Summer Slaughter Tour has succeeded at both enlisting some of the biggest names in death metal and its off-shoot genres as well as conjure a flurry of quarreling comments about whether the lineup adheres to what its “Most Extreme Tour of the Year” tagline implies. Yet, what is often undiscussed is how generally predictable Summer Slaughter has become, both in its lineups and the arguments surrounding them. Look for a breakdown of this year’s Summer Slaughter lineup and a commentary on the tour as a whole after the jump:
Beyond Creation, Cattle Decapitation & Obscura
There actually seems to be fairly little controversy surrounding the first few slots of this year’s bill; Beyond Creation, Cattle Decapitation and Obscura are – stereotypically – loved by “elitists” and enjoyed by “scene kids.” Having them placed at the bottom of the bill may rustle some feathers, but these bands represent the “trve” criteria of a Summer Slaughter band: no “-core” and plenty of chops.
After the Burial, Veil of Maya & Born of Osiris
Considering that Ash Avildsen founded both Sumerian Records and Summer Slaughter, it should be of no surprise that several bands from the former have made their way onto the latter. Like, a lot. Sumerian’s repeat appearances include Periphery (2012 & 2013), After the Burial (2009 & 2015), Born of Osiris (2008, 2008 – Europe, 2009 & 2015) and Veil of Maya (2008 – Canada, 2010, 2010 – Mexico, 2012 & 2015). Oh, and The Faceless, who have appeared on Summer Slaughter…a few times (2007, 2008, 2009 – Australia/New Zealand, 2010, 2010 – Mexico, 2011 – Texas Dates, 2012, 2014, 2014 – Canada).
To be fair, The Acacia Strain (2010 – Mexico & 2015) and Cattle Decapitation (2007, 2013, 2015) have also appeared numerous times as well, but this obviously pales in comparison to the aforementioned Sumerian dominance of the tour, and makes the label’s bands more of an obvious and mundane choice. And while the “Sumeriancore” insults that will be levied at these bands are somewhat childish, they do speak to a clear problem of variety. After the Burial’s placement earlier in the billing will help slightly, but overall, having three of Sumerian’s heaviest hitters on one tour may make for a homogenous experience, even if their release cycles have made their selection appropriate.
The Acacia Strain
One of two oddities in the lineup, The Acacia Strain is the least technical band on the tour by a fairly huge margin. Sure, there is without a doubt crossover appeal between TAS and AtB, VoM and BoO, but there are really only two possible outcomes of TAS’ set: mosh-fodder respite from the technical bands preceding them or a boring chugfest.
With last year’s War Eternal providing the tenth installment in a nearly two decade career, Arch Enemy certainly have the tenure necessary to earn headliner status. However, while the band may still have some semblance of relevancy, recognition of this will almost certainly be vacant among this year’s crowds. Just take a look at the supporting acts tapped for their last two North American album release tours:
Devildriver and Skeletonwitch may potentially land on Summer Slaughter someday, but besides that, these tours seem indicative of a vast difference between Arch Enemy and Summer Slaughter’s audiences. This may be nice for working folks who want to leave early (if they have not already done so after Obscura), but is fairly depressing in terms of an overall tour package.
Summer Slaughter Overall
Viewed realistically, this year’s Summer Slaughter is a juxtaposition of two micro-tours with an excluded headliner. Other than the awkward placement of After the Burial, the tour will presumably have separate crowds for each half of the show and then sparse attendance for Arch Enemy.
This begs the question: what type of tour does Summer Slaughter want to be? Their current tactic of attempting to cater to every audience is causing a disjointed roster, but this should not be surprising whatsoever. “Elitists” want as few “-core” bands as possible and to have them stuffed at the bottom of the bill, but there is no denying the fact that these types of bands are popular and bolster ticket sales among “scene kids.” Furthermore, any attempt to step outside of this relatively limited level of variation – such as Summer Slaughter 2013 – will be met with a chorus of complaints calling for the tour to return to its death metal roots.
But in all honesty, it is somewhat difficult to justify the “Most Extreme Tour of the Year” title when several extreme metal subgenres – black metal, doom metal, sludge metal, post metal, grindcore, thrash metal – have had either very few or no representatives appear among past billings. There really is no format that Summer Slaughter should adhere to; if a large number people will pay to see certain bands, why would they not book them? But there is something to be said for what Summer Slaughter could be, which is something resembling the Metal Alliance Tour that explores multiple regions of extreme metal for a fresh focus each year:
Of course, all of the grumbling will subside by the time July arrives, and people will do what is typical of very concert and watch the bands they came to see and grab a beer, smoke, water, etc. during the bands that they did not. But the larger issue here is this: should the premier extreme metal tour of the year really just be a predictable selection of the biggest names in one genre year after year with numerous duplicates, or should it strive to surprise and experiment each year with a lineup that is either eclectic or starkly different than what the preceding year had to offer?