By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Three major heavy metal/hard-rock tours are coming to town this week, representing three far-flung corners of the rock universe: Invading the city are Christian-hair-metal holdovers from the '80s, arty alien invaders and major-label maulers flanked by underground behemoths. So massive is this über-rock overload that we suspect there's more afoot than simply a week of big gigs. This is a showdown. The end of days is near — and the apocalypse itself will take place live, in front of your naked, steaming eyeballs. Here's your tip sheet for the seven horsemen. (Editor's note: After this piece was written, arena-rock radio kings Creed cancelled their Tuesday, October 13, performance at the Chaifetz Arena. Refunds available at the point of purchase.)
Best Known For: Creed's three LPs have sold a staggering 24 million copies in the US alone —1997's My Own Prison six mil, 1999's Human Clay twelve and 2001's Weathered another six. A new album, Full Circle, arrives Tuesday, October 27. And if the live show from this reunion tour is any indicator, it should be a good one — the band still has it.
Notoriously Known For: Radio-rock staples such as "With Arms Wide Open" and "My Sacrifice," which are usually about suspect stuff like having faith and feelings. Like, tender feelings.
Recommended Listening: Say what you will — "Higher" (from Human Clay) is one of the great rock singles of its age. And it sure as shit sounds better since Creed abdicated the kingdom and the reign of Nickelback began.
What to expect: After a notorious onstage meltdown, Stapp split with the band, recorded solo material and more famously appeared on a sex tape with Kid Rock and some special friends. Now that he's cleaned up and remarried, Stapp has shaved his head in penance and delivers each song about brotherhood and redemption as a personal revelation. He's still got his voice, and the band — which is touring as a quintet, with a second guitarist — is on its game. This greatest-hits tour might as well be a WWE show, from pyro blasts to onetime PPV theme songs such as "My Sacrifice."
How Many Metal Horns This Show Deserves: More than you'd think. We'll generously grant it three on a scale of 1 to 6. The big-bucks stage show really is badass. Plus, as a youth, guitarist Mark Tremonti cut his teeth listening to thrash bands such as Celtic Frost. And once you know he's a metal guy from way back, it's suddenly clear that tunes such as "Torn" and "What's This Life For" totally borrow guitar tones from Metallica.
HQ: Orange County, California (same as Avenged Sevenfold and 18 Visions!)
Best Known For: This hard-shredding Christian band was the only (kinda) big '80s metal band that flew the flag for Jesus. The group's name was taken from Isaiah 53:5, and the band claim its name stands for "Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness." We suspect it had more to do with obligatory suspect Badd Metal Speling and their stage outfits.
Notoriously Known For: Ham-fisted songs about rockin' out in the name of Christ, as in "Soldiers Under Command," in which singer Michael Sweet declared, "We are the soldiers under God's command/We win without sin."
Recommended Listening: Soldiers Under Command (1985)
What to expect: This tour marks the 25th anniversary of the band's debut, The Yellow and Black Attack, and the return of golden-era bassist Tim Gaines. After splitting in the '90s, the group has been back together for the better part of a decade, so they should be in fine form for a set of greatest hits and cuts from the new Murder by Pride LP. Also, expect new yellow-and-black costumes. Seriously. We're guessing these ones aren't spandex, though.
How Many Metal Horns This Show Deserves: 2. 1) The guys can play, and "Soldiers Under Command" will send you home with its riff ringing in your skull for at least a week. And 2) they paved the way for totally credible contemporary metal bands such as Demon Hunter and August Burns Red.
Band: GWAR (in all capital letters, if you know what's good for you, earthling)
HQ: A galaxy far, far away. Or Virginia.
Best Known For: The band's new album, Lust in Space (Get it?! — Ed.), recently crashed the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, landing at No. 96. This prompted frontman Oderus Urungus to issue a press release saying: "We are appalled, shocked, outraged and completely ecstatic over GWAR's latest masterwork.... In keeping with my finally confirmed über-rock-star status, I have already vomited on Lindsay Lohan's puss, visited the Obama girls and sodomized Carrot Top."
Notoriously Known For: The band began 25 years ago, when a group of art students decided to become sex-obsessed intergalactic warlords. Which is totally better work than gallery shows. Over two dozen members have rotated through indie-metal's most elaborate and long-running shtick.
Recommended Listening: Try 1995's Ragnarök LP, which netted the group a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance ("S.F.W."). And people seem to dig the new one. But really, they all sound pretty much the same.
What to Expect: The quintet's completely over-the-top stage show sends fan home sticky. Be prepared for buckets of goo, waves of gunk and awesomely exaggerated spiked-armor costumes.
How Many Metal Horns This Show Deserves: 6.
Bands: Mastodon, Converge, High on Fire, and Dethklok
HQ: Mastodon: the ATL (Atlanta). Converge: Massachusetts. High on Fire: Oakland. Dethklok: Mordhaus — the secret base of operations for the Scandinavian-American band. Dethklok represents the twelfth-largest economy on earth in the Adult Swim Metalocalypse cartoon. Metal all-stars recorded the fake group's real debut album, 2007's The Dethalbum, which is the top-selling death-metal disc of all time — and deservedly so.
Best Known For: Mastodon is this era's great major-label metal hope. The dense new concept album, Crack the Skye, crams the entire history of hard rock into 50 minutes and seven tracks, from proggy freakouts ("The Last Baron") to metal-assault drumming ("Quintessence").
Notoriously Known For: Mastodon's working toward the day it can mount massive stage productions to match its sprawling, element-themed albums, such as 2004's Leviathan, which was a raging adaptation of Moby Dick. But until then, it's using its major-label money to mount the gnarliest package tour of the year — possibly decade — with a bunch of their buds.
Recommended Listening: Mastodon, Crack the Skye (Reprise). Converge, the new album Axe to Fall (Epitaph) is a blistering metallic masterpiece, but it's not out until later this month, so you'll have to make do with the post-hardcore volcano that is 2006's No Heroes. High on Fire, Blessed Black Wings, which was produced by Nirvana/Pixies engineer Steve Albini.
What to Expect: Total fucking destruction. Bruised shins, blown-out ear drums, aches & pains, and hangovers that'll last until the Converge album comes out.
How Many Metal Horns This Show Deserves: 6.66