One of the most unexpected surprises of Summer ’12 was the closing of Baltimore hotspot Sonar, especially after quite an epic Maryland Death Fest. To be fair, some of us saw it coming after allegations of drug smuggling against owner Dan McIntosh surfaced in 2011, linking him to a 15 man ring heading over $30 million worth of product in Balimore.
So there’s always that.
Regardless, thanks to McNulty and his crew, the date opened up in early August and The National stepped up to host the Sumerian Records-laden Summer Slaughter mini-fest in Richmond.
The move came with few setbacks, the only lame one being condensing the lineup, removing all but one of the regional openers. Regrettably enough we arrived after their set, but came upon an eager and energetic crowd awaiting the special guest opener, The Contortionist.
Fresh on the heels of their Sophomore release Intrinsic, The Contortionist barreled through old and new tracks with precision and chemistry, feeding off energy from moshing fans. Their new single, “Causality,” definitely turned the heads of unfamiliar listeners, and a superb performance of “Oscillator” opened the first of many iconic and at-times-awkward scene/core pits.
Exhumed kept the pace with all of the flagrantly metal song titles (such as “In the Name of Gore”) and a ballsy attitude to boot. After ranting about the ease of access to their album online (“Don’t tell Relapse!”), the band brought out their stage slasher-villain character revving a chainless chainsaw, filling The National with gasoline fumes and brutality. After about a solid hour and a half of head banging and a healthy helping of huffing, the crowd continued to bob along and eagerly consume every blast beat and pinch harmonic.
To be honest, Goatwhore isn’t really my thing, but there was a definite demographic of the crowd that was absolutely loving it, which I can totally dig. The lineup was filled with some of the heaviest hitters of djent and deathcore, so matching them with a few heterogeneous groups to change up the vibes really aided the day, as it takes quite a bit out of a crowd seeing 8 or so similar yet engaging metal bands in quick succession. Despite this, Goatwhore was definitely still metal as all hell, and it was quite ridiculous.
Job for a Cowboy really came out of nowhere for us. Having heard plenty of their material in earlier years, they played with a ferocity and speed that definitely picked up the pace of the crowd. Touting a fill-in member from The Red Chord, their literally fast as all hell deathcore barrage culminated with “Constitutional Masterbation,” to the chagrin of the quickly amassing pit.
In the immortal words of Brandon Meister, Veil of Maya was “hype as fuck!” No, really, they totally were. Though the chugging and 808 combo may be overused by acts like Above This and other electrocore wastes of time, Marc Okubo really has a fresh take on the breakdown-laden scene. Evidenced on their fourth album Eclipse released earlier this year, “Punisher” kicked things up a huge notch. Waterguns came out at one point, and the crowd fed into the apeshit stage presence of VoM and raged onward.
While the day was abundant with highlights, Periphery was seriously on top of their game. Their new release Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal has catapulted them to much deserved fame, featuring guest solos from Govan, Petrucci, Hauch, and a slew of other sick guitarwork from their three axemen, Jake Bowen, Misha Mansoor and Mark Holcomb. Spencer Sotelo, above all others, has some killer chops, and even since their Fall ’11 performance at Kingdom he has seriously matured into a top-notch performer.
They opened with “Zyglrox,” of course, since we’re talking about the Periphery set that everyone wanted to hear. ”MakeTotalDestroy” slayed (God bless AxeFx and The National’s killer speaker system), and “Ragnarok” featured Sotelo setting an incredible standard for the bands to come.
All in all, DAMN!
It’s been a few years since we heard new material from The Faceless, and as fans awaited a proper release with additions Evan Brewer (aka that bass player everyone in metal drools over) and Wes Hauch (aka the “rhythm” guitarist that can shred circles around most leads) the excitement was palpable.
Michael Keene and Co. laid down the grooves with no holds barred, blasting through a set of classic favorites such as “Xenochrist” and a culminating and climactic “An Autopsy,” with a few new tastes of Autotheism including “Autotheist Movement II: Emancipate” and “The Eidolon Reality.” The air was thick with sweat and the crowd visibly alive and moving to fit the sonic assault onstage, and the new lineup’s chemistry said more about their promising future than anything.
“Hail Science!” proclaimed Keene as he left the stage, marking the end of their reign over the erupting pits.
The night peaked with North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me, who played a 5 song, 60 minute set of masterful technicality and composition. I am increasingly convinced that they do not make mistakes live (which is mindblowing to conceive), and really act as a gold standard for what metal aspires to become in the future.
Just as a point of clarity on the depth of their musical catalog, when they played at The 9:30 Club the last time I saw them (around when The Great Misdirect came out) their set climaxed with a beautiful finale of “White Walls.” People went nuts.
Now, “White Walls” can just be dropped at a whim in the middle of a set. Based off of this assumption, you see how they keep the wheels rolling and somehow manage to get better every time.
As it always is with BTBAM, the highlight of their set was their new material, and their most recent single “Telos” sounded absolutely fantastic. Mid-way through they go full Pink Floyd and culminate in a doomy, spiraling crescendo of epic proportions. It;s a real emotional journey, and it showcases BTBAM’s infinite ability to break down genre barriers and create fluent tonal narratives.
The Parallax II: Future Sequence comes out in October on Metal Blade Records, and will surely be one of the best albums of 2012.
After an emotional and fulfilling set from BTBAM I had met my fill for the day and had to carry onward. With a few friends hanging back, reports came that the crowd really exploded during Cannibal Corpse’s set and things got real (who didn’t see that coming?). At that point the notion of being anywhere near a speaker was laughable to us, let alone in front of one of the pioneers of deathcore and modern intensity, so Summer Slaughter had gotten the best of us.
I guess sometimes things really can be too metal. Or maybe we just needed more fumes.