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A slew of heavy metal/hard rock shows invade

Des Moines during the bewitching month

By Jared Curtis

Dirty deeds aren’t dirt cheap, at least not at $90 a ticket. Rock fans may be disappointed in the postponement of AC/DC’s Oct. 10 show at Wells Fargo Arena, but don’t fret, the bewitching month is filled with more metal than you can handle and at reasonable prices. We recommend five shows that all metal fans should attend. So for those about to rock, we salute you.


Dethklok and Mastodon with Converge and High on Fire
Val Air Ballroom, Oct. 14, $33


Some people might scoff at the idea of going to a concert to see a cartoon metal band, but when the show built around the band, Metalocalypse, is one the five most popular shows on Adult Swim, the audience is there. Add in coheadliner Mastodon — one of the most popular metal bands on the scene — and you have the makings for one of the best metal shows to stop through Iowa this decade.

“When we were putting together the tour, Mastodon was suggested,” said Brendon Small, co-creator of Metalocalypse and guitarist and vocals for Dethklok, during a phone interview. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Mastodon is one of the great bands out there now.’ They have a distinct sound and are good writers, which as a music fan I really respond to.”

Although Small had been playing guitar since he was 13, his first success came from co-creating “Home Movies,” an animated series that ran on Adult Swim from 1999 to 2004. After doing voice work for a number of Adult Swim cartoons, Small and co-creator Tommy Blacha came up with a show concept featuring a fictional death metal band, Dethklok, which is considered to be “the world’s greatest cultural force.” Small voices three characters — lead singer Nathan Explosion, lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf and drummer Pickles — and writes the show’s music. The show’s popularity led to the release of Dethklok’s first album, “The Dethalbum.” Although Small had used a drum machine for the show, he knew he needed the right drummer to bring the music to life on the album.

“I didn’t get to do music with ‘Home Movies,’ so I had the idea of putting out a CD after every season. We had also been talking about a tour, which I didn’t think would happen. But with the Gorillaz touring, we knew it could be done,” Small said. “I was talking to the label about artists, and they mentioned Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Death, Strapping Young Lad, Testament, Fear Factory). I laughed because I knew he wouldn’t do it. But his band was on a break, and he was vaguely familiar with the show. It’s an honor to play with him, and he brings credibility and great musicianship to the band.”

Then guitarist Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa, Steve Vai) and bassist Bryan Beller (Z, Steve Vai) joined the band, and the foursome hit the road. The shows involve Small and the band playing Dethklok’s music shrouded in darkness, while a large screen shows the animated band ripping through their songs.
“It’s a very integrated multimedia experience, and it has been really satisfying they way it’s turned out. The show is not about us; we’re like the pit band. I call us ‘The Metalocalypse Players,’” Small said. “We designed videos and stories for each song, and each song tells a story. The whole thing is like a Disneyland ride. You don’t even have to like metal to enjoy the show; it’s one of the more fun concert going experience’s you’ll have.”

This is the third tour for the group, but Small isn’t worried about the band’s previous hiatus.

“The new album (“The Dethalbum II”) is faster and heavier, but the guys are there for me when I need their help. We just started rehearsals, and everyone had their shit together. We played a song we hadn’t played together, and everyone nailed it. We’re so tight it’s scary, and I’m the weak link of the band,” Small said.

“The Dethalbum II” is out now and new half-hour (expanding from 15 minutes) episodes of “Metalocalypse” start Nov. 8, with the band “starting off in a dark place.” And fans shouldn’t worry; no one has to sign a “Death Wavier” to get into Dethklok’s show at the Val Air Ballroom.

“Dethklok may inadvertently kill their fans at shows, but I want my fans alive and well, adding to the economy,” Small laughs. “I have a lot of fun watching the audiences at our shows because everyone has a huge smile on their face, even while moshing. I know smiling isn’t a normal reaction at a metal show, but it shows they are having a fun fucking time.”


Lamb of God and GWAR with Job For A Cowboy
Val Air Ballroom, Oct. 9, $30


As one of the heaviest and hardest working bands out there, Lamb of God has become a force to be reckoned with on the national scene. Formed 15 years ago in Richmond, Va., Lamb of God rode out the underground scene, releasing two albums, 2000’s “New American Gospel” and 2003’s “As the Palaces Burn.” In 2004, the big boys had seen enough, and the group signed with Epic Records. They released “Ashes of the Wake” in 2004 and “Sacrament” in 2006, both to commercial success. But it wasn’t until 2009’s “Wrath” when critics took notice.

“We have put so much into this from the beginning that it never seemed like a choice,” said drummer Chris Adler during a phone interview. “We lost our butts for seven years, but it’s in our blood.”

Today, Lamb of God has one of the most hardcore fan bases in music, known as the congregation.

“We have great fans. We run the site a little different than most fans sites because we keep it in house and a few of the wives run it,” Adler said. “We give out stuff all the time, and fans can win the chance to join us on stage during sound check and sing a song. It’s really flattering to us that they care about what we are doing.”

Lamb of God is currently participating in two tours — opening for Metallica on a number of dates and headlining shows with GWAR and Job For a Cowboy.

“It’s been really great to be on the road with Metallica; they were the guys we grew up listening to and inspired us,” Adler said. “Metallica plays three or four nights week, but we need to play six to seven nights a week, so we put together a package where we could hit the places that we have missed in the past.”

Lamb of God also has some history with GWAR.

“They are friends of ours from back home, and they actually took us out on our first venue tour in 2001,” Adler said. “We’re happy to be playing shows with them because GWAR never opens for anybody.”

Lamb of God’s newest album, “Wrath,” is the band’s most critical and commercial success, but with success also comes the pressure of topping the previous album.

“There is constant pressure, but I think it’s more internally. We want to be able to top ourselves,” he said. “It’s not the easiest music to play, and we’re not getting any younger. This album was a labor of love, and it’s going to be hard to top it.”

Adler knows fans are expecting a good show, and the band loves to deliver.

“Our goal is to put on the best show we can. Our fans are spending their hard-earned money, and they expect to be entertained,” he said. “Our live show is how we were created, and it’s a testament on how we got here.”

Adler loves playing live, and there is a surge of energy that keeps the band performing at their peak.

“There is a very controlled energy coming from the stage, and a very uncontrolled energy coming from the crowd,” he said. “When they mix, it’s something special.”


Lamb of God and GWAR with Job For A Cowboy
Val Air Ballroom, Oct. 9, $30


Known for their outlandish costumes and filthy concerts (multiple fluids are spewed into the crowds), GWAR has been infecting fans’ ears with their mixture of sideshow antics and metal for years. Their origin story is as wild and crazy as their live shows.

GWAR is part of an ancient order of warriors known as the Scumdogs Of The Universe who were banished from space and sent to planet Earth for a scandalous array of cosmic crimes. Once on Earth, the scumdogs fornicated with apes, and through bestial sexual mutation, the human race was born. A crime far too great for their extraterrestrial ruler/maker — The Master — to discount, the scumdogs were incarcerated in ice, deep beneath their hulking temple in the wastelands of Antarctica. According to legend, the advent of ’80s hair metal ultimately led to the scumdog’s reawakening and GWAR’s inevitable rise.

“Because of their overuse of hair spray, a huge hole was burned into the ozone above our temple,” vocalist Oderus Urungus recalls.

Intergalactic fugitive gangster/music mogul Sleazy P. Martini accelerated the melt and taught the aliens to play instruments, got them hooked on crack and set them on the road in the form of a heavy metal band, and GWAR was born. Twenty-five years later, they are still causing havoc and chaos wherever they go.

“Everyone keeps going on about how long we have been together, but since we are immortal, it only seems like a blink of time to us,” Urungus said during a phone interview before a show in Pittsburgh. “Every day we are getting stronger, and our forces are growing. We have our scumdog warship now, so we can leave whenever we want. But Earth is the only planet in the universe we can get crack, so Earth has a whole new importance to us.”

When asked why they love crack, Urungus had a simple answer.

“What’s not to love about crack? It tastes good, and it gets you high,” he said.

GWAR is known for its outlandish stage shows, wild costumes and raucous music. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary, a return to an their old label, Metal Blade Records, and the release of their newest album, “Lust in Space.”

“We whored ourselves out to the industry and walked the block, but we returned to where we started. Metal Blade is a survivor of a label and has kept metal going for many years,” Urungus said. “We are picking up where we left off, so there should be many ritual sacrifices.”

Although GWAR isn’t considered the headliner, they know who the fans are coming to see.

“It has been bugging the shit out of GWAR fans, because and we believe this too, there is no reason for GWAR to open a show,” Urungus said. “But the way I explain it to fans is, ‘We are headlining, Lamb of God is just playing after us.’”

With the success of “Lust in Space,” Urungus expects more GWAR exposure to come beyond the tour.

“First we are going to rock the house for three straight months, and then we are going to conquer Japan. We also need a GWAR movie, a GWAR video game, our own TV station, and I deserve my own damn variety show,” Urungus said. “The human race can bask in our presence at least for a few more years, and they should know that all the years of worshipping and spending money on GWAR will result in their bodies being torn apart and served as GWAR dog food.”

Fans of the band know what to expect from a live show, but just in case, Urungus sums it up nicely.

“Expect to rock the fuck out and die a horrible death,” he said. “If you do survive by hiding under the bodies of your dead friends, you’ll ultimately end up at another GWAR show where we will claim your eternal soul.”


Soulfly with Prong, Cattle Decapitation and Mutiny Within
People’s Court, Oct. 12, $18 adv/$20 door


Soulfly’s singer/guitarist Max Cavalera has been a part of the metal scene since 1984, when he and his brother, Igor, started the influential Brazilian heavy metal band, Sepultura. But in 1996, Cavalera left the band and in 1997 started Soulfly. The band expanded Cavalera’s Brazilian influence, recording six albums with the newest being 2008’s “Conquer.”

“The response to the album has been great, and fans have really embraced it. The crowds are chanting the opening of ‘Blood Fire War Hate’ before we come out on stage,” Cavalera said during a phone interview.

Cavalera is excited how well “Conquer” turned out.

“It’s definitely Soulfly’s most battle-ready record by far. The vibe reminds me of movies like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘300.’ It comes from a completely different place,” he said.

While working on the latest Soulfly album, Cavalera joined forces once again with his brother to record an album under the moniker, Cavalera Conspiracy. Although he was working on two projects at once, the passion fueled Cavalera’s creative side.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s divided and different for what goes into each band,” he said. “They were completely different albums, but to dive into them was exciting.”

When asked about another Cavalera Conspiracy album, Max is looking to the future, but also has the task at hand.

“We’ll do another Conspiracy album, probably not now or in the near future, but we’ll get back to it,” he said. “We did a few dates overseas and they were great, but it’s time to focus on Soulflfy now.”

Cavalera had toured with Prong before and was excited to learn they were interested in opening for the band.

“Sepultura toured with Prong and Pantera in the ’90s, and when we were putting together bands for the tour, I was hoping Prong would be available,” he said. “We have a great mix of bands on this tour, and everyone has their own sound. Prong is more industrial, Cattle Decapitation is crazy death metal and Mutiny Within is a newer band on the rise. “

Cavalera enjoys fan interactions during shows and even invites a lucky fan on stage.

“We have a drum jam session during the show, and we invite a crowd member to join us,” he said. “Lots of energy is the Soulfly way of doing things.”

With so many years in the scene, a few things keep Cavalera rocking.

“I’m always experimenting and going to new frontiers, but the fans and their reactions to the shows still fuels me and is the driving force behind my music,” he said.

Cavalera offers some words of wisdom for fans coming to show on Oct. 20.

“I’m very exited to be a part of this show because it is a great bill for fans,” he said. “Get there early, because it’s a full night of metal.”


Jucifer with Tyborn Jig, Druids and Mason Cain
Vaudeville Mews, Oct. 20, $10


Although Jucifer might not be the most recognizable band in this story, they may be the loudest. The duo, guitarist/singer Amber Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood, offer a haunting sound that has been dubbed as “Slayer meets The Carpenters.” Forming in 1993, Valentine and Livengood, who are married, couldn’t think of any other way to make a living.

“Music is something we have been doing since we were kids, and there is nothing else we want to do,” Valentine said during a phone interview from the road. “Plus, we are a couple, so it’s easier to keep the band together.”

Being a couple and playing in the same band has seen its problems in rock and roll past (Johnny Cash/June Carter, Stevie Nicks/Lindsey Buckinham/Mick Fleetwood), but Valentine doesn’t worry.

“We’re a very good couple and a great team,” she said. “We love being together, which is a good thing because we are together 24-7.”

The duo unloads a wall of speakers for each performance, creating a crisp, but loud live show. Valentine enjoys the look on fan’s faces when they let loose.

“It’s like a suckerpunch to the audience. People who know about us have the expectation of being annihilated when they come to our show,” she said. “After the show, we have a lot of fans that have never seen us, and say they were totally steamrolled.”

A report by Rolling Stone magazine from the South by Southwest music festival states, “A wall of speakers approximately six feet high and 10 feet long, enormous Lucite drums, an unholy torrent of smoke, and lots of sweaty hair — and all of it as loud as it looked.”

“Playing live for us is an amazing physical and emotional release for us,” she said. “In a sense, we don’t care what it does to the audience. We are pleased if they are terrified and hate us, or if they love us. Either come along for the ride, or jump off screaming.

Valentine says from the beginning the duo decided to play as loud as possible.

“When we first started playing, the sound guys would tell us we were too loud, which was before we had all of the gear we use now,” she laughs. “Our wall of amps have evolved over the years, and we figured out that the more amps we had, the more we could spread the sound and actually hear what we are doing. Monitors almost always suck, so when you don’t have to rely on them, it’s quite fantastic.”

Valentine has some mixed memories of past shows in Iowa.

“I remember playing at Gabe’s [Iowa City] because there was nothing like loading 20 bass cabinets up and down the rickety fire escape,” she laughed. “The first time we played in Des Moines was at Hairy Mary’s, and the promoter was a real piece of work. We had a nice guarantee, but once we showed up we discovered there was no promotion and no local bands. The bartenders told us the promoter probably wouldn’t show up and pay us and we were the only band there, and it was quite an interesting night. But I do remember the bartenders chipping in and paying us a little bit of cash.”

The duo now tours the countryside like nomads. They bought an RV and gave up the life of touring, coming home, recording an album and repeat. Valentine says the inspiration comes much easier on the road, even if it can be cramped quarters.

“It keeps us focused on the music,” she said. “If you really want to know if your relationship will work, go on a road trip. When you’re living in a space that is as big as some people’s master bathroom, it proves how strong you are not only as a couple, but as a band.”

Valentine offers fans coming to the show one piece of advice.

“Bring some ear plugs if you want ever want to hear music again,” she laughs. CV



Upcoming October heavy metal and hard rock shows


Vaudeville Mews
212 4th St.

Oct. 9 Yussuf Jerusalem and The Jitz, 10 p.m., $7
Oct. 13 Git Some, 5:30 p.m., $7
Oct. 18 The Crinn
Oct. 20 Jucifer, 8 p.m., $10
Oct. 21 Struck By Lightning, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 Thrash: A benefit show for homeless animals, 4:30 p.m., $8
Oct. 25 The Atlas Moth, 10 p.m., $7
Oct. 26 Smaug, 5:30 p.m., $6
Oct. 31 The Annual Misfits Karaoke Halloween Bash


Val Air Ballroom
301 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines

Oct. 9 Lamb of God and GWAR with Job For A Cowboy, 8 p.m., $30
Oct. 14 Mastodon and Dethklok with Converge and High on Fire, 6:30 p.m., $33
Oct. 17 Hairball, 8 p.m., $20
Oct. 27 Tesla, 8 p.m., $25


The House of Bricks
525 E. Grand Ave.

Oct. 10 World Under, 5 p.m., free
Oct. 24 Powerman 5000 with No Conviction, 5 p.m., $TBA
Oct. 30 Black By Dawn with 3rd of Cat and Absolute Power, 9:30 p.m., $6


People’s Court
216 Court Ave., third floor

Oct. 12 Soulfly with Prong, Cattle Decapitation and Mutiny Within, 6:30 p.m., $18 adv/$20 door
Oct. 14 Saliva with Mindrite, 7 p.m., $17.50 adv/$20 door
Oct. 18 UFO, 6:15 p.m., $22 adv/$30 door


Hull Avenue Tavern
834 Hull Ave.

Oct. 13 The Sammus Theory with Divided We Stand, 9:30 p.m., free
Oct. 16 Fatal Fall, Hangover and From Citizen To Solider, 9:30 p.m., free
Oct. 17 Heroes End with Knuckled Down, Section Hate and Lost Hope, 9:30 pm., free
Oct. 24 Jagerfest featuring Dying Eyes, No Conviction and UnKald 4, 9:30 p.m., free
Oct. 25 All ages show, bands TBA, noon, $5
Oct. 30 Dying Eyes with Dead Horse Trauma, Pink Skirt Murder and Calous, 9:30 p.m., free
Oct. 31 Hulloween Party featuring Di-Fi and Cannot Justify, 9:30 p.m., free


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“The defense attorney’s closing argument ended abruptly as he proclaimed, ‘If this ain’t the truth, may God strike me dead!”

Kevin Shires

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