Despite my criticism of last year‘s Summer Slaughter Tour, I’m actually a fan of several past lineups and the bands they boasted. My first Summer Slaughter back in 2014 had an absolutely monstrous billing which featured some of my all-time favorite death metal bands (Morbid Angel and Dying Fetus in particular). This year’s lineup bore a similarly stacked lineup that allowed me to overlook some of my main criticisms with the tour, being a repetitive selection and – for the Worcester date specifically – an absurd number of opening acts that are relegated to an upper stage removed from the main performances. Unfortunately, these issues became the least of my worries, as a combination of persistent sound issues and band-specific criticisms detracted from an initially promising roster.
“Appearance isn’t everything” is pretty much the Palladium‘s motto, with its charming vibe of a dingy venue stuffed in the basement of what appears to be an abandoned apartment building. Granted, appearances truly aren’t the be-all-end-all of quality, and I’ve seen multiple high-quality shows at the Palladium, Summer Slaughter 2014 included. It’s because of this that the sound quality of this year’s installment was both a surprise and absolute hindrance for every band. Granted, the issue was diminished a little bit when my friends and I stood toward the back of the venue, but every other spot presented a feedback-ridden experience that accentuated heaviness while washing out most detail and distinction between songs. And while I acknowledge this may have exacerbated my negative experiences with most of the bands, it was still a major factor impossible to ignore.
Way, way back in the day, my friend gave me a flash drive loaded with more pirated music than I had the attention span or time to listen to in full. Buried somewhere in the window full of folders was a “copy” of Surpassing the Boundaries of Human Suffering, Ingested‘s debut and my first exposure to anything resembling slam. Their set, while short, reminded me of everything I loved about their debut: gurgly death growls, massive breakdowns and slams, and an overall excess of heaviness. I wouldn’t describe them as a must-see live act, but it was certainly an enjoyable introduction to the evening. And their heavy focus made the sound issues largely negligible, so that was a plus.
Slaughter to Prevail & Krisiun
My friends and I chose to grab some drinks at an Uno’s down the block rather than stick around for Slaughter to Prevail or Krisiun. We weren’t necessarily opposed to either band, though I’ll admit that StP’s ultra-robotic, cookie cutter deathcore doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. But the Palladium’s ridiculous beer prices inspired us to ditch the “meh” acts of the night and go out for an affordable brew.
What makes Revocation‘s disappointing set even worse is it wasn’t the band’s fault whatsoever. The Palladium’s sound issues struck the band hardest and completely homogenized what was otherwise a fantastic set, both in terms of playing and energy. I wish I had more to say, but there really wasn’t much to grab on to because of the lack of sonic distinction. It was such a shame; Revocation clearly would have had – and should have had – the best set of the night. At least their ripping blend of thrash and death metal is still fantastic and available in full force on their latest record Great Is Our Sin.
It’s been a while since Carnifex were my favorite deathcore band, or since I cared enough about the genre to even have a favorite band. My friend had played me their latest record Die Without Hope when we drove down for Summer Slaughter 2014, and I felt as though the band have progressed within their genre but moved away from what I feel they excel at most. When they closed out their set with the title track from Hell Chose Me, it reminded me how effective that record blended deathcore and death metal, and how the records preceding and following it haven’t truly hit the mark as dead on. Other than “Hell Chose Me” and Carnifex live-staple “Lie to My Face” (an admittedly fun track that brought back some nostalgia), I didn’t recognize any of their other songs and found their newer material to sound identical to what I remember Die Without Hope sounding like. Still, it was a decent set, and their vocalist Scott Lewis had some great stage presence.
In terms of comparing hopes with reality, Suffocation probably had the most disappointing set of the night. For starters, the fact they had a replacement vocalist sucked a lot more than I thought it would. I get it – Frank isn’t interested in touring anymore, and I don’t fault him for that whatsoever. But while they found an excellent replacement with Ricky Myers from Disgorge, it just didn’t feel like Suffocation without Frank’s signature vocals and stage presence, topped off by the absence of Mike Smith as well. Now, the music itself was unsurprisingly phenomenal and definitely amounted to the best performance of the night among the tour’s veteran bands. And though I didn’t get all of the signature cuts I was hoping for, it was amazing to finally hear “Pierced from Within” and “Infecting the Crypts” played live.
After the Burial
I’m not a huge After the Burial fan, but in my mind, it was pretty inarguable that they had the best set of the night. Despite relying a bit too heavily on the “chuggy” side of their sound, it worked well within a live setting and was boosted by incredible energy and strong crowd interaction. And though their sound wasn’t free of muddiness, Trent Hafdahl’s solos pierced through the murk and their breakdowns and riffs were actually bolstered by the bottom-heavy limitations. I may not have heard the only two songs I was looking forward to (“Aspirations” and “A Steady Decline”) but enjoyed their set a great deal more than most of the other bands.
I honestly have no idea what went wrong with Nile‘s set – I really don’t. While Suffocation was more disappointing due to my own expectations, Nile’s set was easily my least favorite of the night in terms of what actually transpired. For starters, their song selection was incredibly bland, save for a solid performance of “Black Seeds of Vengeance.” The rest of their setlist seemed to be comprised of the most boring, repetitive, mid-paced tracks from the band’s discography. I wasn’t expecting George Kollias to blast throughout their entire set, but by the end, I was wondering if they were deliberately aiming to give his snare a bit of a break for the night. Tag on the fact that their tremolo-heavy riffing was swallowed by the shoddy sound, and you have a set that dragged and dragged until “Black Seeds” finally closed it out with a positive note. I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard Nile fan, but I enjoy their music quite a bit and expected much better than what they presented.
You know those bands whose songs are fantastic but albums leave you either unimpressed or wanting more? For me, Corpsegrinder-era Cannibal Corpse fits this description perfectly. These feelings remained intact for their live performance and made me thankful when they announced “Devoured by Vermin” as their finale. Don’t get me wrong – I love me some Cannibal Corpse, especially the handful of Barnes-era songs they played (“Covered with Sores,” “I Cum Blood,” “A Skull Full of Maggots”). But their music just runs together after a while, and their mediocre stage presence certainly didn’t add much. It also didn’t help that Corpsegrinder’s crowd interaction was sparse, and actually pretty annoying when he did decide to speak (“You guys like football team X, but I like football team Y, so fuck you, haha, fart noise). It was at least cool to see death metal legends in action, and it inspired me to put my copy of Butchered at Birth back in my Jeep.
Needless to say, this year’s Summer Slaughter was kind of a letdown for a number of reasons, and I’m not sure how I feel about the tour and the Palladium moving forward. If next year’s lineup is absolutely stellar, I might make the trek to a different New England date (if one is even available). But I’m not hopeful, nor thrilled with the Palladium as of right now, and I hope attendees of other tour stops had/have a better experience than I did.