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SummerButthurt2013

A Critical Analysis of the Summer Slaughter Butthurt

SummerButthurt2013

 

On the fateful day of Friday March 22nd, a dramatic event that has shaken and reverberated across the entire metal community occurred: the line up at this years Summer Slaughter Festival was announced. Hordes upon hordes of furious metal heads took to their respective computers to proclaim that this is irrevocably the worst thing to happen since the first use of Comic Sans. It was as if thousands of voices cried out in terror, with guttural screams ranging from how the tour has “sold out” to shrieks of despair exclaiming that Summer Slaughter has gone soft on us. All this backlash from a simple tour announcement raises the questions: what gives? Why all the moaning and groaning at what seems (at least at first glance) like a solid line up? It’s prompted yours truly to do some critical thinking, like counting on my fingers, to try and figure this whole mess out.

 

First, let’s look at the bands on the line up. As seen to the left, four of the eight announced bands (Dillinger, Animals, Periphery, and The Ocean) are almost universally considered to be some of the premier progressive acts currently making music in the metal genre. It’s also worth noting that of these four, three of them are at the top of the bill, implying that they’ll be playing the longest sets during every show. The remaining four bands could loosely be described as death metal, with Norma Jean being the outlier. The point of all this band cataloging  is to show that at least half of the tour will be playing progressive metal. This isn’t counting the bands that have yet to be announced, which, if my sources are correct, include Veil of Maya and Within the Ruins, two more fairly progressive metal acts.

Another important note: Animals as Leaders and Periphery have already both been on this bill, with Periphery touring as recently as last year (you can throw Veil of Maya in that bucket too if my hypothesis is correct).

Looking at the previous Summer Slaughter line ups, it’s really interesting to see how the tour has progressed over these past 5 years. It’s gone from featuring some of the biggest death metal bands in the genre, such as Necrophagist and Black Dahlia Murder, to more progressive outfits, like Between the Buried and Me and Dillinger Escape Plan. In reality, this is where the entire metal genre has been headed during the past 5 years. We are currently in the middle of the transition from death metal being the most popular subgenre to progressive metal. If you’re still in doubt, just look at how fast Protest the Hero completed their Indiegogo campaign, or the incredibly rapid rise in popularity both Animals as Leaders and Periphery have found after only two albums. The point is, there’s a big shift in the metal genre right now, and the current Summer Slaughter line up is entirely indicative of this.

Thus, with all this information in mind, can we really blame all the angry metal heads out there raging over the Summer Slaughter bill? If, hypothetically, the Progressive Nation Tour started to feature black metal after 5 years, it’d be pretty easy to be upset at such a scenario. Sure, there are definitely black metal bands who push the envelope and “progress” the genre, but do they really belong on a bill that advertises itself as a progressive metal tour? An answer to such a question is one of pure opinion, and it can be debated, but there’s no real right answer. It’s just like saying that Animals as Leaders aren’t “extreme” enough to be on a tour that showcases some of the most “extreme” bands in the metal genre. How is “extreme” defined? The trio that make up Animals as Leaders are without a doubt some of the most talented musicians out there, and can certainly shred it up when they want to, but does that make them “extreme”? The same goes for the rest of the aforementioned bands. It’s completely up to debate just how extreme these musicians are, with no clear right or wrong answer. Even so, it’s hard to deny the fact that each and every band on the current line up is unique and different in their own way, and should not be missed simply because they might be out of place on this festival.

So when you’re on the forums of Heavy Blog is Heavy, or you’re perusing the Summer Slaughter Facebook page, before you go judging the metal heads who are completely bashing the line up, understand where they are coming from. Sure, they’re going to be missing out on some of the finest acts that the metal genre has to offer when the festival rolls around this summer, but know that their indignation is at least somewhat reasonable, with just a slight hint of butthurt.

parallaxIIfuturesequence

Between the Buried and Me’s Newest Album Teases With Some Sexy Foreplay But Will Never Call Back

When Between the Buried and Me came to San Francisco for Summer Slaughter, I had the great fortune to sit down with Dan Briggs and Dustie Waring. Of course, one of the main things we discussed in detail was their newest addition to their diverse discography, The Parallax II: Future Sequence. We talked extensively about the new record, but one thing Dustie told me really stuck out to me; he seemed to genuinely think that it was their best musical venture they had ever created. Unfortunately, I very highly disagree with that statement.

Tracklist
1. Goodbye To Everything
2. Astral Body
3. Lay Your Ghosts To Rest
4. Autumn
5. Extremophile Elite
6. Parallax
7. The Black Box
8. Telos
9. Bloom
10. Melting City
11. Silent Fight Parliament
12. Goodbye To Everything (Reprise)

 

Both musically and conceptually, TPII begins right where The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues left off. The only problem is that it’s start is a little too awkward and jerky. After the intro, “Goodbye to Everything”, we get a little build up that leads into “Astral Body”, but it never really feels or conveys like we’re going onto this awesome musical journey into space where we’ll proceed to have our brains made sweet sweet love to. Ultimately, “Astral Body” seems very out of place as the beginning track. Fortunately, it leads very smoothly right into the next track, “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest”, which is in itself a very solid song. It almost feels as if this should have been the beginning track. This is further perpetuated by the lyrics present towards the last minute or so of the track: “The end, starts now.” In fact, a good chunk of the album sounds like it shouldn’t be there at all. “Autumn” is just a filler track before the meaty “Extremophile Elite”, and “Parallax” doesn’t fundamentally serve a purpose besides some basic storytelling.

Of course, there are more than enough redeeming factors to make this a worthwhile listen. They’ve seemed to realize that their musical endeavors can get bogged down by their penchant for unnecessary wankery, which they have undertaken to fix this time around, with moderate success. While addressing those complaints, they haven’t forgotten what’s made them one of the biggest progressive metal acts around. There is still a ton of weirdness and craziness present in the album, such as the very “sitary” reference to last year’s EP, and the utterly soul crushing breakdown in “Telos”. “Bloom” is also an incredibly fun listen, if a little out of place.

While the first 45 minutes are a sensory overload (for better or worse), the last 30 minutes of the record display some mind boggling and questionable songwriting decisions. There is the occasional segment of exorbitant showoffiness mixed with some seemingly random riffage, but the big difference between TPII‘s examples of etravagance and their previous efforts is the lack of an ultimate climax (stop your snickering). Once I had finally traversed through the drudgery of their instrument work and reached the end of my journey throughout Colors and The Great Misdirect, I felt like I could put the record away, that there was a satisfying conclusion to the melodious struggle that I had just experienced. This was what defined my time with BTBAM: the breathtaking and exciting climaxes that I felt throughout each and every one of their albums. However, with TPII, I experienced no such climactic feeling. I still had a sense of moving forward even though I had conclusively reached the end of the groundwork that BTBAM had orchestrated for me. It all adds up to a very anticlimactic finish from what is an otherwise pleasant aural eargasm.

Overall, TPII is a solid outing from BTBAM, though one can’t help but get the feeling that more could have been accomplished here. BTBAM tried to do too much and not enough at the same time, and while their newest release indicates that they are indeed moving forward, it also suggests that they’ve lost a step or two in their songwriting prowess along the way. Still, it’s hard not to be hopeful for the future. If BTBAM can execute more or less what they’ve done in TPII without the occasional clumsiness and stumble, it’ll be incredibly difficult for any band to top what they can deliver.

FINAL SUPER ULTIMATE RATING:

(3.5 Brutalisks out of 5)

parallaxIIfuturesequence

Interview with BTBAM’s Dan Briggs and Dustie Waring

With the passing of summer comes a slew of records coming from the some of the biggest names in metal. Converge, Neurosis, Devin Townsend Project, and Deftones all have new albums that sound very promising, but they’re not quite as headbang inducing as Between the Buried and Me’s newest prog masterpiece, Parallax II: Future Sequence. With the continuation of the concept they laid out with last year’s EP (which I thought was worthy of a #4 spot in my Top Ten Records of 2011), they bring many new additions to their already massive reservoir, and at 74 minutes, there’s a whole lot of groundbreaking material to go around. I got a great opportunity to sit down with BTBAM’s bassist and rhythm guitarist to chat a little about their new album, the recent djent craze, and even some Jerry Seinfeld. 

Bröötalisk: BTBAM is very well known for combining different musical elements, from blending metalcore and prog to my personal favorite “new wave polka grunge”. You’re the only band that I know of who’ve broken out into full on bar fight metal. Where do you get all these crazy zany ideas, and how hard is it to execute them and flesh them out into a comprehensive song?

[Dustie]: Well, it has to do with our sense of humor.

[Dan]: Yeah, I feel like as serious as the music is, as complex as it is at times, that might be the one time where people really understand that we’re just a bunch of doofuses and to not take us too seriously. Jamie King (album producer) adds a lot to those parts as well. He’s just as goofy as we are. He encourages us. He’s all about it. That’s just kind of a natural part of us too. The goofiness, the quirkiness, in writing or in every day life. It’s just how we are.

Bröötalisk: It seems to me that progressive metal has been gaining extreme popularity over the last few years. What’s your opinion on the direction it’s taking?

[Dan]: It really depends on who it is you’re referring to. The term gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes it’s kind of sad to see it used as more of a genre and less of bands really trying to do something new. There’s a whole group of bands that try to sound like Between the Buried and Me. But are they progressive or just a band that sounds like another band? There’s always going to be great bands that are pushing it and doing new things. The Faceless is one of those bands on this tour right now. They’re fucking phenomenal. I love them. There’s the bigger groups of course; Opeth and Mastodon. They always kind of move further and further from what the public would generally see as being metal, and those bands go way out there. And that’s great. It’s inspiring to see how well they do.

Bröötalisk: What do you think of the whole “djent” phase that everybody’s in right now?

[Dan]: I think it’s a phase, like you said.

[Dustie]: I don’t understand the craze.

[Dan]: Meshuggah’s been around for a long time!

[Dustie]: Yeah but I don’t understand how it’s become it’s own thing. They’re all bands just playing heavy shit. I think people focus too much on trying to classify people. It took me a long time to know exactly what they were talking about. It’s more of a sound then a style.

[Dan]: It’s so silly.

[Dustie]: I heard of thall? It’s like, the sound or something?

Bröötalisk: I think it’s interesting that people are basing their bands around a guitar tone, and not necessarily how the whole thing comes and flows together. Where do you think it’ll end up 5 or 10 years from now?

[Dan]: Oh, I don’t know man. At that time we’ll probably be a progressive bluegrass surfcore band.

[Dustie]: I want to be on tour with String Cheese Incident by then. With Widespread Panic. laughs

[Dan]: Yeah, Paul’s (guitarist) gonna be 42. No, 43 right?

[Dustie]: He’s gonna look like shit. Smell all fucked up.

[Dan]: laughs We’ll see man. No one can tell the future. We’re still gonna be writing weird shit and trying to do something new every record.

[Dustie]: I hope it never ends. I want to continue writing weird shit for the rest of my life.

Bröötalisk: How does The Parallax II continue the concept that was laid out by last year’s EP?

[Dan]: It continues it seamlessly. As far as the story and stuff. Musically it’s something completely new. There’s a couple small things that are very recognizable from the EP that carried over and have a new life. The EP laid the groundwork for the story and it gets pretty wild in this new record.

Bröötalisk: So would you say it’s a lot more different then last year’s EP?

[Dan]: Yeah, we just had more room to do stuff…at 74 minutes!

[Dustie]: It’s a very long record and it’s my personal favorite too so far. There’s a lot going on. We got to do a lot of stuff that we’ve never done. Even going all the way down to guitar tones and different instruments.

[Dan]: Yeah, we got some violin on it. Some tuba. Saxophone. Flute. All kinds of stuff.

Bröötalisk: I remember listening to a preview of the album on Amazon, and when I got to the song Bloom it sounded fucking weird and awesome and…really really cool.

[Dan]: Oh yeah, the Amazon preview is up…I’m curious what it’s actually showing! laughs Just wait till you hear the whole record man.

Bröötalisk: I have to ask, who is the genius behind the Parallax 2 Space Suit?

[Dan]: That was me and Tommy (vocalist). It just seemed so obvious. Why haven’t bands done that before!? We actually just put in our order for our own personal ones today for our crew. We’re gonna make them dress up on stage.

The sexy attire in question.

Bröötalisk: Is your new side project Trioscapes just a one off, or are they a more permanent band?

[Dan]: It’s hopefully a permanent thing. We’ve got a tour after I get home from this. I’d like to do more in 2013 and release a new record at some point. That’s one of those things where I feel like we can get together in 2 days and write half a record. That stuff came about very organically. It was just basically Walter (saxophonist) telling me that he wrote these two or three sax melodies, and then I wrote a bunch of different rhythmic variations for them, and working out a lot of different things with the drummer. It’s just a fun new different outlet for me. It’s guys that are into totally different and weird shit.

Bröötalisk: Trioscapes seem very similar to another side project, T.R.A.M. Are you familiar with the band? Did the two bands come together and say, “We should both write random jazzy fusion records!”

[Dan]: It was strange because last year in Europe with Animals as Leaders we were sharing a bus together, and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. And we asked them what they’d been up to, and they said, “Oh, we started a fusion group this summer with a saxophone player! What have you been doing?” And I said, “…I started a fusion group with a saxophone player!” It was very weird, but it’s great because we have a lot of similar influences. Ever since I met Tosin (guitarist for Animals as Leaders) we talked about John McLaughlin (composer for Mahavishnu Orchestra) as being a very big influence. I hope, if anything, to introduce that kind of music to some people who aren’t familiar with it. On the Trioscapes record we actually straight up did a cover of a Mahavishnu Orchestra song, although it’s a way different interpretation of it. Hopefully that will lead people to time travel back to the 70s and see where people actually began being weird. They think it’s weird now? No, go back then. They were crazy.

Bröötalisk: Is it safe to say you and Tosin are BFFs?

[Dan]: Yeah, we’re buds. These guys go back, even before Animals as Leaders.

[Dustie]: My other band, with me and Blake (drummer), toured with them in 2003.

[Dan]: We’ve known those guys for a long time.

[Dustie]: Evan Brewer was in the band with them too.

[Dan]: We’re taking Animals as Leaders to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in November. It never ends. We’re trying to hit the whole world with them. We still gotta go to South America, Africa, gotta get up to Iceland.

[Dustie]: We should play Greenland. Play on a glacier.

Bröötalisk: Finally, just out of curiosity, I ask every single band I interview this: what are some of your favorite bands out there right now?

[Dan]: Well, I’m really excited about the new Faceless record. I love this band called Astra who’s on Metal Blade Imprint. They’re a totally psyched out 70s band. It’s really great.

[Dustie]: I’m not really listening to anything heavy at the moment.

Bröötalisk: I surprisingly get that a lot actually. A lot of people I’ve interview say that they don’t listen to too much metal.

[Dan]: I listen to a lot of Cab Calloway (jazz singer) and old music.

[Dustie]: Anything with Jerry Douglas (resonator guitarist) on it.

[Dan]: The Jerry Seinfeld album was awesome. laughs

[Dustie]: [In his best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation] What…was that? What’s…the deal… Well this guy…