitars). The second guitar wasn’t working for most of the first song, but didn’t make much of a difference when they got it running (then they spent a few minutes before the next song trying to find another guitar). The singing overall was pretty good. Of course it wasn’t exactly like it sounds on NBC, but he switched between styles pretty well. Backups (by up to three other guys) were generally helpful, although there were definitely points where guys were off. Also, they didn’t seem especially tight rhythmically. There were a couple points where things weren’t exactly right, most obvious being that song from the Chainheart Machine that has that huge bass-led groove in the middle of it; it was played in a sadly un-groovy fashion. It was only the second show of the tour though, so they’ll probably tighten up. For six guys, the don’t generate a whole lot of stage presence. I guess I expected a little more intensity out of a singer nicknamed “Speed”. One of the guitarists (Wichers, I believe) has a set of stage mannerisms that almost exactly copies John Petrucci (he must have watched a lot of Dream Theater videos). I don’t have the exact setlist, but they played a bunch off Natural Born Chaos (Follow the Hollow, As We Speak, The Flameout, Natural Born Chaos, The Bringer), a few off A Predator’s Portrait (Needlefeast, Like an Average Stalker, and one more), and a couple off The Chainheart Machine (the title track and whichever one has that big ol’ bass groove).
Next up was Hypocrisy. The minute they stepped out on stage, you could just feel that they were a force to be reckoned with. There are certain bands (along with Hypocrisy, Iced Earth and Immortal come to mind) that just radiate an aura of power with their very presence. I don’t know if it’s something that comes from being a stalwart force in their scene, or being leaders rather than followers, or just having been through the grind of building a band from scratch, but there is clearly something that sets them apart from a band like Soilwork. After their set, my brother said something like “they sure separated the men from the boys”, and he was right.
Anyway, to the music. For their first tour in the U.S. in their 10-year career (as far as I know), they nicely chose to do a “best of” set featuring stuff from all their albums. This worked out especially well for me, since I only own two Hypocrisy CDs, one of which is the “10 Years of Chaos and Confusion” compilation that they pulled most of the songs from. Due to venue restrictions, they only had about an hour to play, so they burned through all their songs, from the brutal, blasting early stuff to the epic, hypnotic songs of more recent years. Plenty heavy and really loud the whole time. Peter Tagtgren is indeed a pretty ugly-looking dude, but the fact that he’s a badass makes up for it quite nicely. Curiously, he speaks English with virtually no accent. He did a great job with his variety of vocal styles throughout the night, and also seemed to really be enjoying himself, along with the rest of the band (which included a second guitarist). He seemed genuinely impressed with the response, which really was quite excellent for a band that no one had ever seen before. I wasn’t quite sure which band more people would be there to see, and while there were certainly plenty of people there to see Soilwork, Hypocrisy definitely had a better response overall. Here is some idea of the setlist (not in order), although they played a few songs that aren’t on here, and I’m probably imagining one or two that they didn’t actually play:
The Fourth Dimension
Until the End
Pleasure of Molestation
A Coming Race
Fire in the Sky
The Final Chapter
Don’t Judge Me
Iced Earth and In Flames has sold out the same venue (the 1100-capacity Metro in Chicago) exactly three weeks earlier. This show wasn’t sold out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were 700 people there, which is pretty impressive for two bands from Sweden. I have no comments on the opening bands (Single Bullet Theory, Scar Culture, and Killswitch Engage) since we expertly timed our arrival just as Soilwork was setting up.