By: Alex Wardell
Circle pits, a small riot, a guitar shreddin’ banana and the start of one of the most hardcore tours were kicking ass in Salt Lake City on Halloween. The ‘Eternal Nightmare’ tour featuring four of my favorite groups performed at the Complex; October 31st, 2019 was one of the most incredible concerts of my life and definitely the most memorable Halloween of recent years. The Complex was thriving with fans from all scenes of the hardcore world: Thrash, Grindcore, Hardcore-Punk, Sludge, Stoner Metal, Metalcore and the ever hated Deathcore. For the sake of us having a good time, I do not categorize performers within the hardcore scene for any other reason other than to distinguish the vastly different and prolific talents of these bands from one another. Isn’t this why there are mosh pits in the first place? All of us have such passions and emotions tied to this music and our most beloved talents in the community, that reason and arguing will never get us anywhere, perhaps a few bruised ribs and split lips will; probably not, but that will never keep us from trying. Now, let’s chat about the thunderous scene I found myself in upon simply entering the venue.
Left Behind was first up and couldn’t wait to get up to the stage. Eager to hear the newest from the band’s No one goes to Heaven album I was pumped to get this night of carnage underway. Zac approached the front of the stage in his glorious monogrammed Earnhardt Jr. jacket and addressed the crowd at that moment, Salt Lake City came alive in the Grand Room of the Complex. Oddly enough, as I was enjoying the show I found myself forgetting it was freaking Halloween as Jordan Lorea was tearing it up in a fluorescent yellow ski mask and I’m asking myself why that night was extra weird. I later found the spirit of Halloween sinking its teeth in me as the night continued. The crowd was foaming at the mouth in anticipation of getting this night on its way when Left Behind instantly conjured a massive circle pit with, hmm, let’s say the most enthusiastic of hardcore fans windmilling and welcoming challengers within the mosh.
This tour was one I have been more excited to witness than most others in the past. Having four bands so different on the spectrum within the hardcore scene is so refreshing; a demonstration of the skill and wide talents of these groups as well as within the genres, of which they all push the limits. The second act to go on, Spite, would be where the pressure really cranked up with The Complex. Darius Tehrani is a beast; let’s get that out of the way now. This dude’s vocals, in my opinion, are almost unmatched in the scene right now. Sporting the robes and mangy mop of hair akin to a likeness of Jesus he stormed the stage and dropped right into it. “Kill or Be Killed,” destroyed the venue in an assault of thundering rhythms and unsettling vocals. Alex Tehrani was matching Darius’ energy by simply smashing the riffs and changes while mean mugging the crowd from beneath his banana costume. I have never seen fruit in this light before and I have to say I am a massive fan. It will change the way I eat plantains from now on. Cody Fuentes was a chicken, no, I mean he was literally a kick drum wasting, high hat crashing dead eyed chicken. I didn’t notice until halfway through their set, that Cody was killing it and most likely sweating weight off in a full head chicken suit; more than entertaining, impressive. Stephen Mallory keeping the debauchery moving, keeping the timing and changes in the ever changing bass riffs of the band’s repertoire, while also in a bright red demon mask. Setting the bar high, Spite represented one hell of a show.
I had no idea what was going on, coming back in from hitting the merch booth. I thought Acacia Strain was going on next and all I was seeing were these wigged figures beginning the soundcheck. I couldn’t make out faces just the shiny black wigs of some tall and daunting figures above me. Punishing and unrelenting is how I will describe the performance of Vincent and Devin Shidaker together. The chemistry and pure energy they emit is more than formidable. Dripping with fury they powered into and over the expectations I had, displaying talent and precision which went into writing and performing their latest; Gravebloom. Vince leapt on and over the risers, raging with a stage presence I have seldom seen matched. He then takes a moment to thank everyone for coming and acknowledging it is our fellow concert goers that make every show a memorable one. Asking one another to ensure that this Halloween be one for the books he tells the crowd to be the memory of this show to one another and make it a unique one. Using this as a wonderful segue, he then incites a momentary riot and calls the crowd to flood the front of the pit to body surf onto the partition and the security guards stationed there. “They want to catch you! They look so bored up here, they want to do their job, which is to catch all you f#%&#!” Absolute pandemonium inside the Grand ensued when a good forty people are thrown and floated toward the barrier. I was laughing, raging, in general, a flutter of emotions as Acacia Strain left the stage. Eager and nervous for the reason we all came to the heart of Salt Lake this Halloween night.
Fresh off their new album and recent restructuring, Chelsea Grin has been through some extreme changes in the last two years. Yet these changes, from what I witnessed on Halloween have made Chelsea Grin more powerful and hardcore than ever before. The addition of Tom Barber gives the group a more unified feel and dynamic vocal range than in recent years. I truly wish the best to Alex and his struggles and look for him in the future, but he has left the boys in a come up position. However, the pressure was on. David Flinn, clad in a 90’s Spiderman aesthetic led the group in every heart dropping breakdown and time change. I was blown away, as I am every time, by Pablo’s insane skill with the drums. Tom rocked the house, opening the set dressed as Slimer from Ghostbusters, looking rather warm as he did so; not letting it show he destroyed the review of their newest album. Bringing the ‘Eternal Nightmare’ to life, they hammered the crowd with song after song. As memorable a Halloween I have ever been a part of, I will definitely make sure to be anywhere such a nightmare reveals itself once more.