Concert Review: Powerglove, Mutiny Within, and Sonata Arctica 4/11/2010 at The House of Blues in Chicago

Roadrunner Records generously granted us an interview with AJ Jacobs, bassist for Mutiny Within, and tickets to attend the show afterwards.  We will be posting the interview shortly.  Although we attended the concert mainly to hear Mutiny Within, we enjoyed getting to know Powerglove and Sonata Arctica as well.

Powerglove

Powerglove played the first set. Contrapuntist and I were not familiar with this band, but we learned from their MySpace page that they play instrumental songs inspired by video games and cartoon characters. Although I got a kick out of their performance, I think that I’m about 15 years too old and the wrong gender to appreciate this band. They’re in sort of the same vein as Dragonforce – they don’t take themselves too seriously, and they’re out there to make the audience have a good time.

If I were to describe the performance in two words, I would call it cheerfully campy. Each band member wore cartoonish warrior outfits with foam spikes. The drummer, Bassil had two large banners emblazoned with the band’s name and topped by fake skulls attached to his back. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to play through an entire show attached to a couple of six-foot tall poles.

Powerglove did a fantastic job of reaching their target audience – teenaged male video game and cartoon fans. Near the beginning of the show, the band tossed foam swords and an inflatable bat into the audience with which people could “do battle”. Bassist/frontman Nick whipped the audience into a frenzy and had enough energy to compensate for lead guitarist Alex’s lackluster stage presence. They played one tune called “Tetris”, another about the Super Mario Brothers, and one about the X-Men and Wolverine (which Contrapuntist liked). They also did the theme song from the Transformers cartoon movie, which they decreed was, “the only real Transformers movie.” The grand finale was a Power Rangers song, and Nick encouraged the audience to chant, “Go, go, Power Rangers!”

Mutiny Within

Contrapuntist and I had received a review copy of Mutiny Within‘s self-titled debut album back in January (you can check out our review here). We both fell in love with the band’s instrumental virtuosity and vocalist Chris Clancy’s phenomenal voice. But the true test of any band’s talent is their live show. Mutiny Within surpassed our expectations.

Lead guitarist Brandon Jacobs, rhythm guitarist Dan Bage, bassist AJ Jacobs, keyboardist Drew Stavola, and drummer Bill Fore displayed exceptional technical skills while emitting enough energy to power 10 space shuttles. Contrapuntist, who is a guitarist, told me that he was impressed by the intricacy of the guitar lines. We were both electrified by Chris Clancy’s voice. The album cannot do justice to the raw power of his live singing, which mixes the high vocal range of a Rob Halford or Ronnie James Dio with heavy growls. His powerful screams reminded me of a giant bird of prey descending on the audience.  He has astounding control and sings difficult vocal lines while bounding across the stage, leaping onto the speakers, and crowd surfing.

Mutiny Within’s set list included nine songs off of their album plus the song “The End” from the recently released God of War EP. Contrapuntist and I were thrilled that they played our favorite songs. I love “Falling Forever” because it showcases Clancy’s voice. The song begins with Clancy singing in his highest register. It always gave me chills when I heard it on the CD, but when I heard it live, all of my hair stood on end. Clancy bookmarked the end of the song with another bonus yell. I was also fascinated by Stavola and Brandon Jacobs’ complex technical work on the undulating riffs which run through most of the song. Stavola’s brief classical-style keyboard solo led into Contrapuntist’s favorite song, “Forsaken”. Contrapuntist enjoyed hearing Clancy’s brilliant vocal slides. The band finished their set with “Lethean”. It’s wicked on the album and absolutely brutal live.

Mutiny Within will be returning to Chicago two more times at Reggie’s Rock Club on May 21 (with Dark Tranquility and Threat Signal) and on June 22 (with Soilwork and Death Angel). So if you have the opportunity to see them, go do it. It’s an adrenaline rush you’ll never forget.

Sonata Arctica

Although I’ve heard a lot about legendary symphonic metal band Sonata Arctica, I’ve never listened to their music. Contrapuntist has listened to some of their stuff through MOG, and he was looking forward to getting to know their music better at the concert. The band has good energy and rapport with the audience. Lead singer Tony Kakko had the most charisma, a quirky sense of humor, and a smooth voice. All of their songs have singable melodies and are quite catchy.

Sonata Arctica played quite a few tunes off their 2009 album The Days of Grays, but we were most drawn to the songs off of their older albums towards the middle of their set. The works were slow with a nice drum groove. As I mentioned before, we unfortunately are not familiar with all of their albums, so I don’t know the names of the songs (if anybody can illuminate me, please don’t hesitate to!). Contrapuntist felt that their more recent songs could have used some variation in the drums and guitar rhythms.  In addition, Contrapuntist thought that it would have been nice for the guitarist to play different pitches than the singer.

We were impressed by the band’s message and intellectual side. There was one moment where Kakko spoke to the audience about how the older he gets, the more he realizes that it is important to respect your parents. That’s not something often heard at metal concerts, and I thought it was a nice message to spread to the mostly teenaged audience. Later, Kakko delved into the cerebral as he was describing “Juliet”, a song loosely based on the theme of lost love from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

I certainly have a great deal of respect for this band, and I am interested in checking out some of their older albums so I can get to know them better.

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