Live Review: Killswitch Engage, Memphis May Fire, 36 Crazfists and Toothgrinder in Indy

Metal mainstays Killswitch Engage recently embarked on the Incarnate tour, in support of their album of the same name which dropped earlier this month. Their fifth stop on the tour brought them to Old National Centre in Indianapolis. The day of the show the decision was made to move the festivities to Old National’s basement venue, Deluxe. Initially this was somewhat disappointing, but as the night progressed it became clear it was the perfect decision, as the smaller room was absolutely packed to the brim with die hard fans. There were no awkward gaps in the crowd with people standing around talking; from the barricade to the soundboard fans were packed in and fully engaged in the show all night long. New Jersey natives Toothgrinder started the night off with their song “The Hour Angle,” which served as a fantastic introduction to the band for those seeing them for the first time. The song has a nice rise and fall to it and shows off some of more intricate aspects to their sound with dizzying guitar solos which sent guitarist Justin Goss flailing across the stage as he played. Vocalist Justin Matthews may look like he’d be a great stand in for 90’s teen heartthrob James van der Beek, but his screams are as brutal as they come. Although their set was short the band managed to pack in a powerful show, stirring fans up for the frenzy that was to follow when 36 Crazyfists took the stage. Killswitch Engage was one of the first major bands to take notice when 36 Crazyfists first started making waves with their debut album Bitterness the Star in 2002, and the band was tapped to open for Killswitch on their European Road Rage tour. More than a decade later and the pairing of the two bands still makes for a solid show. Opening with “Vanish” from 2015’s Time and Trauma lead singer Brock Lindow stood with his back to the crowd as the rest of the band started playing one by one, allowing the song to slowly build before drummer Kyle Baltus kicked the song into high gear. In an interesting move the first chunk of their set was built exclusively from opening tracks, ending with “At The End of August” from 2003’s A Snow Capped Romance, and then transitioned easily into the following two tracks off the album. Many of the live videos on YouTube left me believing that 36 Crazyfists just might not be a live band- Lindow’s vocals didn’t have the same tone live and the band didn’t seem as tight overall. To my pleasant surprise Lindow sounded flawless in Indy, easily managing to hit his higher notes with very little wavering, and the band was incredibly tight, with very few stray notes. It’s hard to say whether I just happened to find some of the less flattering videos YouTube has to offer, or whether the band is really hitting their stride when it comes to their live show, but whatever the case may be, as someone who has been listening to them for 14 years 36 Crazyfists’ set far exceeded my expectations. Memphis May Fire was up next, bringing the most melodic moments of the night. The inclusion of the band in the tour package was somewhat surprising, as their target audience seems a fair bit younger than that of Killswitch Engage, but they ended up being a great fit. Since their inception in 2006 the band has undergone a number of significant lineup changes but has been holding steady with their current lineup since 2012, and that stability seems to be paying off. Deluxe’s small stage could barely contain the group and lead singer Matty Mullins spent much of his time perched on a riser placed at the front of the stage, often leaning out over the photo pit to get closer to the fans. The connection the band has with their audience was immediately evident, and Mullins took every opportunity to lift the crowd up with brief but encouraging comments before songs. As the band entered their closing song, “Vices,” Mullins took the opportunity to speak of the stronghold addictions of various kinds can have over people and the effects they can have on loved ones, but in true Memphis May Fire fashion the tiny flicker of light remained at the end of the song, with Mullins screaming “This is my desperate shout, pull me out, pull me out! God I need you now!” before exiting the stage in a dramatic fashion. At long last the lights went down and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” blared through the speakers as lights scanned the stage as the band appeared on stage and started in to “Strength of the Mind.” Seeing a band of Killswitch Engage’s caliber in such an intimate setting was an experience that fans weren’t going to take for granted. Vocalist Jesse Leach and guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz engaged in a fair amount of banter with the crowd, seeming totally at ease on stage. Even rhythm guitarist Joel Stroetzel, who is usually somewhat reserved compared to Leach and Dutkiewicz, took advantage of the tight quarters and gave a couple of young fans a fist bump mid-strum during “Fixation on the Darkness.” The set consisted of a solid mixture of old and new material, with nearly a third of the band’s 17-song set list coming straight from their recent release Incarnate. By the time the band played their closing song, “In Due Time,” it was clear everyone in the room was spent after an hour and a half of going full-force, but it was a fantastic way to end the night. Leach would later reveal that he was pretty under the weather and really had to fight his way through the set, but this revelation came as a total surprise to most- Leach’s performance was impeccable and his energy never wavered. Revelations such as this act as a prime example as to why bands like Killswitch Engage can enjoy such long and consistently successful careers. Regardless of the situation or complications that may arise, this is a band that goes out and gives 100% every night, without exception. The Incarnate tour continues through the end of April just before Killswith Engage makes an appearance at Rockfest in South Carolina. -Ashley Adcox Click here for photos of every band from the show