Summer Slaughter Canada
(feat. Necrophagist, Dying Fetus, Into Eternity, Beneath The Massacre, Neuraxis, Whitechapel & Veil of Maya)
Monday, August 25th, 2008
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
Unlike our fellow heshers across the pond, the summer season is not peppered with regular three-day gatherings of metalheads and their musical heroes, so when the package tours do roll out, they are pretty few and far between. In terms of “marquee” summer tours, Ozzfest and Gigantour probably have a lock on the North American market with Sounds of The Underground and a few others coming in just below that however one of the newer rosters to rear its shaggy head is Summer Slaughter. Now in its sophomore year, Summer Slaughter exists in three versions—United States, Canada and Europe—with different acts on each run but for 2008, the Canadian lineup has a slightly stronger appeal. Sure, the Americans got Vader, Kataklysm, Cryptopsy, The Black Dahlia Murder and Aborted but we Canadians get Into Eternity, Dying Fetus, Beneath The Massacre, Neuraxis and Necrophagist (***: the poor Europeans’ only “highlight”—and that is a term used extremely loosely—is Suicide Silence, but those buggers get every other band under the sun on their turf for three months, so little pity shall be dealt out!!). So as the day drew nearer, metal’s underground began to bubble up from the darkest legions of their subterranean dwellings to take in the final date of 2008’s Summer Slaughter Canada.
First up was Chicago’s Veil of Maya, a band who I had never heard of prior to this evening, and after wincing through their twenty-minute set, I was quick to ensure I didn’t hear from them again. On the positive side, Veil of Maya does have a surprisingly full sound for a four-piece, although that could be attributed to some clever work by the Front-of-House sound man, rather than the band members’ talents. A very small crowd arrived early and many of those seemed familiar with Veil of Maya’s music but as far as I could tell, the band’s metalcore schtick, while not completely reprehensible, was certainly generic to its fullest extent, especially in relation to the innumerable other bands that are currently clutching for any remants of the genre’s sagging popularity. Nothing special or noteworthy here.
It’s Not Safe To Swim Today
We Bow In It’s Aura
Speedy, fifteen-minute changeovers left little time between bands and before the dust had settled, Knoxville, Tennessee’s six-piece deathcore outfit, Whitechapel, took to the stage and showed why they are among the genre’s best. Young and energetic, the band had a lot to prove on their first trip to Vancouver and the hype around their just-released second album, THIS IS EXILE, certainly had many on hand to see just what they had to offer. To set themselves apart, Whitechapel boasts three guitarists but honestly, only two of them—Alex Wade and Ben Savage—seem to do anything beneficial to the music. On stage, Zach Householder did little more than strum away and add a few background vocals but really, no one would miss him if he wasn’t there (call it the “Jannick Gers Phenomenon”). Otherwise, Whitechapel really kicked up the energy levels with bruising versions of “Possession,” “Eternal Refuge” and “This Is Exile.” The band’s blend of old-school death metal brutality and new-school ethos really struck a chord with the building crowd, who formed circle pits fuelled by the crushing breakdowns and flailing leads of Savage. Hulking bassist Gabe Crisp adds some solid, rubbery basslines and diminutive frontman Phil Bozeman knows how to command a crowd. Despite some dead wood in its lineup, Whitechapel is a band to watch in the deathcore genre and certainly should not be missed live, either.
Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation
This Is Exile
The next three bands were the real draw for me and first up was longstanding Montreal technical death metallers, Neuraxis. No strangers to Vancouver over the years (the band was just here two months earlier with Fuck The Facts), Neuraxis remains one of Canada’s most underrated bands. The personnel changes within the band are almost mind-boggling but it seems that the current lineup is finally stable and on their new CD, THE THIN LINE BETWEEN, Neuraxis has created their finest moment to date. On stage, frontman Alex LeBlanc is a whirlwind of energy whose headbanging rivals George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher and with a physique, honed by his other “job” as a professional wrestler on the Montreal circuit, to match the Cannibal Corpse frontman, as well. Rob Milley and Will Seghers craft the finest guitar runs this side of the St. Lawrence and on “Dreaming The End” and “Darkness Prevails,” they are given free reign to show off. Reaching back to 2002’s TRUTH BEYOND for “…Of Divinity,” Neuraxis won over more people in their twenty-minute set than I have seen bigger bands do as headliners. Absolutely amazing from start to finish, Neuraxis’ day will come and they will finally get the exposure they so fully deserve.
Dreaming The End
Fellow Montreal-ers, Beneath The Massacre, continue to impress me at every turn and their live show is no different. Mixing unbelievable technicality with spine-crushing brutality, this band—who earned a nod from me as Best New Band of 2005 based on their E.P., EVIDENCE OF INEQUITY—is untouched in the new breed of bands among the brutal death genre. Combining all the great things that bands like Suffocation and Cryptopsy have brought to the table over the years, Beneath The Massacre adds just the right modern touch to make an irresistible sound. With the release of their second full-length, DYSTOPIA, looming on the horizon this October, Beneath The Massacre gave fans a taste of a pair of new tracks—“Our Common Grave” and “Never More”—which immediately left me salivating at the impending release date. Christopher Bradley executes such flawless leads and riffs on CD that I was doubtful they could be replicated live, but he quickly proved me wrong on “The Surface” and “Society’s Disposable Son” delivering speedy, technically flawless fretwork. “The System’s Failure” and “Nevermore,” the latter boasting a pair of face-melting breakdowns, had the moshers losing their minds. With unparalleled ferocity, the rhythm section of Justin Rouselle and Dennis Bradley simply knocked everyone on their asses throughout their half-hour set. Bradley, who clearly knows his way around a bass guitar, rumbled along but added some stellar soloing moments, while Rouselle’s use of ruthless blastbeats and unparalleled double-bass work immediately brings to mind the style of Cryptopsy’s Flo Mournier on “Comforting Prejudice.” For his part, vocalist Elliot Desgagnes looks ready to explode with intensity on stage. His style evokes that of Suffocation’s Frank Mullen right down to the hand gestures and a truly menacing physical presence but vocally, unfortunately, there isn’t much to separate him from the endless list of death metal growlers both past and present. Still, it was a real treat to finally see Beneath The Massacre live as they were certainly one of the standout acts on the bill based on their performance.
Society’s Disposable Son
Our Common Grave
The System’s Failure
The Stench of Misery
Sadly, it took a trio of tragedies to get Regina’s Into Eternity back to Vancouver after an eighteen-month break. Cancer, having taken the lives of guitarist Tim Roth’s father and two best friends in the span of just three months, prompted the writing of the band’s new CD, THE INCURABLE TRAGEDY. Vocalist Stu Block, who hails from Vancouver, was his over-the-top, engaging self on stage as always, but some mic problems during “Severe Emotional Distress” left a black mark on an otherwise stellar performance. Still, Block’s amazing versatility on “Nothing” and “Timeless Winter” is testament to why he is the right man for the gig. Roth left many awestruck by the speed and precision of his solos and interplay with second guitarist Justin Bender at centre stage on “Beginning of The End.” Two new songs from THE INCURABLE TRAGEDY were featured in the set, “Tides of Blood” and “Diagnosis Terminal,” and are instant gems in the band’s catalogue mixing progressive flair with unforgettable melodies, all pulled off perfectly live. The band’s simple black t-shirts with “FUCK CANCER” boldly emblazoned across the back sum up the theme of the new music and act as a painful reminder for what influenced Roth’s musical direction on the new album.
Prelude To Woe
Tides of Blood
Beginning of The End
Severe Emotional Distress
Dying Fetus’ influence on death metal in general is indisputable. With the early masterpieces KILLING ON ADRENALINE and DESTROY THE OPPOSITION being staples among the collection of any fan of the genre, the Baltimore-based trio has had a long but spotty career that seems to be on the rise again thanks to their latest release, 2007’s WAR OF ATTRITION. John Gallagher has led the troops since the band’s inception while a revolving door of other members have drifted off to form such other acts as Misery Index, Covenance and Daath. Gallagher has to be credited with keeping the band and its legacy alive and kicking, however based on Dying Fetus’ live performance, they are about as exciting to watch as paint drying. For forty minutes, Gallagher, along with drummer Trey Williams and longtime bassist/co-vocalist Sean Beasley, ripped through an endless stream of songs that dutifully covered the band’s career. The problem was, Beasley spoke only briefly between songs and while the vocal dynamic of he and Gallagher works to a certain degree, the band stayed rooted in front of their mics the entire time. Dying Fetus’ music is bludgeoning enough but with little variety, so, unfortunately, the eight songs they played tended to run together like one continuous punch in the face. “Pissing In The Mainstream” and “Kill Your Mother/Rape Your Dog” were the only real standouts and crush they did, but it became rather tedious watching this immensely talented band churn out the brutality as if they were nailed to the floor.
In Times of War
We Are Your Enemy
Blunt Force Trauma
Pissing In The Mainstream
Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog
Praise The Lord (Opium of The Masses)
The real treat of the evening came under the guise of the German headliner, Necrophagist. Led by Muhammed Suiçmez, the band’s insanely technical death metal on 2004’s EPITAPH was what first caught my attention four years ago and that album still gets regular spins to this day. That being said, a band with only two albums under its belt in nearly a decade and nothing new since EPITAPH seemed an odd choice as headliner, not to mention the fact no one would have taken the bet had I said five years ago that Necrophagist would ever even tour western Canada, let along headline a package tour with bands that are not only “bigger” but also “hotter” at the moment. Six of EPITAPH’s eight tracks and five of 1999’s ONSET OF PUTREFACTION’s eight songs filled Necrophagist’s hour-long set, with Suiçmez and his crew performing as an unbelievably tight unit, tossing off fluid solos (“Only Ash Remains” was nearly orgasmic) and mind-blowing progressive passages (“Diminished To B”) that never seemed to be too showoff-y. Emerging on stage rather unceremoniously, Suiçmez’s custom-made Ibanez Xiphos seven-string guitar was just as impressive with its “Necrophagist” inlays and unique body shape. Stephan Fimmers’ gigantic eight-string bass cast a foreboding shadow but he handled the instrument like a master of his craft, rolling off the intro bass line to “Only Ash Remains” and making it appear effortless. Second guitarist Sami Raatikainen certainly got lost under Suiçmez’s presence but his added sound certainly beefed up the music. Witnessing Necrophagist live is truly going to be a concert highlight of the year for many, myself included, and only makes the yearning for new music from the band only greater.
Only Ash Remains
Diminished To B
Foul Body Autopsy
To Breathe In A Casket
Ignominious and Pale
The Stillborn One
Fermented Offal Discharge
For a Monday night, the turnout was pretty respectable, though, certainly less than expected. Maybe it was the fact that almost half of the bands were just in Vancouver within the last twelve months but this was a solid lineup nonetheless (*** Calgary’s Divinity and the German maestros of brutal death, Common Grave, dropped off the tour prior to the Vancouver date, for some strange reason). It is nice to see a summer package tour that isn’t dripping with corporate influence or chockfull of phony, image-based bands geared towards the MySpace set, too. Necrophagist, Beneath The Massacre and Neuraxis stole the show but this was a great night for death metal in its various forms and geographical regions.
***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.
Summer Slaughter Tour—Official Site
Dying Fetus—Official Site
Into Eternity—Official Site
Beneath The Massacre—Official Site
Veil of Maya—Official Site