Much to my disdain and the moderate trash talk of my peers, traffic had my arrival at Gas Monkey Live happen much later than originally anticipated. I grabbed my ticket and attempted to get in as fast as I could; it sounded like I was missing one of the bands I was particularly excited about.
Slaughter to Prevail, a deathcore band from Russia, was just finishing their set as I got past the bar and down to the standing area. Their shirtless, heavily tattooed vocalist thrashed about and let loose filthy lows over ridiculously heavy riffing to be expected from a deathcore band in 2016. Despite only seeing the ending of one song, my impression of them was confirmed by a friend that I’d missed an outrageously intimidating and brutal performance.
After STP finished their set and loaded up, Brazilian death metal band Krisiun‘s stage banner lifted up. Formed of two brothers, Moyses and Max Kolesne on guitars and drums, and bassist / vocalist Alex Camargo, Krisiun has been slaying with the old school death metal sound since their formation in 1990. The speed and ferocity exhibited from there on was an indicator that this year’s Summer Slaughter tour was definitely aimed more for the death metal scene, something I didn’t have a problem with whatsoever. The more organic, raw sound reminiscent of early Behemoth, Belphegor, and the likes brought me back a bit, allowing the channel of pure aggression rather than having to think about what was happening in front of me. High BPM blasts, more organic and relaxed rather than 100% robotic and on time, shook the walls and led the grooving tremolo picked riffs forward like a war machine.
Following shortly after was one of my favorite bands on this planet, Revocation. Having just released a new album, “Great Is Our Sin” (one that I am particularly fond of), the technical thrash kicked off without hesitation. This was their first performance with their new drummer since Phil Dubois (now drum teching for Cannibal Corpse) left that I was able to attend, so my excitement was rather high, and I was far from disappointed. Sporting his custom Jackson Warrior 7 string, the vocalist / lead guitar played David and the rest of the guys came out in full force. Playing through a decent selection of their catalogue, my wishes were answered as they performed my favorites from their new album: “Arbiters of the Apocalypse”, “Communion”, and “Crumbling Imperium”. Shortly thereafter, David dedicated the next song, “Madness Opus” to all the H.P. Lovecraft fans in attendance, as the song relates closely to the short story “The Music of Erich Zann”. Peppered with thrashy, dissonant and riffy songs, jazzy clean breaks, the technical and equally proficient guitarists weren’t the only musicians to shine during their performance. To this day I still refer to Brett Bamberger as the bassist with the best stage presence I’ve seen, bringing the physical thrash to their music of the same nature, and the new drummer Ash Pearson, formerly of 3 Inches of Blood, provided a fast, accurate, and jazzy contribution with his drumming. Speaking with Phil Dubois, former drummer of Revocation and current drum tech of Cannibal Corpse after the show, he praised him highly, claiming he is “a highly talented, technical, and musically knowledgeable drummer” and a great fit for the band. Their faces said it all, something I take note of with every performance I attend.
As Carnifex, an American deathcore band from San Diego, California, took to the stage, the feel shifted a bit to the darker side. Waist high pillars with candles atop were decorating the area of the stage, bringing the atmosphere to match their heavy and dark music. Donning dark spiked “armor” and face paint, vocalist Scott Lewis spoke a bit to set up the song “Die Without Hope”. Lending his vocals also was guitarist Cory Arford, adding to the already powerful growls and giving even more atmosphere. Circle pits galore, Carnifex derives their name from the Latin word of the same name, meaning “butcher” or sometimes “executioner”. As another from Die Without Hope, the song “Dark Days” began, a man in a kilt crowd surfed, and I’m pretty sure I got to know him much better than I would’ve liked to.. (lol) The keys in the background also contributed to the atmosphere, somewhere between their original anger / depressive themes and a newly approached blackened influence, much more prevalent on their recently released album “Slow Death”. The entire band, drummer Shawn Cameron included, head banged throughout their set, a rather impressive and seldom achieved feat in live music. After the first few, they switched over to 8 strings to play some of their newer material, including “Drown Me in Blood” and “Slow Death”. Switching back, the band gave a shout out to the old school fans from 10+ years ago and played “Lie to My Face”, a song that the entire crowd participated in when the sound clip played through the PA, closing out with “Hell Chose Me”.
To my surprise, Frank Mullen, Suffocation‘s very well known vocalist, didn’t walk out on stage, instead replaced by a touring vocalist who sounded rather close. Bring the slam! The “godfathers of the genre” brought it heavy. Disgustingly heavy. Grooving through songs such as “As Grace Descends”, “Infecting the Crypts” and “Funeral Inception”, they were well received. Despite not having the signature “hand blasts” that Frank does to mime the blast beats in particularly faster sections of their music, everyone who knew Suffocation well seemed to already expect it. The twitching hands went up in the air, something I perceived as homage to Frank in his absence. The defining traits of their music in my opinion was always the frequent stops and shift in sound or tempo, and it was even more so impressive to see live yet again, seemingly tighter than the last time, every time. Suffocation played a lengthy set, with “Cycles of Suffering” being my personal favorite to see them play. Through the duration of their performance, I’m not sure the pit stood still even for a second, but with this type of solid headbang material, it isn’t even necessary to know ALL there is to know about the band. Music with that effect is something tirelessly curated over many years to perfection.
Late guitarist Justin Lowe’s death took a massive toll on the entire metal scene, and despite my respect and appreciation for their determination to come back and continue touring, I missed their previous visit to Dallas. Whether out of sadness for the situation or just the luck of the draw, I don’t think I would’ve been ready to face it so soon. All of that aside, it was so lovely to see the boys of After The Burial come back around and on such a prestigious tour as Summer Slaughter. Vocalist Anthony Notarmaso and single guitarist Trent Hafdahl came out swinging, with Dan Carle on drums and a touring bassist following suit. They opened their set with a track from their newest album, “Dig Deep”, titled “Lost in the Static”. A very riffy and groovy set ensued, with a backing track for the guitar harmonies of older tracks, playing well known fan favorites such as “Berzerker” which always gets people jumping, “My Frailty” with that ridiculously crazy solo and chorus, “Collapse”, the massive “Cursing Akenaten”, the beyond low tuned “Mire” and “Wolf Amongst Ravens”. Crowd participation wasn’t as great as I expected, unfortunately, as Anthony stated his awareness of their “odd guys out” status on the tour. Despite what could prove somewhat disheartening, he thanked the crowd members who may not have been as interested for paying attention, and asked they use their set for the same reason I do: to forget the things in life that suck and just get lost in the music, to channel the aggression into something that brings us all together as a metal community. As a groove based band on a mostly old school death metal bill, I expected this exact response from the crowd, so for the duration of their set I brought my friend into every pit possible that opened up just to show that appreciation and love that remains after all of these years. (On a more personal note, thank you for the inspiration and getting me into 8 string technical guitar playing.)
One of the forerunners of the death metal genre, Nile of Greenville, South Carolina, went on sometime around 9pm, and the night’s energy shift was palpable. This is what a good portion of those in attendance had been waiting for, much like Suffocation. The Egyptian / Eastern influence they define themselves with instantly was recognizable, alongside the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Sporting a “Pit Bulls” shirt, in support of the local crew from DFW, vocalist Karl Sanders gave a huge shout out to members in attendance, much to their delight. Leading right into ridiculously fast and slammy technical death metal, drummer George Kollias, whom I’d never seen perform live and inspired a good portion of my friends, floored both myself and all I spoke to. Not to be outdone, the guitar work sang; shredding solos and crazy tight and fast rhythms in a sonic cacophony of strings. Noteworthy songs I enjoyed the most were “Call to Destruction” and “Evil to Cast Out Evil”.
Cannibal Corpse, arguably THE death metal band known worldwide, draped their banners and flew their logo across all of the screens. It was time. Though, I was disappointed to not see Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura take the microphone, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher came to the stage and let loose an unearthly growl. Opening with “Evisceration Plague”, the hurricane speed windmills began and seemed to never cease as they played through an exceptionally lengthy set. Performing songs such as “The Time to Kill Is Now”, “Kill or Become”, and my personal favorite, “Hammer Smashed Face”, they were by far the most brutal of all the bands that played that night, with the majority of their lyrics relating to murder or any other list of nefarious deeds. Unable to weave through the crowd like I had with previous bands, I stayed near the back of the venue through the duration of their set, as the entire standing area had become a war zone. There’s something to be said about bands that can control an entire room that well, almost to the point where they didn’t have to say a word. The violence brought forth was almost entirely of their own volition, a testament to the pure brutish nature of Cannibal Corpse.
Thoroughly enjoyable through and through, Summer Slaughter 2016 was quite a mix of genres and bands, and while unfortunately not all were received as well by the crowd as I’d have liked, it didn’t keep me from enjoying it any less. From the groove, to the slam, to the pure speed of almost every band on the roster, there was something there for everyone, well versed metalhead or not. As always, Gas Monkey Live was an amazing venue to host the event. The acoustics, aesthetic, and overall vibe given off by the venue reminds me every single time why I get that internal boost of excitement when I walk in the door. It was another great night with brothers and sisters in metal, something we should all strive to never take for granted.
It brings me to this personal opinion point: the divisiveness in the music scene. Simply because you aren’t a fan of a certain band, sound, style, look, or whathaveyou, please don’t be hateful to one another. The world is already broken enough and the last thing we need is to bring it to a place where we go to cope with how awful everything else can be. Use live music and performance as an escape; don’t bring the hate and problems with you. Please, please do not use an inconvenience as mild as having to sit through a band you don’t like as a reason to cause harm or hurt to your brothers and sisters in metal. We’re all in this together, and we aren’t all the same, but that is the beauty of it. I never thought I’d see myself typing this out while listening to a band like The Algorithm, yet here I am, an evolved once-elitist metalhead blaring an electronic / EDM infused djent band. It hurt me to see people going nuts for one band and then going out of their way to act shitty towards another they didn’t enjoy as much. Practice what I refer to as “live show etiquette”, something that really lines up with the basic principles of respecting other human beings and treating them as such. Don’t like a band? Go to the back of the room, go grab some food or a drink, find a friend to talk about the ones you loved. Please don’t actively try and ruin it for everyone else.
Some of the bands you loved once weren’t near as good and never would’ve reached that level if they’d been treated the way I witness non fans treat others sometimes.
Also, maybe someone feels the exact same way about YOUR favorite band as you do theirs. Put it into perspective, there are a million good things you can do and we only have so much time here, why waste it on hate when we can build each other up?
The show was awesome. Love you guys and I hope to see you around.