“Hey, I hear you don’t like beatdowns?!” Shadows Fall live at L’Amour: August 10th, 2003

I first read up on Shadows Fall in a brief one page Guitar World article in 2000, discussing the release of their newest album, Of One Blood, which featured the debut of vocalist Brian Fair.  I’m pretty sure I still have that magazine in my attic somewhere in a big ass bin of old GW back issues….along with a shit load of Muscle And Fitness mags that I stole from my ex-job…several times.  Those security guards were and probably STILL are dumb as SHIT.    All these years later I can’t remember why it didn’t get my attention much in a time when Pantera was just a month away from releasing Reinventing The Steel, and shit rap-metal and pussy pop punk was king; but it was most likely because I read that they mixed thrash and death metal with rhythm guitar Matt Bachand’s love of new-age music.  At that time I most likely too young or ignorant to understand the idea or even give it a listen to see how the band melded such styles together.

That changed two and a half years later, by which point I was a few weeks into my college career.  They once again were featured in Guitar World, this time discussing their newest album, The Art Of Balance.  This time around, the article focused on the fact that lead guitar Jon Donais actually shreds his ass off on the record.  Both he and Matt discuss their love of all kinds of metal, as well as the fact that at that point in time the ONLY other guitarists known for TRULY shredding it up were Dimebag Darrell and Zakk Wylde.  True story.  So I was interested.  Then, I started seeing ads for the album in magazines featuring quotes from these rave…and I mean RAVE…reviews, calling Shadows Fall “The Next Metallica”, on the heels of the fact that this CD was supposed to have such a purist, old school thrash feel.  Ok…I was sold.  So I went to Sam Goody, maybe around Christmas time, bought the CD, and my ass was instantly KICKED so hard.  The riffage was very thrash.  Jason Bittner’s drums were so precise and so freaking fast on his debut recording with the band, Brian Fair really did sound like Ride The Lightning – era James Hetfield.  Then, there was those guitar solos.  Jon Donais is an AMAZING lead guitar player.  There are guys who shred to blow their load by showing off their knowledge of every scale known to man and there are guys like Jon who shred with aggression, technique…and feel.  GASP!!!  Not too long after this I finally heard Of One Blood and realized what I was missing out on because that record is even MORE brutal than The Art Of Balance!

Sometime in the summer of 2003 I was in a Hot Topic – the second to last time I ever went into one – and I found myself talking to the guy behind the counter, whose name I no longer remember.  The discussion turned to musical styles.  Around this time, the nu-metal/rap metal train was close to FINALLY crashing, but so-called hardcore with breakdowns that the kiddies would breakdance too was starting to become the new trend.  This guy played in a band called Resin and they liked to do those breakdowns.  Too bad.  But he told me that his band would be opening for Chimaira and Shadows Fall within a month and he had to sell tickets (gee, I wonder where I heard that shit before) and of course I told him I’d go.  They were practically THE only modern metal band I was giving the time of day.

So a month later my mom insisted on driving me to L’Amour on 63rd St, most likely because she was a sissy who couldn’t bare the thought of my taking car service there even though I had done it just three months earlier, when I was last there to see Superjoint Ritual.  No sooner did I close the door to her car did I hear a voice yell out to me “Hey!  I hear you don’t like beatdowns??”.  I turned around there was all of Resin.  In the middle was their gruff looking singer, who yelled out to me.  To the left was the guy from Hot Topic…who clearly had a great memory!  So we spoke for a few minutes and they gave me my ticket.

Going into the show, which was an Ozzfest ’03 off-date, the bill was once again HEAVILY booked by the idiot guineas that ran the place.  I think the first band I remember seeing was this band of kids who did a cover of Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots” that was played waaaaaayyy too fast.  Even when I was that age I never understood why younger bands just need to speed up even those songs that need to be played a little slower.  Is it nervousness?  Is it lack of understanding of dynamics?  The original tempo for the song was just right because it allowed Igor to put the right kind of groove in there and, more importantly, it allowed the heavy ass riffs to breathe.  Most times, fast never equates to heavy.  Heavy is not about tempo, or even volume for that matter.  It’s about attitude.  If you’re a young musician and you’re reading this, don’t ever forget this.  Dynamics, more important than ANYTHING else in terms of songwriting.

While seeing this one band one the main stage, whose guitarist was clearly trying so hard to be Dimebag Darrell, I recognized Jon Donais standing literally feet away from me.  I went over to him to discuss the band on stage because the guitar player was in fact really good and he put on the biggest smile and even gave me his full attention.  That solidified to me once for all the humility of the underground guys.  They were playing their first huge festival tour as The Art Of Balance was selling 100,000 copies, the first album in Century Media Record’s history to do so and they were still down to earth guys.  I went up to Brian Fair after seeing Jon and he too was a cool guy.  I saw a few more local bands including Full Blown Chaos yet again (and they sounded like shit yet again!) and Chimaira came out.  Long story short: they sucked.

Shadows Fall went on around 10pm and, long story short: they blew Chimaira out of the fucking water within the first minute of being up there.  Although that part wasn’t hard.  They were so good, playing songs from the two most recent CDs.

The Setlist:

Idle Hands

Crushing Belial

The Idiot Box

A Fire In Babylon

Stepping Outside The Circle

Thoughts Without Words

Of One Blood

Destroyer Of Senses

Serenity

The show was fucking incredible…and I totally forgive Brian Fair for wearing a Clash t-shirt that night!  Someone in the middle of the set he asked us if we BOUGHT the new album and I’m pretty sure most of the crowd responded pretty positively…by which I mean horns in the air and loud chanting.  You could tell it meant a lot; let’s face it, bands in his position NEVER sell 100,000 copies of a record or even make that in combined album sales.  And that was a minor miracle compared to the success the band would see a year later!  What I did NOT know about that night was that it would be my last time going to L’Amour for anything.  They’d close down just over five months later in early February 2004.

Final Thoughts

Here’ a brief video of me squatting 235lbs for 6 reps without a belt last Thursday night.

I managed to pull this off without a belt and it was surprisingly easy.  Starting this week I began final preparations for my first meet happening on May 21st in Newark, NJ.  As of this past Sunday I’m focusing only on the big three lifts and light cardio, making my training sessions considerably shorter.

Abigail Lives! King Diamond live at Playstation Theater 11/20/15

It was an eerie night on that 7th day of July in 1777…alright it was more like last Friday in Manhattan and I was actually going to see King Diamond.  On this tour he’ll play a few classics before playing in its entirety Abigail, the album that made King a metal GOD.  Thanks again Courtenay!  So I went to pick her up at her job and off we went to PlayStation Theater in Times Square, where we were searched twice, including being patted down because of the ISIS attacks on Paris…as well as ISIS claiming Times Square was next.  Oh, and if you live in NYC and really thought they’d do it you’re dumb.  It’s too big and too obvious.  I think they’d hit a much more low key area.

We got there long before the doors even opened and sat because she hurt her calf just walking to meet me and my knees were in exquisite pain from squatting 210 for 6 reps without my compression gear on.  So more than an hour passed before people stared coming in and man, this show got stereotypical real quick.  I saw a lot of Mexicans walking in and you just knew they were there to see Exodus, the opening band.  There’s always been a connection between Mexicans and thrash or even some death metal.  I can’t explain but if you’ve ever gone to a thrash show you know what I’m talking about.  I saw dudes coming in with bandanas on with unbent baseball caps over them and 2nd generation Exodus and Slayer t-shirts.  It never fails…ever.

Sitting a few seats next to us were the stereotypical awkward/not so good looking couples who are bonded by that one little thing…their love for metal.  Awww.  Then someone said something to me that had me looking.  “You notice how many morbidly obese guys are here?”  Oh yeah, it was real bad.  I’m totally convinced that it’s the result of years of devotion to Dungeons and Dragons, staying indoors all day and playing online video games with thirteen year old boys and eating like shit their entire lives.  You know these motherfuckers came out of the woodwork just for this and then ran back home to their video games.  I’m not the best looking guy out there but I’m sure I was maybe one of the most in shape guys in the whole fucking building at that moment.  Ladies and gents – another metal concert stereotype.  Don’t ever be that guy.

So around 8pm Exodus were getting ready to hit the stage.  Their entrance music?  “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.  Once Exodus came on they opened with a track off their new album Blood In Blood Out.  My biggest problem with this band forever will always be Sousa’s vocals.  I said it in my last blog but canning Rob Dukes was THE dumbest thing they could’ve done.  Dukes gave Exodus much needed new life with his intense screams and barks.  I even bought an Exodus album for the first time!  Forget that they way the canned him was pretty scummy it was just a bad artistic call.  The are so fucking heavy that Sousa’s nasal delivery just sounds so fucking dated.

Aside from that they played great.  But why did Gary Holt look so different here?  What a sec…..that’s not Gary!  Where is he??  I texted my friend Maureen, who was waiting in line to get searched, if she knew anything.  I had no idea that he was not going to be there because of Slayer commitments.  It seems crazy at first, Exodus hit a goldmine, opening for King Diamond and having three additional dates added in New York City alone because the initial date sold out so fast.  But then again, Gary’s now in Slayer as well as Exodus and probably making much more money in one show alone.  Good for him.  So who was his replacement on this tour with King?  It’s Heathen guitarist Kragen Lum, who did a damn good job playing Gary’s parts.

Exodus played for not even an hour.  Zetro did his expected nod to L’Amour’s to get the older fans to jizz all over themselves, and they did.  The hit their signature tune, “Toxic Waltz”, right in the middle of the set.  The dudes in the pit went apeshit.  It was a decent show.  I don’t hate Exodus and I never really did.  But Zetro just annoys me to no end.  He is to the west coast what Blitz from Overkill is to the east coast – really annoying!

After a little waiting period, the curtain opened.  Then…this happened….

I have to admit, I was a bit worried.  Over the last several years he suffered a herniated disc and most recently heart surgery.  I saw a clip of him with members of Mercyful Fate playing with Metallica on their 30th anniversary show in 2011 and he wasn’t that good.  But that was then, because as soon as he wailed out “GRANDMAAAAAAAA!!!!” all my fears were gone.  Holy shit he was amazing.  His band were spot on.  Andy LaRocque’s solos?  Total.  Fucking.  Jizzfest.  He can solo all day and I’ll never get bored.  The stage?  Two staircases with a balcony with two inverted crucifixes and a pentagram behind it.  So eighties, so amazing.

After “Welcome Home” the band kicked right into “Sleepless Nights”, my personal favorite from King.  It’s so different from the rest of his material up to that particular album for me, I guess because of the chord structuring and the emotion that’s actually in that song.  Yeah I know that Conspiracy is a concept album like everything else from Abigail on; but every time he shrieks out that line “Killing The PAAAAIIIINNNN!!!!!” it always hits me and now here I was hearing it live and my response was no different here.  They broke into “Halloween” after that and then two Mercyful Fate tunes, “Evil” and “Melissa”.

I have to admit I’m one of the many people would’ve never known “Evil” or ANYTHING related to Mercyful Fate or King Diamond if I never bought Metallica’s Garage Inc.  So when King shrieked “I was born in a cemetery….” I immediately heard Hetfield singing it in my head.  At the end of “Melissa” King says in a raspy voice “I think Melissa’s still with us…”, before slowly walking up the steps, them limping.  Then, as he reached the top, the pentagram, crucifixes and band logo on the side of the stage descended.  Then shit went DOWN!!!!!

I had to get the first two songs recorded.  “Arrival” is such a dark and ominous song, foreshadowing the rest of this creepy ass story about a pregnant woman whose baby is possessed by the spirit of Abigail, the illegitimate, stillborn child who was mummified by Count La’Fey.  Hearing every single track was intense.  The band were spot on.  King’s voice was much better than I would’ve ever expected.  I should also note that while most aging bands will tune lower so the singer can handle the songs, King played EVERYTHING in their proper tunings.  Not bad for a guy who’s sixty years old.  And there’s one more thing I need to point out.  My girlfriend pointed out King’s makeup, which looked NOTHING like his usual look, inverted crucifixes all over his face.  This time it actually looked a lot more like his classic look from the 80’s, you know, the one Gene Simmons tried to sue him over in the late nineties like an asshole.  Hey Gene, fuck you!

As the show came to an end with “The Black Horsemen” King yelled out to the crowd “Thank you so, so much New York!”, and rightfully so.  Only in New York City could one show turn into four and it was easy to tell he was moved by it all.  He’s lucky to be alive and I’m sure he knows it.  After the band finished up “Insanity” from King’s album The Eye, could be heard through the PA speakers.  It served to me as one last reminder of how talented a songwriter King really is.  He’s extremely underrated and deserves much more credit than he gets, even after Metallica exposed him to the world seventeen years ago.  I’m pretty sure King stayed on stage for five extra minutes even after the rest of the band walked off just to high five the fans, soaking it all in.  This type of thing doesn’t happen to him in the states often and I know it had to have felt amazing at that moment.  He’d go on to play two more shows in the next two nights and I’m sure the results were the same.