The Summer Slaughter has historically suffered from poor lineup decisions – the -core bands clash with the death metal bands musically, and the fans of each respective style clash with each other stylistically and through their unprompted opinions given in between sets. It’s not to say that any act or genre is inherently bad, but the Summer Slaughter has never done a good job of picking bands that complement each other very well. The 2017 lineup was overwhelmingly packed with deathcore, and while I personally didn’t show up until the last three bands went on, the crowd reflected this hardcore-influenced majority perfectly. The death metal draw was not very strong this summer, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I’m very glad that I did.
The first band that I was able to see was The Faceless (I can’t comment on any band that played prior), and I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve heard nothing but bad things about their live performances: One of the most prominent members being (apparently) in the throes of a heroin addiction, major tour cancellations, and a sloppy performance whenever they actually did end up playing. However, I find their studio albums to be reasonably decent, so I embraced the opportunity to see them give it their best. The first thing I noticed was their drummer; mostly because the band themselves pointed it out, but it wasn’t exactly hard to tell that he had only learned the songs a day prior. I’m not sure where their regular drummer was, but obviously there was a conflict of some kind preventing him from being there. Despite the amateur (but unquestionably well handled) percussion, the Faceless’s set started off nicely, albeit a little boring. The fact that so much of their music relies on pre-recorded background tracks takes something away from the magic of a live experience, but it wasn’t bad by any means.
When they got into playing all three “Autotheist Movement…” tracks, the lead guitar cut out and stayed effectively silent for the remainder of the set. Their performance was already somewhat sterile, but the loss of all main riffs brought the full weight of mediocrity down upon the crowd. The beginning of what comes out to be a seventeen minute song is pretty much the worst time that that can happen, but the Faceless powered through regardless. Because Ken Sorceron, the harsh vocalist, doesn’t play any instruments and the “Autotheist Movement….” tracks feature harshes very infrequently, he was left to stand awkwardly at the front of an incomplete band, contributing nothing for long gaps of time. The crowd was not having it for the most part, but hey, at least the Faceless actually showed up. That’s more than most people were expecting, I’m sure.
Dying Fetus, on the other hand, was as professional as can be. They set up quickly, testing the levels of their instruments and decorating the stage with their Wrong One to Fuck With banners. One or two minor hiccups in the pacing of the vocals did nothing to deter their incredible performance, which surprisingly consisted of tracks from older albums. Dying Fetus was obviously promoting their 2017 album, but they didn’t overdo it by any means, playing only two new songs (if I recall correctly). The stage was dimly lit, making it hard to see them go at it with the bass and guitar. I found that a little disappointing because I’m sure it looks fantastic when they play, but at least their drummer was perfectly visible. Fetus didn’t stick around for too long, but they successfully turned things around and got the bulk of the crowd excited once again.
The Black Dahlia Murder was obviously the act that most people were waiting for, and the band wasted no time in giving it to them. Black Dahlia also set themselves up quickly, which pleased the crowd and made The Faceless look even sloppier in retrospect. Trevor Strnad didn’t bother with any lengthy banter; as soon as the glowing screen of advertisements for future shows had been pulled up, the entire floor exploded into a sea of pushing and jumping metalheads. Everything was obscenely loud, fast, heavy, and of course, sweaty as The Black Dahlia Murder chugged right through the entirety of Nocturnal. I don’t normally do much beyond some standard headbanging at live shows, but it didn’t take long for me to devolve into full Cousin Itt mode with my hair all over my face, bouncing around like a tree frog walking across hot coals. The musicianship was fairly on point, and it was always clear which track was being played. The energy of the crowd, though, was otherworldly. People are passionate about Black Dahlia, and I still have bruises all over my neck and back to prove it. When the playthrough of Nocturnal wrapped up, the crowd was treated to a brand new track titled “Nightbringers” from the band’s upcoming album. “I Will Return” off of Deflorate was chosen to close out the show, and just as quickly as their set began, The Black Dahlia Murder was off of the stage.
Even with it’s questionable lineup, the Summer Slaughter is definitely worth catching this year. If you’re only interested in the headliners, tickets still aren’t expensive enough to justify staying home. The show I attended was in Sayreville, NJ, but future dates and ticket buying options are both available through the Summer Slaughter website.