So, last Sunday I went up to the DNA Lounge in San Francisco to see Starkill, Arsis, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Wintersun.
This was, for whatever reason, possibly the friendliest show I’ve been to in a while. I ended up chatting to a few people in line and in the venue before the show started. Everyone that I talked to was there to see Wintersun and didn’t know much about the other bands on the bill, so I did a lot of talking up of Fleshgod Apocalypse. (I saw tons of Fleshgod Apocalypse t-shirts in the crowd, so they clearly had their contingent there. I just didn’t happen to chat with any of them.)
First band up on the bill were Starkill. They were fun. They’ve got a lot of energy, anthemic songs about fire and blood and stuff, and their singer/guitarist can shred. The only thing that kept them from really standing out is that other bands on the bill play similar music with greater maturity and complexity. I’d say they’re a band to watch, though.
Arsis were just a mesmerizing blur of speed and power. I really don’t know how to describe their set except as “too short”. When the singer announced, “This is our last song tonight,” a great roar of “Nooooo!” went up from the crowd. Definitely on my list of bands I would make an effort to see again.
After that, Fleshgod Apocalypse were a distinct change of gears. With their intro tape playing, they entered on stage in a slow procession, beginning with singer Veronica Bordacchini in an opera cape and mask, followed by the rest of the guys in the band in their dusty and distressed frock coats. What followed was half ritual, half headbanging extravaganza.
Fleshgod Apocalypse has a tricky sound to bring across live – with the various vocal parts, symphonic parts, and guitar layered together, the sound can easily turn to mush. Happily, whoever was on the mixing desk at the DNA Lounge served them really well. It wasn’t perfect – the vocals were a bit low in the mix on the first couple of songs, and sometimes the guitars drowned out the keyboard parts. (Although, I think that made some of the songs from Labyrinth sound better.) But overall, they sounded great, and I think they made a lot of new fans at that show. Their set was also sadly short.
And finally, Wintersun. I’ve rarely seen a band connect with an audience the way Wintersun does and it slightly perplexes me. I mean, they’re undoubtedly a great live band, but a big part of the reason why they’re a great live band is that a big cheesy anthemic song like “Land of Snow and Sorrow” just sounds really good with a couple hundred people singing along. But what exactly inspires all of those couple hundred people to show up knowing all the words and ready to sing their lungs out? Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s there, because it makes for a hugely entertaining live show.
Anyway, Wintersun at least got to play a good long set. They played every song from Time I, most of the songs from Wintersun, and played a track that will be on Time II, “Way of the Fire” (which all the diehard fans in the audience already seemed to know by heart, even though it hasn’t been released yet). They also dropped in a surprise cover of Metallica’s “Blackened”. I’ve since learned that they’ve been doing a different cover in each city, playing a song that is significant to that city in some way. So they covered Nirvana in Seattle, Aerosmith in Boston, and so on.
Wintersun are still firmly on my “See them live if at all possible” list. Even if you feel a bit lukewarm about their recorded material, their live performance will win you over. Check them out if you get a chance.