Firepower! Judas Priest, Baby Metal, Fu Manchu & Primus all return with great new LPs & tours (May/2018)

Season is heating up 



Judas Priest - May 1st - Freeman Coliseum - San Antonio

With one of the most anticipated new albums of the year, Judas Priest dropped the instant classic Firepower back in ? “Firepower”. 

The two younger guitar players including Richie Faulkner were fun to watch and ran all over the stage. For me, I want to see energy that matches the music. 

Rob Halford has not lost a step. His vocals are absolutely amazing and bassist Ian Hill is still very much a part of this. Trust me if you don’t go you will be kicking yourself that you missed it. 

 

 

 

May 3rd (Thurs) 
Fu Manchu @ The Curtain Club

The twin guitars of Fu Manchu are immense. 

A fuzz current that moves as one, occasionaly lifted by Bob Balches blues leanings and wide vibrato. 

They have been at this caper so long that everything has power-a panzer unit of doom that hits you in the chest with each Vans clad salvo. Bliss. 

A fantastic evening is unfortunately coming to a close ‘Thanks London, this is our last song of the night’ draws a few boo’s from the crowd but WHAT a song to finish on. ‘Il mostro Atomico’ is just that. 

A monster, clocking in at around the 15 minute mark and featuring Rush’s Alex Lifeson, its a master class in stoner riffage with Baulch handling the Lifeson parts admirably. 

A few chants later and they return to the stage to finish us off with the homage to classic surfer transport ‘Boogie van’ and its all done. I am spent. 

In summing up, buy or steal this album and always fly to Europe. Unless you have a boogie van

 

 

May 10th (Thurs) 
Primus/Mastadon @ Southside Ballroom 

On Sunday night, Primus hit the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, performing a headlining set that housed the entirety of their new album, The Desaturating Seven, in addition to takes on a number of fan favorites from throughout their extensive catalog of work. Joining Primus was Mastodon, the Atlanta-born metal group—back in January, the two groups announced that they’d embark on a joint tour over the summer, with the Red Rocks show serving as the tour’s kickoff—as well as All Them Witches, a band that will be joining Primus and Mastodon for select dates in the upcoming tour. 

Ahead of Primus’ headlining performance, Mastodon took the stage for one extended set. The band’s fans were well-represented, with the band feeding off the energy of the enthusiastic, sold-out crowd. Standouts of their set spanned the band’s history, including a take on fan-favorite “Ember City”, a relatively new tune off 2014’s Once More ‘Round The Sun, and “Mastodon”, an older tune off 2004’s Leviathan. Toward the end of their set, lead guitarist Brent Hinds thanked the audience for their support, hilariously noting that “We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our cold, dark hearts,” which he followed up with the declaration, “We love marijuana.” 

Once the house lights dimmed ahead of Primus’ headlining performance, the crowd greeted the band with chants of “Primus sucks,” a chant that would reemerge during the break before encore. Opening up the show, Primus drew from 1990’s Frizzle Fry, offering up the classic tune “Too Many Puppies”, which was used to bookend a brief take on another older song, “Sgt. Baker” off 1991’s Sailing The Seas Of Cheese. 

Primus – “Too Many Puppies” 

[Video: cramx3] 

After this opening combo, Primus’ zany bassist and frontman, Les Claypool, addressed the sold-out venue, declaring that “Red Rocks sucks. I’ve never been to a more boring, uninteresting venue,” which was met with laughs and cheers from the crowd. From there, he explained how lucky the band felt to be performing there, in addition to thanking Mastodon for joining them for their tour, describing their tourmates as Vikings and explaining the “debauchery” the band gets into during tour, “like backgammon and Trivial Pursuit.” 

As an intro into the next song, “Last Salmon Man”, Claypool continued with his meandering speech, which touched upon global warming, marijuana as a cash crop, and Northern California’s export of water to Southern California—the latter point, he explained, was the inspiration for the song. Following the 2011 Green Naugahyde hit, the group moved into another Frizzle Fry classic, “Groundhog’s Day”, which featured a cacophonous opening, sliding grooves, and a precise and calculated solo from guitarist Larry LaLonde. Wrapping up this opening segment, Primus landed in a hypnotic and pulsating take on Frizzle Fry‘s title track, much to the delight of the audience. 

 

In September of 2017, Primus released their ninth studio album, The Desaturating Seven, the band’s first album of original material since Green Naugahyde in 2011. Given the band’s recent release and their efforts to promote the effort and familiarize fans with the new work, it was fairly unsurprising when the band started in on the first track of the new album, “The Valley”. The tune offers up the exposition—narrated by Justin Chancellor on the album—of The Desaturating Seven, which was inspired by the 1978 children’s book, The Rainbow Goblins, and capitalizes on the eerie story about goblins and rainbows. 

After a brief break between “The Valley” and “Frizzle Fry”, Les Claypool reemerged to the stage wearing ram’s horns while Primus drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander took the time to don monk-like robes. With the stage set following “The Valley”, the trio quickly moved into the album’s second song, “The Seven”, which explains that the “desaturating seven” are the colors of the rainbow. As the band worked through the tracks on their newest album, the screens behind them showed scenes from the book, further immersing the crowd in the fantastic, goblin-filled world in which the story takes place. 

For “The Trek”, Larry LaLonde switched over to an acoustic guitar for the song’s opening, before the band landed in the tune’s galloping beat and dramatic changes between dark, bounding verses and spacious, more ambient sections. The ground then deftly transitioned into “The Scheme”, continuing on with prominent, marching beat of “The Trek”, before landing in “The Dream”. After the song’s intro, it built to a powerful climax, its powerful guitar underpinned by Les Claypool’s intense bassline. 

An abrupt stop and a staticky intro marked the beginning of the “The Storm”, as the graphics matched the tune with depictions of rain. Eventually, the screens began to show images of a gorgeous coastline, while the song itself opened itself into a spacey and slide-heavy portion before arriving in the grinding weight of the tune. Ominous throughout, the song built to a frenetic, fast-paced jam which was met with huge cheers from the crowd. 

As Primus’ play-through of The Desaturating Seven began to wrap up, Tim “Herb” Alexander started off the final song, “The End?” with a steady and sparse drum solo, with Claypool and LaLonde slowly adding in. With Claypool stationed on his upright bass, the tune reworked the familiar themes from the album, with guitarist LaLonde eventually returning to the acoustic guitar for a cascading solo to end the album in full. 

The trio departed the stage momentarily at the end of The Desaturating Seven before Claypool returned to the stage and thanked fans for “engaging in our goblin party.” He continued, “Now that we are in a goblin mood, I don’t see the moon, but I do see rocks, and I feel content that we got to play with the Vikings of Mastodon.” Claypool, quirky as ever, introduced the band’s next song as “an obscure number, I believe by Neil Diamond” before offering up their 1995 fan favorite “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”. 

The heavy-rock tune signaled Primus’ sprint to the end of their set, which they followed up with “Welcome To This World”, off 1993’s Pork Soda. With a meandering intro, the band then offered up another of their most celebrated songs, “My Name Is Mud”, with Claypool laying out a truly virtuosic bass solo, casually strolling around the stage and milking the audience’s response as he continued his rapid-fire playing to end out the song. Finishing out their set and quickly approaching the curfew of 11 p.m., the band ran through a high-energy take of another fan favorite, “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver”, much to the delight of the crowd, before departing from the stage. For the band’s truncated encore, they offered up yet another classic tune, “John The Fisherman”, giving drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander the time to shine with the song’s opening drum solo before tearing through the high-octane song. 

Primus’ headlining performance at Red Rocks on Sunday night confirmed to fans that the band’s latest album has staying power in their catalog. While the band has always had a penchant for theatrics, the group’s play-through of The Desaturating Seven was a voyage in and of itself, delighting and captivating the sold-out crowd with its whimsical, if not dark, storyline. Paired with exceptional musicianship, the album’s focus on narrative could come off as cliche or overdone, yet Primus was attentive to let the music speak for itself, making for a truly exceptional experience. 

Wisely, given the focus on new material, the group bookended their performance of The Desaturating Seven with an onslaught of fan favorites from their older catalog, ensuring that older fans would hav their taste of Primus’ mainstays to keep them content and open-minded to their newest studio effort. With Mastodon sharing the bill, the group’s tour-opening performance bodes well for the rest of the run. Make sure to catch Primus and Mastodon when they come to a city near you; you won’t want to miss out. And as always, Primus sucks.

 

May 11th (Fri) 
Baby Metal @ HOB Dallas

This show started with what I think was an invocation of a dark power. The keyword in that sentence is “think” because I’m not well versed enough in the greater lore BABYMETAL—whom I’ll be referring to as BabyMetal moving forward in this review, thank you very much—which is to say I’m not sure if the Fox God is good or bad or indifferent and I have no clue who or what The Chosen Seven are. But it felt like an invocation of a dark power, with the masks and the staffs and choreographed movement, which is something I think is missing from a lot of metal shows put on by dudes with giant beards and tattoo sleeves. 

 

I’m not going to pretend I don’t understand why many were quick to write off BabyMetal as a gimmick when they arrived on the scene. “What is this j-pop group doing in my scene? Why are they wearing tutus? That’s not metal!” But are tutus and pigtails really that much more absurd than monk robes or corpse paint? Metal is easily the most theatrical of all genres of rock music, and arguably the most performative, and the distance between it and pop music is much shorter than some on the metal side might like to acknowledge. 

But between the guitar solos, incredible vocals, dark shirts, and complicated mythology, BabyMetal is definitively a metal band. Yes, they have their share of songs, like “Gimme Chocolate,” that are pop songs with some heavy metal riffs bolted to them, but they’ve also got their songs that work as straight ahead thrashers with pop elements. I think the latter, particularly live, work better than the former, but I also understand why you need songs like “Gimme Chocolate” to get people in the door so you can ease them into some of the heavier tracks. 

The evolution of BabyMetal is an interesting one. Gone are the tutus and pigtails, replaced at the moment with suits that make them look like dark universe warriors from Themyscira. The use of backup dancers was interesting; I had been on the fence for about half the show, then they did a choreographed fight sequence during one of the guitar solos and I was on board because all guitar solos would be better with a fight scene going on. Without jumping too far down the rabbit hole, I will acknowledge that the group was down a member, but the mystery of just why Yuimetal isn’t on this tour needs more words than I have in this post; someone should do a Serial-style podcast on that story. 

While I love the concept of a metal j-pop group with a crazy mythology, I’ll confess that new track “Tattoo” has me kind of wishing they’d just let Su-metal spread her wings as a solo artist because her performance of that particular song was stunning. She really has everything you want in a metal singer, from an impressive voice to a natural charisma that transcends language. If the studio version of “Tattoo” holds up at all, we’ve got a track of the year contender. 

In BabyMetal, you have the perfect gateway act to the wider world of metal, and I’m glad they’re getting booked on some of the bigger American rock festivals. Judging by the crowd, their fans are more than just people who think they’re hot. To me, it seems like the obvious thing is less gatekeeping and more embracing. Besides, when was the last time your favorite burly dude band played Revention and tried to summon a dark god? Exactly. 

So, How Was The Opener?: I’ve seen bigger bands get swallowed up by the stage in Revention, so kudos to Skyharbor for putting on one of the better opening sets I’ve seen in that particular building. Eric Emery has a great voice and impressive breath control, and by the end of their set, I think they won over most of the crowd. Well done, Skyharbor. 

The Crowd: Plenty of people in black who are probably looking forward to the final Slayer tour. More than a few people dressed up in their best BabyMetal cosplay. Diehards who camped out for hours in hopes of getting a good spot on the railing. 

Overheard in the Crowd: “I’ll be responsible and stay in line!” a woman screamed as her friend left her behind to do that run/hug thing people do when they spot someone they like a lot in the distance. 

Random Notebook Dump: I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a more laidback show at Revention in terms of the crowd. Normally when an opener finishes there’s a stampede of folks to get beer, buy merch, and use the restroom, but there was none of that tonight. There weren’t even a ton of people trying to push their way to the front. I wish more crowds were like that, to be honest.

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