Review – Praise the Sinner, Darker Half, Beyond Fallen: June 6th, 2014

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Review – Praise the Sinner, Darker Half, Beyond Fallen: June 6th, 2014
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Darker Half: Never Surrender
Praise the Sinner, Beyond Fallen, Darker Half
Wilkes-Barre, PA @ The Factory: Underground
June 6th, 2014
For a good while, north east Pennsylvania had been witnessing many venues either closing up or struggling to keep the doors open. Thankfully things have been turning around lately for a few that exist, and even some new locations have crept up. One place in particular is the bar/venue known as The Factory: Underground. This little hole in the ground (in more ways than one) is located right on the northern Main Street just off the square of the now infamous crime infested Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. But that hasn’t stopped a good number of bands from performing there, or even the Aussies to come invade. That night was an interesting one for all fans of Metal alike, playing host to locals Praise the Sinner, the legendary Beyond Fallen, as well as the Power Metal act Darker Half. For this area to get a band from so far away that wasn’t a big name group that only headlines amphitheaters, word quickly spread, and anyone who considered themselves a fan of Metal (and were able to get out) were treated to what might be a once in a lifetime experience. But did the show go off as planned, or was it even worth the couple bucks it cost at the door?

The short answer to that would actually be yes and no. There were a few hiccups that occurred along the way that night. One of the more noticeable was that the show originally was touted as having more bands to be announced than just these acknowledged three. The doors opened later than you would expect, so right away it was obvious there weren’t any others booked. Of course these three bands had plenty of material between them to fill up the time, justifying the mere five dollars (US currency) per person to catch some live music in an establishment that looks like something straight out Minecraft with a modern skin.

Praise the Sinner
Darker Half

Walking in through the doors it was well known that Praise the Sinner was performing without a bassist at the time due to a vacant spot they are looking to fill. What seemed like it would be an odd sounding performance wound up coming through pretty strong despite being down one key instrument. The three piece may have formed in 2010, but they gave it their all on stage to a small but growing crowd as if they had been around and active for much longer. While others didn’t share my opinion, their appearance and general stage presence made me feel as though I were thrown back into the nineties for some reason, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The band managed to play a good chunk of older material with a couple new songs appearing as well. “Praise” was one of those fresh tracks that wound up an instant hit with the crowd, while “Carol Ann” was one of their older ones that, while the crowd approved, this was one of the very few moments where the ball wound up being dropped in the drumming. That aspect could have been a little tighter all around, though this could have also been due to the lacking of a bass guitar to help fill the gap.

The whole set lasted a good forty five, maybe fifty minutes, but those who clearly came for Praise the Sinner left pleased with the performance. The main problem was that this group didn’t quite fit the tab for the night. One look around the rather vacant venue showed a number of people who clearly weren’t there for these guys but still came out to show support to the locals. While not the most impressive performance of the night, it was a tight set for a band one man down, making it evident that nothing is going to stop these guys from putting on a good show.

Darker Half
Darker Half

Darker Half was next, apparently swapping places with Beyond Fallen under the assumption that people coming to see the hometown heroes might leave after that set and leave the group from Australia high and dry. By the time the band took the stage more people had come in, and those who did were greeted to a solid display of vocal power during the sound check from Steven “Vo” Simpson, the group’s lead guitarist and vocalist, belting out falsetto’s the “Painkiller” by Judas Priest playing from the venue’s TouchTunes jukebox.

Watching Darker Half was a bit confusing at first. The group is actually a four piece, but again we have three: The bassist was absent. But for a group that had a moderate turn out and very little recognition in this area, perhaps even most of the country, a good number of people went up close to the stage as the band played their hearts out. Their appearance was to help push the release of their third full-length album Never Surrender, but nearly every track they played was new to the audience. It didn’t take the band long at all to win the crowd over if the sound check hadn’t already, finding a good number coming down from the bar to get closer to the action.

Between songs there were little tidbits of information including the lack of merchandise, which was explained as due to the band getting there late. After the show I caught up with rhythm guitarist Brad Dickson who said they would have it for the New York show, though no CDs. Like Vo urged fans who enjoyed the music, we were urged to go on-line and buy a digital copy of their material if we can’t make that show. Of course I could be off as he is a very soft spoken individual and couldn’t really hear him. Even during the show it was hard to hear any of the vocals aside some of the powerful higher octaves. The main culprit was the music obviously being rather loud, but the volume of the microphones much lower, dwarfing out Vo as he regaled the tale as to why their bassist was missing in action, which had had something to do with him drawing a broadsword on people breaking into his house for self defense. There were bass tracks though, which did help give a fair representation of what the band’s live performance would normally sound like at least, though given this information came before “Never Surrender” it’s hard to sit there and not feel like it might have been a story devised to explain the absence while also wasting no time to segway into the new album’s title track.

But with all of that said, the set still killed. A good amount of songs were from the group’s first two albums, but there’s no denying that those in attendance got a good dose of material from the band’s new release. “Stranger” grabbed the crowd’s attention, but it was the aforementioned “Never Surrender” that got the biggest reaction to the point where a small pit seemed like it wanted to erupt, but with only a few people really active enough to get it going, it never happened. Like a number of people, I spent most of my time deciding as to whether I liked the material or not and if the band would be worth throwing money and time into. In no time at all it became a resounding approval from the crowd as Darker Half left one hell of an impression in north eastern Pennsylvania, helping to make it a night those in attendance wouldn’t soon forget.

Beyond Fallen
Beyond Fallen

At this point there had been two live acts that played without bass players, though Darker Half at least had them pre-recorded. This theme almost became a trifecta that night as it was unclear whether Beyond Fallen‘s bassist Chuck Donahue would make it due to a family emergency. Thankfully it wasn’t anything too severe and he shows in time to catch both bands and still get up on stage.

The set performed was your general roughly hour long performance from the local icons. Most of their set could be found on the album Mindfire, hitting listeners with staples like that recording’s title track, but also a good chunk of newer material. “Caligula,” which comes off their latest EP Machines of Corruption, still did as much damage as when they belted it out at the release party for that EP as well. But what really whipped the crowd into a frenzy was the performance of their new single, “Hatecrown.” For only being made available a week and a half prior to this show the crowd was definitely behind it.

Of course this wasn’t the only time it had occurred. A brief pit did break out a few times among those closest the stage, though it only lasted a few moments if that. It was clear the band was having a blast despite keeping a stern demeanour, though the exchanges between drummer John Jesuele and newcomer Greg Baczmarga made it clear the serious exterior was simply a mask. Out of nowhere the band announced they would perform one more song for the night, but it didn’t fool anyone. Cries for one more song came out after they claimed to be done, leading the band turn around and hammer out “Concrete Lucifer” with obvious glee and a rush of enthusiasm as the venue erupted, chanting along during the chorus while throwing their fists and devil horns in the air, wrapping up yet another solid performance from the veteran Metal group.

Even though Praise the Sinner was the most handicapped due to being without a bass player, pre-recorded bass lines, as well as being placed on a tab they didn’t completely fit into, all three groups put on one hell of a show that night. Anyone who came out and paid the meagre five dollar cover charge was greeted to not only one increasingly energetic performance after another, but were also given a possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to see a band that may never come back again, especially to the backyard of many of the attendees. It’s a shame that the turn out was so small really. All bands deserved much more. But, it’s like many Metal bands and fans acknowledge: The smallest crowd is usually the most vocal. On this night in particular that statement came to life.

Praise the Sinner may not have wet everyone’s appetite, but much like Darker Half they still reached a number of new fans, while being treated to the familiar territory that is Beyond Fallen, another who had a surprisingly small turn out despite the fact they normally pack bigger locations to the rafters. But, for those who showed, they were treated to a night of ood music, good company, and one hell of a memorable time. It’s events like this that show who is really out there not only looking for a good time, but also to discover something new, a goal that was achieved by all.

Initial Pressing Score: 8/10