The Summer Slaughter Tour, as you may guess from the name, is a collection of hippie acoustic folk bands who play to a bunch of hemp-wearing potheads. Ok, ok, fine, it's a ridiculous lineup of death metal and "metalcore" bands. As far as I can remember, it's the first time I've seen this tour in its 3 year existence, but I'm pretty sure it existed in a different incarnation years ago. This year's show featured the following real metal bands: Blackguard, Decrepit Birth, Origin, Dying Fetus, Ensiferum, Suffocation, and Necrophagist. Basically, a ridiculous lineup of awesomeness.
Blackguard, as the opening band, was awesome. I've never heard of them; watching them set up I kept wondering who the girl was and her involvement with the band. Turns out she's the drummer, and a sick one at that. They play your modern version of folkish power metal with screamed vocals, complete with keyboard. I bought their record on iTunes before leaving for Sacramento. The way the tour is set up is that generally, a metal band plays, then a metalcore band, to mix it up. So, I had to wait a little while for Decrepit Birth, who counts among their fans Derek Goyer of Suffocation. I didn't know their music either, and it was hard to follow. Br00tal. I was anxious for Origin, who played after yet another metalcore band. They had 5 songs. Five! Half of Origin's material barely lasts 3 minutes! That sucked, but they closed with Portal so it wasn't all bad.
Dying Fetus may have been the closest thing to a crossover band at the show - they clearly have hardcore influences and they are the only metal band on Summer Slaughter that has any sort of real breakdown evident in their music. Suffocation uses it somewhat, but more as an extension of the song and not as an end in itself, which DF still holds on to. To that extent, it was probably easier for the metalcore sceners to get into their set than anyone else - especially Origin. Another short set, BUT they played a new song and apparently have a new record out in September (yay!).
The last metalcore bands did their thing and I expected, and was somewhat correct, that much of the audience would leave, as the final 3 bands were all metal baby. Ensiferum was first, a Finnish band that plays Celtic-inspired folk metal (how's that for crossover) and performs in kilts. I had listened to them sparingly, not liking their sound as much as say, Eluveitie, but not bad all the same. They put on a good show and there were some serious fans.
The co-headliners were, in the end, what I was waiting for. I love Suffocation. They decided, with their 8-song set, to stick to 2 records - Blood Oath, which comes out in a couple weeks (and which I could have bought had I brought some cash with me); and Effigy of the Forgotten, their first full-length from 1991. Three tracks from the new record, which were punishing as hell, and five from Effigy, including the title track. Being able to hear Habitual Infamy live was a wonderful experience. I banged my little head off, and today, 2 days later, my neck still hurts.
Unfortunately for me, Necrophagist focused a lot on their 2nd record, which I own but have not developed the same taste for as I have for their debut record. I know some of the songs but don't get into them as much. They also played a new song (it has been 5 years already, time for a new record!), and I think three from Onset of Putrefecation. They aren't a terribly entertaining live band, for what it's worth, but the execution of their highly technical style is still kickass.
9 hours and 13 bands later, I got to go home with my left ear ringing. It worries me a little that it's still getting back to normal.