DevilDriver and Whitechapel take over Altar Bar

Metal miscreants DevilDriver have been out on the road for nearly a year now in support of their latest endeavour Winter Kills. They are bringing their patented blend of melodic groove metal and melodic death metal to their legions of fans across the globe. Rounding out the tour docket are Rivers Of Nihil, Revocation, Carnifex and coheadliners Whitechapel.

When the tour hit Pittsburgh, the bands played a former church called the Altar Bar, allowing the Devil to take over the house of God for one malevolent evening of hellfire and hellfueled debauchery. Neither the fans or the venue would ever be the same again.

The task of kicking things off fell to Reading, PA’s Rivers Of Nihil who delivered a pummeling set of melodic death metal with a cocksure swagger rarely seen today. The band never once stood still as they pounded out a dizzying array of never ending blastbeats, gutteral growls and heavy handed down picking.

There was a ton of back and forth energy as they blasted through their six song set. You better believe that when lead singer Jake Dieffenbach commanded that the crowd mosh, that they did and with a vengeance. They paused before their last song for Dieffenback to scream “Let me see you get fucking crazy.” When the fans weren’t loud enough to suit him he stopped in the middle of the song to re-energize the pit one final time.

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Carnifex was next and right from the start lead singer Scott Lewis took a caculated risk, taunting the crowd by saying “You guys may the worst crowd of the tour so far,” a gamble that nearly incited a riot, but payed of in the end by causing the audience to up their game to meet the challenge bestowed upon them, at one point jumping up and down so hard that it endangered the structual integrity of the building.

Throughout their brutal set, security was hammered with a never ending barrage of crowd surfers and the pits raged on. Lewis stopped before closer “Hell Chose Me” to say, “We got one more song which means one more pit. Let me see you loose your minds and scream those three little words.” The fans obliged, singing at the top of their lungs and swirling out of control and closing the set on a high note.

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Riding on that wave of positive energy was Revocation, who kicked out a blistering set of melodic hardcore, complete with Primus-like undertones and vituosic solos. From their very first note, there was pandemonium both on and off the stage. The post it on their soundboard reading “Loud and Painful!!!” said it all.

Drummer Phil Dubois feet never stopped and the band was as rock solid as they come, but it was hard to take your eyes off of lead singer/guitarist David Davidson. His charm was undeniable and he stopped before their last song to say, “Pittsburgh let’s see that fucking circle pit” and when it wasn’t big enough he stopped again in the middle of the song to say, “We’ve been coming here a long time and I know you can do better than that. When this shit kicks back in, I wanna see everyone pit.” You bet your ass they did and with a pit for the ages.

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Most bands would have a hard time following such a strong performance, but that is exactly what drives Whitechapel and for them it was just another day at the office doing what they do best- putting on a show that is second to none.

The chants of their name began long before they took the stage and once they did, it was quite obvious from the reaction that as many were here to see them as the headliner that night. In fact, the energy was so intense that the press/photo pit had to be emptied early for safety reasons and at no point could security keep up. People were even being taken off their feet by the surge of the crowd swells.

Lead vocalist Phil Bozeman held the crowd in the palm of his hand. He was the sheppard and they were his flock, hanging on his every word as he stood atop the monitors drenched in blood red lighting after “The Saw Is The Law” to say, “We are stereotyped as rednecks and are known for Jack Daniels and sweet tea.”

Closer “Possibilities Of An Impossible Existence” was prefaced by Bozeman saying, “I need all of you to push people to each side to make room for this next one. When I say go, you all pit.” Again the fans obliged and a floor sized circle pit erupted. It was so intense that clothes were literally flying through the air. Now that’s heavy metal.

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At last the band everyone had come for was next and after six long hours, the energy in the room was somehow greater than when the night began. DevilDriver had barely hit the stage when the insanity insued. The intensity grew to such a fevered pace that after just one song, the photo pit again had to be emptied for safety concerns. Once again, security had no chance.

Frontman Dez Fafara’s command of the crowd knows no bounds. His old school led microphone only added to his stage presence, charm and mystique. By now the place was so full you could barely move and Fafara made sure to engage everyone from the people in the front row, to the folks in the balcony, making sure everyone had the best time possible.

Much like the Carnifex, Fafara frequently taunted the crowd, telling everyone, including the people in the balcony to get into the pit and “mosh, you pussies,” at one point saying, “Your pit is shit so far” and setting off a frenzy that almost brought the house down.

The band was in a perpetual state of motion and the energy was so thick in the air you could taste it. Each member was in top form and had a little fun with the rabid fans, by teasing them with a couple of false starts to songs, all the while, Fafara wickedly grinning and drinking in the moment.

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Fafara paused before “Ruthless” and closer “Meet The Wretched” to say “You got two more songs to show me what your made of Pittsburgh. Smoke weed, drink Hennessy and fuck this place up!” At this point, moshing was no longer an option and the fans took full advantage of their last chance to do it.

To punctuate the set, guitarist Jeff Kendrick and bassist Chris Towning walked out onto the bartop as a 30 ft circle pit spiraled out of control and into oblivion. Another amazing show in Pittsburgh had come to it’s inevitable end and a good time was had by all.

-Eric Hunker