Emmure delivered pure aggression. Photo: Megan Kennedy
Saturday night, I sashayed my ass through the cold and wet to check out the much-anticipated Brothers of Brutality tour at In The Venue, and I tell ya, every show I go to now just makes me feel older and older. Seeing the young kids hanging out in line, swapping brag stories of previously attended shows and mosh pit injuries—it’s like seeing yourself in the past and how stupid you were for not wearing a jacket in January’s freezing weather. But I digress—tonight was not a night for any of that cynicism. It was a night for metal therapy.
Compared to the last few shows I attended at In The Venue, and considering how well-promoted this tour and its bands are, I was surprised that the place was not very packed. For anyone wanting to stay out of the war zone, there was more than enough room in the back areas to be comfortable. I hung out back there myself while waiting to be led to the band area for my seriously sweet interview with Frankie Palmeri of Emmure, and enjoyed the sounds of local opener The Stranger Beside Me. This is a band I’ve heard a ton about, but had yet to hear, and damn I wish I hadn’t waited so long. These guys are polished, professional and fucking brutal, and are a prime example that the local extreme scene has not died. Their sound was perfect for this tour, an amalgam of early metalcore and the more chunky modern incarnations of the genre. Really looking forward to watching these dudes blow up.
Next up were Canadian outfit Obey The Brave, whose set I unfortunately missed, because of the aforementioned interview. I got back to the area just as they were wrapping up, and the crowd seemed pleased enough. The next band I caught was The Plot In You, another name without a face in my head, but the kids in the crowd seemed super stoked for them. I’m getting more impressed as time goes on with bands like this, the new wave of metalcore (when it’s done right, anyway). These dudes definitely have a great sound and lots of energy. The singer introduced his band as being from a middle-of-nowhere town in Ohio, and then launched into some lovely compliments of our fair city, including their earlier meeting with someone on the city streets wearing glow sticks and “talking about the future.” I’m far too susceptible to flattery of Salt Lake, especially when it comes from bands. I love how much they love playing here, and I think the raging crowd left an equally good impression on The Plot In You. I do wish their guitarists had been a bit more mobile and energetic onstage, but regardless, it was a solid set.
This tour has been rotating headliners, which makes it kind of a fun “guess who” game after the openers play their sets. I lost my bet on Whitechapel being next in line, and instead was surprised to see Unearth—one of my ultimate faves—gearing up for action. Compared to the rest of the tour, Unearth are the worldly gentlemen in a sea full of skinny, wide-eyed boys, but they still packed thrice the energy and charisma of the rest of the tour (with the possible exception of Emmure). That’s saying a lot for a group of guys, getting up there in years by music standards, who have toured pretty much non-stop their entire career. Their music is fierce, more melodic than the other bands on the bill, and their stage presence is fun, goofy and vigorous. More than once, guitarist Buzz McGrath stopped to pull a ridiculous face or pose for my camera. On the other side of the stage, Ken Susi was throwing his axe around and popping bubbles with his gum mid-solo, and the band joked with the crowd about the guys quarantined in the “liquor cage.” Musically, they touched on albums as far back as The Oncoming Storm, an awesome treat for a big fan like me. They delivered immaculately, as they always do, and their stage presence even left an impression on my non-fan of a boyfriend.
Suddenly, the not-so-packed venue of two hours ago seemed a distant memory. Emmure was readying to take the stage (leaving Whitechapel as the closer, another lineup surprise), and everyone was pushing forward to get a closer spot. It’s been a good two years since they’ve been to this city, and apparently, their fans have been starving. I myself am a new recruit to their fanbase, and after the incredible interview with their lead singer and hearing nothing but greatness about their live show, I was pretty jazzed. My body was not ready for the thrashing it took when they finally took the stage. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Emmure’s sound is chunky and thick and ruthless as a choir of demons. The bass and drums rattled through your bones like the whole building was collapsing; I lost count of how many times the tech crew had to run out and re-secure the drum kit with sandbags (dedicated and excellent workers all). The place went insane, crowd-surfing for the first time that night, and breaking out into pits that kept security rushing around like chickens with their heads cut off. While Unearth’s boundless energy was more of the fun-loving and don’t-take-yourself-seriously kind, Emmure’s is straight-up anger. Palmeri stomped and jumped around the stage like a man possessed, his flanking guitarists constantly hovering and switching sides. The crowd was in primal bliss. Having never seen Emmure live myself, they blew me away. I was, of course, excited to hear Palmeri brag some more about our city and how we always tear the place down every time they visit. Makes your heart swell up with pride. The only disappointment was not in them, but in the crowd, in that a large chunk of them flat out left after Emmure’s set was over.
And they really missed a hell of a closer. This is my third Whitechapel show in six months (don’t be jealous), and I was just as excited as the first time. This group has gained a lot of traction in the last few years, and has been touring incessantly. They’re professional and consistent in their live shows, and Phil Bozeman is one of my favorite vocalists to watch onstage with his predatory body movements and steely gaze. (His demeanor belies the fact that he’s an absolute gentlemen in person.) I love seeing that juxtaposition in performers, when the second they get onstage, they become the living personification of their music (a trait also demonstrated by Frankie Palmeri in spades). Plus, their drummer was the lucky guy of the night that got a giant-ass riser to play on. They still had a pretty big crowd when they finally took the stage, something not lost on Bozeman who thanked Salt Lake for “always giving 100 percent no matter how many bands are playing.” They launched into tracks from their newest self-titled record as well as old favorites, ripping apart whomever had been lucky enough to survive Emmure without rattled muscles and ringing ears. Every song sounded flawlessly performed and every member gave his all, shredding through songs like “I, Dementia” and “Possibilities of an Impossible Existence.” I was stoked that they got to headline for us—they damn well deserved it.