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Strhess Tour 
with Shadows Fall, Himsa, As I Lay Dying, and Remembering Never

By Mark Hensch

For followers of the hardcore/heavy metal scenes, it is safe to say few tours have ever looked as tantalizing on paper as the Strhess Tour (pronounced "stress") with Shadows Fall, Himsa, As I Lay Dying, and Remembering Never. I went to the August 16th showing at the Intersection club in Grand Rapids, MI, one of the tour's last stops, and I can testify to the fact that this is no cheap "dream team" set-up that fails to deliver; this is what a bloody extreme music tour should sound like!

South Florida hardcore stalwarts Remembering Never took the stage a little past the 6:30 PM start, but any complaints I might have had with this minor issue where lost as the band proceeded to blast out a blitzkrieg of modern hardcore that was tight, seamless, and well-done. I will admit I had next to no knowledge of this act prior to the show; thankfully, the frontman, Mean Pete, was an outgoing, dynamic, and involved singer who paused between every song to engage the crowd in intimate conversation. Besides his obvious love of the devout in the audience, Mean Pete also had excellent hardcore vocals, warming up the crowd into a rage with his intense growls and screams. Bassist Aldo and dual guitarists Norm and Grease played an almost synchronized, flawless, and oddly robotic set of chugging thrash and triple headbanging. Drummer Danny (who I bumped into unknowingly before their set) played varied and tense drums that never missed a beat as it provided a crushing backbone for the band's uncompromising hardcore. Choosing to support newest album Women & Children Die First, Remembering Never kicked things off with "For The Love of Fiction." This punishing jam set up a quick set of tunes spanning the range from "A Revolution in A Minor," "Incisions," "Closed Caskets," and "The Color of Blood and Money." Mean Pete laced the downtime between songs with rants against both Bush and animal cruelty, not to mention shout-outs to hardcore kids, vegans, and straight-edgers. He also threw the mic into the crowd at random intervals, encouraging the various concert goers to scream the next lyrics for him. I was really impressed by these dudes, and I hope to hear more of them in the future.

The music next lapsed into more familiar territory as Seattle metalcore mavens Himsa took the stage. I was amazed to find I liked seeing these guys even more then Shadows Fall (the main band I wanted to see), and I have to say Himsa's singer John Pettibone is the real deal. Blasting out "Dominion", a solid thrash metal tune from Courting Tragedy and Disaster, the band got a warm reception that would become simply over the top due to some unforeseen circumstances. Shortly before the song's melting guitar solo, a local buffoon threw a water bottle unprovoked towards Pettibone, instead clipping drummer Tim Mullen. Unfazed, the band continued to play the song, playing it perfectly. Pettinbone then told the moron throwing crap in the crowd that he was going to kick his "fourteen year old ass." The band then burst out with a sweet multitude of great songs, hitting dark metalcore rocker "Rain to The Sound of Panic," upbeat hardcore jam "A Girl in Glass", "Jacob Shock," "When Midnight Breaks", and possibly the best song in the set, the predatory "Loveless and Goodbye." The band also unleashed a new monster aptly titled "The Destroyer." 

Towards the end of the set, Pettibone sneered "Just three more songs, then the beating begins." His words rang true when following the end of the band's spot on the show, he leaped down from the stage and proceeded to take on the stupid fourteen year old bugger and his bevy of friends. Security broke everything up, and I can't help but think it was good that they did, not for Pettibone, but for the kids, who surely would have had the living daylights knocked out of their thickened skulls. If you have never seen Pettibone, picture a black makeup wearing bouncer, an old wolf who has seen his share of fights, and a fingerless glove wearing dude sporting a hanging black bang ala Edward Scissorhands. Though an intimidating figure, the imposing frontman was a real class act as he earned the respect of the crowd, jumped into the pit while singing constantly, and showed the younger bands how to headbang oldschool. He also posed for pictures, wandered after the set talking to any who wanted to talk to him, and signed autographs with gusto. Himsa's set in conclusion was unrelenting awesome music, with bassist Derek Harn's swinging golden hair inspiring awe and guitarists Kirby Charles Johnson and Sammi Curr playing insanely complicated metalcore riffs, solos, and progressions. I can say without a doubt one of the shows highlight's was Pettibone during "Rain to the Sound of Panic," screaming "Let it rain on me!" while headbanging like mad and then jumping into the pit with no warning. Simply amazing.

Next came As I Lay Dying, who made their presence felt with their (as always) absurdly tight modernist hardcore sound. Frontman Tim Lambesis (thankfully) lambasted us with "Collision," before launching into the ever popular "94 Words" off of Frail Words Collapse, the latest release. In an amazing moment, Tim also spoke of his band's close friendship with Himsa, and chastised the people who had insulted and disrespected them earlier. After this, the band put it on cruise control, launching a basic hardcore only set of songs such as "Distance is Darkness," "Undefined," "Elegy," and "The Pain of Separation." The band closed with "Forever," and John Pettibone of Himsa appeared on the stage to show support for the band by singing along with them. It was amazing how well the band's sound translates live, and drummer Jordan Mancino knows how to keep the band in line with his tight beats, splashes, ect. The hardcore kids lapped this stuff up like mad, hardcore dancing, flipping, even leaping into the front rows with a near suicidal respect for their bodily health. One kid even proceeded to leap atop and walk near the stage on people's shoulders; energy like this takes an already good act like As I Lay Dying and transforms them into a great act.

And so it was, that even after a show so loaded as this, the kings of American Heavy Metal took the stage. Shadows Fall took the stage and nuked the crowd with rocker "Thoughts Without Words," setting up what would be a "kill 'em all" style set that took no prisoners with straight forward music. The bombs kept falling though, seeing a circle pit whipped up for "Stepping Outside The Circle," no holds barred metal in the veins of "The Power of I and I," "Act of Contrition" (both promising new tunes from the band), and a brilliant lighter moment in "The Art of Balance." Older fans also got to pay homage to earlier tune "Of One Blood." By far the set's highlight, Shadows Fall raised the integrity of music everywhere by playing all of the 8 minute plus epic that is "A Fire in Babylon." The metal lords closed with the remarkably quick "Destroyed of Senses," and left without an encore, no big deal, as the show was filled with more great music that most other concerts I've seen in the last year combined. 

The only low-point of a show like this has in fact little to do with the music. The age old disrespect between metal heads and hardcore kids became painfully apparent as the show was littered with tense words, near fights, and brief brawls. Considering the level of friendship and respect between the bands themselves, one would think it plausible to see a similar unity between fans of either genre, if only for one night, and in the name of good music regardless of style or aesthetic. As sad as such things are to see first-hand, it had little impact on my own personal experience, and this was easily the best concert I have ever attended. 

Purchase music and listen to samples for Shadows Fall, Himsa, As I Lay Dying, and Remembering Never.

Visit the official site for Shadows Fall, Himsa, As I Lay Dying, and Remembering Never

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