I thought, getting in, that this was going to be a close-run thing; work and subsequent traffic had put me right up against it over a stressful drive out, following an absent-minded morning where I left the house without my rig. Fortunately, this was a post-metal show that was doable without said rig over my back, and also fortunately, this was a Monday night show with bands that for all their lack of kvltness are still pretty niche: the parking lot was as empty as the queue to get in as the length of the bar. Beer, two 3 records, Carbon-Based Anatomy and a vinyl of Cynic's previous overly-fluffy space-rock EP that I already own for probably too much money, and it was downstairs to stand around and see if Scale The Summit was actually worth spending money on records.
The crowd here bears some mention; not only, as implied, skewing younger than normal shows, it was a lot more diverse (by certain parameters), looking a lot more like the 128-belt tech industry than normal metal shows do. There's definite bases for launching into a rant about girlfriend metal and how this is going to choke the scene dead, but there's zero evidence of this actually happening, and I can see nothing but benefit if more of the nerdy children of engineers get into metal: their future earning power means more disposable income redirected to musicians, and their relative social isolation means that they're more likely to keep doing this shit longer. The hipster Fraktion is of more concern, and more of a threat to co-opt black metal than this music, where you kind of have to be a try-hard at your instrument to even get in the door. Sure, at some points even I wanted to see the front row run over with a bulldozer, but if this audience keeps buying enough merch to keep Cynic, even this Cynic, touring, I can put up with it.
Scale The Summit [6/7]
This is the kind of band that sells guitar tab books at their merch stand. Little more really needs to be said, but they did justify that inclusion with a killer if somewhat retreaded set of instrumental post-metal that sounded like what you'd get out of Pelican if they listened to more modern Cynic and a lot more BTBAM. I'm not one to argue with Joey from 3 about anything, but I seriously take issue with his later classification of this band as 'innovators' alongside Cynic and his own band; "good", yes, and "original", sure, but this general sound is kind of the meat and bones of post-metal/instrumental post-hardcore, and at least from this set I couldn't identify anything that STS was doing to define themselves away from those three obvious forebears. Good music is its own justification, so this ultimately didn't matter to the set, but this is a band you see when they're opening for other bands, and listen to when you're digging deep into this music, not something that like Alaska or ...Fire In Our Throats... is going to get instantly dug out as a snapshot of the sound.
I did go up and buy a record off their stack in here, but only one, and no tab books; I was running out of money, and I don't even play guitar at the Old Skull level, let alone the level where I would be able to read, let alone make use of, something like the Carving Desert Canyons tabs.
Some derp did the obvious "BUT THERE AR FOUR OF THEM HURR DURR DURR" gag midway through the set. That's not the immediate problem, but it's an associated indicator thereof. This is the first sub-full-marks 3 set I have on record, and it's as much for the loss of their aux percussionist in cutting down to a four-piece as it is for the Opethisms and more conventional shadings on their newer stuff. The "thing" about 3 has always been, like Autumn Above, their facility in crossing back and forth between metal and plainly non-metal styles, but in a bizarre way both axes are diminished in this incarnation of the band: more prog and indie elements mean less metal, and the removal of the crosswise polyrhythms means that those less metal parts are also less challenging and less interesting. What remained was a good set, and the guitar and drum solos were pretty cool, but this band's ceiling is higher than shown here. When they're on, they've still got it, as the rather high arbitrary number up the top shows, but what they have now is not as compelling as it's been in the past.
I hadn't actually listened to them on record for a while, so it was only this morning, listening through The Ghost You Gave To Me in the car, that I was able to confirm that this set is a pretty fair approximation of where 3 actually is musically at present. Good, in that they didn't cut down the band for financial reasons (tour logistics), but bad in that that element is presumably just gone.
This was not as good a set as at Wacken, probably mostly due to Cynic's modern material not actually being out at that point -- we got demos of some of the Traced... material, but obviously nothing off ReTraced or CBA -- and the constraints of the shorter festival slot....but we didn't get the band reprising Reflections of a Dying World then either. Saying that, the Traced In Air stuff that dominated the set (only "Wheels.." off ReTraced, which benefited from the live presentation, and kind of half of "Integral Birth", showing I was more on track than I knew), as then, matched up well with the Focus material; if Cynic was not a death metal band at that point, as they certainly aren't now on latest recorded evidence, they were at least a prog metal band, and they remain capable of executing that kind of deathed-up prog metal live. Paul had issues with his mic the entire set, and was constantly swapping off guitars, but despite the technical issues and how ethereal and non-metal much of the Carbon Based stuff is, it is real hard to look at this set as a single piece and see the score coming out differently. Yes, they didn't play "Uriboric Forms", but Traced In Air is a better record than is often credited, and Cynic as a band, for someone at all interested in music, is still a must-watch. We don't have the option to go back to 1990 and hang around in Miami dive bars as Cynic lays out progressive death metal too far ahead of the curve for the audience to appreciate; all we can do is watch them march off into the weeds musically, still doing things that the audience doesn't quite get, and hope to hear the echoes of those days gone.
The most significant debit on this show was that it got out at like quarter past eleven; on a school night for a lot of the audience, and with a headliner with ADD (at least according to Paul in closing) and a shallow catalog, this was almost to be expected, but a local opener and a later close would not have gone amiss. As it was, though, I got home shortly after midnight and was able to cycle up again without great difficulty; if the cavalcade of retard tickets stops by six, I should be on my way out to Exhumed.