Whitechapel, Archspire, Signs of the Swarm, Entheos @ The Gramercy Theater
Making their way into the Gramercy Theater, a group of friends discussed the game plan for the evening as their bags and tickets were checked. "It's probably best to grab merch now while we can," said one of them, the rest nodding in agreement. "I'm not worried about the crowd," added another member of the group with a laugh, "but I don't expect to have much breathing room in between the sets tonight!"
So it was, by the end of the night, many concert goer left the venue exhausted after a sold out show headlined by Whitechapel, playing their 2019 magnum opus The Valley in full. But to get to the final set of the evening, the crowd first had to survive the intensity of the rest of the stacked bill, including Archspire, Signs of the Swarm, and Entheos. With each band more fierce than the last, it was likely the best move to pick up a shirt or hoodie while one still had energy to spare.
Coming out of the gates swinging, Santa Cruz progressive deathcore unit Entheos started the night off with a fury of blast beats, mind bending guitar work, and the mighty roar of vocalist Chaney Crabb. Leading off with the 2020 single "Remember You Are Dust", the dancefloor opened up like a portal in time, albeit one with flailing limbs and banging heads.
With the release of their third album, Time Will Take Us All in early March (click here to check out The Metal Mayan's review), there was no shortage of new material making its premier to New York audiences. Though less than two months old, fans were clearly excited to hear "Absolute Zero", "In Purgatory" and "The Sinking Sun" live.
Unquestionably a master of screams and growls, the opportunity to hear Crabb's stellar clean vocals in "I Am The Void" was certainly a highlight of the night. At just six songs in length, Entheos had a brief but powerful set that left the crowd wanting more. Hopefully, New York won't have to wait long to see these and other incredible new songs hit the stage again.
"Do you see these guys on this side of the barricade?" asked vocalist David Simonich, pointing at the security detail working the frontlines of the stage "Make them sweat tonight, send bodies to the front!" With a nearly unhuman voice built to command legions, the good folks of the Gramercy Theater had their work cut out for them as the crowd obeyed Simonich's word, and wave after wave of crowd surfers came forward during Signs of the Swarm's set.
Touring relentlessly through 2022, it's a wonder that Pittsburgh's heaviest hitters had any time to record new material since 2021's Absolvere. But even a schedule as frantic as theirs wasn't enough to stop them: less than two weeks before arriving in New York, fans got a taste of things to come with a brand new single "Amongst the Low & Empty". Those not yet aware of the release were quickly brought up to speed with its New York debut at the Gramercy.
Pairing the newest material with sluggers off Absolvere, the first circle pit of the night appeared with "Nameless" and continued into "Revelations Ov A Silent King". Of course, no set would be complete without the atomic blast of a song, "Death Whistle", the recording of which does indeed feature the terrifying Aztec artifact for which it is named. "I've been at all of (Signs of the Swarm's) New York shows since 2021," said one weary mosher after the set, "and that song is still the scariest thing I've ever heard."
While the music used by venues in between sets varies from show to show, the particular song playing as the lights dimmed for the third act of the night was strangely appropriate. As the last notes of "Break Ya Neck" by New York legend Busta Rhymes faded from the PA speakers, vocalist Oliver Rae Aleron smiled and declared "You heard the man: the only thing you need to do right here is nod your head!"
Dressed more like bros on the way to the beach than one of Canada's most vicious tech-death bands, those unfamiliar might not be prepared for the hurricane force of Archspire. Not unlike Busta Rhymes, and other tongue twisting MCs, Aleron's iconic 'shotgun' style vocals cram a novel's worth of lyrics into songs averaging four minutes.
With their eyes glued to the rest of the band, musicians in the crowd were simply in awe of the technical skills of guitarists Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli, bassist Jared Smith, and drummer Spencer Prewett.
One thing that distinguishes Vancouver's finest from other tech-death bands is their ability to incorporate neo-classical influenced clean passages in between lightning fast, ultra heavy material. The title track from 2021's Bleed the Future and "A Dark Horizontal" from 2017's Relentless Mutation are just two examples of many that showcase this skill.
Despite the brutality of their music, Archspire is not above having fun at their shows. Pulling out a Twister mat, Aleron called out three people in the crowd and tossed the mat to them in the center of the dancefloor.
With help from Smith to spin the game's color wheel, the trio of fans played a couple of moves before Aleron announced "(the arrow) landed on...wall of death, right now!" Without warning, the moshpit opened up with "Golden Mouth of Ruin", engulfing the players and the Twister mat. "How's that for 'game over, bro'?" the vocalist joked later on.
Closing the show with fan favorites "Involuntary Doppelgänger" and "Drone Corpse Aviator", Archspire ensure the crowd had a great time before taking the journey with the headliners into a dark and difficult place.
Heaviness in the metal world comes in many forms: an unforgettable breakdown, a soaring guitar solo, a guttural growl. Yet, sometimes the heaviest of things come from lyrics written from the heart. To that point, Knoxville deathcore veterans Whitechapel closed the show with the heaviest material of the night: the complete performance of 2019's The Valley.
Based on the life and times of vocalist Phil Bozeman, the album reflects on addiction, isolation, and loss of innocence. Bozeman has never been shy about his past, but The Valley pulled the curtains back from everything, including the loss of his father at age 10, and his mother's battle with substances that took her life just four years later.
Building a career on iconic growls, The Valley was the first time fans heard Bozeman's haunting clean singing. With all of the Gramercy Theater joining in on the chorus of opener "When a Demon Defiles a Witch", there were no doubt few dry eyes singing 'how could the world take you from me, they all deserve to burn with me'.
Tears briefly gave way to rage as the dancefloor exploded with the fury of "Forgiveness Is Weakness" and continued with "Brimstone". Yet, as many people know, anger is often a face for pain and sorrow, which was quickly brought back with "Hickory Creek". With ambient guitars delivered by ax trio Alex Wade, Ben Savage, and Zach Householder, joined by rhythm section Gabe Crisp and Brandon Zackey on bass and drums respectively, the song was simply heartbreaking.
As bodies flew over barricades for "Black Bear", "We Are One", and "Lovelace", the venue shook under the movements of "Doom Woods", which closed out The Valley section of the set.
Having promised fans "a few other surprises" alongside the album playthrough, Whitechapel delivered with their encore section. As the sequel to The Valley, 2021's Kin got some love with a performance of "I Will Find You", which recently had a music video released for it. Not forgetting the longest running fans, the clocks were turned back to 2007 with "Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation" from Whitechapel's debut album, The Somatic Defilement.
As the album that introduced many to the band, roars of crowd approval rang out with the opening notes of "Possession" off 2008's This Is Exile, which has been off the setlist since the album's ten year anniversary tour in 2018. If there was any energy still in the audience, it was certainly left on the floor with closer "This Is Exile".
With such an immense bill here and in both times when Whitechapel performed This Is Exile in its entirety, one can only imagine what to expect if and when Kin gets to have its own exclusive night.
Press and photo pass courtesy of Freeman Promotions