Live Review: Welcome to Rockville Featuring Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Trivium, Lacuna Coil, Otherwise, SoulSwitch, and More
Mon, 30 Apr 2012 13:31:36
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Heavy metal hardly gets the credit it deserves from the mainstream media.
That's a fact. Hard music enjoyed a bit of a renaissance both commercially and critically at the turn of the century. Remember when Slipknot and Staind both graced the cover of RollingStone and every rock band went platinum? We're not living in that world anymore.
In this day and age, with the overwhelming success of electronic dance music and hipster havens like Coachella, the genre feels thrust back below the surface and marginalized more than ever. However, all of the incredible young metal bands and reliable stalwarts at the forefront deserve the spotlight for the music they're making and the performances they're giving night after night.
Thankfully, America has festivals like Welcome to Rockville. Fueled by Monster Energy, the Jacksonville festival stood packed to the gills with 10,000 fans—most of whom actually showed up when doors opened in the morning.
Those early birds witnessed two of the best up-and-coming acts in rock at large. Orlando's SoulSwitch stand primed for much bigger stages than Rockville even. After an ominous intro, the quintet crept to the stage clad in their signature black and red uniforms. Instantly, they transfixed the crowd with "Change" from their new EP, As It Seems. Like Breaking Benjamin with balls, their music channeled guttural grooves through hypnotic textures. At the eye of the storm, singer Tom Huestis belted out choruses you'll never forget on the likes of "Change".
Meanwhile, they touted instrumental virtuosity on "Transmission's Lost" where guitarist Jimmy Kwong riffed through Michael Mouris's airtight drumming. Matt Larson put down a staunch bass groove from which Nic Allen's fiery lead sprung forth. The fans and band went off equally during "Over again", and SoulSwitch left the stage victorious all before lunch.
The second band of the day bound for massive success was Otherwise. The Las Vegas outfit deserves to be headlining arenas. A twisting lead line from guitarist Ryan Patrick snaked violently at the beginning of "Die For You", and instantly the ground began shaking to Corky Gainsford's drumming and Flavio Ivan's bass.
A born star, singer Adrian Patrick moved confidently, riling up the crowd as he seamlessly volleyed between a demanding scream and unique croon. Throughout the set, Adrian never stopped. It was as if he transmitted the energy from his brother Ryan and co-guitarist Vassilios Metropoulos and transmuted it into force. Orchestral swells built up "Lighthouse" before bludgeoning beats and harmonics took over. "Vegas Girl" was the best dirty girl anthem Mötley Crüe never wrote, while "I Don't Aplogize" was a heavy and sharp send-off to an ex.
Mid-set, Adrian had an inspirational word. He declared, "If anybody tells you that you can't do something, take a look at us. We're here breathing the same air as all of you today."
Otherwise maintain a real connection, while coming off as larger than life. That's everything a timeless rock band should do. Plus, they've got songs. Just listen to "Soldiers" and try to get it out of your head. Don't miss their debut True Love Never Dies May 8.
Later in the day, Italian mainstays Lacuna Coil managed to entrance even in daylight. There's no woman in hard rock or heavy metal with a voice as gorgeous and chilling as Cristinia Scabbia. "Fragile" elegantly teetered between her vocal caress and hard-hitting bombastic metal. Hazy electronics and middle eastern flourishes expanded the sound of the Dark Adrenaline material, and "Trip the Darkness" drew everyone into their embrace.
Trivium gave a devastating performance predicated on tough, polyrhythmic six-string fireworks and massive choruses courtesy of singer Matt Heafy. "In Waves" was a mind-numbing juggernaut weaving Tool-style rhythms and classic thrash riffing. Plus, they're the only of the young guns who can pull off Metallica's "Creeping Death" with real aplomb and true stadium-size bombast. They never stop kicking ass and stand as one of metal's best.
In many ways, everything started and ended with Korn. Giving the audience a flawless headline set spanning all ten albums, the legendary outfit proved once again why it's the leader. Approaching the edge of the stage, guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer tore through the rupturing riff of "Predictable". Drummer Ray Luzier methodically and maniacally sped up the verse to a thrash staccato as he locked into Fieldy's warped funk bass. Jonathan Davis echoed pristinely pummeling as he clutched his mic stand and exorcised demons via each scream. Fieldy effortlessly flipped the groove into "No Place to Hide" from Life is Peachy as the entire field at Metropolitan Park bounced along. Shaffer pounced through the masterful mind-numbing classic "Good God" as Davis matched his eerie seven-string dynamics with a vulnerable whisper and visceral howl.
After three old school gems, "Narcissistic Cannibal" from the group's tenth masterpiece, The Path of Totality, elevated the set, and heavy metal at large, to another plateau. Incorporating an all-encompassing light show and some of the band's most invasively irresistible hooks, "Chaos Lives in Everything", gave devilish dubstep actual song structure and a beating bloody heart with the frontman announcing, "Sometimes, I just want to kiss that frown."
As if on a cue, a cacophony of guitars, bass, and drums poured out from the stage enveloping the waterside audience. The anthemic assault and battery of "Get Up!" lifted off into throat-slashing salvo "Here to Stay" and a particularly potent "Freak on a Leash". The cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" converged on a psychedelic jam led by Shaffer's dreamy yet destructive soloing. He's one of the most innovating and invigorating guitarists out there, and his ability to merge genres and create atmospheres is on par with the likes of David Gilmour. As his counterpoint, Davis drives the darkness with unparalleled intensity and explosive diversity. At this point, they deserve to be revered as a legendary guitar and vocal duo.
The fiery ending of "Shoots and Ladders", "Got the Life", and "Blind" proved fitting as the singer smiled, "God bless every one of you motherfuckers for giving us the life we have."
Equally crushing and captivating, Five Finger Death Punch lived practically razed everything in a ten mile radius. Guitarists Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook weave together impenetrable grooves and precision shredding for a Vulgar Display of Power unlike anything in modern metal. Five Finger Death Punch's brilliance lies in their ability to bridge instrumental intricacy and arena anthems. "Under and Over It" announced their arrival with a bang as the distorted gallop led a death march of Jeremy Spencer's inimitable pounding and Chris Kael's deep bass roar. Leading the charge, Ivan Moody charismatically fired each vitriolic line with a scathing wit before launching into one of the biggest hooks of the day.
Unhinged, uninhibited, and unique, this unit is everything metal should be and more. "Salvation" took flight on a Bathory lead, while "American Capitalist" intently murdered everything in its path as Moody once again chanted perfectly over double bass madness. "White Knuckles" was a potent bitchslap, while "Bad Company" elicited widespread applause as Moody prefaced it saying, "We're going to dedicate this next song to all the men and women who serve the United States."
After a solo from Spencer, Hook joined Moody with an acoustic guitar for a haunting rendition of the group's latest single, "Remember Everything", from American Capitalist. The track illuminated the band's true power, transcending this genre and treading classic territory.
Of course, everything came to an atomic head on "Burn It Down" with Five Finger Death Punch conquering Jacksonville with one last blast of adrenaline and aggression.
Welcome to Rockville featured the best and brightest on the scene both young and old. Now, it's time the rest of the world takes notice and hard rock reaches the top again. The talent and numbers are certainly there. Just need more festivals like this one.
Were you at Welcome to Rockville?