It was the late 2000s, I was still relatively new to metal, and I hadn’t yet found my niche. Sure, bands like Shadows Fall and Lamb of God were cool, but they weren’t quite what I was looking for. Not that I even knew what I was looking for in the first place. I had stumbled into a newer label, Sumerian Records, whose roster featured a couple bands I was really getting into. I made a point to make sure I explored all of the bands’ discographies; some I was completely disinterested in, and others stuck with me for a long time.
Not many bands, nonetheless on that roster, have truly stood the test of my fluctuating musical tastes throughout the last decade. And only a couple of those bands really helped shape my current musical interests.
I don’t often get to say that I loved an album at first listen, but The Faceless‘s Planetary Duality was one of those instances. It satiated my appetite for breakdowns, but also kept my interest with complex riffage and song structure, intricate solos, and pro gutturals. Lyrics about aliens and stuff helped alot too. The title track is how I was introduced to Art Bell‘s Coast to Coast AM radio show, too.
The first time I got to see The Faceless was on a Summer Slaughter run that stopped in Niagara Falls. That was four years ago. Since then, with the ensuing drama of full lineups quitting, dropping shows and tours, and some heavy drug usage, it appeared as if founder Michael Keene and The Faceless were destined to implode on themselves. And I would be forced to carve another notch in the “Bands I’ll Never See Again” column.
Naturally, I was proven wrong. Over the summer, a tour was announced with The Faceless as the headliner, plus some added support. Keene had managed to recruit a full live band willing to look past all the drama and tour. Contrary to previous instances, Keene was showing up to shows relatively sober, coherent, and playing at (almost) his typical skill level. And I finally had my chance when they stopped in Rochester. Though he was rather quiet throughout the night, he nailed every riff and solo, and his singing was still on point.
Of course, I busted a proverbial nut when they announced that they’d be doing a Planetary Duality 10th Anniversary tour, especially right around the holidays. And with a date within reasinable driving distance from my humble abode in Buffalo. The full tour lineup is exceptional.
Interloper were up next, featuring members of Vampire Squid, ex-Intervals and ex-Rings of Saturn. Unbeknownst to me, they were down a vocalist for the night; though I would have loved to see Mike Semesky again, I’m certainly not disappointed in their instrumental set. That’s the beauty of techdeath bands like Interloper- sure, having a vocalist to front the band and lyrics to help add to crowd participation are great, but they’re not necessary. They did an outstanding job even though they were down a man (and a guitar during the last song).
The Last Ten Seconds of Life, whom I’ve heard of for years, were up next. I had never made a point to listen to them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once their set got going, I noticed how nuts the crowd was getting. But I felt underwhelmed. Chugs and hype really don’t do it for me anymore. Sorry, I think?
I have been itching to see Vale of Pnath for a while. With a little deja vu from earlier in the night, they too were down a vocalist and thus chose to play an instrumental set. And again, I was met with incredibly techy but melodic, complex but catchy music that didn’t really need vocals. Writing this, I am reminded that I am far overdue to revisit their discography.
I have ceased giving fucks about Rings of Saturn long ago after witnessing poor etiquette and lack of professionalism. The only things cool about seeing this band on Sunday was getting to catch Yo Onityan, filling in for Lucas Mann, totally rip on his 8-string, and being able to stand offstage with their new touring drummer front and center.
And of course, our headliner. Aaron Stechauner and Andrew Virrueta, of Interloper, reappeared as this tour’s hired hands. Julian Kersey (ex-Aegeon) returned on vocals. Keene was exceptional. He wasn’t reclusive, and seemed enthusiastic about talking with fans and signing vinyls. Though annoyed with some technical difficulties, his attitude was incredibly positive. He was a frontman for the first time since I first saw them. He was incredibly engaging and his stage presence was outstanding. This new lineup started off playing Planetary Duality front to back. They continued with “Autothiestic Movement: I-III”, a couple songs off In Becoming A Ghost, and ended with “Ten Billion Years”.
It was close to midnight by the time their set ended, and I had an hour and a half drive back home. I was exhausted. But my heart was happy.