I don’t get to go to metal shows very often, so I have to pick and choose wisely. It seemed to me that Summer Slaughter’s stop fell on a Friday within a 4 hour distance and had arguably the best lineup, so that’s what I set my sights on. I was ready to have a good time, and all in all, I did.

However, things started off in the shitter. I was planning on and looking forward to interviewing The Red Chord’s Guy Kozowyk, but upon arriving at the box office I was turned away. Apparently, the guy at the ticket booth was not given any names under The Red Chord’s list, leaving me a bit confused, annoyed, and somewhat embarrassed. Seeing my genuine look of confusion, he offered to go and talk to the band and see what was up while I waited. After a few minutes had passed, he came back to tell me that there was too much going on backstage to get a hold of anyone and that it would be a good 20 minutes before he could reach anyone. I then noticed that people were being let in, so I said “I guess I’ll just buy a ticket and come back later,” and joined my friend (who had never heard of most of the bands on the bill) in line. Sadly, the shit didn’t stop there. Apparently it had hit the fan and sprayed all over the stage.

Nameless Local Band #1

Once we piled in, I was right in front for the first band’s sound check. I looked around the stage and noticed that Vital Remains weren’t going on yet. Silly me, I hadn’t even thought of the local bands. The dudes on stage seemed like your average 18-20 year olds, but I had a sneaking suspicion I was about to be treated to some generic deathcore. Boy was I ever right, and then some. An electronic track played while the band stood there with their instruments. I uttered an “oh no…” under my breath as the first open note was chugged.

The songs were built around breakdowns, electronic samples, squatting, synchronized headbanding, running in place, and a few overhead guitar throws. I caught their guitarist looking off to the side to make sure he was in sync with the rest of the band, which I thought was pretty funny. Some of the band members were even wearing blue jean cut-offs. These guys weren’t autotuned, but their squats were 6 inches away from crabcore. To make matters worse, their wirey guitarist thought it’d be a good idea to spit his water out into the crowd, which turned their set from hilariously awful to fucking gross and disrespectful to not only the audience, but to good taste. I couldn’t really catch their name, but it was something stupid like Arms for Prayer, although Google yields no results. They don’t deserve to be linked to, and I know you don’t want to hear that shit, so I stopped looking.

Nameless Local Band #2

Up next was another Cincinnati local band. They too were deathcore, but they were a few steps above the last band, which wasn’t all that hard to do; all they really needed to do was try. They had a melodic metalcore aspect to their sound and came across as a dumbed-down version of Conducting From The Grave at times, with added breakdowns all over the place. The crowd seemed to dig them a lot more than the other band, and the energy was alright. Aside from the appearance of their bassist who had a died fringe, cut off jean shorts, and painted toenails(?!). They carried themselves confidently, and I’ll give them that. They closed their set with a deathcored version of Sum-41‘s “Fat Lip”, putting breakdowns where the fast parts were. I didn’t know it was possible to make Sum-41 worse. Once again, I didn’t catch their name; probably because I don’t care.

Moral of the story? Unless you know someone in a local band or the scene is a good one, don’t bother showing up to Summer Slaughter until 3:30, as that’s when the real show starts with Vital Remains.

The Press Pass Nonsense

I began to wish I had stayed outside to see what the deal was with my press pass. Speaking of which, after the band went off, my friend and I went outside. He smoked while I checked on the status of my press pass. The ticket booth guy informed me that he was able to get a hold of someone about a guest list, but I wasn’t on it.

Oh really?

Would you look at that, I was put on the list a whole three weeks before the show. Furthermore, I received a text message the next day (apparently I got it late) from someone from Metal Blade telling me that the list was full. This means they either put too many people on the list (limited 3-5) and had to bump me off or someone more “important” than me wanted passes so I was knocked off. This makes sense from a label standpoint, and I don’t have all that room to be upset (which I’m not), but it would have been nice to be told I wasn’t on the list before the day of the show. I had been told I was getting them three weeks in advance, after all.

I know we’re far from being the biggest metal site on the internet and I’m not claiming to be important or entitled, but a decent amount of money was spent on the trip and in preparation for this interview that I was looking forward to. Needless to say, I was disappointed and bummed; but oh well, what can you do? I was going to try and enjoy the show.

Vital Remains

The first band on the actual bill was Vital Remains. Now, classic death metal isn’t my forte and I wasn’t all that familiar with Vital Remains’ music, but they should not be opening a large tour like this and deserve a higher spot on the lineup. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought so, as various people in the crowd (including Bill Robinson of Decrepit Birth) were talking about how it was bullshit. Regardless, Vital Remains seemed happy to be there, playing in the hopes of getting the younger audience into their music. You can’t fault them on their endeavor at all, and it apparently worked. They were only able to play two songs (which were pretty long), but they definitely put on a good show and got the crowd moving a bit. The band was available at their merch booth for signing and conversation for most of the night, so if you make it out to the show, be sure to give them your support.

There’s something to be said for a band that’s been around and playing for 20 years that is happy to support a slew of bands that grew up on their stuff. It takes humility and spirit, and that’s respectable. Hopefully they get a proper spot on their next tour, as they deserve it. They played excellently.

Animals as Leaders

I had been looking forward to seeing Animals as Leaders. I read that they were a highlight to the tour, but they exceeded all expectations. As they were coming on, the crowd around me were split between those that knew they were about to be blown away by Tosin Abasi‘s virtuosity and those that had no idea who Animals as Leaders were (the poor chumps).

Their set flowed so well, it was hard to notice where one song began and another ended half the time. During “On Impulse,” my friend turned to me and said “I might as well just kill myself.” Indeed, nothing could beat that moment of bliss that was in the air. If you thought their album was good, wait till you see it live; the music took life and the crowd just grooved on it. It was like seeing the face of God, only for your ears. By the time their set was over, everyone was in agreement: Animals as Leaders were fucking amazing. Their merch booth was packed with people wanting more.

If you like Animals as Leaders but dislike the rest of the lineup, go anyway. You won’t regret witnessing something so perfect. Show up at around 4:30, watch Animals, and leave if you have to. They were definitely the highlight of my evening. I went to the back and bought a t-shirt and a CD. They deserved the extra cash for that amazing performance.


And just like that, my musical shit was ruined when Carnifex came on. My friend and I went to get some drinks and leaned on a wall to the side and watched from afar. The scene kids were out in full force on this one. Fists were being thrown about like an epileptic fight club. I started to see kids in those scene mullets and tanktops running around in the circle pit. It was like a retarded NASCAR event.

The band themselves were passable for deathcore, though. Things tend to be even better in a live setting, so it wasn’t as obnoxious as I expected. Even still, they tried to follow Animals As Leaders, which made them look even worse by comparison. They know how to get an audience going, though.

Decrepit Birth

My friend and I stayed in our spot, chomping down some ice while Decrepit Birth came on. I had heard these guys before and although I thought they were enjoyable, I still wasn’t too familiar with their material. Even still, their show was great. Vocalist Bill Robinson offered to throw some copies of Polarity into the crowd, given that they show more enthusiasm and move around. The crowd seemed happy to oblige.

Like I said earlier, Bill went off on a tirade that lamented the tour for putting Vital Remains in a small opening slot despite being around for over 20 years and got the crowd to yell a big “Fuck you!” to the sound guy. Their set was heavy on the new album Polarity and ended their set with “Symbiosis” and dedicated it to all the ladies that were in the audience. If you happen to stop by their merch booth, be sure to say hello to Bill and buy a t-shirt. He’s an awesome dude.

Cephalic Carnage

Cephalic Carnage were up next, and boy do they like weed.

Once again, I was unfamiliar with their music. Their intense brand of death grind and humor made for a very entertaining set filled with crazy samples and masturbation jokes. Vocalist Lenzig Leal got the crowd to chant “WEED! WEED! WEED!” and plays air guitar like a motherfucker. Their set was fun as hell and definitely worth catching, and their stage presence was phenominal.

Veil of Maya

I made my way up front for this one, as I was looking forward to finally seeing them live. Their touring bassist Danny Hauser played a 7-string bass, which my friend didn’t even know existed. Marc Okubo’s performance was definitely impressive, playing leads into a loop pedal then playing rhythm parts over it. Getting everything spot on must be difficult; the band could have just played the lead tracks through their sampler. Good on them for not copping out and giving it their all.

They sure can command a crowd, easily getting the biggest circle pit of the night. Brandon Butler is a very competent frontman, moving around and talking to the crowd a bit. I am disappointed that they didn’t play “Namaste” from [id], but they did throw in “Dark Passenger,” which was a highlight from the album for me. They closed their set with “It’s Not Safe To Swim Today” in which everyone was anticipating.

The Red Chord

Easily the most intense and in-your-face performance of the night came in the way of The Red Chord. Guy Kozowyk’s stage banter did not disappoint, as he effectively trolled the local crowd by warning those who traveled in to see the show:

“Don’t drink the tap water here. I don’t want you guys catching the homeless.”

A mixture of laughter and ‘ooooooh’s filled the audience as they pummeled away with their set. Guy is right, Cincinnati is a shithole in some parts. It figures that after we left for the evening, I was approached by a homeless man begging for change, but that’s neither here nor there. The point I’m making is that The Red Chord were fucking great. Guy threw me a water, which almost made up for me not being able to interview him. Almost.

All Shall Perish

The one band that my friend had actually heard of an enjoyed, All Shall Perish put on a tight show. Instrumentally, the show did not disappoint, but Eddie’s vocals weren’t as good as they could have been and were often intelligible. Otherwise their set was very enjoyable, despite the drunk chick that was next to me that got a little too rowdy and was all over my friend. She was jumping up and down and almost lost her pants. I felt embarrassed for her. I hate when that shit happens. Keep your shame to yourself.

Eddie lead the crowd in a chant of their favorite things, “Titties and ASP!”. He also does a damn good Cheech impression. Their set ended with Eddie announcing that it was their guitarist Ben’s birthday. The crowd sang him happy birthday (effectively breaking copyright law?) and Guy ran back onstage and threw a pie in his face, putting the exclamation point on their set.

The Faceless

Setup and soundcheck for The Faceless took a while due to a “technical difficulty.” Guitarist Michael Keene seemed very annoyed. Guitarist Steve Jones decided to pass time by playing a sloppy version of Meshuggah’s “Bleed.” Their new bassist had an afro, which my friend absolutely loved. That’s not really all that relevant, but worth mentioning.

When they finally came on, they were absolutely amazing. They were much better than the last time I saw them on last year’s In Flames tour, and Michael’s vocal parts were actually audible. The band moved around a lot more as well, creating a better stage presence and played flawlessly. Their set included most of Planetary Duality, although they didn’t play “The Ancient Covenant”, which disappointed me. The only song they played off of Akeldama was their closing song “An Autopsy.” which disappointed me further. I’d much rather have heard “All Dark Graves” or “Leica”, but they band played amazingly and I wasn’t about to complain.


I’m probably going to catch some shit for this, but we left before Decapitated came on. Before you tell me how much I suck in the comments, remember that we were there and on our feet for around 8 hours, and I wasn’t all that familiar with their music so there was no real benefit to sticking around. We hit up some merch booths and wondered out into the streets of Cincinnati and managed to not get raped.

Overall, Summer Slaughter was a damn good show that I’d recommend seeing. There’s something here that should please just about any metal fan. Honestly, this is probably the best option we have in North America this summer. Hit this up if you can. I’m definitely glad I could make the trip to see it.

– JR


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