Music review: Five metal bands build to Godsmack finale

Godsmack ended a series of five metal bands at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Friday night.

Godsmack ended a series of five metal bands at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Friday night. While Godsmack was the clear draw, the crowd of 14,000-plus, and their hyper energy, were in full-blown force by the fourth band, Skillet, making way for Five Finger Death Punch before Godsmack finished the long day.

The show was impressively loud, the music scarily ominous and militant, and the audience jammed with pierced, tattoed and shirtless bodies.

Skillet, for all its volume, massive chords, screaming vocals and banging, delivered a 40-minute set of melodic, familiar tunes. Front man John Cooper can scream, but he can also sing. And he often did both, like on the song “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” where lyrics included lines like “You were a poison, you flooded through my veins.”

The four-piece band includes two women: Korey Cooper on guitar and keys, and Jen Ledger on drums. Ledger was the most physical drummer of the night by far, slamming her entire body into her hits, and using her her snare and hi-hat more than the double-bass thrumming often standard in metal.

Two stringed players added a gothic flavor that heightened the dark drama of their songs. Cooper gave a quick speech about the “war on your soul … in this war they tell you what to do, and what to think … I’m tired of being told what to do.”

Don’t mess with Ivan Moody, the singer for Five Finger Death Punch, the band that followed Skillet. Moody works the stage like a fighter. While he thrashes his fist, kicks and gestures violently, he’s actually dancing. The band plays thrashing metal — edging toward hostile — that can lift some while threatening others.

The songs were fierce, like “Never Enough” and “Hard to See,” on constant attack and not concerned with clarity. The audience fed on the aggression, not the instrumentation. Moody called his crowd “family.”

Godsmack, led by Sully Erna, is a clear cut above the others at the show. While they attack like the best of the heavy bands, they were probably the lightest of the night. Strip away the antics, and their music moves like rock ’n’ roll, like “Straight Out of Line” and “Forever Shamed.” The group fell into nice pockets together on most of the tunes as they crunched through their raunchy tunes.

While he sang songs like “The Enemy,” he wore an anti-war patch on his jeans. He’s a very cool presence on stage, carrying rhythm guitar while delivering the lead vocals. There were guitar solos occasionally from Tony Rombola, and Shannon Larkin is a nutso drummer to watch, but for the most part your eyes stay on Erna — he rules the stage in his cool, even humble, way.

Their menacing side came through with songs like “Awake,” and then “Speak,” its instrumental opening a possible soundtrack for the underworld. Despite these, the music felt far calmer, more contained and skilled than the previous bands, and the audience seemed to diffuse with it as well.

Is is my experience that the rougher the music and crowd, the more precise the timing of the night. The bands went on and off exactly as planned (try keeping a jazz fest on schedule). While the large majority of the crowd seemed sober, intermittently a crew of security rushed past you to break up a variety of outbursts.

Openers included the local Selfish Needy Creatures, Egypt Central and Sick Puppies.

Categories: Entertainment

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