Having just reviewed Volbeat on their headlining tour with Danko Jones and Spoken as support I had absolutely no problem making the short drive to the Orpheum in Madison, Wisconsin to see the fast-rising Danish heavyweights rock a much smaller room on a weeknight. The other added bonus to those in attendance this night was the inclusion of Eye Empire opening up the proceedings. Eye Empire has been making rock radio waves (particularly in this area) with their latest double disc offering “IMPACT” and the majority of the crowd in Madison was well aware of who they were in advance of this gig. That always makes for a nice evening in my book and the hot and sweaty crowd at the old theater was amped and ready for a beating by the time the Eye Empire guys hit the stage.
Dread-locked guitarist B.C. Kochmit shreds and kills on his instrument, he is really fun to watch and able to cover a shitload of ground due to the abilities of bassist Corey Lowrey who is easily the secret weapon of Eye Empire. Corey holds down the groove and the integrity of their material (a great deal of “Impact” was played) is never in question, even when B.C. Is blazing on some insane guitar run. Their drummer Ryan Bennett is also an absolute beast and equally fun to watch, very engaging with the crowd and reminding me of the good old days of watching Dave Grohl bash on a drumset rather than a guitar. Donald Carpenter’s vocals were solid throughout and he was a very confident and again, engaged, frontman. Carpenter is an interesting anomaly in this day and age, he is not at all above delivering the Eye Empire credo and message to the audience and manages to express what their music is about (respect, love and support) with a sincerity seldom seen by modern rock singers.
It was also cool that Eye Empire played a bit of their new material from their forthcoming second album to whet the Mad-city faithful’s appetite, the new stuff is not mellow! Having said that, the only complaint I might make is that the more mid tempo and melodic side of Eye Empire wasn’t really showcased as much in this support set. That makes sense, opening for Volbeat is a great opportunity and there’s no sense in not bringing the heavy ammo, but songs like “Moment” and “Hopeless” are some of the band’s best tracks. I am gonna have to go check them out on another night, they’re set to be playing with Seether soon.
Volbeat arrived onstage and wasted no time proving why they are one of the hottest bands in hard rock/metal. The guys sounded as good as they ever have on this night in Madison and seemed pretty stoked that they had never played the old Orpheum before, vocalist/guitarist Michael Poulson even saying as much. Much of the setlist was of course similar to the one we covered a month earlier in Chicago but it was very, very cool how much actually had changed. The crowd went batshit crazy for the snippet dedication of “Reign In Blood” to Jeff Hanneman and the “Ring Of Fire” snippet dedicated to Johnny Cash which served as the requisite intro to “Sad Man’s Tongue”. When note-perfect drummer Jon Larsen kicks off the opening drum part to “Heaven Nor Hell” it is always better than sex and now it’s even better since Rob Caggiano shreds a killer guitar version of the harmonica solo in that song. Personally, my entire evening was made by the band performing my all time favorite Volbeat song “Maybellene I Hofteholder” and another track I haven’t seen them do in some time “The Garden’s Tale”. Poulson was very energetic in performing much of the new material from the just released “Outlaw Gentleman and Shady Ladies” album with “Lola Montez” and “Hangman’s Body Count” going over exceptionally well. I still think bassist Anders Kjolholm is the most fun member of Volbeat live and this evening he was firing on all cylinders, providing tons of energy, smiles and amazing backing vocals. The fact that “Mary Ann’s Place” is in the set in “non-duet” form opens the question of whether the guys will start performing one of the favorite new tracks “Lonesome Rider” (another duet) soon. We can only hope. I was completely re-obsessed with stalking their live gigs by the time the guys got to the encore and threw in another one of the gems from the new album, “The Nameless One”. If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking out the band live yet I have to say there is not a single current touring act I could recommend more highly than Volbeat.
Look for new interviews with Eye Empire and Volbeat soon on LRI!