Sno-core Ball hits with metal edge

In its six-year history Sno-Core has become the ideal tour for up-and-coming artists to mingle with veteran acts. Each year a diverse mix of groups, ranging from pop-punksters Blink 182 to rap group The Alkaholiks, shares the stage to rock out for large crowds. This year Sno-Core will try something different, splitting the event into two tours – one for metal groups and another for jam and funk bands.

The Sno-Core Rock Tour and the Sno-Core Icicle Ball will hit D.C. within a week of each other this month. The first to arrive, the Rock Tour, comes to the 9:30 Club Feb. 11, featuring co-headliners Fear Factory and Kittie along with opening acts Slaves on Dope, The Union Underground and Boy Hits Car.

Fear Factory singer Burton C. Bell told The Hatchet the tour is a chance to expose crowds to songs from the band’s upcoming album, DigiMortal, which comes out in April. Bell said the album’s concept – “circuitry is creating a new image of man” – is “perfect for the first tour of the millennium.”

As a co-headliner and one of five bands jostling for time, Fear Factory will play a short set at the Rock Tour. Bell said the band will not have a chance to play much of the new album.

“It’s a teaser, we’ve only got 50 minutes (to play) so we’re playing just four new songs,” Bell said.

With less than an hour onstage each night, Fear Factory does not have time to create a full-blown stage show.

“The only attraction is us, and our hard-hitting music,” Bell said.

Morgan Lander, lead singer of Kittie, said she does not mind the shorter set.

“We only have one album, and it’s about 38 minutes long, so…” Lander said.

After this tour ends, Lander said the band plans to “take a couple month’s break … go back to the basement” where members wrote the songs on their first album, and start working on new material for a sophomore release. Band members are a little out of practice writing songs. Lander said.

“The songs on our first record, those were all written when we were 14 years old,” Lander said. “We haven’t written in 4 or 5 years.”

Lander said Kittie, whose first album Spit debuted in 1999, looks forward to working on new material – something she has little time for on the road.

Although band members plan to return to the same practice space they used for their first album, Kittie’s influences have certainly changed since members were a group of 14-year-olds.

“Then we listened to bands like Nirvana, Silverchair and Alice in Chains,” Lander said. “Now we listen to stuff like Cannibal Corpse and Nile.”

While Lander said the band has developed its own style, she said Kittie’s method for writing will not change.

“We write music first, it’s most important, then use it as the backdrop behind the vocals,” she said.

Opening act Boy Hits Car gets the least stage time of all the bands on the Sno-Core Rock Tour, but that is not indication of the band’s ability to deliver the goods. “We only play six songs,” said Louis, the band’s guitarist.

But each song on the band’s play list was carefully picked to make an impression on the audience, band members said.

“We’re going for a driving, heavy vibe, continuity with a little diversity,” Louis said. “Our goal is to win crowds over, getting everything out that’s within us.” Louis said, adding that making eye contact is important to influencing the crowd.

Louis describes the crowd so far on the tour as “a lot of kid’s wearing black, piercings, makeup and tattoos.”
A common word describing the vibe of the Sno-Core tour is “receptive.”

“The fans are wonderful, amazing, really cool,” Lander said. “Fear Factory have been around for awhile, their fans are a little older, more into classic metal.”

The age difference, in the end, doesn’t matter because “everyone goes away satisfied,” Lander said.

Things go just as well backstage, Lander said. But, comparing the tour to last year’s Ozzfest, Lander said it is “not as big or family oriented. No Pantera-fueled parties, no backstage antics.”

Bell found it hard to describe what it is like touring with members of Kittie.

“Well, the oldest is 19, and the youngest is 17, so it’s … fun,” he said.

Louis said the atmosphere of Boy Hits Car’s first grand scale tour is more than amicable.

“(Kittie lead singer) Morgan (Lander) really likes us,” Louis said. “She went out and got our CD.”

Sno-core’s sponsors, online music service ArtistDirect.com and Pringles potato chips, have minimal involvement with the tour and do almost nothing in the way of product placement, band members said.

“The tour’s sponsored by Pringle’s, but so far all I’ve seen is one box of Pringles we got,” Bell said.

All bands on the Sno-Core tour offer distinct styles. One of the tracks on Fear Factory’s upcoming album features rapper B-Real of Cypress Hill. Bell stressed that the guest vocalist did not signify a turn to rap-metal. Instead, he said he saw a dismal future for bands that attempt to imitate the style popularized by such acts as Korn and Limp Bizkit.

“Bands that limit themselves are going to be limited,” Bell said.

As for the future of the metal genre, Lander sees a future where harder metal comes back to the forefront.

“It’s cool, there’s more extreme metal bands,” she said.

Bell says that he also looks forward to a “heavier, more industrial,” type of metal.

Boy Hits Car plans to move on after this tour to the biggest metal tour around: Ozzfest. When asked if Kittie might ever consider touring as part of Ozzfest again, Lander quickly replied, “Anyone would.”

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