Live Review: Staind, Papa Roach, and Five Finger Death Punch at "Epicenter"
Sun, 25 Sep 2011 14:42:21
After a quick drag of his cigarette in the middle of "Spleen", Staind frontman Aaron Lewis chillingly intoned the line, "It's a fucking disgrace, I blame you".
Lewis intimately teetered between soothing unease and cathartic screaming during the Dysfunction classic. As a result, he pulled the capacity crowd at Epicenter into Staind's dark embrace for the next hour.
What followed was a tough, tight, and transcendent set from the hard rock titans.
During "Falling", a psychedelic torrent of visuals flooded the JumboTron while Mike Mushok flawlessly fired off one searing, seesawing riff after another. Johnny April's bass propelled the airtight groove as Lewis carried the chorus from hell to the heavens.
As he exhaled a plume of smoke from behind the microphone, the frontman exuded the kind of cool that only true badasses like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen brandish.
He didn't have to say much because the neck-snapping polyrhythmic violence of "Eyes Wide Open" from the band's brand new self-titled masterpiece did all the talking for him. Lewis roared impenetrably just before Mushok tore through the most mind-bending solo of Epicenter's 12 hours of heavy music. The axe-slinger balanced a bluesy sense of solo with immortally impressive shred, making him one of the greatest to ever wield a six-string.
During "Right Here", the guitarist switched between an acoustic guitar and electric, channeling Jimmy Page while paving his own path. Meanwhile Lewis, lit up the most massive sing-a-long of the day.
"Crawl" tunneled into depths of darkness under a deluge of Mushok's distortion as Lewis slipped from a near-whisper into a gut-wrenching growl. April locked into one final bass-loaded explosion as a mosh pit erupted.
"Burn your fucking wings and say goodbye," Lewis declared during the throat-slashing "Paper Wings".
He discarded his guitar now and wrenched out another earth-shattering scream. Lewis stalked the stage during "Mudshovel" as April's bass soared. Drummer Sal Giancarelli especially shined on the pummeling, piledriver beat behind new hit single "Not Again". Midway through "For You", the assault subsided and Lewis smiled, "You know the words to this part? Are you going to sing it loud enough so they can hear you in L.A.?"
San Francisco could undoubtedly hear it and most likely the band's hometown back in Massachusetts as well. A somber "Something to Remind You" with Mushok and Leiws led to one last subtle exorcism before Staind walked away silently triumphant.
In some ways it's emblematic of the band's journey. They were never into press posturing, Awards show bullshit, or trying to be something they're not. They write timeless songs and kick teeth in when they hit stage. Isn't that everything a hard rock band should do? Well, they do it better than anyone…
Five Finger Death Punch followed suit with an equally incredible "vulgar" display of power of their own. After an ominous light rattle, frontman Ivan Moody ran to the center of the stage and asked, "Are you fucking alive?"
The audience affirmed with a unison roar. Guitarists Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook engaged a dominating thrash attack on "Burn It Down". They're the ultimate modern axe duo. Not only can they pull off solo harmonies a la Iron Maiden, but the duo hammers with unforgettable grooves that proudly stand alongside Pantera's catchiest fare. That delicate and deadly delivery defined the Five Finger Death Punch live experience and made for the most brutal set of the day.
Moody's words "You want to rule this fucking world, you've got to get through me" were portentuous. They're on their way to the top of this genre. The band's first single from their forthcoming Prospect Park release, American Capitalist [Available October 11], simply lit up the amphitheater. It truly is Five Finger Death Punch's "Walk", and it saw the quintet ignite a veritable frenzy on the unforgettable hook.
Prefacing the song's middle finger to online shit-talkers, Moody dispelled a couple of rumors. He exclaimed, "I want to clear up something really quick. The first rumor is I committed suicide. I don't feel dead."
Laughs abounded, and he went on with a genuine theatricality that most A-list stars should envy. "Secondly, my band did not break up, sorry".
As fists flew in the sky, it was clear that Five Finger Death Punch had arrived as the most important and infectious band in modern heavy metal. "Hard to See" shook from a crushing polyrhythmic verse fueled equally by drum maestro Jeremy Spencer and bass demon Chris Kael before it spiraled into a gorgeous Alice In Chains-esque hum on the hook.
In the middle of "No One Gets Left Behind", Moody held up a camouflage backpack from the Army recruiters on site. It was a powerful and poetic moment that showed a solidarity amongst the crowd from the stage that modern politicians fail to muster. A presence like Moody can though. The wild and woozy "Bad Company" served as another salute complete with more fret fireworks from Bathory and Hook.
Shadows on the screen above the stage spun slowly, as the chaos ebbed and flowed on the brilliant beatdown of "White Knuckles". Moody shined the brightest during a solo rendition of the intro from "Far From Home". Standing somewhere between Mike Patton and Philip Anselmo, his voice exuded unbridled emotion and every person in attendance undoubtedly felt it. "The Bleeding" gave a proper finish and the pits finally subsided.
Papa Roach rounded out Epicenter with a rip-roaring and raucous set. Singer Jacoby Shaddix wielded an uncontainable energy that surged through Irvine on the anthemic industrial grind of "Getting Away With Murder".
"To Be Loved" was the kind of 21st century punk powder keg that only Papa Roach could pull off, and it was hyper charged by Tobin Esperance's airtight bass chug and Jerry Horton's razor sharp riffing. "Scars" gave Tony Palermo room to blast out arena-filling beats so succinctly.
Everything simply exploded during "Hollywood Whore", Shaddix oscillated from a sensitively scarring verse into the song's classic refrain. It could've burned Hollywood down from inside out. "Last Resort" ravaged the seats as the venue practically tore itself down with the ripping groove.
Those three juggernauts—Staind, Five Finger Death Punch, and Papa Roach made Epicenter 2011 the best installment of the festival yet and the hardest rocking fest Southern California has seen this decade.
Were you there?
Watch Five Finger Death Punch's music video for "Under and Over It" here!
See our dual interview with Aaron Lewis of Staind and Corey Taylor of Stone Sour and Slipknot here!
Read our review of Staind's new album here!