Fleshgod.jpg
Fleshgod Apocalypse. They looked scarier in person.
Summer Slaughter Fest 2011

King Cat Theater (Presented by Studio Seven)

Tuesday, July 26

For 10 hours, sweaty,

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Fans Embrace Devil Horns and 10 Hours of Metal, Last Night at King Cat Theater

Fleshgod.jpg
Fleshgod Apocalypse. They looked scarier in person.
Summer Slaughter Fest 2011

King Cat Theater (Presented by Studio Seven)

Tuesday, July 26

For 10 hours, sweaty, shirtless guys reeking of testosterone and equally sweaty but substantially more clothed gals held devil horns in the air, stuck their middle fingers to the sky, and pushed and shoved to the beat of 10 of the biggest metal acts in America (and Italy, for that matter).

The self-proclaimed "Most Extreme Tour of the Year," The Summer Slaughter Tour, found a perfect resting place in Seattle at the King Cat Theater. The venue's substantial standing room allowed for chaotic 30-foot circle/mosh pits, and in the back of the house sat hundreds of movie-theater-style seats (which conveniently scooted inward for those who come-and-go 30 times an hour).

Below is a rundown of all 10 bands who performed, complete with a visual aid or two for the sake of imagination. (With bands like Dying Fetus and Fleshgod Apocalypse on the bill, a visual aid is just what you were hoping for.)

Within the Ruins

Metalcore five-piece Within the Ruins opened the Fest at 3 p.m. and was never quite able to perk up the crowd for more than a few minutes at a time. The Massachusetts band struggled early on to get a footing, with vocalist Tim Goergen's screams cracking beneath a hurricane of guitar noise. On CD, WTR is a metal powerhouse, featuring enough tempo changes and spine-cracking breakdowns to make them a serious contender for a headline spot on Summer Slaughter 2012. The problem is, when a band is only given 20 minutes to sell themselves to the crowd, the assumption would be they'd pick their best 20 minutes worth of material. Unfortunately, the band was a tad lost in translation--all that speed and talent amounted to nothing more than a fit of noise and an anger problem.

Angriest quote of the set: "Is God real in fucking Seattle today?" said Goergen with a middle finger in the air. "Fuck no!"

Fleshgod Apocalypse

In matching suits and bow ties that appeared to have come off legit dead bodies in 1885, Italian technical death-metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse had the crowd in a constant state of awe. Each member had a painted brownish-black face, and their suits were littered with holes and dirt--again, as if they had just crawled out of a grave. (There's a theme building here.) Though many metal bands have the art of fast riffs and double pedal down pat, it was Fleshgod's consistent image that made the performance one of the best of the night. To go with the whole post-mortem vibe, the band featured eerie, ominous synth that sounded like it could have been featured on the soundtrack to the 1958 film Dracula.

Oceano

Deathcore five-piece Oceano shifted the mood back from death metal to the land of almost-hardcore. At first, the band appeared to be another angsty metal act with nothing more than a penchant for fast strumming. However, as soon as vocalist Adam Warren opened his mouth, it was evident why the Chicago band has been gaining so much attention: The guy is everything you could want in three frontmen combined into one. Warren flawlessly switched from belly-rumbling pig squeals to high, raspy screams all while pacing the stage back and forth, staking out his territory.

Angriest quote of the set: "Your prayers will never be answered, cause God doesn't fucking exist," Warren said.

As Blood Runs Black

In an ideal world, As Blood Runs Black would have played for the first two hours of the night, not 20 minutes. Lead by vocalist Sonik Garcia, the Los Angeles five-piece took the stage by storm, turning the notch up from "band playing fast noise" to "this is what metal should sound like." Garcia's vocal range was absurd, as the smallish guy belted out some of the deepest, most epic vocals of the evening before spewing off a quick series of high shrills at a firecracker's pace. The entire set was a breath of fresh air, and fans were responding accordingly by continuously climbing onto the stage and stage diving (much to the dismay of the security detail trying to keep everyone calm). ABRB also ushered in the first "wall of death" of the evening--a highly anticipated (and probably really dangerous) event at any metal show.

Here's a "wall of death" at a Born from Pain concert in 2003.

At the vocalist's command, fans in the mosh pit separate to either side of the room, creating a massive 30-foot gap of space on the floor. Right as the band hit its major breakdown, everyone runs as fast as they can to the middle, slamming into each other until the whole pit is one big pile of moshing mush.

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Powerglove

You know you're in for a long day when a music festival has half-time entertainment. Donning comically large spiked shoulder pads and a set of flags adorned with skulls, Boston instrumental power-metal band Powerglove lightened the atmosphere from hating God to childhood pleasures. More specifically, the four-piece played metal covers of popular video game songs, including Mega Man X, Tetris, and Pokemon. The band also laid the groundwork for some faux bloodshed. While playing the theme song to Mortal Kombat, Powerglove threw out blowup swords and hammers and demanded the crowd engage in a battle. Sadly, due to miscommunication, the band's set ended abruptly. That didn't stop the crowd from erupting into a chant of "One more song!" It didn't work.

Dying Fetus

Maryland death metal band Dying Fetus came out to a crowd on the verge of popping. The three-piece dabbled in low squeals and shrill highs, and played like a pretty monotonous speed-metal band with nothing exciting to offer. It's hard to say they did anything "bad," though, because it pretty much just comes down to taste. If you like your metal fast, brutal, and incoherent, it was a field day. Otherwise, prepare for a 20-minute nap.

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under vocalist Chris Barnes is a bit of a bigwig in the metal world, having fronted death-metal giant Cannibal Corpse from its inception in 1988 through his release in 1995. The singer is known for his gravelly, low voice, and SFU's performance seemed to have the constant attention of everyone in the crowd. (Though, let's be real--the guy helped pen songs called "I Cum Blood," "Addicted to Vaginal Skin," and "Post Mortal Ejaculation." Maybe he shouldn't be out of your sight, anyways.) The band's style was the black sheep of the night, opting for true head-banging tunes versus the need to speed-grind after every whole note. The music had an elevated sense of melody that was lost in several of the earlier acts, and the chords themselves weren't overly complex. It was metal for the sake of being metal, and felt confident and genuine.

Darkest Hour

There's an unsolved mystery surrounding Darkest Hour's position on the tour. The last band to play before headliners Whitechapel and The Black Dahlia Murder? Really? The melodic metal band spiced up the evening with a fair share of tempo changes and harmony, but they were like a pimple on an otherwise clean bill. Each song overlapped onto the next and felt awkward playing post-SFU and pre-Whitechapel. It was the first time during the evening that cellphones were being used for games and text messages and not taking pictures.

Whitechapel

By the time co-headliner Whitechapel began setting up their equipment, the crowd had either been standing or sitting through eight hours of metal bands. Did that stop anyone from going completely batshit crazy when the Knoxville, Tenn., six-piece took the stage? Of course not. It's freaking Whitechapel. The band, fronted by the incredibly powerful Phil Bozeman, kicked things off with a fury, sending a message to every other band in attendance: "This is why we're headlining." Bozeman stood in the center, raised slightly above his peers, and was a puppet master: He said crowd dive, and 30 people jumped the stage. He said "wall of death," and the entire room split in seconds. The band's set had all the ingredients of every band before them--aggression, brutality, musicianship, strong necks--but was raging on steroids.

The Black Dahlia Murder

For every five black shirts worn at the show, at least two were from The Black Dahlia Murder. Easily the most anticipated band of the evening, the performance seemed a tad lackluster following on Whitechapel's heels. Vocalist Trevor Strnad was an utter beast, slicing the air with his signature raspy voice, but the oomph of the performance was missing. It really amounted to another case of "It's fast and technical . . . but why should I care?"

Best Band T-Shirts Represented:

(1) "Smoke Fucking Weed" - Veil of Maya

(2) "Are you ready to die?" - Slayer

(3) "Hate" - Whitechapel

Overheard in the Crowd:

"I snuck in a milkshake. They patted me for guns on the way in, but totally missed this milkshake."

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