Monday, August 15, 2011

Power of the Riff Review Part 1: Pentagram, Eyehategod, Winter and Pelican at the Echoplex


When I woke up on Saturday morning, my ears were still ringing from the Alpinist and Masakari show in Vegas this past Wednesday, and I had worn earphones most of the time too. I wasn’t sure if I should be excited based on that, or perhaps worried that my face would proceed to melt off while my ears exploded in aural intensity. Fast forward to now – ears ringing, neck sore, body exhausted, and I have now witnessed Pentagram, Eyehategod, Winter, Pelican, and a slew of other bands live.

Shortly after Trap Them finished on the Echoplex stage, the majority of the crowd headed up stairs to catch the end of Alpinist’s set, and then see Black Breath. As much as I wanted to see Black Breath (Razor to Oblivion is pretty great!), I really needed to secure a decent spot in front of the stage for the rest of the night (there was a barrier in front, but it was very narrow, and being tall, I would get in the way of people as well, and didn’t want to crouch the whole time). Soon thereafter, sludgy post-metal instrumentalists Pelican began. Compared to the earlier bands, which were primarily various offshoots of hardcore, this was a bit of a change, though I suppose most of the people at Power of the Riff just for hardcore were upstairs anyhow. Anyways, Pelican were pretty great live, and the atmosphere of the music went over well, it seemed, with most.


Winter was one of the bands I was most excited to see. Into Darkness is one, I believe, the first death doom albums, and the intro “Oppression Freedom” is a monolithic slab of crushing doom, as is the whole album. Winter took the stage, the lights turned low, and the doom began, and they proceed to play the entire album of Into Darkness (which, for those who don’t know, is their only full length). A surprising amount of people seemed to yell/sing/growl along to John Alman’s “RISE!” at the beginning of “Servants of the Warsmen” and then headbang along (at times, very very slowly).


After Winter finished up was Louisiana’s sludge masters Eyehategod, though for some reason the set change was a bit delayed, and as a result, EHG’s set cut short by a little bit. Anyways, as soon as the band (including a very drunken Mike Williams) got on stage the crowd immediately closed in as the band started with the Take As Needed for Pain opener Blank. It really became a hassle to photograph the band as the entire crowd was pushing up towards the front, with the occasional crowd surfer and stage diver nearing where I was, but despite that, Eyehategod were fucking awesome. Mike’s tortured wails, Bower and Patton’s thick and heavy riffs, along with everything else combined to be what would be a hellish nightmare for the average person, but something much different to a metalhead.


And then there was one of the most classic heavy metal bands around: Pentagram. People kept yelling out for frontman Bobby Liebling, and when he, as well the rest of the band, hit the stage, there was not one person disappointed. The band opened with Treat Me Right off of the new album, which sounds like it came straight out of Pentagram’s past, filled with delicious guitar solos, played ever so awesomely-yet-nonchalantly by guitarist Victor Griffin, matched with Bobby’s classic vocals. Then, when one might have thought the crowd couldn’t have gotten more excited, Pentagram began Forever My Queen. One of the best parts of the performance was just watching Bobby, with his at times crazy expressions. As you can soon see from the pictures, it was awesome.

Pentagram (17)

There are still three more nights of Power of the Riff left, in San Francisco and Seattle. If you’re near them, you better go.

Check below for more pictures of the bands, and check back in a couple days for the second part of the review which covers most of the other bands that played the fest.


Pentagram (19)

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Pentagram (6)

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