NEW YORK -- If you are a heavy-metal fan in the New York area, chances are you were at the Roseland Ballroom on Wednesday evening, attending the triple bill of Sepultura, Vision of Disorder and Earth Crisis.
And if so, you were treated to hard evidence -- as if you needed it -- that rumors of heavy metal's demise are greatly exaggerated.
Between headliners Sepultura and the two openers, Earth Crisis and Vision of Disorder, there was enough fresh energy and mold-breaking music on display to assure hungry metal-heads that sustenance will be available well into the foreseeable future.
That said, Sepultura was a fitting headliner.
Brazil's hard-rocking band is widely regarded as being one of the first to spike its heavy metal with hardcore. And although longtime singer/guitarist Max Cavalera left the group a couple of years ago, the band (guitarist Andreas Kisser, bassist Paulo Jr., and drummer Igor Cavalera) has resurfaced with a new singer, New York native Derrick Green.
Their just-released album, Against, proves that Sepultura, responsible for such classics as 1993's Chaos A.D. and 1996's Roots, will be able to continue sans Max.
Balancing its set with an equal measure of new material and classics, the band had the audience moshing and crowd-surfing with glee. At various moments during the set, Green would double as drummer with Cavalera, helping to re-create Sepultura's authentic tribal-metal sound in a live setting.
Kisser served as the band's mouthpiece throughout the set, giving Green a formal introduction early in the show and encouraging the audience to slam away. That it did.
"Heavy metal is so powerful in my life," 25-year-old Josh Chapman of Brooklyn, N.Y., said.
Many other members of the crowd apparently agreed with him, as indicated by the wide variety of metal-band tour shirts on display (Deicide, Pantera, Metallica, Type O Negative, Slayer) and the ongoing shouting of favorite song lyrics.
The make-up of the heavy-metal audience -- like that of the music itself -- has changed considerably over the years. Back in the '80s, the expected garb at a metal show was a trusty leather jacket and uncomfortably skin-tight jeans. And without hair down to at least your shoulders, you'd stick out like a neon-lit poseur.
But due to a merger between metal and hardcore in the early '90s, at least half the audience went the hardcore route: buzzed haircut, baggy jeans, Adidas warm-up sweatshirts and ski hats. And while metal crowds of the past would just head-bang, hardcore fans have injected moshing and crowd-surfing into the mix.
As indicated by the evening's opening band, Earth Crisis, the music also has added new elements -- which is one of the reasons it continues to thrive. Whereas heavy metal used to be about good times and partying, Earth Crisis were about as far removed as bands can get from that message of yesteryear. Comprised of five militant environmentalists, this Syracuse, N.Y., outfit hits hard with brutal music and thought-provoking lyrics, as heard on its latest release, Breed the Killers.
Although Earth Crisis raged to a half-empty house, they left their mark on the enthusiastic few who came to the show early enough to see them. After the Earth Crisis set, Brian Follander, 22, of Montauk, N.Y., described it as a "good effort. With more experience, they should be a hardcore force to be reckoned with."
This set the stage for the homecoming of Long Island, N.Y.-based Vision of Disorder. The band is receiving global praise for its superb sophomore effort, Imprint, and deservedly so -- it's easily one of the best heavy-metal releases of '98.
Opening with the new album's energetic title-track, the band (guitarists Matt Baumbach and Mike Kennedy, bassist Mike Fleischmann, drummer Brendon Cohen and singer Tim Williams) was in fine form. Unfortunately, it had to battle a muddy sound-mix throughout its set.
"Despite the soundman's ineptness, [they] managed to sustain a hard-driving, high-energy performance," 22-year-old Stephen Gross of Huntington, N.Y., said.
As experienced firsthand, when they're on and have a good sound, Vision of Disorder are untouchable live (as evidenced by their headlining August '97 show at nearby Irving Plaza).
Still, the band treated the crowd to such new thrashers as "What You Are" and "Jada Bloom," as well as older crowd-favorites, such as "Viola" and "Element" (off its '96 self-titled debut).
And with a nearly full house responding to them as if they were the headliners, it seems only be a matter of time until Vision of Disorder break through to the heavy-metal masses.
"Drummer Brendon Cohen was insane, and his performance was flawless! What a great band!" raved aspiring-drummer Colin Schiller, 21, of Long Beach, N.Y.
But Sepultura really got things kicking. As the new frontman, Green proved that he is capable of handling such Max-era songs as "Biotech Is Godzilla," "Roots Bloody Roots," "Territory," "We Who Are Not As Others" (RealAudio excerpt) and the title tracks from both Arise and Chaos A.D.
Newer material -- such as "Choke" (RealAudio excerpt) "Rumors" and the title track off Against -- met with screams and high-energy moshing, as did a group drum-jam near the show's end, which included friends of the band, including V.O.D.'s Cohen.
"I liked the new singer for Sepultura; all the songs sounded great," 22-year-old Mike Loh of Baldwin, N.Y., said. "I just wish that the Kodo drummers that played on their new record were there to perform live. Otherwise, a great show."