Modern metal is a genre that doesn’t get its due. Metal “purists” have been noted to feel that many aspects of modern metal are not “truly” metal. The same can be said for progressive metal. I’m here to disagree as Baltimore was treated to an entire bill of modern and progressive metal on this mild October night.
With a pretty good turnout in the room, Malaki opened the show with their particular brand of progressive melodic metal. With Shauna Lisse (Mind Drop) on vocals, Malaki, coming out of Los Angeles, can boast many similarities with other, dare I use the term “female-fronted” prog bands such as Nightwish. Maybe too much so. While the overall sound was pleasing from a prog metal perspective, their performance was lacklustre with Shauna on vocals seemingly distracted by the state of her hair at any given time. Of course, it may have been an off night as those happen to the best of us, but she seemed to overcompensate her stage antics, along with that unhealthy preoccupation with her mane, pretty as it was. Unfortunately, Malaki didn’t seem to have anything that made them stand out in an already saturated prog/modern metal market.
Unlike their predecessors, members of Wovenwar were completely comfortable in their roles on stage. Wovenwar is a 5-man outfit from San Diego, CA made up of former members of the influential metalcore band, As I Lay Dying, who partnered with Shane Blay (Oh, Sleeper) on their debut album that came out in 2014. The guys are tight, delivering an energetic performance which really highlighted the rather different direction the band has taken on this album. Shane and Josh Gilbert’s combined clean vocals came across perfectly from the stage which was no small feat.
Opening with “All Rise” and then diving right into “Death to Rights”, Wovenwar is a modern metal force to be reckoned with. Jordan Mancino is an amazingly strong drummer with an equally amazing ‘stache and Nick and Phil on lead and rhythm guitar respectively can’t be beat, even in a dark alley. They enjoyed a small mosh pit but still a great fan response.
Up next was Unearth, another five-man group out of Massachusetts whose presence lit up that stage like a new saloon. Trevor Phipps’ vocals commanded attention and was effectively backed up by Ken Susi’s intermittent clean vocals, Ken and Buz McGrath on guitar and Nick Pierce on drums. They had an impressive sound with tight riffs and that killer modern metal headbanging beat that I love so much. Another great fan response achieved, especially during fan favourites like “My Will Be Done” and others. Trevor was all over the stage making it really difficult to take a decent photograph. But, I’d take an awesome and spirited performance over a volume of photos any day.
Headlining the show was Atreyu, another moderately popular metalcore band hailing from Orange County, CA. Atreyu also delivered a high energy performance rife with stage accessories including four high output fog machines and five banks of ridiculously bright strobe lights which could have easily caused someone with even the strongest constitution to collapse into a seizure patient on the floor. Those of us without that strong constitution had to look away.
Opening with the title track of their new album, ‘Long Live’, Atreyu dragged, kicked and screamed their way through a set list consisting of old and new songs alike. The fans were almost in a frenzy between the combined musical forces of each member and the mind-blowing intensity, if not quality, of the light show. Of course, the fan favourites like “Falling Down” get the biggest reactions and tonight was no different. The band was spot on, hit all the marks and impressed with every note.
Bottom Line: While Atreyu can feel confident that they played their hearts out and put on a damn good show, it’s my humble opinion that both Wovenwar and Unearth stole this show. They both delivered lively and impassioned sets that had the impact of a shovel to the face without the blinding fog and irritating lights. Sometimes less IS more.