How I survived three days of heavy metal

Black Sabbath
Photo by Sharlene Celeskey

I hold tickets for three different metal shows on consecutive nights. When I attend one metal concert I experience a very intense show and the earsplitting music can be hard on both my ears and entire body. I cannot imagine three straight nights of deep pulsating bass, harsh attacking guitars, abrasive vocals and brash noisy drums.

Scandinavian Metal combines previous styles to create a new sound.

I discovered the melodic death metal Finnish band, Wintersun five years ago when I started listening to current European Metal. Although America and Britain always dominated the metal scene since the beginning, European bands especially Scandinavian groups have gained popularity with various styles of Folk, Viking, Symphonic, Death, Power, and other types of metal.

Wintersun’s opening band is Fleshgod Apocalypse from Italy and they stun when they start their set. They play death techno symphonic metal and dress like zombie members of a Victorian orchestra. Their velvet cloaked female backup singer has an operatic style that adds beauty to this unusual mixture of metal genres.

Tonight’s crowd is the typical male dominated crowd and with the exception of the moshers is a pretty polite group. When the crowd is made up of mostly men there is never a line at the women’s restroom; but when the men have been moshing for several hours, I smell 10 different varieties of body odor.

            I grow anxious for Wintersun to start since it is Thursday, August 29th, and I have work tomorrow and my energy starts to wane. When they make their entrance, they start playing with a force that immediately invigorates me. I move closer to the front but the only empty space is on stage right in front of a huge speaker.

            I am enjoy standing in front of the lead guitarist,Teemu Mäntysaari, because one of the reasons I listen to metal is for the complex and skilled guitar work and he does not disappoint. The blonde charismatic Jari Mäenpää, singer and guitarist, wins me over immediately as he works the crowd by smiling and dialoguing with the crowd. Wintersun plays a killer style of folk, death, Viking and symphonic metal. The contrasts between the vastly different music styles works wonderfully well as they move back and forth from melodic music with tuneful vocals to fast paced guitar metal with harsh deep vocals. It works perfectly as it aurally sooths one minute and then assaults the next. I survive night one with only partial deafness.

Black Sabbath, the original metal band, reunites for reunion tour.

Originally, I boycott Black Sabbath’s reunion tour since a contract dispute results in the ousting of original drummer Bill Ward, and Ozzy Osbourne was never a good singer. Then I remember when I bought the first Black Sabbath album, and the nostalgia of the experience changes my mind. I picked up the reddish gothic looking album with the haunted mill and black clothed woman and immediately purchased it for the cover. When I put it on the stereo, I was both amazed and mystified at this very different, dark new music with incredible guitar riffs. I did not know this was the first true heavy metal band.

Minor mishaps make me late for the concert and I feel very stressed when I enter U.S. Airways Arena on Friday night, August 30th. Hurrying in my flip-flops through the concession stand area I hear Black Sabbath start the show. Unaware of spilled beer on the floor, I panic as I start falling to the floor and cannot catch my balance. I hit one knee hard as the other leg goes out in front of me and I cry out loud in pain. Fortunately, a considerate young man immediately stops his running help me up.

My friend secures ice from a vendor, we hurriedly enter the area, and my knee starts throbbing as I walk down the stairs to my seat. While seated, I put ice in a cotton scarf, wrap it around my knee, and then standup like the rest of the aging crowd to better view the show. I am shocked at how great Black Sabbath performs despite Ozzy walking hunched over and moving like a much man older than 64. He is charismatic, happy to be performing and really throws himself into his singing with his vocals sounding similar to his early Sabbath albums. The real star of the show is guitarist Tony Iommi who invented the heavy metal riff. His aggressive playing is exciting and I eagerly wait for his perfectly executed and melodic solos. We all respond by extra loud shouting and constant clapping. Since the excitement in the large arena is electrifying, I forget my injured knee is throbbing.  The band mesmerizes us with Black Sabbath hits and new songs from their album 13 for 90 minutes, and then I come back to reality when the encore is over, and I climb the stairs while the shooting pain starts. Despite a bad tumble and smelling more pot than I have since ‘70s concerts, I survive night two of heavy metal.

Glenn Danzig combines his punk roots with the dark music of Sabbath.

Another band from my metal past, Danzig, is finally playing their rescheduled May show on Saturday, August 31st. I will be standing up front near the speakers since this is a club concert in a spacious venue with plenty of moshing.

In 1970, Glenn Danzig also bought Black Sabbath’s first album for the dark Gothic themed cover. He later started in 1978 the very popular hardcore punk band the Misfits, the forerunner of his current heavy metal blues band.

I do not look forward to the Danzig concert since I am tired, my knee is swollen, and I have seen him multiple times. I am also disappointed that he canceled in May citing he was sick. I suspect it was due to the New Times article mentioning his well-known fight in Tuba City, Ariz . The paper interviewed local North Side Kings singer Danny Marianino, who knocked out Danzig almost a decade ago. Someone recorded it and it became a hit on YouTube.

The rude and rowdy audience spills their beer everywhere, so to avoid falling, I stand upfront on the side where the speaker will blast the dark heavy metal music into my brain via my ears. I am so agitated tonight; and when an enthusiastic girl asks me if I am excited to see Danzig, I snap back no. She looks at me in shock. When Danzig comes on, the crowd yells, screams and gives the sign of the horns. After two nights of intense blaring music I am numb to the songs I know so well. Although he sounds better than on past tours, he still bores me.

After 40 minutes I just want to leave and then Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, former member of the Misfits comes out. As soon as this tall super muscular Frankenstein garbed guitarist lurches onto the stage, the audience both screams and claps louder. When the band switches to the fast paced punk Misfit songs, I wake up supercharged. Now the concert begins for me. I feel deliriously happy to hear live the catchy, funny, dark songs I have not heard for decades. I am amazed at how the band is more energized as everyone turns his performance up a few notches. The band plus Doyle performs Misfit tunes for almost half of their set and I forget both my knee and my feet are aching. As I leave the theater with ears ringing, I, too, talk about how great Danzig and Doyle performed and realize I survived the painful day three of metal.

How am I after three consecutive nights of heavy metal? Hyped up and partially deaf but still standing. There is something about the intensity and power of live metal music that re-energizes me and I feel renewed.




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