Yesterday evening, I went to this show, where two important Turkish metal bands were playing. In a few words, it was one hell of a night! But, let me elaborate…
Back to the start, I can never really make up my mind about supporting acts… I don’t know if I need them, like them or even want them. It all comes down to the relevance and the quality of the band I suppose…
It is a double edged sword sometimes. I had experiences where the supporting act completely killed the buzz and the hype and sucked out the energy and mood I accumulated before the gig and for the main act. I also have been to shows where the supporting act completely outshone the main act. Neither of them desirable, obviously…
I think the perfect situation is where the supporting act warms you up, fires you away and gets you ready to rock out to the headliners… Now, for this night, although the two bands weren’t from the same sub-genres of metal, Black Tooth was obviously a great choice. You could tell as the number of people watching the show stayed the same throughout – the audience were there for both bands, mostly arrived right on time and stayed until the end… Another indication would be the response to the bands and they both ticked that box as well… The crowd seemed equally enthusiastic about both bands at Jolly Joker, last night…
Yes… Let’s start from that. The venue!
Jolly Joker is not only the best venue in town but one of the best in the country. And let me tell you, I am a complete gig freak, been to zillions of them in London, USA and all over Europe. Jolly Joker was handed over and the new owners made it so that the venue would become the primary venue of not only metal gigs but all big acts from both the country and all around the world. The sound infrastructure is excellent as well as the in-house lighting and positioning of the stage – you can hear and see everything clearly from anywhere in the venue.
Now, back to last night… It was packed and with a beautiful crowd from a wide age range. It is beautiful to see young girls and boys rock out next to rockers who could have been their moms or dads!!
First one up, Black Tooth, the band from Texas – no? They aren’t? My bad – is a uniquely important band. The band was formed by Tuna (vocals) and Utku (drums) in 2004. Deniz Karadogan (bass) and Orcan Kolankaya (guitars) joined in 2006 and the band became something centered on their shared love of Southern metal and drinking. Current line-up is Tuna Vural (vocals), Orcan Kolankaya (guitars), Onur Akça (drums) and Ozan Fidan (bass).
They are the first band out of Turkey to do pure Southern and Stoner both in music and attitude. From their name to their music their love of Pantera should be apparent. They are not a tribute band though, they do their own music and if and when they cover a song, it is a Pantera song without fail. These guys have stuck to their guns all the way through and made themselves not only a Turkish fan base but a States one as well! First, in 2008, they played at Ride for Dime 3 in Arlington and from there they were featured in numerous festivals in the States. All these put together makes them a uniquely successful metal band among their peers from Turkey.
From the get go, they were the embodiment of the music they do and the culture they represent. First thing Tuna said was that they were there to kick some ass and bring down the house… And man, did they deliver?!
I am convinced one more time that Tuna is a fantastic front man… He has commanding stage presence from minute one to the last and he grabs your attention palpably. He jokes around, washes the audience with whatever he’s got, takes a sip from the fans’ drinks, shares his own with them, stage dives… anything you can think of… Yes, he is the centre throughout the live set.
And yes, their live set was just that – it earned the right to be called a live set by blood and sweat. The band played an astoundingly fast paced set and they kept it up longer than I honestly thought they would. I’m not complaining, obviously. These guys have scary energy and a passion to perform and interact with their audience… And they are good at it! They blow the audience away and you can tell that they would rather be nowhere else in the world!
I have to say, Onur the punishing drummer of the band, the only member from Istanbul, plays a huge role in creating this wonderful atmosphere… Apart from his impeccable work on the drums, he does all kinds of crazy things… including standing up on his kit!
In the meantime of course, the other two competent members, Orcan and Ozan slays the heavy-as-hell riffs pumping out of the amps!
Tuna told the audience about the considerable accomplishments of his band during the show, but with a twist. It is nice to see a front man who takes more pride in his band’s accomplishments and the fact that they represent Turkey abroad. He also paid his usual tribute to Dimebag Darrell.
Oh, man, I almost forgot the pit… I’m not going to lie to you, I love pits… If I was a bit heavier of build or a boy I’d throw myself in the fray. It was definitely a decent pit yesterday – the crowd let their anger, pain and the banality of the day to day strife out without anyone getting punched in the nose or any skulls broken.
Now, this is food for stereotyping, I know. We have, from time to time, been considered violent, anti-social, dark and disturbing by the conforming demographics. You know what I am talking about… Metal-heads, bleh!
Now, Tuna is the perfect example that this is so untrue and unfair! This monster on stage has one of the biggest hearts and nicest personalities I’ve ever come across… Of course everyone have their arse holes to make them look bad and without doubt metal scene has its share but I digress…
All in all, great show from the talented bunch, from start to finish – which was Walk by Pantera. I’m sure you can picture the venue going south very fast at the first couple of notes! I don’t remember much of it, I blame the rush, but I do remember a close friend and I asking each other “are you talking to me?” and giving each other very angry and badass looks. Haha, good times!
After the gig I briefly spoke to Tuna and Onur and they seemed pleased with their performance. Who wouldn’t be really?
After Black Tooth got the crowd ready to rock out to Pentagram, the crew quickly and efficiently got the stage ready for the next show.
Now, Pentagram or Mezarkabul (their name for international releases) could be the most uniquely influential metal band in Turkish rock and metal scene.
The band was formed in 1986 as Pentagram by Hakan Utangaç on guitars and Cenk Ünnü on drums. Tarkan Gözubüyük joined a year later to play the bass. Throughout the years, the band had a lot of different – and memorable – members but these three has always been there. Current line-up is them, along with Metin Türkcan on guitars and Gökalp Ergen on vocals.
Pentagram released 6 studio albums and two live albums all of which have been critically acclaimed. Their music is a clever amalgamation of heavy metal and Anatolian musical heritage and for that, even though there were metal bands before them, they could be considered to be the pioneers of heavy metal in Turkey as they made it more accessible to the Turkish audiences. Their longest running vocalist, Mural Ilkan, can be considered a living legend in the Turkish metal scene.
Like I said, they a tasteful blend of metal and an oriental and Anatolian vibe, an exotic touch with a bit of a progressive flair. Their guitar and vocal melodies really have been blowing me away. And you know I love the oriental touch in prog-metal – which has been the trend for some time with certain bands, even Western one. Tellus Requiem (Frontiers), Opeth (Bleak), Shaman (Over Your Head), Jimme’s Chicken Shack (Dropping Anchor), Ørkenkjøtt (Skygger Og Støv), To-Mera (Inviting The Strom) The Tea Party (Gyroscope) and a bit of a classic, Aerosmith (Taste of India) are some of the examples that come to my mind now and that I like a lot!
Now, more to the point, Pentagram’s influence comes from their numerous past and present members having a lot to do in making rock and metal more mainstream in Turkey. Some of the most well-known rock and pop-rock artists in Turkey had their technical and musical help and some members made their name and their association with the metal scene very well known to the Turkish public effectively forming a bridge between genres and demographics. Case in point, Demir Demirkan, former Pentagram guitarist, wrote and produced (working with Ozan Çolakoglu who also works with pop idols such as Tarkan) the 2003 Eurovision winning song performed by another pop idol, Sertab Erener.
Pentagram being Pentagram, doing these for years, leveraging their own heritage and being a part of the bigger picture while doing so makes me one happy Lady.
If you’d like to hear it for yourselves, here are a couple of songs from their Myspace page below.
Now, before the show, I was thinking about the rough times they had to go through as well – probably the biggest one being Murat Ilkan leaving the band due to personal – health related – problems. It really broke the fans’ hearts.
It’s good to see them back on their game though! The new line up sounded tight!
Before I come to the longest-serving big guns of the band, the three members from the original line up, let us first talk about the new members…
First the new vocalist, Gökalp Ergen! I would like to congratulate this talented singer, songwriter, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist for standing up to the vocals duties for a highly acclaimed band after one of the biggest assets of the band, the former vocalist had to leave. That calls for some guts!
He is technically very good and seems to fit the band’s general sound. What they cook in the studio and on the stage definitely is good proof of this. There has been a subtle change in the band’s sound though, although we cannot know how much of this difference is coming from the new man on board.
With the new line up, one of the things that I’ve noticed is, the vocalist is not the front man as is the case with most of the bands though not all. It is more like shared among the members. Although, I have to say, Metin Türkcan, aka Metoboy, steals the show every now and then! Mang! What an addition to the band – a world-class guitarist! He shreds, lays down the most melodic solos, offers the most visually engaging parts and holds the attention for an entire set. Occasionally delving into a mini jam session, shreds and shreds and lifts the audience up.
Now onto the founders of the band, composers of the songs that we held dear to our hearts all these years… I will start with Tarkan Gözübüyük who seemed to enjoy himself a lot on stage last night.
I was right in front of him watching the lovely interaction with the fans and this talented and lovable bloke. Seeing the crowd singing along and rocking out clearly touched him… You know when you feel a sort of love along with awe and admiration when you gaze upon the band of which you are the greatest fan? Tarkan gave the same impression and went to the back of the stage time and again to share these priceless moments with his long time mate, Cenk Ünnü!
Yes… Cenk… I’ve always loved his work, but seeing him performing is another level… I’ve seen them live many times but I was closest to the stage and took the advantage and watched the gifted drummer very closely.
Hakan Utangaç was another proud member last night. Shared the guitar duties with Metin and was great with his occasional leads!
They played memorable songs from each of their entire discography… The crowd appreciated Anatolia and Bir the most. Bir is the most commercial effort if you ask me and yes it seems to have worked; the crowd shouted for it and when they eventually heard the intro of the song they exploded – and naturally, sang along to every word, every note.
Yours truly rocked out to Lions in a Cage and Dark is the Sunlight the most. I would love to be able to say ‘they played every song I may have considered a favourite over the years’ but unfortunately, they didn’t play the song I was dying to hear again, In Esir Like an Eagle…
During their performance, there was a little break, between two songs where the musicians gathered in the centre of the stage and our anticipation peaked! Everyone started to shout their favourite songs – yeah, tease!!! Obviously I was alone in craving In Esir Like an Eagle as the crowd was going wild for Bir and my tiny voice was lost in the din.
The crowd responded well to the recent material as much as they did to the what I would call the original, Pentagram-sounding songs. I especially liked the guitarists singing the vocal harmonies!
There was a call-response section between Gökalp and Metin, which really wasn’t received well… It lead to this weird moment where the band took a second expecting a reaction from the crowd… which the crowd didn’t give for some reason. I could tell Gökalp was disappointed a bit but he was very professional in chasing away the weirdness by smoothly flowing into another song.
Overall it was a great night! Both bands gave their all on stage and something tells me that it wasn’t enjoyable just at the receiving end but they enjoyed themselves quite as much too…
They are still on the road by the way, so you might catch a show and see it for yourselves…
Pentagram (Mezarkabul) – Gordion Knot
Pentagram (Mezarkabul) – Wasteland