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Saturday, April 12, 2008

DVD Review: Gigantour 2

Gigantour 2
2008 Image Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If anyone's learned a thing or two about the crossover impact of a festival tour, it's Dave Mustaine. As ringleader of Gigantour, there's something about the packages Mustaine assembles that boils down to one word he repeats like a mantra: Respect.

In an economically-strapped environment as we're experiencing in the U.S., the already fiscally-drained music scene at-large surely doesn't need to compete against the economy itself when it has other enemies, such as fickle tastes, technology veritably stripping the soul of music product through MP3 and digital downloading, not to mention corporate exploitation that still runs rampant even in tough times.

For a genre like metal that, despite the benefit of a growing allegiance by the month, is still fringe culture, the ultimate survival mode comes via the road and the marketability of a tour package. So many great bands of today are playing to anywhere from a dozen to a thousand people in small venues, and if they're unlucky enough to score the big dream gig of Ozzfest or Sounds of the Underground, they straggle and scrape until there's nothing left to sustain them.

Dave Mustaine has obviously seen the ups and the downs in his decades-plus career in metal music, and while his selection process for Gigantour is as scrutinized as any high-profile tour (Mustaine relays that his bands for consideration are heavily-skewed towards guitar-oriented bands), one thing nobody can deny; the man knows a good band when he hears one.

As the next inception of Gigantour is pulling itself together with Megadeth headlining once again and a supporting cast consisting of In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job For a Cowboy and the mighty High On Fire, Image Entertainment is giving us a glance back at Mustaine's second metallic romp, one that had to have been nothing short of monstrous at the time.

The respect factor Mustaine professes consists of giving his fans the most explosive product for their budget-tightened ticket money in addition to respect ushered to his traveling ensemble, everyone from the bands to the road crew. In the special features section of this Gigantour 2 DVD, Mustaine makes special note that he ensures his crew eats before he does. Suffice it to say, Mustaine has come a long way from the eighties and perhaps his unfortunate separation from David Ellefson has given him extra humility since. Despite the fact that it seems like a new band member manifests every time Megadeth has hit the pavement since releasing the grossly-underrated The System Has Failed, there's something almost mystical about the man these days. Certainly he appears to be a sensei amongst his admiring hirees and listening to the testimonials given by the bands who performed on Gigantour 2 (The Smash-Up, Sanctity, Into Eternity, Overkill, Opeth, Arch Enemy and Lamb of God), Dave Mustaine has learned wisdom that generates respect in response to what he reportedly issues out.

The Gigantour 2 DVD spotlights selections from the participants, giving a song apiece from the three openers, then throwing the limelight on the ambassadors of the tour and of two generations of metal. Though Opeth is only featured once with "Window Pane" from their breakthrough Blackwater Park album, certainly the song is lengthy enough and assuredly a demonstrative statement that Opeth is one of true artistes of heavy metal. Lamb of God manages to usurp their audience through their famed controlled chaos on songs like "Vigil" and "Now You've Got Something To Die For," while Arch Enemy is almost surreal with the alluring Angela Gossow possessing the stage, herself, her band and her demonic growls, yet
the most humbling element (especially if you're over 30) to Gigantour 2 is the reception the old school is given from a decidedly young crowd.

Always on point, Overkill systematically rips through "Necroshine" and the vintage era mosh anthem "Rotten to the Core," and it's absolutely fun to watch a new generation absorb and learn a little thrash history and though it takes them a few bars of "Rotten to the Core" to respond to Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth's cues, eventually they get their act together. Ditto the ovation for the headliners, Megadeth; to see a capacity-filled arena of new leaguers chant out the band name and know exactly when to shout back lyrics when Dave Mustaine goes quiet, it's very refreshing.

As guitarist Glenn Drover has parted ways with Megadeth, Gigantour 2 is one last glimpse at a pretty solid running mate as Megadeth delivers the goods with "Take No Prisoners" from their masterpiece album Rust in Peace as well as "The Scorpion" from The System Has Failed and "Washington is Next" from Megadeth's most-recent offering United Abominations. As a bonus item, there's a fun do-up of "Peace Sells," which sees Blitz from Overkill jumping in at the end along with a literal gang of members from the Gigantour ensemble, all set to blazing pyro and a master of ceremonies who's obviously eating it up like a sacrifice to the gods.

The other cuts from Sanctity, Into Eternity and The Smash-Up are likewise very cool, with a tie between Sanctity's "Zeppo" and Into Eternity's "Timeless Winter" for most intense. Mustaine also gives us insight into his band invitations in the special features, which presents a humorous story about how he approached Sanctity, as well as his appreciative tale about Into Eternity being forced to play as a foursome following a potentially-crippling mid-tour walkout. The show must go on, naturally, and Mustaine wastes no opportunity to praise Into Eternity on the DVD.

Though this year's Gigantour has been pared down to five bands (probably through simple law of current economics), one thing is obvious; the second round was as memorable as any tour package put together in the metal revival. I had the chance to speak with Blitz of Overkill after this tour and he not only saluted Dave Mustaine for keeping things real with the old school and the new, but Blitz also marveled at how today's metal acolytes took to Overkill, especially noting that Gigantour was one of the band's biggest exposures since the glory days of the late eighties.

Amen to that...

Rating: ****

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