Death to All
with Obscura and DarkRise
@ The Kentish Town Forum, London UK
26th November, 2013
Review by Caitlin Smith
Photos by Michelle Murphy
Celebrating past legends is something the metal scene has always hung onto. Who can miss the Dimebag tributes every year, the Dio stage at Bloodstock and the Jeff Hanneman tribute is surely not too far off. One that you rarely hear of though is pioneer and father of death metal Chuck Schuldiner. Aiming to change this are three of his old band members who joined him at during his career. Death to All is a celebration of the life of this influential musician by keeping alive his work from over the years.
Being confirmed to cover the gig late caused us to miss opening band DarkRise. Coming over from Switzerland on the borders of France, Germany and Italy, this band was the first in an all death metal line for the night. Forming in 1998, there have been few but regular releases throughout their career. With the release of their latest album Realeyes in January, their tour with Death was the perfect way to celebrate this.
Entering at the beginning of the second band, German tech death metal titans Obscura [3/5] are already ripping through their opening song.
This band have come a long way since their formation 10 years ago, and command one of the biggest underground followings in the death metal scene.
Appearing on the scene in 2008 after a surprise tour with Suffocation after self-releasing their debut album Retribution. Following on with a series of unsuccessful lineups, changing year after year, the band has remained relatively static for the past few years, allowing them to focus on the release of Cosmogenesis, Omnivium and Illegimitation.
It would be really hard to miss Christian Muenzner’s choice of guitars. While many death-metal players may opt for muted tones: reds, cream or black usually, Muenzner goes all out, showcasing a luminous orange guitar.
This was not his only choice of instrument through the night though, swapping it out for an occasional stint on a neon green and black axe.
Obscura really are the definition of brutal. Mixing extreme brutality with complex rhythms and structures into an exotic amalgamation of order, precision and chaos.
Having never been found of the acoustics of the Kentish Town forum however, I am not surprised to find that the subtleties of their sound are lost into a mush of noise and distortion.
The record for crowds turning up for support bands seems pretty low these days, particularly with the gig being a Tuesday and many struggling to get to the venue for opening, but it became obvious by the end of the night that Obscura had the power to pull almost as many as Death themselves did, with the venue being just as full for both bands.
There are few tours that have caused as much controversy as the return of Death [4.5/5] on their Death to all tour. 12 years after the death of founding member, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Chuck Schuldiner died of a brain tumor, previous members of the band pull together to launch a tour honoring his memory.
Returning under the banner of Death (DTA) was a bold move for a band whose longest member was in the band for 6 years despite the band being active for 18.
The phrase all publicity is good publicity is really tested here, where people talk about boycotting the gig to not show support for a band they don’t feel is the ‘real’ Death.
Despite being a tribute to Chuck, their ambiguous reasons for bringing back the band and not making a clear definition between whether they were calling themselves Death playing under the banner despite their changed name, or merely reuniting as a Death tribute caused anger among some fans who didn’t believe they had the right to take the original name.
Perhaps this is the reason why the venue is so empty, as when the band began to play, only a quarter of the capacity of the Kentish town forum is filled.
Opening with home videos of Schuldiner, it was clear that members of this reunion had been close the legend, despite acting vocalist Max Phelps having never played in Death itself and Sean Reinert only joining the band for a year, working on the album Human while there, alongside both Paul Masvidal on the guitar, Steve DiGiorgio taking the bass, who also join them on tour.
It is appropriate then that almost half the set was taken from that album, with a brief selection of choice cuts from across Schuldiners career.
The gig got off to a flying start with ‘Flattening of Emotion,’ which immediately caused a wave of excited fans rushing past to claim a spot near the stage for the show. While sounding nervous at first, Phelps quickly finds his feet, and by ‘Leprosy’ proves to be a worthy replacement on both guitar and behind the mic.
With the set drawing to the end, I can’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment as ‘Lack of Comprehension’ is announced as the closing song for the night.
As the crowd begins to leave Phelps cries out they have one song left, and judging from the demands of the audience, it was a song many others had also come here to see. ‘Pull the Plug’ closes the set off and for me proves to be the only song that really conveys the spirit and power of Death.
Death may be punishing brutal on CD, but it can only be truly appreciated in its full magnificence live.
This may not have been the ‘real’ band here tonight on stage, but they really make no claim to be, bringing the music back to honor a fellow musician, and even the most puritanical of title fanatics cannot criticise them for that.
It’s not too often a tribute band impresses me as much as this band managed that night, and much like Schuldiner, this will resonate in many peoples minds for years to come.
Flattening of Emotions
Leprosy / Left To Die
In Human Form
Lack of Comprehension
Pull the Plug