Protest the Hero‘s recent headlining trek featuring the likes of Periphery. Jeff Loomis, The Safety Fire, and Today I Caught The Plague is likely one of the best tours that we’ll see this year. It’s over now though, unfortunately, so if you’ve missed it, you’re out of luck. Luckily enough though, our writer Noyan and photographer Merve K. tag-teamed the Baltimore, MD stop of the tour at Sonar to give us a recap the show, below. – JR
I arrived just in time to catch Today I Caught The Plague. To be honest, their name makes them sound like they’re a bad band, but they were surprisingly good! They sounded like a mixture of Protest the Hero, keyboards, and regular metalcore. The singer was very charismatic on stage, and his voice was very impressive and powerful. The group was impressive overall, but they didn’t have much in the way of a stage presence other than the singer. I’d say they’re definitely a band to keep an eye out for. Don’t let the name fool you; they are not some random lame scene band.
Next up were The Safety Fire, which for me was the main attraction of the day. I really loved the album, and the guys seemed like they were pretty amusing dudes when I talked to them before the show [interview coming soon! – ed.], so I was intrigued. They opened with ‘Animal King‘, and their command of the audience and stage was immediately noticeable. Singer Sean McWeeney was hypnotic in a way similar way to Tommy Rogers of Between The Buried And Me, and the guitar players Dez and Jo were clearly having a lot of fun while effortlessly playing the techy songs. They followed up with my favorite song ‘Floods of Colour‘, and I, along with the entire audience, was blown away. Sean effortlessly switched between screams and cleans, everyone in the band was rocking out, and the crowd was totally into it. The slow, clean section in the middle of the song that builds up to the heavy part was very serene as the crowd waited, and then they just exploded as the song kept getting heavier and heavier.
Next up was ‘Circassian Beauties’, and the band was still going great. They followed that up with ‘DMP (FDP)‘, which was very intense as well. During the odd-time funky breakdown of the song, the guitarists and bassist kept walking around while dancing in circles, and everyone in the crowd was pretty amused. After that, they announced that they had time for one more song, and when they asked if the crowd knew what it was, everyone yelled ‘Huge Hammers!’ in anticipation. I was surprised by the recognition they were getting from the crowd and how they were energizing everyone. During the second chorus of the song, they did a crowd chant, and everyone knew the words. Everyone was riled at this point, and we had the first crowd surfer of the night too. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and so did their show, after a great setlist and a great performance. These guys clearly know what they’re doing, and they need to be experienced live. They give their songs new life, and the complaints I had about the pacing of the album were nonexistent during their live show.
GALLERY: THE SAFETY FIRE
Next up was, as announced by The Safety Fire singer Sean, “The Wizard” Jeff Loomis. I talked to Jeff before the show, and he was very sick, so I was a bit concerned about the performance, but he was as good as I’ve ever seen him (on YouTube, anyway). His playing is just out of this world, and he was absolutely flawless. The sound was pretty bad during his set, so it was a bit hard to appreciate. The bass of the sound was overwhelming, and rhythm guitarist Joe Nurre’s tone was pretty weak. Still, Jeff delivered with many of his classics. He opened with ‘Mercurial‘, followed with ‘Miles of Machines‘ (AND HE NAILED ALL OF IT), ‘The Ultimatum’, ‘Sibylline Origin’, ‘Surrender’, and finally ‘Jato Unit’. I totally wasn’t expecting ‘Surrender’ since, well, the song has Ihsahn on vocals, but they played it and Joe Nurre sang it while playing. Honestly, even though I was impressed by the performance, Joe’s voice wasn’t anywhere near Ihsahn’s, so it was a bit odd, but the song added some spice to the setlist, which is good. Overall, Jeff Loomis was indeed wizardly. Everything was fine, but combined with the bad sound and non-stop shred, the set wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought it would be. It’s probably due to Jeff being sick and the sound guy having a bad day, so I wouldn’t discount Jeff at all. It was still amazing to see the mater himself live, and I wanted to never touch a guitar again after the show.
GALLERY: JEFF LOOMIS
Following Jeff, Periphery took the stage. This was my third time seeing them, and the first two times it was impossible to hear Spencer, but I heard they had improved, so I was looking forward to it. When the band took the stage, I immediately noticed a few oddities. Spencer had a weird mohawk, and there was some guy with long hair who I’d never seen before on bass. Later during the set, Spencer announced it was guitarist Mark Holcomb’s brother Jeff Holcomb. Anyway, they went straight into the set with ‘Zyglrox‘, which is an awesome opener. Spencer’s voice was actually audible, which was good; but it was very hoarse and weird, which was bad. I don’t think he had also gotten the flu from Jeff, because his cleans sounded just fine, but his screaming voice was pretty bad. Maybe it’s tour fatigue or something, and he was still very energetic. The band’s performance was exactly the same as when I’d seen them before, so there wasn’t much change there. They’re pretty good live’ they rock out, but it’s nothing special. This time, the guitars were a bit lacking in the mix, but hey, live sound is very difficult, especially if you have 3 guitar players and samples. The played most of their classics, like ‘Frak The Gods‘, ‘Totla Mad‘, ‘Buttersnips‘, ‘Letter Experiment‘, ‘Icarus Lives!‘ and ‘The Walk‘. Honestly, I’m not that much of a Periphery fan, but I was into it during the last two songs, and the crowd was going insane. Overall, it was a good show, but their live show will likely improve with the release of their new album, because there isn’t much repeat-viewing value in their current set if you’re not a fan.
Now here’s the problem I have with tours like this. The way the lineup is ordered, Periphery are very much ‘in’ and popular right now, perhaps even moreso than headliners Protest the Hero. Everybody leaves after the popular band. It happened during Summer Slaughter, and it happened here too. It’s good in the sense that loyal fans of the headliner can get closer to the band, but it sucks for the band itself and highlights what’s wrong with the average metal listener (the fact that they’re not open to anything other than the specific bands they listen to). Protest the Hero are awesome, and it’s really unfair to them to do that. Yes, about 2/3rds of the crowd left after Periphery (it wasn’t even that late yet, it was 10:30!). PtH quickly took the stage, and opened with ‘Sex Tapes‘. At first, instead of singer Rody, The Safety Fire guitarist Derya came on stage and lip synced a bit while doing silly stuff, then Rody came onstage. Everything about the band was excellent; their playing, Rody’s voice, and their laid back yet commanding stage presence. If you’ve ever seen them before, you know what to expect. Rody makes awful jokes in between songs (in the best way possible), and the band just rules. They played a lot of their classics and their great new songs. The list went on: ‘Bloodmeat‘, ‘Termites’, ‘Goddess Bound’ ‘Goddess Gagged’, ‘Tongue-Splitter’, ‘Turn Soonest to the Sea’ (one of my favorites, and it’s awesome that they’re playing this!), ‘Limb From Limb’, ‘Hair Trigger’, ‘Blindfolds Aside’, ‘Sequoia Throne’, and finally, ‘C’est La Vie’. There’s not much to say other than “they were perfect”. You djent fans who left early really missed out.
GALLERY: PROTEST THE HERO
Finally I returned home, less tired than usual. When all the bands on the bill are good and not generic, terrible deathcore bands (which usually have one or two slots on most tours), the show is way more enjoyable and engaging. I hope there will be more tours like this in the future, basically tours that are “for music nerds/progressive metal fans, by music nerds/progressive metal fans”. It was a great show, and all the bands on were awesome, and was definitely not a tour to be missed.