Thursday, 28 November 2013

2 gigs in 2 days - thrash then Death!

I had the pleasure of spending a couple of nights of metallic bliss this week. The second of the two gigs was long planned. When I heard that the Death to All tour featuring the Human line up of Death, would be touring over here I snapped up a ticket with gay abandon! I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would ever see Death's amazing music performed live ever again by most of the original band. I waited impatiently for the night to come. However over the last couple of weeks I noticed that on the day before the Chuck tribute gig, American thrashers Havok would play along with a great supporting cast namely Angelus Apatrida and the UK's Savage Messiah. I ummed and ahhhhhed a little as I usually do but I buckled down and thought it should rule, so I got a ticket for that as well. Trust me it was a wise decision!

So the first gig featured a full on thrash triumvirate. Savage Messiah I have seen before and they are enjoyable although I wasn't a huge fan of their last album. Spaniards Angelus Apatrida I saw last year I think and they are really great live. Havok's last record was good but the previous album Time is Up is a masterpiece of thrash. First up were the UK mob and to be honest I was really impressed with them when I wasn't expecting to be. They played very tight and got a good response from the 250 or so crowd although they hadn't all turned up yet. Front man Dave Silver looks like a very young Dave Mustaine and he sang a bit like him too which always gets you a few rep points for thrash coolness in my book. SM played a couple of new songs which sounded much catchier than their previous CD as well. I really look forward to that album in 2014.

Next up were the crazy Spaniards Angelus Apatrida. These guys got the first pits of the night going with their ferocious riff work and crazed, frenetic songs. They were super tight as well and a sight to behold as they churned out riff after riff after riff. They also boast the runner up in the Dave Mustaine lookalike competition with their front man! The dude has the Mustaine hair to a tee like Dave Silver if not wuite the look. Anyway I have nothing but praise for these guys. The sounded afforded the band was super slick and the played very tight and rocking. They shredded hard as nails and got some seriously mental pit action with the thrashers in full pit fury mode. Great stuff. I hope to see an album from these guys in 2014.

Finally headlines Havok took to the stage and started to shred like there's no tomorrow. The sound was the crunchiest and best it had been all night. The Underworld sound is normally pretty solid and good but it was just superb tonight. Crisp and crunchy as hell. The songs from Time Is Up were the best especially the title track which was just immense. The moshers were going completely insane and taking photos at the side of the stage was a pretty dangerous prospect but I managed it although it was easier for the other two bands. Havok created havoc so to speak and it was pretty damn mental all night and a great time was had by all who attended. Thrash works best in tiny clubs like this IMO with 2-300 crazed metallers banging away like there's no tomorrow. An awesome gig and a great starter for the main course to follow on the next night. Solid thrash in the live setting never lets me down and it was no different with these three great bands!

So fast forward 24 hours and I walked in to the Forum in Kentish Town to a pretty empty big room. I was thinking this gig would be pretty undersold. Damn! I needn't have feared though as the first support band Darkrise, who were on stage already, sucked pretty hard and I guess most hadn't bothered to turn up yet. They sounded so average that it hurt to see them struggling. Just some standard death metal that you couldn't make out anyway due to a less than stellar sound. Mind you I was a bit worried about the sound at this venue cause just a week or so back I saw Amon Amarth and Carcass here and the sound was really bad for both of those as well. However thankfully it improved no end soon enough. Thankfully the Darkrise came to a close soon enough and the less than enthusiastic crowd were probably happy to see the back of them as was I to be honest.

The main support band was the mighty Obscura, one of the best Death worship bands around these days. I saw these guys in the Underworld last year and they were totally gobsmackingly awesome. Their technical expertise is just something special to witness in the live environment. This was a much bigger gig for the band and I guess a huge honour for them to pay tribute to the great Chuck and his ex band mates. They were very tight and good with a huge punchy heavy sound. Much tighter and crunchier than the first band thankfully. I was thinking they would end their set with the Death cover Flesh and the Power it Holds but it wasn't to be although I didn't know it at the time the main man would join the Death guys for a crushing cover of er..Spirit Crusher later on in the night more of which in a while. Obscura were tight as hell overall and were a perfect support band on this bill and had the crowd well pumped up for the Chuck anthems to follow.

The crowd had filled out pretty well now and I would guess would near the 1000 mark or just below which is a pretty big attendance even if Chuck had been alive and well. Actually if would probably have been far less come to think of it but it just goes to show Chuck was much loved and he's very badly missed in the metal scene even after all these years. I saw ex Death manager Eric Grief milling around as the roadies set the stage up for the band. he is the guy behind the Death to All tours and it's him we must thank for bringing this awesome tour this side of the pond. So thank you Sir!

I never imagined it possible that I would see live Death songs played by genuine ex members of the band with the help of Max Pheps on vocals and guitar. Amazing stuff indeed. The band was on shit hot form especially the bass genius Mr DiGiorgio who sounded as good as he does on the records. All that from a three stringed fretless bass no less! I've never seen a 3 stringed guitar before that's for sure hehe! The guy is a tech bass genius make no mistake and nailed the awesome and famous Death bass lines that we know and love. He's got a bit of a whiny speaking voice though lol. He was the only guy on stage that spoke to the crowd though and he thanked the crowd and spoke a little about Chuck and his legacy. I don't know who Max Phelps is but he nailed Chuck's vocals pretty well and ditto the guitars so I guess the guy was chosen for a reason. Paul Masvidal was ace on the lead guitar and was smiling and doing his little funny jigs on the faster guitar parts. The sound was crystal clear and super loud for the Death band as well which helped matters no end. The songs sounded vibrant and very close to the albums.

The set list was always gonna be a devisive issue as you will never please everyone in the time allotted for the band considering how many great songs Death had. To be honest it never bothered me what song they played as every Death song is pretty much brilliant anyway. The crowd was going pretty nuts as well and there were lots of smiles and fun being had by the fans as they listened and moshed to the crazy Chuck riffs on display. Taking decent photos proved beyond me more or less for the Death set as the pit was just a little inconsiderate to good photographic work shall we say! Anyway great fun even though it was pure mayhem at times.

My fave songs of the night were In Human Form, Suicide Machine, Crystal Mountain and an almighty and amazing version of Spirit Crusher as mentioned earlier with lead vocals and guitar from the Obscura mainman. That wsa just phenomenal and made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. During the middle of the set there was a Chuck tribute video which was nice to look at and made the crowd pause a little to fully realise that Chuck's spirit was there with us and it made the evening that much poignant.

Even though to be honest they could have used that time to play a couple more tunes if I'm being greedy! The main set ended with a blistering Lack of Comprehension and the band left to huge thanks and applause. Of course the set had to end as every Death gig did with the band's anthem and probably catchiest song ever namely Pull the Plug. It was pure bedlam on certain parts as the crowd mimicked the guitar parts with  woah whoahs and belted the chorus out louder than the singer Max Phelps ever could.

A flat out awesome way to end a fantastic gig which brought so many memories flooding back of the one and only time I saw Chuck and Death back in 95. Once again we must thank Death manager Eric Grief for bringing this tour over to Europe as the night was something special to remember Chuck's music  and enhance his legacy authentically with ex members of the band bringing these great songs to life once again. Only thing is they should have played a bit longer and more songs from Symbolic hehe! But how can I complain really - to see a bona fide Death tribute night of any shape or form here in the UK is a dream for us Death fanatics. Thanks again guys!

Flattening of Emotions
Leprosy / Left to Die
Suicide Machine
In Human Form
Spiritual Healing / Within the Mind
Cosmic Sea

(Chuck Schuldiner Tribute Video)

Zombie Ritual / Baptized in Blood
Crystal Mountain
Spirit Crusher
Lack of Comprehension

Pull the Plug

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Defenders of the Faith IV - with Amon Amarth and Carcass

Holy crap this gig was completely sold out. So much so that when I bought my ticket way back in early October, only upstairs seating tickets were available. When I heard that Carcass would be the main support to the Viking overlords I just had to be here. It was my first time seeing the Metal Hammer sponsored Defenders of the Faith tour in it's fourth edition. My main reason for going to see the legends of the UK death scene for the first since their comeback. Carcass provided me with my first ever live experience of metal music at the old Marquee club way back in December 1994, nearly 19 years ago almost. After 19 years of going to metal gigs finally I saw the band that started it all for me.

The rather large queue meant that I arrived in the balcony and managed to find a seat in a tight corner pretty high up and had a very distant view of the stage. the first support band Hell, were on stage already and I only caught the last 3 songs of their set. They sounded pretty good though and the front man David Bower is a very engaging front man with his Shakespearean tones. The sound was reasonable but believe it or not would slowly get worse!

Next up were Scottish deathcore mob Bleed From Within. I had the misfortune to see them supporting Megadeth at Brixton back in the summer and they went down like the proverbial lead balloon and their breakdown infested deathcore fared no better this time really. The sound was literally horrible for them as well. A deathcore band amongst 3 classic heavy metal bands was always gonna be a hard task for BfW and this crowd was never gonna give them the time of day. We were here for the legends Carcass and the Hirsute mob from Sweden.

Finally Carcass took to the stage and were greeted with rapturous applause as they tumbled headlong into Buried Dreams from their best album Heartwork. The sound was again iffy to say the least. from my position I could hardly make out the guitar riffs that made the Carcass songs so memorable and catchy. They obviously played well but I could hear a lot of drums and a lot of rumble but all subtlety and melody was completely lost up in the gods. I still enjoyed their set of old and new though some of Jeff Walker's Scouse wit was lost on me, as I couldn't understand what he was saying at all lol!

I hope to see the Carcass reformation again but this time in a smaller club so I can actually see their faces and feel the intensity up close.

From my high vantage point I could see the raised platforms for the elaborate AA setup clearly as the roadies set up the stage with large steps and a monster backdrop. The Swedes were treated like victorious Viking warriors returning from battle once again as they launched headlong into the opening cut. Not that I could tell what it was cause  once again the sound problems seem to continue.

Either my ears have gone or the soundman's has cause I couldn't tell what song was being played unless Johan introduced it beforehand. Last time I saw AA I was a little disappointed in them because whilst they are highly professional and engage the crowd well, they sort of seem a bit faceless and semi bored. They all head bang in unison and look n imposing metal band who play with power and conviction but all the melody they show on record and in the studio seems robbed from them in the live arena. I'm not criticising their actual playing skills but I guess the complete lack of sound clarity rendered their songs a mash of fast pounding devoid of the epic melody that you can hear on record.

An ok gig overall and the youngsters downstairs were going truly apeshit no doubt but I wasn't feeling it up here though I guess being an old bastard like me you complain at the smallest thing. I don't think I'll be going to see AA again in a hurry as I've seen them a few times now and the novelty has completely worn off though I continue to enjoy them on record. Carcass, I hope to see again in a more intimate venue in the near future hopefully.

A few photos from on high: