Concert review: Summoning the Lich hosts a showcase of local and regional metal talent | 11.12.22, Pop’s (with photo gallery)

Photo of Summoning the Lich bassist John Flynn by Jen Ruff. See below for more photos.

Summoning the Lich w/ White Rose, Cavil, The Behest of Serpents, and Polterguts | 11.12.22 | Pop’s, 401 Monsanto Ave, Sauget, IL

On Saturday, November 12th, St. Louis deathcore band Summoning the Lich performed for a dedicated crowd of local metal scenesters at Pop’s. The evening featured four opening acts, many of which are local to the greater St. Louis region: White Rose, Cavil, The Behest of Serpents, and Polterguts. Members of Summoning the Lich viewed the show as an opportunity to celebrate their recent successes among friends, while also introducing fans to some of their favorite local and regional bands that they have played with over the years.

Opening act White Rose was formed in St. Louis in 2020 by longtime friends Brian Kahle (lead vocalist) and Ryan Bauer (lead guitarist and backing vocalist). The duo has played in many bands together since their high school days, and they recruited members of other St. Louis bands to fill out the rhythm section for their current project. Although they identify as a metalcore band, White Rose is also influenced by alternative metal bands like Korn and Deftones, and there is a notable emphasis on groove in their music. Bauer’s clean vocals in particular are reminiscent of Korn front-man Jonathan Davis at times; he provides an interesting counterpoint to Kahle’s shouted lead vocals, which are more typical of the usual vocal style in the metalcore genre.

The band recently released an EP, Low, which is streaming on multiple platforms. They do not currently have any upcoming shows scheduled in St. Louis but are hoping to join the bill for one of the local showcases regularly held at The Sinkhole and Off Broadway.

Cavil is a metalcore band from Springfield, MO, that plays a groove-oriented style of metalcore that bears a strong resemblance to popular nu-metal bands from the late ‘90s; in addition to their original material, they are known for covering bands like Slipknot and Static-X. For their set last Saturday, they played the majority of their eponymous album, which was self-released in 2017. They have a long history with Summoning the Lich and Polterguts, having played many shows with both bands in recent years.

One interesting quirk in the band’s live shows is the use of audio samples between songs, which are taken from movies, TV shows, news broadcasts, and other sources. Notably, the band used an extended sample of civil rights activist Mario Savio’s famous Bodies Upon the Gears speech.

“The thing I like about Cavil is that it makes me feel like I’m losing my soul and having it shoved back into my body every other beat,” said Gilda from Belleville, IL, a passionate fan of the local metal and hardcore scene. “They make me feel like I’m in a moment, and I can’t think of anything else but the music coming out of their speakers. It’s just really fun to lose yourself in that.”

Cavil was recently in St. Louis for a Halloween showcase at The Sinkhole on October 28th, along with St. Louis bands Fever Dream and Direct Measure. Polterguts, one of the opening acts for the Summoning the Lich show, also performed at this showcase (their vocalist, Martin Ruppert, is the vocalist for Fever Dream as well).

The Behest of Serpents is a melodic death metal band from Canton, a city in northeastern Ohio that is a roughly 30-minute drive from Akron. Serpents self-released their first album, Disciples, in 2021 and are currently recording a follow-up LP. The members of Lich invited them to play at last Saturday’s show, which was Serpents’ first time playing in St. Louis (they were the only band not from Missouri).

“The Behest of Serpents brought us out to their hometown, and when we couldn’t stop headbanging to their set we knew we had to get them to come back west to shred it with the St. Louis crowd,” said Summoning the Lich vocalist David Bruno.

It is hard to imagine a better opening act for Lich: both bands play highly technical, energetic, and melodic death metal reminiscent of genre titans The Black Dahlia Murder (which both bands cite as a major influence). Much like Black Dahlia’s original vocalist, the late Trevor Strnad, Serpents vocalist Steven “Spud” Lunsford is highly skilled at performing death metal vocals in a variety of registers, switching styles multiple times within the span of a single song.

They were the only band performing that evening with both a rhythm and lead guitarist, which gave their performance a richer, more complex interplay than is usually possible with a single guitarist. Although every member of this band is extremely talented, lead guitarist Seth Norton stood out for his lengthy, shred-style solos, which caused many members of the audience to approach the stage and waggle their fingers in a gesture of “give me more!” In comments after the show, members of Serpents were very impressed with the turnout for Saturday’s show and expressed an interest in playing St. Louis again in the near future.

Polterguts is a deathcore band with a significant local fanbase. Its members are all veterans of the St. Louis underground metal/hardcore scene and have been playing in various projects for over a decade. It was clear from the audience reaction that many people in the crowd were dedicated followers of the band—they expressed a familiarity with Polterguts’ songs that one rarely sees with local artists. At one point vocalist Martin Ruppert passed his microphone to an audience member to start the hook for the song “Skullbowl” (“I always thought I’d be a better fucking person than this!”). “That kid is named Nick,” explained Ruppert later. “He’s super supportive of local music.”

Polterguts’ set consisted of material from their 2022 album, Gods Over Broken People, which was distributed through Blood Blast, a subsidiary of prolific metal label Nuclear Blast. Ruppert, the primary lyricist for the band, stated that his experiences growing up in a conservative Christian community in central Illinois, and the skepticism he developed towards organized religion as an adult, are a strong influence on his music. “It’s not anti-religion, it’s more [against] the way religion has been used to keep people down,” said Ruppert of the band’s lyrical themes.

Gods Over Broken People is easily in my top 5 albums of this year, and as always our friends didn’t disappoint,” said Lich vocalist Bruno of the Polterguts set. “Their raw, abrasive heaviness is infectious, and had me fist pumping and headbanging in the crowd when I probably should have been warming up!”

Currently signed to Prosthetic Records, the same label that bands like Lamb of God and Gojira released their early material through, Summoning the Lich has developed a passionate fanbase both in St. Louis and nationally since their founding in 2016. They spent much of the summer supporting Denver-based technical death metal band Allegaeon on the latter band’s 2022 US tour. The Pop’s showcase on Saturday was Lich’s second time performing in St. Louis this year, and their final show before retiring to the studio to record their second full-length album.

Much like The Behest of Serpents, Lich’s music is fast, pounding, and relentlessly technical. Despite this, the dark fantasy themes used in their music give the band a sense of lightheartedness that is uncommon for the deathcore genre. Vocalist David Bruno has an incredible stage presence and charisma, stalking about with devilish glee as he channels the lich character whose exploits their music centers around. He has professed his love of Dark Souls and Magic: The Gathering in previous interviews and is currently planning a series of fantasy novels which will expand on the overarching plot of Summoning the Lich’s lyrics.

In comments after the show, Bruno was delighted with last week’s turnout. “It means the world to us to see so many people rolling in before the first band starts at a local show, especially on one of the first really cold nights of the year. A huge thanks to the St. Louis heavy music scene for coming out and headbanging with all of us!”

Many of the bands that performed last week expressed their gratitude for the Pop’s tech crew in making the show possible. “The sound and lights at Pop’s were top notch, which meant every band was showcased the way they deserved,” said Bruno. “It definitely had more of a party atmosphere than most local shows do. It was an awesome time, and we can’t wait to put on another show for St. Louis next year!”

 “I had a blast. I think the bands all sounded great and I was stoked that the bill was pretty diverse and so was the crowd,” said Martin Ruppert of Polterguts. “Definitely happy with the turnout, Lich have worked their butts off so to see the city giving love back is always beautiful.” Although Summoning the Lich does not have any future shows currently scheduled, Polterguts will be playing at Wreck the Halls, a Christmas charity drive show, on Saturday, December 10th (Amvets Post 204, 1711 Kennedry Dr, Madison, Il 62060; doors at 3PM, show at 4PM). In addition to Polterguts, popular St. Louis metal and hardcore bands like This Is Me Breathing, Hard Graves, and Direct Measure will also be performing. | David Von Nordheim

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