The Black Dahlia Murder/Stage 48/June 15, 2018

    The Black Dahlia Murder formed as a death metal band in 2001 in Waterford, Mich. The band’s name was derived from the still-unsolved 1947 murder of actress Elizabeth Short, often referred to as Black Dahlia. The band currently comprises two original members, vocalist Trevor Strnad and rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbach, plus bassist Max Lavelle, drummer Alan Cassidy, and new lead guitarist Brandon Ellis. The Black Dahlia Murder’s eighth and most recent album, Nightbringers, was released on Oct. 6, 2017.

    For this co-headlining tour with Whitechapel, which stopped at Stage 48 tonight, the Black Dahlia Murder promised to play Nightbringers in its entirety. This was a bold announcement, in that such a move is usually reserved for a classic album rather than a new collection, and in that using most of the set time for one album precludes a “greatest hits” retrospective. Indeed, the Black Dahlia Murder played the nine new tracks plus four songs from the first three albums. Nevertheless, perhaps it did not matter what songs the band performed, as they were all performed the same way, with a brutal impact that made faces in the audience feel like punching bags. For most of the set, the speedy, thrusting music sound like perpetual thunder, with Strnad’s coarse vocals and Ellis’ searing guitar leads penetrating through the din. The growled and garbled lyrics were as violent as the jackhammer music. The Black Dahlia Murder remains the poster band for extreme metal music.

 

Rhiannon Giddens/SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield/June 16, 2018

    Originally from Greensboro, NC, Rhiannon Giddens studied opera as a young adult in Oberlin, Ohio. She then discovered American and European roots music and her music trajectory shifted to learning to sing and play guitar, fiddle and banjo. In 2005, Giddens was competing in Scottish music competitions and attended the Black Banjo Then and Now Gathering, in Boone, North Carolina. There she met Dom Flemons and Sule Greg Wilson, and the three started a “postmodern string band” called Sankofa Strings. Later in 2005, Giddens and Flemons teamed with other musicians and formed the Carolina Chocolate Drops; Giddens is currently the only remaining original member of the Grammy-winning band. Giddens’ second and most recent solo studio album, Freedom Highway, was released on Feb. 24, 2017. Since then, Giddens has portrayed Hannah Lee “Hallie” Jordan, a social worker with the voice of an angel, in CMT’s television series Nashville. Giddens is based in Greensboro, NC, and Limerick, Ireland.

    Headlining a free concert at SummerStage Central Park at Rumsey Playfield, Rhiannon Giddens explored Appalachian folk, bluegrass, country and old-time music, but also expanded deeper into vintage gospel, blues, jazz, and rhythm & blues than she did with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Her accompanists included Hubby Jenkins, her partner in the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who sang one song. Giddens’ soprano featured crystal-clear tones, warm ranges and simmering emotions. The largely stringed and simplified small group arrangements captured the homespun beauty of the compositions, balanced successfully as she shifted from rural to urban roots. Giddens is an avid researcher, so she introduced many songs with enthralling timelines paralleling black history and music history. The combination of astute academics and pristine performance resulted in a riveting contextual soundtrack for a series of virtual snapshots of American musical history.

 

Bad Wolves/The Gramercy Theatre/June 19, 2018

    After six albums with DevilDriver, which he co-founded in 2002, drummer John Boecklin left the band in 2014 and two years later launched a new project called I of Tongues. In 2015, Boecklin and Brooklynite Tommy Vext (ex-Divine Heresy, ex-Snot) spoke about forming a melodic metal band that featured more singing than screaming. By 2017 they had recruited lead guitarist Doc Coyle (ex-God Forbid), rhythm guitarist Chris Cain (ex-Bury Your Dead, ex-For the Fallen Dreams) and bassist Kyle Konkiel (ex-In This Moment, Vimic) to form Bad Wolves, based in Los Angeles. The band released a debut studio album, Disobey, on May 11, 2018.

    Bad Wolves is best known for its 2018 cover of the Cranberries‘ 1994 protest song, “Zombie,” written by Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan about the 1993 IRA bombings in Warrington, England. O’Riordan, was supposed to have added her vocals to Bad Wolves’ cover of the song, but she died in a suicide the day before the recording session. The band recorded the cover without her, and promised all proceeds to O’Riordan’s children. Just before Bad Wolves performed at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, the band presented a check for $250,000 to O’Riordan’s ex-husband and two sons, with the promise of more to come.

    “Zombie” was indeed the concert’s showstopper, but the band also performed 11 other tracks from the 13-track album as well. While the album is a collection of super-slick power metal songs, the live performance drove those songs into a grittier terrain. Vext sang with a smooth voice for much of the set, but even from the opening song opened his larynx for rough growling melodies. The first part of the volatile set incorporated crashing elements of nu metal and later songs borrowed a bit from hip hop and progressive rock. The band found its way to ballads as well, including “Hear Me Know,” during which Vext invited opening act Diamante to perform a duet as on the album. Bad Wolves demonstrated that it has an arsenal of diverse hard rockers, but it may take time for the band to become known for more than a commercial cover song.

 

 

Mike Shinoda/The Gramercy Theatre/June 20, 2018

    In Agoura Hills, Calif., Mike Shinoda‘s mother encouraged her six-year-old son to take classical piano lessons. By 13, he moved toward jazz, blues, and hip-hop, and during his middle school and high school years he added the guitar and rap-style vocals to his repertoire. Shinoda formed Xero with two of his high school friends in 1996; the band became Hybrid Theory and then Linkin Park in 1999 with the addition of Chester Bennington. Bennington became Linkin Park’s primary singer, while Shinoda also sang and rapped on many tracks. Linkin Park has won two Grammy Awards and sold more than 70 million albums worldwide. In 2004, Shinoda conceived a short-lived hip-hop-driven side project, Fort Minor. More recently, he released under his own name the Post Traumatic EP on Jan. 25, 2018; the EP featured three songs articulating his feelings regarding Bennington’s 2017 suicide. Shinoda’s debut solo album, also entitled Post Traumatic, was released on June 15, 2018.

    At the Gramercy Theatre, Mike Shinoda performed solo, singing, rapping, and playing various instruments accompanied by backing tracks. The repertoire consisted of songs from Linkin Park, Fort Minor and Shinoda’s solo work, plus a few seemingly impromptu detours, yet as a whole the set took a decidedly more pop turn than Linkin Park’s nu metal and alternative rock; Shinoda’s baritone hip-hop style met pop hooks in places where Linkin Park probably never would have gone. Curiously, Shinoda’s newer lyrics do not seem like fodder for hits; they seemed more like a cathartic journey through Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief. Nevertheless, the repetitious hook lines, melodies and arrangements were meant for chanting or dancing, not brooding or healing. It would seem that Shinoda has left metal music, at least for now, in favor of Top 40 dreams.

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