I found out about Ostraca literally three days before this concert, and only because I saw the event page for this show and got curious. The event page read “An evening of skramz at The Silent Barn!”, and I hadn’t been to a show in a few weeks, so I decided to check out the bands. Within those three days, Ostraca became one of my favorite current bands. Their latest LP, Last, came out back in May, and if you’re a fan of screamo and emotional hardcore like pg.99, Jeromes Dream, and Orchid, then there is no reason you shouldn’t listen to this LP. It is roughly 30 minutes of the most intense emotion you could possibly imagine, and has quickly become one of my favorite LPs of this year. You can listen to it for yourself here to understand what I mean. I was going to write a review for it, but being that it has been out for a while now and also for the fact that I was going to this show, I decided that it was time for another concert review. After all, this was a pretty stacked lineup. On tour with Ostraca is Texas’ own Flesh Born. The two released a split back in February which can be listened to and purchased here. Flesh Born takes a much more chaotic hardcore approach, packing tons of raw emotion into the mix like Converge and Botch, and just as kickass.
People’s Temple Project started the night off. I wish I had more to say about them, but I really don’t. They pretty much played color-by-numbers screamo music. The passion and energy expected of screamo and emotional hardcore wasn't quite there with this group. Their music doesn't sound as intense as it should’ve, and band kind of just stood there. It didn’t help that later that night, one of the members (I can’t recall if it was specified who) defended an outed abuser whose actions have severely affected the tri-state DIY community. Stuff like this really needs to be brought to light at these shows so they can be as safe for everyone as possible, and I am very happy that someone did come up to the microphone and say something when they felt there was a danger to this safety. As Gus from Ostraca said later that night, “Safety is more important than emo.”
Up next was Massa Nera, who came from New Jersey to play this show right after one of their members got tattooed. Their music was relatively solid screamo, but what really made their performance was the passion and energy they demonstrated, especially after the previous band. They didn’t do anything insane, but it was obvious that these guys love what they are doing, and it really made their performance incredibly enjoyable. Being that I had already been up for something like 14 hours and came to the show after a long day at work, this was when I started waking up. I could feel that the night was about to get pretty wild.
Soul Glo was up next. I’ve seen their name pop up a few times, especially at bills that were either at New York’s own ABC No Rio or affiliated with the people behind ABC No Rio. This Philadelphia band is very much loved in the community, and after seeing them, there’s no difficulty in understanding why. They were sort of the odd ones out being more of a hardcore band with some experimental elements than a screamo band, but they were still incredibly fun live. They instantly put me in a good mood, and I found I couldn't stop smiling. My only complaint was the brevity of their set. Maybe I was just having too good time to notice how quickly it flew by, but I felt like they could’ve easily played for an extra ten minutes and I would’ve been more than fine with it.
Up next was Flesh Born, whose energy on their studio recordings translates perfectly live. These guys are a relentlessly heavy, angry wave, and surely the heaviest band of the night, which the audience responded to in kind. While only two people were “moshing” during their set, the room was headbanging to each and every breakdown. It was similar to the mood of The Body and Full of Hell’s collaborative set in September of last year. I have a newfound interest in Flesh Born, and I am really stoked to see these guys come back to melt faces in the future.
At roughly 10:30, Ostraca came out to finish the night. The band showcases intense, raw passion on their studio recordings, but seeing them live… holy shit. Everything about these guys is just astonishing in its passion. There wasn’t a moment while they were performing music that wasn’t absolutely intense. Everyone in the room was reacting just as they were supposed to: moshing around the room and going absolutely crazy. Every time I thought that they couldn’t top their own intensity, they went ahead and did it. Their closing song had the band screaming at the top of their lungs , pulling some serious Jeromes Dream shit. I already thought of Ostraca as one of the best in modern music, but their performance at this show just solidified that fact. These guys are arguably the best thing modern screamo has to offer.
Overall, with the exception of one band, this was one of the best local lineups I have seen in a long time. Great music performed by great bands in a room that knew how to party while also respecting others’ boundaries. This is what DIY hardcore is about, and this is why I love the community as much as I do.
The Crunch House - 5/12/17
Roughly a month ago, my colleagues went to a show at the Crunch House, which you can read about here. It was a show that consisted of a handful of great acts in the Connecticut extreme music scene. Well, fast forward a bit, and we have yet another incredibly solid lineup at the Crunch House, this time a show that we at Metal Lifestyle have sponsored! The show included five Connecticut local acts from pretty different musical backgrounds, from hardcore punk to progressive metal to black metal. Nevertheless, as the night had shown, it was truly a fun one for all. Let’s get right into business.
Perennial opened up the show with their very experimental punk music. Their sound could be compared to earlier post-hardcore acts, such as Refused and Blood Brothers, with a riot grrl edge you can find in acts like Sleater-Kinney. Their incorporation of the synth is absolutely infectious and the group was obviously having a ton of fun in the spotlight, making their performance all the more enjoyable. The only downside to their set was that more people weren’t moving around, when this is surely a group that people should be dancing and having a good time to. I hope they get a more appropriate reaction at future shows, because they put a lot into their performance. Check them out on Bandcamp here, and be on the lookout for more music from these guys.
Prologues came up next. If you read Metal Lifestyle regularly, you have seen this name pop up before, be it in a review for Absence of Distance or in the above review for the last Crunch House show. There’s no questioning why Metal Lifestyle has spotlighted this group. Prologues has shown a level of passion in two years that most bands never get to show over an entire career, and this night was no different. The room moshed throughout their entire 20 minute set, and yours truly even did a bit of guest vocals during their song “Dialogue, By Any Other Name,” Of the three times I caught these guys live, this was surely the time they seemed the most focused and energetic. If you are a fan of groups such as Poison the Well, Zao, and Eighteen Visions and you don’t know these guys by now, you would be doing yourself a significant favor in keeping up with what they are going to be doing in the future. Until then, check out the one song they have up on Bandcamp right now.
Next up was The Crooked Sound. They've been gaining a lot of attention in the Connecticut music scene, playing quite a few shows to hype their upcoming debut release, Lotus-eaters. Despite having only two tracks out currently, the entire room was going insane for the duration of their set. There was everything from moshing to crowd-surfing. Yes, there was crowd-surfing in a room that holds at most, 70 people. Tyler from Prologues, myself, and others were all crowd-surfing, and it was fun as all fuck. The Crooked Sound just brought so much energy out of the crowd, and we poured that energy back, making sure their performance was one to remember. If you dig bands such as Every Time I Die, letlive., and Bungler, keep on the lookout for Lotus-eaters and check out their singles here.
Next was Destination Dimension, who was truly the oddest entry on the bill. They brought a very jazzy, proggy style for about a half-hour, mixing some really nicely-sung cleans and harsh vocals. I, as well as many others, were super tired after The Crooked Sound, so it was really nice to catch a breath and meditate over what Destination Dimension offer. If you dig bands such as The Contortionist, TesseracT, and Good Tiger, you should definitely give these guys a listen here.
Finally came up Inflictor, whose 30 minute set brought me back to the days when I was a complete metalhead, and I was absolutely loving it. Their set wasn’t as active as Prologues or The Crooked Sound, but there was moshing during their set, and the band seemed to be really into it was well, with bassist Ray King getting in people’s faces and jumping off his amp. When their music slowed down it was atmospheric and meditative, but when it got faster, it was definitely mosh-worthy. I windmilled a few times during their set, which really did a number on my neck afterwards, but I had such a damn good time during their performance that I couldn’t give a shit. They don’t have any music out yet, but if you’re into bands such as Emperor, Enslaved, and Darkthrone, and want to unlock that inner metalhead you’ve suppressed in fear of being judged as an elitist loser, like their Facebook page here and keep up to date with them.
This night was five incredibly solid local acts giving as much energy and love as they received. I’ve been to many local shows in my home state of New York, and honestly, none of them could come even close to how good this one was. Even with the wild reaction to Prologues and The Crooked Sound, there was never a sense of toxicity or danger, which is something I have unfortunately felt too often at various New York shows that are infested with the sort of manipulative, misogynistic NY/NJ/PA tri-state scumbags I wrote about in my first post for Metal Lifestyle. If I feel safe moshing and crowd-surfing at a show, let alone a local show with no big names on the bill, then I don’t see how anyone could complain. I never thought I’d say it, but I am a jealous New Yorker.
- Alex Brown.
5/10 at The Webster Underground
Rise & Resist
The Days Ahead
The day was already going to be good. My last day of finals before the summer (Yay, more time to write!). Originally I was skeptical of the announcement, because as much as I enjoyed Darke Complex’s Widow, I wasn’t particularly fond of Point Oblivion. There's no doubt it has bangers, but for every song that hit hard there is a track of equally opposite quality, mainly because of its experimental sections. Nevertheless, I was interested in checking out Kaonashi. Let's be real, if you’ve heard the Never Home split with ’sabella, you know how crazy they are. If you see their name on a bill, jump.
From the moment I arrived, 30 minutes after doors, I knew it was going to be an interesting night. There were about a handful of actual audience members, and in hindsight, a few were only there for the locals. The Days Ahead kicked the night off with a less than stellar showing. There was nothing particularly bad about them, but if you’ve listened to a motivational metalcore band, you’ve heard every song before. Chugging riffs between clean chorus and an occasional breakdown, but the band’s use of a backtrack set me off a bit. While I stand by backtracking for non-traditional instruments and sound clips, using a backtrack of your clean vocals for the moments your voice gives out or you can’t hit the notes is a different story.
Next was Rise & Resist. I knew I had seen them from playing the Underground before, but I honestly couldn’t remember any of it. I don’t know if I’m alone in the feeling, but not remembering a band’s set, regardless if you liked their set, is sad. Anyway, I have a similar feeling about their performance. If you’ve heard metalcore-leaning hardcore metalcore, you’ve heard this band, but if they have anything going for them, their vocalist has a lot of power.
I really wish I didn’t think this way about both bands. They’re locals, and I could easily show love at the next few shows. This time, I just couldn’t.
Brian and I were catching some fresh air, worrying about the next local on the bill, but right before the next band finished soundcheck, our friend told us they had dropped and that Kaonashi was next. Both of us went from 0 to 60. The night had turned around. Chaotic mid-paced riffs got the room loose and comfortable. Vocalist Peter Rono spent the set off stage, kicking it with the few people in the audience, not giving a fuck, and still gave an angsty, high-octane performance. Powerhouses “Our Troubled Selves” and “The Depressive Spectrum” rang true with emotion, but just as the band was hitting an incredible high, the set was over after only 5 songs. It's not their fault, but damn.
The night was coming to a close, and Darke Complex’s Glados voiceover came over the PA. Gimmicky, but effective. Starting on the right foot with “One of Us,” the band proved they groove even harder live than they do on record. Nearing the end of the song, I realized this was one of the songs I hadn’t been fond of on Point Oblivion, but I was totally caught up in the moment because it’s just a fun song. The same thing happened with pretty much every song they played, and I eventually forgot my gripes and jammed for the rest of the short set. Again, this and the way the vocals were a bit drowned out by the rest of the band wasn’t necessarily their fault, and to make up for itm Peter guested for the breakdown on “Void.” It was as awesome as it sounds.
While that's the story everyone was interested in, I gotta say, meeting and spending time with Kaonashi and Dark Complex really made the night. They’re some of the nicest people and were just excited that people showed at all on what they expected to be an off night. The rest of the tour has been much different.
4/20: NEMHF Pre-Party at The Webster Underground
Face Your Maker
Brick by Brick
The Last Ten Seconds of Life
I definitely think it’s safe to say that every year, New England Metal/Hardcore Fest is a staple of New England's heavy music scene. This year, The Webster Theater in Hartford announced a “pre-party” for the festival the day before, making it the first time the festival has seen Hartford at all, as it usually takes place in Worcester. Announced back in December, the line-up went over well with fans as it was non-stop heavy jams in The Webster Underground, not the main theater. It was announced the local support would be from the boys in Boundaries to kick off the night the right way, brutal and violent. Jokes about mouth guards and boxing gloves went around in reference to how much pitting and crowd killing was expected following the awesome lineup. Before we knew it, 4/20 was upon us and the NEMHF Pre-Party was here.
Shows, particularly metal shows, never do well on a weeknight which was a frightening thing to think about since the pre-party fell on a Thursday evening. However, upon my arrival a mere half hour early, I was surprised to see what was already the usual attendance for a weeknight show waiting outside the venue to be let in. I grabbed my ticket from Boundaries drummer Kevin Stevens and waited for the show to kick off. I cannot fathom how quickly the venue filled up. By Varials I was almost certain that the show had sold out. I sat and waited for the two other nerds that you guys know to show up, Alex and Brian, and watched Boundaries set up, kicking it off with their new track “Reign of Pain.” You could almost immediately see the crowd was ready to get warmed up for the rest of the night by the amount of people already moving around the pit. I think it’s safe to say that after all the bullshit Boundaries were put through on their most recent tour with their van, they still poured their heart and souls into that set and it was fucking astonishing seeing them set up for the touring acts.
I’m going to be frank and just state that I personally am not a fan of Cryptodira’s music. They have a cool sound for the most part but they definitely did not belong on this bill, and that’s being polite. They sounded like they did a decent job from where I stood outside by the Boundaries merch table for the set, and I had seen them open for Beartooth last May and The Dillinger Escape Plan in November and honestly just didn’t have a great impression. Not really my style.
Face Your Maker was up next. I had listened to their song “Abolished” from an old EP when the show was announced but that was about it. The band had brought along Austin Archey (drummer of Lorna Shore) to take photos for them for part of this tour, which was pretty cool as well. This was the first deathcore band of the night and that was made very clear by the constant slamming vocals and riffs. They had the crowd intrigued, including Brian. They absolutely destroyed, the pits were crazy, the songs were tight and their stage presence was off the hook, especially when they brought Mike Jacques (PRY vocalist) and Archey out to do the breakdown vocals of “Abolished,” an earthquake of sheer violence. I’ll be fair and say I had absolutely no clue who Brick by Brick were and didn’t even remember seeing them on the bill until the day before, but they came to party and that was obvious. Even though there was some really drunk dude in the crowd ruining the show for everyone, they made the best of their time and had a really sweet sound.
After they ended, I knew things were about to get ultra-violent in that room and the pit was going to be fucking massive. Varials was up next, and they bring the heavies. There’s just something about straight beatdown hardcore that incites complete and utter destruction, and Varials was going to make sure that happened by playing fan favorites like “No Idols” and “Common Enemies” while the entire room was a complete war zone. Varials probably takes my place as my favorite set of the night. Don’t sleep on them if you have been. They’re absolutely fantastic. Left Behind came on afterwards and I had never heard anything besides the song “Snakes” from their record Seeing Hell because it had Bryan Garris (Knocked Loose) on the track, but I was well aware that people love them and that they go hard. They proved all the rumors true: the dudes take absolutely no shit and tear venues apart, and even got the Varials vocalist to move around with the rest of the crowd for their set, which was pretty cool to witness. If there was one thing I learned from Left Behind’s set, it’s that I should no longer sleep on them and that was advice I’m now taking.
We were hitting the end of the night now, and we had one of Brian, Alex and I’s favorite bands up next, Connecticut’s very own Currents. Surprisingly, they were one of the tamest sets of the night. Cryptodira took the cake as the band with the least crowd participation, but they aren’t really mosh music. They performed as well as ever, which is no surprise as I’ve never seen a bad set from them, and it’s super cool that they’re adding “Victimized” from the first EP to their setlists now. Brian Wille absolutely crushes that track. Catch them at every opportunity possible, especially with Miss May I and Kublai Khan this spring/summer. They’re going to make waves in the worldwide metal scene soon with their new record coming out this year.
We were hitting the headliners next/ I was starting to feel the fatigue, so unfortunately, I took a seat and watched the absolute destruction of Kublai Khan’s set from a distance. Those guys take names every single time they perform, crushing the opposition with the perfect mix of heavy and groovy which makes them gods in the hardcore scene, at least in my opinion. It was super cool hearing them play “Life for a Life,” although I’d kill to see them perform that with the Bury Your Dead vocalist live at some point. For some reason, half the crowd disappeared before The Last Ten Seconds of Life performed, which was lame, but ultimately made the experience more intimate. They played two or three tracks off The Violent Sound, but absolutely killed it with “The Box!”, “North of Corpus,” and “Ballad of the Butcher” off of Soulless Hymns. That album is a masterpiece of downtempo deathcore, and I’ll fight anyone who thinks otherwise. It's crazy to see how much new vocalist John Roberts slays those tracks and does his own thing on the new songs as well. All in all, the NEMHF Pre-Party was a success, and I hope we get to see shows of this caliber more regularly from now on.
- Dakota G.
Prisms: 4/21 at the Crunch House
The Crooked Sound
The Crunch House is the sort of place you can’t find unless you know where it is - it doesn’t register as a location on your phone GPS, and it’s difficult to find an exact address without being told it. Even once inside, you would never imagine it’s regularly the site of some of the greatest shows Connecticut has ever seen: it’s about the size of a living room, its walls are graffitied, every nook is crammed with some weird artifact (my favorite is the battered doll stashed in a recess close to the ceiling), and its door is plastered with band stickers. There are as many recognizable names as there are obscure: breakout death metal act Gatecreeper and local noise-rock band Perennial aren’t too far apart, to give you an idea of the breadth of the musical history that’s passed through the Crunch House’s peeling walls. It’s DIY as hell.
Friday is only the second time I’ve attended a show at the Crunch House, but it was, without exaggeration, one of the best shows I have ever been to. That would have been obvious if I had checked out more than a couple of the bands on the bill beforehand, but I hadn’t. Alex and I went in totally unaware of the incredible - and, I think, soon-to-be legendary - night about to unfold. We showed up early to catch Prologues, good friends of ours and no strangers to Metal Lifestyle. Once upon a time, they were a throwback metalcore band channeling the sounds of the ’00s for better or worse, but as their set of all but two brand-new songs proved, they’ve done some remodeling. The most obvious change comes in vocalist Tyler Maldonado, whose delivery is throatier and less screechy, but it’s also in the more chaotic structure of the new songs. Zack Santiago and Brandon Antoniak, guitarist and drummer respectively, are just a joy to watch perform. We once compared Prologues to Fear Before the March of Flames, but they’re really more in line with The Chariot at this stage.
Despite having no official recordings under their belt (at the time - they’ve since released a killer demo you need to listen to now), there’s been a lot of buzz of late for local powerviolence band Kidnapped thanks to a raging, no-bullshit live show we were lucky to experience firsthand. I’m not sure how many songs we actually heard, as they filled every spare second with noise and feedback to blur the lines between one burst of noise and the next, but their set absolutely brimmed with nasty riffs and primal beatdowns. I was variously reminded of Pig Destroyer, Full of Hell (bassist Liam Fossaluzza was wearing a shirt of theirs, in fact), and Knocked Loose, mostly thanks to vocalist Danny’s ragged hardcore scream, but it’s Kidnapped’s innate feel for rhythm that made their set so memorable. Even in the midst of all that dissonance and feedback, they never lost sight of the main groove. They’ll go far on that alone, and I will be thoroughly surprised if they don’t rise to same level of scene-prestige as Boston’s Vein. Yeah, they’re that good.
From hearsay alone, I would have expected Pretty Lush (once known as Better Half, a band I am told I saw on a bill with Prologues but cannot remember having actually watched for the life of me), to be the odd ones out on a bill that trended a bit closer to hardcore since they rock a more alternative/post-hardcore sound - and while they sort of did end up that band, the sheer emotional weight of their performance kept them well afloat. Looking back, I would argue that they were essential to the night, the “calm” band, swathed in pink and blue lights, that’s really anything but. Vocalist Eric Gustafson’s voice, thick with angst, complements his and Nick Firine’s fidgety guitarwork, which lays on the driving riffs and pretty leads with equal skill. While they’re stylistically miles apart, Pretty Lush’s knack for digging their heels into emotive moments - faulty notes, ringing chords, particularly resonant lyrics - reminds me of the uncommon vulnerability of early Evans Blue, when they were fronted by Kevin Matisyn. Underneath all the yearning is the hunger of a small band performing music they enjoy listening to as much as they enjoy playing, and it comes through on record, too. Let me tell you, it’s been hard to put down Sink Into My Skin since the show.
The Crooked Sound might have been the biggest surprise of the night, even accounting for Kidnapped’s tower of amps. I simply wasn’t ready for this band. Vocalist Kenny James did a quick guest verse in the middle of Pretty Lush’s set, but I was so preoccupied with the drama of that band’s performance that it didn’t really register until The Crooked Sound picked up their instruments. They live up to their name and then some: somewhere between Glassjaw and Every Time I Die, they occupy a niche that’s bound to propel them to instant stardom, blending the sneering attitude of the former with the vicious hardcore of the latter while doubling down on the caustic sarcasm of both. Their single “Mock” is a great summary of what they offer, strutting out tasty riffs and groovy drumming with the finesse of professionals, but the sneering bellow that dominates that track shared more space with James’s singing live, which borrows a lot from Daryl Palumbo’s trademark melisma. In a word, The Crooked Sound is special, and you would be an idiot to miss out on what they’re doing. Keep an eye on them. They’ll be huge before you know it.
The last time I saw Lucretia was on the floor of a banquet hall, under a chandelier, gentle lighting, and flanked by tablecloths. No joke. It made for some brilliant, surreal contrast, but to see them in a venue as gritty as their sound actually is brought things to the next level - it’s caged-animal vicious reverberating against those cracked walls, and when the cushions of the venue’s couch are being tossed back and forth across the moshpit. No joke, either. Despite the scarcity of Lucretia shows (“We only play one show per Overwatch event,” to quote guitarist Michael Terry), both sets have been deadly honed. Vocalist Tony Goncalves’s blackened screech tears right through Terry’s thick riffing, and no one seemed to miss a beat as they churned through slab after slab of deliciously sludgy hardcore. The undisputed highlight of the night was their performance of “Untitled,” or “Rat Song” as it’s sometimes known, after the art for the song’s release a year ago. It’s actually pretty rare for me to jump into a pit once it really gets going, but I was right in there with everyone else, and even had a chance to buddy up with Terry and a friend to shout the song’s anthemic climax, despite my utter lack of rhythm: “I would rather be dead than in love for a third time / I was told it’s nothing more than an action / I would rather be dead than in love for a third time / either way, it only lasts for a moment.”
My recollection of the rest of the night is a bunch of hallucinatory snapshots: there’s Tyler of Prologues crowdsurfing across the venue and back while drummer Brandon Antoniak couch-dived from, you know, the couch, into the crowd. There’s Kenny James and Eric Gustafson mowing back and forth across the moshpit. I remember snatching a pillow out of the air to shield myself as I caught my breath. Through it all, there was the growing certainty, later articulated by Prologues guitarist Zack, that we were all participating in something legendary, a show they’d be referencing years down the line when every band on the bill had moved onto bigger and better things. Every act that night is more than deserving of success, and given the Crunch House’s storied history, the future couldn’t be brighter.
A doom/drone metal band. Brooklyn/Queens border. St. Patrick’s Day. Sounds about right to me.
For those unfamiliar, the band Sunn O))) are difficult to explain and must simply be experienced. Though words can only go so far, here goes nothing. Being categorized as "drone metal," their music moves at the speed of a glacier coupled with the volume of a jet engine (approximately 125 decibels). Visually, the band pumps fog machines for approximately 30 minutes prior to taking the stage, leaving the viewers in a literal fog.
Upon taking the stage, vocalist Atilla Csihar invokes inhuman mumbles, chants, and incantations, almost resembling the art of Tuvan throat singing (multiple notes/harmonies sung simultaneously). After five minutes, the guitars begin to rumble and cascade upon the observer a wall of notes that, depending upon proximity to the stage, can vibrate the lips and rattle the chest cavity. One fairly surprising angle is the lack of a drummer. Though somewhat unheard of and making it seemingly impossible to maintain a discernible rhythm, the sounds Sunn O))) produce ultimately need no further assistance. One exception though are the occasional lost and solemn notes of a trumpet meandering through the drone.
Just as slowly as the "music" progresses, the lights fade into each other, beginning with a dark blue, than a mellow orange, ending on red. As they darken and brighten, one wonders if the color changes are a subliminal insinuation, a metaphor for starting out in a dark place that gets better, and ultimately makes you stronger. But the immediate reaction to these physical and audio assaults is, appropriately, "what IS this?!? WHY would I want to experience this?" After a certain amount of time, the audio becomes numbing and induces an almost meditative state of mind. When guitarists Stephen O' Malley and Greg Anderson play a new note, the rumblings awaken you briefly, and then perpetuate the paralysis. Once the fog starts to fade and the brief outlines of O'Malley and Anderson, adorned in Druid ritualistic robes, become noticeable, an arm making a fist is stretched into the air. Observers who aren't frozen then slowly raise their fists in a sign of solidarity and appreciation.
For the last third of the show, Csihar returns to the stage looking like the Statue of Liberty from another dimension. Adorned in a spiked crown, cloak dressed in broken pieces of mirror, and a glove with red lasers as fingers, low rumbles and brief high pitched screams underscore the guitars as laser lines bounce into the crowd. Right when the viewer may have gotten comfortable in this realm of sound, the arresting image merely adds another layer of discomfort. Just as suddenly as it started, two hours later, Sunn switches off their amps and remove their hoods and cloaks.
Though this review may seem, for lack of a better term, "mental masturbation," in order to justify a two-hour session of playing a handful of notes and feedback at absurd levels, I present to you two ideas of thought, one pretentious and one practical:
First, metal music, like other genres, has spiraled out into various sub-genres. Heavy metal, progressive metal, nu-metal, math metal, black metal, doom metal; the list goes on, especially if the "core" genres were to be considered. Each sub-genre approaches their music with a unique background, records it in a unique mentality, and want to display in a unique image….
...And secondly, they thought of it and acted on it before you did and made it successful enough for you to have to hear of it and form a negative opinion on it.
The best way to start this review is by mentioning that, had it been the day it was originally scheduled for, I would’ve most likely died trying to get the venue. For the show I saw today, I realized how truly worth it that would have been.
Deafheaven is currently wrapping up the last few legs of touring for their third full length LP New Bermuda before they go back into the studio. Being a band who chooses their own show lineups, one could expect nothing but the best from these guys. While the last US headliner they did is impossible to top, featuring screamo legends envy and up-and-coming death n’ rollers Tribulation, they are keeping jt interesting by inviting post-rock icons This Will Destroy You and folk/dream pop artist Emma Ruth Rundle along. As soon as this tour was announced, I made sure I got my tickets right away. Due to the snowstorm that hit on the original date, however, the show was moved to the next day, March 15th. There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll cut to the chase.
The first time I saw Emma Ruth Rundle was with Alcest back in late 2015. To be honest, I really didn’t care for her set at all, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. She now had a full band, and I hadn’t checked anything out by her since that show, so I figured there was a chance it would be more interesting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Her set was just a 30-minute snoozefest, and it really didn’t feel like anyone was enjoying it too much. I appreciate the fact that Deafheaven go out of their way to pick non-metal artists to open for them, and Emma certainly fits with the style that Deafheaven goes for, but I’m just not a fan of her music at all, and her live show really brings nothing to the table. That said, it only got me that much more excited for This Will Destroy You.
Instrumental artists’ live performances seem to either be completely unforgettable or the opposite. I’ve seen some incredible live shows from artists such as And So I Watch You From Afar, and some that left me bored and disappointed, like Animals As Leaders. This Will Destroy You, thankfully, is the former. Post-rock groups really use the build-up of a song to it’s fullest advantage, and when the climax comes, they let loose. This was certainly the case for This Will Destroy You. Hell, one of their guitarists was sitting down the entire set, and he was more energetic than many other groups. The other guitarist got really jumpy and excited during their more climactic moments as well, and even did a bit of vocals on the last song to add flavor. On top of all that, however, the music was intense as fuck. My girlfriend was crying throughout their set, and I really couldn’t blame her. I was feeling pretty emotional as well. However, nothing could prepare anyone for what was going to come next.
I’ve seen Deafheaven three times prior to last night. The last time I saw them at Webster Hall was one of my all-time favorite performances. The amount of energy and passion that went into their set that day was something out of this world, and I got very intimate with vocalist George Clarke during Luna. It was truly a performance that few artists could match. So the big question was, could they top that set?
They opened up with the first track off of New Bermuda, “Brought to the Water.” Within these eight minutes, Deafheaven blew every performance I have seen this year thus far out of the water (no pun intended), a list that includes August Burns Red, Every Time I Die, and The Saddest Landscape. Deafheaven pack the passion of another band’s entire set into one song, and this was only a portion of what would come. They went on to play two other songs from New Bermuda, “Baby Blue” and “Come Back,” pummeling through these tracks while Clarke stood on the barricade, high-fiving and holding audience members’ hands, including my own, and even doing a bit of a dance during the softer moments. Clarke is truly a one-of-a-kind frontman, which is not to discredit the rest of the group at all. They do a fantastic job performing their respective pieces, but it's job of the frontman to get the crowd excited. He really goes above and beyond.
After the tracks off New Bermuda, Deafheaven treated us to tracks off their debut LP, Roads to Judah, which I haven’t heard since 2014. I honestly never thought I was ever going to hear “Language Games” live, so needless to say, I got pretty damn emotional during the last section of the track. This went into “Unrequited,” which was the only song I had heard live off the LP beforehand, but I was glad to see it back in their set. The group also looked stoked to be playing these songs again, which is always a good sign. These tracks went into their cover of “Cody” by post-rock legends Mogwai, which is yet another song I never expected to see live. The group really went out of their way to deliver some true gems on this tour.
The night would come to a close with three tracks off of the group’s iconic Sunbather: “Dream House”, the title-track, and “The Pecan Tree.” I’ve seen all of these tracks before, with the former two being on every set I have seen thus far. These performances were…well, completely divine, for lack of a better word. “Dream House” was as intense as it could ever have been performed. Throughout its nine-minute span, both the group and the crowd gave it their all, with many people getting on stage (despite the barricade) and Clarke jumping into the audience on more than one occasion. It is really hard to put the performance of the song into words, because it was just so perfectly executed, and started the final act of Deafheaven’s set on a very positive note. We would be led into the title-track off Sunbather, which was just as perfectly executed. The conclusion of the set was the conclusion to Sunbather, “The Pecan Tree,” and even though I had to walk out a bit early, I still felt all the incredible vibes throughout its runtime.
While their Webster Hall show will always hold a special place in my heart, it’s hard to deny that Deafheaven really outdid themselves that night. It was truly one of the most passionate shows I’ve seen from the group thus far, and as unbelievable as it is that they are even at this level, I can only anticipate that this passion that drives their performance will continue to grow. George Clarke said the next time they come to New York City, he believes they will have a new LP. I am both ready for a new Deafheaven LP and to see them live for a fifth time.
- Alex Brown
I had the opportunity to catch Every Time I Die at the Pearl Street Ballroom in Northampton, Massachusetts on Friday night, so I took it. The venue was about an hour from me, so I packed up with a couple of friends, stood in line in the biting cold for about twenty minutes, and filed in. The windows on the outside of the venue are cracked and graffitied over, but looks deceive: Pearl Street is a pretty nice venue, spacious and warm. We stepped into a lobby area and were directed through a set a doors to main room, which is divided into a pit area around a low stage and a slightly elevated platform toward the back. There’s a bar there, and the staff was very friendly and accommodating all around. Merch tables were set up close to the doors.
After some milling around a bit, we settled on a place to the right of the stage and buckled in for Eternal Sleep’s set. I hadn’t heard too much about this band, but what I had heard was divided. I fall on the positive side of the discussion: based out of Philadelphia, they’re an all-business hardcore band with some sludgy overtones that play compact riffs at steady, headbangable tempos. The vocals rarely deviate except for a few spots of gruff singing, and they prefer a good, wall-shaking breakdown to any gaudy soloing. Overall, I was impressed with their set and hope they can hop on a few more tours. Excellent opener.
I’ve heard a little more about Harm’s Way since they’re a bit of an up-and-coming act on the Deathwish Inc. roster, and I spun their most recent album, Rust, shortly after the announcement of the Low Teens tour. Although I didn’t feel anything in particular afterwards, a I’ve been known to change my mind about a band after a live set. Not so here. While I don’t find anything about Harm’s Way explicitly bad, my friend’s comment sums up my feelings toward the band: “They’re mad decent,” and not much more. The riffs run thick and heavy and the drums are rock-solid. The breakdowns land like crates of bricks and the vocals are abrasive and well-suited to the music. It’s all satisfying in the moment (the pits certainly got moving for their set), but I was struggling to pick out a highlight a few minutes after they finished up. They may just not be my kind of hardcore, but I wonder what a little more experimentation might do for them. Whether they go heavier or softer, mix up some tempos, thrown in some more complex passages, etc., a couple detours from the old hardcore cut-and-paste isn’t going to hurt.
Between Harm’s Way and Every Time I Die’s set, that legendary Old-English script “I” lit up behind the stage, and a cheer went up. The band took the stage and kicked off with “Glitches” off of Low Teens, blazing through an unusually great setlist that, case in point, put “We’rewolf” and “Wanderlust” side-by-side.
I don’t think you get to have a career as long and varied as Every Time I Die has had without having fun, and if you can say anything about that band, it’s that they know have to throw a party. They slowed the closing breakdown of “Floater” to about a fourth of its speed, Keith shrieked “Nobody stand still," and for the first time at a show I’ve been to, nobody actually did: we pushed and shoved and stumbled around, having a blast without resorting to the stupidity of crowdkilling. “Petal,” which appeared about halfway into the set, brought out the best. I was able to fight my way to the very front, where the press of the crowd nearly broke my legs against the just-under-knee-height stage, but it was all worth it to shout indirectly into Keith’s mic.
About four or five songs in, someone leaped onstage, shouted “Fuck yeah, motherfucker!” and fell backwards expecting to “get sucked back into crowd,” according to Keith, who took a minute to address the crowd’s failure to catch him. “The next time he’s up here, I want to see him get all the way to the back of the room!” he went on, and then asked that no one make fun of the Hawaiian shirt he’s chosen as that night’s outfit. A song or two later, the same unidentified person lost a shoe, and a couple songs after that, lost them both. Someone close to the pit also waved an abandoned credit card.
“It’s like a raffle,” Keith remarked. “I love this.”
Other highlights included the always-infectious “The New Black,” singing along to “Apocalypse Now and Then,” the clusterfuck of “Ebolarama,” and the massive surprise of “Fear and Trembling”(!!!) and “Moor” as back-to-back encores. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience come together like it did two seconds into “Fear and Trembling,” or heard so many voices in such perfect harmony chanting “Sacrifice! Kill to survive!” - except, maybe, for the glorious “Hell is not a myth” breakdown of “Map Change,” which guitarist Jordan Buckley performed while leaning heavily against the arms of the crowd.
All in all, the show at Pearl Street Ballroom was another reminder of why Every Time I Die are kings of the metalcore heap. The energy they projected bodes well for the rest of the tour, which saw them joined by rising hardcore stars Knocked Loose in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday night. If you get the chance to catch this tour, by all means, do it. You couldn’t possibly regret it.
Animals As Leaders. Okay...I first heard of AAL when I really started listening/following Meshuggah. In 2011-2012ish, I read reviews that indicated a group called “AAL” was opening for them in Europe. As far as my opinion and dollar goes, anyone who is worthy enough to open for Meshuggah is worth paying attention to. I listened to a few of their more popular songs, such as “CAFO” and “Tempting Time,” and liked what I heard. Fast forward a few months to when Meshuggah toured the US in February 2013 and took AAL in tow. I saw Meshuggah three times that tour (Philadelphia, NYC, and Boston) and caught bits and pieces of AAL each time, and fell in love with them from that moment on, proceeding to see them do support for Summer Slaughter tour 2013, than twice on their own tour in 2014.
One thing that has always impressed me about AAL is the same sort of layout as another band I love, Primus, in terms of personality, style, and quite possibly, business practices. Tosin reminds me in so many ways of Les Claypool, the founder and “brains” of the band. He plays his instrument with a style that is very unique and specific to the sound and “package” the band is delivering.
Another noteworthy aspect about the band is their lack of vocals. While some metal fans may consider this move pretentious, it is smart not to lasso lyrics and/or a voice to music that is already so accomplished, as it would only do detriment to their art/style/message. Anyone into or looking to get into AAL should also check out an unfortunately defunct band called Spiral Architect. Their progressive sound and jazzy free-form style bear many similarities to AAL, although in my humble opinion, Spiral Architect's vocalist did not always compliment them.
That's another review for another day. On to the show itself.
While I missed Plini, I did manage to catch a little bit of the second support act, Intervals, who sounded as if they have been mentoring under AAL. Instrumental progressive metal, but not double digit length songs, with a tuning so similar to AAL, I thought AAL had already taken the stage. Once they finished their set and their equipment was cleared away, some Richard Cheese-type Christmas music began playing on the PA. While “’tis the season,” the way this ironic “happy” music clashed with what lay ahead was, for lack of a better word, amusing.
At approximately 9:05, the lights go down, with Tosin, Javier, and Matt assuming their respective positions onstage. The sitar notes at the start of “Arithmophobia,” opening track of AAL's new album “The Madness Of Many,” filled the venue, to be matched by the crowd’s roar of approval. The Indian vibe and sensibility of the track quickly gave way as AAL wasted no time doing what it is they do.
Quite often, Tosin would take a lead on guitar, spinning and riding off with a riff and give way to a calming bridge filled in by Javier, until he relented back to Tosin who would spiral off on another riff before concluding. Clearly a testament to their professionalism and confidence in one another, while the band was in action, there appeared to be little to no need to make visual or audio cues to one another. Whether they started a song or progressed to a new portion of the current song, each member remained on point. The lights took on a much more prominent role this tour, stopping and starting dramatically with the music, very akin to Meshuggah's lighting setup and techniques with dramatic color changes and spotlights reaching to the rear of the venue.
One aspect of the music on their new album I found specifically noteworthy are the introductions. Apart from the Eastern sensibilities of “Arithmophobia,” new song “Ectogenesis” begins with a keyboard sample very reminiscent of late-’80s/early ’90s synth, something Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails would have considered for Pretty Hate Machine. Tosin's guitar quickly mimics the beat while Javier’s twists and turns in a “solo” style that breathes, but unlike most progressive metal, is compact enough to not wear out its welcome. These newer songs, while not a dramatic change in style, hint at a possible evolution as far as their beginnings are concerned.
Classics such as “Tempting Time” were preformed flawlessly. However, the most shocking aspect of the night was that "CAFO," a staple of the seven AAL performances I’ve attended, was not performed. As disappointing as it was (a LOT disappointing, to some), it was also refreshing, as it may be a sign that AAL is moving out of their comfort zone, so to speak, not wanting to have to fall back on the songs that made them popular. Suppose Radiohead played “Creep” each and every single concert they performed. All passion for the song would be completely void, meaning would be lessened, and the fans’ expectations would be dramatically lowered. If nothing else, I believe AAL is doing us and themselves a favor by shelving their tried-and-true classic, at least for now.
- Chris C.
Saturday night began in August with the announcement of the Dillinger Escape Plan’s imminent breakup. There was much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth here at Metal Lifestyle, but the announcement of Dissociation and a final tour cycle around the U.S. that would hit both New York and Connecticut, the two states across which our team is currently spread, gave us reason to prepare rather than wallow in abject misery. Dissociation dropped in October to the same thunderous acclaim that meets anything from the Dillinger camp, but pitched to a more feverish, more pained frequency with the morbid understanding that this was it. Eleven songs and done.
Dillinger seemed tuned right into that. The album ends with the words “Finding a way to die alone,” and then deafening silence.
On October 15, our own Alex Brown had the chance to see them play the Webster Hall in New York City, and took it. His review was an omen of things to come, and it wasn’t the first. No joke: right up until doors opened at our own Webster (Theater, not Hall, but isn’t it kind of eerie?), the entire world seemed to be converging on this cold night in November. Footage emerged of Ben walking on crowds, of Greg surfing them, of the crowd and the band swapping places on the stage and the floor. Dillinger being Dillinger, but for the last time. Their tour photography became increasingly ethereal as the Hartford date approached, transforming them into silhouettes wreathed in fog and light, or capturing them in midair as if they belonged there. Dakota and Alex both dreamed about the show the night before. Alex Brown nearly missed his train to Connecticut. We met a group of Chicagoans in the venue as we waited through a handful of some of Connecticut’s best locals.
Every set was charged with anticipation. Every band shouted out Dillinger’s name at some point, often multiple times throughout. Cyperna, as always, played their moshy brand of metalcore with heart. They’re a gem waiting to be discovered, a reminder of everything that was fun about metalcore in the early-to-mid-00s. Dream of Scipio surprised us all with a tight, mature thrash sound that moves through several distinct segments per song. I was reminded of bands as diverse as Lamb of God, Lich King, and High On Fire, with whom Dream of Scipio share a honed sense of groove. Although there isn’t too much variety in the way of vocals, it was more than made up for by the sheer energy of the performance. It’s pretty clear this band should be playing much bigger stages than the Webster Underground.
In Depths & Tides incited the largest pits up to that point in the night with their deep, dark, and immediately identifiable atmosphere. Once fronted by Ben Duerr (Shadow of Intent), they’ve brought on Jake Maki to fill the void after Duerr announced his departure earlier this year. Maki proved himself a more than capable successor in seconds, riding IDAT’s massive, kinetic grooves like a pro. I’m not as familiar with them as I should be, but I was impressed enough by their performance to dive into their most recent album, Shroud, reviewed by Dakota a little while back.
Cryptodira put on an exciting, energetic performance, foreshadowing the mathcore histrionics to follow later that night. We caught them opening for Within the Ruins back in February, when they were a bit of an anomaly on the bill and played to a lukewarm crowd. Not the case here. While they’re a little less -core than the preceding acts, their twisted progressive metal borrows a lot from the unpredictable structures of mathcore and doubles up on the driving aggression. The response was much more enthusiastic this time around, and they concluded things on the second stage in winning fashion, garnering more applause than any of their predecessors.
The main stage opened shortly after Cryptodira wrapped up. We poured in. The energy was up in the venue, and the massive Dillinger Escape Plan flag looming behind the stage only heightened that feeling, reminding us of where the night was headed. For now, though, it was partly covered by a Cult Leader flag that signalled what was right in front of us. Acius got on and got off - “Please clap for us” - clearing a path for Cult Leader.
They turned off the lights and laid waste to the room. Lit from below, frontman Anthony Lucero filled the stage with his howls, flashing a Cursed backpatch to the crowd. As intense as they are on record, there’s no substitution for their live show. I don’t think I’ve seen a more pissed off set this year - like swimming upstream in a glass-crusher, there’s no escape from the all-consuming violence of their set, even for the band. Lucero tore up his jeans in a fit of rage and threw the pieces into the crowd. One of those has disappeared into Alex’s collection of show memorabilia, and will probably never emerge - it’s maybe the most appropriate reminder of the tension buzzing through the Webster’s main room, the sheer impatience.
Car Bomb plugged themselves into that energy and cranked the pits Cult Leader started to maximum frenzy. That thing seemed to fill half the room. Their drumkit looked like a small metropolis on stage and the music out-denses Dillinger at times, so much so that the band has to remain generally stationary, bent over their instruments to keep their musical Jenga tower together. This would normally bother me, but I was too busy trying to snap my neck to about fifteen odd-time riffs per second. We were close to exhaustion at this point, but the best was still to come. The Dillinger flag loomed. We soldiered on.
O’brother, without a doubt, was the surprise of the night. They threatened to steal the show right out from under Dillinger. I came across “Endless Light” earlier this year but was lukewarm on their “psychedelic Thrice” sound at the time. Who knows why. I was expecting to use their set as a breather, just hoping that it wouldn’t turn into the slog Tera Melos became when that band took the same penultimate spot on Dillinger’s last run through Hartford. O’brother took my reservations and tossed them out the window. They’re the kind of band that can make any sized venue feel like an acoustic set in your living room despite some apocalyptic volume swells, and while I could describe the highlights of their set - the driving grooves, the stunning falsetto notes, the bass guitar played with a bow (!) - it’s all something you should really experience for yourselves. If you see tour dates for O’brother in your state, go.
O’brother cleared out, and for the first time, the Dillinger Escape Plan flag was fully visible on stage. Fog billowed over the crowd, so thick up front that I could have lost sight of Dakota standing right next to me. LEDs flashed like lightning from somewhere deep on stage. The lights dimmed. The crowd pressed forward. Every shadowy movement drew screams and applause from the room. A low bass hum swelled over the next twenty minutes as the lights began to pulse, steadily at first and then faster, faster -
Then they were there.
“Limerent Death” started, the crowd surged forward, the rest of the show plays like a dream. Amid the acute claustrophobia; the flying bodies; the overwhelming stench of sweat and bad breath; the screams shorting out my ears; the elbows in face, my sides, and my neck; the terror of finding myself in the middle of a moshpit the size of Indiana with no idea how I ended up so far away from where I began; the giddiness of running into all my friends only to lose them again and again….
There are moments like the desperate chorus of “Symptom of Terminal Illness,” when I was sure I was going to die pinned between people twice my size. I remember “Hero of the Soviet Union,” when I took an elbow to the throat and had to mouth the words - “You smear your filth across the world!” - as I fought for air. I remember “Farewell Mona Lisa,” and people surfing over me in an endless stream of arms and legs. I remember Billy Rymer smashing the cymbals for about a minute straight before “Prancer” launched out of nowhere. It paused - and then that main riff hit like a missile. I remember the storm-calm of “Mouth of Ghosts,” Greg seated on an amp and belting those notes like Dean Martin in black denim. I remember the all-out war of “Sunshine the Werewolf,” watching Greg disappear behind Ben before he reappeared somewhere in midair and crashed down into the crowd. He disappeared again - I pushed someone out of my way - and there he was, resting on dozens of backs and arms. I grabbed the back of his head and together, we pushed him across the room and back. I remember the annihilating blow of “43% Burnt,” the way everyone in the room seemed to be swinging at something or going down.
Then they were gone.
Prisms is where Brian, Alex, and Dakota give their unique, unfiltered perspectives on shows they attend together.