By Lisa Burke
(photos by Matt Nielson)
May 18th 2017, The Echoplex, Los Angeles CA: With some of Los Angeles’ more intimate venues closing as of late, where can you expect to find the best heavy metal shows these days? Well, there is always downtown and the sunset strip that seem to be holding stable ground, but also there is a very cool spot in Echo Park that has two venues attached to it along with serving some of the finest pizza around if you are into Two Boots southern style. The venue of course, if you are familiar, is the Echo and even larger Echoplex which have been taking on more metal shows recently. On Thursday May 18th 2017 I visited the Echoplex for headliners Pallbearer, along with support from Gatecreeper, and late add-ons Grand Lord High Master, replacing Venomous Maximus who had to drop off the tour last-minute. This was still a good line-up in its diversity which absolutely worked well as a unit. In my mind a metal show should be approached as a fashion runway collection where all the parts not only speak volumes for themselves, but also speak together as a cohesive unit despite the differences set in the individual pieces and parts.
Grand Lord High Master is a fairly local hardcore band with a flavor of groove and thrash that adds a nice punch to the palate. They are also the newest band of the bunch despite all bands being less than ten years old. They have quickly gained momentum and a loyal following in this town and there really is nothing to dislike here. They may not be extremely out of the box on their collection of tunes yet they spin that modern mix of key elements together into a smooth blend that can be enjoyed by the heavy metal masses. They clearly work hard and take themselves seriously as musicians with all the skills to boot. The vocals mixed with heavy bass grooves lend well to an all around tough-as-nails band. These guys could really fit in well with just about any genre as they base themselves in the middle somewhere in the circle of genres that are out there surrounding heavy metal. They played just the right set length, and I’m positive this was the largest stage I’ve seen them on which they definitely handled with ease.
Grand Lord High Master photos:
The Echoplex actually kicks ass for having clean load out and load in time with no disruption of the crowd and the outdoor patio is perfect to accommodate a between-band change of scenery. Gatecreeper made their way on stage and put out a strong set of that in-your-face clean death metal. What is clean death? Well, it’s modern death metal, I suppose, that reaches out from the normal old-school death metal style just enough to catch the listener’s attention and make them question their own knowledge of the genre. Hailing from Arizona, these dudes who are obviously influenced by the likes of Nails and similar style bands, have their own voice and story to tell that you can be sure you will enjoy. They also seem to be gaining momentum fairly quickly with their non-stop fun death metal tunes. Having seen Nails live as well, I would say they withstand the competition very well and I would happily make a valiant effort to catch their next show. All the elements are in play here and the stage presence was working for them as well. “How many of you are only here for Pallbearer?” was a question the vocalist actually asked and as funny as it was, it is also a real issue in this scene. There are people with legit difficult schedules out there who can not see all bands in a line-up, but then there are the ones who really just can’t be bothered with new bands despite the fact that they may be the same people who later bitch and gripe about how there is no good new music anymore. Get out there and find it if you can because that’s the only way you’ll ever hear it, since there is no MTV headbangers ball anymore among other treats from back in the days before the internet consumed our lives. Gatecreeper really had a familiar heavy tone that welcomed any death metal fan into their world with ease, and I highly recommend checking them out.
Then the moment finally came when I got my second Echoplex viewing of Arkansas’ Pallbearer and my first viewing since the new album ‘Heartless’ was released. Since the latest album is very different from the more straightforward doom metal side they carried on previous albums, it creates quite the interesting dynamic for their live set. I was taken to places I had never been before with this live set and it was far better than I imagined with the latest tunes intermixed. The new songs melded beautifully with the older and they carried a slightly progressive vibe into the mix that really enhanced the normal. They have melodic tendencies in their brand of doom that flow as if the audience has suddenly taken flight themselves into a mountainous land of smooth vibrations. The clean, perfect-pitched vocals are a key element in this sound as well, and woven in and out of doom and melodic riffs the satisfaction level is reached. This show, for lack of a more detailed and less slang-based description, was off-the-chain with good vibes and good tunes. Slightly older tunes ‘Worlds Apart’ and ‘The Ghost I Used To Be’ stood out as some of the best of the best, and I for one must say I think they are really headed in the right direction in creating a diverse body of work, and I can only hope their new album can mix in just a touch of perhaps an even different vibe to gain momentum and kill any anticipated monotony.
Pallbearer is definitely worth all the live viewings you can get from them, and one of the joys of a packed but not too overcrowded show at a fairly intimate venue is you get to know facts you didn’t know you needed to such as that the guitarist must have gotten a new tattoo that day, either that or he plays better in Saran Wrap. Again, it was an all around great show and a fairly simple one with only three bands that everyone in attendance should rightfully enjoy. If you think there are no new/young metal bands creating a highly commendable existence for themselves, then you clearly haven’t seen these bands.
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Remaining Tour Dates:
05/23/2017 – Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theater ^
05/25/2017 – Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room ^*
05/26/2017 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue & 7th St Entry ^*
05/27/2017 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews ^*
05/28/2017 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon ^*
05/30/2017 – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups ^*
05/31/2017 – Pittsburgh, PA @ The Rex Theater ^*
06/01/2017 – Washington, DC @ Rock And Roll Hotel ^*
06/02/2017 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer (w/ Baroness & Nothing)
06/05/2017 – Harrisonburg, VA @ The Golden Pony – VA ^*
06/06/2017 – Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar ^*
06/07/2017 – St Louis, MO @ Fubar Saint Louis ^*
^ = w/ Gatecreeper
* = w/ Inter Arma