It was an almost sub-zero night in New York City on Saturday January 30th, but that didn't stop the progressive metal faithful from coming out in droves to see one of the hottest acts on the scene, Between the Buried and Me, as well as Cynic, Devin Townsend, and Scale the Summit, at The Fillmore. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo also braved the cold, and brings this full concert report.
This was one of those nights where the majority of the fans in attendance basically jammed into the Fillmore from the start of the evening and just stared at the musicians hands as they worked through one complex passage after another. That's a prog gig folks! Though there was no doubt a good many folks who couldn't wait to start moshing and thrashing to some of BtBaM's heavier numbers, they mostly hung around back near the bar area and got drunk during the first few sets of the evening, and let all the prog-geeks soak in what was happening on stage. Yep, and I was one of those guys! After short stints in the photo pit to snap some shots, I made my way back into the crowd to catch all this spectacular progressive metal noodling just like everyone else.
Scale the Summit, those youngsters from Arizona, who play a very classy brand of instrumental progressive metal/jazz fusion, wowed the crowd with their dizzying & linear style. These guys (who are barely of legal drinking age) were a hit on Dream Theater's recent Progressive Nation Tour, and they went over quite well on this night as well. Playing songs from their Prosthetic Records debut Carving Desert Canyons, this four piece showed finesse like an act who perhaps has been on the scene for many years, each tune filled with weaving guitar lines, muscular bass, nimble drum work, and crunchy riffs. Perhaps like a more metallic, less jazzy version of Canada's Spaced Out, Scale the Summit have a lot to offer fans of Cynic, Liquid Tension Experiment, and Canvas Solaris. Their instrumental songs are addicting and intoxicating, and the guys don't try and bash you over the head with 'chops of doom', yet they certainly have plenty of those. It's not hard to see that this young band has a very bright future ahead of them. Those who were not aware of them before this evening certainly became instant fans.
It's been a few years since Devin Townsend played a show in New York. Since the demise of Strapping Young Lad, Townsend has kept a low profile as far as touring goes, though he's released a few of solo albums. Here, he's assembled a band and touring in support of Addicted, his fine new solo album for InsideOut, and second in a trilogy, the first being Ki. With his newly shaven head and a classy wardrobe, Devin came out to a huge ovation and tore into "Disruptr", one of the heavy pieces from the otherwise low-key Ki release. Ironically enough, the only song from Addicted that the band played this evening was "Supercrush", but with a 30 minute time restriction and the fact that on the album Anneke van Giersbergen sings on many of the tracks with Devin, it might have been difficult to recreate some of these songs for this tour. Other highlights included rocking numbers "OM", "Kingdom" and "Truth", as well as a killer visit to Ziltoid on the closing number "By Your Command". Devin was in fine form as always, so the usual comedic banter with the audience between each song occured, as well as his hilarious facial expressions as he prowled around the stage with his guitar and at the microphone. Just a fantastic set that delighted the crowd of 'metal nerds' as Devin proclaimed them. Hopefully after he releases the third part in this trilogy we can be treated to a full tour from Townsend and the band...headline preferably.
The legendary Cynic have been the talk of the metal world the last few years since their reformation, and 2008's Traced in Air was one of the highest rated progressive metal albums of that year. Their recent show in 2009 with Meshuggah at this very same venue was sold out, so there was no reason not to believe that fans would swarm the Fillmore once again to check them out. Well, that was indeed the case, as by the time they made it to the stage, the venue was so packed you could barely move. Cynic's music is very organic, with tones of jazzy passages mixed in with prog and a touch of death metal, and they are a band you 'get into' almost in a psychedelic, jam-band kind of way. Original members Paul Masvidal (Guitar and clean vocals) and Sean Reinert (drums) are joined by Tymon Kruidenier (Guitar and death growls) and Robin Zielhorst (Bass), both of whom also play in the instrumental metal-fusion band Exivious. Plenty of weaving dual guitar lines, nimble drum fills, and legato bass licks, which for the prog crowd in attendance was a thing of beauty. Though they mostly stuck to some of the standout tracks from Traced in Air for this show, including "Nunc Fluens", "Integral Birth", "The Space For This", "King of Those Who Know", and "Adam's Murmur", they also dipped into Focus for a stirring rendition of "Celestial Voyage", though I'm sure the fans would have loved to elso hear classics such as "Veil of Maya" or "Textures", but it seems as if Cynic want to move forward with their new material and not rely on their nearly 20 year old debut album. Regardless, this was a near 60 minute set of of intense 'head music' that you either got or you didn't, but I think the majority loved it and can't wait for some new music and another trip back to NYC.
The conquering heroes Between the Buried and Me finally hit the stage to some serious frenzy from the audience. Though they've been through New York a bit over the last few years, they seem to be getting more and more popular each year, due in part to a string of spectacular CD releases like Alaska, Colors, and their latest The Great Misdirect. Though their early style was clearly in the hardcore/metalcore area, the band always had a progressive approach to their musicianship, and over the years the prog & jazz leanings came more and more to the forefront, giving them a full-on progressive metal sound with plenty of extreme metal flavors. Keyboard player and lead singer Tommy Rogers had the crowd firmly in the palm of his hand as the band ripped into opener "Obfuscation", the 9+ minute gem from their latest The Great Misdirect, and from the photo pit you could feel the crowd surging into the barricade in front of the stage as bodies were being thrown over and into the pit. Quite manic to say the least! The dual guitar riffing from Dustie Waring and Paul Waggoner was outstanding throughout, approaching Dream Theater/Symphony X/Mastodon styled theatrics on standouts such as "Disease, Injury, Madness", "Alaska", and the epic piece from the new album "Swim ot the Moon". Much of the new album was actually played, and it's no surprise that given how long BtBaM's tunes are, their entire set only consisted of seven songs. The best was saved for last in the form of the classic "White Walls" from their standout Colors album. This is progressive metal at its finest and most dramatic, full of crushingly heavy moments, complex passages, and plenty of atmosphere and melody.
Easily Victory Records' most identifiable and popular band, Between the Buried and Me are on the verge of worldwide acclaim. Tours like these and albums like The Great Misdirect are not only widening their audience to include fans of bands such as Dream Theater, King Crimson, Yes, Slayer, and Mastodon, but for anyone into intelligent, progressive music. Kudos to them for putting on such a fine tour filled with intriguing acts, and we look forward to whatever they have up their sleeves in the near future.
Scale the Summit Set List
1.Age Of The Tide
4.The Great Plains
5.City In The Sky
Devin Townsend Set List
6.By Your Command
Cynic Set List
2.The Space For This
5.Wheels Within Wheels
7.King of Those Who Know
Between the Buried and Me Set List
2.Disease, Injury, Madness
3.More of Myself to Kill
4.Ants of the Sky
6.Swim to the Moon