Seeing as Detroit's venerable Clutch Cargo's is a former church, it almost seems like providence when a friend tells me Christian metalcore stalwarts As I Lay Dying will be headlining there in a week or two. Bored, stuck at college, and actively suffering prolonged concert withdrawals, we got a gang of buddies together and hit the road.
I'm very glad I went. Having seen the entire lineup of bands multiple times apiece, I wasn't really sure if the concert was worth the money it caused. As we ambled into the surreal confines of the venue, replete with darkened stained-glass windows and towering staircases, I knew I had made the right choice.
Florence, South Carolina's Through the Eyes of the Dead was up first and quickly reaffirmed my joy. When last I had seen the deathcore veterans, they had been touring in support of 2005's Bloodlust. I was burned out on deathcore at the same time (actually, still am) so the band made little impression; this time around, things were different. Playing a slew of cuts off their new album Malice, Through the Eyes of the Dead mauled concert-goers with a surgically precise set that cut like a well-cleaned razor. Loud, in-your-face, and blistering, the new material was the blast of fetid air I'd been waiting for. Almost devoid of annoying breakdowns, the band's set was a grooving, death metal-worshipping massacre well beyond opening band status. The crowd, responding in kind, opened up some decent pits as well. All-in-all, I can see these guys being a decent straight-up death metal band given time and perhaps a bit more innovation. I'd even go so far to say that they begrudgingly won my respect.
The same cannot be said, however, for follow-up act Haste the Day. For most, Haste the Day is largely a love-it or a hate-it affair. My take is that the band's sugary sing-alongs are lame pop music wrapped in riffs for the false pretense of "heavy." For others, Haste the Day is a band who can seamlessly combine melodicism and heaviness into one catchy package, thus instantly making a remarkable musical experience. Either way one slices it, the set I witnessed on 11/15/07 was pure cheese. Trite, sickly sweet, and poppy, the band's set made no attempt to fit in with the other bands on hand for the show. Though it admittedly gave the night some variation, I'd rather have one more straight-up metalcore band as opposed to 45 minutes of weak half-moshing and eye-liner sing-alongs. Just my take though---I'm sure if one likes this kind of stuff, they would have been well-pleased.
All Shall Perish brought things back to center, their pummeling brand of melody-tinged metalcore laying down some serious law. The pit quickly erupted into a plodding, claustrophobic nightmare---people became sandwiched in the slow-turning chaos, like it or not. Meanwhile, the fire being whipped-up onstage was inspiring---All Shall Perish looked destined to upstage As I Lay Dying for the night. To be honest, after clawing my way through a tangled mass of people while manic harmonics shrieked in the background, I thought they could pull it off.
I thought they could, that is, until As I Lay Dying finally took the stage. Frontman Tim Lambesis towered over the pits with majestic charisma, while drummer Jordan Mancino's jackhammer percussion literally shook the building alongside bassist Josh Gilbert. Over it all, twin guitarists Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa slammed their way through pounding metalcore both melodic and brutal. Though in support of new album An Ocean between Us, the band remained unafraid to come back to older works Frail Words Collapse and Shadows are Security. Old fan-favorites like "Distance is Darkness," "94 Hours," and "Forever, for example, crafted some explosive circle pits. Even better, the new tracks unveiled off Ocean sounded awesome live. "Within Destruction," with its ferocious Sepultara riffing ratcheted the animosity up a couple levels in the pit, while "The Sound of Truth" effectively combined the band's catchy riffs and pulverizing rhythm section into one unstoppable tandem. Last but not least, "Forsaken" provided a near-spiritual moment of ringing silence, the tune's poignant and atmospheric intro bringing both As I Lay Dying and their fans into new sonic vistas that wonderful evening. Here's hoping I get to visit them again soon.