Metal Blade Records 25th Anniversary Tour feat.
Cannibal Corpse / The Black Dahlia Murder / The Red Chord / Goatwhore / The Absence
Thursday, September 20, 2007
The Croatian Cultural Centre
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
When Brian Slagel first started Metal Blade Records in 1983, he could never have imagined it would be the first and most influential record label devoted exclusively to heavy metal. Everyone knows by now that Metallica got its first break when Slagel included “Hit The Lights” on the first volume of the METAL MASSACRE compilation. Slagel would later to go on to release Slayer’s SHOW NO MERCY, as well as seminal albums by Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Flotsam and Jetsam and Mercyful Fate in the eighties. Metal’s lean years during the nineties did little to assuage Metal Blade’s momentum, either, as bands like GWAR, Cannibal Corpse, King Diamond, Amon Amarth and Six Feet Under thrived on the independent label. Heading into the first decade of the new millennium, Metal Blade continues to expand its roster by signing new acts like The Absence and Job For A Cowboy and even landing veteran bands like Hate Eternal and Bolt Thrower to round out its current stable that boasts heavy-hitters such as Unearth, As I Lay Dying and The Black Dahlia Murder.
To commemorate the label’s anniversary, Cannibal Corpse brought out The Black Dahlia Murder, The Red Chord, Goatwhore and The Absence to terrorize, brutalize, sodomize and victimize anyone who dared step in their path. Swedish blasphemers, Aeon, were originally set to open the shows on this tour but had to bow out and were replaced by The Absence. Aeon’s new CD, RISE TO DOMINATE, is a vicious slab of Floridian-influenced death metal that vows to euthanize any form of Christianity and I was sorry to hear the band had to cancel but The Absence was a more than suitable replacement. This line-up was certainly one of the most eagerly-anticipated tours to hit North American shores this year and with five bands on hand, it was an early start to the evening.
As has become the frustrating norm at The Croatian Cultural Centre, the opening band gets screwed over since security doesn’t open the doors until the last possible minute and then the lengthy queue of concertgoers has to go through the gauntlet of pat-downs, bag checks and confiscation of the inevitable contraband (somehow, chewing gum has been relegated to this list?!). The Absence was scheduled to take the stage at 6:30PM but as I arrived at 6:35, the doors were still locked and security personnel were madly trying to organize themselves before the throngs were set loose upon them. As I walked through the venue, The Absence’s vocalist, Jamie Stewart, and guitarist Peter Joseph were seen conferring with the soundman who told them in no uncertain terms that they had to be off by 7:00PM sharp. By 6:45, with only about twenty people having cleared the doors, the frustrated band took to the stage for their first visit to Vancouver. With only two albums—2005’s FROM YOUR GRAVE and the just-released RIDERS OF THE PLAGUE—to their name, Florida’s The Absence combine melodic death with a helping of thrash to form a punishing feast of heavy metal excellence. The Absence is certainly one of the best new bands on Metal Blade’s roster and with Erik Rutan helming the production of their albums, I was curious what damage these guys could do live. It took all of five seconds for “Riders of The Plague” to show they mean business. Hitting fast and hard, the band ripped through five songs including a cover of Testament’s “Into The Pit” that got the growing crowd moving. Stewart jumped into the front of the crowd three times with a fiery spark in his eye. Taking no prisoners, Joseph and Patrick Pintaville harmonized their leads and weaved melodic tapestries in between the bludgeoning rhythm section of Mike Leon and Jeramie Kling on “Summoning The Darkness,” “From Your Grave” and “Dead and Gone” before leaving the stage. It never fails to amaze me the effort and determination that a band puts in for twenty minutes on stage and even with the unfavourable job of opening the show, The Absence still came out and left a solid impression on the building crowd.
THE ABSENCE SETLIST
Riders of The Plague
Summoning The Darkness
Dead and Gone
From Your Grave
Into The Pit (Testament cover)
Speaking of bad luck, New Orleans’ blackened thrashers, Goatwhore, have endured more adversity than any one band should have to. Vocalist Ben Falgoust—who is also in Soilent Green—spent the better part of a year confined to a wheelchair after a 2002 auto accident. Drug and alcohol addiction left guitarist Sammy Duet as a shadow of his former self (Duet is now clean). A number of lineup changes also affected the progress of Goatwhore but nothing was more serious than when, in 2005, New Orleans was decimated by Hurricane Katrina, uprooting the band and delaying the recording process of what would become 2006’s A HAUNTING CURSE. This was Goatwhore’s first visit to Vancouver and the crowd response was enormous. Massive pits grew for “Alchemy of The Black Sun” and the blistering speed of “In The Narrow Confines of Defilement” surely saw many fans booking appointments with their chiropractor the next day, while Duet’s hands were a blur during the speedy tremolo picking of “wear These Scars of Testimony.” Duet remains fairly stationary on stage but Falgoust stalks the crowd like a marauding animal, while Zack Simmons’ hyperspeed blasting is almost inhuman. Sporting bullet belts, spiked wrist gauntlets and shin guards for maximum effect, Duet and bassist Nathan Bergeron look the personification of old-school Black metal. After Goatwhore’s thirty-five minute set, the band was swarmed at their merch table as hoodies and t-shirts were flying out of the boxes. The smile could not be wiped from Falgoust’s face, either, as it was clearly a much-needed positive amid a sea of negatives that seems to follow this band.
All The Sins
Forever Consumed Oblivion
Bloodletting Upon The Cloven Hoof
In The Narrow Confines of Defilement
The Serpent That Enslaves What Is Worshiped
Wear These Scars of Testimony
Alchemy of The Black Sun Cult
Of the five bands on the tour, The Red Chord was the one I was least looking forward to seeing. Granted, FUSED TOGETHER IN REVOLVING DOORS is a genre-defining album but there is something about the band’s sound that has never really appealed to me. With PREY FOR EYES currently leaving its mark, the band covered ten tracks from its three releases and showed an amazing amount of energy. Frontman Guy Kozowyk mentioned that they were late in arriving at the venue (Goatwhore was scheduled to play after The Red Chord) and had to use The Black Dahlia Murder’s gear and Goatwhore’s bass rig as a result. Kozowyk, with a close-cropped haircut and white t-shirt, looked terribly out of place among the long-haired, black-clad masses but his enthusiasm and look of total enjoyment was endearing. In fact, every member of The Red Chord looked like they were having a blast on stage, plain and simple. Mike “Gunface” McKenzie tore through the twisted leads on “Dreaming In Dog Years” and the progressive riffs of “Dread Prevailed” while Greg Weeks and Brad Fickeisen hammered down a solid backbeat on “Film Critiques and Militia Men” and “Antman.” Kozowyk’s throaty, hardcore bellow mixed with the dizzying music can be a tough listen at the best of times and certainly didn’t win me over in the live setting, either, but plenty of people seemed to really be into The Red Chord.
THE RED CHORD SETLIST
Tread On The Necks of Kings
Fixation On Plastics
Film Critiques and Militia Men
Pray For Eyes
Dreaming In Dog Years
The Black Dahlia Murder’s new CD, NOCTURNAL, is an amazing piece of work that will hopefully silence the band’s critics once and for all. Trevor Strnad’s vocal duality has never been more ferocious and John Kempainen and Brian Eschbach really step it up in terms of writing memorable riffs. New drummer Shannon Lucas (ex-All That Remains) is a machine on double bass and overall, this band has made great strides over the somewhat lacklustre MIASMA. It took Strnad about five minutes to strip his shirt off to reveal “HEARTBURN” tattooed across his portly gut and the spastic frontman soon went into overdrive, thrashing around the stage like a man possessed. Whether begging for weed or wishing bassist Bart Williams a happy birthday, Strnad remained a charismatic personality. His guttural growls and haunting shrieks made “Everything Went Black” and “Funeral Thirst” immediate standouts. Kempainen’s solos on “Flies” and “Statutory Ape” coupled with Eschbach’s melodic riffs on “What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse” and “When The Last Grave Has Emptied” showcased the tremendous progression these two have made as musicians since 2003’s UNHALLOWED. Lucas, sitting abnormally low behind his drumkit, made his presence known on the brutal “I Worship Only What You Bleed” with insane double bass work that was impressive and overpowering all at the same time. The Black Dahlia Murder will surely move to the next level of their career with the help of NOCTURNAL. Released just two days before this show, the four songs from NOCTURNAL were met with great fanfare and certainly fit nicely in the band’s growing live repertoire. The band always puts on an excellent show with lots of energy and this one was no exception.
THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER SETLIST
Everything Went Black
What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse
The Blackest Incarnation
I Worship Only What You Bleed
When The Last Grave Has Emptied
In all honesty, nothing needs to be said of Cannibal Corpse’s performance. The band comes out and crushes every single time without fail. If they are having an off-night, the crowd would never know it and even during the shuffle of guitarists Jack Owen, Origin’s Jeremy Turner and returning axeman Rob Barrett over the past three years, the band never missed a step. What was really refreshing, though, was seeing a few different tracks from the band’s career make their way into the setlist. “Put Them To Death” and “The Pick-Axe Murders” are long-forgotten gems from EATEN BACK TO LIFE and THE BLEEDING, respectively, that replaced set staples like “A Skull Full of Maggots,” “Fucked With A Knife” and “Gallery of Suicide.” As sorry as it was to not hear those songs again, it was great to hear some new stuff, too. “I Cum Blood,” which vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher dedicated “to all the women out there,” garnered a few high-pitched screams but when Fisher ordered everyone to get busy for “Hammer Smashed Face,” a circle pit formed which went from the stage all the way to the soundboard. “Pit of Zombies” drew a sizeable bit pit, as well, but nothing even close to the sight of seven hundred people swirling in unison. Fisher is usually kind of twitchy on stage but he seemed especially testy on this night, warning one fan that he was in no mood to be fucked with (NOTE: when George warns, you listen!). His endless windmill headbanging is nearly as remarkable as watching Alex Webster’s fingers work their magic on his bass guitar. Whether he is ripping through faster songs like “Hammer Smashed Face” and “Make Them Suffer” or more mid-tempo ones like “Unleashing The Bloodthirtsy” and “Starting Through The Eyes of The Dead,” Webster’s musicianship is phenomenal, even for a band playing a genre of metal not known for its virtuosity. Barrett and Pat O’Brien were great to watch, too, as they traded off solos and performed flawless leads on “Make Them Suffer,” “The Time To Kill Is Now” and “Stripped, Raped and Strangled.” All in all, this was another amazing show from Cannibal Corpse with a few surprises thrown in, as well.
CANNIBAL CORPSE SETLIST
Unleashing The Bloodthirsty
Staring Through The Eyes of The Dead
I Cum Blood
Put Them To Death
Vomit The Soul
Make Them Suffer
The Pick-Axe Murders
The Wretched Spawn
I Will Kill You
The Time To Kill Is Now
Death Walking Terror
Pit of Zombies
Five Nails Through The Neck
Devoured By Vermin
Hammer Smashed Face
Stripped, Raped and Strangled
Among the revellers taking in the show were Infernal Majesty guitarist Steve Terror, 3 Inches of Blood vocalist Cam Pipes and the guys from Blasphemy but with this much happening on the stage, the crowd was kept busy (I’m sure Pipes would have preferred to have slipped out of the bathroom unnoticed rather than have some sixteen year old kid scream an unnerving “THREE INCHES OF BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!” at him as he walked away from the urinal). All five bands played excellent sets and with a subpar lineup on Ozzfest and Sounds of The Underground this summer, North America was really strapped for a kick-ass bill of metal bands. However, Metal Blade Records came through and assembled a killer tour to commemorate their achievements. Congratulations to Brian Slagel and all at Metal Blade Records! Here’s to another 25 years!
***Thanks to Erin at Live Nation for the press pass.