Concert Review: Full of Hell & Outer Heaven (Or: How I Fell in Love with The Meatlocker)

My first foray into the suburban Montclair metal scene was a memorable one. Sure, Full of Hell delivered as violent, aggressive and insane performance as I could have expected. Primary opener Outer Heaven brought the heavy in an unexpectedly brutal set. Even the myriad of openers before them brought some unique elements to the show, from Dutch Guts’ untethered energy to the magnetic persona of Sunrot’s frontwoman (I was 90% sure ran the venue until she picked up the mic for their set). But much like the Big Apple in every metalhead’s favorite TV show, Sex in the City, the star of the night was the setting itself, the jewel of Montclair, The Meatlocker.

Let me give you a quick rundown on how I wound up at this grimy, dirty, dank and wholly magnificent venue. A late work switch meant that I would unexpectedly be able to check out the show that I didn’t think I’d be able to attend. So come Thursday morning I sauntered on down to where The Meatlocker was supposed to be to try and pick up a ticket. You see, you couldn’t by tickets for this show on Full of Hell’s website. You also couldn’t buy them on the Meatlocker’s website…because the don’t have one. Or a phone number. Their online footprint is limited to a lightly maintained Facebook page that is mostly just pictures of the bathroom.

Upon my arrival at what was supposed to be my destination I discovered that there was nothing there to indicate that the Meatlocker existed. I walked up and down the block a few times, unable to solve this complex riddle, before I gave up and looked up the exact address again, which pointed me to a restaurant that was most definitely not an underground metal venue. But alas! Next to said restaurant there was a door, simply labelled “Basement”. Through the window I could see the band sticker and graffiti covered walls that adorned the venue’s Facebook page. I’d arrived. Sure, there was no ticket office to purchase tickets, and there were no signs of life once I entered the door, and I didn’t descend the stairs into the venue at that time due to a life-long fear of getting stabbed, but at least I knew where I was going. I returned that night, paid the cheap cover charge (hence the “No Tickets” thing), and ventured into what can be described as simultaneously the best and worst concert venue I’ve ever experienced.

The Meatlocker is TINY. Smaller than any other concert venue I’ve seen. The combined space between both performance locations would be hard pressed to hold the line for the bathroom at most concert spaces. The space was so cramped that one crowdsurfing kidIMG_0050 had to duck under a door frame as he was passed between rooms. I’d love to know what the maximum occupancy is, but I’m not sure the fire department would make it far enough into their inspection to make that determination before shuttering this place and bolting the door for good. There are exposed wires and steel beams as far as the eye can see. I took the corner of a raised power outlet to the shoulder blade during Outer Heaven’s pit. The venue’s alcohol policy seems to be “whatever you bring in is fine with us”. Despite the brisk October temperatures outside, the interior temperature was somewhere comfortably between 95 degrees and the temperature of hell itself. And it was fantastic. It was everything that I want in a metal venue and more.

Back when Stage 48 ruined the Fleshgod Apocalypse/The Black Dahlia Murder/Whitechapel show I attended last year, I was impressed by how ritzy, chic, and well designed the venue was. Not fitting for a metal show in the slightest, but nice. That carried it right up until the music started and I learned that they had no idea how to handle the sound for a metal show. The Meatlocker is the complete polar opposite of IMG_0052Stage 48. There is no glitz or glamour. There are no modern amenities (or amenities of any kind, for that matter, other than the single previously mentioned bathroom and three trash cans). But the venue oozes metal from every crack in the cement walls, from every rusted steel beam, and from every low-hanging wire that I accidentally caught with my giant forehead mid-headbang. The few speakers that could fit on the “stage” were pushed to their sonic limits by Full of Hell and Outer Heaven, but they gave their all in the name of metal, filling that tiny space with the crushing lows and piercing highs in a way that Stage 48 never could. It was, through all its wonderful imperfections, perfect.

That wouldn’t have meant much had the music not been good, but Full of Hell and Outer Heaven held up their end of the bargain. Outer Heaven took the stage (and the area IMG_0053directly in front of the stage, as the vocalist didn’t have room to stand with the rest of the band) and delivered a punishing set full of great riffs and bellowing vocals reminiscent of one of my favorite up-and-coming bands, Gatecreeper. The sight of a bunch of hairy, sweaty, chunky, mostly shirtless guys unleashing such a ferocious set was really the perfect complement to the venue. The band’s new album dropped the day after the show, and you better believe it’s been part of my regular rotation since.

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from Full of Hell live, but whatever expectations I had for them where shattered. Vocalist Dylan Walker has one of the most commanding on-stage personas I’ve seen recently despite handling all the samples and electronic elements at the same time as screaming his fucking face off. The set was a high-energy as it gets, and once they wrapped up you felt like you’d been run over by a truck (in the best way possible). While I only took up listening to the band following last year’s Trumpeting Ecstasy, but I’ll be doing a deep dive into their older stuff following that performance.

Still, the star of the evening was The Meatlocker itself, a throwback to the early days of rock and metal. I’ve never seen a concert space quite like it, and I can’t imagine there are too many more like it. During Full of Hell’s set the singer mentioned how he’d player there three years before and was shocked that the restaurant above hadn’t had them shut down. Everyone laughed, but there is a large chunk of truth there. How The Meatlocker exists, and especially in a swanky town like Montclair, is beyond me. But the metal word is better off as long as it does.

The Ocean’s latest single is an oasis in the metal desert

Back on July 20th, Skeletonwitch dropped Devouring Radiant Light, easily one of the best metal albums of 2018. In the month-plus ever since, we’ve had a whole lot of NOTHING released in the metal world. That spell should officially be over this week thanks to Pig Destroyer’s Head Cage and Clutch’s Book of Bad Decisions, but I’ve got to admit, it’s been rough going.

There have been some pretty fantastic singles to come out during that span, from Behemoth’s “God=Dog”, Anaal Nathrakh’s “Forward!”, and High on Fire’s “Electric Messiah”, but I’m not sure any of them can hold a candle to the track that The Ocean gave us today.

The band’s last full-length album, 2013’s Pelagial, is still one of my favorite metal albums of the century, and their track “The Quiet Observer” of a 2015 split with MONO was one of my favorite songs of the year. Along the same expansive, progressive lines as that track is “Permian: The Great Dying”, which has rocketed up to the tippity-top of my Song of the Year-shortlist. I mean, it’s over 9 minutes long and I’ve already listened to it at least 7 times today. That’s an hour of my day I’ve spent listening to this ONE FREAKING SONG. If my day were a pie chart, The Ocean’s piece of the pie could easily feed a teenage Nebraskan farm boy coming home from a day in the fields.

“Permian: The Great Dying” is everything that makes The Ocean great, with the progressive, almost post-rock melodies backed up by a menacing, ever-present darkness. Considering this is the lead single off a planned double album, I can’t wait to dig into the complex themes that the band undoubtedly has in store. Seriously, Pelagial was a concept album where the tracks, in descending order, describe specific ocean depths, both musically and lyrically. What are they going to come up with when they’ve had five years to write?

Better Late than Never: Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

Alright faithful reader. Let’s get real. And not just real, REALLY fucking real. I’m about to spend the next 3-4 paragraphs blathering on about how I feel about Deafheaven’s newest album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (spoiler alert: it’s really, really fucking good). About how masterfully the band can blend the warm guitar sounds and upbeat melodies of alternative rock with the grimy, piercing evilness of black metal. About how, despite being far from the only band trying to bring a new dimension to the stagnant sound that is European Black Metal, Deafheaven can do it more effortlessly than group around. But let’s cut through the bullshit: you don’t need to read this review. By the time you’ve read the title of this article you’ve already made up your mind about how you feel. Nothing that I could say, do, pontificate, preach, evangelize or squawk has a popsicle’s chance in hell of changing your mind once it’s been made up about Deafheaven.

You see, for reasons that I still don’t understand to this day, Deafheaven currently hold the title of Most Polarizing Band in Metal. Something about bringing non-metal elements into a genre occupied by little boys trying to embody “TRVE KVLT” and all the bullshit it entails brings out the hatred in droves. I wouldn’t expect everyone to like Deafheaven, and I understand that metal fans have a hard time embracing other music styles, but honestly, what the fuck? Their music is good. They are talented. They scream their faces off. What else do you really want?

So that brings us to Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. Stylistically it is a near 180°-turn fromDeafheaven their last outing, 2015’s New Bermuda. While New Bermuda was Deafheaven at their most black metal, full of endless blast beats and riffs denser than a poorly made cupcake, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love skews towards the band’s alt-rock sensibilities, with oodles and oodles of light, warm and fluffy pancakes…I mean guitar tones, romantic imagery, and a pervasive sense of calm dominating most of the album. Vocalist George Clarke’s menacing, unbridled screams are the only constant from the Black Metal realm, although there are brief moments of aggression expertly peppered in throughout most tracks (in particular “Canary Yellow” and “Glint”). It’s almost as if the band embraced their harshest criticisms and leaned into them more than accounting for them, producing an album that sounds more like the record that they’ve always been meant to make.

At just seven tracks (with four of them over 10 minutes long), Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is best digested as a whole, as the brief interludes on the album (and I use that term loosely, with the shortest track on the record clocking in at 4:08) do a fantastic job of setting up the album’s heavy hitters. While “Near” and “Night People” may not be as memorable as “Honeycomb” or “Canary Yellow”, they are integral to the flow of the album, providing an even greater juxtaposition than already exists on the main tracks.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is a wonderful album, and one that feels like Deafheaven pushing themselves further musically than ever before. While I must admit that I miss the uncut aggression of New Bermuda, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love show a level of maturation and growth that I didn’t expect from the band. Now, for those of you who skipped the entire review just so you can bitch about the grade that you inevitably disagree with, eat shit.

GRADE: B+

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Honeycomb”, “Canary Yellow”, “Glint”

Better Late than Never: Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light

THE BRIAN JOHNSON CORROLARY: When a band unexpectedly improves upon losing an important member. See: Johnson, Brian and “Back in Black”

Losing a band member can have a wide range of effects on a band, from no effect whatsoever (probably just a bass player) to complete and total ruination (lead singer or eponymous lead guitarist). Occasionally, as was the case with AC/DC and few others, bands can lose a vital member, sometimes to choking on vomit and sometimes not, and actually get better. Such is the case with Skeletonwitch, who up until this point were a decent thrash band most notable for their awesome name. After losing former vocalist Chance Garnette to the bottle, Skeletonwitch brought in Wolvhammer frontman Adam Clemans to fill the void for their newest offering, Devouring Radiant Light. What the band produced is something greater than either Skeletonwitch or Wolvhammer have ever put out, a blackened thrash instant classic and one of the deepest albums of the year.

From the minute that album opener “Fen of Shadows” kicks in, Devouringskeletonwitch Radiant Light is a relentless assault on your ears, pummeling you with furious thrashy riffs that play an endless game of cat and mouse with dense, suffocating black metal. Clemans’ grimy, evil vocals up the black metal factor of the album to a level that I never heard on any of their early work. Most impressively, the album never sounds repetitive or monotonous, a problem that plagues both black metal and thrash in particular. But the intermixed styles, as well as their ability to add just a touch of melody (like at the end of “Temple of the Sun”) give the album a level of needed complexity that separates it from its peers.

Added to the metal mixing pot that is this album are the occasional light & warm guitar tones (a la Deafheaven) that creep into a few tracks, most noticeably the middle sections of “The Luminous Sky” and the chorus of “The Vault”. Most people are tuning into blackened thrash metal for heaps of heaviness, so those lighter moments were an unexpected and, yes, pleasant surprise. And make no mistake, they aren’t forced into the music, serving as a natural and continuous bridge between destruction and chaos, like an oasis in the middle of a dry, evil, death-ridden desert.

More than anything, the strength of Devouring Radiant Light is the depth of the album, with each and every track (all EIGHT of them) warranting repeated listens. Not since Rivers of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name has a metal album been so strong from front to back. Even when I started to think that the last few tracks weren’t quite as strong as the beginning (and that’s not an insult, as “Fen of Shadows”, “Temple of the Sun” and “Devouring Radiant Light” all should warrant Song of the Year consideration), “Sacred Soil” kicked in with its simultaneously heavy & melodic chorus, bringing the album to a raucous and deservedly magnificent close.

It’s hard to believe that the band could top this record, even with it being the first album with Clemans at the helm, since as far as I understand he means to continue fronting Wolvhammer (despite being replaced by good ol’ Ken Sorceron of Abigail Williams on their most recent tour). Even if this is the band’s peak, and I would bet on it, Devouring Radiant Light is an Everest-esque peak, one of the finest achievements of the year and as unique a metal experience as I’ve had recently. Listen to it. NOW.

GRADE: A-

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Fen of Shadows”, “Temple of the Sun”, “Devouring Radiant Light”

Better to Review Later Than Never: Between the Buried and Me – Automata II

Automata I, the first half of Between the Buried and Me’s double album that was released earlier this year, was a fine listen. Nothing revolutionary, a couple of excellent tracks mixed in with few less than memorable tracks, but a fun listen nonetheless. More than anything, it felt like it was hurt by the unconventional release structure of the record, with the first half dropping back in March and second half in early July. While I enjoyed Automata I, it felt incomplete. Thematically it felt incomplete, musically it felt incomplete, and story-wise you were left hanging at the end.

On Automata II, Between the Buried and Me bring everything full circle, wrapping up theBTBAM Automata 2 double record on a much stronger note than they started it off on. While Automata I had multiple tracks that struck me as nothing more than filler, every minute of Automata II feels integral to the album. After my first few listens to Part 1, I’ve only revisited “Condemned to the Gallows” and “Blot” while skipping over the rest of the album. Part 2, on the other hand, is best consumed as a whole, the musical flow of each song leading seamlessly into the next. Even the lone sub-8 minute track, “Glide”, serves as a wonderful appetizer to the highlight of the album, “Voice of Trespass”.

Since the album stretches across just four songs, here’s a track-by-track review of Automata II:

TRACK 1: “The Proverbial Bellow”

The longest track on the album at a brisk 13 minutes and 18 seconds, “The Proverbial Bellow” is a proggy journey through all that makes Between the Buried and Me great. The band jumps effortlessly between styles and time signatures, starting the song off with a two and a half minute instrumental introduction, then moving onto a spacier, more atmospheric section before bringing in the heaviness around the six and a half minute mark. The song would have fit in nicely with the rest of the tracks on Coma Ecliptic, although the band (in a trend that continues throughout this album) focus in a bit more on their heavier side than they have in a LONG time.

While the track does lose a little bit of steam during the extended instrumental outro that occupies most of the last 2-plus minutes of the song, it doesn’t go out with a whimper, instead sending the listener off with a guitar solo that would make Slash proud. Overall, an excellent start to the album, and an excellent preview of what’s to come.

TRACK 2: “Glide”

Far and away the shortest song on the record, “Glide” mostly serves as an extended lead-in to the third track. But even with that being said, it is still a fun listen, with a carnival-like atmosphere backed up by the best accordion work I’ve ever heard on a metal track. “Glide” sets an uneasy and off-the-wall mood that will only be thrown into high gear once “Voice of Trespass” kicks in. The brief moment of swing that comes in for the final 15 seconds is the perfect precursor to…

TRACK 3: “Voice of Trespass”

WHAT. A. FUCKING. SONG. For a band that has become famous for their ability to incorporate any and all music genres into their own sound, this has to take the cake for their most ambitious work yet. From the soaring big-band and jazz-inspired instrumentation to the carnival-barker vocals, this song is one giant “What the Fuck?” wrapped up in a delightfully fun package.

For all the efforts that the band has made in recent years to embrace their melodic side, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Tommy Rogers sounds angrier than he does during the chorus on this track, which sounds even heavier when contrasted with the fucking SCATTING that he does right afterwards (god I love how bizarre this song is). Were you hoping for a Xylophone solo? Well guess what!?!? YOU GET ONE! By the time the refrain kicks in for the last two minutes of the song, I fucking dare you to not be singing along. More than anything, this track is FUN. You can bank on this one showing up on my end of the year lists.

TRACK 4: “The Grid”

It would be nearly impossible to adequately follow up the intensity, craziness and downright fun of “Voice of Trespass” …and “The Grid” doesn’t. But it’s still a solid track, with a slightly muted chorus reminiscent of Automata I counterbalanced by some pretty impressive aggression during the verses. While this is probably the weakest track on Automata II, it far outpaces the weaker links on Automata I and provides a satisfying-enough close to the record (or records, if you’re willing to consider both albums as one work).

So there you have it. Automata II is comprised of one of Between the Buried and Me’s all-time greatest songs, and excellent song, one great intro track, and one song that is fine. For a four-track album, that’s not too bad! The biggest issue with Automata II isn’t the music itself, but how it should be judged in relation to Automata I. I know that the band considers this a double record, but due to the staggered release and the vastly different styling between the two I have a very hard time doing that. Had they been released together I likely would have been able to digest them both as one work (and if I’m being honest, they both would have been bumped up in my book on their respective strengths playing off each other), but I’m not able to do that.

With that being said, Automata II is easily the stronger of the two albums, showcasing what Between the Buried in Me is trying to become while playing more off their past than what they did on Coma Ecliptic. It’s another solid progression of their sound, but an acknowledgment that they won’t abandon what got them to where they are today.

GRADE: B+

HIGHLIGHT TRACK

“Voice of Trespass”

The Metal Dog Days

Good News

 

…actually, it’s relatively bad news that is leading to some decent news. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, of relevance coming out in August until the last Friday of the month. Sure, I have no doubt that there’ll be some decent albums from bands that I’ve never heard of, but when the biggest releases in the next few weeks are coming from Nonpoint and the brittle husk of what was once Alice in Chains, I don’t have the highest of hopes.

But that brings us to the good news! Since I won’t have any new releases to review, I’m going to take the next 4 weeks and review all of the albums that I’ve missed over the last month and a half (and believe me, that’s a LOT of albums). Pissed that you don’t know what I think of the new Skeletonwitch? YOU’RE IN LUCK!!! Have you been tossing and turning at night because you don’t know where I stand on Deafheaven’s newest record? Well fret no more! I’m going to be like fucking Oprah with metal reviews. You can bank on reviews for both of those bands along with the newest releases from Between the Buried and Me, Obscura, Vein, Black Fast, and maybe even a few more if I’m not too lazy on my upcoming vacation. Got an album you want reviewed? Let me know and I’ll get it done!

Up until August 31st, when we finally get records from Omnium Gatherum and Steve ‘N’ Seagulls, we’re kinda stuck in a dead zone. Let me, your humble anthropomorphic Cupcake ruler, be your guiding light out of the darkness.

Concert Review – YOB & Bell Witch

Before I get down to the nitty gritty of how awesome both YOB and Bell Witch were in concert (Spoiler Alert: Very), I want to talk about a very special gentleman that I saw at their show, and how much he goes to show that metal reaches people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and levels of squareness.

When I set up shop at Le Poisson Rouge for the first opener the night of June 28 (I know, I know, I’m later than a procrastinating pregnant teen), I originally had a nice buffer of vacant space in front of me. Right before Heavy Temple took the stage, that buffer was filled by one of the most bizarre people that I’ve ever seen at the scores (that’s right, SCORES) of metal shows that I’ve attended. Let me paint you a picture of what I was looking at:

  • This guy looked like a shorter, grayer, balder Boomer Esiason. He was easily in his 50’s, and if he aged incredibly well it wouldn’t surprise me if he were in his early 60’s.
  • His outfit was composed of a beige polo shirt tucked into a pair of khaki shorts. This was complemented by a pair of Teva sandals, which as far as I knew went extinct about 15 years back.
  • He was carrying a burlap tote bag that was halfway in-between a backpack and a purse, like something that a fashionable young mother would pack beach towels in for a day-trip down to the shore.

I couldn’t believe what I was looking at when this guy set up shop in front of me. Did he wander into the wrong venue? Did he misread “YOB” as “Bob” and think it was a gathering of guys named Bob? Was he the father of someone in one of the bands?

While the last option still may be a possibility, I can confirm that he was exactly where he wanted to be, because nobody was rocking out harder during Heavy Temple than this guy. It just goes to show you, whether you’re a grungy biker, a rebellious gothy teen, a suit-clad Wall Street hotshot, or a suburban Dad in sandals named Bob, metal has a place for you. I salute you, possible-Bob. Someday I hope to be as awesome, and as comfortable in my own skin/beige polo as you.

As far as the show goes, let me start out by saying how infinitely better a venue Le Poisson Rouge is than the site of my previous show, Stage 48. Despite being one of theYob tour smallest venues I’ve visited during my time out east, the venue knew what they were doing when it came to hosting a metal show. The sound quality, especially on the vocals, was FANTASTIC (let me reiterate, fuck you Stage 48). While the sightlines were less than ideal (it’s a small venue, so it’s unavoidable), the venue itself was a unique experience, and I’d have no hesitation about going back.

Heavy Temple, the first opener, is an all-female trio out of Philly that put their own sludgy/doomy twist on Black Sabbath’s sound, creating something both retro and fresh at the same time. Having never heard of the band before, I came away wildly impressed with not only how good they were live, but how into their set the crowd was (and not just possible-Bob). Sure, their sound is full of plenty of fuzz and feedback, but even so it was clear just how tight the band was musically (especially the drummer, who is a certified badass and a blast to watch play).

I’m not totally sure if anybody knew who they were beforehand, but Heavy Temple’s sound was accessible and energetic enough that they were the perfect appetizer for an evening filled with slow, lurching doom. Starting off the night with Bell Witch may have turned off a few too many people who were there solely for YOB, but Heavy Temple gave everyone a sound they could latch onto and get the blood flowing. I’ll definitely be checking out their catalog soon enough.

While most of the audience was there for YOB (and understandably so), I made a point to make this show to check out Bell Witch. Their most recent album, Mirror Reaper, is one of the best releases in recent memory, although I wasn’t totally sure how it would play out in a live setting. You see, Mirror Reaper is 80+ minutes long despite technically being only one song, so I didn’t know how that would work as an opening act (pretty sure I’ve never seen an hour and a half allotted for an opening act. Or most headliners, now that I think about it). Since I was mortified that the band would instead play some of their older material to fit into the time slot, I cheated and checked out what setlist.FM said they had been playing on this tour the night before the show. What I saw was this:

Setlist

So…good news? I didn’t totally know what the “Partial” meant, but I was at least excited that they were giving Mirror Reaper a go on this tour.

Their set was, in a word, surreal. I’ve never experienced anything like it in concert before, and I doubt I will again. The duo played right around an hour of Mirror Reaper in what was one of the heaviest, most dense atmospheres I’ve ever felt, with those of us familiar with the record hanging on each and every note, and those unfamiliar with the album spending most of the hour wondering when the music would start (oh you fools, if only you understood the majesty you were witnessing…).

For those of you unfamiliar with Mirror Reaper, a HUGE percentage of the album is occupied by negative space, lending itself immensely to the atmosphere of the album but causing it to be very slowly paced. This was not a problem at all for me, as I’ve grown to love literally every single detail about the album. But I can easily understand how those who didn’t know the band beforehand would have not been into the set. The unfortunate downside of this meant that those people collected by the bar and started talking about their day, or their weekend plans, or their pugs, or whatever other inane shit they could think of, and those of us on the floor could hear Every. Single. Word. I’ve never heard people get shushed at a metal show, but it happened again and again during Bell Witch’s set. Look, I get it if you weren’t into the show. Mirror Reaper is not the most instantly accessible doom record out there, and if you don’t like it, fine. I mean, I hate you and you’re wrong, but fine. But for those of us who were there to witness the album live it sucked royally to have to listen to the band compete with a hundred separate conversations going at once.

Once you got past that, however, Bell Witch’s set was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s hard to capture just how enthralling their performance is, so just take a listen to Mirror Reaper and amp up the intensity by a hundred. And that’s it live. Amazing. Overwhelming. Crushing. Devastating. Beautiful. Despite a myriad of technical issues (vocals didn’t work for about 5 minutes, amps were blocking both video screens on the stage), Bell Witch’s performance was one of the most powerful I’ve ever witnessed live. I could never image such an overwhelming performance being generated by two men, but dammit, they did it.

So, about that whole “Partial” thing. As they hit around the 50-minute mark, it dawned on me that, so far, they had played Mirror Reaper in full. Suddenly, my hopes rose. “Hey, maybe they’ll play the whole album! This is New York, the Big Fucking Apple, after all!” Nope. Instead of chopping up the album to create the “partial” experience, Bell Witch lopped off the last half an hour or so, on the surface a natural break point in the context of the record. The problem? That last half an hour is my favorite part of the whole album. That’s where the record hits its melodic peak, where all of the ideas and thoughts from the record reach their soaring yet painful conclusion. It’s hard to fault a band who played such an incredible set for making the decision that they did, but it was such a crushing disappointment that I didn’t get to hear that last section of Mirror Reaper. Someday I’ll get over it, and even with that disappointment I was still blown away by what I saw. But oh, what could have been…

Last, but certainly not least, was the headliner of the night, YOB. I’ve made it clear before that I’m not the world’s longest-running YOB fan, but I’m a huge fan of their newest record, and the fact that frontman Mike Scheidt is alive, let alone playing live shows, was more than enough get me amped up for their set.

For a band I’ve always associated with lurching, crawling, spacey doom, YOB certainly brings a metric shit-ton of energy to their live performance. They kicked things off with the first two tracks from Our Raw Heart, “Ablaze” and “The Screen”, two of the heaviest tracks on the album, and even tossed in “Original Face” later in the set, yet another heavy jam of the record. They mixed in a few older songs that, while certainly full of lengthy intros, jams and interludes, were definitely not short on heaviness.

Scheidt did his part in keeping the crowd into the set, taking every opportunity to give the fans a friendly scream or menacing flex to let us know that he hadn’t forgotten about us. Although, in all honesty, it wasn’t all that necessary because the crowd was hooked on each and every howl out of his mouth. I’ve heard a lot of fantastic metal vocalists in concert before, but Scheidt is right up there with the best of them. His screams were powerful and full of force, and his signature croon managed to sound even better in concert than it does in studio. While the group was fantastic musically, Scheidt stole the show with his vocal work.

Of course, me being the negative Nancy that I am, there is one complaint that I had with the band’s set. Most critics have agreed that Our Raw Heart is one of the best albums that the band has released, and most of them (myself included) point to “Beauty in Falling Leaves” as the pinnacle of the record. The track is one of the rawest, most beautiful songs written by the band, and I had really hoped to hear it that fateful July night. And while I understand that the set was built around energetic and aggressive tracks, it was pretty disappointing to miss out on their live rendition of what is already going down as one of the finest tracks in their career just because it’s slower, delicate nature may not have jived with the rest of their set. That being said, it’s not like there was an easy track they could have lost to make room for the 16-minute saga that is “Beauty in Falling Leaves”, so even I can’t begrudge the band too much.

While it certainly isn’t hard to surpass the last show I attended (one final time, I swear: fuck you, Stage 48), this show will undoubtedly go down as one of the most impressive I attend this year, regardless of how many others I manage to drag myself to. Heavy Temple has a promising future ahead of them, YOB proved to be just as legendary as I’d hear, and Bell Witch gave me a live experience that I don’t think can ever be replicated. And, of course, Bob was there. What a night.