There can be no doubt -- the concert bill headlined by Trivium on Monday, October 6, 2008, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was tailored to a select few. Those who like the music that echoed through Hawkeye Downs like their music heavy, loud, and fast. While the small crowd was vocal during the actual music, it was quiet between when a band quit playing a song and started the next one. And that's not a complaint. The roar of guitars and drums and bass and keyboards and screaming -- yes, lots of screaming -- needed to cease every so often to make the audience ready for the next assault.
Human Abstract bounded onto the stage at and played a quick set. Their insanely complex rhythms mesmerized the crowd as vocalist Nathan Ells ripped his heart out and proclaimed venom through his screams of agony. Guitarists Dean Herrera and Andrew Tapley traded licks and dizzying solos while drummer Brett Powell, pianist Sean Leonard, and bassist Allen Eason each were featured in various parts of the set list. There were a lot of fists pumping the air and even more air guitarists and air drummers that seemed to be enjoying the show.
Alaska's 36 Crazy Fist attacked the ears next. The highlight of their set, for me, was definitely "We Gave Them Hell" and "The All Night Lights." Those two songs showcase Brock Lindow's ability to toggle between screams and actual tones. Guitarist Steve Holt contributes guttural screams as well on top of the syncopation of drummer Thomas Noonan and bassist Mick Witney. Lindow called the crowd “Cedar Falls” a couple of times before correcting himself and getting the name right. His smile counter-balances the intensity and the non-laughing matter that is their material. Their set seemed too short, and I could have definitely listened to them longer.
All That Remains came next with nearly an hour of intensive metal. Vocalist Phil Labonte and guitarist Mike Martin and Oli Herbert form a lethal frontline assault. Drummer Jason Costa plays traditional style with his sticks and alternately leads with his left and right hand as the song fits. I knew none of this band's material but I was thoroughly impressed by their attention to the crowd. Labonte launched an occasional tirade that seemed heartfelt as he talked about what all the wives in the audience should do when they got home. There was pure chaos when Labonte demanded the mosh pit cover the entire floor.
Finally, headliner Trivium hit the stage with their thrash metal. I feel like the band has benefited from their persistent touring. This was the second time I had seen them play in Cedar Rapids and, like the first time, they were very impressive. With insanely complex drum patterns, Trivium is part Metallica and part Slayer. Lots of fog in the air, lots of whipping hair, lots of "let's go!" shouts, and lots of encouragement to not get tired and to persevere through the show. “Into The Mouth Of Hell” brought the crowd to a frenzy as the mosh pit and fists in the air cut through the arena. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Healy typically sings cleanly while guitarist Corey Beaulieu handles the growling. Drummer Travis Smith released hell on earth when he threw out a drumhead into the audience at the end of their set. Fans literally dog-piled on top of each other in order to retrieve the prize.
It took a lot of endurance to survive this show. Intense is an adjective that does not fully describe the bands. These are four up-and-coming metal bands that are touring in the tradition of Anthrax, Metallica, and Slayer. These bands are leaving all of their hearts on the stage. I left the arena not understanding many of the lyrics of the bands I heard, but thoroughly impressed with the musicianship in each of the bands.