(also appearing: Throes Eternal, Starkill, Swallow the Sun, and Dark Tranquility)
November 20, 2016
St. Louis, MO
Fubar (Big Room)
Review by: Taylor Wilson
Swedish NWOTHM kings Enforcer have been at the forefront of this amazing movement since 2004. In early 2015, they released their 4th album entitled From Beyond, their best release so far in my opinion. And with this new material, the band embarked on an extensive tour schedule spanning almost 30 different countries worldwide as both headliners and support. This year, the U.S. was fortunate enough to see these guys in action on more than one occasion. Their first North American tour of the year was a co-headliner with the California thrash band Warbringer, with support from the lovely Canadians of Cauldron and the new death/thrash band Exmortus. I was fortunate enough to see that tour a few times, but grew sad as I saw my final show of this once-in-a-lifetime lineup in Atlanta. However, the Enforcer guys didn’t want to see me sad, and they hinted that they would return later in the year supporting a more popular band. That band ended up being Dark Tranquility.
As the tour dates were released, I was disappointed to see that there was no Atlanta date; it didn’t really seem worth it to travel somewhere just to get a 30 minute Enforcer set and have to sit through a headliner I didn’t care for. Those thoughts soon changed as we discovered that Exmortus was playing a headlining show the day before Enforcer in St. Louis (and both events would be in the same venue). Now it seemed worth it to travel for these two shows, and I’m very grateful that we did.
The first act of the night was a local band called Throes Eternal. There’s not really much to say about the band as a whole except they seemed like the standard Hatebreed wannabe garage band that tends to inappropriately open shows no matter what city you’re in. The one good thing I will mention about them is that they had a really good drummer that was very talented and continuously animated throughout the set. He was the only one that didn’t look like he had to get up early the next morning to get to his shift at Best Buy, and he definitely took this side-project-seeming band more seriously than the other guys. Overall, it wasn’t a strong wayto start this show, and basically served as an uneventful period of time for me to dream about Enforcer.
The second band of the night (the first one of the tour bill) was Starkill from Chicago. I had seen these guys twice before, but they have yet to fully pique my interest. There are some elements of this band that I like, but they always seem to get covered up with something bothersome- either with their sound, their performance, or both- that make me not really like them as much at the end of the night. The simplest way to describe their sound is like a more symphonic version of Children of Bodom mixed with trace elements of something like Black Veil Brides. (That’s probably the issue right there).
With regards to their songs, they do have some catchy riffs and intricate solos by singer/guitarist Parker Jameson, but that is soon offset by the few recorded bass drops, breakdowns, and overall “metalcore” feel radiating off of the other guitarist. I really want to like this band, but they need to step back over to the melodic death metal side of things here. With regards to their performance this night, they were definitely doing a good job of maintaining a good energy about themselves. I enjoyed watching the stage left guitarist and bass player constantly running around onstage and really looking like they were having fun. They were working really hard to try to hype everyone up and maybe try to win over some fans with their energy- unfortunately for them, these tactics did not work on me.
Of course, I had decided to camp out at the foot of stage right because I wanted to be as close as possible for Enforcer up next. This also meant that I was subject to any hype tactics by opening bands, and I was mentally prepared to deal with any heckling I could possibly receive for standing still. Not to mention, being younger makes you more susceptible to the musicians singling you out (because you look like a noob who’s only been to 3 shows ever if you’re not going apeshit or something)…but I digress. Throughout their set, I was slightly nodding my head along, to show moderate respect because they didn’t fully suck, but I guess that wasn’t good enough. At one point, the stage left guitarist stormed over to my side of the stage (for the 300th time) and draped his relatively short hair over my head while screaming. All I could think was “Ew get the fuck off me, I don’t know if you have lice or some shit” until he finally stormed away without winning me over. Strike one for these guys.
Strike two came when about halfway through the set, the bass player was playing about a foot away from my face; he looked down at me, briefly stopped playing, and handed his pick to me. I stared at it for a second and eventually let him put it in the palm of my hand, and I looked up at him and mouthed the words “Thank you” with a look of gratitude. That was a very kind gesture, and he seemed like a really nice guy; however, the part that made me roll my eyes was that he proceeded to point to his face and mouth the words “Smile!!” at me. Now look, I understand that you would like to see that your playing is making me happy, but honestly it’s not making me that happy. And I can understand that maybe you’re all about spreading happiness and you want the world to be a happy, joyous place with happy people everywhere. Believe me, so do I, but please do not tell me to smile. If I felt like smiling, I would be, and this simple phrase really wouldn’t bother me so much if I hadn’t been told it dozens of times by performers thinking that I wasn’t happy.Please don’t say that to me.
The third and final strike that culminated to my unimpressed conclusion of these guys was that they use too many prerecorded elements in their live shows. This is just a personal preference for me, but I like to only hear the noise coming from the people actually playing it onstage (not the automated sounds like enhanced harmonies and keyboards that are not present). In all, I think these guys played a decent show, but it wasn’t the one to solidify me as a neutral fan yet.
Okay, now the time that I had been awaiting all weekend had finally come. Enforcer began setting up their stuff onstage, and I could feel nervous excitement and pure happiness washing over my body. I was wondering how many other Enforcer fans were in the crowd—it definitely seemed like there could be no more than 10 of the hundred or so in attendance. I didn’t really care anyway though because that only meant more Swedes for us! I was also wondering if any of the guys would recognize us from earlier in the year. That question was soon answered when lead singer Olof was adjusting the stage right mic, saw us up front, and gave us a smirk and nod of appreciation.
The familiar intro song “Diamonds and Rust” filled the room, and I couldn’t stop smiling. As the song drew to an end, drummer Jonas Wikstrand (who we would be seeing for the first time since he could not play on their tour earlier this year) squeezed himself behind his kit and began the intro to “Destroyer”. The other three guys turned around and began playing as well, and I was soon thrashing along with them when the song finally kicked in. I looked around briefly to see if anyone else was enjoying themselves as much as we were, but I only saw maybe 2 or 3 other people in front of the other side of the stage. Olof was doing his best to try to excite the crowd by encouraging them to sing along to the chorus, but there weren’t many takers. He periodically looked over at us and smiled because he knew he could count on us to sing along. Before the end of the first song, guitarist Joseph and bassist Tobias each eventually saw us and gave us a huge smile. That was definitely one of the best feelings I had all night: knowing that one of your favorite bands remembers you and is happy to see you having fun.
They slowed down a little and continued in chronological album order for their next two songs, “Undying Evil” and “From Beyond”. In these, Olof once again taught the audience the lyrics to the chorus, and called out the “cross-armed disco lovers standing in the back” saying that he expected to hear more singing this time. There was a little more singing, but most of it was coming from me and my dad (whose voice was already hoarse). The next two songs “I Live for the Night” and “Mesmerized by Fire” did a decent job of speeding up the tempo and refreshing the energy of these amazing musicians. It also seemed like there were just a few more people who were starting to get into these guys, and that made me really happy to see. Their set drew to a close with the final two sing-along songs of “Take Me Out of This Nightmare” and “Midnight Vice”. This was definitely a strong end to an amazing performance, complete with Olof and his eyeliner-laden eyes coming to sing along right to us and Joseph taking over a few vocal parts as Olof stood inches from people trying to conduct them.
Swallow the Sun
The next band up was the doomy death metal band Swallow the Sun. We left the front as their keyboard player began setting up in front of us, and we went to go chug some water and lean against a wall. As they began, I noticed that a much larger portion of the audience were fans of these guys, and the whole front half of the crowd was singing along with them. Their music was a lot slower and longer than what I prefer, and I often found myself staring at the stage lights in a sort of daze only to be snapped out of it upon realizing the song was over. Maybe I would have a tad more interested if I had not just seen a faster band that I love play right before them. Not only did their songs seem very mellow and monotonous, but they weren’t that visually appealing either; that’s probably why I found myself staring at lights and the poorly painted ceiling.
Eventually, I saw Tobias from Enforcer at the merch table, and we decided to go say hi to pass some time. We gave him a hug and briefly tried to talk to him—though it was difficult to hear. Among other things, he told us he was very happy to see us, and wanted to make sure we got to talk to the other guys. We went back to our spot on the wall, and made it through the end of Swallow the Sun’s set still awake. Now there was only one band left for the night: Dark Tranquility.
Between sets, Olof walked past us still in his stage clothes, and we got to talk to him for a second. He also remembered us, and we were all working together to try to figure out how far away in kilometers we lived from St. Louis. It was interesting to hear how much he remembered about us, and before long he had to go because some guy had some special beer for him.
Dark Tranquility eventually got up onstage and they were scheduled to play for an hour and a half. I didn’t know much about this band other than what they kind of sounded like from 2 minutes I heard of a song from YouTube. They sounded a little better than I had anticipated live, but it wasn’t enough to make me a fan. It was another relatively slow melodic death metal band, and I’d had my fill for the night. At least they had a nice projected scene of constantly moving objects or a music video behind them, so there was something interesting to watch while they played. I was impressed with how diehard their fans were. In almost every song, it seemed like everyone packed up front was headbanging and singing their hearts out, and that was nice to see. Another thing I appreciated about these guys was their generosity and graciousness. After every song—and especially near the end of their set—they constantly thanked the crowd for being so amazing and supportive. In no way were they cocky or appearing angry that they were playing to a small room of people (I had thought they were a big enough band to not have to play small bars like this). It was about quality, not quantity for them, and they gained my respect with that mentality.
After maybe 70 of the 90 minutes they were allotted to play, we saw Jonas from Enforcer walk in the front door. As he walked past us, he slowed down, smiled, and said that it was nice to meet us. This was the biggest shock of the night because we had never talked to him before (other than my dad sending him very few Facebook messages about the tour he couldn’t play earlier in the year). We shook his hand and he said that he recognized us from Facebook, and that melted my heart. He had no idea where we were from or even if he would ever meet us, yet he still somehow managed to remember 2 Facebook messages from January. This just further proves that these guys are some of the kindest humans you will meet. Having this brief interaction made the following 20 minutes of Dark Tranquility go a lot quicker, and they finished with a strong sing-along and endless thanks to the fans.
The room cleared relatively quickly as people had to get home to get up early for work the next morning, and the rest got in line to go buy merch. Meanwhile, Joseph walked in and hugged us. He said that it made him very, very happy to see us up front tonight and that he hoped we enjoyed the show. He told us about some other projects he was working on back home and that he will try to get back over to the U.S. as soon as possible. With a final hug and thank you, he said “I haven’t seen the last of you guys” and politely excused himself. We went to go buy our Enforcer merch and I used all the money I had in my pocket. Whatever I had left over from my purchases, I put in the tip box. We said goodbye to their merch guy, and he thanked us and said he would see us soon.
Enforcer was definitely the black sheep performance of the night with boundless energy and intensity regardless of how many fans were in attendance. I was a little disappointed that they were added to this tour and sandwiched between bands that are pretty opposite from them, but overall I think it was worth it to be in attendance. Sometimes it’s nice to have to sit through acts that you don’t particularly care for because it gives you exposure to new groups as well as makes you appreciate more the bands that you really love seeing. So as a whole, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to travel this weekend because it allowed me to be surrounded by musicians who truly care about their fans.