Dethklok, Mastodon, High on Fire, Converge | Aragon Ballroom | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Dethklok, Mastodon, High on Fire, Converge Recommended All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sat., Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m. 2009

Brendon Small, creator of the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse, is certainly less real in many people's minds than the cartoon death-metal band he invented, but when DETHKLOK hits the road Small is front and center, playing guitar and delivering Nathan Explosion's gullet-scraping vocals. Sure, the live musicians are dwarfed by the projected animations they play along with, but they're the ones doing the work: Small is backed by drummer Gene "the Atomic Clock" Hoglan (a veteran of Devin Townsend's Strapping Young Lad), guitarist Mike Kenneally (a former Zappa sideman), and bassist Bryan Beller (who's played with Kenneally and Steve Vai). The cartoon band has fans at its shows sign "pain waivers," given the high likelihood they'll be mutilated or killed—their faces burned off by huge pitchers of scalding Duncan Hills coffee, for instance, or their bodies torn apart by a Finnish lake troll accidentally summoned by Explosion's lyrics. Such is Dethklok's reputation for mayhem that when a very real electrical fire started during an opening band's set at San Francisco's Fillmore in 2008, many fans resisted orders to evacuate, apparently assuming the fire was a hoax—part of an elaborate joke about the hazards of attending a Dethklok show. This tour is in support of the new Dethalbum II (Williams Street), which contains some songs that go on nearly half as long as the 15-minute episodes of Metalocalypse's first two seasons. Season three, with full half-hour episodes, begins November 8. —Vera Videnovich

The word "metalcore" still makes me cringe, but some of the music is amazing—and it was CONVERGE who first proved that to me. With their precisely engineered salvos of cathartic nihilism—no wasted gestures, no lazy repetition—they've earned a reputation so formidable it'd give a lesser band performance anxiety. In 2001 this Boston-based four-piece released one of the masterpieces of the genre, Jane Doe, and since then they've had the unenviable task of living up to it. The brand-new Axe to Fall (Epitaph) rises to the task, though, with chillingly deliberate, face-ripping fury. Right from the opening cut, "Dark Horse," front man Jacob Bannon takes the music by the throat with his indecipherably ragged vocals, tearing at Ben Koller's frenetic drums and Kurt Ballou's intricate, incendiary guitar with heart-attack intensity—a vein-popping tug-of-war between raw energy and rigorous structure that inevitably rips the songs wide open, releasing a triumphant shitstorm of sonic shrapnel. Ballou is easily the highlight of Axe to Fall, augmenting his roaring machine-gun chords with razor-sharp licks that push him further into the foreground than ever, and he doesn't lose a step when the band downshifts from its usual two-minute shotgun blasts into a sprawling, sludgy epic like "Cruel Bloom" (which features Steve Von Till of Neurosis on vocals). Now nearly 20 years along and almost a decade past the album that easily could've overshadowed the rest of their career, Converge are still the best at what they do. —Kevin Warwick

Price: $34.50

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