Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer bummer

At the first-ever Summer Slaughter tour, I enthused that it was "as great a metal tour package as you're going to get." However, as with Ozzfest and Lollapalooza, Summer Slaughter has become more expensive, more corporate and less exciting with the passing years.

Priced at nearly twice the tour's 2007 admission cost, Summer Slaughter mach three offered a fairly uniform lineup of death metal bands that contrasted from the previous two years' inclusion of grindcore and progressive death metal. A backdrop bared tour sponsor Affliction's name for nearly the entire set, which was a far cry from the tour's previous alliances with guitar manufacturers and metal magazines. Still, none of this would matter had the festival offered a lineup worthy of its name.

On the second night of its two-day New York stand, Summer Slaughter offered death metal ranging from decent (Born of Osiris, After the Burial) to unbearable (the enthusiastically terrible Winds of Plague) before the headliners struggled to leave the half-filled room with a better impression of death metal.

Washington, D.C.-based Darkest Hour performed a generic form of melodic death metal that was enjoyable for about two songs before they exhausted the formula. Their energy and occasional hooks weren't enough to justify Darkest Hour's recent commercial successes, although their music was still noticeably better than the opening acts'.

Perpetual SS headliners Necrophagist should've provided relief, but their performance fell short of the band's usual potency. Still unable to produce a new album that was due years ago, the band seemed a little bored working through the same songs from Epitaph that they've been playing since 2004, especially without drum monster Marco Minneman breathing down Muhammed SuiƧmez's neck. One new song briefly shook up the set, although it didn't offer much distance from the band's classical-inspired death metal. For the final night of this year's Summer Slaughter tour, Necrophagist played as if they couldn't wait to leave the stage.

Only Ensiferum, who incorporate medieval-sounding tunes into death metal arrangements, brought both quality music and a quality performance to the show. Ensiferum provided stage energy and stylistic diversity that the rest of the evening lacked, bridging Amon Amarth with Blind Guardian in some sweeping, heavy epics. Ending with their tradition of audience participation on "Iron," Ensiferum showed up every other band on the bill, and hopefully will encourage Summer Slaughter's promoters to do better next year.

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