Friday, October 24, 2014

Album Review: Slipknot-.5: The Gray Chapter

The last half-decade has been incredibly difficult for Iowa metal juggernauts Slipknot. Since the release of their last record All Hope is Gone in 2008, bassist Paul Gray died of a drug overdose and they severed ties with founding drummer Joey Jordison. After Gray's death, there was a lot of speculation that Slipknot was going to disband. After their lengthy and tumultuous hiatus, Slipknot has returned with their fifth full-length album, .5: The Gray Chapter, which serves as the perfect remembrance of Gray.

.5: The Gray Chapter acts as kind of a retrospective of Slipknot's career so far. There are clear elements from all four of their previous records present here and it gives the record a consistently-shifting tone that none of Slipknot's previous work has had. .5: The Gray Chapter has everything from tender ballads ("Goodbye", "If Rain is What You Want") to borderline radio-friendly alternative rock ("The Devil in I", "The One That Kills the Least") to aggressive, angst-ridden anthems that make their classic songs like "Surfacing" and "My Plague" ("Custer", "Lech") sound modest in comparison wrapped up in a relatively tight 62-minute package. Covering so much diverse musical ground in the course of a single album sounds a bit messy on paper, but they are able to pull it off without it sounding too jarring or forced. Slipknot has never been a band that tries to go in a bunch of different directions with their music, so to see them do it here was quite refreshing 

It's evident that making this record triggered a lot of different emotions for the band and they put all of them- no matter ugly or dark they are -into this record. Losing someone you love under tragic circumstances brings up a wide-range of emotions, and Slipknot spends this album perfectly articulating that. Of course with this being Slipknot, those emotions are sometimes peppered with obscenity and juvenile lyrics, but they're genuine nonetheless. Even on the couple of tracks that don't work at all (the aforementioned "Lech" and "If Rain is What You Want"), you still have to admire their efforts because the heart of the music is so authentic.

.5: The Gray Chapter is at its best when simultaneously balancing the heavy and experimental elements. Album standout "Killpop" delights with its eerie, subdued verses and bursts of explosive heaviness throughout. "Killpop" also serves as Corey Taylor's best vocal performance on the entire record. Even at age 40, Taylor still displays one of the most impressive vocal ranges in the business. There are some higher notes that he can't hit anymore, but for the most part his voice hasn't dipped too much in quality in the 15 years since the release of their debut album. Tracks like "Sarcastrophe", "Nomadic" and "AOV" offer up similar dynamic pleasures with lengthy melodic guitar sections, punchy riffs, blast beats from their anonymous new drummer and Taylor conjuring up some screams that he hasn't pulled out since their 2001 LP Iowa. There are plenty of great pure heavy and melodic moments on this record, but .5: The Gray Chapter is only truly brilliant when it mixes the two together within the same song. 

.5: The Gray Chapter is a very satisfying output from these masked metal veterans. It's not anything groundbreaking and there are spots where it's way too over-the-top with angst even by Slipknot standards, but it more than makes up for its flaws with its overwhelmingly genuine emotional core and consistently diverse musical offerings. Given all the member changeover, behind-the scenes-drama and long gap between albums, it's very impressive that Slipknot was able to make an album that is this ambitious and features so much great material. Wherever Paul Gray is right now, there's no doubt in my mind that he's elated with how the album that was made in his honor turned out. .5: The Gray Chapter isn't even close to the best album Slipknot has ever produced , but it's certainly the most impassioned. If nothing else, it proves that this band is showing no signs of slowing down as they approach the 20th anniversary of their formation.

4/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.Killpop
2.Nomadic
3.AOV  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 Week 7 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers

Quarterback
MVP: Russell Wilson (Seahawks)
About the only thing that went right for the Seahawks' performance on Sunday against the Rams was the play of Russell Wilson. Wilson once again dominated through the air and ground as became the first quarterback to ever throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game. The Seahawks are not playing nearly as well as they were a year ago, but Wilson is a much better fantasy option in 2014 than he was last year. Wilson has another promising matchup against the erratic Panthers defense on the docket in Week 8.
Honorable Mentions: Peyton Manning (Broncos), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins)

LVP: Jay Cutler (Bears)
Oh the plight of Jay Cutler.... A week after destroying the Falcons, Cutler had his worst outing of the season at home against a middling Dolphins team in Week 7. Cutler threw for a measly 190 yards and a touchdown while picking up 2 turnovers in one of the most miserable outings the Bears offense has had in years. Cutler will forever be the most unpredictable and inconsistent quarterback in the league. You're taking a risk every time you start him and that risk is even higher than usual this week as the Bears travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the red-hot Patriots.
Dishonorable Mentions: Matt Ryan (Falcons), Phillip Rivers (Chargers), Colin Kaepernick (49ers)

Running Back
MVP: Shane Vereen (Patriots)
With Steven Ridley out for the season, Shane Vereen now has a stranglehold on the running back position in New England. Vereen showcased his dominance over the backfield with a stellar performance against the Jets on Thursday. In typical Vereen fashion, he did most of his damage in the receiving game picking up 5 receptions for 71 yards and 2 TD's. It should be noted that 49 of his 71 yards came on a deep strike on the first drive of the game, so the numbers are certainly a bit deceiving. That being said, Vereen is easily the most gifted running back the Patriots currently have their disposal, so expect him to operate as a high-end RB2 (especially in PPR leagues) with a couple of stinkers moving forward.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Forte (Bears), Ronnie Hillman (Broncos), Le'Veon Bell (Steelers)

LVP: Giovani Bernard (Bengals)
It was rough day to be a member of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday as the team got shut out by the Colts. Despite it being a rough day for the entire offense, no one suffered more than Giovani Bernard. The second-year dual-threat back got held to 16 total yards (17 rushing, -1 receiving) on 9 touches. Bernard should get ample touches this week, but unfortunately it's against a stiff Ravens front that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 2.
Dishonorable Mentions: Ben Tate (Browns),Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks), Reggie Bush (Lions)

Wide Receiver
MVP: Demaryius Thomas (Broncos)
Demaryius Thomas became part of history this week as he caught the touchdown that put Peyton Manning ahead of Brett Favre for the all-time passing touchdown record. In addition to catching the record-setting TD, Thomas massacred the 49ers secondary all game long. Thomas finished the evening with 171 yards and 2 TD's on 8 receptions. Thomas has been on fire since the Broncos returned from their Week 4 bye and I don't believe that will change this week when he faces a banged-up Chargers secondary on Thursday night.
Honorable Mentions: Sammy Watkins (Bills), Golden Tate (Lions), Randall Cobb (Packers)

LVP: Alshon Jeffrey (Bears)
Odds are if you were a member of the Chicago Bears not named Matt Forte, you had a terrible game against the Dolphins on Sunday. Alshon Jeffrey was the biggest victim of their poor offensive performance, finishing with just 9 yards on the day. While I don't expect Jeffrey to repeat his 9-yard performance, he certainly has his hands full as he is going up against a tough Patriots secondary in Week 8.
Dishonorable Mentions: Brandon Marshall (Bears), Julio Jones (Falcons), Julian Edelman (Patriots)

Tight End
MVP: Antonio Gates (Chargers)
In an incredibly poor week for tight ends on the whole, the ageless wonder Antonio Gates was one of the few exceptions. Gates made the most of his 3 catches-picking up 61 yards and a touchdown in an otherwise quiet day for the Chargers offense against the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Gates remains one of the very few TE's you can rely on to put up solid numbers every week.
Honorable Mentions: Charles Clay (Dolphins), Owen Daniels (Ravens), Dwayne Allen (Colts)

LVP: Jordan Cameron (Browns)
A week after showing signs of life, Jordan Cameron reverted back to sucking it up against the Jaguars in Week 7. Cameron was held to just a single catch for 5 yards against a Jaguars defense that has been practically giving away fantasy points to TE's this season. Cameron is a low-end TE1 who will deliver a stellar performance from time-to-time, but can't be trusted in the slightest as a full-time starter.
Dishonorable Mentions: Julius Thomas (Broncos), Larry Donnell (Giants), Delanie Walker (Titans)

Defense
MVP: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts defense have quietly become one of the more reliable fantasy defenses to own in 2014. The Colts further their solidified their stock on Sunday as they shut out the Bengals. Their numbers could've been higher as they only got 4 sacks and failed to get a takeaway, but in a week where most defenses only put up average fantasy numbers, that was more than enough to make the best overall fantasy play.
Honorable Mentions: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams

LVP: Seattle Seahawks
This is just getting ridiculous. The Seahawks defense has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of 2014 so far and that disappointment only grew stronger this week as they failed miserably against the lowly St. Louis Rams. The Rams had been allowing the most fantasy points to defenses coming into Week 7, but the Seahawks failed to capitalize on that juicy matchup as allowed 28 points and once again, got zero sacks and takeaways. I can't believe I'm saying this but if you can afford to drop the Seahawks D in your league right now, do it right away. Their lack of pass rush and inability to cause turnovers makes them pretty much useless in fantasy at the moment.
Dishonorable Mentions: New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Carolina Panthers

Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie Review: Fury

War is hell. It's one of the most tired cliches of all-time, but it's also painfully accurate. Most people will never know what its like to experience the atrocities of war firsthand, which makes its difficult to try and realistically recreate for a Hollywood movie. Like all affective war films, Fury articulates the horrors of war in the most authentic way possible for a fictionalized piece of work.

Writer/director David Ayer doesn't hold anything back as he paints an extremely grim picture of World War II, and brutality of life on the battlefield. The extended battle sequences are brilliantly choreographed and sufficiently gruesome. Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov is the film's secret weapon for capturing the film's tense tank battles. The frequent changes from inside shots of tank to the carnage outside of it could've been disorienting, but Vasayanov has great control of the camera and seamless editing from Jay Cassidy and Dody Dorn makes the shots flow together organically. The unflinching depiction of wartime combat in Fury is without question one of the strongest I've ever seen in a film.

However whenever the gunfire ceases, Fury stumbles. Each member of the titular tank crew are painfully underwritten and come off more as caricatures than actual human beings. Logan Lerman plays the young kid who is scared shitless of war, Shia LaBeouf is a religious man that serves as the group's moral compass, Michael Pena is a drunk, Jon Bernthal is an ignorant redneck and Brad Pitt is the fearless leader who also acts as the glue that holds this ragtag group together. These archetypes sound familiar?  The performances from all five lead actors are competent, but their efforts are pretty much for naught  given how hollow their characters are. I know that this lack of character depth won't bother some people, I just it incredibly different to enjoy a film like this when the characters are so lifeless. There's some serious flaws in the writing when one of the lead characters dies, and you feel absolutely nothing as a viewer.  

Ayer's script becomes even more inept as it tries to manipulate the audience into showing empathy for these empty characters. Films that try to artificially generate emotion to resonate deeply with the audience really piss me off, and Fury is one of the harshest offenders of this in recent film history. An elongated scene in the middle of the film exists only so Lerman's character has a reason to overcome his fear of combat for the final standoff with the Nazis. The entire sequence is painfully contrived, and sets completely disingenuous final act of the film in motion. The hokey, insincere aura of the latter half of the film reaches its peak at the tail end of the climatic battle with a horde of Nazi forces. The final few minutes are so god damn ridiculous and unbelievable that I almost screamed obscenities out loud in the theater. How Ayer thought this a reasonable conclusion to the film entirely defies comprehension.   


Fury's well-crafted action setpieces are just enough to warrant a mild recommendation, but they're not nearly enough to get over how much of a wasted opportunity this film is. With this gifted cast, typically great director and unique premise for a war film, this very well could've been one of the all-time great entries in the genre. Instead, we're left with a film that has all the grit and none of the heart or brains that make great war films tick. If you want to see an Ayer-directed film about brotherhood and sacrifice with a strong, authentic emotional backbone, stay home and watch End of Watch on Netflix streaming.

3/5 Stars 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Movie Review: Gone Girl

2014 has been a solid enough year for film, but the first nine months have lacked any films that have serious weight. David Fincher's latest, Gone Girl, gives us the first true masterpiece of the year and sets the bar high for rest of the awards-contenders set for release over the last few months of 2014.

Gone Girl focuses on the strained marriage between Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears without a trace. The blood splatter found at their home and his general indifference in public appearances following Amy's disappearance makes Nick the prime suspect for her murder. As the evidence mounts, the case heads in directions that neither Nick or anyone else could've ever saw coming.

Gone Girl is one of those rare films that you just can't shake after watching. Once the credits started rolling, the sheer weight of the film hit me all at once and rendered me speechless. The driving force behind Gone Girl's grand success is the phenomenal screenplay from Gillian Flynn. Flynn-who adapted the screenplay from her own novel- crafts a dense narrative that piles on the twists and delivers commentary on modern marriage and the media's flare for sensationalist journalism with blunt-force trauma. The story of Gone Girl is a bit over-the-top at times, but the messages Flynn conveys here are painfully true and relevant. While I'm not married myself, I've seen marriages unravel for the same reasons as the Dunne's and, it's shocking to see how realistic her portrayal of troubled marriages is here. Flynn's commentary on the media is equally sharp and accurate as she rips on television reporters who mindlessly character assassinate people involved in scandals before all the facts have been presented.

Flynn didn't just write a film that serves as a scathing criticism of major social problems in modern society, she also writes one of the most enthralling thrillers of all-time. Every detail in the mystery of Amy's disappearance is fascinating and the story consistently heads in unexpected directions. Every time you think you've figured out the motives of the characters and the truth behind Amy's disappearance, Flynn throws the audience for a loop. If Flynn doesn't win Best Adapted Screenplay at this year's Academy Awards, there's no justice in the world.

Flynn's flawless writing is brought to life by perfect casting choices across the board. Affleck's work as Nick is his best performance since at least The Town, if not Good Will Hunting. Affleck's reputation as a smug, emotionless prick pays dividends here as he nails the role of a man who shows a disturbing lack of empathy during a time where he should be an emotional wreck. Affleck gets a lot of flack for his ability (or lack thereof) as an actor, but no one could've possibly played this role better than him. The supporting players including Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris-who sound extremely miscast on paper-are also excellent here. Perry shows legitimate acting ability for the first time in his career as Tanner Bolt- the high-priced, sleazy defense lawyer that Nick hires after he comes to his defense on national television. Perry demonstrates a charisma and gift for dark comedy that has been completely buried in his other roles. Patrick Harris is a completely different story; as he successfully goes out of his comfort zone for the umpteenth time (seriously, is there anything this guy can't do?) as an obsessive ex-boyfriend of Amy's who ends up playing a pivotal role in the proceedings of the film. Both of these casting choices were bold and unconventional, but they end up working out perfectly.

While the entire cast delivers, the real revelation in the film is Pike. It's hard to address the intricacies of Pike's performance without disclosing major spoilers, let's just say that her tortured performance is the centerpiece of the entire film. While I've seen a lot of Pike's work in the past, this is the first time where the sheer power of her acting bowled me over. Pike's work here is the type of powerhouse performance that commands immediate consideration from the year-end award shows. Gone Girl is a haunting and startlingly truthful work that gets under your skin in a way that only truly masterful films can. Even in a filmography that's as loaded with outstanding work as Fincher's is, it manages to stand out from the pack. There's a lot of potential gems on the horizon for the rest of 2014, but it's going to be hard for anything to top the tour-de-force that is Gone Girl.

4.5/5 Stars         

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Album Review: Revocation-Deathless

Revocation is about as unstoppable of a force as there is in the current metal scene. Just over a year after releasing their last record, Revocation has returned with their fifth full-length and Metal Blade Records debut Deathless-which is without question their finest work to date.

Deathless sees Revocation taking their sound in all sorts of new, chaotic directions. The tech-death/ thrash hybrid they've mastered over their first four albums is still the backbone of their sound, they just experiment more with melody and straight heaviness than ever before. While there's certainly no shortage of the mind-numbingly fast technical exercises Revocation has become known for on Deathless, the songs here are structured so that there's time for the listeners to breathe in between the bursts of musical insanity. There is no better example of this balance than on "Madness Opus". The first half of the track is pure, punishing death metal before it descends into a mellow instrumental jam-session in the middle before closing off with a blistering solo that sounds straight out of an '80s thrash song. While I'm big fan of all of Revocation's previous albums, Deathless' enhanced focus on riffs and atmosphere over straight technicality makes them more consistently interesting to listen to.
  
The catalyst for Revocation's refined sound is Davidson. The band is loaded with talent all around, but its hard to deny that Davidson's virtuoso guitarwork and spastic vocals are the primary reason Revocation has become extreme metal darlings over the past five years. The success of Deathless is once again a testament to Davidson's rare musical talent. The growth he's shown as a vocalist, guitar player, and songwriter on each album is nothing short of remarkable, and Deathless is by far the most complete and complex material he's ever composed.

Revocation's early material was loaded with flashy solos and thrash riffs, but suffered from a serious lack of diversity. Davidson has remedied that issue on their last couple of records, and proved that he can play just about any style of music with ease. Davidson tackles everything from Gothenburg melo-death ("A Debt Owed to the Grave") to prog ("The Blackest Reaches)" to straight-up death metal ("Labyrinth of Eyes") on this record with incredible proficiency. The more diverse sound on Deathless has also had a huge benefit in the solo department. The slightly less technical approach to the music on Deathless allows Davidson to lay down the most layered and balls-out insane solos he's ever written. The solos on "Witch Trials", "Scorched Earth Policy" and "United in Helotry" are especially noteworthy thanks to Davidson's ability to flawlessly blend almost unfathomable speed with dazzling melodies. With his performance on Deathless, Davidson has solidified himself as one of the most well-rounded metal guitar players of all-time.

 Deathless is the work of a band that has come into their own and is producing music more organically than ever before. All of their prior success as a band has culminated with this nearly flawless album. As someone who has watched Revocation closely since Existence is Futile came out in 2009, it's truly astonishing to look at the improvement this band has made on each album. They've consistently tweaked their sound to stay fresh without sacrificing any of the power of the death/thrash sound that made them standout in the first place.  Deathless is without question the best album I've heard in 2014 and it's going to take a monumental effort for anyone to take that title away.

4.5/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.Scorched Earth Policy
2.Witch Trials
3.The Blackest Reaches  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Week 6 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers

Quarterback
MVP: Cam Newton (Panthers)
The Superman side of Cam Newton made a glorious return on Sunday against the Bengals. Newton's  surgically repaired ankle appeared to be 100% for the first time all season,and he proved it by excelling in the running game for the first time all year. Newton's 107 yards and TD pushed him from a solid fantasy play (He threw for 284 yards and 2 TD's) to the best fantasy QB of the week. With Newton now 100%, his fantasy owners can except him to be a top 10 QB the rest of the way.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Brady (Patriots), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Colin Kaepernick (49ers)

LVP:Eli Manning (Giants)
After finally showing some life in Ben McAdoo's offense the past few weeks, Eli Manning struggled mightily again in a 27-0 blowout loss to the Eagles on Sunday Night. Manning didn't revert back to his old turnover-happy ways, but he wasn't able to get anything going against a horrid Eagles secondary, finishing with just 151 yards through the air and zero touchdowns on the evening. To be fair, the offensive line played terrible and his receivers dropped numerous catchable balls, but that doesn't take away from how disappointing his numbers were against a secondary that has gotten burned in every other game they've played this season. Manning will be a shaky start until his offensive line problems get squared away.
Dishonorable Mentions: Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Matthew Stafford (Lions)

Running Back
MVP: Matt Forte (Bears)
Matt Forte once again proved to be a premier dual threat on Sunday against the Falcons. Forte crushed the lowly Falcons defense for 157 total yards (80 rushing, 77 receiving) and 2 TD's. Forte has another great matchup this week against the Dolphins, so his recent hot streak could very well continue
Honorable Mentions: Arian Foster (Texans), Giovani Bernard (Bengals), DeMarco Murray (Cowboys)

LVP: Eddie Lacy (Packers)
There has been a lot of disappointing fantasy running back this year, but there has been no bigger letdown than Eddie Lacy. Lacy-who was a top 5 pick in most fantasy leagues this year- has failed to get much of anything going in 2014. After his first 100-yard performance of the year last week against the Vikings, Lacy reverted back to mediocrity in Week 6 against a weak Dolphins run D- finishing the afternoon with a mere 40 yards on 14 touches. Lacy is losing snaps to James Starks, and his RB1 status has been all but erased at this point in time. He's still a high-upside RB2 thanks to his scoring potential, but he's not even close to the dominant player he was a year ago.
Dishonorable Mentions: Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks), C.J. Spiller (Bills), Le'Veon Bell (Steelers)

Wide Receiver
MVP: T.Y. Hilton (Colts)
T.Y Hilton has looked great all year long, but his first 5 games were nothing compared to his inhuman performance in Week 6. Hilton brought in all 9 of his targets for a whopping 223 yards and a touchdown in the Colts shootout with the Texans last Thursday night. Hilton has surpassed Reggie Wayne as the Colts top wideout and as long as Andrew Luck continues to play at a high level, Hilton will be a top-flight WR2/borderline WR1 in fantasy.
Honorable Mentions: Demaryius Thomas (Broncos), DeSean Jackson (Redskins), Mohamed Sanu (Bengals)

LVP: Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos)
The streak of Emmanuel Sanders putting up 100+ yards has officially ended at 3 games. Sanders was held in check for most of the afternoon putting up 38 yards on 3 receptions against the Jets on Sunday. Sanders is going continue to be an integral part of this Broncos offense- especially with Wes Welker struggling-for the rest of the season, so don't let these poor numbers against a poor secondary send you into a state of panic.
Dishonorable Mentions: Wes Welker (Broncos), Jeremy Maclin (Eagles), Golden Tate (Lions)

Tight End
MVP: Julius Thomas (Broncos)
"It's so fuckin easy" were the first words out of Julius Thomas' mouth when he caught his league-leading 9th TD against the Jets on Sunday. Thomas has made scoring touchdowns look easy all year long, as he's racked up at least 1 in every single game this season. He picked up 2 effortless scores against the Jets ,and I honestly don't think anyone stop him right now. Thomas is the most dangerous redzone threat in the league by far at the moment, and you are extremely fortunate if you have him on your fantasy roster. If he doesn't put up at least 20 TD's this season, it would be an absolute shock.
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Cameron (Browns), Greg Olsen (Panthers), Zach Ertz (Eagles)

LVP: Larry Donnell (Giants)
2 weeks removed from his starmaking 3 TD performance against the Redskins, Larry Donnell was once again invisible in Week 6. Donnell was forced into a blocking role due to the Giants o-line woes and large deficit, which led him to finish with only a single catch for 5 yards in the team's blowout loss against the Eagles on Sunday night. Donnell does have a potentially great bounceback matchup this week against the Cowboys, so keep starting him until further notice.
Dishonorable Mentions: Heath Miller (Steelers), Vernon Davis (49ers), Owen Daniels (Ravens)

Defense:
MVP: Detroit Lions
The Lions defense has been one of the biggest surprises of the fantasy season so far and their performance in Week 6 was easily their finest work to-date. The Lions D eviscerated the Vikings on Sunday picking up 8 sacks, 3 INT's  and only allowing a mere 3 points. If you were one of the smart people that picked up the Lions defense a few weeks ago, you got to really enjoy the spoils of your investment this week.
Honorable Mentions: Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos,

LVP: Buffalo Bills
The Bills defense have been fantasy gold this year, but that was not the case this week against the Patriots. The Bills fell victim to a revitalized Patriots offense who put up 37 points in Sunday afternoon's contest and failed to notch a single takeaway on the day. The Bills woes against the Patriots shouldn't carry over to this week as they face the battered Vikings offense- who just got lit up by the Lions- at home.
Dishonorable Mentions: Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Concert Review: Limp Bizkit-- Boston, MA-- October 10th, 2014

Every once in a while, there are concerts that take you by surprise with just how great they are. When the house lights turn on and the dust settles, you're left in sheer disbelief at what you just witnessed. The performance from infamous rap metal band Limp Bizkit at the House of Blues in Boston on October 10th was a textbook example of this rare phenomenon.

While Limp Bizkit was a pleasant surprise, I'd be lying if I said the openers were anywhere near as good. The night started with a set from relatively unknown house DJ Blvck Ceiling. Saying that Blvck Ceiling's low-key, often psychedelic take on house music went over poorly would be a gross understatement. The audience was flat out ignoring him and even started chanting for Machine Gun Kelly-the show's other opening act- while he was still playing. Even though I was mostly indifferent towards his music, I felt awful that he got such a cold reception from the crowd. Blvck Ceiling had some come beats from time to time, but was ultimately too stagnant to really resonate with me.

Machine Gun Kelly took the stage almost immediately after Blvck Ceiling finished. As I alluded to earlier, there was a ton of people there to see him. His fans showed up in droves, and proved just how rabid they were throughout the set with their relentless energy. Despite an explosive crowd reception, Machine Gun Kelly put on an incredibly lackluster performance. As an artist, Machine Gun Kelly simply can't decide on who he really is. He awkwardly shifted from ignorant drug rap to EDM bangers to "inspirational" songs about being yourself on a whim, and none of it was particularly good. The lack of a true identity in his music makes him a really hokey and disingenuous presence. While Kelly's musical randomness was disconcerting, the biggest issue with his set is the fact that he wasn't actually rapping 95% of the time. His lip-synching was blatant as he didn't even attempt to move his mouth to match the speed of the audio that was streaming over the PA. To his credit, his fans were too busy losing their minds to notice he wasn't actually performing his material, so he's clearing doing something right.  I'll give him props for being wildly energetic and being an ace at working a crowd, I just can't get behind a disingenuous artist who doesn't have the talent to be able to perform their material live.

After a nearly 45-minute wait, the time had finally come for Limp Bizkit to perform. When this tour got announced I was definitely excited, but by the same token, I had no clue to what to expect. With their gleefully over-the-top sound and sporadic activity as a touring band for much of the past decade, it wouldn't have been entirely shocking if they ended up being a trainwreck live band in the present day. Any skepticism I had about Limp Bizkit's ability as a live band was shattered within the first minute they were on stage. You could tell right off the bat that they hadn't lost any of the edge that made one of the leading bands in the nu-metal movement. With their performance, they managed to bring the approximately 2,300 people in attendance back to the band's glory days the late 90's and early 2000's. Vocalist Fred Durst is the perfect frontman for this style of music. Say what you want about the man's image and personality, but he oozes charisma and energy. He is a master of crowd interaction that is able effortlessly rial up an entire crowd. Durst's amazing stage presence and spot-on vocal performance served as the catalyst for the quality of Limp Bizkit's performance. While there was a lot of surprises during their set, nothing surprised me more than intensity of the crowd. Based on the crowd reception, you would've thought they were still at their peak popularity. There was hardly any room to breathe on the floor as people were crowd surfing, moshing and moving around non-stop for the entirety of the 85 minutes they were on stage. Things got so nuts during hits like "Rollin'", "My Generation" and set closer "Break Stuff" that I honestly thought the rail in front of the stage was going to break. Out of the nearly 100 shows I've been to, this easily ranks in the top 10 in terms of crowd reception. You can tell the band was really appreciative at how insane the crowd was because they played a longer setlist than then they've played on most stops of the tour so far, and broke out songs like "Full Nelson" and "Boiler" for the first time on this tour. Plain and simple, Limp Bizkit is just fun as hell to watch live. Bouncing around and singing a long to these songs was a nostalgic and oddly beautiful experience. It's great to see a veteran band still perform with a lot of passion at a point in their career when they easily could be phoning it in. Limp Bizkit still bring it in 2014 and I'm beyond glad that I cashed in on the rare opportunity to see them live.

Scores:
Blvck Ceiling 5/10
Machine Gun Kelly 2.5/10
Limp Bizkit 8.5/10

Setlist:
Ready to Go
Rollin'
Hot Dog (w/Machine Gun Kelly)
Bring It Back
(DMX Party Up in Here interlude)
Nookie
Full Nelson
(Ludacris Move Bitch interlude)
My Generation
Livin' It Up
My Way
Re-Arranged
Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Counterfeit/Pollution medley
Faith (George Michael cover)
Boiler
Take A Look Around
Break Stuff