Last week, on a beautiful 4/20 evening, every black shirt in Baltimore descended onto Baltimore Soundstage for an evening of getting kicked in the teeth by some of the most talented deathcore bands working the scene today.
Also to smoke weed, but they could have done that anywhere.
Soundstage, which has big-venue sound but a more intimate atmosphere, was the perfect spot for this bill, and whoever is running the lights over there deserves a raise like, yesterday. Some of the bands I knew going in, others I heard for the first time, but all were dramatically impressive performances that left me wanting more.
Entheos (from the Greek meaning “full of the god”) kicked things off with a bombastic performance that immediately set the tone for the rest of the night. Can you remember the last time you saw crowd surfing for an opener? Because I sure can’t. It was almost certainly due to excellent crowd work from lead vocalist Chaney Crabb, who at one point called out a command to simply “mosh,” which was gladly obliged. During a brief interview, Crabb expressed her appreciation for Maryland metal heroes Dying Fetus as “the best fucking band ever.” When asked to define their genre, Crabb said “We honestly are just so obsessed with metal and music in general and we have so many different influences that it’s hard to tell. We’re just a metal band.”
Pictured above: Chaney Crabb
After an impressively quick changeover Signs of the Swarm wasted even less time by exploding onto the stage with some of the strongest metal vocals from David Simonich I’ve ever heard. I’m not sure that guy even needed a microphone, and the way he growled “Baltimore” will live for free in my head for a while. The energy from this band did not quit for their entire set, and their drummer’s calves must be hard as god damn diamonds because he didn’t let up once. The pit, unsurprisingly, stayed moving, although I did find Simonich’s constant calls for a circle pit a little excessive.Archspire is my favorite band now. No bullshit. These guys absolutely rule. If they’re not grinding, they’re shredding. If they’re not shredding, they’re chugging. Just metal as fuck all the way down. The string section doesn’t let a single note go unsed in any given song, and they’re incredibly tight while doing it. Special acknowledgement should go to their bassist Jared Smith who I now both revere for his skill and despise for making me feel entirely inadequate in my own. There are few metal bands that I would describe as “charming,” but I can’t think of any other word that fits. Vocalist Oliver Ray Aleron regularly ends songs with a simple and sweet “I love you” to the audience, and I believe he means it. About halfway through their set they brought out a Twister board for people to play with in the pit. According to Aleron, this Baltimore audience was the first one that brought it back on stage unprompted. He also told me that he’d been on acid since he was 12. I found the truth of that dubious, but not completely unbelievable. The room was brimming with energy when Whitechapel took the stage, and they put every ounce of it to use. Tonally, I’d describe the previous bands as brutal, but Whitechapel was epic. They brought things to a more melodious place on a few songs that I found hard not to compare to Perfect Circle, but that didn’t compromise on heaviness. Just incredible metal all around. Singer Phil Bozeman seemed to tower over the audience as he walked across the monitors like a mountain goat and move with the crowd, seemingly commanding them like an ocean swell. In my notes for the night, during their performance I wrote “CRUSH.” I don’t fully know what that means, but that doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate. Then just when you think you’ve had all the metal you can handle, they said “open wider” and played three encores. I don’t know if this is true for anyone else, but sometimes, as a metal fan, I’ve just got to take a step back for a little bit. Walk around a little and explore some other sounds, because if I listen to metal all the time I get burnt out a little bit. I don’t fully leave it behind, just deprioritize it for a while. Before this show, I think I was in a place like that, but pretty sure that’s over now.
Photography by: Steven Rickman
Review by: Tyler Merchant