When we left off with the first part of my review of this show day, my 12-year-old son Jesse and I had just finished meeting At The Gates at their in-store appearance at Vacation Vinyl on Sunset Boulevard before their headlining gig at The Wiltern Theater with Converge, Pallbearer, and Vallenfyre.
It was nearly 5:30PM when we left Vacation and Vallenfyre was to go on first at 7:00PM sharp, so we figured we’d grab some grub at the Denny’s next door before heading on in to the venue. After acquiring said sustenance, we walked next door under the marquee of the gorgeous landmark Wiltern Theater, cleared security, and headed inside with 10 minutes to spare before the show began. Just enough time for a stop by the merch booth to check out the wares. I have to say that I was heavily impressed that every t-shirt from all 4 bands was priced at $20, no more, no less. Converge had so many amazing-looking designs that it was hard to pick one! There were of course pricier items like a really cool At The Gates hoodie featuring the artwork from their new album At War With Reality for $40 as well as some cheaper items such as hats and posters.
After scoring a couple of shirts, we headed into the show room just in time to catch Vallenfyre‘s set. This English death metal unit is the side project of Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh. The band also features Adrian Erlandsson from At The Gates pulling double duty on drums. They spoke about how they had been trying to obtain entry visas to play in America for over six months and wasted no time releasing the pent up energy of that wait. Their set was short and shrouded in low lighting, but pummeling nonetheless. If you’re a fan of old school death metal, you should definitely check out these guys. I recommend their excellent second album, 2014s Splinters.
Up next was the pride of Little Rock, AR, the up and coming doom titans Pallbearer. These guys are like a steamroller: heavy, slow rolling, and not stopping for anything. I believe that they only played 3 songs, as each was in excess of 10 minutes and there was literally no sonic break or banter in between only the steady rumble of the band seemingly tuning ever lower. The best way that I can describe Pallbearer would be Geddy Lee singing for Black Sabbath slowed down to half speed. (A funny side note: I told my son, “Wow, two of these dudes look like they were sent by Geek Squad to fix our computer and the other two look like they’re here to sell weed!”) I loved this band even more in concert than on either of their already impressive records. Be sure to check out their most recent offering Foundations of Burden.
Converge is always a force to be reckoned with live and this night would be no exception. Guitarist and mastermind Kurt Ballou laid down a wall of guitar noise interspersed with some killer riffs and alien melodies over the low-end barrage of bassist Nate Newton and drummer extraordinaire Ben Koller. All the while singer Jacob Bannon commanded the audience while running around the stage like a man possessed. This was one of the most high energy sets that I’ve ever seen in 36 years of attending live shows. Converge are still touring in support of their most recent album 2012’s stunning masterpiece All We Love We Leave Behind. If you dig your metal with a heavy dose of hardcore, do not ever pass up a chance to see Converge play. You can thank me later.
Finally after waiting 20 years to see the melodeath masters live, my wait was over. As the pre-recorded spoken word track “El Altar Del Dios Desconocido” faded away, At The Gates stormed the stage with “Death and the Labyrinth.” Those two conjoined tracks are the openers of their 2014 comeback album At War With Reality. At The Gates may not be the flashiest or craziest live band that you will ever see, but they proceeded to prove over the next hour and a half why the originators of melodic death metal are also still the kings of the genre. Their set consisted of nearly every requisite hit and fan favorite from each of their five brilliant studio albums. The new material sat perfectly alongside the classics. Quite an accomplishment for a band promoting their first album in 19 years.
When the house lights finally came up at the conclusion of “Kingdom Gone,” Jesse and I were left feeling as though we had been run over by a freight train and I mean that in the best possible way.
So we filtered out into the sweltering L.A. spring night, cranked up Sanctuary‘s brilliant new record The Year the Sun Died, and made our way home over the Cahuenga Pass to Burbank with enough time left to get in a couple of rounds of Spartan Ops in Halo: The Master Chief Collection before bedtime.
All in all, one of the best and most diverse non-festival shows that I have ever seen and one that I hope made an impression on my son that he will cherish for the rest of his days. I know it did for me.
The Decibel Tour is a relatively short run, so be sure to catch it in a city near you while you still have the chance.
The Decibel Magazine Tour Dates
Mar. 27, 2015 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
Mar. 28, 2015 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
Mar. 29, 2015 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
Mar. 30, 2015 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
Mar. 31, 2015 – Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market
Apr. 2, 2015 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex
Apr. 3, 2015 – Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
Apr. 4, 2015 – Lincoln, NE – Bourbon Street
Apr. 5, 2015 – Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights
Apr. 6, 2015 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
Apr. 8, 2015 – Toronto, ON – The Phoenix
Apr. 9, 2015 – Montreal, QC – Metropolis
Apr. 10, 2015 – Boston, MA – Royale
Apr. 11, 2015 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
Apr. 12, 2015 – New York, NY – Webster Hall (SOLD OUT!)