Every year there is one festival that never fails to disappoint. No, that festival is not Mayhem, but the vastly superior Summer Slaughter tour. This past year, the festival was at The Trocadero again in Philadelphia, PA. What separated this year from all of the previous memories that I have had while attending was that I finally got my opportunity through Amps and Green Screens to cover this festival. I had an All-Star cast to write about and listen to all in one evening of heavy metal.
Let’s start off with the band that I was looking forward to seeing the most. Only a couple of hours after snagging the final first print vinyl for The Flesh Prevails, FALLUJAH hit the stage and just set up for world domination. I tell you all, this band is re-inventing the wheel, but this time the wheel just happened to be WAY better than what was ever attempted before. I don’t say this about bands ever, but FALLUJAH is changing the game almost singlehandedly. Of course, the song that I like the most was on the set list. All of Philadelphia gave a great reaction to themwhen they started “Cerebral Hybridization”. From where I stood, everyone in the band was just on their A-Game on stage. The sound was fluid, the music was tightly played, and the vocals sounded powerful throughout the place. Just chalk this up as another FALLUJAH performance for the record books.
Next was the lineup oddball in the eyes of many: WITHIN THE RUINS. Here was another band that I was excited to see again. I have been a fan of these guys since Creature was released and was finally just about to get my taste of their latest release, Phenomena. They touched on pretty much all of their releases during their set. While I do not recall anything being played off of Creature, there were a handful of songs played from their album Invade, which happens to be the one where they really started to pick up their momentum as a national touring act. There were some problems with the sound though, which has been a blemish on their live show before. Nonetheless, WITHIN THE RUINS did their part in getting the crowd into the show. To the delight of their many fans, they did not disappoint.
Following up next was DECREPIT BIRTH. I have seen these guys play in much smaller places before in my home state of Delaware, but this was my first time seeing them play a bigger venue. Usually I like this band much more in a small dive bar. DECREPIT BIRTH to me is a grimy, crusty band that made a name for themselves in the death metal scene as a cult favorite of sorts. That, sometimes, is enough to make people come from everywhere and anywhere to see you perform on tour. But while the weed odor was prevalent throughout, the band kept terrorizing with their teeth-grinding riffs and throat-ripping vocals. In all, they are the definition of a filthy metal band that fit great on Summer Slaughter.
Another band with a huge following that appeared on this lineup was ORIGIN. These guys made a name for themselves as being legends of sort in death metal. This was my first taste of seeing them perform live and I was immediately drawn to the attention they command when onstage. To my surprise, out of all the bands that were on this year’s bill, ORIGIN was one of the better received. It was just announced last week that they will now be a part of Maryland Deathfest, so if you didn’t think about getting your tickets yet, start planning for it now.
GOATWHORE was next and they actually had a few hecklers from the upper balcony of The Troc. Being the professionals that they are, the guys took the boos in stride from a select group of people and fired back with a few jabs of their own. Not only were they naturally reacting with the crowd in a manner that was unscripted by all means, but I got to see GOATWHORE do what they do best, which is combining black metal and rock n’ roll to make one of the best genres of music out there: black n’ roll. Just as they did when I’ve seen them before, GOATWHORE played their material and the grooves were endless. Constricting Rage of the Merciless has been out just over a month and they played material from that recent album. I must say, they put on another solid Summer Slaughter performance, much like last time.
The same can’t be said about THY ART IS MURDER. There are some things that could make this band not come off as annoying. One thing would be if CJ McMahon took his vocal talents out of deathcore and applied it to a far more superior kind of death metal band, because in all honesty…he is not a bad frontman. CJ looks like the devil himself at times when he is screaming into a microphone. The only thing that really makes the performance disappointing is that the music is the same breakdowns repeated over and over. Deathcore is a lost cause for the most part, but everyone likes an original breakdown from time to time. Original is what we’re aiming for. Speaking of original, the irony was that the best part of THY ART IS MURDER‘s set was the twenty seconds that they referenced Philadelphia for being a fun city and when they played a measure of “Milk Lizard” by THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN after mentioning that bassist Liam Wilson was from Philadelphia.
Another band that I have not seen enough of was THE FACELESS. The first time I saw these guys was on my twenty first birthday at my first one of these in Baltimore, MD. I was drunk, having the time of my life, and to be honest…I don’t think I was in the same building by the time THE FACELESS made it on stage. My actual first time seeing them was when they toured with THE CONTORTIONIST and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME a couple of years ago. After a few lineup changes, they were one of the bands that were most appealing. With Alex Rüdinger on drums and Evan Brewer on bass, THE FACELESS automatically set themselves up for the next level of progressive metal. What made their set amazing in particular to me was that they decided to dig a little deeper and play more songs off of Planetary Duality. It was like seeing them in Baltimore all over again, but with the upgraded lineup in front of me, live on stage, in Philadelphia.
Co-headlining the show was DYING FETUS. Every single time I have seen this band live, whether it be in a bigger venue or in the same Mojo 13 dive bar that is back home in Delaware, their sound has always been precise and excellent. This power trio is just a group that does not disappoint live at all. The group performed songs from a plethora of albums, such as Destroy the Opposition, War of Attrition, Descend Into Depravity, and their newest release Reign Supreme. In all, the crowd favorite in Philadelphia seemed to be DYING FETUS, which is how it should be, since they are one of the hardest working bands in the metal scene to this day.
Finally, the headlining band for Summer Slaughter 2014 was none other than heavy metal legends, MORBID ANGEL. I understand that these guys are death metal legends, but I could have done without them at the headlining spot for the simple fact that I thought DYING FETUS or THE FACELESS were better in a shorter amount of time. It was nice to see ex-DIVINE HERESY drummer Tim Yeung behind the kit for MORBID ANGEL, but I just couldn’t get past the idea that he belonged somewhere else. As far as the performance is concerned, the bandwas able to show that they still can shred live after all of these years, but I have to say in all honesty that the time has come to pass the torch.
Final impression of Summer Slaughter 2014 is that while it was by no means the best onethat I have ever attended it showed that there is a promising new wave of metal that is ready for takeover of the genre in such bands as FALLUJAH, bands that are ready to pick right back up and stay relevant like THE FACELESS and DYING FETUS, and that there are crossover bands that catch on with fans of all genres through their diversity, bands like WITHIN THE RUINS and GOATWHORE in their own complete, separate ways. With that being said, those were my take home bands of the evening. Here’s to the wait for Summer Slaughter 2015!
LIVE REVIEW: MR. REESE
LIVE PHOTOS: MIKE SIEVILA PHOTOGRAPHY