Advertised as the most extreme tour of the year, Summer Slaughter 2017 definitely lived up to the name.
Portland, Oregon, a typically mild weathered place, was hot. Really hot! The line to get in was long, but the venue was efficient. I was very far back in the line before the doors opened, worried that I’d miss Boudica. But the venue came through and got us in, just in time to see the first band.
Local heavyweights, Boudica, were in top form, and provided a nice start to the show. It was early in the day, so the crowd wasn’t quite in full force…and that was a shame, because Boudica was as good as many on this delightful lineup. Vocalist Gillian Povey is extremely talented. She a cross between bad ass and humble, and she ruled the stage. With all eyes on her, she channeled the queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe. Pure, real, believable, and genuine are the words I’d use to describe Boudica, (oh, and don’t forget heavy)! You can tell that every member of this band breaths metal. Musically they are great; vocally, Gillian is amazing. Where many female metal singers have to “try,” Povey is a natural.
It was here that I secured my spot for the night as many headed to the bar to cool off and get a beverage.
With my new spot secured, I prepared to see a band that I was unfamiliar with: France’s Betraying the Martyrs. I love it when music infiltrates you so quickly and forcefully. They were amazing, and my third favorite band of the night. Super modern, and energetic, Aaron Matts was absolutely the star of this set. Possibly the future of hardcore, his intimidatingly cool presence stood out among his other very talented band mates. I could feel Betraying the Martyrs’ breakdowns in every cell of my body…and it felt great. I don’t usually “bounce,” but I did on this night when Matts called for it. The entire crowd did, as well, and it felt as if the floor would buckle.
Lorna Shore, from New Jersey, was up next. They were my least favorite of the night, but that is just because they were in such exquisite company. Likely on a solo tour, they would be outstanding. From metalcore, to their progression of deathcore, their elements of black metal were intriguing and they are gifted in their style of deathcore. But, like I said, in this company of quintessential extreme bands, they just didn’t stand out as much as the others. There was one element that did stand out in Lorna Shore, however: That element was Drummer Austin Archey; Absolutely fantastic to watch. I must say, they were the only band brave enough to stage dive into the arms of a rabid Portland crowd, and that, in itself, was unique. Their energy was great and they fit the bill fine. Perhaps following Betraying the Martyrs, and in anticipation of Origin, they just had unfortunate placement.
The venue was quite full at this point, and it was HOT! The smells (and I say smells rather than smell intentionally) from my fellow music lovers arrived, as did the wetness of their bodies. I could see friends arriving from where I stood, but I wasn’t moving from my most pristine spot: front row, smashed against the left side of the stage.
Oceano hit the stage with a vengeance. I’d seen them in 2011, but not since, and I can say that they have significantly improved. The power of Adam Warren is undeniable. While he is a normal sized man, there is something about him that makes you think he is a giant. In the, “take no bullshit,” non-verbal conversation he had with the crowd in his 20-30 minutes set, Warren and his bandmates ruled with a big metal fist. Frantic, heavy, and extreme…. all adjectives I can proudly stand by to describe the power force that is Oceano. Environmentally aware, Warren explained the meaning behind a new song that they rolled out for us… “If you aren’t concerned and doing something about protecting our environment, then you are part of the problem and you need to kill yourself now…or die like the rest of us because of what you are causing.” It’s not an exact quote, but I captured his sentiment.
I really needed water at this point, but refused to leave my post to get it. More friends surrounded me and cushioned me by providing me with an unintentional semi-circle human barricade. I loved that they were there, however I was willing to endure whatever the mosh pit brought, because I’d never seen Origin live, and I love them. I discovered their music while I was living in South Africa, but I never thought I’d see them live.
If I didn’t love Dying Fetus so much, I’d say Origin was by far my favorite band of the night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band with this much positive aggression and energy. The 20-30-minute set felt like I had just survived a natural disaster. When writers use the term “melting your face off” to describe brutal music, if they have never seen Origin, they really have no idea what that term means. It took everything I had to keep my feet planted on the ground. It was here that old-school moshers danced with the younger hardcore group. It was here where bodies flew, and bodies fell, and it was awesome. I sort of at a loss for words on how to describe the force that is Origin. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard or seen. They are beyond the given label of technical death metal. Their sound is harsh and extreme, yet so well executed and full that it’s beautiful. It’s like this: When you listen to Origin, especially live, it feels as if a virus has entered your body and you are now one with it. You don’t feel the same as you did before. Ok, maybe not a virus, (because that is unpleasant and Origin is extremely pleasant). Let me try it again: Like an ingested hallucinogenic that takes you on a mind (and ear) bending trip, that lasts until the music stops. It is a beautiful trip, and you don’t want to come down from it. They were absolutely brutal and fantastic.
At this point in the night, all of my makeup had run down my face and my hair was “just out of the shower wet.” Bodies were pressed up against my back and I actually felt a bit nauseous from the lack of water, the pounding I’d taken, the smells, and the heat. But, I was about to see what I came for! Dying Fetus. I spoke with a member of the venue and they said they did have to carry some people out due to the heat.
I’ve always loved Dying Fetus’ music, but they are particularly special to me. As I approach my 75thprofessional band interview, it was Trey Williams of Dying Fetus who was my very first. Looking fit, rested, and playing sharp, John, Sean, and Trey were perfection. Giant black banners provided the backdrop to both Sean and John. They were simple yet profound. They simply said: “Wrong One To Fuck With,” which is also the name of their eighth album that was released earlier this summer. Just five minutes into their set, you could feel the heat radiate off them. Sweat was flying from the stage through their circular chugging grove-driven organized mayhem. There is no band like Dying Fetus, and there never will be; they are the masters at what they do. Trey was spot on, fast, animated, and technically great. While he was hidden behind the set, you could see his hair flying, and his arms and legs moving at super-human speed. But for him occasionally standing up to rile the crowd, you almost never saw his face. Sean, with his statuesque presence and guttural and sometimes piercing vocals (that sound completely like an alien language at times) sunk deep into my brain. Mature, deliberate, and brutal…Beasley is definitely the master at death metal bass and vocals. The back and forth between Sean and John was beautiful. Halfway through the show, John said, “This isn’t our stage, it’s your stage…come up,” and Portland did, in force. At times, Dying Fetus had some extra members on stage. The awesome venue staff crouched down next to Trey, or stood stage left until they were needed. I watched them smile and gently assist stage jumpers off their backs, delicately coach them from the stage back into the arms of the crowd, and on quite a few occasions, they kept the stage divers’ feet from penetrating Trey’s kick drums. John’s Dying Fetus is not just three men who play in a brutal death metal band. On this night, Dying Fetus was one entity. Fluid, complete, united, connected…one breathing creature of brutal death metal, done the way it is supposed to be done. Obviously, it was my favorite part of the night.
At this point I was completely drenched in my own sweat as well as the gallons of perspiration provided by everyone around me. I had a beer spilled down my back by a blindsided mosh victim (but it felt great). My hip bones were tired of being crushed against the stage. My feet needed to move out of their concreted stance, so we retreated to the back. We were not as clean, dry, or energetic as we were when we first arrived, but we were anxious for The Black Dahlia Murder. We toured the merch tables, and picked up merch from almost every band. Pop music played in the background, and the lights went dim. I hadn’t seen TBDM since my snafu in my interview with them in 2011 or 2012. I interviewed the entire band back then, and it went really well. With the recorder running, we strayed from my prepared questions and began having a chat about influences. The Beatles were brought up. In a natural back and forth conversation, I gave my two cents (which is where it all went wrong). I said, “I don’t like The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Byrds, The The…. actually, now that I think about it, I don’t like any band that starts with ‘The.’” They all looked at me with a blank stare. One of them politely said, as he cleared his throat, “We are THE Black Dahlia Murder.” I wanted to die. I thought they were Black Dahlia Murder, sans the THE. Luckily, they were classy guys, with a sense of humor, and we all had a good laugh. To date, that is my one big “oops” moment, and I’ll always remember it. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of “Nocturnal,” they played it in its entirety. Having seen them before, I knew it would be brutal. I naively thought the under 21 section would be mild in comparison to where I had just had been. I was sorely mistaken. With merch tables all around and a metal barricade that separated those who were old enough to drink from those who were not, the kids went ballistic. I was as far back in the venue as you could get, and I could still feel the vibration from the music in my chest and nose. THE Black Dahlia Murder proved they were indeed deserving to headline this much loved festival. They gave us everything we expected, and more.
I figuratively take my hat off to the promoters of Summer Slaughter (because I don’t really ever wear a hat). With a dream lineup of punishingly hard metal, you are the masters of bringing us the best of the best, and the most brutal of the brutal. In 2017’s Summer Slaughter, you gave us a dream lineup that I can’t believe I actually witnessed together; it was a very special night.