March 23, 2023 – MTelus, Montreal, Quebec
Tonight was to be a night of remembrance, in more ways that one. To remember the Nu Metal scene that came up in the very late 90s and early 00s – one that I mostly missed – or would have entirely had it not been for my younger band mates at the time in Hollow Point. Both my guitarists Chris and Alex were into bands like and including these playing on this night; and as such, I grew to like some of what I heard. I was much more into bands like Fear Factory, and as a trade off; I introduced them to bands of that elk.
I couldn’t help think that these bands together, had they had stopped by Montreal back in the early 00s – would have filled up a stadium without much trouble. Fast forward two, nearly three decades and this misfit collective found themselves selling out the Corona theatre and having their gig moved across town to the bigger MTelus, and came mighty close to selling that venue out, too.
Despite all the bands – save from the new kids on the block, Cultus Black – now continuing on along their journey with each missing at least one prominent former member of their ranks, be it through death or the ever moving shuffle of musicians that come and go, the emphasis for me and those I was spending my night with, was whether or not these new members could hold their water when swimming with the big fish. With Dope and Mushroomhead also on the bill, there was a chance this could be pretty epic when all said and done.
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Fear Factory were coming in without their original vocalist, Burton C. Bell; a prominent figure in everything that is Fear Factory. It is often said, that the voice is the hardest instrument for a band to replace and I strongly agree with that. Riffs, drum beats, those can be replicated easily enough by someone with the skills to do so; by the human voice is unique to each individual. Of course, this was also the keynote that everyone was wondering about for later in the night, when the unknown man behind the mask would come out, calling himself Xer0, to sing Wayne Static’s songs with Static-X. And he would do so wearing Wayne Static’s face – you read that right.
The new kids on the block – as in the sole new act to play on a night filled with bands whom are all pushing on two or three decades into their careers, Cultus Black, stormed out of the gates onto a tight and tiny strip of stage that had been allotted to them. Sat between all the drum sets and amplifiers of the other bands and their own gear, Cultus Black did amicably well in just finding the room to jump about as they did.
However, there isn’t a lot going on here that hasn’t already been done. As fun as they were – they are the cumulative collection of borrowed parts written by other bands years prior. Many bands begin in such a manor before finding their own path, and when the genre they’re playing is one whose path has been trodden a great many times, by a great many artists – the pickings surely get scarce.
Then again, given that Cultus Black only played a handful of songs – one of which being a twisted take on Nirvana’s Negative Creep, that was both interesting and entertaining, and also don’t have a large repertoire of music to pull from, while playing the opening slot of a five band bill – I’ll give them a pass and pay more attention to what they’re doing the next time they roll through town.
Cultus Black, as a live band, were rather entertaining. Clad in hoods and face paint, they controlled the stage in ways that veteran acts would and not as a new emerging group.
With the rumor mill ever churning out gossip, I suppose it is worthwhile to help spread one such potential factoid – a rumor that has Edsel Dope as being the man behind the Wayne Static mask. Whether or not Edsel Dope is also moonlighting as Xer0 or not is circumstantial yet plausible. They knew each other and were friends, even toured together. Since I could, I compared body types too, because why not – and it does fit. Take that with a pinch of salt.
When I hear Dope; my first thought is almost always WWE wrestling. I can’t even remember who used their music as an intro piece anymore but there you have it. On this night, Dope were a lot of fun and did a great job, as they put it, playing warm-up for what was to come.
In the latter moments of their set, singer Edsel Dope proclaimed that the next song “is a silly fucking song” before the band dove into a romping cover of You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by Dead Or Alive. This at first elicited a few giggles but soon proved to be a stroke of genius, as everyone in the venue was suddenly singing the chorus in unison. Well played, Dope, well played. And they did warn us.
I expected high-tempo shenanigans’ out of Mushroomhead but I wasn’t prepared for just how much energy they would be bringing all the stage. I also didn’t expect the four floor toms that were sat at the edge of the stage to spray copious amounts of water from they as they were being played. Moments later, and I’m talking to a girl I don’t know about the unexpected shower we had both received. All this clowning around allowed me to spew a few dumb Dad jokes, so there’s that.
It took but two songs before vocalist Steve Rauckhorst was over the barrier and crowd surfing his way around the audience and it would be just the first adventure he’d swim throughout the night. On at least three occasions, he was up and over the barrier before the security had any idea as to what had happened – and the crowd lapped it up like a kitten with a saucer full of milk. An artist that is willing to get out and have fun with their audience is always going to be more appreciated than those that treat people like mere cattle.
Mushroomhead come from an era and a scene – or a time is probably the better word – where the bands were borderline crazy, as was the television. Shows like Jackass – a troupe of skaters and stuntmen that would purposely prank, self-harm and do rotten things to one another for the sake of entertainment had quickly risen to the top of America’s (and Canada’s) viewing habits, while bands like Slipknot and Mushroomhead were busy beating shit out of one another, and performing similar stunts of their own. Wild times.
Some of that still exists in this modern incarnation of Mushroomhead – as well as the masked theatrics that accompany their music. And all for the best. Anybody that’s old enough to remember when KISS toured without their make-up knows how lame that was – including the band, who rapidly went back to the make-up they’re still wearing today. Musically and visually, Mushroomhead were a delight and a hell of a throwback for me – and the majority of those around me too.
Has a bands lyrics ever become any more relevant than those of Fear Factory have – and will continue to be? I doubt it. We are entering an era of human history that seems like a really, really bad idea to some (like me) and that could be partially because I grew up on Terminator films and Fear Factory lyrics. With Burton C. Bell no longer part of the project, and thus not here to listen to on the subject – bringing about one of two main concerns on the night.
Who is Milo Silvestro and what can he do? The short version, is that Silvestro is a relatively unknown commodity from Rome, Italy – who is more known for electronic music project, Dead Channel, than for his work in metal. Founding member Dino Cazares reportedly stumbled upon Silvestro doing Fear Factory covers on Youtube and contacted him. Following the years since Bell left the fold, Cazares and Fear Factory are rumored to have considered hundreds of singers with Silvestro being their top pick; their guy.
Despite his playing his show with Fear Factory less than month ago, Silvestro took the stage as his own within moments showed the packed house why he was the man chosen for the gig. He handled Bell’s highs and lows with relative ease, as well as the guttural components, providing something fresh in terms of stage presence and while Bell can’t be replaced – he has been replicated. (See what I did there? I know right!)
This was the band I most wanted to see – and from Edgecrusher (which featured vocal guests from the Mushroomhead crew) through to my favorite material like Zero Signal, Replica and the title track off of the Demanufacture record, I was thoroughly impressed and satisfied. On drums, was Pete Webber of Havoc and he crushed it. Drumming is a huge part of the Fear Factory sound and he absolutely nailed the job. There were a few very slight moments that were slightly off, but all in all, Fear Factory were fantastic.
And they came with gifts; “We’re going to play a song I said I’d never play live,” said Cazares, “but here we are… this is Archetype“. I couldn’t tell you if the crowd was yelling, because all I could hear was the sound of my own voice bellowing out my approval – and what a moment it was.
And finally, the moment most had been waiting for the main event of the evening; Static-X.
It’s called the Rise Of The Machines tour – which is already creepy, considering the fact that we’re entering a terrible era, a mistake of a period of human history with all this artificial intelligence bullshit going on, and out pops an android reincarnation of Wayne Static; who passed away nine years ago. Shit. That was creepy. Step back and just listen to the lyrics of all those songs that Fear Factory has just played – this motherfucker is fixing to kill us all… after he gets done singing to us.
Speaking of Fear Factory – their bassist Tony Campos filled in with Static-X as the musical chairs of musicians kept on spinning around and around like a carousel. No but seriously, Campos is the bassist of Fear Factory, but also the only musician to have played on every Static-X album. He has also played in bands such as Ministry, Soulfly and Prong. Busy guy. The sole original member of Static-X is guitarist Koichi Fukuda although he too was briefly out of the band. Drummer Ken Jay was the bands original drummer, but was out the mix for seventeen years.
He returned to Static-X after the untimely passing of Wayne Static and the break-up of Static-X. Confused yet. I fucking am.
There was a moment where I queried if this was a tribute to Wayne Static or a way to cash in on his name and legacy, but that soon passed – seeing the passion of the Static-X fans and hearing the musicians on stage talk about him; this is clearly a tribute to a fallen friend albeit a fucking creepy one. A monument. Out put. A way to say goodbye while also healing. Losing friends is always hard – harder still when they’re also your bandmates that you spend more of your time living with on the road then your actual family. Ironically, when I die; I’ll have an android doing these things for me too – unfortunately, it’ll just be fucking ChatGPT ripping off everything I wrote and photographed while I was alive.
Seriously. Artificial intelligence must be destroyed.
While this new vision of Static-X relies heavily on the theatrical side of the business, and I have to admit that Xer0 looks fucking incredible and has a massive stage presence, the band don’t really do a whole lot on stage. Xer0 gets a pass, as he wears all that gear while singing and playing the guitar, but the rest of Static-X, namely Campos and Fukuda seem fairly content with being static on stage. Parked upon their risers and playing their instruments.
Honestly, it doesn’t distract any from the overall package and I imagine Campos playing back-to-back sets was probably more than a little worn out – I know I would have been. If that is my only gripe on the whole night, I suppose it’s safe to say that this was a solid night’s entertainment.
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I won’t lie – I had my doubts about practically every band on this tour. Be it for reasons of missing members or doubts that they couldn’t do justice to the music they wrote more than twenty years ago. All of that was silenced. Was it perfect? No, of course not – but it was bloody close, and more importantly it was a great time and a serious helping of nostalgia that I didn’t know I needed until I was in the thick of it.
I’d happily revisit this exact same tour package again if given the chance.