Sepultura Headline a Cross-Cultural Night of Metal at The Gothic Theatre

Monday night was somewhat of a test for me.  Would I be able to put my age and experience aside and enjoy a metal show headlined by one of the best thrash bands of my youth?  A band with a lineup that cannot even pretend to be the same as when I last saw them in 1995Sepultura without the Cavalera brothers isn’t really Sepultura in my definition of the band.  That doesn’t mean Derrick Green isn’t a great vocalist and it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what they have done as a band since the magnificent run that was Arise, Chaos A.D. and Roots.  I just wasn’t sure if I could handle my favorite tracks performed by what could almost be considered a very good cover band.

The great thing about these modern metal shows is that they are mini-marathons.  Even if the headliner doesn’t live up to your expectations, you have the opportunity to have you brain busted by no less than four opening bands.  Monday night was no exception, offering up a smorgasbord of extreme music from around the world.

Bonded by Blood unexpectedly (at least to most of us who showed up early to The Gothic Theater) pulled off the tour and would not perform the opening set in Denver.  This was disappointing, but by showing up at 7:15pm I figured I would have missed them anyway.  Sucks too, because I think this is the 3rd or 4th time I have missed the Los Angeles thrashers in the past couple years.  This left the opening slot to Canadian industrial/death metallers Neuraxis.  This was an interesting band from Montreal.  The lead singer was built like a tank and could have gone head-to-head with George Fisher in a head/hair spin/bang contest.  The drummer looked as if he might run triathlons when he wasn’t behind the kit, but the bassist is who impressed me the most, all 4’ 5” of him!  Overall, I have nothing extremely good or bad to say about Neuraxis.  They performed their set like professionals and although they were playing to an empty house they didn’t hold back.  There was nothing here I hadn’t heard before, but the guys were personable and likable and I couldn’t help but wish good things for them.

Keep of Kalessin were up next.  These guys/hair-windmill-machines are from Norway and they performed an entertaining 30 mins of NWOBHM-influenced death with acceptable clean vocals complimenting the death growls. It took a few songs to get the sound right, but once everything clicked into place I was into what these Norwegians were throwing out.  In fact, if I had been familiar with these songs beforehand I think I would have more than just enjoyed this set.  If I understood Torbjørn correctly, most of the songs were from their new album, Reptilian.  They ended with Ascendant, sending sparks off the stage that erupted into a respectable pit.  The room had filled in a little and looking around I believe Keep of Kalessin had won over a small, but tough crowd.

It was 8:45pm when the first band I came to see took the stage to the sounds of church music and haunting female vocals.  It was dark and it stayed dark through most of Hate’s set.  These (blackened?) death metallers from Poland have been around for quite awhile in various forms, but this was their first time in our Mile High City.  Touring in support of their excellent new album, Erebos, they were one of the main reasons I was in attendance.  The dim light exposed men in black with corpse paint, guitarist and bassist in black leather skirts(?) and not much else.  Hate will not win the award from ‘personality of the night’ but who needs personality when you are pumping out soul-crushing metal?  Who needs personality when you’ve got hate and a pit to let it all out in?  For the first time that night I could not stop my head from banging and my foot from stomping.  Much the way Pantera did in the past, Hate made me want to break shit and it felt good!  Hate might always live in the shadow of countrymen Behemoth, but they proved on Monday night that although they are comfortable in the shadows, they don’t belong there.  Their 30 min set seemed like only 10 and I could have left after Wrists (my favorite from the new album) and felt good about my night.

But there was no way I was leaving when the mighty, bloody, flesh-eating Belphegor were up next!  If you don’t know these Austrian blackened death metallers you are missing out.  Blood Magick Necromance is one of the strongest extreme releases this year and their live performance did not disappoint.   Having just been through town with Deicide, the guys seemed very comfortable being back in Denver and took advantage of that familiarity with a call to war “Coloraiiiiiiiiiido!!!”.  Demanding a pit, they got one.  Demanding fists in the air, they got them.  And half way through their set they could have demanded a human sacrifice and they probably wouldn’t have had to wait long before one of the leather-clad girls threw themselves on stage.  Covered in dirt and blood and other gore, Belphegor were not immune to the sound problems  that plagued the rest of the bands, but at this point it didn’t matter.  Everyone knew the words and were happy to fill in where the mic fell short.

Helmuth, in huge black boots like hooves, knows how to work a stage.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone in corpsepaint with so much personality.  Using his tongue as a prop, working every angle of the stage and using his dirty fists to conduct the waves of the crowd, this guy could have been the frontman for a hair metal band if he didn’t have such a taste for blood.  Impaled Upon the Tongue of Sathan really got things going and the disciples did not calm down until the end of Bondage Goat Zombie.  ‘Burn in Hell Coloraiiiiido!’  Yes, we would all be happy to after that set.

It was 10:15pm, I had been exposed to 3 hours of international insanity with a side of cross-cultural chaos and I had a flight out at dawn.  Should I stay for the maincourse?  The South American spectacle that (erroneously) call themselves Sepultura?  I posed this question to a few of my most trusted metalheads and they came back with a resounding ‘YES!’  Sure, it’s not really Sepultura anymore, but they are a damn good band in their own right.  So I stayed.

It was just after 10:30pm when Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr. took that stage with Jean Dolabella and Mr. Green and they wasted no time establishing their case for headlining a show with so many strong bands.  They were loud and they were in your face and Derrick Green was fucking HUGE!  And he was good.  Damn good.   I was head banging and grooving at the same time and then they did Refuse/Resist as the second song and something happened.  As good as it was to hear this song and as well as they played it, all these feelings came up inside.  Feelings of sadness.  Sad that I will never feel about metal the way I did when I was watching the old Sepultura do this in 1995.  That year I saw so many great metal bands.  That night they were opening for Pantera for christ’s sake!  And now, here I was 16 years later, watching a (good) cover of the song.  This feeling would not leave me and every time they performed a ‘pre-Against‘ song I could not stop the memories from  flooding back.  These memories blocked out any enjoyment I could experience watching this band.  So after about an hour and Troops of Doom I took my leave.

This new(er) incarnation of Sepultura are a good, maybe even great, band.  The preview of material of their new album, Kairos, sounded amazing.  But I will not go see them again.  This might sound childish, maybe a little mental, but if they were to change their name and stop performing pre-Green material , they might be one of my favorite metal bands today.  But until they do that, they will always be the Rock Star version of one of my favorite bands.

* on a sidenote, the wristbands for the night were rainbow colored confetti wristbands. seeing these being pumped in the air alongside the black X’s during Belphegor’s set was funny as hell.

Photos via Reverb

More metal on Mile High Metal

Belphegor Setlist:
In Blood – Devour This Sanctity
Belphegor – Hell’s Ambassador
Impaled Upon the Tongue of Sathan
Lucifer Incestus
Angeli Mortis De Profundis
Rise to Fall and Fall to Rise
Bondage Goat Zombie