Satan blessed you, Roseland Theater.
(Photos: Per Otto Oppi Christiansen)
Satan blessed you, Roseland Theater.
Sunday, March 29, held an annihilation affair. Rising sludge titans Pallbearer, post-hardcore legends Converge and newly un-hiatused At The Gates descended on the Roseland for a brilliant and punishing show.
Pallbearer only played a few songs, which would have been odd if it weren’t for the fact that most of those behemoths lasted anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. The tempo was always at a sludgy grind, allowing their Sabbath worship to extend to delirious lengths. That tempo never rose once, but Pallbearer didn’t need it to. It was a somber affair that should have been accented by candles and inverted crosses in the lowest lit venue possible. Pallbearer made it work in their jeans and T-shirts.
One of Pallbearer’s best talents is in making soaring harmonies work over a thudding foundation. Brett Campbell’s Ozzy-like delivery has been well noted, but Devin Holt and Joseph D. Rowland added sweeping power to some of the band’s monstrous climaxes. They culled fairly evenly from their first two releases, but it was closer “Foreigner,” from their debut, Sorrow and Extinction, that still proved to be the band’s most thunderous work, playing out like all your D-and-D fantasies for a magnificent 12 minutes.
Converge didn’t care as much for the sober meditative thing Pallbearer put out. Even before they began, frontman Jacob Bannon was leaping around stage. The calisthenics seem to do him good; the dude’s pushing 40, but he had the energy of a newly minted punk fan. That energy marked the core of Converge’s performance, as despite the Roseland being a fairly large venue, Converge made it feel like a basement show. You felt like Bannon was screaming directly at you as they ripped through blistering numbers like “Tresspasses” and “Eagles Become Vultures.”
If you take apart each element of Converge’s sound, they seem like a band that wouldn’t work on paper, but they blend together brilliantly. Nate Newton’s more traditional yells perfectly accent Bannon’s death squawks, while Kurt Ballou continues to be one of the most versatile guitarists in rock music, happily shifting from crunchy punk riffs to blistering solos usually reserved for prog. And Ben Koller—well he’s kind of scary. He looked giddy as he destroyed his drum set, leaving one to wonder just how quickly he goes through drumheads. About two-thirds of the way into his set, Bannon spoke to two moshing fans that were wearing terrifying horsehead masks. “You guys are making us laugh…you’re weird mother fuckers!” he laughed before asking if Koller could borrow one of the masks. It was tossed onstage and Koller donned it for a full song. I couldn’t tell if it was hilarious or horrifying.
The pinnacle of Converge’s set was, undoubtedly, the title track from their latest album, All We Love We Leave Behind. It was one of the few times that Converge allowed their volume to build before breaking into eardrum-decimating levels. Newton’s bass howled a single note and much of the crowd broke out into cheers. It was a scream-along and beautifully cathartic.
At The Gates played somewhere between Pallbearer’s stoic sludge and Converge’s manic punk. Despite forming the same year as Converge, At The Gates felt much more reserved, perhaps a result of their long hiatus. That’s not to say they didn’t have energy, and Tomas Lindberg is still a commanding presence. Though his voice may have lowered a bit since At The Gates’ heyday, his scratchy, furious scream is as demonic as ever.
Splitting their set with songs from their newest album, At War with Reality, and their pre-hiatus work, At The Gates were almost as obsessed on the low end as Pallbearer was. Jonas Björler’s growling bass was the center of the infernal ruckus, and sure there were flashy solos, but the band seemed much more concerned with skull bruising riffs that found their power in Björler’s grit. Their landmark work, Slaughter of the Soul, got the most love, with the title track, “Suicide Nation” and “Under a Serpent Sun” being the easy highlights.
Knowing their audience had been pummeled for hours straight, At The Gates fortunately took a few short instrumental breaks to allow a breath or two, but they, of course, jumped right back into the mayhem as soon as they could. The wait before the encore was wonderfully short and, like Converge, they had one song that towered above the rest. Slaughter of the Soul’s centerpiece, “Blinded By Fear,” summed up everything brilliant about At The Gates in a neat three minutes. Björler lead the string attack, Lindberg howled like a demon (“the face of all your FEEAAAARRS!”) and Adrian Erlandsson played a drum part that would have decimated the arms of a lesser man. I’ve seen better individual artists in the past, but this tour feels rare. Pallbearer, Converge and At The Gates all could have each headlined their own shows, but combined together, they made a musical, metal Voltron.