This was quite a week for me. After seeing Inanimate Existence and WRVTH twice in 3 days, another tour of technical death metal bands rolled around Southern California (again put on by ADHD Entertainment who had quite a week themselves). The package consisted of Fallajuh and The Zenith Passage from California, Archspire from Vancouver, and Lorna Shore from New Jersey. In addition to that, the show included 7 local bands, bringing the total to 11 bands. The venue has two separate stages, allowing one band to set up while another band is playing. The doors opened at 6:00 PM and the first band took the main stage at 6:20 PM.
The first band was Black Vulture Conspiracy, who has made a name for themselves in the area by jumping on a lot of local shows. Their sound is old school groove metal mixed with thrash metal, giving off a Pantera or Throwdown sound, especially in the vocals. Even though they were the first band, they played to a decent sized crowd as the venue was already filled with other local bands waiting for their turn to play. They did a good job kicking off the night with a nice throwback feel before all the more modern sounding technical death metal bands would take the stage.
Next was Vampire Squid from Covina, California. This band is very interesting because they play a very spastic and brutal style of metal, without taking themselves too seriously. They start out with a humorous intro tape, and all their song titles are puns dealing with the ocean. Vocally, singer/guitarist Andrew Virrueta is very impressive for being just 19. His style is similar to Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation. It varies from deep aggressive growls to high demonic like shrieks that feel like they would fit perfectly in a movie such as Evil Dead. His guitar playing consists of technical riffs with occasional dissonant and high pitched guitar solos. All the members are very impressive for their young age (and for just being a trio), and they definitely impressed many people as the venue was already quite full at this point in time.
The third band to play was Her Name Was Disaster from Long Beach, California. This was the first band to play that I was unfamiliar with. They had really nice scrims on both sides of the stage with artwork that I assume is for their album (an image of a bloodied girl with her mouth sown shut and their logo). The image enabled me to guess what kind of music the band was going to play, and I guessed right. The style is melodic deathcore. It obviously takes influence from bands like Suicide Silence, with a little more emphasis on the melody rather than the grindcore elements (but not to extent of the symphonic elements that Winds of Plague has from their keyboards).The set consisted of breakdowns as could be expected by this kind of genre, but it also had the occasional guitar solo which gave the music a nice element of catchiness. The singer moved around the stage well while demonstrating his highs and lows style of vocals that were very reminiscent to Mitch Lucker, but done in a way that was influenced and not just blatantly a rip off of it.
The next band to play was Inhuman Atrocities. This was another band that I was unfamiliar with before the show. They continued the direction of the show that had begun with the previous band. They were also a deathcore band, however instead of focusing on melody, they were more focused on the brutal aspects such as bands like Lorna Shore. In fact, the singer of the band made comments during the set about how excited he was to finally be seeing them. Their set contained of fast sections with spastic sounding shrieks and heavy sections of slow foreboding breakdowns. The end of the set contained the breakdowns getting slower and heavier, with a guest appearance of someone I assume is a friend of the band on vocals.
After two deathcore bands in a row, it was the perfect time for a change. And that is exactly what we got. Up next was the first of the touring package, The Zenith Passage, on the main stage. The Zenith Passage has been making waves lately with the release of their debut EP, Cosmic Dissonance, as well as with the news that guitarist Justin Mckinney is now a member of The Faceless (after the future of that band was uncertain when every member left the band except for Michael Keene). Their set consisted of songs from that EP in addition to some new material. Their material reminds me of bands like The Faceless and Fallujah, in addition to the more technical moments of WRVTH. There were moments of jazz inspired guitar solos, a wide array of vocal styles, and impressive drum work. The mix was a little off with the vocals being very low, which made it difficult to enjoy it. I think the audience felt the same way because there was not a lot of engaging between the band and the fans. However, they are extremely technical and talented musicians and I look forward to seeing them again in hopes that it will be a better performance. The new material sounding very promising and it makes me excited to hear their next release whenever it comes out.
Next was Grand Lord High Master back on the Second Stage. It was weird to have a local band play after one of the touring bands, but I knew GLHM was going to give it their all. I had seen them open for Cattle Decapitation in La Hambra not too long ago, and I was very impressed with them. Their style is not death metal. It reminds me more of bands like Norma Jean, The Chariot, and Every Time I Die. They are young but talented musicians who seem to know what they want out of music and have a good time on stage. Their front man really sells the spastic nature of their music with his facial expressions and body movements, and the guitarist and drummer equally give it there all with a fun and high energy set that you don’t get to see at these kinds of shows too often. Looking forward to seeing more from these guys in the future.
Back at the Main Stage was the next band from the tour package, Lorna Shore. The only deathcore band on the tour which helped them stick out (whether good or bad). However, with 2 deathcore bands having already played at this show, they were faced with a challenge of being able to stick out. It was no problem for them as they took the stage with confidence. They played their music with focus, and the singer did a great job of getting in the crowds face and having them scream into the microphone (the singer of Inhuman Atrocities being front and center). Their mix was excellent, with the guitar solos coming out great amongst the slow breakdowns which created a droning effect. For a person who is not usually that into deathcore, I really enjoyed their set and would not mind seeing them on another tour package in the future.
Next was Gravespell, another band that I was previously unfamiliar with. I knew that the band was going to be interesting the second I liked at the t-shirts they were wearing, such as Gorguts and Bloodbath. This band played an old school, straight up, in your face style of death metal, similar to Abysmal Dawn, Deicide, or Aeon. This band really stuck out for me, because it is not often you hear this kind of death metal in my area. Usually its doused in breakdowns or technicality, so it was a real treat to hear a focus on speed, great riffs, and the excellent low vocals of singer Garrett Davis. My friends and I couldn’t help but headbang during their set, and I hope I get to see these guys more often at local shows.
Finally came the band that I was most excited to see (in addition to Fallujah), Archspire. I had missed them the previous time they came around (also with The Zenith Passage), when many of my friends had seen them for the first time. They have gained a lot of attention with their first two albums which gained a lot of praise, as well as for a recent vocal play through of the song “Fathom Infinite Depth”, which shows just how fast Oliver is able to growl lyrics in a way that is like rapping. All eyes were ready to see if these guys could really pull off what is on the studio albums. I am happy to say that they are, and that the mix was perfect. Every member of that band is at the top of their game, in terms of technicality and in terms of being tight with their fellow band members. Oliver was very engaging and the crowd went absolutely wild, trying to get to the front so that they could scream in the mic. They were the highlight of the night for me (as I have already seen Fallujah several times), and they are not a band to be missed the next time they come around!
The last band to play on the Second Stage was well known local band Concrete Sludge, who play a style of thrash metal that is influenced by the early pioneers of the genre such as Kill Em All era Metallica, Testament, and Death Angel. I have seen them before, so it was a warm welcome to see them again. They also have the ability to have fun while playing a music that is usually supposed to be angry and the guitar players were all smiles. I noticed that one member was wearing a Grill Em All Shirt (a metal themed burger restaurant in Alhambra), which definitely gained some points from me because that is one of my favorite restaurants. I later found out that some of the members actually work there, and that I had seen them there before (I am terrible with faces so I was not able to make the connection until they mentioned it). They got a great response, and handled the challenge of being between Archspire and Fallujah perfectly.
And last but not least was the headliner of the “American Winter Tour 2015”, Fallujah. This band needs no introduction in my opinion. They have released two stellar albums, with The Flesh Prevails being my favorite heavy/death/technical metal album of last year (and 3rd favorite overall after Anathema and Lantlôs). This was my fourth time seeing the band after seeing them twice on The Summer Slaughter Tour and once at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach with Antagonist and other local openers. Their set was heavily focused on songs from The Flesh Prevails, as was expected (and also pleasing a lot of people who wanted to hear how the new stuff sounded live). It contained such favorite songs from the album like “Starlit Path”, “Carved From Stone”, “Levitation”, and “Sapphire”. It did not contain any instrumentals, mostly instrumental, or ambient tracks. It flowed from heavy track to heavy track, with an in your face approach that helped showcase the abilities of every member of the band. Everyone got their moment to shine and show their technicality, without taking anything away from the singer and his role in the band as some technical death metal bands tend to do. The sound was a little off for their set unfortunately. They suffered the same thing that The Zenith Passage suffered from (high guitar and low vocals in the mix), but the crowd really enjoyed themselves none the less and the band was able to feed off of their energy (especially with the older tracks such as “Cerebral Hybridization” or “Venom Upon the Blade”).
All in all, it was a long day jam packed with great heavy metal of all styles. By the time Fallujah ended, it was about 1 o clock in the morning, meaning that the whole thing had lasted about 7 hours. The event was well managed. The bands were able to set up and set down quickly and the sound guy was able to do quick sound checks. The crowd was a supportive and excited crowd, which helped fuel the feeling of brotherhood (and sisterhood) that could be seen in this crowd of usual metal show attendees (including musicians from local bands who just came out to support and check out new bands). I had been looking forward to this show for a while, and I left feeling completely satisfied.