Magazine: Metal Maniacs / USA
Report: Hammerfall - Death
Venue: Zeppelin's House Of Music -
New Orleans

Written by: Mike G.
Pictures by: Paul Gargano
Published: June 1999


New Orleans, LA--Bourbon Street on a Friday night in December: One long drunken frat party where bars allow you to walk out into the streets with a drink in each hand. Drunken tourists bump into sober musicians who scurry to get to gigs. Bars pop up every two or three doorways next to strip joints, adult bookstores, voodoo emporiums, fastdrink takeout stands, gay gogo boy joints, leather shops catering to fetishists of all types, Cajun restaurants and dark shadowy hallways which lead to who-knows-where. The bars themselves carry an aura of expectancy, of litedanger, of sexual come-ons. Everyone has a strange glint in their eyes. One Amazonian female (musta been at least 7 feet) leads a guy around on a leash. The bars advertise two-for-one drink specials with hawkers who try to lure you in with promises of cool frosty beverages and loud music. Each place is dark, crowded, smoky and loud. One room has hiphop, one blues, one oldstyle soul, one garage rock, one country, one zydeco, the best of which is easily The Krazy Corner, 540 Bourbon Street, a cool no-pressure class act with good food and strong drinks where a jump-blues band called Rooster & Chicken Hawks are pounding us into submission. They're so good I lose all control, down three shots, grab two girls and start dancing like a madman whose soul is inhabited by Mr. Bo Jangles. I need exorcism. A drink in each hand, the music stops, yet I'm too thrilled to stop and boogie my way out into the street, still smoking, dancing, drinking and singing. Then I stop and realize something. Where's the metal?



Way on the outskirts of the Crescent City, in a Louisiana suburb called Metairie, lies a small strip called Fat City, a rundown outpouring of restaurants, strip clubs and bars. One club, (Zeppelin's House Of Music), has the metal. In spades. Like the ringing of Hell's Bells. For tonight, our own tour, sponsored by this magazine, will kick out the motherfucking jams long and loud. Yeah, Death and Hammerfall are in town and it's gonna be a long night.

As technicians scurry to get just the right levels, the sound guy doubles selling merch, the PR lady doubles as the lighting tech, Hammerfall and Death do their local interviews, and the room starts to fill with the black t-shirted pierced 'n' tatooed crowd. Fist raised in solidarity, the exuberant cries of "METAL!" fill the air, air already beset by the smell of stale beer and cigarettes. Girls who must be 18, look 14 and act 12 shriek in delight as they put lipstick stains on their joints and flirt with shaved-head dudes who are all over them, leering at their bellys and cleavage. It's getting crowded.

Hammerfall was supposed to go on at 9. It's past 10 and the stage isn't even ready. I grab one of the merch guys and we go down the street for some refreshing beverages and skingazing. The girl on the bar has ugly stretch marks and tracks on her arms. We leave. Back on the bus, Death head Chuck Schuldiner is holding court. "It's all connected", he says of the disparate styles of the two bands on tour together. "It's a great bill. Hammerfall embraces a gloriously true metal tradition and Death takes that tradition and expands upon it for the future". "Metal is alive in the US", says a Hammerfall guy. "And we've got the balls to take it forward", shouts Chuck, half rising. "We want to reprogram America. Forcefeed this country! It's a mission. A serious matter! I mean, hey, we're fans and we wanna promote the music we love. It's as simple as that. We live for this shit!" The bus breaks out in spontaneous applause.

Death's set is a death grin of tremendous stop 'n' start timing, syncopated weirdness, guitarhero pyrothechnics and that death yowl of vocal abrasion. "The Philosopher", "Spirit Crusher", "Trapped In A Corner", "Scavenger Of Human Sorrow", "Crystal Mountain", "Flesh And The Power It Holds" and "Pull The Plug" are juxtaposed with metal flag waving and honest/sincere between-song banter.

Clearly, Chuck loves being here and doing this.... as does the crowd. The only disappointment is their missing killer cover of Judas Priest's "Painkiller". Backstage, alone, Chuck is smiling, sweating, wiping his guitar with a white rag, and saying something I never thought he'd say. "I don't like having to do what I do vocally in Death" he sneers. "I'm tired of the so-called death vocal style. Night after night after night. I like clean vocals. Y'know, in my other band, Control Denied, I'm just the guitarplayer. Control Denied takes what I do in Death to the next step. That shit that was reported about Control Denied being some alternative wannabe band is crap. You know that". I nod in solem agreement. "Control Denied is a metal band, man", he continues. It's taking metal to the next level and I love it. We're certainly not gonna pull a Metallica on people".
I leave, sensing Chuck wants to be alone with his thoughts. Plus, there's about 50 kids who want a sliver of time with the guitarist.

Chuck, let it be known, is one of the most underrated guitarists in all of metal. You never hear his name bandied about when the talk turns to Yngwie-type guitar heroes. Yet after seeing his fingers flying up and down the frets of his ratatattat machinegun guitar, I'm a convert. He's incredible. His left hand resembles a spider. His chording is intricate. His control cannot be denied. You can sense him holding back during some solos, yet he goes all out on others. The sounds he gets are inhuman, a Hendrixian pastiche of caterwauling high ends offset by the thunderous Death rhythm section of drummer Richard Christy and Bassist Scott Clendenin. There's a definite percussive ping to his rapacious fretboard meanderings.... a trebly rock 'em sock 'em that invites the spirit to move.

After a solid Hammerfall set that included "Heeding The Call", "The Metal Age", "Stronger Than All", "Steel Meets Steel", "Let The Hammer Fall" and a finale cover of Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law" that had them all switching instruments, Chuck's stop/start Death timing was the perfect foil. If Hammerfall encapsulates metal's historic significance within rock 'n' roll with a dynamic flair, then Chuck's Death points the way, as he says, towards its future. A future, according to Chuck, that may lead with clean, rather than death, vocals.

Back on Bourbon Street in the early morning hours.... the tourists are gone. Folks in the street look so incredibly stoned. Hookers beckon. Junkies nod. The danger is escalated. Lemme outa here.

Mike G.





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EmptyWords-Published on April 15 2001