Concert Review: Dragged Into Sunlight and Primitive Man (June 30, 2016)

(Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

You would think, having seen Dragged Into Sunlight perform at Marlyand Deathfest barely a month ago, that I would have some idea of what to expect from their late-June show in Boston. But the reality is this; Dragged Into Sunlight’s live shows have a distinguished reputation for a reason. While they were equally as ferocious this particular evening at The Middle East in Cambridge (basically Boston, for those not privy to the area), there were plenty of elements to this show that allowed it to stand out. In the end, these few hours of live music were among the most jarring and exhausting I had experienced in awhile. And I loved just about every second of it.

Phantom Glue, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

First and foremost, I must once again tip my hat to the upstairs venue of The Middle East in Central Square, Cambridge. After dinner and a few drinks before the show, I was thrilled to walk through the divey, claustrophobic bar to the upstairs venue in the back, just past the kitchen and bathrooms. With a max capacity of under 200, this spot has never failed to delivery a memorable, intimate show. The same can be said this evening. When positioned at the very front against the stage, it becomes very easy to feel like you are part of the performance. Such was my positioning this evening. The music isn’t so much coming at you, it instead envelopes you from all sides as a result of the proximity in this tiny space. And when a band like Dragged Into Sunlight plays, with all their curiosities and intensities, it only adds to the experience.

Phantom Glue, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

But I would be flawed in not devoting significant time in this review to the openers, as each one performed and sounded great. First, we had Phantom Glue, a sludge doom group out of Boston that opened the night with a barrage of killer riffs and varying tempos. They applied a certain hardcore element to their sound that prevented the generally burdening feel of these genres from becoming overwhelming this early in the night. They certainly set the evening off in the right direction. The next local act to follow was Churchburn, who promptly took things in another direction. From Providence, they offer more of a blackened death metal feel. Although, truth be told, they are harder to categorize. There were dark, broodingly drawn out moments that eventually yielded to blistering leads and blast beats. It was an incredibly diverse set and provided an impressive dose of darkness in the middle of the evening. The crowd was into both of these acts, and they certainly injected a defined energy into the building. Then we got into the headliners.

Phantom Glue, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

Phantom Glue, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey  Butterworth)

First we had Primitive Man. Now, I had never seen Primitive Man before, nor had I really listened to them much. I had an idea of what to expect, but nothing more than that. What I was not prepared for was how much their funeral doom/sludge hybrid would take out of me. They were heavy, they were powerful, and each and every note resonated for what felt like an eternity. The set seemed to drag on and on. Songs that felt like they were reaching their conclusion carried on for another handful of minutes, pounding away in repetitive fashion. And it was like that track after track, allowing them to make the absolute most of their set. I was totally entranced by what they were doing, but at the same time was getting completely worn out by it all. This take on funeral doom isn’t exactly my thing, and it may never be, but there’s now doubt that I’ll remember this set for awhile.

Primitive Man, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

And as they departed the stage, the Dragged Into Sunlight stage accessories began to make their way into our periphery. Unlike in May, where I was more of a curious observer, this time around there was a defined anticipation as the minutes ticked on. Before getting into the performance itself, I need to mention that one of the very minor negatives about this show was the inability to get their candles lit at the front of the stage. From afar, that simple element creates a distinguished, glowing image as it forms the foreground to the red lights and white strobes of the stage. So that was a bit disappointing. My camera didn’t appreciate the missing extra dose of consistent lighting, either. I was forced to abandon the Nikon and settle for some shitty iPhone shots during their set. But I digress.

Primitive Man, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

Finally, at long last and well into the evening, the house lights were killed and Dragged Into Sunlight took the stage to perform tracks off of their split with Gnaw Their Tongues. And as the recognizable interview clips poured over the sound system, everything in the venue seemed to surge. With their backs to the crowd, they pounded away at their instruments and screamed into their microphones as the strobe light — triggered by the double bass — offered spastic blinding flashes onto the scene over the dull, haunting red lights at the sides of the stage. It felt this time, as it did in May, like we were participating in a horror movie scene.

Primitive Man, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

I have never considered Dragged Into Sunlight as one of the more technical or creative bands going, at least musically. Instead, their intention is one of raw aggression fueled by their live show. Don’t get me wrong, on record they are solid. I thoroughly enjoyed their most recent split that they were supporting on this tour. But their is a certain mystery to the anger they communicate through the music in a live setting that is truly entrancing. There are times where you want to look away, mute the sound (and being against the stage, it was loud), and take a break to let yourself breathe. But you can’t, it is impossible to do so. You are truly locked into what you are seeing before you. In that sense, it’s almost like staring into a burning flame… it captivates you, but you aren’t really sure why or one what level. All you know if that you cannot look away. And  they do all this without even bothering to acknowledge the fact. It is a form of apathy and disregard for their audience that makes their music that much darker. It is a sign of disrespect — there is no crowd acknowledgement, no eye contact, no ‘thank you’s, no encore, nothing — and it makes them one of the most dynamic live bands going. And it’s what made this show so impressive.

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Dragged Into Sunlight, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

In all, there is no question that Dragged Into Sunlight lived up to the hype they built around themselves following their performance at Maryland Deathfest. While there were similarities to their performances, the smaller, more confined setting still made this show unique in a number of ways. Credit must be given to the three opening acts as well. They offered three different styles and performed with quality, allowing this particular evening to be entertaining from the first note of the first song, straight through the end. It was a late night that left my ears ringing for days, but one that will go down as one of the highlights of 2016 so far. Anyway, I’ll leave you with some of my other pictures that I think don’t suck:

Primitive Man, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

Primitive Man, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth

Primitive Man, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

Primitive Man, 6.30.2016 (Photo credit: Corey Butterworth)

Phantom Glue, 6.30.2016 (Photo Credit: Corey Butterworth)

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
– Corey

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