Killswitch Engage has been through this area a couple times in the past few years, but somehow I've never managed to get out to see them. They're the only mainstream metalcore band that I consider to be a truly good band, and not just "pretty good for a metalcore band." Their sweet guitar melodies and the heartfelt nature of their clean vocals (as opposed to annoying whiny clean vocals from most metalcore bands) make them foremost in my mind in American melodic metal.
On this tour, they were supposed to be supported by As I Lay Dying, one of those bands that I consider "pretty good for a metalcore band" (PGFAMB?). They're both decent sounding and unmemorable - I don't know how many times I heard "Paralyzed" on the radio, thought, "Hey, this guitar part is pretty good," checked the info and went, "Oh. These guys again." So I was a little interested in seeing how they would sound live. But then that whole thing with Tim Lambesis trying to have his wife killed happened, and they dropped off the tour.
They were replaced by Darkest Hour, another PGFAMB. Darkest Hour, originally from DC, has some really good melodic guitar parts, but the rest of their songs don't really live up to promise of those guitar parts, generally turning into a repetitive mash of screams and banging drums that bury the guitar. I saw them last year opening for Machine Head and was not too impressed. Still, I thought I'd give them another chance, so I ambled over to the venue around their start time (leaving S to settle the bill at the Irish pub where we were waiting out the less acceptable openers, haha. He arrived two songs after I did.) They sounded much better this time than last time. They seemed louder and heavier than at Ram's Head (maybe more to do with the sound system than the band). In some songs, the bass was too loud, or there was not enough going on with guitars, but for about half their songs (that is, three out of a six song set) the guitars were fairly prominent and melodic. Also, I couldn't fault the vocalist's screams - they were delivered with metal ferocity, even deepening into death metal territory at times (such as in the last song, "Sadist Nation"). The guitar was pretty prominent in that song as well. I was pleased that I got there to see most of their set, and would probably see them again, with the hope that they keep sounding better.
I had never heard of the next support act, Miss May I. They started out very promising, high energy, the singer jumping about on stage and wearing an actual metal shirt (Sylosis), and the long-haired guitarist windmilling his hair. Their sound was certainly a sonic assault, loud and fast, with intense screams. But they had too much going on at once, which gave them a confused sound. Every now and then a melodic guitar part would sing out, but mostly the guitar was relegated to a background instrument, and everything was dominated by the hammering bass. Whenever things would calm down enough to hear the guitar, the bassist would come in with some cringe-worthy overly emo clean vocals. There were a few good parts where everything was together, and a nice thundering breakdown in the second to last song, but mostly I found them kind of a mess.
Fortunately, Killswitch Engage made the night worth it. As I said, I like them mostly for their sweet guitar melodies, so I was surprised to find they were much more hardcore-oriented live - thundering bass, tank tops and short/shaved hair, and an aggressive stage manner. Of course, any band will sound heavier live, but for Killswitch Engage the shift to a hammering-bass hardcore sound totally changed the character of their music. The guitar was still perfectly audible, though, and many songs were quite guitar driven ("Life to Lifeless," "Rose of Sharyn") or melody driven (slow songs like "The Arms of Sorrow"). "My Curse" was a good combination of bass, guitar and melody - it started out thundering, but with the guitar gamely riffing away, and then softened for a melodic chorus. For the whole set, Jesse Leach's vocals were intense, in keeping with the hardcore spirit. The clean vocals were full of feeling, real feeling, not emo whininess. Jesse hardly talked besides to say "The next song is.." a couple times. Guitarist Adam D did most of the talking, including joking with the audience (inviting fans to suck his tits, calling for a "circle pit of love" ie. holding hands, and claiming he could smell someone menstruating - he had to be cut off by Jesse at that point). I also thought it was amusing that, being quite tall and decently muscled, he looked so out of proportion to his guitar that it looked like a toy. I enjoyed their set even though I didn't know most songs, which is unusual for me. There was enough energy with the powerful bass and their lively stage presence to keep me pumped, and enough guitar going on to keep me interested and headbanging. I will have to learn the choruses of some songs for next time though.
Next show: Tomorrow! Lamb of God, Decapitated and The Acacia Strain.
There should also be a book review at some point, because I finished a book a few weeks ago. I have been so focused on my own novel-writing that I haven't had much time for reviews, and that's why the concert reviews have been so slow! But things should calm down toward the end of June.