Thursday, April 26, In The Venue hosted one of the most anticipated death metal tours to hit Salt Lake this year: the This Is Where It Ends tour, featuring openers Conducting From The Grave, The Contortionist, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Carnifex and headliners All Shall Perish. I’ve been waiting for this show for months, and some fans, for years. All Shall Perish are one of my favorite bands and this is the first time I’ve seen them in my hometown (though I was lucky enough to catch them at Mayhem Fest last summer. The place was humming with excitement from the second you walked in the door. It’s both weird and awesome to see how young the metal crowd has become at these shows. Watching the next generation get the live experiences that will turn them into lifelong metalheads, band members, producers, and journalists is pretty fucking awesome. This was one of the craziest crowds I’ve seen in a while, and everyone was stoked to be there.
A prior engagement unfortunately delayed me from getting to the show until The Contortionist had already wrapped up their set, and this was definitely the low point of the evening—I love those progressive, sci-fi motherfuckers, and they put on an amazing show when touring with Periphery and The Human Abstract last September; I was sorry to have missed them. With a new album already recording, hopefully that means they’ll be back sooner rather than later. The good news is, I was just in time to get my first taste of Italian-based Fleshgod Apocalypse, and holy shit! These dudes are brutal! I love the melodic death metal in their sound, and while the stage show/costume is a tricky thing to pull off, these guys did it in a classy way that didn’t give them any vibes of taking themselves too seriously: simple eveningwear of the gentleman (deliberately shredded, of course), some light corpsepaint, and voila! This visual juxtaposition matches the feel of their sound with its romantic-esque Gothic symphonics and melodies that, incidentally, don’t do a goddamn thing to soften the thick and suffocating blast beats and speed-riffing beneath. The high, almost operatic clean vocals joined with the traditional deep screams were also a surprise, and added a completely supernatural dimension to the music. They weren’t terribly jumpy or energetic on stage, but they certainly had the most technical sound of anyone on the tour (minus possibly The Contortionist) and I can’t imagine that shit is easy to play without having feet on solid ground. But judging by the pits, the crowd enjoyed them just fine anyway, and I’m definitely keeping an eye on this band in the future.
Next up: Carnifex, the band name that always makes me think of a dinosaur metal group… which I would seriously love to happen one day, if anyone can, you know… make that happen. But I digress: the band was not made of dinosaurs, but of some incredibly impressive dudes whose technical and traditional brand of death metal is mean, fast and heavy as fuck. I absolutely love the unrepentant darkness and violence in their lyrics. Vocalist Scott Lewis is crazy on stage—His deep pig squeals are so badass! They totally ramped up the energy after the comparably stiff Fleshgod, gathering the biggest crowd and pits up to that point. I was super impressed with drummer Shawn Cameron and his aggressive speed on the kit, plus his bass drum was tuned very nicely to sound like a shotgun blast to the chest with every beat. Their performance and songs were cinematic in their creativity and expression, and in a way that is rare in metal, a certain je ne sais quoi that is a welcome layer on their mostly straightforward, traditional sound. Whereas Fleshgod was unrelenting in its speed riffing and double-bass, Carnifex brought out the ferocious breakdowns and time change-ups that make for awesome pits and audience participation. If I had to guess, I’d say the majority of the crowd was wearing Carnifex shirts, and they came out in full force to show love for their band. Even at this point of the show, I knew this was one of the most solid tour bookings I’ve seen this year, and the crowd devoured every band with verve.
This is where your fearless narrator let out the most primal of her inner metalness , when All Shall Perish was finally set to take the stage. I shoved my way forward, where I remained in front of the incredible guitarist Ben Orum for the entire set. When ASP came on stage, the crowd went insane, making the impressive response to Carnifex look like a sacrament meeting, and I commenced set-long headbanging that my neck is still paying for. All Shall Perish has a huge energy onstage, with almost no in-between song banter from vocalist Eddie Hermida, opting instead to leave only the slightest of breathing room between their brutal songs. Everyone in the crowd lost their minds; there was screaming, chanting, huge pits opening and even one guy literally climbing the beam in the middle of the floor. Horns were thrown up, and everyone threw down. I got chills when the breakdown of “Gagged, Bound, Shelved and Forgotten” approached and everyone in the place yelled along with Eddie: “We’ve degredated to violence!”
Their set was, surprisingly, not dominated by songs off their newest album This Is Where It Ends, though they did include a few key tracks “Royalty into Exile” and single “There Is Nothing Left.” I’ve gotta admit, I was dying to hear “Procession of Ashes”—next time, kids! Of course they included such staples as “Wage Slaves,” “Eradication,” and the incredible title track off their 2008 masterpiece Awaken the Dreamers. The absolute biggest treat was that the band closed with epic track “The Last Relapse” off their 2006 album “The Price of Existence”—hands down one of the best songs of their career, and a song that they played with songwriter and former guitarist Chris Storey only once during his interim with the band. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d get to hear them play this one live, let alone in front fucking row screaming my throat raw and watching Orum shred inches from my face. This is a show I will remember forever—and so will the band, it seems, since they named Salt Lake one of their top five dates on this cross-country headlining tour. I think it’s safe that they will return, and SLC will be there to make them glad they did.