The Summer Slaughter Tour 2010
Shortly after returning from Saturday’s Summer Slaughter date at the Palladium, I was asked to review my experience. I was glad to take the assignment, and I still am, but I soon thought about how reviewing concerts is different than reviewing albums, and ways in which these can damper the impact of a concert review more than an album review. So the writing process has been relatively brief, considering I would like to get the review out as fast as possible so that you can read it before the tour has rolled through your town, but it has not been easy for me. It feels a lot different to have to evolve from the nameless, face-in-the-crowd concertgoer to the vigilant metal critic overnight, and I have thought about how much my opinions differ from some of the people who seemed to have fun last night, and I just wanted to address that this review will obviously be suited towards my tastes. It will not tell you which band was the most fun to mosh to, although I wasn’t a stranger to the pit, and I have bruises to prove it, because I didn’t stay in the pit for every band. I also acknowledge that each venue is going to produce a slightly different experience, based on the room, sound, setup, and crowd and that I can only describe MY experience. And lastly, I found it funny that this review will only keep its promotional value for a couple of weeks, and then it will become a time capsule of sorts. All that aside, I present to you my Summer Slaughter 2010 experience.
Summer Slaughter 2010 caught my eye more than its past incarnations for a couple of reasons. Prior to the show, I had never seen Animals as Leaders, and it marked the triumphant return of the tragedy-stricken Polish powerhouse, Decapitated. Though this show still had some bands I knew I probably wouldn’t like, some of them were bands I hadn’t taken the time to give a proper listen to before dismissing them cynically as generic deathcore garbage, which is uncommon for a large-bill show at the Palladium, which usually has recurring characters that I end up seeing a handful of times unintentionally. I think this may have been the first time I have gone to a show at the Palladium without the presence The Black Dahlia Murder, Job For A Cowboy, or Beneath the Massacre. As ridiculous as this sounds, I was excited to see bands I didn’t like, but hadn’t already caught a million times during the deathcore plague of the mid 00′s, save for Veil of Maya, but I had only seen them once or twice. Overall, the setlist was relatively solid.
Upon arriving, I was intrigued, and flattered at how the Palladium decided to separate the talent. They kept most of the lesser-known, breakdown or gimmick-heavy bands upstairs, featuring the likes of Arsonists Get All the Girls, Oceano, and I believe three others. This may not happen in your hometown, however, unless you have two stages available. This was good for me, because it meant that they left the bigger stage for the bands that were on the fliers, and I could just stay downstairs. The only exposure I got to these bands was when I went upstairs to look for a friend, and it was right at the beginning of a dance/deathcore hybrid intro to an Arsonists song. So needless to say, I gave up on finding them and went back downstairs. Also, because there were less bands upstairs, this meant that the balcony would be open as the headliners from the downstairs show went on, and I was able to listen to The Faceless‘ set and most of Decapitated’s set from the gorgeous, birds-eye-view, torn and then duct-taped seating up there (I had to go to ground level for “Spheres of Madness”, obviously).
There were quite a few surprises and memorable moments as the night progressed, which I will get to later. Between sets, I was walking by the bar and I overheard someone say “there’s going to be a bunch of homicides during Spheres of Madness”. This is the part where I would talk about the overall excitement for the resurrection of the band that was in the air on that night, but I don’t feel like I could possibly articulate it better than that. The show was definitely worth shelling out 25 dollars for, and I only paid 25 because we got them from FYE in advance. Apparently it costs them five dollars to print a receipt. I’m not sure if our date sold out, but there were quite a few heads, even for a bigger venue like the Palladium.
Vital Remains was the first band to go on. Even though I’m not a big fan, I still felt bad for them. They didn’t deserve to sound as awful as they did. Their playing wasn’t too sloppy, but as a lot of bands have found out, certain sounds just don’t translate at the Worcester Palladium, which is a converted strip-club and boasts huge low-end, but muddy highs and mids. Few bands really sound as good as they could, but I have seen a couple bands get perfect sound despite all of this (Gojira and Suffocation) and a lot of bands get decent sound. Vital Remains have more of a mid-level, buzzing tone and this just sounded awful. I haven’t seen them anywhere else so I can’t judge what was really to blame for this, but it sounded either like a bunch of bees were given some high-level amphetamine and then partially submerged in water, or they were playing through 1000 stacked Behringer 15 watt V-Tones. It was pretty painful.
As far as Animals as Leaders, which was one of the biggest factors in my decision to attend, I was more surprised by the crowd than by the band. Don’t let this comment be misleading. I had confidence that Tosin and company would put on a clean show, from seeing a couple videos of some of their more difficult songs played live, but I didn’t expect many of the Summer Slaughter attendees to appreciate them to the level that they did. When Tosin walked onstage during Vital Remains’ sound check to bring equipment onto the stage he was met with an endearing cheer and people began yelling his name. When the band broke into “Wave of Babies” to begin their set, the pit remained motionless, yet transfixed on the band, as if they understood and respected the change of pace at a predominantly metal show. Between this, and “On Impulse”, I turned to a total stranger and stated how impressed I was that Animals as Leaders was getting the respect they deserved at a show that normally draws a large sum of Veil of Maya and Beneath the Massacre fanboys, to which the response was something along the lines of “I am one of those people.” I felt a sense of gratification from this concept. I felt like no matter how contrived or boring some of the music that draws these crowds is, true genius still touches even the connoisseurs of bland music, despite its un-preferred lack of slams and breakdowns which brought them here in the first place. It was fun to see mosh soldiers sheath their mighty swords of ignorant bliss long enough to enjoy something wholly unique and different despite it’s taking place on their turf during their metal concert.
Carnifex‘s set was awesome. It was a lot of fun for me, because I was in a parking garage a half a mile away, drinking beers, talking about how awesome Animals as Leaders was and couldn’t hear it from there.
Decrepit Girth stepped up their stage presence since I saw them a few years ago, after the release of Diminished Between Worlds. They are no longer a hesitant live band, unsure of their place in metal (which could have been explained by their large jump from Suffocation-style Tech Death on …And Time Begins and their Death-inspired, leady, Diminished Between Worlds or simply their place as an opener on that particular show). They are now a much more confident and collected band, and Bill’s vocals are much improved live, as they were to some extent on Polarity. Though I was disappointed by their new album, I was impressed by their ability to control, awe, and even inspire the crowd this time around. They played a mixed set of tracks from Diminishing and Polarity, and even offered a free CD to anyone who could crowd surf past the security guards and onto the stage. While this only this resulted in me getting manhandled and throat-lifted by a bouncer and the nearest victor getting thrown out of the show, was an unprecedented embodiment of just how much more exciting and well-received this band has become.
Cephalic Carnage played a tight set. I’ve seen them before, and they didn’t refrain from their usual “420 SMOKE EVERYDAY BRO” stuff between songs. I don’t mind this band, and they were solid, but it wasn’t one of the more memorable sets of the night. They did refer to the tour as “Summers Laughter” though.
I had already seen Veil of Maya before, but last time they were really, really bad. They train-wrecked a couple of songs and everything sounded like they were trying to figure it out as they were playing it. They just weren’t tight enough to be convincing or fun. This time around, they could play all of their songs, some of which were even more difficult than the ones they couldn’t play last time. Regardless of the controversy surrounding their recording techniques, they’ve got a lot better at actually playing the songs live. This, however, doesn’t stop the music from being full of bass drops, or just not being too great. Their set was bearable because they change tempos and tamper with original ideas enough that it feels like it is going to go somewhere, but then disappointing because it rarely ever does. If you like this band, but thought they sucked last time you saw them, it might be worth seeing them again.
This was my second time seeing The Red Chord and tight and brutal as always, they played a great set. Again, I was impressed at how well they played, how spontaneous they were, and how simultaneously brutal and charismatic Guy is. Mid-set he went into some rant about how he wanted to see more people in the pit, that became more and more gay at a rapid pace until he made a reference to kissing shirtless. I haven’t listened to this band a lot recently, but there were a couple songs from Fused that I recognized and everything else sounded good.
One of the bands that I had not heard before Summer Slaughter was All Shall Perish. Then again I might have heard them before and completely forgotten about it because their music is entirely forgettable. The band uses the fact that their breakdowns have double-length phrasing (compared to really, really generic metalcore breakdowns) as an excuse to litter their otherwise generic metalcore with them in some of the most predictable ways possible. Although I wish I hadn’t learned of this band, I will give credit where it is due. If you are a fan of this band, they are tight live, entertaining live, and if they can achieve the sound quality they did at the Worcester Palladium, they can sound even better nearly anywhere else. So my opposition to this band remains solely on their poor songwriting and overuse of bass drops to initiate poorly written breakdowns. (I think I also might have heard a lyric that called god a faggot, and laughed.) All Shall Perish gave away free Boarcorpse demos for exposure, which while not mind-blowing is a lot better than All Shall Perish, ironically.
Of the borderline pleasant surprise category were The Faceless. Having only heard their copy-and-paste-metal-cliché debut and having only heard that once or twice, I went into their set expecting the worst. I was familiar with Lyle, the drummer, from his work in Abhorrent, but up until this point likened his involvement with The Faceless to Chris Pennie’s departure from The Dillinger Escape Plan for Coheed and Cambria or more recently Mike Portnoy’s involvement in Avenged Sevenfold. This assumption was proved to be inaccurate. With Planetary Duality, The Faceless have graduated from writing deathcore comprised mostly of clichés and “references” (See “An Autopsy’s” solo) and have WRITTEN an album that is much more articulate than many of its peers. Although it gets a bit noodly at times and is a bit shy of the “progressive” tag to which they seem to have endowed themselves (for better or worse), it is still one of the more hopeful releases from a stagnant genre and the musicianship is most certainly present. It was ironic for me, that the crowd seemed the most enthusiastic when the band ended their set with aforementioned “An Autopsy” as if to mock my gratitude towards their apparent enthusiasm for Animals as Leaders.
At the end of the night, after a tiring 10 hours of metal, about half to three-quarters of the crowd remained to hear Decapitated for the first time since the tour-bus accident. They played a tight set, complete with a visually-striking, but less-than-showboaty light show, and the new drummer was powerful and tight. It would have been a shame if he wasn’t. I was in the balcony, as I said for most of this set, as they blasted and grooved through a set that contained mostly songs from Organic Hallucinosis. They opened with “A Poem About and Old Prison Man”. I went to ground level a couple of times, the first of which came after they were a few songs in, and the crowd began chanting “Vitek, Vitek” which was met by an emotional response from the band similar to that of Luc Lemay when he finished playing “Obscura” for the first time in a handful of years when I saw Gorguts‘ first reunion show. I included that reference not as a bragging point, but to showcase that these emotionally charged moments between a metal band and a crowd are few and far between, and metal is generally a genre that prides itself in being hard-nosed and strong, but when you get a chance to see Luc Lemay near tears or the members of Decapitated mourning their lost brother with a couple hundred fans, it is something special. Decapitated ended their set with two songs off of Nihility, one being “Mother War”, and the other being the anxiously-awaited “Spheres of Madness”. I went back downstairs when they started playing Nihility songs, and when they broke into “Spheres of Madness”, the biggest pit of the night opened up, and a bunch of sloppy, tired concertgoers burnt off the last of their fuel reserves as they thrashed about and brought the night to a close. It was a fitting ending to a fun day, and all that was left to do see the Victory Records street-team handing out samplers despite their lack of presence on the actual line up—Oh wait. Carnifex. Thanks guys.