Time and Place: May 4th, 2014 at the most metal bar in Austin; The Dirty Dog Bar located on 6th Street.
The Prize: A spot in the finals located in California; with the winner getting an opening slot for the entire tour in which they are competing.
Bands for Summer Slaughter: A Threat to the Enemy, Bury the Rod, I-Terra, Sarcophagi and Shores of Acheron.
Bands for All Stars: Fear and Wonder, Fire from the Gods, Heroinme, Limerance and Memories in Broken Glass.
Headliners: Shattered Sun and Insvrgence.
Another day… another battle. Don’t let that first statement fool you into thinking this was just another heavy metal battle filled with local garage bands playing their shitty songs to an empty venue. On the contrary, this was a show giving several talented bands an opportunity to compete for an opening slot on the summers two heaviest tours. Of course; I’m refereeing to The All Stars Tour and The Summer Slaughter Tour. Each summer, these tours lay waste to countless cities and fans across the country; packing venues to the brim with black T-Shirt wearing metal heads.  To keep it short and sweet; your band has to be on top of their game in order to play these battles. And all the bands that played Sunday were definitely on top of their game.
A Threat to the Enemy from Fort Worth, TX opened up the show with a solid balance of old school metal brutality meets new school metal catchiness. The riffs were heavy and technical, the vocals brutal yet catchy and the rhythm section of drums and bass drove the music along at a solid; consistent pace. The more they played, the more people slowly made their way to the stage to take in the bands 15 minute set. From what I could tell, the audience seemed to enjoy this heavy; well balanced start to the day.
Taking the stage soon after were local heavy titans Bury the Rod. Playing a style that can be described as technical/brutal groove metal; these guys worked the crowd up into a fevered frenzy. Heads at the front of the stage thrashed in time with the technical guitar solos and screeched vocals while the pit churned with reckless abandon to the tasteful breakdowns from the heavy bass strings and drums. The crowd roared their approval at the conclusion of the bands set; having been treated to one of the more brutal sets of the day.
Fear and Wonder from Houston, TX (featuring ex-members of Modern Day Escape and The Great Commission) took the stage next and played a solid mix of Metalcore/post hardcore tunes that showcased them as an immediate frontrunner to win a spot in the finals for The All Stars Tour.  Their sound can best be described as being typical Metalcore/post hardcore: heavy verses followed by sing along choruses mixed in with catchy guitar licks, programmed keyboards and heavy breakdowns. But, unlike most bands that play this style of music; Fear and Wonder showcased a well rehearsed image and sound that helps separate them from the pack. That alone helped them make a lasting impression not only on the judges, but to the audience as well as they closed off their 15 minute set.
Soon after, local heavy hitters Fire from the Gods took the stage and immediately got the crowd moving and singing/screaming along to the politically charged words found in their songs. Featuring the vocalist from Heroinme (filling in for Fire’s vocalist); the band simply didn’t let up with their chaotic stage show and passion for the songs they played until their set was done. Playing fan favorites “Smoke Screen” and “The Capitalist” got the crowd going the most; allowing the pit crew to stretch their legs and swing their fists in time with the chaos happening on stage. The final breakdown sequence which closed their set was a stunning example of how to end a set on a high note; leaving the audience wanting more.
With little to no time for a reprieve, locals Heroinme took the stage next and picked up where FFTG’s left off. Continuing the pummeling assault of the previous band; Heroinme went wild playing with their trademark pissed off energy and party style attitude. Each song the guitars and bass slammed into you, the vocals commanded more energy and the drums thrashed about in odd; but well placed time signatures. With songs about beer crawls down 6th and shooting the middle finger to anyone who’s hurt or abandoned you in the past; this band certainly struck a chord with a majority of the audience members and fellow bands by the time their set ended.
Next up was a band by the name of I-Terra; hailing from Houston, TX. At first listen, they reminded me of your run of the mill Deathcore band. Heavy guitars, rumbling bass lines and blast beating drums. But as their set continued, one began to pick up on the subtle progressive elements of the band’s songs. The guitars had some abstract Meshuggahish elements to them, the drums had some interesting pauses and breaks and the vocalist varied his screams/growls; allowing the music to breathe and to resonate with the audience more and more. For being a relatively new band; this band kicked ass.
Hailing all the way from the Juarez side of the El Paso/Juarez boarder, Limerance took the stage next and showcased a brand of technical guitar playing mixed with some interesting time signatures that, surprisingly; went very well with the brutal nature of the guttural/Deathcore style vocals. Their set contained a lot of energy; which in the end saw them win over those in attendance as the shouts of approval grew louder and louder at the end of each of their songs. I must say, this writer was very impressed not only with their set; but with their professionalism and courage playing so far away from home. Amazing performance guys.
Rounding out the last of the All Stars competitors was Memories in Broken Glass; a seasoned band out of San Antonio, TX. One of the hardest working bands in the Texas metal scene, it showed as they played songs from their well received EP “Recode” and even one new song they’d been working on. Their vocalist got the crowd moving and singing along to the words as the band played its unique style of technical/ambient metal; adding touches of electronic sound effects a la Born of Osiris and Veil of Maya. All in all, this was another by the numbers performance from this band; further showcasing them as one of the top unsigned Texas underground bands and as one of the front runners to advance to the finals in California.
Next up were Sarcophagi; a band hailing from Pensacola, Florida. Having never heard this band before seeing them play, I was immediately drawn in by the utter heaviness of their sound. Playing a style of metal that can best be described as technical Deathcore; this band blasted through song after song of brutal tunes that seemed to surprise everyone with how heavy and well constructed they were. The crowd soon went all in as well; showing their appreciation vocally as well as by head banging and hardcore dancing until the close of their set. For me personally; definitely one of my favorite performances of the night.
Closing out the competing Summer Slaughter bands was Shores of Acheron; a band out of Baton Rouge, LA. What became immediately apparent at the start of their set was this: these guys love their death metal slamming and groove laden. But what made the band interesting was their use of eerie guitar melodies mixed in with the typical riffs found in most death metal. Sections of their songs varied from fast paced and aggressive; to haunting and evil. Couple that with brutal vocals, technical drum work, and booming bass lines, you have yourself a band that knows how to write slamming music in a way that’s not only brutal; but also memorable to the audience and judges.
As the judges began to deliberate on which bands would advance, the audience was treated to two Alumni Battle Headliners: Shattered Sun and Insvrgence. Both bands currently are making a lot of noise in the Texas underground; so it was only fitting that these two battle hardened bands should close out the day filled with brutal and memorable performances.  
First up was Shattered Sun; a band out of Alice, TX who play melodic heavy metal thrash. Having seen this band numerous times; I was thrilled to hear that their set would consist of all new songs from their debut full length album. And boy; did they not disappoint. Each song was heavy and filled with their trademark catchiness; which is made up of wicked guitar solos, machine gun drumming and bass lines, keys that add a melodic side to the brutality and vocals that are a mix of growls and sing along choruses. The guys were simply on point and played a pretty flawless set that saw the exhausted crowd get renewed with new energy and vigor. Keep an eye out for this band; big things are certainly in the works for them in the near future.
Lastly; local hardcore guys in Insvrgence took the stage and laid waste to all those that remained standing at the Dirty Dog Bar. Playing hardcore filled to the brim with conviction and meaning; Insvrgence played fan favorites “Nightmares”, “Cardiac Arrest” , “Justification” and “Common Sense” from their debut album “The Tower” along with a new song showcasing the continued growth of the band. The pit crew went wild to each and every song; often screaming into the outstretched microphone word for word while laying waste to their exercised demons in the pit. When set closer “Dani Grace” began, the audience summoned all their remaining energy; getting more wild and passionate in the process. By songs end, the audience as well as the band had left it all out there on the stage or in the pit; which in my opinion was a perfect and fitting way to close the night.
Shortly after Insvrgence set; the winners advancing to California for the finals were announced. For the All Stars: Fear and Wonder, Fire from the Gods, Heroinme and Memories in Broken Glass. For the Summer Slaughter: I-Terra and Shores of Acheron. Although some bands didn’t advance; there was a silver lining that surrounded everyone in attendance. We all had joined together for a special night of metal. We made new friends, new contacts and got to celebrate as a group of people all united for one purpose: heavy metal music. And that above all else is what made this night a special night for everyone.
-Erik Salazar

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SHATTERED SUN (Special Guest Alumni Headliner!)

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At Dirty Dog Bar
505 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78701