Unearth / Revocation / Entheos / High Command – October 7, 2023 – The Orpheum, Tampa, FLSaturday, 21st October 2023
Photos by: Brittany Barkasi
Time is a funny thing. The first time seeing Unearth was on their opening slot on the 2003 Headbanger’s Ball tour – more specifically, at the Pittsburgh date at the long defunct Club Laga (RIP). That show featured Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and Lamb of God – yes, all together – and was a real jumping off point for the New England Metalcore movement. Looking back, it was quite the moment in time; not only historically for heavy music in general, but also a personal one. That was the site of my first ever interview, and it was with Howard Jones, Brian Fair, and Randy Blythe – at the same time. No pressure, right?
With donuts in hand as a peace offering (they went over quite well), it was a blast, and here we are today. If only Unearth’s Trevor Phipps could have been part of that, as well, right? That show was 20 years and 5 days ago from the date of this show, and since, we’ve been fortunate enough to have seen Unearth over 10 times. Within those last 20 years, they’ve been one of the headline bands from that New England movement that have really stuck to their guns, ultimately being one of the most consistently great bands of their style. To see them again so close to that date in 2003 was a special opportunity not to be missed. Teaming up with a long-running co-headliner in Revocation, as well as upstarts in Entheos and High Command, this was a package that had much to offer.
Click here for more High Command photos
Many friends who hail from the New England region of the US have consistently raved about how talented High Command are. Our very own Matt Bower and Matt Coe are amongst that group, and have nothing but esteemed praise for these inventive thrash/crossover/hardcore hybrid. Having narrowly missed them a few times, the stars finally aligned, and it was finally time to take in their live production.
Energy would become the not-so-secret word of the day (RIP Paul Reubens), and High Command brought it in abundance. Lead singer Kevin Fitzgerald led the charge, literal sword in hand, as the Worcester, Massachusetts quintet roared out of the gate with razor sharp pedal to the metal thrash exuberance. If having experienced their recorded works, it’s already blatantly obvious how precise and in-your-face High Command is, and it isn’t a reach to say that their music is tailor made for the stage. This evening was concrete evidence of that inkling.
The band roared through a selection of tracks from their 2019 debut Beyond the Wall of Desolation, as well as their recent critically acclaimed full-length Eclipse of the Dual Moons. The crowd was whipped into a moshing frenzy, along with a lone two-stepping gentleman rocking out especially hard. Fitzgerald has a “high command” of the crowd, with the audience latching on to every scream and impassioned fist pump. Not a second of downtime in sight for the dual guitar onslaught of Razzle and Ryan McArdle, who form a factory of riffs that’s constantly synchronized to pinpoint accuracy. The rhythm section are no slouches, either, with drummer Ryan Pitz and bassist Chris Berg providing a thumping low end that is a major component to their effectiveness both live and on album.
Finishing off with the epic “Beyond the Wall of Desolation” was a fine choice to culminate an all too brief 30 minutes of rip roaring madness. Can we please get these fine folks and SpirtWorld on a tour together? What a raging pile of madness that would be.
Brandishing a brand of technical deathcore, this scribe will admit that the style hasn’t typically been a regular go-to. Entheos are vastly different from the stale norm, however, with differing song structures, an ear for lush atmospheres, and an impressive vocal range via vocalist Chaney Crabb. We were definitely intrigued by the prospect of their performance.
Their latest Time Will Take Us All has received high acclaim, of which their set largely drew from, and with good reason – said album is far and away their best, especially in a songwriting sense. Sadly, Crabb stated that she was battling a sinus infection, which is the kind of thing that any vocalist desperately wants to avoid while performing night after night on a big tour. To her credit, she pushed through with an impassioned effort, showing her versatility via transitioning from throaty growls to high pitched screams on a whim. I want to know what cold/sinus meds she may have used to have that much enthusiasm!
The band opened with the 2020 single “Remember You Are Dust,” which set the basis for a technically proficient and spirited showing. Other standouts included the bombastic “Absolute Zero” and the progressively melodious “The Interior Wilderness,” the latter being this scribe’s favorite track of their set. Entheos put on a fine effort in a difficult circumstance, of which they should be commended. Hopefully down the road we’ll get the opportunity to see them at full strength, but even considering Crabb’s illness, they didn’t miss a step.
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This trek being a co-headliner, the final two acts got equal stage time of about an hour each. Boston’s Revocation were more than prepared to keep the evening going at a blistering pace with their tried and true formulation of technical death/thrash. Since 2006, they’ve been blazing their own path with no signs of slowing down in all that time, consistently putting out new material and being quite the road warriors. This writer’s first time seeing them was at the Smiling Moose in Pittsburgh over a decade ago in front of a much smaller crowd, so it’s nice to see them deservedly drawing significantly larger crowds these days.
Lead vocalist/guitarist David Davidson boasted a mischievously elated smirk while simultaneously dishing out guttural death roars and a molten flow of delectable riffs. The band have an impressive eight full-lengths to draw from, and it’s difficult to go wrong from what has been a remarkably consistent career thus far. In kind, their setlist drew from a variety of points of the band’s discography. Of course, there was a focus on the latest release Netherheaven; an especially ferocious record, and one of yours truly’s top Revocation records, of which multiple cuts were drawn for this evening, including opening festivities with the fiery “Godforesaken.” Other highlights included the catchy “Madness Opus” and the dizzying “Dismantle the Dictator.”
There was also a moment of silliness, where Davidson humorously spoke of the theme of Netherheaven, stating “For those of you that don’t know, it’s a concept record. It’s of course about the loving and healing power of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.” To which, he corrected himself, saying “Oh sorry, I’m mistaken. It’s about the Devil, and how cool he is.” They then blazed into “Diabolical Majesty” with glorious blasphemous splendor. “Lessons in Occult Theft” followed, where the pointy eared lord of the underworld himself appeared. Ok, it was the band’s merch slinger donning a devilishly silly costume, and it was a fun moment for all. Well, unless there were any Christian conservatives in attendance, and if so, take that and stew in it.
Revocation always brings a heavy take no prisoners type of stage presence, and this show was no exception to that established principle. These Bostonians are a guaranteed good time, and they brought the crowd many moments to savor.
Now time for Unearth, a band we’ve seen many times over the years, as mentioned earlier, yet sadly it’s certainly been a while since last seeing the Boston metalcore mainstays. Known for being incredibly energetic and athletic, they’ve always brought both the musical chops and the stage antics. In their younger days, they would climb and jump off of their amps with regularity, amongst other daring feats. No amplifier leaps were present this time, though there wasn’t really a whole lot of room to attempt something like that at The Orpheum. Nevertheless, Unearth are still flying the flag they helped raise in the late 90s/early 00s, and doing so with pride.
Opening their set with “Dawn of the Militant” off of their latest album The Wretched; The Ruinous got things off to an intense start, with the crowd almost immediately opening up a large pit in response. The band launched into some of their classic tracks from The Oncoming Storm in “Endless” and “This Dying World” to escalate the insanity further. The nostalgia was real, hearing those songs that we’ve enjoyed live many years previous, definitely bringing back memories of those past great times. Sadly, nothing from The Stings of Conscience, but we did get more from their second album in “The Great Dividers” and “Black Hearts Now Reign.”
With founding member/guitarist Ken Susi having departed in 2022, The Wretched; The Ruinous was the first album in the band’s history without him being on it, and as such, this is the first time this scribe has seen the band without him. Peter Layman had some big shoes to fill, and thus far, he’s made a seamless transition, at least in terms of the live performance, as he brought a unique energy to this show. We still have founders in vocalist Trevor Phipps and guitarist Buz McGrath at the helm, and the ship remains steered in the right direction. In fact, the new record is the freshest the band has sounded in a while. The melodic nature of “Into the Abyss” and the heavy hardcore angst/Swedish-style leads of the title track go a long way to show that the new songs fit in wonderfully with everything that preceded.
It’s heartening to see a band like Unearth still having just as much fire in their belly as they did decades prior, putting out material that measures up to their best, all while presenting an engaging live show that celebrates their legacy and pushes the band forward further still. The fans agreed, with Phipps encouraging a circle pit that consumed the majority of the floor, harmoniously comprised of long-time fans and younger generations alike.
This tour was a wisely concocted mix of differing genres, composed of both scene veterans at their peak powers and hungry younger acts making their mark. The audience was there for all of it – the thrashy hardcore edge of the rapidly rising High Command and the budding progressive inventions of Entheos, while established powerhouses in Revocation and Unearth brought the vigor, presence, and riffs of varying origins.
The common denominator here was four bands who brought their chops and passion to an eager and diverse audience who took part in a fervent display of heavy music. Another commonality was that three of the four were from the New England region of the US, and it’s comforting to see the sheer number of quality music that still comes from that locality, of which there really is something for any taste. The music we love is in fine hands, folks.