On Friday, June 10, 2022 the TWO DECADES OF DESTRUCTION TOUR kicked off at the House of Blues, Las Vegas. This stacked tour featured Las Vegas locals, OV SULFUR, Connecticut deathcore outfit, SHADOW OF INTENT, Knoxville,TN deathcore veterans, WHITECHAPEL, and San Diego, CA based metalcore heavyweights, AS I LAY DYING.
I walked up to the House of Blues inside of the Mandalay Bay about 30 minutes until the posted door time of 6PM. I saw that about a week or so before this show that they had moved the opening time from 7pm to 6pm, and I can only assume it was to bring in more people with the ALL AGES tag. No complaints about that, I try to take my almost 10 year old with me to these kinds of things when I can! I digress. All throughout the casino floor, and in a line which wrapped around and passed the front of the HOB restaurant were metalheads. It was going to be a packed show, and it's not hard to understand why.
Ov Sulfur is a Las Vegas blackened deathcore band; for those who don't know. They gained almost immediate popularity because of their vocalist, Ricky Hoover. Hoover used to be in the band SUFFOKATE back during the main inception and quick popularity growth of the deathcore genre. Ov Sulfur had a lineup change since the last time we saw them at FCC, as well. Added on guitar was Matthew Janz, longtime member of the Las Vegas music scene. (Though their Facebook profile says he is on bass right now.) So the current lineup consists of Ricky Hoover - vocals, Chase Wilson - guitar, Matthew Janz - guitar, Levi Xui - drums, and James William - bass. (Info snagged from their instagram tags for reference!)
I may be a bit biased here, but these guys definitely killed it on the stage this night. We yet again saw Nick Arthur perform his part on the song “Doomhead”; which is always a treat! I have zero complaints about the set as a whole; the sound was great. They packed a punch on the energy front, and the crowd was amped up for what was to come.
I just really wish the House of Blues would light local bands a bit better, but that’s about the only (maybe) negative thing I have to say.
SHADOW OF INTENT
As I mentioned in my pre show piece, I cannot believe I missed these guys when they first came onto the scene. They are just SO good. They have all these really great elements from deathcore, but I can also hear prominent sounds from death and black metal and the way they blend all these things together is just incredible. (I say all this as I have their Spotify channel playing, and my 16 month old son is headbanging around the room. He definitely approves!)
I’d have to say that what stuck out to me the most about these guys was how intense some of their bass parts were. (both drums and bass guitar) I think my soul might have briefly left my body during some of these songs. It might have been during the song “The Catacombs” where I just felt that intense drop and like I said, I’m pretty sure my soul left my body there for a bit. At any rate, the pit stayed high energy and active throughout the entire set and I always love this. It’s a great indication of whether the crowd is digging the set or not. Safe to say these guys are absolutely a crowd favorite. At least for the Vegas date anyway!
I am still super disappointed in myself for sleeping on these guys. Definitely on my list of bands to see again and again in the future.
I’ve been a fan of Whitechapel for a while now, despite having failed to listen to their last full length studio albums. The last time I saw these guys was at Las Rageous a few years back and that set pales in comparison to the one that we saw on the House of Blues stage this night. (Probably because you just don’t get the same kind of show at a festival in comparison to a regular touring package; that performance at Las Rageous WAS good though, don’t get me wrong!)
Anyway, despite me not having heard the albums “Kin” or “The Valley”, about three fourths of Whitechapel’s set consisted of tracks from these two albums. I went in blind in that sense, but I felt they performed those songs very well. I also have to say that I really dug the overall light show and stage presence of them in general. It made for some really cool photos!
Whitechapel closed out their set with “This is Exile”, “Our Endless War” and “The Saw is the Law.” The final track, “The Saw is the Law” is their most played song on their Spotify profile as of today. (6/17/22)
AS I LAY DYING
Without going too deep into some of this; the day prior to this show, drummer and founding member of As I Lay Dying, Jordan Mancino made a public post that he would not be performing with the guys due to some internal conflict. This unfortunately sowed some doubt and uncertainty among fans who had been eagerly waiting for this tour. The day of, however, it was announced that former Unearth drummer Nick Pierce would be taking the drumming spot for this run and the next. It was stated that Nick learned about 18 songs in the extremely short amount of time prior. That's pretty impressive!
About a month before the start of tour, it was announced that Ken Susi (Unearth) and Ryan Neff (Miss May I) would be filling in also. This leaves the band with just two members from the classic line up. Phil Sgrosso and Tim Lambesis. Did I make the "As I Lay Unearthed" joke? Yes. I did. But, I love Unearth; Ken Susi and Nick Pierce are incredible musicians. Ryan Neff is pretty great too. (The last time I saw him was when Miss May I played the now renamed Vinyl for their Monument tour back in 2019.)
Burn to Emerge
There was a bit of anticipation that had built up as I sat in front of the stage waiting for my three songs to begin. I have seen As I Lay Dying many, many times through the years. I wondered how this show would be in comparison to the ones in the past. Those first three songs were "Blinded", "Through Struggle" and "Within Destruction" and I could not have been happier to be down there during those songs. I sang to myself as I wandered back and forth in front of the stage. Smiles in between snaps could definitely be seen from an outside perspective. Even though this was my second time photographing these metalcore heavyweights, if you had told me when I was 18 and seeing them at the old Joint over and over; that one day I'd be in that photo pit… I would not have believed you.
Also just a sidenote here, I love that Ken Susi can be seen running and jumping around the stage for a lot of this show. I'm convinced that he is like that no matter what stage or group of musicians he's playing with. And I'm not complaining one bit about it! I fucking love it!
After my three songs were up, I stood off to the side near a taped off VIP section. The fans that stood here next to me all night were filled with energy. Happiness radiated from one of them especially, and I really related to that.
As we pushed through the setlist, we heard "Redefined", "The Sound of Truth", and "Forsaken". Ov Sulfur vocalist Ricky Hoover came out and sang on Forsaken with Tim and the two shared some really great energy on stage. The sheer happiness that could be seen from those two, it was hard not to smile also.
The energy stays high throughout the entire set, fans can be seen moshing and singing literally until the very end. Somewhere around the halfway mark of the show, Tim stopped and spoke to the crowd essentially about how grateful he is to be still performing for us all. (Please don't rip on me here- I do not remember all of the details of what he said.) Given the rocky past and his addressing of his trials through the last decade, he still is acknowledging that he messed up, and that he is lucky to be able to do what he's doing. These bands don't exist without the fans, and that's very, very apparent; especially with a band like this who have been through the ringer through the years.
Shaped By Fire
Given all of that, I will not speak here about all the things that have gone on because you all already know. As I said in my pieces for the Shaped by Fire tour; I hope that Tim continues to try to be his best self for him, and all those who are around and involved with him.
We steady flow through the rest of the setlist, "Shaped By Fire", "The Darkest Nights", and "An Ocean Between Us". All notable fan favorites and the singing continues to be heard all throughout the entire House of Blues venue. Followed by "Gatekeeper", "A Greater Foundation", and "Parallels"; it doesn't seem as if the crowd ever let's up. By this point we are 12 songs in! From a fan perspective; I really was impressed with just how long and varied this set list was. "My Own Grave" and "94 Hours" are listed as the final two songs of the main set list.
Can we talk for a second about just how complimentary Ryan Neff sounds on clean vocals!? I felt that he definitely exceeded with all his parts.
Two Decades of Destruction - Encore
The final two songs for the night were "Nothing Left" and "Confined". While I would have loved to hear "Elegy", "Forever" or "Distance is Darkness"; overall I'm pretty pleased with the songs chosen for this tour in general. (Obviously I'm just a really big fan of the 2003 record 'Frail Words Collapse', ha!)
I had decided to wait just a few minutes before I headed up to the casino floor to find my way back to my car. Those stairs are always beyond packed heading out of these events and can be a bit of a hazard; especially if you find yourself next to someone who has over indulged at the bar. Overall though I'd have to say that I have no real complaints about this run, I had a great time and enjoyed the music. Was it the same as it was all those years ago? No. But I hope these guys; Tim and Phil especially, are able to push through and continue on their musical paths.
Until next time…
All live photos by Courtney Ware for ZrockR Magazine 2022 - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.