In what perhaps is the best sign of In Flames' enduring popularity, they have graduated to the very spacious Stage AE, which is easily Pittsburgh's top mid-sized venue. Three years prior, they played the relatively roomy Mr. Smalls, selling out the venue and causing concert-goers to feel like sardines. 'Twas not the case on this night, for the venue wasn't sold out and there was plenty of room in which to maneuver. This doesn't stop the various inebriated attendees to flocking toward Blistering, though....somehow this scribe always gets stuck next to the drunk lackeys who are prone to starting up a conversation at the most inopportune of times. And they smell. Yuck.
A mish-mash bill if there ever was one, the running order was Southern-bred rockers by way of Los Angeles Kyng, Sumerian death metallers Veil of Maya, Trivium, and In Flames. Kyng were up first, showcasing a distortion-happy sound that is ripe for comparison with mid-90's Corrosion of Conformity and of course, vintage Sabbath. The trio were suitably loud (note: Stage AE has to be the loudest venue in the Northeastern part of the U.S.) and rocking, as singer/guitarist Eddie Veliz doled out some wicked licks during "Down On Me," and "Falling Down," and several other cuts from the band's Trampled Sun debut. Impeccably tight, Kyng were way out of place on this bill, but Veliz's Chris Cornell-like vocal croon is spot-on, making one ponder how well they'd do in front of a more stoned-out crowd.
Veil of Maya were up next, touring on the ramp-up to the release of their forthcoming Eclipse album. The Chicago-bred modern death metallers couldn't be more fond of the Meshuggah staccato riff template, churning out a half-dozen songs with a small degree of uniformity. However, the suffocating guitar chugs of Marc Okubo are a marvel, as cuts like "Unbreakable," "Dark Passenger" and a new song from Eclipse were enough to get the kiddies moving, in spite of the fact the band's sound seemed to spray all over the cavernous bowels of Stage AE.
Still not quite ready for bona-fide headliner status, Trivium put on an excellent display of guitar wizardry, making one forget just how banal a lot of their songs are. New jams like "In Waves," "Built to Fall," and "Caustic are the Ties That Bind" provided the guitar tandem of Matt Heafy and Corey Bealieu the opportunity to jut into the crowd (via their wireless set up) and do some soloing, while older selections like "Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr" and "Like Light to the Flies" were met with uproarious response. The band's very noticeable career misfires (and Heafy's occasional diarrhea of the mouth) will probably keep them from the top rung, but they do an excellent job as a support act...something we'd never thought we'd write.
This particular date was the second-to-last show of the tour, and In Flames had some relatively noticeable signs of road wear-and-tear. Singer Anders Friden looked the part, wearing a rather nondescript flannel and trucker hat, which is in stark contrast to his once-derided dreadlocks and Jonathan Davis-like stage moves. Friden’s struggles were obvious during the normally rousing “Trigger” and “Cloud Connected,” two songs that usually elicit mass sing-a-longs, but lacked energy. Newer songs like “Deliver Us,” the excellent “Where the Dead Ships Dwell,” “Ropes,” and “Fear Is the Weakness” translated much better live than expected, emblematic of guitarist Bjorn Gellote’s stronghold on the band’s songwriting formula.
Only two dips into the past were made – “The Hive” from 1997’s Whoracle (which is In Flames’ best song, hands-down) and “Swim” from 2000’s Clayman, both of which satiated the old ‘heads, something Friden was quick to point out during his in-between-song dialogue. In fact, Friden has become quite the funnyman, oftentimes calling out select audience members for participation and forcing guitarist Niclas Engelin to don a banana suit. As it came to be, these were the main takeaways from the show, as In Flames looked to be in need of a serious battery re-charge. When these guys are on, few can top ‘em…this wasn’t the case tonight.