Patience can be the hardest thing to come by when it’s hot and there’s been confusion, but on this particular night the wait was well worth it. When the doors at Trees didn’t open at 6 pm as promised, there was no rioting or fights- only a long, calm line of prog-metal fans baking like enchiladas in the June Texas sun. Trees was preparing to put on the first solid metal show of the summer, and no one wanted to miss a moment. Chantelle had made arrangements for a pre-show interview with Javier Reyes of Animals as Leaders. So we made my way to the tour bus with proceeded to have an insightful conversation with Javier that you can read in detail here. By the time we finished, the curtains had been drawn, the ushers had finally shuffled the long line of humid, thirsty fans inside the venue and it was time for the business of the evening: progressive metal majesty from Emily Grey, In Search of Sight, Chon, Conquering Dystopia and Animals as Leaders.
The opening act was a local band by the name of Emily Grey, who hails from Fort Worth, TX. They’re a post-core concept band, featuring members of other prominent local metal bands. Their performance was a great way to awaken the audience from its heat-induced slumber, and by the time I made my way back into the venue from my interview there was a circle pit fully-formed and an extremely ruckus applause upon the completion of their set.
In Search of Sight was next up, and they easily played one of the most solid sets I’ve seen from the Arlington-based five piece. Whether it was the banshee-like shrieks of their vocalist Danbo, or the pulse-pounding, methodically written guitar riffs from Russell and Dustin, ISOS seemed as though they were actually part of the tour package. The crowd had such a strong reaction to them I even overheard one observer note, “Good crisp, clean vocals with even better screams are hard to come by- and this dude has it.” After playing a groovy, driving set, the band bid us adieu in order to let the evening’s main course arrive.
After having seen Chon on their last visit to DFW, I was eager to see them perform again. Whether it’s adding stirring vocals to their mostly instrumental music or rearranging how they set up the stage for performance (they had their drummer set up front stage left next to their guitars), they have really stepped up their game as of late. During our interview, Javier went as far as to say, “I wish I was their father… they’re inspiring,” and the guys definitely backed that up. Chon gave a solid, 40-minute performance and by their final song, the whole crowd was so immersed that even the sound guy could be seen furiously headbanging to the beat.
Up next was Conquering Dystopia featuring the guitar virtuosity of Jeff Loomis and Keith Merrow. Their riffing was so tight that when they would play in unison their fingers moved like furious spiders spinning webs of destruction. Their mastery was complimented perfectly by the shredding drums of Alex Rudinger. He played with such intensity and fury that I was shocked and dismayed that the giant wooden beams supporting the roof of Trees didn’t collapse under the sheer magnitude of his pulsating rhythms. The crowd was so into their set that when their bassist Alex Webster nailed a killer riff during their fourth song it was as if Beelzebub himself had ripped the pit open in order to torment the souls of those unwilling to risk personal harm to mosh with the rest of the raging metalheads. Wrapping up their set, Alex Rudinger expressed the band’s appreciation and said, “You all are easily one of my favorite crows on this whole tour!”
The whole night came down to this moment. When the curtain pulled back to reveal the intricate LED screens that illuminated Animals as Leaders from behind, a roar of excitement filled the venue. Our headliner was about to take us on an interstellar voyage of all time and space, and our vessel of discovery would be their prog-jazz-metal fusion reactor. As AAL founder Tosin Abasi riffed through the opening track “Tooth and Claw,” I found my way to an unobstructed view and watching in amazement as the “Tosin among us” led this formidable trio through over an hour of musical majesty. During my interview with Javier he promised five tracks from “The Joy of Motion” and I was not disappointed. In addition to “Tooth and Claw” they played “Ka$cade,” “Lippincott,” “Pyhsical Education” and “The Woven Web.” The crowd swung and swayed in unison during each track, and by the time their encore of “Cafo” had rang out its final note, we had collectively given every last ounce of energy to each and every band that had given us the first real metal show of Summer 2014.