Morbid Angel: Live In San Francisco Feb. 13, 2005

Spread the metal:

+ Soulfly
Sunday, February 13th, 2005
The Fillmore
San Francisco, California

**Live Review and all pictures by Lord of The Wasteland

In what may be one of the oddest concert pairings I have seen in a long while, the recently announced Morbid Angel/Soulfly run of dates (dubbed ?The War of The Worlds?) left me scratching my head.  As it turns out, the two bands share the same management company, which does explain something but still, the extremely divergent sound and fanbase of these two acts really had me wondering what sort of crowd to expect.

Furthermore, this was a road trip of sorts, as the show was at the legendary Fillmore Club in San Francisco, California?some 900 miles away from my Canadian homebase.  I thought, ?What better way to kick off a family holiday than to cover a show for Metal Rules while I?m there!?  With thanks to Erik Siebert at Bill Graham Productions, I was hooked up with a ticket and photo pass for the show and despite the glorious rock and roll history housed in The Fillmore, this night?s show was all about the metal!

Surprisingly, Morbid Angel opened the show however it seemed that this tour was more of a co-headlining thing than first and second billing.  While Max Cavalera?s name can be traced back to the late 80s glory days of Sepultura, Morbid Angel stands heads above Cavalera?s Soulfly for staying true to metal.  Soulfly?s nu-metal leanings have confounded many who claim Cavalera has turned his back on ?real? metal in favor of commercial success.  Soulfly is hardly a commercial band with Top 40 hits but the angle taken is certainly easier for the masses to consume than early Sepultura tracks like ?Septic Schizo? and ?Lobotomy.? 

The big news of the night, though, was the return of vocalist/bassist David Vincent to Morbid Angel after a ten-year absence.  As Vincent carried on with his wife in the L.A.-based S&M/goth band, Genitorturers, Trey Azagthoth soldiered on with Morbid Angel through three studio albums under the capable but haphazard helm of Steve Tucker.  Tucker recently announced his second (or is it third??) departure from the band and Vincent agreed to help out to cover the live shows that were already booked.  It has yet to be officially announced whether or not Vincent is back permanently but if his performance at The Fillmore is any indication, the band is clicking like ten years never passed.

Eschewing any tracks from FORMULAS FATAL TO THE FLESH, GATEWAYS TO ANNIHILATION or HERETIC?all post-Vincent albums?Morbid Angel dusted off some real gems in their 75-minute set to the delight of the packed house.  ?Blasphemy,? ?Dawn of The Angry? and ?Day of Suffering? were mixed with classics like ?Lord of All Fevers & Plague,? ?Immortal Rites? and ?Chapel of Ghouls? taking this reviewer back to when timeless classics like COVENANT, BLESSED ARE THE SICK and ALTARS OF MADNESS were still fresh in memory.  On tracks like ?Chapel of Ghouls,? the quirky Azagthoth (read my interview with him here) still shreds like a possessed madman.  Hiding behind a wall of black hair, the shy guitarist leaves his face unseen and lets his immeasurable talent remain the focus.  Joining him on second guitar was Monstrosity axeman, Tony Norman (clad in vintage ALTARS OF MADNESS tour shirt), who was given plenty of time in the spotlight, as well.  The two traded off flawless solos during ?Lord of All Fevers & Plague? that actually caused me to shiver, while Azagthoth?s riffing during ?Immortal Rites? was a definite highlight.  Pete Sandoval got the crowd wound up during an impromptu drum solo before the rest of the band joined him on stage.  Sandoval?s cymbals hung from a pentagram-shaped maze of steel and he bashed them with such fury that they must be welded directly to the apparatus!  His double bass skills on ?Where The Slime Live? were jaw-dropping, especially when looking at his slight stature up close.  The man can?t weigh more than 130 pounds soaking wet!  Donning a skin-tight PVC shirt with a silver pentagram emblazoned on the front, Vincent could have been a heavy metal superhero with his bullet belt, punishing bass and still powerful vocals.  He stated at one point how happy he was to be back in the band after ten years before dedicating the slow groove of ?God of Emptiness? to Dimebag Darrell.  Throughout the tour, Vincent announced, the band had been trying out some rarities that they had not played in years (or ever) and this night?s golden oldie was none other than a blistering version of ?Evil Spells? from their 1989 debut.  Sadly, as good as he was, hearing tracks like this make the Tucker years a moot point as seeing the band play live together quickly erased any memory that Morbid Angel even existed without Vincent on board.  Maybe it was the excitement of seeing the ?classic? lineup together and invigorated once again, but the day new Morbid Angel material is released cannot come soon enough. 

When all was said and done, Morbid Angel assaulted the crowd with fifteen tracks that left an indelible mark on how important this band is in the annals of heavy metal.   Despite a ten year gap, Vincent fit in perfectly and the chemistry the band showed was evident the moment they hit the stage.  Tight, heavy and relentless, Morbid Angel is back with a vengeance!

Pain Divine
Maze of Torment
Sworn To The Black
Lord of All Fevers & Plague
Dawn of The Angry
Where The Slime Live
Blood on My Hands
Immortal Rites
Day of Suffering
Evil Spells
Chapel of Ghouls
God of Emptiness
World of Shit (The Promised Land)


Being the jaded metalhead that I am, I assumed the place would empty after Morbid Angel?s set but most of the fans stuck around to see Soulfly.  I have mixed feelings toward the band as I feel Cavalera?s output under this name has been terribly uneven with each album wavering between just good to complete garbage.  He seems unable to find a sound he is comfortable with since leaving Sepultura in 1996 (has it been that long already?!) and the revolving door of band members, bizarre, endless experimentation and guest appearances further reinforce this belief.  Soulfly live is a different story, though.  Having seen the band once before on the Extreme Steel Tour with Pantera and Slayer in 2002, Cavalera wisely peppers his sets with Sepultura favorites to keep the faithful close by while giving Soulfly fans their fix of the new stuff.  On this night, the band played an amazing 21 songs in 70 minutes that consisted of tracks from all four Soulfly releases (including a new track from the as-yet-untitled fifth album due later in 2005), two Sepultura classics and even a Nailbomb track from Cavalera?s 1994 industrial/thrash collaboration with former Fudge Tunnel mainman, Alex Newport. 

Cavalera?s band consisted of nu-metal cronies Marc Rizzo (Ill Nino) on guitar, Bobby Burns (Primer 55) on bass and Joe Nunez behind the kit.  The unfortunate inclusion of a track like ?Jumpdafuckup? (whose title and lyrics are enough to make my blood boil) brought down the proceedings highlighted by excellent versions of the heavier tracks from last year?s PROPHECY such as ?Living Sacrifice? and ?Execution Style.?  ?Arise? and ?Refuse/Resist? were met with huge fanfare as many people reveled in the glow of these Sepultura gems.  Cavalera refuses to let the spirit of his murdered stepson, Dana, rest as a memorial effigy and appearance by his brother who joined the band on stage for the cringe-inducing rap sections of ?Bleed? and ?Tree of Pain.?  A new song, ?I and I,? sounded like a typical Soulfly track in the vein of ?Eye For An Eye? or ?Prophecy? that should please fans of the band. 

No one can fault Cavalera for giving his fans plenty of ?bang for their buck? (the ticket was only $23) and he certainly has found great success since leaving Sepultura but seeing him rejoin that band and witness them becoming a metal powerhouse again appears to be a fleeting dream.  Those wanting Cavalera to pull a David Vincent can probably give up hope as he seems quite content with dabbling in flamenco guitar, engaging in tribal drum solos on metal trash cans with fans plucked from the audience and abusing his own downtuned six-string.

The lowpoint of the evening centered on Rizzo, who wore a backpack (?!?!) on stage and did spin kicks throughout the entire set.  This ubiquitous luggage accessory can be found on any junior high school kid but left me shaking my head and actually distracted me to the point of rage and disgust at several points during Soulfly?s set.  I kept thinking, ?Why the fuck is this 30-year old jackass wearing a fucking backpack?!?!?  Once I got past that, I was able to enjoy the music to some degree and was pleasantly surprised at the energy displayed before me.  It should also be noted that Cavalera has gotten shockingly thin.  He began to look a bit pudgy in recent years (not that I should talk) but he was noticeably trimmer?almost gaunt in the face?this time around.  Hopefully all is well with him.  He has also shorn off a good deal of his dreadlocks but the trademark camouflage pants and Brazilian flag guitar remain.   

Seek ?N? Strike
Living Sacrifice
Bring It
(Flamenco Guitar)
Execution Style
Wasting Away (Nailbomb)
(Tribal Drumming)
Tree of Pain
I and I (New Song)
Back To The Primitive
The Prophet
Eye For An Eye

The Fillmore is a killer live venue and San Francisco is a beautiful city.  All in all, a great time was had at this interesting double bill.  Seeing the mighty Morbid Angel fronted once again by David Vincent square off against Max Cavalera and Soulfly is a mismatch if there ever was one but since this tour is called ?War of the Worlds,? I declare Morbid Angel victorious by a crushing defeat! 


**Thanks to Erik Siebert of Bill Graham Productions for the tickets & photo pass.

Official Morbid Angel website