(One of our most frequent commenters and the alter ego of Godless Angel, djneibarger, answered our call for guest posts with this show review straight from Lawrence, Kansas, and photos.)
My introduction to Morbid Angel happened in 1993 courtesy of the music video for “Rapture”, the opening track from their seminal album, Covenant. The ominous imagery and savage, hypnotic pulse served as my gateway drug to the death metal scene. And although my interest in the band waned after the departure of David Vincent, that legendary album is still as mesmerizing to me now as it was twenty years ago. When it was announced that Morbid Angel would be performing the album in its entirety and that the tour would be making a stop in my hometown, I knew I had to be there to witness it.
It was on a chilly Wednesday that the Covenant Anniversary Tour rolled into town. My wife and I arrived home from work and I rushed to complete my daily chores — collecting the trash for the morning pick-up, feeding our backyard chickens, and playing a frantic round of fetch with our three dogs. My wife has been fighting a battle with gastroparesis for the past year and a half and often does not feel up to eating or cooking, so I was left to fend for myself in the kitchen. I settled for reheated pizza, chips and salsa, apple slices, milk, and a cup of coffee. I finished with just enough time to throw on my Marasmus t-shirt and shower my wife with kisses before heading out the door for the ten-minute drive to downtown Lawrence.
The Granada Theater began its life as a vaudeville theater in 1928. In the 1930s it was transformed into a movie theater and I vividly remember my parents taking me there to see the original Star Wars in the spring of 1977. It was eventually run out of business by the arrival of the multiplex and in 1993 began a new life cycle as a comedy/music club. The large room is exceptionally suited to live performances and The Granada has become the premiere music venue in Lawrence, Kansas, for touring metal acts.
I arrived at the venue and made my way towards that beacon of all things awesome and good, the Merch Booth. There I wasted no time in handing over my hard-earned cash for a 20th Anniversary Tour shirt. Clutching it like a Hobbit guarding The Ring, I made my way through the slowly expanding crowd to my usual spot at the guard rail, directly overlooking the pit.
I first learned about Kansas City’s Marasmus when I saw that they were opening for Six Feet Under at The Granada last July. I grabbed a copy of their album Mountains of Dead from Amazon and was instantly hooked. Marasmus deliver massive death metal riffs in spades and they’re a live force to be reckoned with. I was floored by their previous performance and couldn’t wait for a second helping. They kicked off their set with “Syphilitic”, a sledge-hammer symphony that would feel right at home in a Cannibal Corpse set list. By the end of the song they had drawn in the stragglers from the back of the room and proceeded to pummel the crowd with machine-gun riffing, a bulldozer rhythm section, and demonic lead vocals.
Marasmus are currently recording a new album, and tonight they treated us to three new songs: “Post Mortal Possession”, “Ectoplasmic Violation”, and “Conjuring Enormity”. The new material still shows off their trademark brutal heaviness, but I also got a sense of experimentation with some progressive compositional concepts. In other words, the new stuff is pretty sick. Marasmus are quickly becoming a favorite of mine and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this awesome band.
TORN THE FUCK APART
Torn the Fuck Apart, also from Kansas City, were the first band on the bill for the previously mentioned Six Feet Under gig. I arrived late to that show (I’ll put the blame on my son, since he’s not here to defend himself), missing their performance, and nearly threw my back out trying to kick myself for it. I had only recently heard their excellent album, The Dissection of Christ, and was dying to hear the material performed live. Tonight I got a second chance.
If Marasmus is a sledgehammer to the face, then Torn the Fuck Apart is a razor blade attack in a blacked-out padded cell. Perversely technical, their music is a frenzy of notes and constantly shifting time signatures. Bolstered by ballsy and sometimes (to me at least) hilarious audio samples, they relentlessly assaulted the audience from the opening notes of “Gods Blood Turned Black” to the frantic riffing of “Angels Decayed in Dust”. This band delivers an insanely tight, jaw-dropping show. If technical death metal is your thing, you owe it to yourself to check out Torn the Fuck Apart.
TENNESSEE MURDER CLUB
I only first became aware of Tennessee Murder Club when they were added to this bill. I sought out their 2011 release, Carving a Legacy, and liked what I heard. Imagine Slipknot with a more pronounced old school death metal vibe and no clean vocals. I was aware that the band wear masks and was curious to see how this would go over with the club crowd.
After a somewhat lengthy setup the band took the stage, opening with “Worms Trench”. Although the audience did seem hesitant at first, they quickly warmed up to Tennessee Murder Club’s fist-pounding rhythms, buzz-saw riffs, and tortured screams. The band tore through two more songs, “Infest” and “The Pact”, before announcing that their set was being cut short (did I mention something about a seriously lengthy setup?). Understandably frustrated, the band remained gracious and apologetic. They ripped through one more venomous track, “Ol dead eyes”, before making way for the evening’s main event.
This wasn’t the first-time experience I had been hoping for with Tennessee Murder Club, but I’m most definitely still a fan and I can’t wait to pick up a copy of their new album, Human Harvest.
The moment had finally arrived! Twenty years after first hearing this metal masterpiece, I was about to witness Covenant being performed from start to finish right before my very eyes. Morbid Angel took the stage to thunderous applause and immediately launched into “Rapture”, sending the pit into overdrive. I felt an almost euphoric rush of adrenaline as this legendary musical entity surged to life in front of me, and I’m sure I was far from alone.
Having never seen Morbid Angel live before, I had no idea what to expect. The instant David Vincent stepped to the microphone the difference between amateur and professional became abundantly clear. His vocal delivery was flawless and his bass playing seemingly effortless. Commanding the stage with an infectious intensity, Vincent had the audience hanging on his every word. Charismatic and every inch the stellar frontman, his slightest gesture could incite a flurry of devil horns and excited screams. Even I was helpless to resist, becoming utterly starstruck when he would even so much as glance in my direction.
It would seem a monumental task to divert attention away from a performer as powerful as Vincent, but guitarist Trey Azagthoth was more than capable of doing so. Hunched over his guitar, his face hidden behind a mask of black hair, Azagthoth delivered a barrage of stunning leads during the band’s nearly two-hour set. I spotted a small army of cell phones concentrated on his solo fretwork, but he seemed oblivious to anything other than the guitar in his hands. At the end of the night, as the band exited the stage, he lifted his mane to reveal a boyish grin and gave a quick thumbs-up to the ecstatic front row.
On the other side of the stage was second guitarist Thor Anders Myhren, also known as Destructhor. A veteran of the Norwegian death metal scene, his playing perfectly complimented that of Azagthoth. The two of them delivered slicing riffs with astonishing precision and intensity, and Myhren’s leads were equally impressive.
Taking the place of Pete Sandoval, who is recovering from back surgery, was drummer Tim Yeung, known for his work with such bands as Hate Eternal and Decrepit Birth. Combining savage intensity with fluid showmanship, Yeung laid a thunderous foundation of double-bass and punching snare.
As they tore through the album’s ten tracks, both the band and the songs felt ageless. Seething with demonic energy, Covenant fed the frenzy of the pit again and again. And as the last strains of “God of Emptiness” reverberated off the back walls, the fire in Vincent’s eyes seemed to indicate that there was much more to come. And there was.
Morbid Angel continued on, performing one song from each of their remaining seven albums. They played blistering renditions of the classics “Maze of Torment” and “Fall from Grace” alongside more recent tracks such as “Existo Vulgore” and “Curse the Flesh”. It was a career-spanning performance from one of the all-time great American death metal bands, and easily one of most awesome concerts I’ve had the great fortune of attending.
My review of this show would simply not be complete if I failed to mention the inclusion of two classic concert clichés. Exhibit A: The highly inebriated and shirtless young gentleman who has chosen to be in the pit but doesn’t seem to understand the basic concept. I had a ringside seat as he loudly challenged several nearby concert goers for “laying a hand on” him. He managed to rattle off half a dozen or so slurred taunts before a guy twice his sized tackled him to floor. It took several security guards to rescue our hapless friend, and he was carried out of the pit, never to be seen again.
Exhibit B: the thirty-something “hippie chick”, resplendent in her flower-print dress and sandals. Positioned dead center in the pit during Morbid Angel’s set and doing the acid sway entirely out of sync with the music. She did it all; the limbo walk, the reach for the sky, the grass blowing in the wind. I’ve seen her (or her doppelganger) at dozens of shows, and I’m sure many of you have, too. But yet I stood there with my mouth hanging open, in awe, as she magically avoided stomping boots and flying fists. I salute you, mysterious one.
I left the concert exhausted, my neck and shoulders already stiffening. I was only going to be able to grab a few hours’ sleep before heading to work in the morning. But it was most definitely worth it. As I crawled into bed and gently kissed my wife goodnight, she half awoke and asked if I’d had fun at the show. Yeah, you could say that.