Those of us who had been jonesing for a summer feast of heavy metal had to look no further than the Q-Ruption extravaganza, which took over the Saratoga Performing Arts Center recently.
Heavy metal poster boys Godsmack headlined the ear-splitting mini-fest with Five Finger Death Punch, Skillet, Sick Puppies, Egypt Central and Nippertown’s own battle-of-the-bands winners Selfish Needy Creatures, opening up the Friday evening festivities.
At first glance, Australia’s Sick Puppies looked out of place on the head-banging roster. Categorized for years as indie-rockers, it only took a couple minutes into their set to realize that the band’s musical focus has dramatically changed. They can spit out metal riffs with the best of them.
Skillet took an original approach to heavy metal, opening their set under the spotlight with a masked violinist and cellist making gothic, classical overtones to pave the way as frontman John Cooper and the rest of the band jumped on stage and slammed their power chords right out of the amphitheater, fueled by hard-hitting drummer Jen Ledger.
The night took a decidedly louder and more aggressive stance with the in-your-face, ass-kicking onslaught of Five Finger Death Punch and their constantly stalking frontman Ivan Moody. After every song, the roar of the 14,000-plus audience expressed approval for the crankin’ sounds of these demons of the dark side of rock.
When Godsmack finally exploded on stage, the audience was well greased by the openers and more than ready to embrace what these heavy metal giants were about to whip up. With rock radio hits galore and the charismatic presence of frontman and lead singer Sully Erna, this was the group that the crowd came to see, hear and feel. Unlike most of the others performers that night, Erna’s depth of emotion and musical complexity was sandwiched neatly between the band’s thunderous power-chords and hell-raising drum beats.
From Erna’s plea to the audience not to forget our fighting troops in Iraq and Afganistan, to some of the univeral themes within the band’s songs, he is the closest thing to a musician’s musician that heavy metal has to offer on today’s scene. With pounding guitar riffs and a vocal attack second to none, Godsmack is on top of the heavy metal world.
However, if you had checked out Erna’s recent appearance – under his own name, not Godsmack – earlier this year at The Egg, you would have heard a brilliant and sensitive performer leading a band that could have easily played Carnegie Hall. But in front of thousands of roaring fans at SPAC, as Erna belted out songs and smashed his pick into his guitar, you might never have guessed he had it in him.
For those who came to SPAC to devour their heavy metal bones, there was no question that everybody left more than satisfied. Q-Ruption, indeed.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “While he [Erna] sang songs like ‘The Enemy,’ he wore an anti-war patch on his jeans. He’s a very cool presence on stage, carrying rhythm guitar while delivering the lead vocals. There were guitar solos occasionally from Tony Rombola, and Shannon Larkin is a nutso drummer to watch, but for the most part your eyes stay on Erna – he rules the stage in his cool, even humble, way. Their menacing side came through with songs like ‘Awake,’ and then ‘Speak,’ its instrumental opening a possible soundtrack for the underworld. Despite these, the music felt far calmer, more contained and skilled than the previous bands, and the audience seemed to diffuse with it as well.”
Concert review & photographs: Sully Erna at The Egg, 5/22/11