Not really sure about the exact date of this one as it was some time ago and I'm just getting around to writing this now three months later. I'm not really sure about the lineup either. I don't know who the opening band was, I'm fairly certain No Innocent Victim was on the bill, the other three were definitely there. This was the first time I caught a show since witnessing Opeth in May of last year (unless you count an arena show by Tool which I never got around to writing about). It was also my first time visiting the elusive Club 797 (drive to the middle of nowhere, take a left and go about five miles into the woods). Unlike my adventures in Albany trying to find Valentine's and get to the door without being murdered by crackheads and gang members, my biggest concern on the backroads of Latham was being attacked by bears or merauding hillbilly psychos. Once we did locate the club though, I was surprised to find it was a pretty nice place. You can actually order a burger while you watch the show. My girlfriend was once again my unwilling accomplice on this night because I promised I would take her shopping the next day. We cleared the doors about halfway through the opening band and took a place at the bar where I immediately began working on my future alcohol problem.
First band up was a fucking mystery to me honestly. I had never heard of them prior to reading their name on the flyer as I entered the club, and thus came to the conclusion that they must suck. I'm pretty sure their name was anti-something or another. Maybe Anti-Flag or the Anti-Heroes, both fine bands but too well established to be playing first on the bill. The age of the band gave them away too. None of these fuckers (there were six of them) looked old enough to even get into the club. I'm sure that mom was probably waiting outside in the mini-van to drive them home after their set. Seeing bands like that just depresses me because if these guys are opening for Zao and Shai Halud it makes me wonder what the hell I was wasting my time doing during high school. Anyway the little bastards weren't all that bad and actually impressed me quite a lot. They were playing fierce hardcore punk with old school style yelling and screaming. They actually sounded a lot like A Global Threat, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't them because I actually own some of their shit. I like hardcore bands that weigh in equal parts metal and punk. It seems all the new bands are just metal bands with incompetent musicians, sludging and growling and bellowing. A band like this has energy and charisma which is lacking in the more metal oriented bands. There were two singers who traded off screams and four other guys who played fast and furious. The pit tore itself apart, and I sat back at the bar, ordered some fries and another beer, and settled in for a good show.
Next up wasUnearth , a band from Boston who should not have been playing second on the bill. I have been following this band's progress with nothing but respect and admiration for almost two years now, waiting for them to break big but it apparantly is not going to happen. Their Stings of Conscience album is a fucking masterpiece of hardcore precision and passion which I would recommend to anybody. However they have not gained much attention outside of Boston. This was the first time I saw them live. The performance was somewhat marred by the fact that they only played four or five songs and seemed to have even less stage time than the previous band. Unearth didn't impress me as much live as they did on record, but I wasn't very close to the stage for this either. They seemed to be lacking in energy and intensity for most of the set. Though their energy did not translate to the stage, their music was played flawlessly and they obviously have a lot of talent. There seemed to be more than a few people in the crowd who knew them and they passed the mic around a lot. People seemed to be into it anyway and maybe I was just too far back to get much out of it. They finished off with One Step Away, which is definitely the best song off their disc, and the energy seemed to pick up around this song. Their set was too short and it seemed that just as they were getting into it, the whole thing was over. I hope to see Unearth again and I hope they play for longer next time because they are a quality band that should have played a lot longer and been a lot better live.
Next on the bill was one of those bands who listened to too much Biohazard when they were 16, and now think that they're from the streets. The name was some urban violence cliche like 25 ta life or only living witness or my own victim, honsetly I can't remember and don't fucking care. I'm almost positive it wasn't 25 ta Life because despite the misspelled name they are actually a talented band. Likewise I'm sure it wasn't Only Living Witness because they have a cool name and I would have remembered it if they were on the bill. And the guy from My Own Victim actually e mailed to me let me know it wasn't his band. So for the sake of argument, lets just say that the band in question wasNo Innocent Victim . If it wasn't them, then God forgive me for what I am about to say about this fucking band. It is boring played out shit like this that is ruining hardcore. People who are actually from the streets as a rule are too busy shooting each other and smoking crack to play in hardcore bands. And while I'm sure there are a few genuinely urban bands out there, the majority of hardcore's audience is dominated by people just like me, middle class suburban white kids. Being that hardcore is largely about being true to yourself and others, I hate to see this poser shit at shows. Being from Niskayuna or Scotia does not qualify you as being urban so pull up your pants, take off the wife beater and take a fucking shower.
After enduring about 45 minutes of medium paced metalcore grumbling and growling from No Innocent Victim I had nearly fallen asleep in my beer. I had great hopes thatKill Your Idols would be a better band and would wake me up before the real entertainment of the night came on. Boy was I wrong about that shit. Some people might mistake Kill Your Idols for a classic hardcore band because their name bastardizes a popular slogan of the old days, namely Kill YR Idols. I have no idea what this means but it is probably something more cereberal than killing the people you repect. Well as far as I can tell these guys aren't a classic hardcore band but they think they are. Their sound was just metal enough to be slow and depressing, just hardcore enough to be loud and annoying. I found myself actually contemplating pulling the fire alarm or calling in a bomb threat to end this band's set, because they just went on forever. They must have played for at least an hour and a half, at least it seemed that long. Fuck that.
Luckily ZAO took the stage not long after and the whole atmosphere of the place seemed to change immdiately to one of awe and admiration. The lights came down and a second of feedback droned over the PA before the band tore into one of their heavier songs. I'm not sure if it was Savannah or 5 Year Winter but it definitely got the attention of everyone in the place. The pit which had been relatively silent up to this point swelled outward and became the embodiment of chaos within a minute of ZAO's opening note. It didn't let up from there until they left the stage an hour later. I have been a huge fan of this band for a little over a year now, but had no idea that other people knew who they were. I was surprised by the reaction of the crowd which was almost rabid at the sight of ZAO. Before seeing them live, I wasn't completely sold on their sound. They definitely have a unique style, but the quality of their recorded material wavers. This show however put to rest any doubts I had about ZAO being a truly great band. This was the best live show I have seen in years. The band was definitely into it and their energy was unreal. Some people have been wondering recently if the new singer Corey Darst is working out. Let there be no doubts that this guy will fit right in. Darst is a fucking madman on stage. He is truly driven by rage. He not only hits Dan's notes but adds new levels of emotion and aggression to the patented ZAO style (imagine that guy from Carcass gargling with battery acid). On the clean vocal sections, he also more than held his own. I didn't even know ZAO had a new singer at the time and only found out a few days afterward. One thing I was thinking during the show was that the vocals were fucking savage compared to the recorded stuff. I can't wait to hear the new shit with this guy. The setlist mostly concentrated on their material from the last two albums, although I thought I heard a few from Blood and Fire. The songs from the self-titled record are incredible to hear live. Like I said the band puts a lot of emotion into its show and this was a very emotional record. The stuff from Liberate Te Ex Inferis definitely benefited from Corey's vocals and the energy of the band. Jesse Smith (the only remaining original member) has proven himself to be the glue that holds this band together and is definitely one of the best drummers in metal today. The drums are pretty much the most important part of a club show and they were on point all night without a single note out of place. They mostly concentrated on the harder stuff, but the highlight of the night was actually The Dreams That Don't Come True, with the emotion displayed on the clean parts alternating perfectly with the relentless savagery of its heavier parts. It was incredible to see this performed live. ZAO should release a live album because the qulaity of their show is something you can't translate to studio material. Go see this band as soon as you can wherever they play. This show was flawless and I am convinced that ZAO is one of the best American metal bands in existence. Anyone at this show would have a hard time arguing with that.Unfortunately I missed Shai Halud who were actually the headliners of the night because my woman had to work the next day and I was starting to sober up by the end of ZAO's set. Sucks that I had to miss them because I've heard good things about Shai Halud. It's okay though because I heard on the news that somebody got shot outside the club later that night. It was probably some No Innocent Victim fans. Somebody probably stepped on somebody's new adidas or wouldn't pass the crackpipe. Honestly when people get shot in fucking Latham of all places it is a sad day for Albany hardcore. The Dreams That Don't Come True I tried again I fell again to find out for myself It hurts for a life time You picture rests there for a lifetime And for a lifetime I will dream of you I prepare a mantle inside of my heart With your photograph to sooth the scars Unable to be erased unable to be forgotten As I grow older I will dream