Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer Slaughter 2015

Summer festivals are like a sampler platter that you would get at a restaurant or a cocktail party - a little taste of something different but not enough to satisfy your craving for that particular appetizer. For the ninth Summer Slaughter tour, it was a mix of technical, brutal death metal, a smattering of deathcore topped off by melodic death metal sweetness. It’s been five long years since I last attended a Summer Slaughter and I was given the chance to go to this year’s show thanks to my significant other in the form of a birthday gift.

Being the dedicated concert-goer that I am, I arrived to the Marquee around the posted time that the doors would open, which was at 2:30pm. I wasn’t completely sure if this time would be adhered to as Obscura dropped off due to visa problems and After the Burial dropped off due to the untimely death of their guitarist. There was no indication that the time to open would be pushed back and upon arriving there were already a few dozen metalheads lined up in the sweltering Phoenix heat. Being clad in black on top of 110 degree weather doesn’t make for the most pleasant of experiences. The right thing for the venue to do for those standing outside waiting to get in would to provide some shade and water as heat exhaustion and dehydration are a very real thing. Thankfully it appeared that there was no misfortune there and the doors did eventually open to allow us to bask in the modern invention of air conditioning.

My first stop were the merch tables of Beyond Creation and Cattle Decapitation. Being a fan of both of those bands I picked up a shirt from each table and had a brief conversation with co-guitarist Kevin Chartre of Beyond Creation. After the friendly exchange of words I stood near the front to check out the first band setting up which was Prevailing Reaping (I believe that’s the band’s name) who are a generic deathcore band with two of the six members wearing masks. There was nothing remarkable about this, I assume, local band.

The next band was a metalcore type band that won the Summer Slaughter Battle of the Bands called Goat something. I’m really not sure what their name is as I didn’t catch the last part and they were unmemorable except for the singer’s lame attempt at a transphobic joke at Caitlyn Jenner’s expense. After their lame set I was geared up for Beyond Creation.

The quartet from Quebec certainly did not disappoint. They were flawless in their execution playing songs such as “Elusive Reverence” and “Earthborn Evolution”. Considering how complex their music is they were entertaining to watch. It was certainly impressive to see guitarist Simon Girard playing complex riffs while growling at the same time. There was little moshing but despite being extreme metal Beyond Creation’s music is similar to jazz in that you’re watching more for the performance of competent musicians rather than getting yourself pumped up.

Contrast that with the energy and performance of Cattle Decapitation which had a typhoon of a mosh pit going on for most of the set. “Forced Gender Reassignment” was a favorite and whipped the crowd up into a frenzy. They were solid and performed flawlessly as well and I hope to catch them when they tour again with Cannibal Corpse.

Aside from those two bands I was only there to really see Obscura and Arch Enemy. With Obscura dropping off it left the rest of the tour with the deathcore trio of the Acacia Strain (who have some great t-shirts with a black metal decked out Comic Book Guy proclaiming “Worst. Band. Ever.”), Veil of Maya, and Born of Osiris. To be fair I did give the bands a fair shake by listening to at least their current albums beforehand. And deathcore is really not my thing for the most part. Born of Osiris I tolerate the most as some of their stuff is pretty decent especially when they throw in lead licks and don’t focus completely on breakdown style riffs. While those three bands were playing I got to chat it up with a couple of guys whom I just randomly met.

The first guy introduced himself as a current metalhead having been dissatisfied with the current state of industrial music and he felt that metal music is a natural extension from there. We talked a bit about concerts, band shirts, just generally shooting the shit. He was more into the deathcore bands than I was and so he went off to see the Acacia Strain when they got on. For myself I got a slice of pizza and a cup of overpriced beer to relax a bit. I caught the last bit of Acacia Strain but it was nothing impressive to me so it was back to the outdoors.

Veil of Maya were up next and again I gave them a couple of songs but decided to sit them out as well. At that time I met another gentleman who chatted it up with me. He was far more talkative in his Decrepit Birth shirt and Abysmal Dawn baseball cap. He’s been on some wild adventures apparently. He regaled being in a mosh pit with Chuck Schuldiner at the Milwaukee Metalfest back in 1998 and no one wanted to risk injury to Chuck by bumping into him. The guy talked about tripping on acid and walking through a mosh pit and noticing everyone was covered in blood at another show. He also seemed to have some connections with Matt Harvey of Exhumed and members of Brain Drill. We chatted through Born of Osiris’ set as well but finally went our separate ways before Arch Enemy took the stage.

I haven’t seen Arch Enemy since the 2005 Ozzfest and really haven’t kept up with them too much but they absolutely destroyed at Summer Slaughter. Alissa White-Gluz is the perfect replacement for Angela Gossow with her tremendous stage presence and energy. Jeff Loomis is another brilliant addition and meshed well with Michael Amott’s bluesier lead playing. Every song was solid and even dipping a bit into Wages of Sin territory with “Ravenous” and “Dead Bury Their Dead”. I didn’t stay for the full set as I had to get up early for work and hunger was starting to set in again. It was a fairly solid lineup with a good turnout that seemed to thin out during Arch Enemy’s set. It certainly was a better lineup than what the Mayhem Festival had and most of the metal bands on stage weren’t old, fat, and balding.

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