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Road Reports

Artist:   Sounds Of The Underground 2005
Venue: Starland Ballroom – Sayreville, NJ
Opener: n/a
Label:  Various
Date: 7/2/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal

The Sounds Of The Underground Tour for 2005 rolled into the parking area of The Starland Ballroom today and it was truly a day to be reckoned with.  This tour has been steamrolling venues recently and how can a Festival that brings you 18 of the hardest bands around do any less.  Some listed shows had 22 groups but due to some scheduling conflicts we would have 18 at our day.   Given the fact that this would prove to be one of the hotter days of the Summer I was quite happy with the 18.  My overall plan for the day was to absorb as much of the bands as possible, with particular focus on some that I have either never seen, or had wanted to see once again.  As the sun blazed above us The Red Chord began their set.  I was still on the very long entry line in and as a result basically heard more than saw this Metal Blade band.   I do feel that they were better live than on the CD that I own.  Devil Driver came up almost immediately and were excellent.   This band features Dez  formerly of Coal Chamber and I most definitely want to see them perform again.   

 When Strapping Young Lad came on it seemed that the event had everyone who was planning on getting there inside.   The group which is led by Devin Townsend was quite fun to see.  Devin is a crazy man onstage and continually yelled nonsense to the crowd like “Hello San Diego”, or “It’s great to be here in Long Island”.  There set was a nice mix of stuff and of course featured their newest track “Love”.  We caught up with Devin inside and found out that he loves messing with the audience to see who is paying attention.  We also discovered his impromptu puppet show was a last minute idea.  This band defines Metal and also features Burton from Fear Factory.   

For Opeth I was very intrigued as I have been watching their “Lamentations” DVD of late.  However, the band was to play an incredibly short set.  If they played 30 minutes it was a surprise.  I am happy to report that some material off the new release on Roadrunner Records entitled “Ghost Reveries” was played and if the remainder of the CD is like this piece we will all be pleasantly satisfied.  They seemed to have gotten cut off towards the end of their last number as some die hards near me said that something was not right with the last song.  I did not really look further into it.  Some also felt cheated at the very short set they played but the band told everyone to count on them returning for longer touring sets soon after the album comes out.  Opeth is really one of those bands that is creating a new musical genre by emphasizing more Progressive in a Death/Black genre.  Backstage I ran into Johnny Kelly of Type-O-Negative who informed me that work was being done for the new album.    

There was a longer break between bands when GWAR was set to come out.  I had to say that the changeovers were awesome with little downtime between each band.  When the group hit the stage the audience was very wild with many of them jockeying for position to get splattered by the blood that is the trademark of the bands live set.  I wandered too close at one point and was doused as well – all of a sudden a shrill whoosh sounded from over my head and I looked up and well you can imagine the rest.  I guess I am just lucky that my cell phone was in my pocket at the time.   The GWAR set is rich is chaos and special effects.  In the 40 or so minutes that they played, these Conquerors from a distant Galaxy killed the “Nazi Pope”, President Bush, “The Reaganator” and some kind of dinosaur.  All the while the audience screamed for more and moshed in the mix of mud and GWAR blood.  I was really surprised at the support the younger fans were giving GWAR for the most part.  I mean I don’t think these kids are buying the records, but instead are more interested in the legendary stage performances.  I remember stopping two of the “Sticker Girls” as I called them.  They were in white when I met them, and after the GWAR set were completely drenched red.  When I said what is it you like about GWAR, they simply replied “GWAR is cool”.  That will have to suffice on that topic.   

For Clutch the audience had a complete change of attitude.  Gone was the crazed moshing and crowd surfing and instead simple dancing and swaying came about.  It was almost like watching a “jam band”.  They sounded great yet I felt that they sounded heavier on the new CD "Robot Hive/Exodus".  The band really leans more toward the hard rock vein and it was really a surprise for me to find them to be on a bill like this.  I did not think they fit in very well, yet they were well received and seemed to have a lot of fans in the audience.  It’s a tight band that I think is bringing back a great style of hard rock music.   Their sound was dead on clear also that night.    

Lamb Of God, having recently toured as support for Slipknot were the headliners of the show and also were supporting their latest live DVD release “Killadelphia”.  Their set was the longest of the night and they pretty much performed a lot of the same material you either saw with Slipknot or see featured on the DVD.  As it was evening now, the lighting was most effective and pretty much the best of the day’s bands.   This band definitely captivates the audience and has seemed to fill a void left by the absence of Metal bands like Pantera based on their level of aggression and delivery.  Musically they show more than ample proficiency to carry on the work started by Dimebag and Vinny.   

There were other bands that were interesting and I think among the other standouts was Unearth.  Really heavy and slamming music.  I want to hear from them and think I shall look into the album.  Bands like Norma Jean and Madball had a lot of the hardcore element in their sound and while it is not my cup of tea it seems to be making a general comeback.  Not as hardcore bands as much as in these underground metal bands that have been gaining steady momentum of late.  All in all I felt this was a great time, albeit a little longer than I expected.  I felt a few less bands and one or two differences in the genres/styles performing might have made this even better.  I gave a lot of credit to the organizers for running a tight ship as far as changeovers and keeping the music running.  I did hear some rumblings of too many restrictions from the venue on the audience but in the larger scheme of things they were most likely set in place to protect you more than hinder your enjoyment of the day.  Despite the blazing heat, and it was hot for I looked like a lobster for days – it seemed like about 5,000 people attended.   

Lineup Order:

  1. The Red Chord
  2. Devil Driver
  3. A Life Once Lost
  4. All That Remains
  5. Madball
  6. High on Fire
  7. Strapping Young Lad
  8. Throwdown
  9. Every Time I Die
  10. Norma Jean
  11. GWAR
  12. Opeth
  13. Chimaira
  14. Poison the Well
  15. Unearth
  16. Clutch
  17. From Autumn to Ashes
  18. Lamb of God

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