The Boise Knitting Factory tuned up another exciting metal show Friday night with DevilDriver, Holy Grail, Incite, and Hemlock in town. The crowd was of decent size given that another major metal event had also been scheduled for the same evening. While the Knit was not packed, the crowd looked and sounded huge: Or as Hemlock frontman, Chad Smith, might have said, “It is one sexy headbanging crowd.” The show began earlier than normal for a Friday night, with local talents, Mortal Enemy getting the engine revved as the crowd started trickling in.
All hellaciousness broke loose when veteran road warriors, Hemlock, hit the stage. The Las Vegas-born groove demons delivered an explosion of charisma and energy that swallowed the crowd. Fans and band alike were bouncing in place, throwing up fists and horns, and getting lost in the moment. As one fan put it; “They have a talent for generating energy from an otherwise lethargic crowd.” The band, fronted by gregarious vocalist Chad Smith, tore into its opener, “Nobody Knows” with Smith yanking at his dreads, thumping his bass, and pounding his chest. The intense and dynamic set included tracks that spanned their 23-year career including “Scam Artist” from the Hemlock’s newest release, Mouth of the Swine. They frolicked and fret-whipped classics like “No Time For Sorrow”, “To Submerge Another”, “Conniption Fit”, “Becoming”, “Living In Fear”, “The Only Enemy”, and “Kill Your Children”. Guitarists Jezy Ward and James Gelber flailed and wailed, delivering dead on background harmonies and razor sharp riffs. Drummer Brian Smith pummeled relentlessly behind the kit, never once dropping the maniacal grin from his face. Taking nothing away from any of the amazing bands that followed; Hemlock delivered the night’s most enthusiastic and impressive performance.
Phoenix-based Incite picked up the metal baton next. The band has often played Eastern Idaho, but Friday’s performance gave a first glimpse for much of the Boise crowd. The band, fronted by vocalist Richie Cavalera delivered a set weighted with tracks from the group’s brand new release, Oppression, including the songs; “Lost Reality,” “Stagnant”, and “No Remorse”. They also served up three songs from 2012’s Up in Hell, including the title track, “False Flag” and “WTF”. The latter found Cavalera inciting (yes, I just did that) the crowd to raise their middle fingers to the sky. The rhythm section of drummer Lennon Lopez and bassist Chris “EL” Elsten crushed the crowd, and guitarist Dru “Tang” Rome electrified the fans with his fret wizardry. Cavalera is a born showman, who held the crowd in his fist throughout the show.
The night’s weak point came with the band I had been most excited to see; Southern, California’s Holy Grail. The group, which plays a mix of traditional heavy metal with some thrash and power metal influences, delivered a lights out performance. I cannot blame the band one bit. The culprit who should have been left bloodied by the roadside was the sound man. The band’s entire set sounded like muddied, wet cement. Individually guitarist Eli Santana and Alex Lee shredded and shined. Vocalist James Paul Luna delivered his wailing best, but often his vocals were buried under the poor mix. Bassist Blake Mount and drummer Tyler Meahl thundered and rumbled, backstopping what should have been a showcase performance: Damn you Mister Sound guy, I think you need to ride the void. Despite the dampened sound, Holy Grail were brilliant on stage, cutting through a set that included material from their excellent new album Times of Pride and Peril, as well as cuts from their masterful Ride the Void record. Songs included, “Those Who Will Remain”, “No More Heroes”, “Descent into Maelstrom”, “Crystal King”, and of course, “Ride the Void”. Hopefully, the band makes it back soon…with a different sound man. Okay, it was only the second night of the tour, maybe he needs a bit longer to get dialed in–benefit of the doubt.
By the time DevilDriver took the stage the crowd had gotten loose and were ready to throw down. Dez Fafara and the band hit the stage with relentless brutality. They are currently on tour to kick off the forthcoming release of new album,Trust No One, which drops on May 13. They tuned up two tracks from the new record, “Daybreak” and “Mr. Night Sky”. Fafara is one of metal’s most powerful voices and showmen–as one fan put it: “Dez is an incredible frontman. He doesn’t do a whole lot of talking between songs (he even mentioned it actually) but he gets the crowd going. Even a small crowd! They put on a hell of a show.”
This marked DevilDriver’s first Treasure Valley concert with the band’s revamped line-up which includes long-time guitarist Mike Spreitzer, plus new members Austin D’Amond on drums and Neil Tiemann on guitar. Diego “Ashes” Ibarra is filling in on bass for the current tour. The entire set hammered the Knit faithful like a groove metal juggernaut. They played a set heavy with early material including three tracks from their eponymous 2003 debut; “Nothing’s Wrong?”, “I Could Care Less”, and “Meet the Wretched”. They also fired off two tracks from their 2005 sophomore record, The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand; “End of the Line” and “Before the Hangman’s Noose”, as well as three tracks from their 2007 release, The Last Kind Words with “Clouds Over California”, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”, and “These Fighting Words”. The rest of the 14-song set included newer material like “Dead to Rights”, “Pure Sincerity”, and “Ruthless”, as well as their cover of AWOLnation’s “Sail”.
While the crowd may not have been as large as one normally expects for a DevilDriver show, the band’s got the most out of the two hundred or so there, and the fans gave back as good as they got with almost non-stop circle pit action. In all, it stands as another fine evening of metal for Boise.
Huge thanks to the bands and, as always; Gary, Brett, and the amazing staff at the Knitting Factory for providing a spectacular venue and welcoming atmosphere.
All photos © 2016 Katarzyna Cepek Photography.