Published Oct 07, 2014With Alterbeast stopped at the border, Chelsea Grin took the stage earlier than they would have otherwise, a shock to much of the audience and apparently the promoters too, who still hadn't let in much of the line when the band started. The late entry proved to be a blessing in disguise, as immediately upon entry attendees were assaulted with an uncompromising low-end. Bass was prevalent during Chelsea Grin's set, which was a conundrum given the three guitars that failed to add much melody (save for the occasional, tasteful noodling from guitarist Jason Richardson, the performance's lone bright spot).
A lack of movement amongst the instrumentalists might have been understandable due to lack of space, though removal of the dual scrims would have been a better solution. Vocalist Alex Koehler's rapper-esque movements felt like Despised Icon's stage presence dragged through molasses, and did little to supplement the remaining members' stagnancies. Sure, the band sounded tight and heavy — as far as you could tell through the bass drops and brutally slow breakdowns — but by the time they left the stage, it was next to impossible to remember anything from the set, unless you left the wall of death with a bruise.
It was interesting seeing Chelsea Grin open up for Suicide Silence, a band that the former spent their early years carbon copying; next up was the real deal. Well, sort of: After the tragic passing of former frontman Mitch Lucker and some time to regroup, Eddie Hermida (ex-All Shall Perish) took the throne, inheriting The Black Crown from the former fan favourite. The first couple of songs were culled from Hermida's recorded debut, this year's You Can't Stop Me, but, odlly enough, his voice seemed ill-equipped to bring them to life. Even vocal effects, such as echoes, couldn't save the songs. Fortunately, "No Pity for a Coward" kicked in and the audience joined in and filled out chants of "you coward" and the ending salvo of, "Seconds from the end, what's it going to be? Pull the trigger, bitch."
By the end of the hit, mixing issues were worked out, aside from the overbearing bass drops that peppered the entire set, and Hermida's voice was as powerful as his tenure in All Shall Perish proved it can be. Pitting the left and right sides of the crowd against each other, he coaxed them into a competition of who could yell, "Wake up, wake up!" louder than their counterpart half. Throughout "Unanswered," "Fuck Everything" and "Bludgeoned to Death" (complete with Family Guy sample intro) the band seemed invigorated, with whiplashing windmills taking place in between criss-crossings of the stage. Unfortunately Hermida's vocal prowess alone couldn't fill the void left by Lucker, whose antics on stage provided much of the band's appeal and distracted from the simpler music. There were some more ups and downs, as Hermida's vocals seemed better fitted for some songs than others. But ultimately, that his humble thanks to fans welcoming him into the fold was met with a chant of his name spoke volumes.
Despite co-headlining status, the anxious anticipation leading up to the Black Dahlia Murder's set certainly cemented that placing the Michigan mavens of (melodic) death metal last was the right choice. Taking the stage to the introduction of "In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me," a standout track from last year's Everblack about the crime from which the band took their moniker, vocalist Trevor Strnad began the set waving his arms as he often does. Looking tough is certainly not the goal for this band, nor is sounding the part, at least outside of the crushing music and vocals themselves; chants of "Hey!" that resounded throughout sounded more fun than funereal.
Plowing through "Elder Misanthropy," "A Vulgar Picture" (lovingly referred to as a song "about fucking the dead") and "Everything Went Black," Strnad pointed at fans and danced around, perhaps appearing slightly goofy to some but smiling just the same. The chants of "Hey!" increased in volume alongside bursting audience engagement. However, founding riff master Brian Eschbach still managed to crack a joke at the expense of the people nearer the back, saying he's sorry the balcony isn't open to allow them to be farther away. He quickly turned this around and invited the crowd to move forward before stomping them under "Into the Everblack." As the show went on, Strnad took his shirt off and continued his role as the mad conductor, while the rest of the band quietly maintained the energy behind. By the time they played "Miasma," the crowd was chanting with no direction necessary. When the band demanded the mother of all Canadian circle pits for "Deathmask Divine," the request was met and then some. "Funeral Thirst," "Closed Casket Requiem," "Statutory Ape" and "What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse" made up the rest of the band's fan-voted songs.
The only lament is that, despite allowing a fan vote for their top songs off Black Dahlia's first three albums, many of the chosen songs ended up being the ones that usually grace the band's setlist anyway. Still, it's a minor complaint. The set that was otherwise engaging and fun, as proven by the crowd's demand for an encore (that was unfortunately not met) by the end of closer "I Will Return."