Philip H Aselmo & The Illegals, As I Lay Dying, Lacuna Coil, Dark Tranquillity & Static-X play Alcatraz Festival

PHILIP H ASELMO & THE ILLEGALS perform A Vulgar Display Of 101 Proof

Back in the day even extreme metal bands enjoyed a fair amount of commercial success – This was before downloads and streaming services started playing a crucial role in the music industry. Arlington, Texas, was home to the Abbott brothers Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell and in 1982 they recruited Rex Brown as Pantera’s new bassist. In the early years Pantera were a glam metal outfit but the addition of Philip H. Anselmo and the release of a series of seminal thrash albums had a major influence on the musical direction the band would take next. Out with the old and in with the chopping, the aggressive vocals and the groove-laden riffs (‘power groove’ in the band’s own words) we would come to know so well. Anselmo’s harsher delivery, faster drums and more intricate guitar work are key aspects of the transformation that led to the landmark album ‘Cowboys from Hell’ (1990). Strictly speaking this was album No. 5 but both the guys themselves and most of their fans consider this to be their true maiden release. ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ (1992) and ‘Far Beyond Driven’ (1994) completed a trilogy of amazing albums. Unfortunately, illegal substance abuse and internal strife ate away at the band’s foundations and in 2003 Pantera dissolved.

Disaster struck the following year when a psychopath walked on stage at the start of a Damageplan show and shot several people to death, including Dimebag Darrell. Plans to honour the legacy of Pantera had been afoot for some time and even though Vinnie Paul is no longer around to see it, Phil and his band The Illegals have been gracing festival stages worldwide with a worthy tribute to the power groove masters of Pantera.

AS I LAY DYING may not have invented metalcore but they were certainly one of the flagbearers who were instrumental in popularising the genre.

The fivesome’s hallmark qualities include a tight rhythm section, hard and fast riffs with accessible melodies, and a combination of grunts and clean vocals. Many of the lyrics address life’s adversities and struggles. Their critically acclaimed 2010 release ‘The Powerless Rise’ became an instant classic and took metalcore as a genre to the next level. Follow-up ‘Awakened’ was their final release before they went on an indefinite hiatus due to vocalist Tim Lambesis’ conviction for soliciting his wife’s murder. Still, after a great deal of soul-searching they eventually reformed.

Their 2018 headlining tour sparked some controversy with several venues deciding to cancel the band’s scheduled performance due to Lambesis’ past but in most places tickets for the reunion tour sold out in a hurry. ‘Shaped by Fire’ (2019) is their first studio project in seven years. Lambesis’ cathartic lyrics and Nick Hipa’s amazing guitar work are the focal points of an album that gives their long-time fans what they deserve: hard-hitting, uncompromising metalcore – and that’s exactly what the mosh-happy fans at Alcatraz want to hear!

Milan-based LACUNA COIL have been the flag bearers of the Italian metal scene since before the turn of the millennium.

Starting out as a gothic metal band, they were initially successful in Europe alone. Comalies (2002) was a milestone for the band in Europe but it wasn’t until their 2006 album ‘Karmacode’ that they finally managed to break into the mainstream US market. LACUNA COIL’s sound has evolved dramatically over the years: from their gothic beginnings to the more accessible ‘Shallow Life’ (2009) and ‘Dark Adrenaline’ (2012), across the alternative rock/metal of the ‘Broken Crown Halo’ (2014) to ‘Delirium’ (2016), which signals a return to full-blooded metal. The album sees Cristina Scabbia exploiting the full range of her impressive vocal abilities, Andrea Ferro is back to his old grunting self and an infusion of Meshuggah-style riffs makes for a much heavier album than some of its predecessors. Released to rave reviews, ‘Black Anima’ (2019) is their heaviest album yet and can easily stand alongside ‘Comalies’. With the band members exclaiming how much they like to perform the new stuff live LACUNA COIL seems to have plotted a course for murkier waters, a decision most of their old fans will certainly applaud.

The Gothenburg sound emerged in the 90s as a more melodic offshoot of the Swedish death metal attack launched by bands like Entombed and Unleashed.

In Flames, At the Gates and DARK TRANQUILLITY were the progenitors of this so-called melodeath scene. DARK TRANQUILLITY have been able to keep their line-up rather consistent over the years with vocalist Mikael Stanne, guitarist (and artwork guru) Niklas Sundin, skinsman Anders Jivap and keyboardist Martin Brändström. Former Tiamat bassist Anders Ivers joined in 2015. Their debut ‘Skydancer’ (1993) set the benchmark for a whole generation of melodic death metal bands and his rarely been equalled, even though DT themselves came close with their sophomore release ‘The Gallery’ (1995) and ‘Damage Done’ (2002). ‘Construct’ (2013) is probably a good place to start for the DT uninitiated with its overview of DT styles from the more mellow and melodic to pure Gothenburg death.

Their latest outing ‘Atoma’ (2016) continues along this vein with a blend of typical death metal chugs and lighter passages, the signature DT tag team of melodic keyboards and gripping riffage, the alternating clean and harsh vocals and a mix of memorable melodies and more extreme ingredients. With consistent quality as their strongest characteristic you can simply pick up any DT album and experience why they are still one of the best melodic death metal bands around.

With STATIC-X, 2019 saw the resurrection of one of the most intriguing industrial/nu-metal bands from around the turn of the millennium.

This summer their ‘evil disco’ will land in Kortrijk! It’s been five years since the death of founder and figurehead Wayne Static but this hasn’t kept the rest of the crew from writing a new chapter. As a replacement for their iconic leader they’ve recruited a new and mysterious frontman known only as Xer0. The decision to cast Xer0 in a Wayne Static mask sparked some controversy but the band insists it’s all part of the healing process. The internet went apeshit and tickets for the reunion shows sold like hotcakes. In October 2019 the fans at Trix, Antwerp, witnessed first-hand that the original line-up of Koichi Fukuda (guitars), Tony Campos (bass), Ken Jay (drums) are still up for it and that Xer0 is the right man for the job. STATIC-X are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their debut ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’, a true genre classic with tracks like ‘Bled for Days’, ‘Push It’ and ‘Love Dump’.

To top things off a new album called ‘Project Regeneration’ is set to drop at the end of May, just in time for Alcatraz Metal Fest!