The mantra of the inaugural Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles Six Pack Weekend was articulated early, in broken English, by Force of Evil frontman Martin Steene. "Can you handle a bit more heavy song?" he bellowed to the audience Friday at the Odeon. Of course they could: At this old-school metal marathon, harder was always better.
With dual bass-drum action that sounded like a herd of stampeding buffalo, constant upper-register wailing, and speed-of-light guitar soloing, the Six Pack Weekend catered to traditionalists, and the near-capacity audiences reflected as much. Destruction and Overkill T-shirts were everywhere, along with sleeveless denim jackets emblazoned with Annihilator and Coroner patches. The event suffered few of the organizational difficulties that routinely plague fests that rely on overseas acts; only one band -- the much anticipated Entombed -- canceled its appearance, the result of the drummer's wife falling ill shortly before the fest.
The Six Pack opened with a Thursday pre-show of local bands, featuring strong sets by dramatic metallers Somnus and leather-clad thrash throwbacks Destructor. Friday's show by Sweden's Force of Evil was an early highlight. Led by Mercyful Fate guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner, the band stormed through a set of melodic metal with more girth than the guitarists' full-time outfit; they won over the crowd with a late-set version of the Fate classic "Curse of the Pharaohs."
Fellow Swedes Falconer followed with their U.S. debut. Though clearly a little nervous at first, the band found its legs quickly, thanks in large part to theatrical frontman Matthias Blad. Clad in an all white getup, like a lankier Andrew W.K., Blad displayed infectious charisma, grinning and galloping around the stage as he sang of dragons and swordplay, while the band raced through 75 minutes of anthemic power metal, like Iron Maiden on ephedrine. Seattle's Nevermore capped the night with a high-energy set that mixed thrash fury and classic-metal tunefulness, spawning some of the weekend's most rabid mosh pits.
Saturday night belonged to a pair of doom heavyweights who were the fest's two biggest draws. Chicago's Trouble impressed the crowd with psychedelic post-Sabbath sludge, its catchy, latter-day cuts like "Plastic Green Head" and "Touch the Sky" mixing well with monolithic metal anthems such as "The Tempter" -- possibly the single most devastating song of the fest, with frontman Eric Wagner's chilling howl a benchmark in depression.
"That was the best concert I've seen in my life," Candlemass frontman Messiah Marcolin gushed, after his band took the stage following Trouble. Dressed in his trademark monk robes, Marcolin and his operatic falsetto were in fine form. The band, playing the States for the first time in more than a decade, upped the velocity of its usual snail's-pace metal. Its crushing doom stretched past two in the morning, leaving satisfied Six Pack attendees thirsty for next year.