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.

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.

Fuck You, Stage 48

Before I get to reviewing what should have been a phenomenal concert experience featuring three metal heavyweights, allow me to hoist myself upon the proverbial soapbox for moment and tell you about what is now my least favorite venue in the New York/New Jersey area, Stage 48.

I’ve been to some pretty marginal venues in my 5+ years on the East Coast. Terminal 5 has all the personality of a soldering iron and the sightlines of a pre-teen watching their very first horror movie through their fingers. The Knitting factory is the size of a shoebox, meaning that 95% of the floor space at a metal show is taken up by the pit. And the Starland Ballroom, while great in theory, is out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by only a veteran’s center and a shady Dunkin’ Donuts. But each and every one of them is higher on my list right now than Stage 48, which, for all of its cool design and modern amenities may have the worst speaker system of any concert venue I’ve ever visited (worse than Fiddler’s Green out in Colorado, which if you’ve ever seen a show there you know that’s about as bad as it gets).

Whether or not this all falls on the venue or splits the blame with the sound guy for the artists, it was impossible throughout 4 bands and 5+ hours of live music to hear ANY of the vocals (side angry note: it would have been 5 bands, but it took an eternity and a halfWhitechapel to get inside the show. Sorry Shadows of Intent). This is a semi-common occurrence at metal shows, but I’ve never seen it so consistent from band-to-band, making me think this is a venue issue. And if this is a consistent problem for them, then they shouldn’t be hosting metal shows. I’ve waited a LONG time to see Fleshgod Apocalypse live, and even now I still feel like I haven’t thanks to the horrible vocal levels. So yeah, I’m a little bitter.

One more “Old Man Yells at Cloud” moment and then I’ll actually review the show. When there isn’t stage security at a venue, DON’T TAKE THAT AS AN INVITATION TO RUN UP ON THE STAGE!!! I’m sure you feel like you’re cool, and I’m sure you’re all sorts of excited to be that close to the band, but it’s really annoying for everyone in the audience who is trying to watch the performance. And even if you are going to do it, for the love of all that is unholy, don’t go up there just to take a selfie. I’m a self-hating millennial now thanks to the behavior of some assholes in the crowd who felt the need to get a selfie with Trevor Strnad, or even worse, the one guy who felt compelled to take a video of himself stage diving. Fuck you, random kid. Nobody likes you, and you should feel bad.

Okay, that felt good. Very therapeutic. Onto the show itself.

Aversion’s Crown fall very neatly in line with any generic deathcore band. Nothing about their show separated them from your Rings of Saturns, or Slaughter to Prevails, or any of those other dime-a-dozen bands. There was nothing inherently bad about their performance, but nothing even remotely noteworthy about it, either. The lead singer seemed to enjoy being up on stage though, so that was nice to see. I like happy metalheads.

Vocal issues aside, Fleshgod Apocalypse delivered the performance of the night. I had no idea how their brand of symphonic death metal would transfer into a live setting, but holy hell did they make it work, both from a musical and theatrical perspective. The band’s old-timey costumes, complete with corpse paint, added a perfect amount of absurdity to their show. The opera singer, when not delivering inaudible vocals (once again, get fucked Stage 48), piled on dramatic flair by trouncing around the stage with a fanciful staff, perfect for a zombie princess. Musically, the band was every bit as good as I could hope for, and bonus points for playing classical tunes in the set break beforehand to get everybody in the mood for their set. I won’t hesitate to say that seeing this band it a must for any fan of theatrical metal.

The Black Dahlia Murder drew the short straw of playing first among the co-headliners, but I realized later on that this worked out much better for them. While they weren’t immune from the audio issues that plagued the entire night, vocalist Trevor Strnad’s voice came through better than any other singer. The played their newest album, Nightbringers, in it’s entirety, although they sprinkled in a few classic tracks during the album and also finished their set with a couple of older tunes.

As far as quality? Holy shit, these guys are great. Nightbringers was one of my favorite albums of 2017, and it was every bit as good in a live setting (for some tracks, even better than the studio version). The crowd was into each and every song of their set, although I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that the older tracks got a slightly better response than the newer stuff. The gold star of the evening goes to Strnad, who is the happiest and highest metal singer I’ve ever seen live before. Throughout their entire set (which mostly just involved him casually pacing back and forth across the stage with one arm permanently stuck in the air showing “the horns”), Strnad had an absolutely ENORMOUS grin etched on his face. Seriously, he was singing tracks with lines like “Ye unholy fiends from depths of black // Turn every fucking cross you see to hell // Defecate in holy waters // Instill much fear and poison every well” with a giant shit-eating grin on his face the whole time. I said before that I enjoy happy metalheads, and Strnad may be the happest metalhead I’ve seen before, which in turn made the band’s performance even more fun.”

I didn’t realize until the day before the show that Whitechapel was playing their 2008 album This is Exile in full. Unlike The Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel didn’t sprinkle in any material from their other records during their set, which was a bit of a letdown for people like me who weren’t all that familiar with This is Exile. I had given the album a listen through the day of the show, and while it sounds like a good album it’s really tough to familiarize yourself with any album in the span of a day. But I’ve seen Whitechapel live before, and I knew how full of energy they were live, so I had no doubts that I’d be into their set. However…

Things got off to a very bad start when the band took the stage and it was very clear that a solid 30%-40% of the crowd left after TBDM. I mean, I was there primarily for The Black Dahlia Murder as well, but I wouldn’t dream of leaving a show before the headliner even takes the stage. But the floor went from “Subway Train in NYC during Rush Hour” crowded during TBDM to “Community Park on an 85-degree day” crowded, which is a pretty severe downgrade. Still, the people who were there were very into the set. Until…

The freaking audio went COMPLETELY out. Not just the vocals, but each and every instrument. Mid-song. There’s no better way to take the crowd out of the flow of the show than having to stop down for five or six minutes to fix technical difficulties. It also happened during “Somatically Incorrect”, which was the one track that really stood out to me during my one listen. They ended up just punting on the rest of the track once the audio was fixed. The larger issue, however, was that this seemed to knock the band out of their element. Another couple of songs later the band left the stage AGAIN, this time having what looked like a somewhat animated powwow in the hallway to the right of the stage. My theory? I have no evidence to support this, but it really seemed like the douche-nozzles that kept running up on stage were getting under the band’s skin, especially singer Phil Bozeman. After this second stoppage, there looked to be additional people watching the ingress points to the stage and trying to keep the crowd, you know, in the crowd. Where they belong. Their set finished without incident, but the tension in the crowd was palpable, like when Mommy and Daddy fought at the dinner table when you were young. You weren’t old enough to understand what was going on, but you still could tell that something wasn’t right. Despite everything that went wrong, Whitechapel still put forth a really good show, and I’ll be giving This is Exile another few listens on the strength of the performance.

So there you have it, a pretty fantastic night of metal undermined by a shitty sound system and/or an incompetent audio tech. Kudos to each of the bands for soldiering through it, and kudos to the crowd for still bringing the energy despite the obvious anger over the issues. And Fleshgod Apocalypse? Come hell or high water, I will be seeing you again…

Concert Review: Astronoid, Plini & TesseracT

Good thing you all are taking my advice to heart

Seriously, the most striking thing about TesseracT’s headlining date at Irving Plaza on Thursday was that when Astronoid took the stage at 6:59 (the little overachievers) to start off the evening the floor was PACKED. This wasn’t my first go-round at Irving Plaza, and I’ve been there for some openers where you could spread out and do yoga during the set without disturbing anyone else in attendance. But not Thursday.

Perhaps part of the reason for the solid early turnout was the strength of the openers. I wasn’t familiar at all with Plini, who took the stage second, but Astronoid’s debut LP AirTesseract tour was one of my favorite records of 2016, and I was excited to see how their bizarre sound (equal parts thrash, black metal, and uplifting melody combined into something the band calls “dream thrash”) played out live.

Some good news/bad news. Bad news – the sound was a little out of whack where I was standing, so I had the drums coming in way higher than the guitars. And when the bands triple-guitar attack is a calling point of the music, that’s a bit of a letdown. Good news – because of the odd mix I was able to really hone in on drummer Matt St. Jean’s work, and holy shit that guy is a wizard behind the kit. Nothing about Astronoid’s music comes across as easy to play, but St. Jean was locked in and on point the entire show. He also looked like he was having a fucking blast during the set, playing with the highest of energy and singing along word-for-word with each and every song.

Musically, Astronoid are INCREDIBLY impressive. Their positive spin on black metal (think Ghost Bath on the best day of their collective lives) made for a fun and rowdy set. There really wasn’t a down song in the set, and tracks like “Up and Atom” and “Obsolete” had the place fired up like I’ve seen for few openers.

As awesome as Astronoid’s set was (and trust me, it was fucking awesome”), I do have one small complaint. On Air, the bands vocals appear to be comprised of singer Brett Boland layering multiple tracks to create depth. While that works great on the record, it was a little off-putting during the show when the backing vocals would drown out his live singing. When he reared back and let it rip his voice came through clear as day, but so many of their songs involve a very delicate melody that just didn’t come through clear enough live.

Even so, Astronoid blew away any expectations most people would have for a show opener, and more than lived up to my expectations as someone who was looking forward to seeing them live.

Next up was Australia’s Plini, who is apparently a single Australian guy rather than a British quartet that I thought I saw live. So that’s neat. Plini (full name of Plini Roessler-Holgate) is a one-man band that apparently has an incredible group of touring musicians in his stable, and it was clear to everyone in the audience that they all knew what they hell they were doing. Technically speaking (and for an instrumental band, that’s probably the most important criteria), Plini are right up there with the most impressive instrumental bands I’ve seen live. Animals As Leaders, Polyphia, Russian Circles, you name it. They were right there.

Perhaps more impressive than the band’s technical wizardry was the fantastic banter from Plini himself. He really didn’t speak at all for the first half of the set, and he spent most of the remainder talking about how impersonable he is. But his dry sense of humor (see? Perfect for a Brit) worked wonders with the crowd, who ate up everything he had to offer.

The only area where I can dock Plini is in their overall concept, as the band lays heavily into the Jazz-Fusion subsection of InstruMetal, and that tends to be my least favorite part. Some songs, especially early in the band’s set, just didn’t grab my attention at all. Sure, they were still impressive technically, but there wasn’t a hook to lure me in. But when the band embraced the metal side of their sound the heaviness was absolutely crushing (which provided a nice counter-balance to Astronoid, who even at their heaviest just sound so goddamn happy).

Also, most of TesseracT came out on stage during one of Plini’s tracks to shave a guy’s beard. So there’s that.

I caught TesseracT live for the first time a couple of years ago after they released Polaris when they were opening up for Gojira, so I knew what I was in for. Daniel Tompkins has one of the most powerful singing voices in metal, and he once again floored me with his performance. Even more impressive during their set this time around were the screams he let loose when the band started playing some of their early tracks. They mostly stuck with Polaris when I saw them the first time, so I didn’t get to see them cut loose on the older tracks. Much like their stylistic brothers in The Contortionist, TesseracT seem just as comfortable playing aggressive, ferocious prog bordering on death metal as they do playing their newer, more melodic works. But as much as the crowd seemed to love the new stuff, with tracks from both Polaris and their newest release, Sonder, drawing great reactions, it was the songs from the first couple of albums that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

While not as technically stunning as both Astronoid and Plini, TesseracT are no slouches at their craft either, and band was in-sync from the moment they took the stage. As one of the pioneering djent bands, TesseracT make the most out of their sound, delivering punished blows during their heavier tracks that gave everyone something to headbang to. Of their newer tracks, “King” probably got the best response, but “Smile” had the crowd going as well. “Luminary”, which opened the set, didn’t land as well as a I would hope, but the rest of the set more than made up for it.

For a band that isn’t all that traditionally “heavy” as far as metal is concerned, the crowd got pretty damn rowdy during the set, even starting something that almost resembled a circle pit (mostly is was just a bunch of dudes occasionally bumping into each other lightly, but hey, they tried). The overall crowd response almost made up for the miserable piece of shit and his obnoxious friend who took up camp behind me and spent the entire set complaining. Just a few targets of their ire:

  • Death Metal bands, and their names in particular (they thought that Goatwhore and Decrepit Birth were probably two of the worst bands of all time.
  • The lack of women at the show (while that’s usually true for most metal shows, I was actually pretty impressed by the female turnout at the show).
  • The audience trying to clap with the beat (granted, I completely agree that people don’t know how to clap to a beat). But this dude let out an audible groan every single fucking time it happened. Fuck right off, buddy. Nobody likes a complainer.

This was a perfect show for my first concert of the year. I’d imagine that after a few months away from my last concert that it would have been a little jarring to go see Full of Hell or Black Fast. But this was as relaxed a metal show that you can find, and each band brought something to the table. A solid start to the concert year.

Concert Review – The Final Show with The Dillinger Escape Plan

Before myself and the throngs of people waiting to enter Terminal 5 could worry about saying goodbye to one of the greatest metal bands of our, or any, generation, we had a much more pressing issue to worry about: getting inside before we froze to death.

With temperatures barely clearing double digits, a sold-out show, and an entire FOUR DEP last showGODDAMN METAL DETECTORS getting people inside at a speed the TSA would consider “a bit slow”, the journey inside Terminal 5’s unwelcoming façade was torturous, only serving to give those of us braving the elements a brief respite from the thought that had been on our minds for days (Weeks? Months?). How do we say goodbye?

By the time I walked onto the main floor halfway through Daughters’ opening set, the main floor was packed from wall to wall. Apparently, most everyone had the same idea as me that they didn’t want to miss the chance to find a good spot to witness The Dillinger Escape Plan’s final show ever. I staked out a place on the left-hand side (the Ben Weinman side, at least I hoped) and settled in for the openers.

Thanks to the previously mentioned metal detectors (four!!!! Terminal 5 holds 3,000 fucking people!!!), I missed most of Daughters’ set, but the few songs I caught were pretty good. I’ve never heard of them before, but I was intrigued enough to give them a listen after my mourning period is over.

Next up was Code Orange, riding high off one of the year’s best singles, best albums, and a Grammy nomination. Under most circumstances I feel like the crowd would have been excited to see one of metal’s most promising acts. Instead, despite a raucous & energetic set, the crowd never really seemed to get into the performance. It’s hard to blame them, as we all had quite a bit on our mind that night. It’s hard to get too excited for the cheddar biscuits when the lobster main course is up next. Still, the band deserves credit for not only a great show, but being asked to lead into what was undoubtedly the metal event of the year.

The second Code Orange’s final note dissipated from the speakers, the crowd began to surge forward in anticipation of Dillinger’s set. I was surrounded by a great group of people, including one guy who was explicitly sexting some girl with my face only a couple of feet from his phone (I couldn’t move, how the hell am I NOT supposed to read what he is writing?). The guys behind me were at the show on Thursday and said the band came on late around 10, so I had time to prepare myself for the moment the lights went dark.

When that moment came, the crowd exploded. Not just in cheers and screams, not just in the customary “DILLINGER! DILLINGER!” chants, but the pit opened up and the crowd became a sea of ebbing and flowing bodies. The band had not even stepped foot on stage yet and already the crowd, myself included, were losing their collective shit. The moment we had all waited for, the moment we had all dreaded, was finally here.

For what must have been one of the more difficult performances of their career, the band did not disappoint. There were no signs of sadness or remorse in the show, as the

Dillinger Live
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@_maxlives_

band was far too busy going mind-bogglingly wild to let the weight of the occasion bring the performance down. The set list was eclectic, to say the least, with the opening few tracks (including personal favorites “Panasonic Youth” and “Baby’s First Coffin”) starting the show off with a bang, followed by a few of the bands more melodic tracks (“One of Us is the Killer”, “Mouth of Ghosts”, and “Unretrofied”) sprinkled in throughout to give Dillinger fans of all types something to remember.

At first I was slightly bummed that I didn’t get to hear some of my favorite tracks one final time. Looking at the set lists for all three of their final shows made it clear that the band tried to make each night special for those in attendance. By my count, not a single song was played on all three nights, with most of their staples (“Sunshine the Werewolf”, “43% Burnt”, “Farewell, Mona Lisa”) being played twice. On the down side, this made me INSANELY jealous of Thursday’s audience, who got to see some all-time classics (“Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants”, “Room Full of Eyes”, “Crossburner” and “The Mullet Burden”) that were not played on the final night. But I’m sure many of the thousands of people who couldn’t get tickets to the final show couldn’t believe they missed one final chance to see “Dead as History” or “Happiness is a Smile”.

The band closed out their set with “Sunshine the Werewolf”, and then played “Farewell, Mona Lisa” followed by “43% Burnt” to end the night (so we thought). It was the most passionate performance of “43% Burnt” that I’ve ever seen from the band (which is definitely saying something), and had they called it a night I would have left a happily fulfilled man. The band even spent minutes on stage basking in the cries and cheers of the roaring crowd. But the band walked offstage to the sound of guitar feedback blaring through the speakers and the stage lighting flickering in the background, leading all of us to believe that we weren’t quite done yet.

After what seemed like an eternity (probably more like 5 minutes), the band returned with special guests Seven Suns in tow. As soon as I saw the string quartet on stage I knew exactly what the final track of Dillinger’s storied live career would be. I was shocked, befuddled, and impressed that they chose to go out the way that they did, playing “Dissociation”, the closing track to the album of the same name released back in 2016. According to Setlist.FM, this was the first (and only) time the song has ever been played live by the band. On an album that I didn’t exactly love, “Dissociation” has always been my favorite track, a darkly beautiful ballad that is one of the most emotionally charged tracks the band has written.

While ending with “43% Burnt” may have let the crowd leave with their heads held high and their fists in the air, “Dissociation” left us with tears in our eyes and a hole in our hearts. By the time the end of the song refrain came (“Finding a way to die alone/Is better than what I was shown”), my eyes had moved from “misty” into the “damp” category. Looking around after the song concluded, people were openly and unashamedly sobbing on the floor as the show ended, a first in my metal concert-going career.

When I think about it, I’m not sure there was a better way for the night to end. I went into the night expecting one of the wildest and craziest shows of my life, ignoring the elephant in the room that Dillinger Escape Plan would be no more once the show finished. I wasn’t ready to deal with that then, and I’m not ready to deal with it now. But closing with “Dissociation” brought that reality home, for better or worse, and brought closure to the night.

Seeing the band say their final goodbyes to the crowd, soaking in every moment, embracing everyone they could as they left the stage for the final time, it’s hard not to think that they’ll be back. No matter how many times the members have said that this is it, I can’t image they won’t get the urge to come back. For a band that appears to still get along (at least outwardly), they are too revered and too talented for this to truly be the end. That may (probably) be wishful thinking on my part, but I feel like we haven’t seen the last of the Dillinger Escape Plan.

But if this was goodbye, then it was worth every bit of pain and sadness that comes along with it. Thanks for the memories, Dillinger.