HATEBREED BRING THEIR PERSEVERANCE TO CLEVELAND, WIN AT LEAST ONE NEW FAN
Photo credit: Thomas Mayer for Chicago Music Magazine
Finding yourself surrounded by a sea of black t-shirts with enormous white block letter slogans on the back is usually a good indicator that you’re at a hardcore show. Last Tuesday night at the House of Blues in Cleveland was no exception, as hardcore fans from all walks of life and all brands of t-shirts filed in to see Hatebreed’s “10 Years of Perseverance” tour. The venue filled up early, and the high-profile lineup — including Whitechapel and All Shall Perish — suggested that some level of insanity in the pit was going to be unavoidable.
Deez Nuts opened the show with a blast of generic hardcore played with poorly articulated power chords. Their energy was infectious, but in exactly the wrong way. Vocalist JJ Peters stood at the front of the stage spewing absurd lyrics while the rest of the band backed him with their distastefully average music, run-of-the-mill mid-tempo drum beats clashing with instantly forgettable riffs (all played on the bottom two strings). Their mix wasn’t awful, but a good mix doesn’t salvage poor songwriting. Maybe if the audience had been pumped up for Deez Nuts their set would have been more enjoyable; instead, everyone couldn’t wait for them to get off the stage. To put it simply, Deez Nuts sounded like balls.
All Shall Perish’s aggressively tight set stood in stark contrast to the uninspiring one from Deez Nuts. Their trademark blend of technically catchy riffs and bottom-end chugs snaked out of the amps and reminded us what the awesome acoustics in the House of Blues sound like when a good band is playing at full volume. Their set was a near-perfect variety of songs from their catalog, featuring classic tracks off every album while not pushing This is Where it Ends too hard. “The True Beast” was an unexpected surprise, stirring up some of the first brutal pits of the night. The crowd didn’t seem to be that into the music, though, and the band had a hard time keeping the pits going. Curiously, guitarist Ben Orum, one of the few remaining original members of the band, wasn’t present at the show, but touring guitarist Ian Webb filled in just fine. You could feel the walls flexing on set-closing track “Wage Slaves.”
There’s been much talk that Whitechapel’s newest release has taken the band in an entirely new direction. These rumors were at least partially validated at the show; the band seems to have switched from straightforward, mediocre deathcore to straightforward, mediocre death metal. A slight improvement, but not one that could redeem their set. Phil Bozeman’s vocals and the kick drum overpowered the entire mix; despite the band having three guitarists, I couldn’t clearly hear any riffs for much of the set. Even at its absurd volume, the set didn’t feel that powerful. The lack of crowd activity reflected this — Whitechapel shows are normally a frenzy of swinging arms and plugs — as there weren’t more than a handful of crowd surfers and the few pits that started were small, even for favorites like “Possession.” The samples sprinkled here and there were purely distracting; they seemed to have no connection to any of the music being played and drowned out the actual instruments. Some bands get better when you see them more times. That’s not the case for Whitechapel, as my fifth experience seeing the band was just as unappealing as the first.
Confession: I have never been a true Hatebreed fan, despite listening to their music casually for a few years. Or, rather, I hadn’t ever been a true Hatebreed fan until I saw them live for the first time last week. They’re truly a band whose live experience far surpasses that of their recorded material. Witnessing the entirety of Perseverance performed live was almost a religious experience. I found myself recalling (and screaming) line after line of lyrics I didn’t think I had ever known. Their hour-long set tore by like a whirlwind. But there must have been something in the Cleveland water that got to the crowd, because the inactivity that was present for the openers continued straight through Hatebreed’s set. The room was far from empty, and people were screaming along with Jamey Jasta for much of the night, but people weren’t acting like they were at a Hatebreed show. I was up at the front barrier for almost the whole set and I wasn’t even sweaty or crushed. The audience was probably just rapt, as each and every band member’s stage presence far overshadowed that of any of the openers.
Two of the three openers were horrible, but this show isn’t about them. There’s a reason this is the “10 Years of Perseverance” tour and not the “10 Years of Breakdowns” tour. It’s more than worth it to attend this tour for Hatebreed alone. Hatebreed, thanks for opening my eyes, and I’ll see you again in November.