Metal is a way of life that isn’t suited for the average radio listener. It’s a genre that, more often than not, is in your face and relentlessly assaulting your ear-drums from the beginning of an album to its conclusion. Metal can be violent with its lyrical content and in its live form, where fans use their built-up aggression on one another in the infamous mosh pits that ensue. All of this was present at this year’s Summer Slaughter Festival, but on a smaller scale.
The annual tour that blends together bands of varying metal genres was back at the Marquee Theatre, a step up from last year’s Nile Theater stop. With a larger venue and better sound equipment than the Nile, the Summer Slaughter Tour was able to make the most out its stay in Arizona; however, the crowd was less than enthusiastic about this stellar lineup. The show’s performances were all worth the price of admission, but looking around at the audience seemed to show that most of the attendees weren’t as into the concert as you might expect.
For as fast paced as Cattle Decapitation's music is, the crowd didn't seem to lose their minds as one might expect. The group was pretty straightforward with their set, saying only a few words in between songs before going into the next wild ensemble. Vocalist would call out the next song with a guttural scream that you'd only be able to understand if you know their music. Cattle Decapitation was fast and in your face, but you wouldn't have been able to tell from looking at the crowd.
As The Acacia Strain took the stage, the crowd atmosphere shifted into the same negative presence the band emits. From start to finish, the band produced a set that kicked up the energy causing fans to circle pit and destroy each other. Admittedly, it was probably the most tame set of theirs in recent memory. The Acacia Strain is known to have a few fights break out in their set, but last night didn't seem to produce any. The group played a handful of new songs and only a few old ones. Before they left the stage, vocalist Vincent Bennett dedicated "Whoa Shut It Down" and "JFC" to Justin Lowe of After the Burial, who recently passed. Bennett told the crowd, "I don't believe in heaven and I don't believe in hell, but I do believe in memories. This is for Justin."
While the crowd was pretty lackluster for most of the show, the fans that did decide to express themselves a little more showed up during Veil of Maya’s set. It was difficult to focus on only one member at a time, as they were all running across the stage, spinning during breakdowns and headbanging along to their music. New singer Lukas Magyar proved that he can belt out the high pitch clean vocals the band included in their new album Matriarch that released earlier this year, by playing songs “Lucy” and “Mikasa” to open. The pit was alive again when they played some older songs such as “Punisher” and “Unbreakable,” from people pushing each other to flailing their arms around. Most of the more wild ones seemed to have had one too many to drink and had at this point become belligerent messes that let their drunken stupor take over, but it wasn’t too bothersome. Veil of Maya also paid tribute to Justin Lowe and closed out their set with fan-favorite “It’s Not Safe To Swim Today.”
Ending the high-octane sets leading in to Arch Enemy was Born of Osiris. There was no shortage of breakdowns and over-the-top riffs as the group is known for, complemented with a light show that dazzled the audience. The band had two large triangular boxes setup with three square LED lights that played in time to the songs. At times I found myself zoning to the hypnotic light spectacle that was being burned into my corneas, realizing that the band was still playing and it wasn’t all some brainwashing technique with a hidden message in the music. The band ran through a majority of its discography opening with “Open Arms to Damnation” and then dedicating “Recreate” to Justin Lowe. As they went on, the band had a pizza chant led by Joe Buras, asking the crowd to chant pizza over and over. It was one of the more unusual moments of the night, but also one that stood out, seeing as many of the bands saved talking to the audience for more time to play their songs.
Closing out their set, Born of Osiris played “Machine” and left the crowd seething for more, which didn’t seem to happen as Arch Enemy took the stage. Don’t get me wrong, Arch Enemy was great and I enjoyed them, but it was easy to tell who was only there for every band that led up to them. Many stayed, but there wasn’t as much life as several bands prior. Singer Alissa White-Gluz belted out screams that rival many modern metal vocalists and the rest of the band casually played along, not moving across the stage like the artists before them. Arch Enemy was fun to watch, but the excitement and enthusiasm that was hard to find most of the night was even harder to notice among the audience during their set. While they can certainly headline a tour package, I’m just not so sure this was the one for them, given the rest of the lineup.
Last Night: The Summer Slaughter Tour featuring Arch Enemy, Born of Osiris, The Acacia Strain and more.
Overheard: "If I see any of those shitty hardcore dancers like you see at A Day to Remember or Parkway Drive concerts, I'm gonna lay them out."
"Hey, what's wrong with Parkway Drive?"
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Random Note: It's mildly depressing when you look around and a majority of the audience is just standing there without the slightest hint of enthusiasm.
Personal Bias: This is one lineup where I listened to pretty much every artist. After seeing most of them multiple times, the crowd were the ones that made me feel as though I would have been better off watching from a computer screen, despite how enjoyable each band's set was.