On June 1, 2014, the powerhouse quartet CONQUERING DYSTOPIA featuring Jeff Loomis (ex-NEVERMORE), Keith Merrow (DEMISERY), Alex Webster (CANNIBAL CORPSE) and Alex Rüdinger (THE FACELESS) ripped their way through Trees Dallas. Being a musician and total guitar freak, I was especially excited to see this line up of awesome instrumental bands, including CHON and ANIMALS AS LEADERS!
I arrived in time to catch CHON who definitely caught my attention; these guys played with non-distorted guitar tones and completely nailed their songs, very good openers. CONQUERING DYSTOPIA followed shortly after and kicked off their blistering set with the album opening track “Prelude to Obliteration”. It was very clear from the beginning that these guys came to take no prisoners. Wasting no time, they then played “Tethys” which showcased plenty of Alex Webster’s skills on the bass; his riffs accented the rhythms perfect without following the guitar which is his specialty within CANNIBAL CORPSE. I will also note that parts of this song reminded me of THE FACELESS.
“Ashes of Lesser Men” marked the halfway point of the set. This tune particularly stood out to me by opening with some neo-classical shredding via Jeff Loomis; there were also plenty of groove sections with parts having lots of breakdown-inspired chugs. By this point, the crowd had already started getting rowdy and there was plenty of moshing taking place, absolutely killer to see this happen without the aid of a frontman. Alex Rüdinger then addressed the crowd before breaking into “Kufra at Dusk” which started out at a bit slower paced then the previous songs. Keith Merrow certainly shined on this jam with his furious unorthodox riffing.
Keeping the pace high, the guys moved into “Autarch” which I feel is one of their more memorable songs; there was so much energy and raw emotion throughout this one. There’s no feeling like that of being moved by a performance such as these four were putting on. The band ended their six-song set with the album closing “Destroyer of Dreams” which is a seven and a half minute masterpiece. This set was a perfect showcase of CONQUERING DYSTOPIA and I have to say I was more than impressed.
Each musician individually performed at an astonishing level. I can’t say one bad thing about their performance. Alex Rüdinger’s drumming was incredible, this guy could be a metronome; there are plenty of time signature changes in this music and he shows that it doesn’t faze him. Keith Merrow is an outstanding guitarist; I honestly didn’t have much of an idea who he was before hearing this group, but that’s all changed now! Alex Webster, I could go on and on about this dude. I am a huge CANNIBAL CORPSE fan and I have seen him many times and I honestly think he is arguably the best damn bass player in Death Metal. Last but not least, Jeff Loomis, I really don’t think he gets the credit he deserves; this man shredded the night away immaculately, I could not believe it!
After a short, blistering set from CONQUERING DYSTOPIA, the curtains closed for a quick set change. The progressive metal outfit ANIMALS AS LEADERS was about to hit the stage to close the night out. Although it was already pretty late in the evening, the crowd showed no signs of dwindling and Trees Dallas was still packed. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys on other tours but I was especially eager to see a longer set.
The curtains opened as Tosin Abasi and company began their set with the grooving “Tooth and Claw” from their latest release The Joy of Motion; this was the perfect song to grab everyone’s attention. The musicianship in this group is truly astonishing. The trio continued into an older track with “Tempting Time” and followed that with the digital single “Wave of Babies”.
I have to say it was awesome to see these guys in such an intimate setting; the last time I saw them was at the House of Blues Dallas which of course has a bigger stage and more standing room. The band also had a trippy LED backdrop that would change colors and give outstanding visuals to the music, sometimes having the feeling of being in a vortex.
As the night continued, they ran through “Ka$cade”, “Lippincott” and “Air Chrysalis” respectively; I love when bands play parts of their album in order like this and you get the feeling that you’re just hearing the record but it’s in your face. All of these songs were performed with stunning precision. During the heavier parts of “Lippincott” the fans started moshing and jumping, again, without direction from a vocalist. One of the coolest parts of the night was seeing Tosin play his 8-string guitar like a slap bass, he is truly an innovator; not leaving anyone out, Javier Reyes complemented him unequivocally and Matt Garstka is a mad man on the skins.
The guys once again revisited their self-titled 2009 release showing a more tranquil side with “Point to Point” and “The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing / Behaving Badly”. Hearing the clean parts of all of these tracks executed flawlessly was a highlight, especially in a world where musicians try to hide behind distortion. I can’t say enough good things about this group. “Espera” followed from the untapped 2011 release Weightless, acting as an interlude before flowing into one of my personal favorite songs “Physical Education”. It was very clear by the crowd’s reaction to this song that I was not alone. The LED backdrop was especially fascinating during this one.
As the night drew to a close ANIMALS AS LEADERS broke out into the serene yet funky track “The Woven Web”, this one was full of the slap bass technique that I mentioned earlier, a true highlight.
The boys capped the night off with the title track “Weightless” but they had a trick up their sleeve and returned to give an encore by way of the fan favorite “CAFO”. The night was very memorable, and I was stoked to be able to cover this show full of incredible musicians. If you have not seen ANIMALS AS LEADERS, I suggest you make a point to see them when they come to your city, you will not be disappointed!
Catch this tour featuring CONQUERING DYSTOPIA, ANIMALS AS LEADERS and CHON. You will most likely have a chance to meet them by their merch table after their set; I was lucky enough to get some pictures and autographs myself! Really great, down to earth guys and incredible musicians. DO NOT MISS THIS TOUR!!
LIVE REVIEW: JOR-EL
LIVE PHOTOS: CHANTELLE RENEE PHOTOGRAPHY