My review in all its overlong, typo-riddled glory:
The Summer Slaughter Tour rolled through The Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts yesterday and once again proved why it's consistently the best touring festival package in the United States.
The day started with local opener Pathogenic. They were pretty much just your standard local death metal/core that is just kind of there with making too much of a positive or negative impression. I will give them props for having a couple of good solos/riffs and the vocalist had a good low scream, but the weak low screams and abundance of meaningless breakdowns prevented them from being great. There are definitely a lot worse bands out in there in the Massachusetts metal scene, but Pathogenic really wasn't anything too special.
The Summer Slaughter tour package started after that with Australian deathcore act Thy Art is Murder. On record they are pretty decent, but they come across a lot better live. Their vocalist knows how to work a crowd and has some pretty beastly low screams. Musically, there is a lot of breakdowns, but they are mostly well-timed and effective and their use of atmospheric guitar solos is pretty damn cool and gives them a leg up on most of their peers in the deathcore genre. This was their first ever tour of the United States and you could tell they were stoked to be being playing here and based on the reception they got, you can tell the crowd was too. Thy Art is Murder is a deathcore act I can get behind and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Rings of Saturn was on next. They were the only band on the bill that I was not a fan of and their set did nothing to change my mind. A majority of their music is just them jerking off on their instruments with complete emphasis on technicality and no regard for songwriting. I love technical music, but Rings of Saturn is just too damn much with little substance to go with their technical proficiency. I will admit that the tracks off their new record Dingir had some cool progressive riffing before descending back to their familiar bag of wank tricks. If they expanded up the progressive elements and focused more on actual songwriting to balance out their technical prowess, they could actually produce something worthwhile. I also had a good time dicking around in the pit during "Seized and Devoured" doing stupid-ass dance moves to make fun of the few hXc dancers that were occupying the floor at that time. Rings of Saturn were slightly better than I expected, but they still weren't very enjoyable.
Aeon was on next. Like Thy Art is Murder, this was their first US tour and they put on a pretty damn good performance. They are just a really heavy band with a lot of solid grooves, short, speedy guitar solos and an immense stage presence. In my eyes, they are kind of like Sweden's answer to Dying Fetus. What was surprising given their heavily anti-religious lyrics, was how amusing they were on stage. The vocalist kept cracking jokes in-between songs (I didn't see it but apparently the vocalist kept jerking off the microphone during "Aeons Black" when he wasn't screaming, which is pretty hilarious) and was just having an all-around good time the whole set. Worcester was the first show of the tour to get "Nothing Left to Destroy" in the set which was nice. They did get a little repetitive at times, but for the most part Aeon was good and brutal death metal.
The 1st band I was incredibly excited to see, Revocation, was up next. I just saw Revocation a few weeks ago at their music video shoot in Allston, but I was stoked to see them again and this is ended up being the finest set I've ever seen them play. The Great Scott show was awesome, but their was a slew of technical problems that brought down the experience a bit. Thankfully this go-round there was no such issues and the band slayed through their criminally-short 25-minute set with no setbacks. The band was spot-on and their energy exuded was even higher than usual. Every song they played yesterday was played at the music video shoot, but that didn't bring down my enjoyment of the set in the slightest. "Invidious" is already becoming one of my favorite Revocation songs (I was so happy they played the banjo part!) and the staples like "Dismantle the Dictator" and "No Funeral" are always badass live. Adding to the intensity and preciseness of the set, was the crowd reaction. The crowd lost their fucking minds with giant circle pits and frequent crowdsurfing the entire time they played. Revocation brought down the house and made their hometown fans proud with an incendiary performance. For me at least, Revocation was the standout performance in a day full of standout performances.
The Ocean was up next. I was really excited to see them since I only saw half of their set at NEMHF 2011 and I've become a pretty big of theirs over the past year and a half or so. Thankfully, they did not disappoint and put on one of the strongest performances of the day. The set was heavy on material from their new record Pelagial, which made me happy since it's one of my favorite records of the year so far. Vocalist Loic Rosetti sounded far sharper than the first time I saw them with his wide vocal range on full display and really delivering the emotion on each track. I also have to commend them on their energy level. You don't see a lot of progressive bands going crazy on-stage, but The Ocean brings it with constant movement, windmills and even Loic stage diving a couple times. Their brand of progressive/sludge metal served as a nice change of pace for the day and I was surprised how well they went over considering how radically different they are from the most of the acts on the bill. Though their set was longer than earlier on the tour, I really need to them headline eventually to get the full effect of their live show. Apparently they are playing Pelgial in it's entirety next year on a headlining tour, which would be completely amazing to see. The Ocean's performance showed exactly why they are amongst the heavy hitters in progressive metal.
Cattle Decapitation hit the stage next and were the only band on the bill that disappointed me. It's ironic because the only band that let me down at last year's Summer Slaughter was Job for a Cowboy, who played in pretty much the same spot, is signed to same label and had the same problem as Cattle did: sound mix. The mix was 100% Travis Ryan while the instruments sounded like a jumbled mess. The brief intervals where you could hear the guitar, the tone was absolute shit. In addition to the sound mix, the setlist was kind of dull with all but one song being from their new record Monolith of Inhumanity. I know it was a short set, but the lack of material from The Harvest Floor and Karma, Bloody, Karma made me kind of sad. I will give Ryan props because he is a great frontman and was his typical bizarro self vocally and with his mannerisms on-stage (when he isn't screaming, he's spitting in the air getting saliva all over himself) which single-handily salvaged their set and made it somewhat enjoyable. Cattle Decapitation was substantially better the 1st time I saw them and gave easily the weakest performance from a band on the tour package not named Rings of Saturn.
After the letdown of Cattle Decapitation, Unearth got the ball rolling again. This was the only date of the tour they were playing because Norma Jean was playing Soulfest in Gilford, New Hampshire. This was such a sweet trade-off for me because I'm not a fan of Norma Jean in the slightest and Unearth is one of my favorite bands. In typical Unearth fashion, they flat-out eviscerated the stage for 40 minutes. This marked my fifth time seeing them and it still felt like the first. They are just one of those bands that I can never get sick of seeing because their shows are just so much fun and their music hits so hard live. Like Revocation, the hometown crowd was eating up their entire set and returning every ounce of energy that the band was giving off. The setlist was loaded with their staples, but "This Glorious Nightmare" was a nice surprise and I was glad to finally hear that live since it's one of my favorite Unearth songs. They announced near the end of their set that their new record will be out in January or February of next year and they will be starting the touring cycle with a headlining tour, which is outstanding news. Unearth is the epitome of consistency as a live band and I can't wait to hear some new material from them next year.
Periphery followed the madness of Unearth pretty damn well. They have become one of my favorite bands over the past couple years and they always kill it live. Spencer Sotelo is a great frontman who is always spot-on vocally and puts 110% into the performance. They got a longer set than they did on last year's Summer Slaughter, which was badass. The longer set allowed then to play some tracks like "Scarlet", "Luck as a Constant" and "Have a Blast" which I hadn't heard previously live. Hearing all of the Periphery II songs live was sick since they only played a few last year since the record just came out and it's my favorite record of theirs to-date. Older tracks "Icarus Lives!" works incredibly well as an opener and lit the room on-fire right out of the gate and "Ragnarok" is a fittingly grand set closer (Bulb walking into the crowd for a bit during it was a nice touch as well, although the poor guy almost ate shit on the stairs right in front of me because people were mauling him.) Periphery have put on great shows on back-to-back Summer Slaughter's and I hope they do a headlining tour in the near future so I can finally see a full-length set from them.
Animals as Leaders was up next. As always, Animals as Leaders impressed mightily with their musical abilities. Tosin Abasi is just a sight to behold on guitar and seeing him from right behind the rail was even more impressive than the past couple times I've seen them from further away. The surprise of the set was how much of a beast their new drummer Matt Gartska is. He was good at the Meshuggah show earlier this year, but this time he was insane adding crazy fills to a number of songs that were not on the studio versions. As with the last time I saw them, the crowd was surprisingly pretty damn violent. It still surprises me how active the pits/crowd surfers (two moron surfers that had no clue what they were doing drilled me directly in the top of the head back-to-back during "Earth Departure".) are for a band that is primarily progressive with only a few heavy parts per song. They easily had the biggest reaction of the day for a band that wasn't from Massachusetts and it was clear a lot of people were there for them more than headliner Dillinger Escape Plan. Animals as Leaders is a super talented act that deserves the huge following they have gained over the past few years.
The Dillinger Escape Plan closed out the day with their typical brand of organized chaos. Dillinger gave the tightest performance I've ever seen from them, which made their standard shenanigans that much more exciting and enjoyable. The set was heavy on material from their new record One of Us is The Killer, which was awesome because it's their most diverse record to-date and made the set tempo changes even more frequent than normal. The slower stuff like "Nothing's Funny" and especially "One of Us is the Killer" was beautiful, while "Prancer and "When I Lost My Bet" were appropriately punishing and "Crossburner" mixed the two sides of Dillinger flawlessly in what might have been the best song of the whole set. Of course, it wouldn't be Dillinger without wild shit going on throughout the set. Being fresh off a broken wrist didn't stop guitarist Ben Weinman from diving into the crowd numerous times and playing the last half of "Room Full of Eyes" while being held up by about 15-20 people in the crowd. The highlight of the night though was the always crazy vocalist Greg Puicatio jumping off the 20-25 foot high VIP balcony during set closer "Sunshine the Werewolf". In the five times I've seen Dillinger they have done a lot of crazy things, but this took the cake easily. Even though a decent number of people left after Animals as Leaders, the remaining crowd was raucous and eating up every minute of Dillinger's breezy hour-long set (I seriously can't even believe they played for an hour, it felt like a half-hour tops.) Dillinger Escape Plan is just a trip live and will always be the most intense live band in the game that I will continue to see whenever I get the chance. Summer Slaughter was once again an amazing experience and is undoubtedly the best show I've been to in 2013.
Thy Art is Murder 8/10
Rings of Saturn 4/10
The Ocean 9/10
Cattle Decapitation 7/10
Animals as Leaders 8.5/10
The Dillinger Escape Plan 9.5/10
12/27 Four Year Strong
1/25 August Burns Red
1/31 Machine Head