Sometimes I wish extreme music was more popular. I realize that goes against everything that ‘extreme’ bands and fans stand for, but before you gather the black-clad masses to hunt me down and feed me to the lions, let me explain my thought process here. It really comes down to one simple thing…I can’t attend these pre-packaged metal tours much longer. Sure, Decibel and Indie Merch and various labels are doing us a big favor by bringing so many bands to town — and sure, the tickets are very reasonably priced (the Decibel VIP experience, which included early-entry, a t-shirt, a poster and five bands, was only $35 this year), but that’s part of the problem. I don’t want to show up early. I don’t want to see five bands in one night. I want to experience my extreme music at nighttime! I don’t want to fight rush hour traffic, on a Tuesday, to see a bunch of corpepainted Europeans perform a 20 minute set on an empty stomach…all while the sun shines bright outside. It’s just not right. I outgrew the ‘large festival’ format years ago. Now I think I’m at the end of my rope when it comes to these value-packed metal tours.
That’s why I wish extreme music was more popular. I wish Inquisition had a big enough following that they could tour themselves. I wish Gorguts would come blow the fucking roof off the Marquis Theater! I wish I didn’t have to sit through a 1349 or The Black Dahlia Murder set in order to see Behemoth or Carcass. No offense to either of those bands (or their fans), but I just don’t have the attention span (or time or energy) to get through multiple sets by bands I don’t have an interest in. Not to mention my eardrums…I’d like to save those for the bands I really care about. If I only went to a couple shows a year, I would probably appreciate this format. But I go to a couple shows a week, so I can only handle one (maybe two) opening bands to get me pumped up for the main attraction. Anything more than that and I’m exhausted by the time the headliner arrives.
There are those of you who will agree with what I have stated above. There are also those of you who will call me negative and accuse me of being too old for this kind of shit. I won’t argue with any of you. But before I go on, I do want to say that I hope Decibel and Metal Alliance are successful for many years to come. There are a lot of positives (for the bands, and especially the underage fans) that come from these events. I just hope more of the bands I want to see are also able to come through town on smaller tickets, with less openers and longer set times.
Ok, now that I’ve got all that negativity out of my system, let’s talk about the positive aspects of 2014’s Metal Alliance and Decibel Magazine Tours, because there were quite a few highlights. Hitting Denver within days of each other, the Mile High metal community got their fair share of live music over the past week. Decibel touched down at Summit Music Hall on April 2nd with local tech death metallers Vimana opening for the national line-up of Noisem, Gorguts, The Black Dahlia Murder and Carcass. Metal Alliance brought Inquisition, Goatwhore, 1349, and the almighty Behemoth to the Gothic Theatre on April 8th. Both shows had a start time around 6pm, but Black Crown Initiate weren’t able to make it last night, so that show didn’t get rolling until around 6:40pm. We were still busy drinking beers at Falling Rock when Vimana were burning the Summit with the hometown torch, but they were the only band we missed either night. And although the early start times and long nights wore on the soul, I have to admit there wasn’t a bad band in the bunch — although some were much better than others.
Before I move on to my Top 5 acts from the past week, let me say that Noisem were awesome! These kids (they are literally high school kids) are breathing new life into thrash metal. Sound problems are the only reason they didn’t make my list. Their short set was everything you could hope for from a burgeoning band, and they were a perfect opening act, but Tyler Carnes’ vocals went out every time he switched mic hands. This was a major buzzkill for those of us who have had Agony Defined on repeat since last year.
The Black Dahlia Murder have never done anything for me, but I do understand that their placement late in the lineup was based on popularity, and although I’ve never given their albums more than a cursory spin, I did enjoy their set. I think they might have been the only band that looked like they were having as much fun on the stage as their fans were in the pit.
1349 were 1349. Having seen them a few times now, they never disappoint, but they never really impress either. I have no specific complaints about their set, except for the fact that it stood between me and Behemoth. That being said, judging by the number of t-shirts in the crowd, there were plenty of people who were there to see these Norwegian black metallers.
And that brings me to the Top 5 reasons I’m glad I stuck it out for two more long nights of preplanned packaged pandemonium…
#5 – Goatwhore
If I knew how to sing or play an instrument, and I was in a band that was in a position to choose who opened for us, I would choose Goatwhore. These guys are just straight-up metal — no costumes, no gimmicks — just straight forward, pit inciting heavy metal. They might hail from New Orleans, but they have pulled themselves out of the sludge to become one of the tightest extreme bands touring today. Their name is plastered on so many tour posters that it’s easy to take them for granted, but as soon as Sammy throws his arms in the air and demands to see your horns, there is no doubt they deserve your respect…and sweat and blood. Their 40 minute set was primarily Blood for the Master material, but they did manage to throw in a new track called “Baring Teeth For Revolt” from their upcoming album Constricting Rage of the Merciless, as well as a few classics from Carving Out The Eyes Of God. Excellent set as always.
#4 – Gorguts
Where Goatwhore are in-your-face, can’t-escape-the-pit metal, Gorguts are of the hide-in-the-shadows, gaze-at-your-shoes school. These guys have been around since the late-80’s, but were just resurrected as a recording band last year. The epic Colored Sands was born of those studio sessions, and served as my first exposure to the band. Gorguts are the perfect example of why these stacked events can be a disservice to the bands who play them. Colored Sands (as most Gorguts albums) should be experienced as a whole, but when the shortest track clocks in at around 6 minutes, it’s hard to fit much material into a half hour set. They did their best to avoid the bullshit and made good use of their limited time though. Frontman Luc Lemay stood stage-right, letting the music act as the personality for the band — and apart from some sound problems that caused him to restart “An Ocean of Wisdom”, the personality was that of precise perfection. There were a few kids in the crowd that got a little antsy and tried to form a pit during “Forgotten Arrows”, but it dissipated before it really got rolling. A Gorguts show is sheer power, but it’s a power you respect and stand up against, there really isn’t a need to run around in circles slamming into people. The band were able to get through the first four tracks from the new album, as well as “Obscura”, before the set came to an end — making it more of a teaser than anything else — but oh what a teaser it was!
#3 – Inquisition
Dagon and Incubus had the unfortunate timeslot of 6:40pm on a Tuesday night. Not exactly the best time for a black metal duo to sport corpsepaint and spew Satanic scripture to the masses. Considering that most people were still making their way home from work (or still next door drinking), the Seattle (via Colombia) band were still able to draw a decent flock of followers. Inquisition were the reason I was in attendance well before dusk on this particular night. Obscure Verses for the Multiverse was one of the best black metal albums released last year and Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm was one of my personal favorites from 2011, but I had never been fortunate enough to catch them perform live. As a duo, it has to be difficult to craft a strong stage presence, but Inquisition proved to be a band that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Incubus was an animal on the drum kit, but I found myself tracking Dagon’s movements through most of their short set. He divided his time between two mic stands to make sure everyone got a good look at the man who was croaking out vocals like some kind of possessed toad king. The material was mostly from the two aforementioned albums, but there were a few selections that I did not recognize, so I’m assuming they threw some old material in there as well. In a genre where many bands start to sound the same, Inquisition are extremely unique. I’m so glad I was able to make it early enough to catch their set, and I feel the frustration for those who missed this highlight of the night.
#2 – Behemoth
Up until The Satanist was released earlier this year, Behemoth were getting more press around Nergal’s personal life than they were for their music. He fought (and beat) leukemia, coached Poland’s version of The Voice, sold energy drinks, and insulted other ‘extreme’ bands. There is still a lot of love and hate for the band’s leader in different camps, even after the release of the critically acclaimed album, but I try not to pay much attention to that type of stuff. I really don’t fall on either side of the arguments, but I also wouldn’t call myself a huge Behemoth fan. I really like The Satanist, but I don’t delve into their back catalog all that often. That being said, Behemoth is a monster of a live band. These guys just know what they are doing. Their stage presence is equal parts musical talent and theatrics. The audio and visual aspects balance each other perfectly, making a Behemoth show more than just a concert. Last night was no exception. Nergal might have been draped in a hood most of the evening, and he was a little less animated than he was on the Decibel Tour a couple years ago, but the stage was still alive with an overwhelming display of sensory stimulation. The set covered half the new album, with selections from the last decade peppered in. I would have liked to have seen them perform for longer than an hour, but that’s usually the nature of these types of shows.
#1 – Carcass
From the prerecorded “1985” intro, to the final chords of “Heartwork”, the British pioneers of ‘all things extreme’ performed their set as if there would be no tomorrow. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that our heads had been rocked, rattled and smashed for the past four hours, Carcass would be damned if they were going to give us shelter from the storm. In fact, they made everything that came before seem like a warm summer breeze. For a band that didn’t even know if they were capable of making new music just a few years ago, Carcass have been resurrected in a way that no one could have predicted. Founding members Jeff Walker and Bill Steer were in their teens when they formed the band, and although they are in their mid-40’s now, there is no doubt they are still one of the best bands performing today — some might say they are better than they have ever been. Having already established themselves as masters of grind and melodic death metal, they could have easily phoned this one in — sign up for a headlining spot on a stacked tour, take the stage after everyone is beaten and bruised from the countless bands that preceded, thrash around for an hour and call it a night. But that wouldn’t be the Carcass way. First off, they are rightfully proud of Surgical Steel, so they had to play at least half of that album. And what about the old school fans who want to hear the late-80’s and early-90’s material? Well, might as well throw in a handful of songs from that era as well. And they couldn’t forget about Heartwork. Screw it, might as well throw in a couple from “the album everyone hates” too. The guys from Liverpool literally performed material from every major release, and they did so with an attitude that said ‘we are the greatest, but we’re also extremely grateful that you’ll all here to support us’. What band performs for an hour and a half on a night when four other bands have already performed? Carcass does. They weren’t just chugging out songs either. There was a real personality on that stage. Walker was cracking jokes about electronic music, cowbell, youtube mashups, and how Colorado made smoking pot uncool. I started going to metal shows again about five years ago and this performance was among the best in all that time.
When Steel and Bone Meet
An End to Nothing
In Deathless Tradition
Baptized in a Storm of Swords
Collapse in Eternal Worth
Baring Teeth For Revolt
Judgement of the Bleeding Crown
Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult
Parasitic Scriptures of the Sacred Word
Le Toit du Monde
An Ocean of Wisdom
Force of the Floating Tomb
Spiritual Plasma Evocation
Command of the Dark Crown
Ancient Monumental War Hymn
Crush the Jewish Prophet
Those of the Night
Astral Path To Sopreme Majesties
Infinite Interstellar Genocide
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
As Above So Below
Slaves Shall Serve
Christians to the Lions
Ov Fire and the Void
Alas, Lord Is Upon Me
At the Left Hand ov God
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!
Incarnated Solvent Abuse
Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
No Love Lost
The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
This Mortal Coil
Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard
Reek of Putrefaction
Edge of Darkness / Unfit for Human Consumption
Pyosisified (Rotten to the Gore)
Exhume to Consume
Captive Bolt Pistol
Corporal Jigsore Quandary
Black Star / Keep On Rotting in the Free World
Ruptured in Purulence / Heartwork