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Mötley Crüe vs. Pallbearer: a Halloween-week metal showdown

By Ross Finney
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Halloween week can be a trying time. There are clever costumes to pick, wild parties to plan and an air of the macabre to maintain. Those challenges are, of course, superseded by more intense issues like picking which metal shows you're going to see. Loyalties are being tested this Halloween week. There are great shows from a variety of bands—including Pentagram, Liturgy and Primus—and it would be hard to see 'em all. 

Perhaps the challenge is embodied most profoundly in the shows that fall early this week. Contemporary metal maestros Pallbearer play with local faves Tombs and Vattnet Viskar Monday and Tuesday nights, while Mötley Crüe, supported by Alice Cooper, plays Tuesday as part of its farewell tour. With the former, there are spookily named, of-the-moment metal acts that are sure to provide the bone-chilling, soul-blackening heaviness that's appropriate to the season. With the latter, you get the classic, "Shout at the Devil" glam-metal stalwarts, accompanied by the man whose entire oeuvre is pretty much Halloween incarnate. Let's break the dichotomy down:

The Sound
You know the Crüe tunes by heart—"Girls Girls Girls," "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart" and the rest of the MTV-rotation smashes. The non-stop hooks and big-arena-ready sound perfectly compliment the group's Sunset Strip hedonist lyricism. This is fist-pumping glam-metal of the most ‘80s variety. 

Pallbearer's members are masters of epic doom-metal. The band employs slower tempos, with ultra-heavy, chugging guitars, punctuated with classically-inspired shows of virtuosity. The vocals are clean, soaring and lyrically oriented toward grim hopelessness with fantasy-referencing flourishes (choice quotes: "Under swirling moons and galaxies," "Gloom-light of funeral pyres," etc.)

The Look
These days Mötley Crüe have toned down the hair-band signifiers that characterized the group at the peak of its fame. All but bassist Nikki Sixx have left the hairspray in the past, and the make-up is now little more than some eyeliner. The uniform of all black, with plenty of leather and and studs, remains.

The members of Pallbearer favor a simpler look than the Crüe: Expect the group to rock jeans and band tees. And facial hair. Lots of facial hair.

The Spectacle
Mötley Crüe has always been known to go big. The metal icons have a talent for marrying their tunes to appropriately over-the-top visual stunts, and MSG is a perfectly spacious venue. With all-stops-pulled lighting and pyrotechnics, leather-clad back-up dancers and Tommy Lee's impressive roller coaster drum kit, the band knows how to put on a show. Check this video for reference:

The members of Pallbearer typically favor a more low-key approach, and Saint Vitus suits the group. With subdued lighting and little in the way of extra visuals, the venue makes the bands the main object of focus. And as the tunes build, wind and unfurl, look for the group's members to rock out, adding passion to what are already dramatic and visceral songs.

The Openers
What needs to be said about Alice Cooper? The rock vet has a slew of garagey proto-metal classics and basically wrote the book on rock music as theater. With a show that includes snakes, whips, chains, guillotines, fake blood and a host of other spooks and scares, Alice's live set couldn't be a more perfect Halloween attraction.

Brooklyn-based Tombs are true metal alchemists. Hot off this summer's acclaimed Savage Gold, the band draws on a bevy of heavy and dark influences both in and outside of the metal genre. The group alternates from brooding, heavy slow-builds to bruising adrenaline bursts of speed and intensity. Also joining are the scorching New Hampshire post-metal outfit Vattnet Viskar.

The Shows
Mötley Crüe + Alice Cooper; Madison Square Garden; Oct 28

Pallbearer + Tombs + Vattnet Viskar; Saint Vitus; Oct 27, 28

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