Live at The Well on Saturday, 22nd October 2011
Despite featuring a downright bizarre and eclectic lineup, tonight's gig has sold remarkably well, and it's great to see The Well so full; this means that there are plenty of people there to catch Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!'s excellent opening set, which mixes deft pop-punk melodies with juddering metalcore breakdowns seamlessly and without sounding like an A Day To Remember covers band. The Parisians crackle with energy this evening, inspiring plenty of movement down the front, none more so than on their fine parting shot of 'In Friends We Trust', and put themselves in the running for best band of the evening, even at this early stage in the night. With the amount of love shown to Chunk! tonight, it shouldn't be too long before they're scaling bills like this one and playing to their own crowds over on these shores again .
The same cannot be said for Toronto's Abandon All Ships, whose irritating fusion of dance and metalcore begins to grind roughly ten seconds into their set. Their sound is somewhat akin to a metalcore take on Cascada, and the only positive to come from their set is that it's cut short by a few songs. The front few rows bob along happily enough, but the rest of the room looks on in, at best, total boredom. Bouts of autotuned vocals don't exactly add to their appeal - it's hardly qualifies as part of a 'live' performance - and it's disappointing to see such manufactured elements creeping into heavy music; for these reasons, however, we should be grateful that Abandon All Ships are the exception, not the standard for today's metalcore.
Chelsea Grin fare better, although it takes them a couple of songs to really get going; theirs is the heaviest set of the night, and as a band they draw on far more 'metal' elements than they are often given credit for, and even the most ignorant of listeners would struggle to justify the 'scene' tag they so often find themselves tied to on tonight's evidence. It might take them a few songs to hit top speed, but at when they really get going Chelsea Grin are a force to be reckoned with, and ferocious blasts of deathcore such as 'My Damnation' are all the evidence you need to justify such a claim, regardless of how well the band play. Their set improves the longer they're onstage, showing great potential as headliners, but unfortunately they'll have to wait until next time around to verify such claims.
Miss May I are one of the biggest names in metalcore at the moment, and in some ways it's not hard to see why. The verses crunch, the choruses soar, and it goes down a storm with those assembled; but therein lies its problem, in that it sounds too manufactured. The repetitive nature of their songs makes them sound formulaic and slightly generic, and verges on being a little bit boring. There's just something too clinical and calculated about Miss May I, and all the onstage passion in the world can't stop the room from emptying the longer their set goes on. This is possibly a bit too harsh on the band; after all, they've got plenty of the room mesmerised by their presence, the fans quite clearly love it, and they're by no means dreadful. However, neither are they particularly interesting, and it's all too easy to see how criticisms of a generic nature can be levelled against metalcore bearing their set in mind.
Overall tonight is something of a mixed bag as far as performance is concerned, but with a lineup as diverse as this, it was always likely that such results would occur. The level of support should instead be focussed upon and celebrated, as it's reassuring that people are turning out in such numbers even for bills as varied as this one; there's clearly life in metalcore yet, and not just as far as the bands are concerned.