Show Review

Summer Slaughter 2014 @ The Agora 08/02/2014

Lisa Sanchez
Saturday, August 2, The Agora housed one of the most brutal festivals of the season, Summer Slaughter Tour. The lineup features a wide range of bands, new and old school, underground rookies and seasoned veterans, Summer Slaughter 2014 had enough bands for everyone, including Origin, Goatwhore, Thy Art Is Murder, The Faceless, Dying Fetus, Morbid Angel, and many more.
One thing you need to know about Summer Slaughter is it's like an endurance test for metal heads. It doesn't have the same big-name acts like Mayhem Fest or Ozzfest of yesteryear, but it breeds a more die-hard crowd that always brings an amazing atmosphere. But, it's inside, so you don't have freedom to roam like an outside pavilion. Plus, no matter what venue houses Summer Slaughter it always ends up smelling like sweat soup with beer breath. Don't start drinking at noon when the doors open because you'll be passed out cold by 5:00pm before any good bands even come on. Rookie mistake.
Although there were a myriad of impressive bands on the tour's Cleveland lineup, the last three or four are the crucial ones. You've got the headliners, the band before the headliners, which is who everyone is actually there to see, and the guys who face the harrowing task of playing to an almost passed-out pit despair. They've been standing all day. They're hot. Everyone here is a poser. Life is hard.

However, Thy Art Is Murder and The Faceless took up the task with killer performances. Although Thy Art Is Murder generally take flak from metal elitists for sounding like pretty much every deathcore band ever, I have to give them credit for moving the crowd, including executing a Wall of Death, a crowd control technique which never ceases to make me laugh. Lead singer CJ McMahon gestured and danced around the stage like an angry Australian Jack Sparrow, while the rest of the band delighted the crowd with their ability to all become crabs at the same point in the song. It was a pretty standard, and a bit cliche, but the crowd was into it. Proving that you can reinvent an entire genre as long as your fans are 15.
Next, The Faceless delivered technicality and unending riffs with their set, disproving the rumors that they may actually just be beat-machine robots in man suits, although lead singer Geoffrey Ficco may have some bodily anomalies going on because I'm 100% convinced he doesn't have a spine. The man head banged so hard I'm pretty sure the back of his head touched the heal of his sneakers. If you haven't seen The Faceless live, quit your job and hitchhike to their next gig because it is an experience you don't want to miss out on. You'd think such dense tech-death metal would be hard to get into live, but The Faceless pulled it off. Then they pulled it back on and everyone lost their minds.
Finally, the band I suspected everyone was there for, judging by the sudden increase in crowd size, Dying Fetus. I've seen Dying Fetus several times over the past decade and they always do the same thing. Which is nothing. Dying Fetus just stand there like the pillars of death metal that they are. Don't get me wrong, they shred faces to no end. But, if I wanted to watch 3 middle-aged dudes stand around looking bored I'd go to a Blink-182 show and laugh at the toddlers with mohawks. Apparently Dying Fetus is doing something right though because the crowd was ecstatic and constantly in a state of motion. Maybe that's the key; Dying Fetus is so good they make you do the work for them. They just changed the whole game.
By the time the headliners, Morbid Angel, took the stage half of the attendance had taken off. When you have a 12-hour day filled with grueling bands and relentless drunk people screaming "Slayer!" in the bathroom, you just give up. Not many people, myself included, expected much from Morbid Angel to begin with considering their last album was the equivalent of a pentagram-covered miscarriage.
But, joke's on us because Morbid Angel actually kicked every ass from Cleveland down to Cincinnati. Firstly, they were decked out for the occasion. Morbid Angel was ready to remind the crowd why they were legends. Lead singer David Vincent was wearing some beyond-reason leather pants, plus he had a mane of hair somewhere between Elvis and...well, David Vincent. In fact, I think half of all the profits from ticket sales went to support Morbid Angel's hairstyles. I won't say they were pretty, but they were definitely deliberate.
The most important part of Morbid Angel's performance was their content. They played some classics like "Maze of Torment" and "Immortal Rites". The band took the smart route and didn't play any of their new stuff; they just let the crowd enjoy the songs that had made the band extreme metal pioneers. Drummer Tim Yeung is easily the best percussionist I have ever seen live. He killed every note of the classic songs and did it with stick flips and a head of hair that I will be envious of until the day I die.
The big kicker about Morbid Angel was their overall stage presence. Every member was constantly captivating, so I just stood in a state of disbelief, looking at a band, which had influenced all of my favorite modern musicians, and they still played like this material was new to them. I want David Vincent to narrate my life. In an alternate universe he would have been a Southern Baptist preacher, he has the perfect voice and cadence for it. That association makes Morbid Angel's performance that much better. He talked to the crowd like old friends. He was theatrical and introduced every song accordingly. He even did the dramatic laughs and pauses that make Morbid Angel's songs memorable This dude has been performing for as long as I have been alive and he's still keeping it interesting.
In the end, my expectations were met ten-fold. I watched bands I had never seen live before as well as familiar acts and they're always worth watching, even if each band's style is different. I found a new/old favorite in Morbid Angel and learned new ways to willfully not smell my surroundings. All in all, it was a pretty great show.