July 20, 2009

Concert Review: Unearth w/ For the Fallen Dreams, Woe of Tyrants, Starring Janet Leigh (Poughkeepsie, NY 7/17/09)

Unearth is one of those bands that I was a little slow to discover. To be honest, I was caught a little behind the eight-ball as metalcore began its rise to prominence some years ago with the likes of Unearth, Killswitch Engage, and Shadows Fall. Still, once I discovered it, these upper echelon bands of the genre stood out like a sore thumb, but in a good way. Since my discovery I have had the pleasure of seeing Unearth a total of three times, twice back in 2007 and then this past Friday night. Each time has spawned a memorable performance filled with high energy and top notch performances.

This evening began earlier than the time stated at The Chance's website. This faux pas caused me to miss the first two bands. They were local acts selected to join the main touring party, and from what I heard, they both put on good performances, even acknowledged by the main acts. The two bands were Trapnote and Talionis. The former I have seen on a few occasions, but not in quite some time, but they were definitely on the rise the last time I saw them. Hopefully I will get a chance to see them at some point in the near future. The other, Talionis, is a name I have seen, but have not yet heard them. One of the band members was passing out samplers after the show, so I snagged one of them, but have not yet listened.

As I walked into the club, Starring Janet Leigh was getting ready for their set. They were in the process of finishing their sound check, so I headed straight for the bar and got myself a Heineken. You know, just a little something to get the evening going. I the proceeded down to the middle level of the small club, bordering the pit in front of the stage, so as to get a good view of the stage.

Almost like they were cued, no sooner had I taken up residence in the best spot I could find, the Canadian metal outfit tore into their set. I mean "tore" quite literally. For about 25-minutes, Starring Janet Leigh were a metallic force to be reckoned with. They are a fusion of death, extreme, progressive, grind, and even a little jazz, the end result being totally mesmerizing and considerably different than your normal metal experience. The vocals are of the typical growled variety, but what makes them standout are the musicians. In particular, the guitar and drums were spectacular. The drummer was blazing fast and was all over the kit playing odd riffs and time signatures, ripping through roles, slowing down to play soft jazz patterns before immediate acceleration back into the heavy stuff. Meanwhile, the guitars were all over the place, using a variety of different sounds within each song, it was like he was tap dancing over the foot pedals in addition to keeping his fingers flying over the right notes. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Next up was Woe of Tyrants, hailing from Ohio, this up and coming act has just begun its march across America. They debuted in 2007 with an independent release and made their national debut this year with Metal Blade records. Much like Starring Janet Leigh, they wasted no time getting out there and ripping up the stage. The five-piece brought heavy death/metalcore sounds to the crowd in relentlessly brutal fashion.

These guys new one speed, fast. At no point do they slow down, take a breath, nothing. As good as the were, I fear they may burn out fast. It has to do with vocalist Chris Catanzaro, he is going all out from the first word, the way he distorts his voice into these twisted growls, I fear he is going to destroy his vocal cords. Everything was at a high level, you could see his throat straining, the veins pulsing, and his face turning red. It is actually kind of scary. I hope that he finds a safer way of singing because this band is good and I would hate to see them get sidelined by blown vocal chords. It would not be the first time in recent years a singer has had to modify his style.

The final warm up act was For the Fallen Dreams. They arrived on stage with no less energy than the two bands prior, but there was something about them that I did not particularly care for. The music just did not hit me with any force. Maybe it was the mix, maybe they were off their game, perhaps I just genuinely didn't care about it. Whatever the truth is, despite the energy with which they attacked the stage and the love being given back by the crowd, I just did not connect. It did seem like I was on the outside looking in, considering the warm reception they received. Frankly, I do not have much to say about them, aside from knowing they will be back in town in a few weeks with the Thrash and Burn tour that is being headlined by Devildriver.

DSC00110Finally, the band that everyone in the smallish crowd was waiting for, the mighty Massachusetts-bred Unearth! Which brings me to a point before going any further. Where was everybody? Sure, there were people there, but not enough. With Unearth playing that place should have been packed to the sky. It was embarrassing for the local metal fan community to have such a light turnout. Reminds me of not long ago when Shadows Fall sold a total of 17 tickets and had to cancel. I know the economy isn't the greatest and many (most) shows are not selling out, but I am sure we could have had a better showing than we had. Now, on with the show!

Unearth is an amazing act, their music perfectly blends the brutality of hardcore and the technical precision of metal. They mix until ready and serves as many as will have it or can stand it This performance was as good or better than the prior two times. They went at it with reckless abandon, brutal when they needed to be, precise when they needed to be, but always playing to the crowd.

It Buz McGrath is a wild man on stage, running around, ripping through riffs and leads, mooning the audience, jumping off his speaker cabinet, he will not be contained. Meanwhile, Trevor Phipps is a solid frontman, keeping everyone involved with the festivities while growling, screaming, and singing his lungs out.

When their set ended, the small but loud crowd would have none of it, imploring them to come back for "One-More-Song" (and repeat). This eventually got the lights flashing in time followed by the band's return to the stage for just that, one more song. They closed the night strong, performing perfectly and leaving the crowd thirsting for more.

The set list included such songs as "My Will Be Done," "Giles," "Sanctity of Brothers," "Endless," "This Time was Mine," "Crow Killer," "Zombie Autopilot," "We Are Not Anonymous," and "Black Hearts Now Reign."

Click HERE to see a photo gallery of pictures I took of Unearth.


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