Concert Review: Fear Factory and Puya (Saratoga Winners, Cohoes, New York, June 22, 2001)

Here’s a tip for those of you contemplating upcoming shows at Saratoga Winners: when they say that a show starts at 8 PM, apparently they mean that a show starts at 8 PM, despite that approach being something close to Albany market heresy. So if you were fashionably late last Friday night, arriving as the sun set maybe, instead of at the advertised time, then you probably not only missed Dry Kill Logic’s opening set, but missed Primer 55 in the Number Two spot as well. Hell, even if you got there at 8 PM, but spent a few extra minutes having a smoke in the parking lot or getting patted down by security, you still missed a good chunk of Dry Kill Logic.

Which is a pity, since the band formerly known as Hinge put on a really terrific performance for a thin, not terribly engaged crowd, who appeared to be stunned by the sunlight still streaming into the roadhouse on the river. I got there early, though, so I got to enjoy 25 minutes worth of material, most of which was from the group’s latest album, The Darker Side of Nonsense, and all of which was much more impressive onstage than it was on disc — and I say that actually liking the record quite a bit. Imagine Slipknot without the silly costumes, and with better vocals, and you’ve got the general idea. Bonus points given for a metalcore cover of the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.” Uh huh huh huh.

Primer 55 kept the intensity level up with another boss performance, this one tapping a bit more into the rap-metal side of the hard music equation, with a word-heavy vocal sound and deliriously clattering instrumental assault that nicely maximized the treble end of the spectrum with guitars and cymbals and snares snapping and crackling and popping all over the place, making the low end concussions all the more effective for the contrast. Big shout out to the audience member who got up onstage to sing along to one of the songs; I’ve seen lots of kids try this, but few carry it off as well as this kid did. Whoever he is, get this charismatic, talented mofo a band, and fast.

And speaking of fast: Puya. Ah, Puya. I reviewed them a few months ago and noted that they were the most impressive, ground-breaking group in metal. But I was wrong. What I should have said was: “Puya are the goddamned greatest live band in the world today, genre be damned.” The Puerto Rican sextet (vocals, guitar, bass — and three drummers) put on the kind of performance that restored my faith in music for, oh, another decade or so. When these pioneering players locked in on one of their many killer metal con cumbia riffs, the room spun, the earth shook, the heavens moved, God was in his heaven, and the angels did mosh, forsooth and yea verily. I can’t say enough about Puya, except, boy, what a band.

Fear Factory were pioneers in their day, too, standing as one of the first bands to merge death metal grind with industrial technology and rhythms. Of course, their sound has been so often imitated that it’s hard to remember why it was so innovative once upon a time — but the one thing that Fear Factory have that no other pretenders have is vocalist Burton C. Bell, a great metal screamer, sure, but also one of the nation’s best rock and roll singers to boot. Bell’s ability to hit and hold more than the usual two or three notes provides Fear Factory with a melodic sense that’s sorely lacking in most modern model, and they played loud, powerful music on Friday, but somehow they never got my clock ticking quite the way that Puya did. But, then, I’m not sure that anyone could.

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