It was an evening of muscle shirts, testosterone, and motivation. An MMA card of a concert, the bodies flew, and the sweat dripped. Stage AE was well-attended enough for this show but was not sold out, giving the mostly male audience plenty room to knock each other around playfully. Being that this event leaned a bit towards the punk side of the spectrum, I almost didn’t bother going for fear I’d be a little out of place being a purist metalhead, but there was enough to make the gig at least somewhat rewarding and engrossing for me.
Fit For An Autopsy opened the gates with a mediocre deathcore set, one that was received magnanimously by the eager crowd. Or were they just hungry for something to mosh to? After all, the concert began early at 6:30 p.m.
Despite their socially-conscious vibe, they came off as an act I’d seen and heard 1,000 times, and this was perhaps my first or second encounter with them.
Terror frontman Scott Vogel was not unlike a high school football coach and barked at the crowd as if the chips were down and a state title was on the line…in overtime. “These guys are bored,” Vogel shouted at fans while pointing at security. “Give them somethin’ to do,” he said. And that he did. I know I’ve seen Terror once before, and their metallic moments kept me interested and inspired me to do more with my life. A band with a long, convoluted history in Los Angeles, Terror didn’t need to win over the already enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd. Fit For An Autopsy’s guitarist even belted out a tune with them, demonstrating hardcore’s generous, communal nature.
Cro-Mags came on next with no need to prove themselves to a friendly crowd who were probably there as much for them as they were for anyone else. And as it was with Terror, the venue’s size didn’t detract from anything, inspirational mouthpiece John Joseph rising above his checkered past to lead not only a band but a movement, skipping happily atop the metallic riffs and solos that surfed above dusty punk chords with a New York groove. Oyo Ellis of Killer of Sheep even found himself on stage for a few minutes, once again illustrating punk’s knack for letting someone else take the mic once in a while. ‘Cause it ain’t all about one guy up in here, is it?
Obituary rose up from the Florida swamps once more to rob everyone else of their roar, the muck-beasts effortless brutality proving to be a magnificently frightful thing, like the Great Old Ones returning to reclaim their earthly domain only to mercifully hand it over to Hatebreed after barely being turned away. The Tardy boys put chumps through tables from ladders while swinging steel chairs, their death metal might delivered unto the unworthy with extreme prejudice, mistreating the horde through classic torture devices and newer truncheons. The smirking elders in the congregation were pleased while the young’uns were left shaken.
I’ve caught Hatebreed a number of times since 2007, and this set was a slightly more subdued. Some friends who are even bigger fans of this seminal group, one that is in the midst of a 25th anniversary, felt that their performance was “phoned in” if you will. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’ve definitely experienced more fervent Hatebreed stands. The band seemed somewhat fatigued, even as they performed “Looking Down the Barrel of Today,” its lyric “No sleep, no rest. If that’s what it takes to be the best,” ringing too true, almost. Nevertheless, the audience left happy, leader Jamey Jasta smiling and bouncing about for the entire hour or so but with a vague lack of vigor. Hatebreed needs a break, perhaps? They did what they needed to do, and that was about it and will surely be around again, Pittsburgh being one of their preferred stops for the duration of their run as definitive metalcore band.
Being a hessian that has harbored some resentment towards punk, I came away more appreciative of that scene and its links to metal, which have only strengthened with the many phases of the moon. Dance hard or die, my friends.