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This past weekend, I headed down to Santa Cruz to catch the first night of the Slaughter Survivors Tour, a trek comprised of several bands who didn’t get voted onto Summer Slaughter itself. Any Bay Area native knows that parking in Santa Cruz on a Saturday night blows goats, so I looped around town for half an hour before finally managing to find someone pulling out. I walked into the Atrium of the Catalyst at exactly 9:00 PM, just in time to catch the first set of the night.

Youngsters Aegaeon started off their performance with a mid-tempo deathcore groove reminiscent of Whitechapel, but with slightly fewer breakdowns. Unfortunately, most of their set continued in the same way, and I soon tired of the the lack of variety between the similar-sounding songs. The band’s riffs and leads were uninspired on the whole, minus a catchy hook in their closer “Reshaping the Multiverse.” However, their mix was possibly the best of the night, and many of the grooves were infectious. Their set kept me entertained, if not interested, and it was far from the worst performance I’ve seen. Keep an eye out for future releases from these guys.

Fit For An Autopsy noticeably amped up the technicality in their set, but they also amped up the amount of breakdowns, which got boring fast. The song structure of “riff, breakdown, riff, breakdown, riff” was stale, but at least the riffs themselves were pretty interesting, and the song tempos were varied. Some of their tracks, like the fast-paced “The Wolf,” definitely have staying power, and the crowd was far more active than it had been for Aegaeon. Despite the lineup listed on their band page, they didn’t have a bassist playing with them live. But their mix was still quite good, and I was impressed by vocalist Nate Johnson’s range and varied style. Similar to Aegaeon, they were entertaining, even if I’m probably not going to listen to them again.

I had heard a lot of Summer Slaughter hype surrounding Fallujah, but I had never taken the time to listen to them on record, assuming they were just another group of deathcore/Sumeriancore kids. However, when the band started playing, I was captivated. Their mix of progressive and death metal had me utterly focused on their performance, and it was without a doubt the most enjoyable live show I’ve seen in months, if not years. Guitarists Scott Carstairs and Rob Maramonte slammed tight, brutal riffs and melodies through the speakers, perfectly entwining technicality and heaviness. Their shredding was tasteful, not excessive, and the beauty of their melodies truly resonated. While their mix didn’t start off that clearly, it was soon adjusted to near perfection. Vocalist Alex Hofmann’s mid-range growls were the only thing I wasn’t wholly impressed with, but they were more than adequate, and didn’t detract from their performance in the slightest. This tour is worth it for Fallujah alone. Unfortunately, Fallujah started off the tour on a rough note — they blew out two tires in the Central Valley wasteland that is Soledad, and had to fork over $200 just to get to the venue in time. Awful luck for a band that can’t really afford that sort of thing. My condolences to them.

A handful of people left after Fallujah, but plenty of people stuck around to see Tennessee metalheads Enfold Darkness tear through a vicious set of melodic death/black metal. The techy, tight melodies of opening tracks “Our Cursed Rapture” and “In the Galleries of The Utmost Evil” got them off to a great start. The guitars could have been a touch higher throughout the performance — the solos weren’t always audible — and the mix was a little unstable, changing a bit from track to track. Adrian Perez’s stage presence (and awesome mustache) kept the crowd going throughout the set, spawning a few small pits. I found the band’s new material to be slightly less compelling than that off their first release, but that didn’t keep me from having a good time during their set.

Enfold finished playing around midnight, right when the Expendables show playing in the other half of the Catalyst got out. It was pretty entertaining to see the confused stares of the Expendables fans as they walked by the room filled with metalheads. Headliners Pathology came on right around 12:15, an awfully late start. Many of the younger attendees left after Enfold Darkness finished, but those who stuck around were justly rewarded. The band’s inimitable slam soon worked the crowd into a frenzy, demoing everything from the ultra-heavy new “Tyrannical Decay” to the old favorite “Code Injection.” The mix was awesome, even with just one guitar and one bass – which cut out at one point, where the band performed a few songs admirably well as a three-piece. The crowd worked up into the most brutal pits of the night, and almost everyone present was united by the grinding, bass-heavy, and even shreddy, set. A fitting (and late!) end to a night of brutality. I tore back up the harrowing Route 17 in the middle of the night, echoes of the evening’s riffs and of the near-perfect mixes all around lingering in my head. Despite the less interesting opening bands, I had a phenomenal time, and I’d highly recommend catching the Slaughter Survivors tour when it rolls through your town.


Get upcoming Slaughter Survivors tour dates here.

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