Before I say anything about my experience at Summer Slaughter 2013, know that my opinion has been altered against my will. I had what I will call “hype syndrome.” We have all had hype syndrome in the past, either a movie that is coming out soon, a video game, any event that you look forward to with great excitement and anticipation has caused you to be a victim of hype syndrome. This skews the entire experience for you psychologically, either making the event seem extremely disappointing when really it wasn’t all that bad, or the event seems like it was the greatest thing to ever happen ever when really it was just mediocre. I will try and remain un-biased by the hype I had going into Summer Slaughter, but take my words with a grain of salt because I was indeed VERY hyped for it.
Now my first major point harps on a previous post about live performance venues. Every band was too loud (The Ocean was especially loud). I took decibel level readings of every band at a random point during their performance (using a shitty smart phone mic). Most were around 112dB, The Ocean read at 118dB (WTF) and the always quaint and calm Cattle Decapitation came in at 110dB.
118dB is very close to the average threshold of pain in the human ear. Since it is an average, this means many people in the venue (Besides me, I saw 5 fans wearing earplugs) were being CAUSED PHYSICAL PAIN by the sound system in the House of Blues. I don’t care who you are, what you think you know about live sound, or what justification you have for this ridiculous level. You are wrong; you caused people pain, and most importantly you KNOWLINGLY PERMANANTLY DAMAGED EVERYONES HEARING. If it was unknowingly, you shouldn’t be doing live sound. I wish my words could be heard by every person who goes to shows. There are laws, federal laws, which prevent the extensive use of noisy machinery when it could harm those nearby, and people operating this machinery are required, BY LAW to wear hearing protection. These noisy machines are often less than 100db, with 85 dB being where the law draws the line.
Think about that. It is illegal to expose people to sounds over 85dB for long periods of time. Every person in the House of Blues was exposed to OVER 110dB for almost 8 HOURS. Why is this not illegal? Why are concert venues around the world allowed to hurt you and even cause you physical pain just because its rock n roll? Even with my 25 NRC earplugs (the best I could find) I was still being exposed to sounds above the threshold of hearing loss. I had to hold my rage for the duration of the show because I know nobody would care, or worse they would laugh at me and say it sounds good. Metal is not an excuse to slowly kill one of the 5 senses that you perceive your surroundings with.
Now that that is off my chest, I will actually talk about the content of the sets. Many bands made very good decisions as to what their very short sets would include. Thy Art is Murder opened the whole night with a track from their new album, Purest Strain of Hate. TAIM doesn’t really have any “easy going” songs, but this one is definitely one of the songs that are known for its heaviness on this album. I think it was the perfect start to a show like this. They then played some more new songs that were more forgettable, ending with their two most well-known tracks “Whore to a Chainsaw” and “Reign of Darkness.” The vocalist was very entertaining throughout the set, and he had great audience interaction. One of my favorite moments of the whole night was during “Whore to a Chainsaw” when, without aiming for anyone in particular, he tossed the microphone into the crowd. There was a temporary battle over the mic, before all the people who were near the mic ALL screamed the lyrics to the latter half of the song. “Eradication of them all, Whore to a chainsaw” Repeated far more many times live than on the recording, giving many fans a chance to lay down their own interpretation of how it should sound.
Next was Rings of Saturn. They played mostly songs off their debut album “Embryonic Anomaly,” with the exception of my favorite track on that album “Embryonic Corpses Thrown Across the Sky,” and my perception of them was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting it to be a musical mess of sound as the instrumentals tried to play their songs for real, but they actually sounded quite accurate to their recordings (aside from the typical bass-reverberant mess that is a live performance venue). This was ruined by their lack of showmanship. They looked bored, even the vocalist standing still while belting out some of the most rage-induced lyrics. I don’t understand. This is the band everyone voted on to get to go on this tour. This is their chance to break out, to impress everyone. The lead guitar and vocalist kept cracking jokes to each other, causing an annoying shit eating grin on both of their faces, DURING SONGS. Maybe it was lack of experience on the big stage, maybe they were nervous, but they need to step up their game if they want to get attention, especially when they gave away their album for free.
Then I took a break during Revocation and Aeon for beer and dinner. FYI a 24oz beer was $11. While I appreciate both of these bands, they are not what I like at all. Revocation looked like they were having a great time. The singer for Aeon was out with a cold or something so the guitarist doubled on guitar and vocals for him which was pretty cool. That’s really all I can fairly say about them.
Next was The Ocean. I won’t belabor the loudness issue; they had more issues than just that. It was very hard to tell what was going on instrumentally. Some songs were near un-recognizable until the chorus. Big speakers mean low frequencies are louder, but the levels were just way off. It’s really too bad, from a recording standpoint they have become one of the leaders in progressive metal. Also, the set list they chose to play was questionable. I really enjoyed the song “Let Them Believe” but I feel it was inappropriate to play during a 20 minute set seeing as it is 8 minutes long. I liked the songs they played, but they should have picked more and heavier songs. People who aren’t The Ocean fans would have enjoyed it more that way.
I took another beer break during Cattle Decapitation. I have a confession to make that will upset all you ”tru” metal heads out there. I think Cattle Decapitation is stupid. They have such talent, but they choose to sound as dissonant and fast and brutal as possible at all times. Sure, I “just don’t get it.” Read the rest of my blog then tell me that again.
Finally the four bands I came to see were who was left, starting with Norma Jean. I like NJ, never saw them before, had no idea what to expect.
This is how everyone should see NJ for the first time.
As far as the quality of the mix, it was the best one all night, topping Periphery and Animals as Leaders who are more known for their tech. Everything was clear to me (with earplugs in) and every song was identifiable right from the beginning. On top of the great sound, the vocalist has a gift for connecting with the audience. He came out into the crowd, touched people, and let them sing parts everybody knows. The audience fed off of their energy, it was like something out of Dragonball Z. Norma Jean stole the night for me, bringing a level of performance I haven’t seen a metal band give before.
Animals as Leaders switched slots with Periphery for reasons unknown, but they took the stage next. This is now the third time I have seen them so I knew what to expect from them. They played everything as crisp and technically as always. They are definitely the most consistent band, never missing a beat or losing control. It was also a great chance to calm down after the thrashing that was Norma Jean, most people in the pit agreed that for AAL it is best to just stand still and thoughtfully listen to the large amount of notes being played at a time. My only complaint is Tosin was too quiet. I know he is humble and doesn’t want to outshine the rest of the band, but the truth is he DOES, and everyone wants to hear him play. When he was playing on the bottom of the neck he wailed above the rest of the group but otherwise you could only watch his fingers and assume he was getting everything right, because for all I know he may be the most talented guitarist in the world right now.
I had my doubts about Periphery. I had heard in the past that due to the heavy amount of effects they use in recording, their live performances aren’t very clean. They opened with MAKE TOTAL DESTROY (yes all caps) played some more stuff off of Periphery II This Time Its Personal, then closed with Scarlet and Ragnarok. The problem wasn’t at all that they use too many effects during recording, due to the skills of Misha Mansoor they can replicate a lot of that live; the problem was that they don’t take themselves seriously. It was very apparent the whole time that they were enjoying what they were playing, but not in the way that Norma Jean did. They constantly were wise cracking to each other and doing typical metal gimmicks as if it were a joke. I never have taken Periphery seriously and now I never will. I really think some of their songs are great, if they gave it that little bit of magic they could have a great show.
Well I guess that’s all the bands. No wait there is one more, but I can’t seem to remember their name… Something something Escape Plan. Anyway, this last band clearly didn’t have any idea what they were doing, strutting around the stage playing random notes whenever they felt like it. The vocalist could have used a tin can and sounded just as good. The drummer couldn’t keep an even beat. The guitarist was clearly on illegal narcotics of some sort. Totally awful. I don’t know why they let these jokers headline this thing when Cattle Decapitation is much more br00tl and tru. Summer Slaughter went soft this year picking all these lame prog bands that don’t even have breakdowns or lyrics about spilling guts everywhere.
The sad part is some people I talked to at the show actually think this. At least 5 people who I tricked into giving me their opinion thought SS this year was weak and the bands weren’t heavy at all except Aeon/cattle. Being pretentious as I am, I asked them a simple and fair question “in your opinion, what makes XXXXX better than XXXXX?” It doesn’t matter which bands filled the XX’s, the answer always amounted to the same thing, “They are more technical and talented” or “XXXXX makes REAL metal, not progressive pussy bullshit like XXXXX” (that one is a direct quote I remember). If you are going to say something like “they are more talented,” I am going to ask you to prove that to me. Because I know you can’t. Most of the musicians are vastly more talented than their music portrays, it’s just a preference of style. This is the point I want them to understand. This goes back to my state of the union post; we are all in this together. It doesn’t matter who is more talented, who is more brutal, if every band sounded like maximum brutality it would all be the same, and then we are no better than those mainstream music schmucks. What matters is the energy you can feel at the shows, the raw emotions that flow through the air as the vocalist screams into your face. You can’t go to a Kanye West show and be guaranteed to physically touch him, or even sing part of his song. No other genre can replicate the personal connection you get with smaller venues. During “Memphis Will Be Laid To Rest,” the vocalist for NJ cried out “Stop saving your energy, stop holding back, you can get all the energy you need from each other.” And sure enough, tired sweaty and sore the audience got back into it, even after the exhausting moshing of Cattle Decapitation. At the end of the night, all of the members of the pit had a giant sweaty group hug, after pushing each other around for 7 hours. Those of you who were in the pit with me the whole night, thank you for the energy I got from you all day.
What was the absolute highlight of the night? Greg Puciato deepthroating the microphone during Sunshine the Werewolf and then ripping the head of it off with his teeth. The intense shriek the sound system let out from this right on the last “LOVE KILLS” was a sound that will never again be replicated, it was perfectly terrifying.
Random guy I made friends with Andrew, if you somehow read this, thank you for the beer.