Photo of Underoath by Holly Kite
Fans of alternative metal were treated to a trifecta of great bands at the Pageant last Tuesday, each at a markedly different phase of their career. Seeing great bands at the Pageant, with its peerless sound and light team, is always an unbeatable experience any day of the week. I feel like the Pageant has largely been relegating rock and metal shows to its sister venue, Delmar Hall, in recent years, so it was tremendous to see such a high energy rock show at the Pageant once again.
Loathe, the “something new” referenced in the headline, started their set at 7PM sharp. (I refer to Loathe as “something new” only relative to Periphery and Underoath; they have been releasing material since 2016.) Hailing from Liverpool, England, this band has an uncanny knack for balancing heavy metalcore grooves and soaring vocal harmonies. Their set consisted of songs from their sophomore album I Let It In and It Took Everything, a massive success for the band and one of the most lauded alternative metal records of recent years.
Loathe really has that “I could have been the headliner” energy that is uncommon to see with opening acts on big name tours. Their suave and debonair vocalist Kadeem France impressed with his rugged charm and no-stranger-to-the-club dance moves. In keeping with the duality of the band’s sound, he seemed equally confident in berating the audience to open up for a circle pit and in leading us in a “phones in the air” moment during their signature song, the truly lovely “Is It Really You?” At only 30 minutes, my only complaint with their performance was that it was just not enough for me. I would love to see Loathe at a venue like the Pageant as a headliner, and I hope the exposure they get from this tour allows them to do that in the future.
Periphery is a band that until recently, I mostly knew by reputation. After releasing their eponymous album in 2010, Periphery quickly became the new hotness in highly technical, proggy, hardcore-influenced alternative metal, which we’ll call “djent” for the sake of brevity. Although I always admired this band’s technical chops, their albums always left me a bit cold, feeling more a grab bag of unusual guitar scales and rhythms rather than a cohesive musical experience, which is what I usually seek out progressive rock and metal for in the first place. In listening to their albums, I never get the sense of emotional breadth and sweeping themes that I do when listening to, say, Between the Buried and Me’s best works, to give another example of a metalcore-influenced progressive metal band.
Periphery always struck me as a band that formed more out of a sense of obligation—how could a guitarist as good as Misha Mansoor be in a band and it not be huge?—rather than because they had some grand vision for the future of metal music. That said, with the band’s later releases, especially with Periphery III onward, I have felt like the self-indulgence of earlier releases was largely scaled back in favor of more focused songwriting, resulting in some of their best material.
All of this is kind of a moot criticism when reviewing a band’s live performance, anyways—it’s just to say that I don’t think there is any “signature” Periphery song, because all of their songs come across largely as showcases for the members’ abilities rather than something intended to emotionally resonate with the listener. Their setlist did a great job of representing material from all of their albums, and they even premiered a few new songs on the tour (their latest album, Periphery V: Djent is Not a Genre, was released on March 10th). These are all incredibly talented performers, their dedication to the craft is truly impressive. Any longtime fan would have been pleased, and they clearly have a lot of them.
With all apologies to Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain, I think I would have to give my nomination for “Spencer of the Night” to Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo, for giving us both the only pig squeal of the evening and also the charmingly horrendous pun of “we’re going to djent-rify this whole town tonight.”
While Loathe was the 2020s band, and Periphery was the 2010s band, Underoath was the 2000s band, making them the unofficial “elder statesmen of post-hardcore” for the evening (I say that knowing that the term “post-hardcore” is almost as old as the term “hardcore”—I promise I’m not one of those people who make “elder emo” Spotify playlists and put Brand New and Fall Out Boy on them). Underoath is known to many as a staple of the Warped Tour set, and was one of the bands at the forefront of the bizarre “Christian metalcore” movement of the mid-00s, which made as little sense to me when I was a teenager as it does now.
As I noted in the preview article for this tour, Underoath’s music in recent years has been increasingly trending towards slick and anthemic arena rock, sounding something like a metalcore version of modern-day Muse. This change in their sound also paralleled the band’s public denunciation of their label as a “Christian band,” so those that were hoping their decision to identify as heathen apostates would trigger a Satanic return to their deathcore roots must be disappointed.
Having never seen Underoath in concert before, I cannot say how the band circa 2023 compares to seeing them in their Warped Tour glory days. I did feel like the modern arena rock touches, at times, seemed somewhat at odds with the earnest hardcore sound of their classic material. The throbbing basslines and synthesizers in certain songs seemed to drown out the guitar and drums in the live mix, and the rave-like lights show verged a bit on the “seizure warning” side. I was surprised to learn after the fact that synth player Chris Dudley has been with the band since 2000 (predating even vocalist Spencer Chamberlain), so for all I know, this might not be all that dramatic of a change to their live sound.
That said, I had a real hunger for some earnest, well-executed alternative metal, and I felt that Underoath and company ultimately delivered on all fronts. Like Periphery, their setlist was well-balanced with both old and new material, with at least one song from every album from They’re Only Chasing Safety onwards. They played all of the hits you would expect (“A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White,” “Writing on the Walls”) and the newer cuts from their latest album, Voyeurist, left much more of an impression in the context of a modern arena rock-style performance than when listening to the album at home.
So in all, it was an impressive Pageant debut for Loathe, and a solid showing for Pageant veterans Periphery (2x) and Underoath (6x!). I didn’t do any crowd interviews for this one, but something tells me I would have found many people who professed it to be both “sick” and “awesome.” | David Von Nordheim