Heavy Metal Is Back

Hershey, PA/March 29, 2003.

We arrived late. Commitments and children caused the Long Family Truckster to roll into the parking lot of Hersheypark Arena at about 8PM, some 30 minutes after concert start time. The steak that filled my stomach had put my hunger at bay and provided me with the energy I’d need to weather the coming storm of heavy metal. A storm that would be a blistering hail of fiery rock.

As we coasted up the steps, we were acosted by the usual male and female searchers, looking for knives, fireworks and the like which have caused havoc at many a concert throughout the years. I thanked the man for avoiding my crotch and headed up another set of steps while the first chords of teen-angst ridden Chevelle filled the arena. But these songs didn’t instill much confidence in the openers. A melange of power chords with some low singing followed by some screaming didn’t bode well for the beginning of the night.

We circumnavigated the place, working our way to the chosen headbanging position for the evening. Informed by my buddy on arrival that they had to “move” two girls from our seats a little earlier, we settled in. The scene below was already a living mass of moshing and crowd surfing. Why, I was not sure, this band didn’t have the stuff. The set dragged on to conclusion and the only standout was their radio-friendly “The Red” which was about the only listenable song of the bunch.

Once the set wound down, in swept the roadies like so many worker ants. Within minutes, the stage was transformed and the next rock wannabes made their way onstage to a roar. The crowd was ready for the night’s headline act, but one more band stood in their way. Taproot opened with a constant barrage of screaming and smashing, nothing like the tune they pump to the masses on rock radio. Again, we thought we were in for another boring ride. These young bands (no one over the age of 23 it would seem) just flailed around on stage in a “look at me!” fashion. They seemed to be mostly oblivious to the gathered throng as the songs rolled on. The only bright spot a trip around the arena singing one of their mellower songs as he high fived the entire second level of the arena. Maybe they did know we existed after all?

As long as it seemed, this last opener seemed to end their set more quickly than the band before and each time they mentioned the headline act, the crowd erupted in a roar of approval.

The worker ants once again made their way down to the floor. Other more capable ants manned spotlights ready to focus on the brutal assault to come. The stage itself metamorphosed into a gleaming black and chrome behemoth, ready to support the weight of the soon to arrive (and soon to be crowned) Kings of New Heavy Metal. Lights dropped, pulses rose and the arena began to sense the coming storm.

Then, like lightning crashing from the skies, the chords were struck. Three figures stirred in the black. A solid chorus of chords the likes of which we had not heard before. The song was something new, an opening maybe, for something familiar? The crowd was sizzling with anticipation of the appearance of our leader for the night. Familiar strains of “Bound” began and all was revelead!


There he was, the messiah! Lead us David!


Blistering the stage and crowd, Disturbed ripped into the tenth track of their second disc. A fitting opener, found late on the CD! Something many probably did not expect and surely poured fuel on the fire of our anticipation! We looked on in disbelief. Here they were, a real heavy metal band amidst… children. The babes that had come before were just amateurs to their professional power. Bound quickly turned into Voices and once again, the crowd was alight.

But something was wrong…the second song ended and our leader told us “Some had forgotten the rules…”

“You’ve become soft and you’ve forgotten that one rule of all heavy fucking metal shows. You need to rise to your feet! Give us all that you have to give. No matter the steepness of the seats, get up!” Realizing that yes, I had become soft, I stood and shouted my approval! Devil horns extended into the air, I saluted this man. He craved our release! Unlike the bands that had come before, this one knew what we needed. Knew how to drive us to the edge of sanity and present a bold outpouring of power through our collective hands and voices.

More songs ripped by in a flurry of tight, focused steel. Like the metal poured in the furnaces of Priest, Maiden, 'ryche and even the mighty Blue Oyster Cult, Disturbed, led by this second coming of Rob Halford, pounded our skulls while tickling our brains. We came to an impasse after such senses shattering songs as “The Game”, “Intoxication”, “Believe”, the profanity powerhouse “Liberate” and the melodic “Devour”. A brief respite between songs found our frontman describing the symbol of their current power. Four major faiths of the world, Islam, Christianity, Paganism and Judaism, combined to form the image forged in steel behind their stage. “But what about those devil horns I asked you for earlier”, he said. Yes, what about that, I thought to myself as sweat poured from every pore. “We don’t believe in the devil, because he doesn’t exist… but, we ask you for those devil horns because as you all should be aware they are the sign of HEAVY FUCKING METAL!” “Heavy fucking metal”, I chortled! Yes, as I suspected, this man and this band knew what it was all about. What we all live for when we arrive at this Church of Heavy Metal we worship at, which he also casually mentioned throughout the show. It was like I had stepped back in time ten years to superb sets from the mighty Priest. Here we had the true successors to the throne. The Defenders of the Faith!

After this brief moment where we caught our breath (but only to roar our approval mightily whenever we were asked), the set continued. The familiar and popular now mingled with the anthemic. We were “Droppin’ Plates”, met a “Mistress”, and of course, as the assault reached its conclusion, we were “Down With the Sickness”!

But we craved more. The crowd would not be satisfied by this first offering. Some business was left unfinished and we wouldn’t leave without our contract being fulfilled. To worship at this holy house of metal, is to expect all that could possibly be given freely. The very timbers of the arena shook under our pounding assault. An old building to be sure, one that had seen many a concert or sporting event, we wanted to bring it down on our heads if we could not hear more!

They returned.

“That’s exactly the kind of thing I expect from my brothers, my sisters, my blood.” He exclaimed as we shouted our relief at their return. “We got here with one song that started it all, maybe you know the name?” “STUPIFY!” we all shouted in harmony and before we knew it, the last bits of the set kicked off. Molten metal rained down on us one last time and we burned under its searing heat. “Stupify” lead to “Prayer”. One last homage to the Metal Gods that started it all in the '70’s and brought us this music that enrages the soul and “is better than any therapy for the price” as our host had earlier explained. By this point, my arms were rubber. My feet and legs burned with salvation under me as I banged my head in unison with my brothers and the sermon came to its end. We saluted them one last time… “WE ARE” “DIS-TURBED!” we chanted as they took their leave.

As I wandered beaten and battered to my transportation, I knew that I’d be back. I knew that what I had just seen had become rooted to my soul. I had seen shows like this before, but not for some time. I had forgotten how it worked. Forgotten what makes heavy metal, true heavy metal as it was created by those early prophets into what it was and now once again…is. Disturbed had revived my will to go on in this cross-genre music world where no one seems to have a message or a care for their fans. This band knew what it was to be metal gods and they claimed their throne that night. Even if I could attend their sermon again tonight it would not be soon enough. I’ll satitate my appetite with their studio releases but the sooner they return, the sooner I can get my next release.

We are Disturbed indeed.


Say it ain’t so…
I will not go…
Turn the lights off…
Carry me home…


I think the cliche-per-sentence ratio is damn near 1:1!

my hunger at bay
weather the coming storm
didn’t bode well
didn’t have the stuff
dragged on to conclusion
the gathered throng
the coming storm
like lightning crashing from the skies
poured fuel on the fire
the crowd was alight
business was left unfinished
claimed their throne (all of them in one throne?)

But just to contribute to the spirit of this post, here are some other things that I should be embarrassed to admit that I love:

Taco Bell food
The boobies links on Fark
Schwarenegger’s “Commando”
Fist fights in hockey
Boris Vallejo calendars

I give heavy metal fans the same credit I give professional wrestling fans; they either enjoy their guilty pleasure with irony, in which case I admire their incredibly developed sense of camp, or they enjoy their guilty pleasure without irony, in which case I admire their incredible unselfconsciousness in the face of something so silly.

It’s fun to write about heavy metal that way. A great show like the one I saw last night really is rare these days. There’s something fire and brimstone about the whole thing that makes all that stuff just come wheeling out of my mouth like an eighteen wheeler. Growing up with a brother that eventually went on to front a number of fairly successful local bands just added to my craziness at these shows. The great bands let you feel the heaviness from beginning to end. Disturbed’s got it.

If any of you like the music even just a little, you really ought to go see them. It’s rare to find bands that can carry a show like they can. I’m not kidding when I say they’re on the level of Judas Priest or Maiden or Queensryche with their live shows. So powerful. They make you laugh out loud and they make you proud to be a fan all at the same time. They sound even better live than they do on the studio releases which I find rare these days too. It’s just … well… cool. :)


But… but… but… Queensryche?

Queensryche had some good tunes. Operation Mindcrime, Eyes of a Stranger, Silent Lucidity.

The frustrating thing about heavy metal is that it is so laden with cultural baggage. The “headbanger” thing sort of distorts the music itself. What I like about metal is that it puts a high premium on very fast playing, on rapid runs of 16th notes and extreme virtuosity – which in some ways makes me feel it is an heir to classical and baroque music. (A considerable chunk of pop/rock music features relatively little instrumental virtuosity compared to either jazz or classical – I include the entire catalog of what is IMO the best rock band ever, the Beatles.) Nobody could show off like Franz Liszt, but Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteem probably come pretty close…

I was a Maiden fan back in the day. Their lyrics are pretty sophomoric (“Ooh! I just read an encyclopedia entry about Alexander the Great – think I’ll write a song about it!”) but musically they did some interesting stuff. Powerslave, Infinite Dreams, Stranger in a Strange Land, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Hallowed Be Thy Name – these are complex, structurally ambitious songs. Powerslave has a superb instrumental “B” section in the middle, while Hallowed Be Thy Name acquires some of the repetitive intensity of, say, Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Like Liszt they were probably apt to overuse the “diabolical” diminished seventh chords, but everybody has a weakness.

Still, I find it hard to enjoy the really heavy thrash stuff much – Megadeth, Sepultura, etc. The textural quality of the music, the timbre of the guitars, and the repetitive high tempo, make it hard to follow any sort of melody or chord progressions. If you acclimate to the style I’m sure you can find musical variations from tune to tune, but (at the risk of sounding like an old fogey) it all sounds alike to me.

I do recall driving along a year or two ago and hearing Metallica’s “One” on the radio, for the first time in many years. Through the first couple of minutes I thought to myself “This is magnificent – this is really superb composition.” It didn’t quite hold up to the end, though. But there’s no question those boys can play.

Yeah…the first four discs are top notch. They lost their way with the next one, found some of what they lost with Hear In The Now Frontier and have kind of languished since. DeGarmo is apparently back with the band though and I expect good things from the next disc. They’re claiming a return to their roots. Considering those roots include an EP (their first release) that could pass for a Judas Priest disc, I’m expecting top notch metal.

Mindcrime is definitely the high point though. I saw them do Mindcrime in its entirety on the Empire tour. That’s a show I’ll never forget. Geoff Tate’s live vocals are every bit as good as what he does in the studio. He’s an incredible front man. Lots of power and range. He’s also classically trained and sang opera before Queensryche. They’re not on the level of Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult or the mighty Judas Priest when it comes to metal legends, but their time in the sun was a strong one for sure.

I’m not a fan of metal bands that play fast just to play fast. Megadeth’s best stuff is the early Peace Sells… and their best is Cryptic Writings IMO. But then those are albums with real melody and controlled guitar work. Guitar pyrotechnics within the framework of lousy songs isn’t worth much to me. That’s why Disturbed is so liberating. The songwriting is top notch and sounds like no other band today, really. It pays homage to the greats of the past, but they’ve got their own unique identity.

…and unlike a lot of fans that claim Metallica has “sold out”, I think they’ve become what they should’ve been all along. By getting Bob Rock in the studio to direct them and help them streamline their songs, they’ve become the stuff of rock legend. A good producer is one of the most important parts of making a great rock album. Metallica’s brand of metal will now definitely stand the test of time and history will show that they grew up really well within themselves. Making your music accessible to everyone while retaining your identity is the way to success. I’m really looking forward to St. Anger to see what they’ve come up with next. It better be good because I spent $80 to see them this summer. ;)


Hooray for Metal :!:

I Have seen Disturbed twice. Ozzfest and a local Amphitheater where the opened for STP. Both great. Their energy is infectious and his vocals are nearly identical to the studio version.

My favorite no frills, just rock show, however, is Godsmack. A few fire balls, a lotta singing, and a lot of guitar playing. Their new CD comes out in a week and anyone who still goes to shows should catch them on this tour. Great live band!!!

Fear Factory!!!

Okay, so I’m largely uneducated about the nuances of heavy metal music, and maybe FF qualifies more as death-metal or some other kind of crazy sub-genre that doesn’t allow them to fit in with Metallica, Queensryche and so forth, but I do know that I love them anyway. They try to stick to this bad sci-fi B movie schtick about a future where mankind is being ruled by machines, and while Burton Bell tries to claim that it’s all a statement promoting independent thought and rebellion, it mostly comes off as just plain goofy. But naturally, that is precisely what I enjoy so much about it. And never mind that anyway, because on a purely technical level, I still think they ROCK THE FUCK OUT. Bell not only writes some (intentionally? unintentionally?) funny stuff, but he can both scream and sing AND bellow amazingly well. Plus, some of their riffs, such as the stuff in “Cloning Technology” and “Self Bias Resistor” are just crazy-awesome.

Plus, their drummer is off the hook, moreso than anyone else I’ve heard. In some songs I swear he reaches the 500,000 mark in pounding on the bass drum. You’d have to be an Olympic athlete to play them that harshly for such a long period of time.

Death to False Metal!

Just because we do not toss farm animal entrails around at concerts, does not make it inferior metal. :wink:

The entrails make the metal, or something like that. :)

Woo yeah, me too. Heck, I bet I was standing in front of you. Sorry if you couldn’t see the stage over my immense permed hair.

Ah, those were the days.

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

Wimps and posers, I said: Leave the Hall!

You Swedes will be happy to know that I’ll get a taste of your Euro Death Metal in May. Halford is coming to Philly and his Metal Gods 2003 Tour has the following band lineup…

Pain Museum
Carnal Forge
Amon Amarth
Primal Fear

…and of course the Metal God himself, Rob Halford. The Philly show is at the Trocadero. If there’s any Qt3ers in the area that want to pony up the $40, I’ll definitely meet you there.


Dave…my question is…what the <beep> were you doing in Hershey, PA? Besides Hershey Park, that place is less exciting than watching two flies fucking. ;)

Disturbed was at the Arena…gotta go where I can see the show!

Hershey has grown a lot too BTW, if you haven’t been there lately. Still a small town feel for the most part, but it’s not the place it was even five or ten years ago. Hersheypark is almost unrecognizable from what it was when I was little too.


I must admit to not visiting Hershey in about five years, but I’m glad to hear it’s doing well. I’m still a big consumer of their chocolate. ;)