In Flames - November 21, 2008 - The Warfield, San Francisco, CA
By: Jacob Richardson
The rawness of a concert can be a plus or a minus depending on what is expected of the performance. The success of a symphonic opus relies upon crisp acoustics. Operatic shows must have clarity as a top priority. The Warfield won’t soon be housing the Kronos Quartet for these reasons. The acoustic quality there dwindles as the sound bounces its way to the back balcony. For this show the rough edges worked in each band’s favor. For 36 Crazyfists, the first band of the night, the additional rawness was a huge help. They were playing to In Flames fans, people who no doubt also listen to other menacing bands like Chimaira, Devildriver, and Amon Amarth (saw t-shirts for all three) on a regular basis. The band held their own for their 30 minutes, but the deeply emotional choruses and lead singer’s bouncy leprechaun dance wore thin. Before the end of their short set, chants for the other bands were already starting to erupt from the crowd.
Of all four bands on the bill, Gojira was the red headed stepchild. Their style - a downright metaphysical assault with the crushing weight of Jupiter’s gravity - is drastically different from the other three. Like their reptilian namesake, the band emulates nothing short of a heavy and destructive force. There are no solos, no catchy melodic choruses, and definitely no chances to frolic. They enter with a purposefulness that exorcises any feelings of joviality left behind by 36 Crazyfists. Backlit by a frosty blue curtain of lights, the atmosphere of a pensive seriousness spread across the floor. The stage, cloaked in a thick white haze from an off-stage smoke machine, resembles a forest clearing one might spot a werewolf quietly prowling through on a critical hunt.
The crowd was held captive by the quiet intensity that proceeded the Frenchmen. They enter and launch straight into “Oroborus” the lead track to their new album The Way of All Flesh. It’s not a simple piece. Shifts and tempo changes careen the song into complex areas. The following songs were just as jarring. They opt not to blow through the more mainstream songs and instead force the crowd to keep guessing by grinding through a lot of the more experimental (yet also most punishing) slabs from their rock rolodex. Sometimes the audience was at a loss. Once they latched onto a demonic groove it would be transplanted by a totally different one leaving them in a lurch. But that’s the point of Gojira, isn’t it? They’re known as a thinking-man’s band. The crowd stopped blindly moshing into each other and instead stayed engaged to what was being poured out on stage. After they had been fed a few morsels of cerebral metal, the band belts out “Flying Whales” followed closely by “Backbon,” a pair of their most accessible and straightforward pieces. It was like Hansel and Gretel, Gojira slowly lured everyone into their intriguing chateau then buried the crowd in a mountain of searing riffs, syncopated drum fills, and viciously guttural vocals.
All That Remains had big shoes to fill left in the wake of Gojira’s pleasurable destruction. Their lighter sound seemed like fluff in comparison, but was actually a good lead in for In Flames, since their last album is arguably the most melodic yet. Their set wasn’t as strong as Gojira’s but they did offer the highlight of the night and won the “Metal Dudes Have Hearts Too Award” when they let a family member from a recently deceased friend who lived in San Francisco come on stage and give a short eulogy. The pit froze and even the most belligerent drunks were silent as everyone came together to mourn the loss of a fellow music lover.
In Flames begin their set on Red Bull status. Their first few songs were all high tempo ragers mixing the old (“The Hive” off of Whoracle) with the new (“Vanishing Point” off of Come Clarity). “Satellites and Astronauts” brought the crowd back down but when the chug of “System” began a full on riot broke out. Crowd surfers crashed together and piled on top of each other. The entirety of the floor area was a writhing sea of sweaty heads bouncing up and down. Surprisingly in their set they also included “Eraser,” a song not included on the new album, only on the EP, yet believed to be the best new track. Older cuts from The Jester Race and Clayman came and went (noticeably absent was “Only For The Weak”) but in all, the Scandinavians kept the main focus on supporting their new material. Anyone who may doubt the stamina of a band that’s released eight studio albums would be justified.
Frontman Anders Friden often took long breaks, disappearing off stage during solos presumably to grab water or sit down for a second. The rest of the band wasn’t terribly vivacious either, but it really didn’t matter. Their playing was spot on. The song selection through the entire set kept the pace and energy moving so the band didn’t have to. Come the end of the night an air of satisfaction sweetened the moist stench of fresh body odor and spilled beer wafting through the front doors and out into the chilly San Francisco night.