Back in November of 2006, a brand new music label by the name of Sumerian Records was born. Founded by booking agent Ash Avildsen, the hopeful new venture would make The Faceless’ album Akeldama their first of many releases. Marking the start to something special, since then, the label has become a leading force in the Metal world, building their roster with bands such as Animals as Leaders, Asking Alexandria, Body Count, Circa Survive, and Periphery, among many others.
Now in 2016, the once small label has grown into something much bigger as they celebrate their tenth anniversary with a special Sumerian Records 10 Years Tour. Leading the charge from Sumerian Records’ bragworthy client roster is Born of Osiris, with hefty support from Veil of Maya, After the Burial, ERRA, and Bad Omens. With dates that run a month long, stopping along the East Coast, Midwest, and Southern region of the USA, on Saturday, February 27th, Gramercy Theatre in New York City would become the host of choice. If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, Sumerian Records was certainly ready to kick into the new month with a very loud roar. The frigid winds whipped Gramercy Theatre’s sold out crowd into a Metal frenzy, quickly turning a cold, quiet night on East 23rd street into a loud, heated Metalhead paradise.
As Los Angeles, California based Bad Omens teed off the show, their name proved to be a welcome contradiction, kicking off an incredible night with a strong set. Led by Vocalist Noah Sebastian, after departing from his previous band to fully pursue this project, he recruited Nicholas Ruffilo (guitarist), Vincent Riquier (bassist), Joakim Karlsson (guitarist), and Nick Folio (drummer) along the way just two years ago. Having joined Sumerian Records only a few months ago, their rookie effort was ready to quickly show New York exactly who they are.
As their set began, the harshness of Sebastian’s lively screams was met with haunting harmonies, power-packed guitar riffs, and aggressive percussion. These ingredients make up their single, “Glass Houses,” which served as a definite standout and fan-favorite during the performance. Firing on all cylinders, Sebastian showed the passion of a frontman that will certainly take his band far. With that in mind, Bad Omens is not doing anything extraordinarily different in their young Metal career yet, but they have already proven they can hang with the best of them. Taken under the wing of the rest of the bands on this bill, it would seem their future is bright.
In the second slot was ERRA, a heavy four-piece grown out of Alabama in 2009. Unlike Bad Omens, ERRA has definitely stuck to its name, which translates to mayhem. Debuting on Tragic Hero Records back in 2011 with Impulse, ERRA joined the Sumerian family prior to their 2014 EP, Moments of Clarity. Now finding a comfortable new home, ERRA are adhered by the lineup of Guitarist Jesse Cash, Drummer Alex Ballew, Guitarist Sean Price, and new lead vocalist JT Cavey. Set to release their third studio album, entitled Drift, on April 8th, this early year run is the perfect way to ease fans into some of the new material.
Balancing an intense live performance with technical ability, Cavey, Cash, Price, and Ballew put on a show that could play as well in a down and dirty dive bar to arenas or stadiums as they opened with “Alpha Seed” and then played “Rebirth.” Their vocals ping pong between singing and screaming the same way that their studio history bounces between full lengths and EPs, as they have garnered six studio efforts in as many years. Citing bands that they shared the stage with that night as influences, fans of Killswitch Engage and AlexisOnFire will also gravitate towards their lively guitar licks and ying yang vocals. ERRA continued to give fans a taste of new material with“Drift” before older songs “Seven” and “Hybrid Earth.” If their forthcoming album title track is any indication, the new album will be a very pure representation of what they do.
Splitting the deck was Minnesota based After the Burial, whose contagious presence overcast the audience in a way that the previous acts had not. Together since 2004, they have established a name for themselves well-respected on the scene of extreme music with five studio albums to their name, four of which have been released via Sumerian Records. Their latest album, Dig Deep, which was released just a week prior to this show, is a battle cry of a band looking to triumph above hard times and the tragic loss of Guitarist Justin Lowe. With that all in mind, After the Burial came out ready to tear up Gramercy Theatre.
Opening with “Lost in the Static,” a dominant low end and impactful voice of Anthony Notarmaso gave an in-your-face aire, but was tempered by brighter guitar lines and an almost familial stage presence. That invitational aggression is certainly a rare combination, but one that is working strongly on Dig Deep. In fact, the new album currently sits atop Billboard’s Hard Rock chart. Their particularly impassioned performances of this music tour are paralleled by a tour through emotional highs, lows, and everything in-between, especially for founding members Lee Foral (bass) and Trent Hafdahl (guitar, clean vocals).
Acknowledging the passing of fellow founder Lowe, the band actively chose to be celebratory about his accomplishments rather than somber about his loss. The optimism reverberated with the crowd and throughout their set as they played on with “Berzerker” and “Aspiration” through an expression of anger, but with message of hope. This was the driving engine behind their new and very heavy single “Collapse” and fan-favorite “A Wolf Amongst Ravens.” As “A-T-B” chants rang out from the crowd and weaved their way into the band’s set, it was clear that the audience stuck to the band’s cohesion. It takes a great band to master putting on impressive performances as a whole unit and as individuals, and After the Burial did just that.
While many bands write to a specific genre, Chicago, Illinois’ Veil of Maya impressively satisfies all, as shown in their set following After the Burial. It takes true talent to organically blend elements from a variety of specific sub-genres, but when done correctly, a band can create a transcendent sound. The quartet of Guitarist Marc Okubo, Drummer Sam Applebaum, Bassist Danny Hauser, and Vocalist Lukas Magyar have done just that. Part of Sumerian Records since 2008, when they released their sophomore album, The Common Man’s Collapse, it has been a tremendous run for the band since. Now supporting their 2015 album Matriarch, Veil of Maya had their New York followers revved up for their performance.
From the start, with “Nyu” and “Leeloo,” Okubo shows off technical prowess with fluidity in guitarwork that manages to simultaneously stand out without straying from each song; a common pitfall for bands with a Progressive underbelly. Meanwhile, Applebaum and Dan Hauser kept up with the intensity and speed of Thrash Metal and with the precision of Prog influences, similar to Meshuggah or Periphery. This balance was delicately struck several times on songs from Matriarch, including back-to-back hard-hitters “Ellie” and “Lucy.”
Moving forward with songs like “Unbreakable” and “It’s Not Safe to Swim Today,” Magyar put on an absolute clinic in Metal vocals, playing double duty on intense screaming and clean vocals. After a few evolutions of Veil of Maya’s lineup, joined them in 2014, and with performances such as these has shown he adds another unique layer to their already distinctive sound. Magyar stands out by delivering incredible quality in both houses, including the jolting songs “Phoenix” and “Three-Fifty.” Furthermore, his dazzling range is exhibited in challenging, soaring melodies, difficult for any vocalist to sing, never mind one who has gutsy, emotive screams just seconds before. By catering to nobody, Veil of Maya has managed to cater to everyone, created their most accessible music yet. Incorporating a learned approach from years of touring, they know how to translate their thematic work to a phenomenal live experience.
With the crowd salivating for their headliner, Born of Osiris took the stage –and with authority. Also hailing from the Windy City of Chicago, the pure Metal five-piece of Joe Buras (keyboards/vocals), Ronnie Canizaro (lead vocals), Cameron Losch (drums), David Da Rocha (bass), and Lee McKinney (guitar) has been riding a well-earned wave of recognition, as well as success, since their Fall 2015 release of Soul Sphere. Touching upon a variety of subgenres as well, Born of Osiris truly made a splash with the very technical The Discovery album in 2011, divided and won new fans with Tomorrow We Die Alive in 2013, and are winning back and gaining new fans with the aforementioned Soul Sphere.
Drawing on the themes from their latest album, it became clear that they set out to created a unified album and live experience as they took Gramercy Theatre’s stage. As for the record, each song stands alone, but calls on pieces of other songs to create a full body of work as they played tracks such as “The Other Half of Me” and “The Sleeping and the Dead.” Gritty vocals from Canizaro were shrouded in mesmerizing keyboard work from Buras as the set moved on with a mix of older and new songs that included “Open Arms to Damnation” and “Empires Erased.”
Flowing along smoothly and capturing the attention of the packed theater, stark guitar riffs of McKinney brilliantly upset the balance of their sound, disrupting solid percussive lines of Losch and Da Rocha. With the entire floor transformed into a mosh pit, fans latched on to all the material offered, especially “Resilience,” “Abstract Art,” “Bow Down,” and “Illuminate.” Executing sixteen songs in all, the audience was thoroughly satisfied by the technical efforts and impassioned delivery of Born of Osiris as they ended the celebration with The Discovery’s “Follow the Signs” and “Recreate.”
With noted growth between each album and a commanding live show that playfully maintains their identity, there is no doubt that if Born of Osiris maintains their biannual release schedule, response will pop. After a very public departure from Guitarist Jason Richardson in 2011, the band has grown together, and it shows in their live show. With that said, regardless of where one stand on their opinion of Born of Osiris, it seems like they have truly settled into themselves. As for the Sumerian Records 10 Year Tour, it is a must see with its stacked lineup of heavy hitters, in just about every sense of the word. Putting on a Metal showcase with textbook execution, a mix of veteran talent and fresh faces delivered in an impressive way. Sumerian Records is a young, growing label with a lot to be proud of. This night was exhibit A.