"This event was dead and buried," festival director Mark Gromen told Scene earlier this year. "If it were not for Dan Kemer [senior director of advertising and marketing for Belkin Productions], who approached us about supporting the event directly financially, we would never have proceeded with No. 3."
We're glad Kemer made the call. With another well-rounded international lineup, the fest touches upon nearly all of metal's many appellations: There's blackened death metal (God Dethroned), melodic speed metal (Dark Tranquility), classic power metal (Jag Panzer), and close to two dozen other bands performing at the Odeon over three nights, beginning Thursday, May 5. Here's a hit list of can't-miss performances:
The rebound of "athletic metal"
"I don't understand where humor comes into heavy metal," Raven frontman John Gallagher told Hit Parader in the mid-'80s. Hmmmm, well, we'd say it starts with a band whose live show boasts a helmeted drummer tackling amps, Waterboy-style, before his bandmates smash beer bottles on his head. That's pretty funny. As was Raven in the early '80s, when the trio paired galloping speed metal with drummer Rob "Wacko" Hunter's stupid human tricks. Hunter's long gone, but Raven's back, playing the fest on Saturday. We'd suggest wearing a cup to this one.
Death metal's Rick Rubin
Aspiring headbangers would do well to get to the Odeon early on Friday and wing their demo discs at the stage during Hypocrisy's set. The Swedish death-metal combo is fronted by Peter Tägtgren, one of extreme metal's finest producers, having worked with such heavyweights as Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, and Dark Funeral. No man is better at finding melody and hooks in dudes whose "singing" sounds like the last gasps of a wounded water buffalo. For longhairs, he's the guy you want to discover your band. Oh, and Hypocrisy kicks ass too, with flesh-eating thrash and a preoccupation with alien abductions. Think X-Files with blast beats.
The return of real black metal
Before the concept of black metal was co-opted by overserious Scandinavians in their mom's eyeliner, the term had a more literal meaning -- as in hard rock played by African Americans. One of the first bands of this ilk was Cleveland's own Black Death, a leather-clad quartet formed in 1977. The band was led by burly frontman Siki Spacek, a wide-eyed hellion in chains and a codpiece, who looked tough enough to bitch-slap a sasquatch. Though Spacek could never maintain a steady lineup in Black Death, resulting in but one self-titled LP, he'll be returning to action with an acoustic set at Cooper'stown on Saturday afternoon. The gig is free, though we'd pay good money to hear Spacek croon "The Scream of the Iron Messiah" and watch whitebread Tribe fans choke on their chicken wings.
More Trouble in Cleveland
"That was the best concert I've ever seen," gushed Candlemass frontman Messiah Marcolin as his band took the stage at the inaugural Six Pack Weekend in 2003. He was referring to a set by Trouble, a doom forebear, which preceded Candlemass in a one-two punch of melancholy metal that headbangers the world over are still talking about. This year, Trouble returns as the headliner Saturday night, when the band's epic, wrist-slashing metal should delight depressives pining for a Blacker Sabbath.
Metal's fiercest Filipinos
Formed by five Filipino cousins, Death Angel is metal's baddest brood. They shed and share blood like the Partridge Family burning in hell -- where they belong. The band dropped its first album, 1987's classic The Ultra-Violence, before some of them were old enough to drive, resulting in equally precocious and pissed-off anthems. Count on these dudes to satiate any "Voracious Souls" on Saturday night with speed metal fast enough to cause windburn.