This year’s edition of THE SUMMER SLAUGHTER tour was a celebration of death metal in some of its more brutal and technical flavors — and one out-of-place wild card that stole the show. In this case, “stealing the show” is a relative term, because the line-up of bands was so strong.
In fact, with allowances for the extremity of our musical tastes here at NCS, this was as consistently solid a line-up, from start to finish, as any tour in recent memory: Vital Remains, Animals As Leaders, Carnifex, Decrepit Birth, Cephalic Carnage, Veil of Maya, The Red Chord, All Shall Perish, The Faceless, and Decapitated.
In fact, we were so stoked about this tour that we decided to see it both in Seattle last Friday and again in Portland the next day. The tour’s last show is in San Francisco tonight, so we were catching the bands near the end of a long summer haul that no doubt wore them out. But you couldn’t tell that from the way they played. If we didn’t have day jobs and were closer to SF, we’d be tempted to take in a third performance — it was that good.
As usual, we took a crapload of photos at both performances. And in fact, most of them are crap. But we’ve been painstakingly sorting through them to find the least crappy ones that we wouldn’t be too embarrassed to share.
So, today, we’ve got some high-level reactions to what we heard from all the bands, plus photos from the Seattle tour stop. Tomorrow (now at this location), we’ll have some random observations about the scene and the crowds and a few other thoughts that aren’t really in the nature of a review, plus the best photos from the Portland show (which are a bit better than the ones we’re posting today). (continue after the jump . . .)
Last Friday, my sometimes NCS collaborator Alexis and I got to Studio Seven in Seattle in the middle of the afternoon, missing the performance of the local Seattle band that started the bill, but in time to catch the performance of the first national act, Vital Remains. I left after Cephalic Carnage because I knew we were hitting the road early the next morning for Portland and I still had shit to do before I could leave town. Alexis and another friend stayed almost to the end.
The next day, my other sometimes NCS collaborator IntoTheDarkness joined us for the drive to Portland and the next stop of the tour at The Roseland Theater. So Alexis basically saw the whole line-up twice, I saw it one and a half times, and ITD saw it once.
Our musical tastes don’t match up completely. We all like a wide range of metal, but ITD is a deathcore afficionado, Alexis generally prefers more melodic music, and I’m more of a straight-ahead death-metal fan. Surprisingly, the band that all three of us thought was the show-stealer was the one band that didn’t fit the profile of this tour at all — Animals As Leaders.
We saw AAL in Seattle in April (reviewed here), along with Dillinger Escape Plan and Darkest Hour, and we’re now planning to see them again when they return to Seattle in November with what appear to be a bunch of non-metal bands we’ve never heard of (Circa Survive, Dredg, and Code Seven).
Tosin Abasi (guitar) and Navene Koperweis (drums) are simply amazing, and Javier Reyes is no slouch either — an amazingly tight, technically jaw-dropping group of performers playing intricate, heavy, beautiful instrumentals. Just stunning shit.
And in both Seattle and Portland, the crowd gave them a very enthusiastic response, even though they couldn’t have been a draw for most of the fans who paid to see this tour. The mosh pit even erupted on AAL’s last song in Seattle, which Abasi announced in a surprising death-metal guttural!
Deathcore addicts got a good fix from Carnifex and All Shall Perish. We all got especially severe neck-sprain from All Shall Perish’s set of memorable, blast-furnace songs. The drummer had one of those devices that, when struck with the stick, causes a triggered boom that feels like an earthquake in your intestinal tract, and he used it at the onset of each breakdown to good effect.
In their most recent album, Hell Chose Me, Carnifex seems to be inching away from deathcore and toward more straight death-metal, but the biggest crowd-pleasers were the band’s older deathcore standards, “Lie To My Face” and “The Diseased and the Poisoned”.
Breakdowns weren’t the sole province of those deathcore bands. Veil of Maya included some crushers, too, but mixed with a high level of technicality in the playing. For me, they were the big surprise of the Portland show (I left before seeing them in Seattle). Tremendously high energy — like the stage was packed with fissionable material that had just been set off — and fascinating instrumental work. I really enjoyed the hell out of their set.
The Red Chord had a few breakdowns, too, but they’ve pretty much shed the deathcore label with their latest awesome album, Fed Through the Teeth Machine. None of us thought the band sounded nearly as good on stage as they did on that CD — the sound came off too muddy, without enough separation in the instruments. Vocalist Guy Kozowyk also had a strange, lengthy monologue in Portland about bassist Greg Weeks’ latest bout with an X-Men video game that seemed to have no connection to anything.
I’d never seen Cephalic Carnage or Vital Remains before, and they were also eye-openers. Vital Remains has been around longer than all the bands on this tour, but they were the opening act. Bludgeoning, riff-heavy, straight-ahead death metal. Not much discernible difference from song to song, and vocalist Scott Wily’s growls grew monotonous (at least for me), but they got the crowd into the right spirit both nights, and it was undeniably some heavy shit.
Cephalic Carnage offered up a generous helping of grindcore, a big dose of freaked-out death metal, and 100% mayhem. Lenzig Leal is a funny-as-shit frontman, with his constant comments about weed and a nice dedication to all the chronic masturbators in the audience.
Nick Schendzielos (bass and backing vocals) and new guitarist Brian Hopp fly and bounce and headbang around the stage with abandon while they’re playing. Quite a sight, and the music is energizing cacophony (more about the mosh pits during this band’s performances tomorrow).
John Merryman is also amazing to watch behind the drumkit. His playing is intricate and fast as lightning, and yet it seems almost effortless — he barely seems to be moving above the elbows.
Decrepit Birth was another blast to watch on stage. Vocalist Bill Robinson, who looks like, and apparently is, a homeless person, has got tons of charisma and funny banter to accompany his satisfyingly cavernous death-metal growls.
Most of the other musicians all seem to be new touring members of the band, but their playing is technically sharp and intricate — and the bassist and one of the guitarists look like they’re about 18. Their fresh-faced, clean-cut appearance next to Robinson’s matted beard and dreads was an interesting sight.
And that brings me to the last two acts of the show. The Faceless was another show-stealer. Despite their name, I’m tempted to call them the face of modern death metal. We’d seen them before, were blown away then, and were even more head-over-heels impressed with them this time. Their live set faithfully captures the technical intricacy of the recorded music, while supercharging it with intense live energy.
Decapitated ended the night, and it was just amazingly cool to see this band on stage, resurrected from the bonfire of their apparent demise in the bus accident that killed Vitek and left Covan in a coma. Vogg has reconstituted the band with new members, and they sounded awesome. The crowd in Portland had been through a very long day and night of metal by the time these dudes took the stage, but the place came alive when they cranked up the first song.
The playing was tight, crushing, and rhythmically convulsive, and these dudes definitely get the tour award for best non-stop windmilling.
Enough words for today. Time for photos. The following are the best of the half-assed shots I could manage at Studio Seven in Seattle before leaving for the night. So, I don’t have pics of any of the bands that followed Cephalic Carnage in Seattle. But I do have photos of all the bands in Portland, and we’ll put up the best of those tomorrow, along with some additional comments about these two shows.
ANIMALS AS LEADERS