Concert Review: Paleface Swiss / Enterprise Earth / VCTMS / Crown Magnetar / Unbound @ Empire Underground, 09/17/2023

A healthy majority of New Yorkers will find themselves sitting in front of a television with friends and family, enjoying a marathon of football with a couple of ice-cold brews and some artery-clogging snacks on any given Fall Sunday. But that didn’t stop folks from traveling from every direction to pack into Empire Underground to sell out the Fear and Dagger tour. This highly anticipated show (as shown by it selling out multiple days beforehand) featured an amalgamation of diverse sounds that metalcore and deathcore can offer. From the super-sonic speed and power of Crown Magnetar and Enterprise Earth, to the more sludgy punchiness of VCTMS and Paleface Swiss. Up-and-coming local act Unbound, which features a healthy majority of the members of Beast, opened up the show and warmed the crowd up for the touring acts to follow. The humidity in the venue reached no less than 250%. It was impossible to leave the venue without being immersed in not only your own sweat but also sweat from about 30-35 other people as well. High temperatures, high energy, high crowd participation – a perfect elixir of elements for a superb heavy show to close out the weekend.

Photo by Kriss Jakob

Unbound found a way to get the show rolling while also slowing it down at the same time. How, you may ask? Unbound brings a slower tempo style of heavy music that enhances its gritty, powerful chugs – providing the strongest punch that each measure could provide. If you listen closely, with the greatly emphasized spacing between chugs during the breakdowns, you could hear the faint jingle of car keys and shoe squeaks on the floor as moshers did their best Bruce Lee impressions in all corners of the pit. The vocal display of sheer demonic power, guttural muck, and the occasional pig squeal tied everything together effortlessly. Playing songs such as “S.C.U.M.,” “It Was A Good Night For A Reckoning,” and “Noose,” Unbound set the bar early for the touring acts to follow – as was noted by every touring band offering an ovation for them during their own respective sets.

Crown Magnetar wasted no time cranking the metronome up into the triple digits with their brain-melting speed and power. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, Crown Magnetar sets the tone as to what modern deathcore is supposed to sound like. Having released their newest album “Everything Bleeds” this past Summer, Crown Magnetar gave listeners a healthy serving of tunes from that record while also sprinkling some older more known songs such as “Black Lotus” during the set. Incomprehensible speed on the drums, spine-tingling riffage, breakdowns sent from hell itself, and vocals that will echo in your ears for hours are the ingredients that put this band together. I will be inquiring about financial compensation for whatever repairs must be done to replace the multiple layers of skin that were peeled off my face after experiencing this band front and center. The crowd gave this quartet a warm welcome by smashing their foreheads into the floor from headbanging, practicing karate with each other in the pit, and stank facing during each breakdown.

VCTMS, hailing from Chicago, Illinois, followed up and brought a crushing nu-metalcore mix to the stage that got even the most stagnantly still concertgoer moving around. VCTMS is no stranger to Albany, as they visited earlier this year when touring with Within Destruction and Fox Lake. Most of the set consisted of songs off of the band’s fourth release “Vol. IV Numb The Ache.” However, we are less than a calendar month away from a fifth release from VCTMS titled “Vol. V The Hurt Collection,” which is due on October 13th. The band gave the crowd a sample of what that record will bring to the table by playing songs off it such as “Twist the Rage” and “Feed the Vice.” Brave folks in the crowd took the opportunity during their set to jump off the barriers of the stage and into the crowd – floating above the others and dodging the low hanging pipes and girders in the venue. In a startling act of unity, the crowd proceeded to carry every single crowdsurfer around the entirety of the venue – yes, from the storage area where instruments lie, to the sound booth, back around to the front again.

Enterprise Earth has cemented themselves as deathcore legends over the past decade, creating their own unique combination of vicious deathcore melded perfectly with melodic cosmic orchestral ambiguity. With the departure of vocalist Dan Watson, newly acquired front man Travis Worland had giant shoes to fill, and tonight’s performance proved he’s the right man for the job. A vast display of range from piercing highs to putrid lows guided the crowd through the masterful work of tunes like “Death Magick” and “Psalm of Agony.” Enterprise Earth pulled from every piece of the deathcore instructional manual with their performance. When guitarist Gabe Mangold wasn’t melting faces with melodic yet blistering solos, the crowd was getting punished by bellowing breakdowns that could only be described as a constant assault of continuous booms of thunder.

Headliners Paleface Swiss took the stage by storm and immediately brought a full force of deathcore, beatdown, and even some hip-hop into the mix as well. Ferocious and gut-wrenching beatdown mixed with fast-paced yet perfectly annunciated spoken harsh vocals filled every song from front to back. The set consisted of a strong helping of songs from the band’s most recent release, and aptly the name of the tour, “Fear and Dagger.” However, Paleface Swiss also included their newest singles “Best Before: Death,” “Please End Me,” and older crowd favorites like “Curse Us” and “Lights Out” to the mix. Vocalist Marc Zellweger engaged with the crowd several times between songs with stories from tour, chants, and demands to make sure that not a single crowd member stood in the same spot for more than 20 seconds. Crowdsurfers and moshers littered the venue from front to back, so even if you aren’t an active participant, you had to keep your head on a swivel for those who were.

In retrospect, there was a glaring realization that I had walking back to my truck in the rain following the conclusion of Paleface Swiss. As someone who’s attended shows in the capital region for 15 years now, there are always going to be the familiar faces of folks who have been around for just as long as or even longer than you have. But what I’ve also come to see is that there’s a whole new younger generation that has discovered the cathartic experience of metal and hardcore and found enjoyment in being able to share a night with these artists in person. A population that may be seen as outcasts in the outside world has now found a place to share those traits and characteristics that may have been seen as negative in a different setting. While there will always be the lifelong fans that you can expect to see at every show until their bones crumble to dust, the number of people that traveled from long distances or were attending their first-ever show this past weekend was truly astounding. Now let’s see if these younger folks can find inspiration in their experiences as they work together to create new bands that we all desperately yearn for. Albany is alive and well. ‘Til next time.

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