This post covers some albums I purchased by bands I encountered as opening acts at concerts I’ve recently attended.
San Francisco’s Fallujah opened for Between the Buried and Me. Fallujah is progressive djenty metal crossed with Aphex-Twin, which is refreshing mix. Their style oscillates between being an emo Fleshgod Apocalypse or what Jean Michel Jarre’s metalcore experiments might have sounded like.
So far I like this band a lot, but I have two complaints. The changes between technical death metal and melodic parts are very abrupt, especially on Harvest Womb’s Enslaved Eternal Phenomenon. Their ambiance verges on filler - such as Nomadic EP’s Silent. I’m not sure if I can think of a situation appropriate for some of their songs - it’s too mellow to be programming or exercising music, but too metal for an intimate party or reading in bed. Similarly, Venom on the Blade is another track that has a great first two minutes but becomes annoyingly lethargic by minute 5.
Fallujah is not the most progressive band, but they encorporate new sounds and their execution is competent. If you want some fresh-sounding technical, check them out.
Pallbearer opened for Baroness. Though classified as doom metal, the slowness of their playing reminds me more of stoner metal bands like Sleep, though with Baroness’s chords. They’re good, but have neither the melodic or rhythmic complexity of Sleep nor the emotional breadth or depth of *Baroness. The singing is overly mournful, such as on their cover of Black Sabbath’s Over and Over, or songs take way too long to get started, such as on Sorrow and Extinction’s Foreigner.
Still, tracks that don’t have much singing are great. If you like Baroness, check them out.
Helen Money is a cellist and composer who opened for MAGMA. Unlike the previous two bands, she shares nothing with the act she opened for, except for an appreciation of orchestral instruments. I would classify her as being in the category of metal-adjacent experimental musicians like Chelsea Wolfe. Her music would be the perfect soundtrack to a purposefully tonally jarring Sci-Fi movie like Under the Skin or Melancholia. Her music may not be something to mosh to, but it is great music for writing.
Tony MacAlpine opened for Steve Vai. Like Vai, MacAlpine is a virtuoso guitarist who became famous in the 80s by playing for heavy metal bands. Unlike Vai, MacAlpine’s early musical influences were classical piano rather than popular rock music. MacAlpine’s music is more technical and less gimmicky than Vai’s as a result. Electronic keyboard covers of Chopin crop up several times in his albums, but are included as an expression of admiration rather than as schtick, like E.L.P.’s Hammond organ covers of Mussorsky. Having now heard both discographies, I prefer MacAlpine to Vai.
MacAlpine dabbled in several musical groups throughout his discography, and a lot of it is skipable. His time in the supergroup M.A.R.S. produced some great solos, but also exhibited the worst aspects of New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands. Similarly, his work in CAB is also great, but I’m not into light jazz. The fake trumpets, slow, funky rhythms and repetitive melodies are ear-grating. Also skip the albums where MacAlpine sings, such as Master of Paradise
I would highly recommend the albums Edge of Insanity (1986), Madness (1993), and Chromaticity (2001), which each consist of the best in metal composition trends and styles of the decade prior to their release date.
Brian Tentacles opened for Gorguts, and are a death metal band with a baritone and bass saxophone. The saxophone works better as a metal instrument on certain songs than on others. It has a tendency to slow down the music, for example, Gassed and The Sadist sound like a Captain Beefheart songs with a grating and short repetitive melody. By contrast, The Spoiler and Death Rules work better because they let other instruments breath, or have a longer melody.
Despite the few misses, this band is really neat and fun both live and on their debut album. I’m hooked.
Intronaut also opened for Gorguts. They’re a technical death metal in a more subdued folk-metal style like Nechochwen rather than the aggressive style used by Between the Buried and Me on Colors and The Great Misdirect. My only complaint with their style is that, like a lot of modern progressive bands, they go for overkill on the samples - such as The Unlikely Event after landing. An almost minute-long weird sample intro leads into an otherwise nice song. I wish these bands would cut their samples into interlude tracks, so they can be deleted. Believing that these sample interludes truly add to the song is pretentious.