On the night of October 10, 2012, I was in metal heaven, and the gods were all on stage: Morbid Angel, Dark Funeral, and Grave.
At times like this, I love living in Seattle even more than usual. The city is just big enough to draw tours like this one, but small enough that they get shoe-horned into venues like El Corazon. I’ve seen reports that El Corazon has a capacity of 750, but that must include the separate room where the main bar is located because there’s no way the room with the stage holds that many. Especially when the bar area in the concert room is blocked off and used for gear storage, as it was for this 21-and-over show, that room doesn’t look like it holds more than about 250 people.
And it wasn’t even packed to capacity for this show. Though the turnout was strong, it was still possible to maneuver pretty close to the stage, as I did, getting within about 10 feet from the front. The only drawback was that I forgot to bring my fucking camera, an oversight for which I will forever beat myself up. My companion took a few pics with her phone, and I’m using a few of the better ones to illustrate this review, but still . . . not the same.
I’ll just be honest and admit up-front that I had trouble maintaining objectivity about each of these bands. Completely separating the feelings of excitement-verging-on-awe that I felt from finally getting to see each of them live from my reactions to what I heard just isn’t possible. Grave, for example, is pretty much a band who can do no wrong in my book. They occupy a central place in metal history as one of the progenitors of Swedish death metal, yet they have not only survived for more than two decades, they continue to put out dependably strong albums, with this year’s Endless Procession of Souls (reviewed here) being no exception.
Grave roared through their set like a titanic meat-grinder, raining a torrent of ghoulish death metal on an enthusiastic crowd. The ageless, rail-thin Ola Lindgren was the center of attention without trying to be, roaring his vocals with full-force power and hammering out one galvanizing riff after another.
For me, the other star of this show was drummer Ronnie Bergerståhl. Though he wasn’t as inhumanly acrobatic as the next two drummers who would take the stage, he didn’t need to be for this kind of music. He delivered the ring of authenticity, and by that I mean . . . dat snare tone!
The band closed with “Into the Grave”, Lindgren exhorting the crowd to chant “. . . THE GRAVE!!” repeatedly as he announced the song’s title. He got a delirious, full-throated reaction. I thought my head might come loose with the hard banging that ensued. I could have watched and listened to them all night.
Sweden’s Dark Funeral are another band who’ve been a force in metal for roughly two decades, and another iconic band I’d never gotten to see before last week. I was blown away by the performance — as in, feeling like I’d been caught unprotected in a black metal hurricane. There was no let up in the intensity from start to finish — just a relentless gale-force assault of blasting hostility. But holy fuck, it was extremely infectious music at the same time!
I guess the only original member left in this corpse-painted band is guitarist Lord Ahriman. He was positioned on the side of the stage closest to where I was planted, stoically and un-dramatically unleashing a blaze of tremolo-picked fury. He didn’t need to engage in any stage drama, because the shaven-headed new vocalist Nachtgarm was a magnetic presence all by himself.
I used to think Hellhammer was the most jaw-dropping black metal drummer I’d ever witnessed in a live setting, but Dark Funeral’s Dominator has now replaced him on the pinnacle. The utter speed, intensity, and athleticism were nothing short of astonishing.
I had high hopes for this legendary band’s set, but also some anxiety, which was triggered by the existence of Illud Divinum Insanus. I needn’t have worried. Though I had to leave slightly early in order to catch a late ferry boat home, only a couple of songs from that album found their way into the band’s long set before I departed (“Existo Vulgore” and “Nevermore”), and even they were delivered with a bludgeoning vehemence that caused them to fit fairly seamlessly with the much older songs that made up the bulk of the performance — songs such as “Immortal Rites”, “Rapture”, “Maze of Torment”, “Sworn To the Black”, “Chapel of Ghouls”, and “Angel of Disease”.
David Vincent was in prime form, grimacing with his impressive teeth bared and jaw jutting imperiously when he wasn’t energetically belting out the lyrics with a distinctive growl. Trey Azagthoth delivered some flamethrower solo’s, head down and a mane of hair covering his face the whole time, and Tim Yeung was equally on fire behind the kit (at least I assume it was Yeung back there instead of Sandoval — I didn’t have a great view of the drummer).
Morbid Angel delivered a seriously vicious beatdown and got the biggest pits of the night. Unfortunately, my companion, who was coming down with a nasty cold, left before the set started, and my ancient Blackberry has no camera, so . . . I have no pics at all, even crappy ones, to illustrate what happened. I hated to leave, even with only a couple of songs left to come, but I left as a very happy metalhead.
Not many dates remain on this tour (they’re below), but if you’re anywhere near the remaining stops, I strongly recommend you turn out for this thing. You won’t regret it.
Oct. 13 – Sacramento, CA – Ace Of Spades
Oct. 14 – Anaheim, CA – The Grove
Oct. 15 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
Oct. 17 – Dallas, TX – Trees
Oct. 18 – Houston, TX – Scout Bar
Oct. 19 – San Antonio, TX – Backstage Lounge
Oct. 21 – St. Petersburg, FL – State Theater