Tribulation

I’ve seen Tribulation play twice now — once on tour with Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth, and once just recently with Deafheaven. Both times, the crowd seemed neutral at best. At the Deafheaven show, I joined one or two solitary headbangers in the middle of a hipster mob that stared perplexed as Tribulation wove their awesome atmosphere. Why are these audiences so disengaged? Maybe it’s the bookings. Maybe it’s because Tribulation is not easily defined — see this great interview in Pitchfork on the genre-transcending attitude of the group.

I found echoes of Watain and Mercyful Fate in Tribulation’s music, but this is not a standard black metal band. The melodies on display in their third studio album, The Children of the Night, take twists and turns that are unexpected and brightly original — a display of rare talent in a sea of formulaic genre music. Tribulation proves that there is more to say in the realm of atmospheric metal after all. That’s no small feat. With an album of this quality, I’m amazed and frankly pissed that their concerts aren’t packed.

Check out this track from the album, Melancholia, and the infectious riff that kicks in around the 0:26 mark for an example:

Of course, check out the whole album if you can. If you’re not sold quite yet, more info can be found in this Pitchfork review.

Watain broke ground with Sworn to the Dark in 2007, reviving a genre that was beginning to go dormant — Tribulation carries that torch onward and discovers new territory in the process. A dose of optimism for metal fans everywhere. Support this band!

Behemoth / Cannibal Corpse Concert Review

Every now and then, you go to a concert so awesome that it reminds you why you got into metal in the first place. This was one of those concerts.

Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth co-headlined at the House of Blues in Boston last night. The crowd was fantastic. The pit was fantastic. The sound was fantastic. And every band crushed it.

Opening Bands: Tribulation, Aeon

Two Swedish death metal bands, Tribulation and Aeon, opened the night. Tribulation was good, but the real kick came with Aeon, who crushed it more than any opening band I’ve seen in recent memory. You know when the pit gets started right away that it’s going to be a great concert. Aeon’s death metal was brutal and excellent. As good a warm-up for Cannibal Corpse as you could ask for, and great in their own right.

Behemoth

When the opening tones of “Conquer All” slashed the air, my subconscious picked me up and tossed me into the pit. I had no choice. It was perfect. That power is the ne plus ultra of metal, something only the best bands can achieve. Behemoth always brings it hard. But last night, boy, they brought it HARD.

Nergal is brilliant, talented, and came back from life-threatening leukemia. The guy continues to be the best argument for human willpower a la Nietzsche and Crowley. Onstage he’s a primal force of nature.

The set began with “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” and included the classic “Slaves Shall Serve,” along with the necessary encore of “O Father, O Satan, O Sun!” It also featured some tracks from earlier albums, like the crushing “Chant for Eschaton 2000.” They didn’t play “Christians to the Lions,” unfortunately, but given how amazing the performance was, I can forgive that.

Cannibal Corpse

FIRE UP THE CHAINSAW.

They take the stage, they begin. The floor rips into chaos. This was a great crowd, and George knew it. He came to destroy, and he did.

Venues sometimes struggle with Cannibal Corpse’s sound mix. This one was excellent, though. Rich, everything perfectly balanced, like a delicious chainsaw to the head, a rotting flesh souffle. They played a few songs from their new album, A Skeletal Domain, but didn’t neglect the older classics like “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled,” and “Hammer Smashed Face.” Corpsegrinder’s stage banter is always a welcome pleasure, and last night he was on point. Between windmilling and blasting incredible death growls/screams, he cracked some choice jokes at the audience’s expense. It’s true: he is the best at what he does, period. Accept no substitute.

The rest of the band was also perfect. Webster’s bass, Mazurkiewicz’s drums, Barret and O’Brien’s guitars — everything was tight, tight. They really slew it. A concentrated dose of pure death.

I couldn’t believe it when they announced the last song. Why not an hour more, or two? This set went by way too fast. You better come back soon, guys!

The End

Well, come on. It was the best concert I’ve been to in years. If you can get to a show on this tour, you should. You must!

Cannibal Corpse-ing

I love Cannibal Corpse. They played a key role in the most important event of my life (long story), and their music is awesome. And I’m going to see them on Friday! In preparation, I thought I’d share my three favorite Cannibal Corpse albums.

1. Tomb of the Mutilated

The number one album for me is this 1992 classic. It’s got all the hits, including radio favorites “Hammer Smashed Face” and “I Cum Blood.” It’s got Chris Barnes’s unearthly death growl, which is one of a kind. It’s got great riffs. It’s even got great cover art. What’s not to like?

2. Kill

This album holds a special place in my heart. It came out just as I was getting into Cannibal Corpse. It powers right through from beginning to end without stopping, a single block of unmitigated brutality that infinitely crushes you into dust. It’s beautiful. I could do an entire post on just this album. George Fisher’s flaying screams in “The Time to Kill is Now.” The unstoppable machinery of “Death Walking Terror.” The rolling boil of “Submerged in Boiling Flesh” (it really does sound like what it’s about!) And the instrumental, “Infinite Misery,” conjuring images of the horrific monotony of endless torment in Hell with its punishingly deliberate tempo and low wails.

3. The Bleeding

Easily Cannibal Corpse’s most romantic album, this Barnes release features such classic ballads as “Fucked With a Knife,” “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled,” and “She Was Asking For It.” A great way to set the mood for an evening with that special someone! I know I’m still humming these tunes long after the deed is done.

Looking forward to the show, Cannibal Corpse!

Black Fast and Other Awesome Evils

Apologies for the long absence; I’ve been busy journeying through the underworld.

I saw Watain and Mayhem play a show in January. It was a good show, though to be honest I think Watain has fallen off from their early goat-roasting days. Put out something as awesome as Sworn to the Dark and I’ll be fully back on board your ship of doom, Watain . . . no matter how many skeletons you have onstage, nothing has quite come close to the riff-laden fury of that glorious maelstrom.

Mayhem, well, what can I say. Classic black metal band made infamous by a landmark tragedy. Hellhammer sounded as fantastic as I’d imagined. Not too much old stuff played, but excellent use of a skull onstage and overall great atmosphere.

Ok, now to the new band. I just found out about these guys Black Fast, and what a savage blast they are. Formed in 2010, they have one album, Starving Out the Light. Check out this track:

Really talented guitarists, good vocals, solos that are unpredictable in the best way. Interesting combo of thrash, black, prog. Translation: THOU MUST RAGE!!!

Also, that sweet art. That’s True, capital T.

Revocation

Deathless, Revocation’s fifth album, came out a couple of months ago, and it is good. Really good. It’s easy for “technical” death metal to turn into mush, but this is great work, varied and musical, with some outstanding guitar solos. I’m sure these guys held their own on their recent tour with Cannibal Corpse.

Also, Revocation is from Boston, my native land — proving that even an annoying college town full of wussy preps in pea coats and drunk yuppies/baseball fans can produce awesome metal. What a relief!

Obligatory New England Metalfest Rant

The first wave of bands for the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival has been announced:

http://metalandhardcorefestival.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/press-release-ad-mat-nehmf.jpg

EHHHHHHH.

This fest was awesome like ten years ago, but it’s been a consistent slide in quality ever since then. Gone are the days of Behemoth, Cannibal Corpse, Megadeth, Anthrax, GWAR and the like destroying the crumbling ruins of the Palladium. Gone are the wonderful mosh pits that gave me the permanent shoulder injuries I cherish to this day. Now it’s just Between the Buried and Me OVER AND OVER again, like some sort of horrible Kafka-esque metalhead nightmare. A nightmare of metalcore, whiny dudes, and short haircuts. A nightmare that will never, ever end.

Ok, I’ll admit that the Saturday lineup looks passable. But I am kind of tired of seeing Testament headline. Not that they’re bad, but. . . they’re always at this fest for some reason. Why are they always there? Don’t they have anywhere else to go?

Maybe some yet-to-be announced bands will be worth seeing. The second stage of hardcore is usually pretty good. And last year, they had Sam Black Church, which was awesome. So you never know.

Guess it’s time to start going to the Maryland Death Fest. . .

Band of the Day: Tomahawk

Tomahawk has been around for awhile, but I only just discovered them — and I’ll admit, I can’t get enough. Edgy, sludgy, sinister, and original. What’s not to like? You can call them “experimental metal” if you want, but in truth there’s no word for what they are.

Everybody in this band is musically incredible. Check out John Stanier killing the drums, and of course the infamous Mike Patton doing what he does best, with or without gas mask.

Wrap your head around that!

Megadeth Kerfuffle

As a fan, I feel obliged to weigh in on the latest Megadrama. If you don’t follow The Drama, here’s the latest: both Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick have quit Megadeth, leaving the band less a guitarist and drummer. Oh nooooo!

First of all, I’m glad. They were both SO BORING. And I’m not really afraid that Megadeth will hang it up now, because Dave Mustaine is way too stubborn for that to happen. The band has been through a ton of lineup changes, and it’s pretty clear that Drover and Broderick were always just hired hands, and not really memorable ones either.

Now the speculation is on as to who will replace them. Dave Lombardo, legendary drummer from Slayer, has apparently thrown his hat into the ring. Duh, that would be awesome. And, what if they also got a guitarist named Dave?? 4/4 DAVES! But wait, then who will play drums for Fantomas?!

On the subject of guitarists: a lot of people, myself included, would love to see Marty Friedman come back. But the odds for that are, unfortunately, very low to nil. Chris Poland would also be great, but I’m not sure about that either. Chances are that Dave will recruit a totally new person who will be easy to control and who won’t demand a big salary. Because the thing is, even though Dave used to rant a lot about The Man, he kind of became The Man in the end. Maybe we all become what we hate. In fact, I’m holding out for Megadeth and Metallica to fuse into some sort of horrifying late-career hybrid supergroup. Wouldn’t that be poetic justice?

My 3 Most Anticipated Tours of 2015…SO FAR!

It’s still early. I’m sure there will be many awesome tours that will come to light as we pass into the brave new world of 2015. But there are 3 in particular that I have to write about right now.

Cannibal Corpse / Behemoth

Cannibal Corpse: blood-spattered earthbound brutality. Behemoth: transcendent occult chaos. The physical and the metaphysical. The secular and the spiritual. Like matter and antimatter, they will unite and destroy the universe as we rejoice.

Ok, I’ll take it down a notch. There’s a lot to be excited about with this tour. Cannibal Corpse just released A Skeletal Domain, and Behemoth is still raging from The Satanist, one of the best albums of recent memory. These are two of the most seasoned and justifiably famous death metal bands out there today. They create different but equally potent visions; musically, lyrically, even visually. Imagine Cannibal Corpse’s sparse stage, bare and dominated by the giant and merciless bulk of George Corpsegrinder Fisher. Then, switch to Behemoth’s grandiose set inhabited by that wiry, intellectual, primal force of energy, Nergal. It’s a great contrast and a great combination. It’s going to be awesome.

Watain / Mayhem

BLACK. METAL. WARFARE.

The old and the new join forces to bring the legions of the black light upon us. Mayhem, founded in 1984, has been through a suicide, a murder, and all sorts of controversial performances that fueled the original Norwegian black metal scene. They are the very definition of TRVE KVLT. I’m a fan of this band, and I think De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is remarkable. I also never thought I would ever see them live — in any incarnation. So this is pretty exciting.

I like that Mayhem is joining forces with Watain, their spiritual successors. Watain has done quite a bit to revive the old black metal spirit and bring new energy to the art. I will never forget watching them roast a grotesque hunk of meat onstage at a tiny venue in Cambridge. Every song on Sworn To The Dark is addictive. And Watain seems to be on a steady roll now, with Lawless Darkness and The Wild Hunt continuing their legacy.

Faith No More

(One of these things is not like the other…)

Faith No More is a bizarre band that I love, composed of some bizarre and supremely talented guys, including Mike Patton who is probably a space alien. They just put out their first release in 17 years. There is going to be a new album, and a tour in 2015.

I’ve already written a bit about Faith No More, so all I’ll say is, wherever they end up playing, I’m there.

Listen to their new single, and also check out the hilarious accompanying picture:
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/premieres/hear-faith-no-more-first-release-in-17-years-motherfucker-20141119

King Diamond Was Awesome

What else is there to say?

This review is so late because I’ve been struggling with how to review metal, and classic bands in particular. As a fan, it’s impossible to be unbiased. The legacy of these musicians colors your opinion. I’ll try, though.

The Crowd: A. Possibly the most packed I have seen the Palladium, and all old-school fans. Cannot give it an A+ only because, in my personal opinion, there should have been a better mosh pit.

The Opening Band: F. Horrible jam band whose name I cannot remember, sorry. Not worth your time.

The vocals: A. King Diamond’s voice can still hit all the notes, which is a little amazing, considering how long he’s been doing this. That being said, the falsetto does get a little monotonous after awhile.

The stage set: B+. It was an epic, gothic stage set, but nothing you wouldn’t expect.

The music: A+. Guitars sounded fantastic. Those riffs from Mercyful Fate days and the unexpected turns they take are addictive as always.

Performance: B. King Diamond is known for elaborate performances, and he did not disappoint. But the goth/satanist schtick suffers from being done to death. Unlike GWAR, a band that manages to stay fresh with every tour, King Diamond is still doing the same classic act. What was revolutionary in the 80s is now a throwback. I love the stuff, but part of me wishes that some shocks were new.

Overall: B+. Solid concert, classic music. If you’re a King Diamond fan, check out a show — he’s still got it.