Live Review: Soilwork, Jeff Loomis, & BlackguardPosted 04/02/2013 08:45AM by Rick Gebhardt as Show Review
Bands really need to stop going to Station 4 when they come through Minnesota. There are many better venues in the Twin Cities area, but yet they keep coming to this absolute hole. Oh well. At least I didn't have to sit through a bunch of opening bands that were beyond awful… wait… actually I did. And what made it all the more infuriating is that the openers weren't the openers that were supposed to be on the tour. Wretched and The Browning were not on the tour (some may argue that is a good thing) but were replaced by a local opener and two other bands I'd never listened to before, so things didn't get off to a good start (but before I get too far, just know that both Jeff Loomis and Soilwork were amazing and worth the wait).
The first band was some local band and I couldn't understand their band name when they said it, but it doesn't matter because they were completely unmemorable. Bland power metal by a group of 40-year-olds that seem to be doing this because that's just what they've been doing. After them was Hatchet who could easily be mistaken for a late 80s b-level thrash band. The riffing was pretty solid, but the vocals were annoying or unbearable (or both). Add to that basically all of their songs consisted of "how fast can we riff" or "oh my god, I wish we were Kill 'Em All Metallica" made things rough. They were tolerable, but not very interesting to watch. And it should be a requirement that if you're going to be in a thrash band, at least one person in the band should weigh more than 145 lbs.
Next up was Bonded By Blood who I originally thought they said was Blinded By Blood… but then I saw that their guitarist was wearing their own band's shirt (seriously?). Bonded By Blood were basically a less fast version of Hatchet, but their vocals had some power metal influences and they all dressed like they were in an 80's thrash band, complete with wrist gauntlets and tank tops. There wasn't really anything too memorable here to note.
At this point, after sitting through 3 bands that I couldn't care less about, I was getting bored and antsy. I have never been much of a fan of Blackguard in the past… but holy hell did they put on a stellar performance. They're basically a less guitar-wanking version of Children of Bodom (which, to clarify, is a good thing in my book). Paul Ablaze is everything a frontman should be: powerful vocalist, intimidating in stature, and commands the stage. The rest of the band also held up and showed why these guys usually get rave reviews of their live show. I was happy to be pleasantly surprised by them!
After finally getting into the mood, Jeff Loomis came on and put forth 45 minutes of ultra-shredding. I was content to simply stand and watch a guitar master perform his art while everyone else rocked out. Seeing him perform only puts into perspective how bland the openers truly were. Here's a guy who performs, essentially, extended guitar solos with some heavy riffs tossed in (for flavor and headbanging), and it doesn't seem gratuitous, self-indulgent, or boring in the least. This is someone who understands his instrument, songwriting, and how to engage listeners. Well played, sir.
Finally, to end the night, Soilwork hit the stage and dove right into "This Momentary Bliss" off of their new album, The Living Infinite. It's a solid show opener and they transitioned nicely into "Like the Average Stalker" from A Predator's Portrait. Throughout the night the crowd was treated to a nice cross-section of the band's vast discography. They hit The Chainheart Machine with "Possessing the Angels", Natural Born Chaos with "Black Star Deceiver" (which the crowd loved), Figure Number Five with the title track, and The Panic Broadcast with "Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter".
The rest of the setlist was made up of tracks from The Living Infinite, as expected, but also a healthy dose of Stabbing the Drama. I was surprised by this, but also very happy by the choice. Even though it may be their "softest" album, it was also probably their most catchy, and it's my personal favorite album of their discography. They hit huge with the title track, "One with the Flies", "Weapon of Vanity", and "Nerve". The entire audience got into "Nerve" as it proved to be quite a crowd friendly track.
The odd omission from the setlist was anything from Sworn to a Great Divide. It's probably the least memorable album of theirs (in my mind at least), but I had thought they'd at least play a token track from it. I guess they're not really a fan of that album either. Really, though, the setlist was extremely solid and should please most fans. And, really, no matter what they chose as a setlist, Soilwork are an extremely solid, talented, and confident band so it would be hard for them to disappoint.
This tour is definitely worth seeing for Soilwork, Jeff Loomis, and Blackguard… but if you're attending try to figure out the set times beforehand and skip the rest of the openers; they're simply not worth your time and, frankly, don’t seem to mesh too well with the tour.