By Adrien Begrand
I originally had no intention of covering Trivium and Cimaira’s Friday night show for Hellbound. I mean, why even bother? Both bands are hopelessly pedestrian: Chimaira has been peddling its lowest-common-denominator nu-metal/metalcore tunes predictably, coasting along with album after inconsequential album, while Trivium, after a brief flirtation with inspiration on 2005’s silly but undeniably catchy Ascendancy, has since floundered, going from intriguing young prodigies to just another middling metal band. And who in their right mind would want to go review a three, four hour show featuring a bunch of bands whose mediocrity most of our readers are already fully aware of, and whose fanbases don’t need reviews to reaffirm their own opinions? I’d just be preaching to the choir, and all I’d get out of it is sore feet, an aching back, and ringing ears.
But as the day drew closer and I was stuck in front of the computer day and night pounding out the year-end blurbs that many of us music writers find ourselves doing from mid-October through December, the prospect of actually getting out for a bit and ridding myself of cabin fever became rather tantalizing. So I said, “What the hell,” quickly secured a press pass, and headed out to Saskatoon’s Odeon with a completely open mind. Okay, guys. Someone impress me.
As I made my way into the venue, after about 20 minutes of scouring downtown Saskatoon for a parking spot (curse you, unprecedented economic growth!), Chicago band Dirge Within was just playing their last Pantera rip-off riff of their set. Judging by the exuberant response of the shockingly large crowd, it looked like the room would be extremely easy to please on this night, which is always a good sign.
Actually, what partially convinced me to attend this show was the presence of Whitechapel, whose brand of deathcore is closer to the credible sounds of the Red Chord than, say, the scene-pandering dreck of Suicide Silence. And indeed, after what had to have been one of the loudest line checks I have ever heard, the Knoxville, Tennessee six-piece was absolutely ferocious, inciting instant mayhem in the pit. Far less technical than many of their peers, Whitechapel’s approach is somewhat straightforward, but the formulaic quality of the music works very well in a live setting; you anticipate the dynamics before they happen, from machine-gun cadences to brooding passages, to gargantuan breakdowns. Which, for a band like this, is a good thing, as their blue-collar approach went over huge (including a token wall of death), aided greatly by charismatic vocalist Phil Bozeman, who actually sounds more distinct and authoritative live than on record. As solid as the band was, throughout the half hour set we got little hints that these guys have the potential to separate themselves from the pack, best exemplified by the wicked atonal outro of “Exalt” and the contagious “This is Exile”.
When it comes to Chimaira, you know exactly what you’re going to get. Crunching, churning, tuned-down riffs, dumb shout-along choruses about hating stuff, and plenty of keyboard-enhanced breakdowns (I swear, the keyboardist’s role is nothing more than headbanging along and pressing the key that makes the BWOOOOM sound five or six times). Over five albums, it gets hopelessly mundane, but if you condense their strongest songs into a 45 minute time frame you’ll get a potent little mix, and similarly, having the Cleveland band play a supporting role rather than headline played greatly to their advantage, as they stuck to the fan faves (“Resurrection”, “Power Trip”, “Nothing Remains”, “Pure Hatred”), and consequently were loved for it. For all the comforting familiarity for the fans, though, the best part of Chimaira’s set was the monolithic “The Disappearing Sun”, a very effective foray into the slow, ultra-heavy tones of Meshuggah’s Nothing album, something yours truly would very much like to hear them explore more in the future.
Trivium has talent up the wazoo. That’s never been in doubt. The problem with the Florida band is that Matt Heafy and his mates often try far too hard to impress, the perfect example being the bloated 2008 album Shogun, which threw everything at the wall, from thrash riffs, to hooky choruses, to tempo changes, to epic song structures, with very little sticking in the end. With this fall tour being one last go-round before the band takes a break to write and record their fifth album next year, it was interesting to see Trivium downplay the Shogun record as well as 2006’s The Crusade, instead focusing primarily on the breakthrough Ascendancy, as if they were openly conceding that it’s the best album. And no question, the fans greatly appreciated it, as “Rain”, “Drowned and Torn Asunder”, “Ascendancy”, “A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation”, and “Like Light to Flies” were all very enthusiastically received. Plus if guitarist Heafy and Corey Beaulieu, bassist Paolo Gregoletto, and drummer Travis Smith were sick of playing those songs for the millionth time, you could hardly tell, as they tore into each song with an enthusiasm that was contagious.
The unintentionally comical “To the Rats” brought the thrash (oh, those lyrics), “Detonation” brought the melodic ’80s metal, the rambunctious cover of Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist” was a cool touch, and the one good Shogun song, “Throes of Perdition”, sounded surprisingly good, the 80 minute set benefiting hugely from the live mix, which was extraordinarily loud, yet very clear. As they closed out with “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr”, a song whose lyrics I will never learn after seeing that ingenious Twigadee video three years ago, I was suddenly flabbergasted by just how good a time I’d had. The music was safe, predictable, and often very silly, but with each band playing neat, condensed, encore-free sets, any chance of tedium was eliminated. Yeah, I still wound up with sore feet, a brutal backache, and lingering tinnitus (even with earplugs, dammit), but as a reprieve from the November doldrums when nobody of note plays this town, it was very welcome. Now to write about how good the Baroness album was for the fifth time in two months…