(In this post DGR reviews the CD release show of Conducting From the Grave (with friends) at The Boardwalk venue in Orangevale, California, on October 5, 2013.)
Saturday (Oct 5) was exciting for a several reasons. First, it was my chance to see Conducting From The Grave take the stage fresh off the release of their new disc. Second, I also got to see Soma Ras again. Third, I’d get to see the newly christened Alterbeast and find out if my generally high opinion of them from their GBAA days would still hold up. And finally, and I swear this is true, I would finally get to see Fallujah — more on that later.
The whole show was basically a celebration for the Conducting guys, and they were treated like conquering heroes the whole night, with a pretty packed Boardwalk venue and a crowd receptive to every band who took the stage. Also, holy shit, were there a lot of cameras at the venue too; I guess quite a few people wanted to have their own bootlegs of the show that night.
One of them was right next to me for the whole show, someone who I would later find out was working for clothing/media company Atrocious Works (Home site and Facebook page) and has been posting the material online as he has uploaded it. You should obviously check them out because they’re adding to the huge archive of live shows on the net that are out of Sacramento venues, and a huge thanks to them for that. Right now, the videos consist of front-row views (and damn good sound quality) of Alterbeast, Lifeforms, and Conducting From The Grave.
As something of a local band celebration, the atmosphere in The Boardwalk was probably two-thirds excited and one-third incredibly drunk. It was also my first experience with the new-ish Boardwalk layout, and they’ve done a really good job taking care of that place. But enough local Sacramento gossip, on with the show.
Lifeforms seem to be gaining quite a bit of steam at the moment, one of the many djent acts with plural names that seem to have captured people’s attention. Watching the band live you can instantly see why they have such immediate appeal, because the group are analogous to what the genre has become. What they are playing seems like the natural progression of where deathcore was heading long before it became a dirty word and bands instead tried to go with the full-blown death metal label for a while.
It’s not that anything was overly complicated — the grooves they have written are easy to pick up on — which means that just about anyone who sees them live will understand the band in half a second, a perk many other bands I imagine would absolutely kill for. Their style has absorbed the beefier breakdowns that core bands were known for and added them alongside the bigger, discordant sections a band like Meshuggah would use — where the empty space of huge, low guitar notes slamming down on a simple beat would serve almost the same purpose.
It’s not too shocking to see bands co-opting this idea for themselves, especially when you have so many strings available for use. It’s still fun to watch bands like this, though, especially when they really do demonstrate how good they are as musicians. I spent a lot of time just staring at the group’s bassist as he bounced up and down that fretboard with seemingly no effort at all. They’ve been on tour for a bit, so seeing them in the hometown was cool as hell. As of this writing they’re actually in Germany playing Euroblast, which seems like such an insane break for a band I just saw in a small club. Here’s hoping that goes well for them. For a preview of that, the Atrocious gentlemen have posted their set from front row right here.
I have seen Alterbeast before under a different name and with a somewhat different lineup. The group operated for years under the name GBAA, which some of you may recognize from my review of their performance as openers for Testament a year or two back. In that review I described the band as sounding like a hybrid of Job For A Cowboy and Black Dahlia Murder, and you still hear quite a bit of that in their sound. However, with newer musicians in place in a couple of spots, a new name, and a recent signing with Unique Leader, the band have become one of many entrants in the tech-death explosion, and if this show was representative, they’ll be one to watch for sure.
Drummer Gabe Seeber destroys the drum kit with seemingly no effort, making it just look so easy that other folks may be tempted to sell their kits and give up. If you don’t believe me, just watch this video that the band have been posting. Vocalist Cam Rogers absolutely exploded on stage, moving back and forth with a lanky insanity that you really don’t see too many frontmen break out these days. Hell, you could probably know fuck all about the band’s music and have a hell of a time watching him combo up with their guitarist/second vocalist and scream their lungs out. Bassist Michael Zamora, a relatively recent addition to the group (and my first time seeing him) handles things well on that front and is liberal as hell with the headbanging, adding to the band stage show tenfold.
The band’s newer stuff is some of the most brutal material they have out and contains one of the thickest slam riffs that was played that night. They and Soma Ras would prove to be a brutal death metal one-two punch for much of the evening, leaving quite a few in the crowd in a daze. The whole set was filmed and posted right here by that gentlemen who was standing next to me for much of the show. I would’ve rocked out way harder had he and the two other people with cameras not been there, but I figured they didn’t need my stupid goddamn hair filling in every other frame.
First things out of the way, Monte Bernard absolutely terrifies me when he gets on stage. For a dude who does shows in a collared shirt and slip-on shoes, the guy has an absolutely massive presence on stage and an ability to whip a crowd into a brutal frenzy. This is the second time I’ve gotten to see the guy do so with Soma Ras and each time I’ve been thankful I was directly front row and shielded by at least three rows of people, because whatever was happening behind me had to be deadly. I think he could probably achieve that effect with dead silence behind him, but the fact that he’s got the frightening blackened death metal beast that is Soma Ras is a huge plus.
The group are comprised of a bunch of local Sacramento luminaries and recently seemed to be in flux — at times looking for a vocalist and then suddenly a bassist. Good thing they found one, too, because man, people need to see this storm live as it’s an absolutely punishing experience. Their new bassist (whose name I didn’t quite catch, I think it was Dan) did well with the material and his battle armor of a Jurassic Park shirt was an excellent choice. The band played a similar setlist that was just a huge flurry of sound, even on the simple and slow grinder of a death metal song that came second to last in the set. Drummer Flint Marshall remains an absolute beast behind the kit and perpetuated what was really becoming a hell of a night for drummers. Dude is a battering ram on his own and complements the massive, whirling machine of riffs that is Soma Ras incredibly well.
If there is ever anything more out of these guys beyond the three-song EP they’ve put out, it’s going to be an almost instant recommendation because they have become, like many of the bands that night, something to watch closely.
Like many other bands that night, Awaiting The Apocalypse sounded absolutely massive on stage. The band’s sound has long been defined by beefy riffs meant for deathcore kids to chomp their teeth into, like attempting to inhale an entire steak in one breath. As such, the band rarely gets technical and instead treads that fine line between hammering deathcore and full-on death metal — as did much of their latest release At War With The Dead.
I usually move back a bit for these guys because their fans are absolutely ravenous when they get close to the stage, but I still grabbed one of the best spots in the house so I could watch every guy just smash away at his instrument for the forty or so minutes they were on stage. The couple of pits they got were pretty big and it seemed to be a dancer’s dream while AtA were on the stage — especially considering how huge some of this band’s breakdowns can be. They broke out quite a few of their more death metal flavored songs, which was great to watch as the band just disappeared into the occasional wall of blasts and guitars.
The Boardwalk has hosted these guys many a time and with varying amounts of space on stage, and it still seems like they would explode given a much wider space — like they do when they get the chance to play Ace Of Spades. The band are still experimenting with projector ideas in the background, too; this time it was just a huge splash of the group’s logo, but I’m curious to see what they do with in the future in order to accent their live show even more.
Third time’s a charm I guess, since I was supposed to have seen Bay Area group Fallujah twice before this show but they had to cancel both times. So even though I actually saw the guys at this venue, I still felt like somehow they weren’t going to take the stage, like I was going to be robbed of ever seeing them live – a jokingly stubborn sort of “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude, if you will.
Fallujah have gained a lot of steam recently. They hybridize quite a few interesting styles, including black metal, death metal, and deathcore, and their recent Nomadic EP has only taken them further, shifting those sounds into something more alien and oppressive altogether. It’s no wonder that they spent their whole set bathed in either complete darkness or blue house lights. They put forth a crushingly heavy monolith of a set that, despite the fast playing by the band, was pervaded by an overwhelming sense of doom. Also, it’s surprising how much of the black metal influence comes out in their music when you actually see them live — they’ve seemed more chugging death metal on their recordings, but man, once the guitar shrieking starts and the blasts get going they morph into another group entirely for the couple minutes when that happens.
They, like many of the other bands that night, also managed to create a huge gap in the floor that was half moshing, half hardcore kid dancing (because that was so cool it had to come back, right?), with the exception of one guy — who was my favorite person of the night — who was making it rain and pulling out various other hip hop dances simply because he could. The fact that people gave him space and were generally courteous enough not to not crash into him made the hammering Fallujah setlist absolutely surreal for the time they took the stage.
As the second night in what was essentially a three-day victory lap for the band and a hometown show, Saturday was a hell of a time to catch the Conducting guys again. The whole show was their CD release party and you weren’t allowed to forget it amongst the constant shoutouts to the band and their success in doing their latest self-titled release completely DIY and via kickstarter. The band’s set right now includes some choice songs from the new disc and and mixes those with two or three from each of their other albums — which highlights just how heavy and intense their new material is.
Having seen them multiple times, I can say that the hometown crowd probably went more insane at this particular show than they have in some time, welcoming the band like returning heroes. I could only handle being up front for six songs before I had to fall back, and even the poor guy who filmed the whole show wound up shifting to the side of the stage to get out of the way of a rabid fan base. Things got wild, too, somehow leading both to the stage PA being picked up and held in the air multiple times and to full-on grabbing of the musicians.
The new songs the band broke out for the show were “Honor Guide Me!”, which opened the set (it was really great to hear that ending drill), “Lycan”, “The Rise”, and “Into The Rabbit Hole” — which was the second single the band released for the new album. The band closed with “Her Poison Tongues”. It’s amazing how much of a set of legs that song has had, too. People seem to be absolutely in love with that tune whereas I was fond of every other song on Revenants and thought that one was just “good”.
The set ended with Mikey just dropping the microphone into the crowd and handling most of the closing shout chorus/breakdown. Or so we thought, which led to a generally funny moment in which people cheered for an encore and the band just admitted that they hadn’t really practiced anything else — and then actually having to convene before deciding to break out “Improper Burial” again. They seemed more surprised by their ability to make it through the song on sheer muscle memory than anything else.
They’ve stated that this self-titled disc is doing very well for them, better than the two they released through Sumerian, so here’s to hoping that they’re able to get out on the road and that plenty of people get to see them live. Until then, though, the folks at Atrocious Works (remember the guy next to me?) filmed the whole group’s set. You can watch that at this link right here.