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Hellpop II Tour ravages Ziggy's and ignites curiosities

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Hellpop II Tour

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On Wednesday, January 22, hundreds of clamoring fans rushed from miles, some even states, away for the Hellpop II Tour at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem, N.C. Featuring a diverse group of artists in hard rock and heavy metal and headlined by the illustrious In This Moment (ITM), fronted by the awe-inspiring Maria Brink, Hellpop II has been trekking the states blowing minds wherever it’s gone. Bringing along for the ride Butcher Babies, Devour the Day and All Hail The Yeti, ITM made sure to switch things up for this second leg of their extravagant tour.

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Los Angeles, CA melodic metal outfit Before the Mourning opened up the night, but due to some confusion about load-ins and a mammoth line at the front door many were still shivering in frosty evening air while the band performed. As the crowd began to fill in and the club began bustle with moving bodies and miscellaneous chatter, metalcore revolutionaries All Hail The Yeti (AHTY) took the stage and began to unleash an aggressive, in-your-face performance that not only served to introduce them to the North Carolina crowd, but to impress some and silence many. Front man Connor Garritty was visibly encompassed in his performance as he bellowed, howled and sang into the microphone, resonating throughout the packed venue. Musically, AHTY hit touch points up and down the hard rock and metal registers, demonstrating not only notable stage presence, but musical diversity. The crowd seemed to be warming up and appeared to respond to them well with horns raised and heads banging along to their amped up tunes.

Devour the Day (DTD) were a nice change up from AHTY, offering up not only a change in pace, but in energy as well. DTD was started by former Egypt Central members Blake Allison and Joey “Chicago” Walser in 2012. Since its inception, DTD has been working tirelessly to spread the word and gain some widespread appeal. With their addition to Hellpop II, the guys of DTD are getting a chance to touch a new fan base and extend their reach. Allison’s full-charge stage presence would send him flying across the stage, occasionally with guitar in hand; teetering (literally) on the edge of going overboard while Walser could be seen applying his usual fervor side stage. For those unfamiliar with Egypt Central, during his time with them Walser, better known as Joey Chicago in those days, could be seen flying across the stage and making large leaps and hops in impassioned excitement. Their eclectic variety of hard rock mixed with indie and classic rock ‘n’ roll/ hard rock elements made DTD a satisfying deviation from the norm on Hellpop II. The palatable riffs and electric energy sizzled onstage and seemed to ignite DTD as they blossomed and really began to own the stage. Overall, demonstrated technical, skill paired with fire in the gut and charisma made DTD a sweet departure from the heavier sounds of the night both past and yet to come, and marked their path to success through distinction. We have only just begun to see what these guys can do.

Up next were Butcher Babies, fronted by Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, and their unique concoction metal, mayhem and sexuality dosed with venom. These ladies are not to be toyed with, actually, they like to be the ones doing the toying and teasing. Equipped with pipes of steel, boots covered in spikes and claws for nails, despite critic judgments based on their booming bosoms, these front women “came to f**k s**t up!” And f**k s**t up is exactly what they did. Tearing through their set with an unparalleled level of energy, these two were out to get as close as possible to the fans. Guitarist Henry Flury also made efforts to “reach out and touch” the hyped up crowd by standing on the monitors just outside the closely located barricade. Bassist Jason Klein also took a turn or two getting closer to the horde while maintaining an eerie stare emanating both concentration and maliciousness as he plucked the heartbeat of each song. Chris “Chrissy” Warner sat at the back of stage set beating mercilessly on his kit, hammering out the soul of each unassailable track.

Butcher Babies shrieked and screamed their way uninhibited through a brutal set list consisting of several songs from their sophomore release Goliath and their debut EP including title track “Goliath,” “The Mirror Never Lies,” “I Smell A Massacre,” “Magnolia Blvd,” and “Mr. Slowdeath.” Near the middle of their set, Shepherd instructed the club to turn the house lights on in an effort to better see the packed venue and the faces of those in attendance. This was met with cheers, whistles and screams of approval from the excited throng as the lights went up and they were better able to see the performers as well.

“I think I like this doing it with the lights on s**t,”- Shepherd to Harvey.

At the end of their performance, to get even closer to the ravenous masses, Shepherd and Harvey even went as far as to climb atop the barricade (with security assistance) to actually reach out and scream right in the faces of the adoring fans closest to the front. Despite deviating from the expected sound trend implied by sharing billing with ITM, Butcher Babies seemed to have won over a few new fans on this night and thrilled old fans with their trademark raucousness, sensuality and ferocity.

Finally, the time had arrived that the crowd had been waiting for, In This Moment. As the stage was set and the fog began to roll out over the stage, “It Is Written” plays in the background and then it rolls right into “Rise With Me” as front woman Maria Brink takes her place atop a platform of sculpted skulls and body limbs. The fog, the lights, Brink’s stage presence and confidence, these are all things that make an ITM show. The ambiance is hauntingly beautiful with echoic elements of velvety soft entrancement. You want to give in to Brink from the moment she enters the room and it doesn’t matter what preconceptions you come in with, ITM has a way of breaking you down. Brink’s vocal dynamics, ranging from soft, almost whispers to more seductive, come-hither singing, to the more ear-piercing and commanding shrieks of fire and rage. Accompanied by ITM co-founder Chris Howorth (guitar), Travis Johnson (bass), Randy Weitzel (guitar), Tom Hane (drums) and the “Blood Girls” (dancers), Brink alone does not a show make; granted, she is quite a spectacle by herself, but it takes entire ensemble to make this production work. The men of ITM seem content to let Brink take center stage, literally, and allow the ethereal feel of the set revolve around her effervescent beauty, but some of the fun of the show comes from keeping an eye on them as well. Johnson, Weitzel, Howorth and Hane all have their own nuisances and nods that they do during their performances that make them just as interesting (if at times not more so) to watch as Brink. If it’s not the haphazard hair-tossing or instrument pointing, it’s the goofy face making or their own onstage interactions that make them watch-worthy.

Blazing through songs from their fourth studio album Blood including “Adrenalize,” “Burn,” “Beast Within,” and “Into The Light,” ITM also surprised fans with a sensual mid-set cover of Nine Inch Nails “Closer.” They followed that with drum solo from Hane and snippets from songs from the first album Beautiful Tragedy- their first single “Prayers,” “Next Life,” and the heaviest song off that album, “Daddy’s Falling Angel.” For old-school ITM fans this was a dream medley featuring some of the best tracks off Beautiful Tragedy, for newer fans it gave a glimpse into where it all started. ITM closed out the night with an encore performance of their hit single “Blood,” sparking a final jolt of energy and excitement throughout the venue and giving attendees their last shot of adrenaline for the night.

Hellpop II has come to a close, but you can still catch In This Moment and Butcher Babies on ShipRocked. You can check out Before The Mourning, All Hail The Yeti and Devour The Day via their Facebook pages to see tour dates and listen to music. Hellpop II brought ITM to fans across the U.S and introduced new artists to their ever-expanding legion of devotees along the way. Even if you’d never heard of some these artists before, you have now and if ITM believes in them, maybe you should, too…

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