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The Haunted, Dark Tranquillity, Into Eternity, Scar Symmetry - March 30, 2007 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls Theatre

By: David E. Gehlke

One of the better concert packages in recent memory, the Metal For The Masses tour was without a dud on the bill. Perhaps buoyed by the strength of the lineup and the fact it was a Friday night, turnout was optimum and filled the cavernous Mr. Smalls Theatre quite nicely.

On its first jaunt through the States, Sweden’s Scar Symmetry opened the show. Culling material from its “Pitch Black Progress” and “Symmetric In Design” albums, the band made the most of its 30-minute time slot. Stage presence was a bit stiff, as guitarists Jonas Kjellgren and Per Nilsson were more intent on staring at their fingers than entertaining the crowd, but the contingent was won over. Set highlights included “The Illusionist,” “Mind Machine” and “Chaosweaver.”

Into Eternity followed, making its second appearance in Pittsburgh in six months, the first being a one-off show promoted by none other than yours truly. With new members Justin Bender (guitar) and Steve Bolgonese (drums) still getting their feet wet, the band suffered through a muddy mix, as guitarist/vocalist Tim Roth struggled mightily to get his instrument's sound right, going as far as to criticize the manufacturer of his guitar amp.

In spite of Roth’s problems, Into Eternity got the evening's best response, as “Timeless Winter” and “Nothing” showcased the stunning vocal talents of Stu Block, who hit all of his falsetto highs without a problem. Kudos to the inclusion of “Spiraling Into Depression” and set closer “Beginning Of The End”—two of the band's most colossal songs that upped the ante in terms of technicality and showmanship. Some may find Into Eternity's onstage antics being a bit hokey, but the jovial and fun-loving stage persona it has adopted is certainly a breath of fresh air amidst all of the Poe-faced boys prowling the boards these days. A band to watch, no doubt.

Dark Tranquillity hit up every album of its vast catalog save for its “Skydancer” debut during its 90-minute set. Frontman Michael Stanne is one of the best in the biz, thanks to his constantly bounding across the stage and interacting with the crowd. Some golden nuggets of DT’s catalog were unearthed—“Hedons” from “The Mind’s I” album, “The Sun Fired Blanks” from “Projector” and “The Treason Wall” from “Damage Done.” Impressive new cuts from forthcoming album “Fiction” were aired, but no DT song compares to “Punish My Heaven,” which got the most rapturous response.

By the time The Haunted appeared, the crowd was starting to thin as midnight approached. As expected, the band leaned heavily on songs from “The Dead Eye,” including “The Medication,” “The Flood” and “The Shifter.” Since they are a detour from The Haunted’s usual sound, response was a bit mixed, which was a shame, because these are some very strong songs. Matters improved when the band busted out “In Vein,” “D.O.A” and “Trespass,” a trio of songs that are among The Haunted's finest. It was rewarded with a healthy mosh pit.

Special mention must go to rhythm guitarist Patrik Jensen, who might be one of the tightest players in all of metal, regardless of genre. Lead singer Peter Dolving was his usual bizarre self, rarely interacting with the crowd while stalking the stage like a man hopped up on medication. No, that isn’t a shot at Dolving. His stage persona is one of a kind and offsets the loitering of bandmates the Bjorler twins.

To put this show in perspective, the last time The Haunted headlined in Pittsburgh was in late 2001 with Witchery. It was a Friday night just like this one, and there were no more than 100 people present at the now-closed Club Laga. Six years and three more albums later, The Haunted may not be a bona-fide headliner yet, but when paired with three excellent openers, it indicates just how far Swedish metal and metal in general has come in the States. There is hope for the future after all . . .


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