Strapping Young Lad / Death Angel / Nebula / Impaled / Eyes Of Fire Key Club, Hollywood CA - December 20

The inaugural Century Media Xmas Ball(s) looked interesting on the flyer, especially since Vancouver's mecha-thrash masters Strapping Young Lad would be premiering new material from their forthcoming album Alien (due in March). But the weak performances by everyone, fans included, made this night quite humdrum. Orange County's Eyes Of Fire opened the show with a single new song that lasted for 20 long minutes. Even their pedigree of ex-Mindrot members couldn't save them from being simply excruciating. Oakland's Impaled didn't fare any better, as their brand of death-grind minimally aped a worse-for-wear Carcass (circa Necroticism). At least the band was humorous — dressed in medical lab coats, they declared that they had isolated the most virulent strains of Ebola and HIV then sprayed it on the audience in the form of Silly String. Five short years ago, Whittier, California's Nebula were the epitome of stoner rock, with phenomenal releases on Man's Ruin and Relapse; with their self-made subgenre taking a turn for the weird, however, ex-Fu Manchu guitarist/singer Eddie Glass and company have become sad shadows of their former selves. They proved this with a lacklustre set from their sub-par Atomic Ritual album, just going through the motions in a detached haze. Thank the devil that Bay Area thrash titans Death Angel decided to hop on the bill, for it seemed that the entire crowd was there to see them and them only. Front-man Mark Osegueda stoked the pit for nearly an hour with tracks like "Thicker Than Blood," off the new The Art Of Dying, and the set-closing classic "Kill As One," from their landmark 1987 debut The Ultra-Violence. Though the crowd thinned out for headliners SYL, band maniac Devin Townsend insulted everyone in attendance, their families, friends and pets before ploughing through the usual suspects from Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing and City. The band played only one new song, "Love," which unfortunately sounded like the drivel from 2003's SYL, though Townsend showed that bald guys can indeed headbang. Since this is to be an annual event, hopefully CM will find it in their hearts (and roster) to have a better line-up next year.