Rock on

By Thushara Kulatunga, Pix by Berty Mendis

December 19, 2009 was an important day for the Heavy Metal community in Sri Lanka. For the first time ever, a platinum selling, Grammy nominated, Metal act were billed to perform for the local metal heads, and I could sense the excitement among the people that were slowly gathering outside the venue.

I was outside the main entrance of the Viharamahadevi Open Air Theatre by 5pm, which was the time the event was scheduled to begin and I found that the gates were still closed to the public and what’s more, the sound check had just begun. Although most Sri Lankans would simply shrug this off saying that this sort of thing is not unusual over here, I felt that considering the artistes performing, things could have been organised a bit better.

It was roughly 7p.m. when the first opening act for the night started. Psychedelic rockers Paranoid Earthling (www.myspace.com/paranoidearthling) opened their set with their original “In Black and White,” which was ideal to get things started and successfully managed to get everyone present in the mood. By this time it had started to rain, but surprisingly no one seemed to care as the earthlings played.

Their second song for the night was their recently released anti-war offering “Bringing Down the Sun,” and they ended their set with their anthem “Rock and Roll is my Anarchy,” which had the crowd, as always, going crazy. As expected, the earthlings put on a brilliant show, but the sounds were not that well balanced due to them not being able to take a sound check before performing.

Next up were melodic death metallers, Fallen Grace (www.myspace.com/fallengracesl) who also released their debut EP that night titled ‘Rising Assault.’ They opened with a new instrumental composition titled “Remorse,” a melodic and proggy track with some awesome drumming and intense solos. They then moved on to their debut single “Preach me Dark,” which also turned out to be their last song due to lack of time. Whirlwind (www.myspace.com/whirlwindrulz) was the last of the local acts for the night. I was not very impressed with their performance. The members seemed rather disconnected and they did not seem to be that into the performance, with the exception of the lead singer.

Next on the list were the much anticipated death metallers from Dubai, Nervecell (www.nervecell.net). Having been touring Europe and sharing the stage with international metal giants, they had recently played at Wacken Open Air Festival, as well as a myriad of similar festivals. This was however their first time on this side of Asia and they certainly rose to the occasion and graced the local metal heads with a set of brutal, crushing and extremely intense death metal. They played songs from their new 2009 release titled “Preaching Venom” and also a few tracks off their debut EP ‘Human Chaos,’ including the title track. I’m no connoisseur of death metal by any means, but Nervecell were amazingly tight and put on an intense live show, which was a pleasure to watch. They ended their set with a track from their EP titled “Demolition,” leaving the crazed metal heads chanting their name as they exited the stage.

Finally it was the turn of the headlining act for the night, As I Lay Dying (www.asilaydying.com) to take the stage. The US based metal core act charged onto the stage with a song from their last album, ‘An ocean between us,’ titled “Nothing left,” followed by the title track of that album. They also played songs from their 2005 album ‘Shadows are Security’ like “Through Struggle,” “The Darkest Nights,” and “Meaning in Tragedy.” Also on the list were songs from their earlier, more aggressive records like “The Pain of Separation” and “Forever.” I got to know later that the band had a lot more songs planned but due to the sound restrictions related to open air performances in Sri Lanka, they had to cut their set short. They ended the night with another song from the ‘Ocean Between Us’ album titled “The Sound of Truth.”

Although AILDs’ sound balance was far better than the other opening acts, there still were a few issues like Tim Lambesis’ vocals not being heard. That being said however, they’re performance was full of energy and naturally extremely tight and I don’t think anyone would have expected any less.

And thus ended the “loudest night in Colombo,” as dubbed by the organisers, Midnight Mist Entertainment, and despite the slight delays, the rain and the venue not being packed to the core, it was a proud night for the heavy metal movement of Sri Lanka.

The Sunday Times was the print media sponsor for the event.

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