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UltraSound 2001

September 7-9, 2001

Airfare: $265.00.
Hotel and meals: $600.00.
Hanging out with old friends, making new ones, and hearing some cool music: Priceless.

Cheers to Dave, Deb, and Sean for weathering the madness and surviving with psyches intact (for the most part).

Jeers to the Burbank Hilton for being absolute pricks.

Jeers to American Slang and Spiders & Snakes for not even bothering to show.

I arrived a day early to "ease into" the weekend and help out with stuffing bags, etc. I'm glad I did. I got a good solid night's sleep Thursday night and was ready to hit the ground running on Friday.

The weather was wonderful! I was expecting blistering heat (shows you how much I know about SoCal), and it was quite comfy. Low-to-mid 80s during the day, and down into the 60s with a nice breeze at night.

I got to hang out with a bunch of old friends: Paul Lackey, Gary Allen, Jeff Prentice, Sean Jennings, and of course Dave and Deb; and make some new ones: Sue Yasinitsky (nice to put a face with the online persona :), John Parker, and the devastatingly cute Nicole (I can't believe I never got a last name. Doh!)

I spent entirely too much money at the Century Media table; the largest single-event purchase of CDs I've ever made. Have credit card, will travel. :)

Here's my brief take on the performances, rated 0-10:

Friday night:

Ok, so I'm a pinhead. I skipped the preparty and stayed at the hotel to stuff bags and a bunch of us sat up bullshitting until 2:30 a.m...

Teabag. Heavy Metal. ??/10
Imagika. Heavy Metal. ??/10
Steel Prophet. Power Metal. ??/10
Agent Steel. Power Metal. ??/10
Or is it "Order of the Illuminati"??? Who knows...

Saturday:

Chain Link Faith. Hard rock. 9/10
Wow! What a surprise! These guys are good...real good. Extremely melodic hard rock with plenty of hooks. Folks in Arizona need to check these guys out!
Black Symphony. Modern Melodic Metal. 8/10
Solid stuff. A bit of a modern edge, yet some good melodies and hooks. The Black Symphony was chosen to perform live on ESPN and ESPN2 for Pro Beach Hockey, and their independent debut has sold in excess of 50,000 copies.
Sicnest. Nu-Metal. ??/10
I needed a break, so I skipped these guys. Their bio writeup scared me a little: "downtuned guitars, underground thrash, hip-hop, and modern neo-metal..." Umm....pass.
Zero Hour. Prog rock. 4/10
Egads, it doesn't get more proggy than this... and we all know how I'm not a great fan of prog. I guess they're proficient musicians, but in all honesty I'm not sure, since their self-indulgent noodling never held my attention for more than a nanosecond. Prog bands by and large should simply stay in the studio, since when they play it's simply for themselves anyway...
Byfist. Heavy Metal. 6.5/10
These guys have the image, and they certainly are heavy. The lead singer is a bit out of control vocally. They provided one of the more "interesting" moments by setting off the smoke alarms with a smoke machine. The fire department was less than amused.
Silencer. Heavy Metal. 5/10
Very heavy stuff, but nothing really jumped out at me stylistically. Their whole set kinda just blurred together.
Jarra. Melodic Metal. 7/10
Decent hard rock/melodic metal 4-piece act fronted by a Doro Pesch lookalike. I was expecting something fairly proggy, but this is straight ahead stuff.
Onward. Power Metal. 9/10
Good schtuff. There's a reason these guys are on Century Media. Solid U.S. power metal. They sounded good top to bottom.
Talon. AOR/Hard Rock. 8.5/10
These guys were fun to see and hear. Melodic hard rock with plenty of hooks. The lead guitarist is amazing. I wish the sound had been mixed a bit better for this act in particular, as I think they deserved a quieter, less "in-your-face" sound. I think these guys will do quite well on the Frontiers label.
Cage. Heavy Metal. 10/10
One of the highlights of the show! I had enjoyed their set at last year's show, and they were even better this time around. A dual-axe attack, that looks and sounds like vintage Judas Priest. Extremely polished, both in terms of image and sound, these guys show how professional a heavy metal band can be. The material from their latest album "Astrology" was quite well received, and the new yet-to-be-released song "Kill the Devil" was awesome! They had just returned from playing Wacken. Keep an eye on Cage; they may be headlining sooner than you think...
DC4. Hard Rock. 7.5/10
These guys were enjoyable, better than I was expecting. Melodic hard rock with a slightly modern twist. Given the fact that the lead guitarist is also the lead guitarist for Armored Saint, I was expecting something considerably heavier. The melodies are fairly catchy, and the guitar work uses some unusual effects.
Burning Rain. Hard Rock. 8/10
I enjoyed Burning Rain's set, but not quite as much as I had anticipated. Why? Keith St. John is just simply annoying. The Mick Jagger/Robert Plant wannabe act is just out-of-place here. Doug Aldrich's guitarwork was, as one would expect, phenomenal. Get a new frontman. :)

Sunday Poolside:

Ken Tamplin/Howie Simon. Acoustic Rock. 10/10
Another highlight of the show for me! These guys were great last year, and even better this time around. Extremely melodic and tight, they played a mixture of originals and covers, both of which went over well. Howie is just a monster on the acoustic guitar, and both smoked on some of the Flamenco instrumentals they performed. I'd love to hear a CD of this live stuff!
Fred Flory and Jimi Powers. Acoustic Rock. 8/10
A last minute addition, these 2 gentlemen from Chain Link Faith (see above) stepped in and performed quite admirably. A mini-set of acoustic numbers provided a nice segueway between acts.
Tony Harnell/Mark Reale (Westworld). Acoustic Rock. 9.5/10
Yet another stellar act. Tony's voice is phenomenal! Again, a combination of covers and original tunes, which ended with an impromptu singalong of 10,000 Lovers in One. :)

Sunday Main Stage:

Sonic Jungle. Hard Rock. 7/10
From the rubble of Aerosmith tribute band "Rocks" comes Sonic Jungle. Fairly decent glammish hard rock. Nothing spectacular, but well executed.
Tony Clark. Whodafuqueknows. 0/10
What the [CENSORED] was this? Tangerine Dream goes to Hell? A lone guy sitting at his keyboard screaming. Remind me to avoid anything considered "performance art" ever again. Gods this was bad.
Thrust. Heavy Metal. 7/10
A last-minute stand-in, these blokes crushed with extremely heavy material. I could barely make out the vocals, unfortunately. Thrust has been around since the early 1980s, put out an album in 1984 on Metal Blade records, which was reissued in 1998 by High Vaultage Records. A new album is due out soon.
Cut Throat. Hard Rock. ??/10
Lunch break, so I missed these guys. What I heard of their CD they were playing at their booth reminded me of a heavier version of Skid Row.
Shards of Seven. Hard Rock. 6/10
Rather nondescript hard rock, 2 of the band's members are from last year's Moore. The performance was solid, but not memorable, with the exception of the guitarwork, which was quite good. The lead vocalist had more tattoos and piercings than I've seen on a single individual; that *HAD* to hurt...
Iain Ashley Hersey's Fallen Angel. Metal. 6.5/10
This group is just getting started, and I think ultimately they will do quite well, but for now they didn't do much for me. A group based around yat another guitar noodler. The general consensus among those I spoke with was that his guitar tone was beautiful, but the playing was sloppy; missed runs, etc. Female lead vocalist that was good on the eyes belted out blues/classic rock vocals (voice characteristics reminded me of Tina Turner a bit).
Robin Brock. AOR. 9/10
I liked her set considerably more this year than last year's acoustic set. Considering that the backing band had only met her the night before, the tightness of the performance was incredible. A nice mixture of ballads and mid-tempo rockers, her set was exceptional, and very well received. A new album "Hidden Power" produced by Keith Olsen is available on A2 Records.
Stone. Blues Hard Rock. 8.5/10
I was going to skip these guys and get dinner, but I'm glad I stayed. This 3-piece churns out some amazingly good blues rock. The musicianship is solid and tight, and the lead vocalist/guitarist *really* gets into the music. One of their songs "Teaser" was featured on the John Carpenter movies "Vampires".
Prototype. Metal. ??/10
Hey, I had to get some dinner, gimme a break! :)
Vicious Rumors. Power Metal. 9.5/10
Whoa. Infinitely better than last year's set. New/returning lead voalist Brian O'Connor is extremely intense and powerful. The band is tight and has a very forceful presence. They surprised many by playing a lot of older classic material. They're gearing up for the opening slot with Symphony X and Savatage. Go see them!

All in all a fun weekend. If it gets any heavier next year, my head will simply cave in. :) Here's looking forward to next year!

-Dan

 

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