(In this post our man DGR reviews a Sacramento performance by Sepultura, Destruction, Arsis, Boris the Blade, and Micawber.)
Two shows in two days can sometimes be a difficult prospect, especially when you’re used to working those evenings. When you’ve barely recovered from one, dragging yourself to another can feel like a herculean labor. You don’t have the ‘holy shit I’m here’ adrenaline of being at a festival, it’s just two separate events on two different days, and as it would turn out, on two fairly different scales.
The previous night before this show, I wind up seeing Anaal Nathrakh in a venue the size of a fairly large kitchen (that show reviewed here), and this time I was slated to see Sepultura at Ace Of Spades — a venue that I have lavished many loving words over, mostly in hopes that they keep booking metal shows because they have a knack for bringing bands that normally wouldn’t roll through to Sacramento. Of course, you have to keep in mind that this show was a fairly large cultural icon at this point, with both Sepultura and Destruction being long-running international bands at about thirty years a piece. Hell, this was a Sepultura thirty-year anniversary tour, all things considered. (While we’re on the subject, Boris The Blade turned out to be from Australia, meaning this was quite the international tour.)
Now, I have never been given the opportunity to catch Sepultura live, so this was one of those shows that I wasn’t passing up — but the tour certainly knew how to sweeten the pot as they added one of my favorite bands to this run, Arsis. Had I not caught them live in Seattle with Wintersun, it would’ve been close to eight years since I had last seen these guys — I still have the tour poster to prove it, as they opened for God Forbid, Goatwhore, Mnemic, and The Human Abstract at The Boardwalk on Jan 22nd, 2007. Still, I wasn’t going to pass on a chance to see those guys. and had no one else been attached to the tour I would’ve been there anyway. Sepultura just proved to be a fantastic pairing, as I got a two in one; everyone else served as a fantastic bonus for my usual retreat into the upper bar to get yelled at all night.
Micawber are a death metal band from Wisconsin who have been on the periphery of my radar for some time (despite the fact that they’ve been around in some form since 2005 apparently!) because they tend to play with a lot of local bands from here. These guys tour hard and they got lucky in attaching themselves to a pretty good-sized tour for a bit. I saw these guys from the floor because, well, it was early enough in the evening and I had the opportunity to have my own space without worrying about some fucker punching me in the head.
Micawber are heavy, far more heavy than their appearance suggests, and their genre phrasing is weird because it’s clear they’ve designed their music to alternate between a huge chunk of the grim visions of death metal and murder and one song about the hellraising usually attached to drinking and partying hard. It’s not party-heavy death metal, but they do in fact have a song called “Hellbender” on their recent album The Gods Of Outer Hell that is a) heavy as fuck and b) about drinking a lot.
Tackling the stage as a four-piece, three of them armed with gloriously lock headbanging hair, the group’s music resembles Morbid Angel’s slower moving, more imperial songs — the type that sound like giant militaristic machines just sweeping through forests and flattening everyone. Micawber have a huge sound that comes across live and were a motherfucker of a way to start a concert off that night.
Boris the Blade are a third/fourth (fifth?sixth?seventh? Who’s really keep track at this point?) generation deathcore band (they describe themselves as tech-deathcore on Facebook), meaning that at this point Boris have distilled down the very essence to why people like deathcore and are largely playing that — they have a technical aspect to their sound, as the group demonstrated through many of their songs, but there is absolutely no denying that Boris like to move their songs in huge, vicious, stomping breakdowns designed to level a venue. As a matter of fact, that’s kind of all I can remember of these guys two weeks out.
It was my first experience with them, outside of the basic genre qualifications, and the two things I remember is that they have a very beefy chugging section — up there with some of the best, and the guys are intense as can get, the sort of energy that can infect a crowd. They’re the sort of band where your mileage may vary, as this shit was about as red meat as you can fucking get when it comes to music — slimmed down to almost no bullshit to give their vocalist an excuse to move from one throat slitting motion to another and to keep the floor moving. Obviously, they stood in direct contrast to the party-hard-by-way-of-Morbid Angel death metal of Micawber, but they were basically one of the two younger-generation bands on the tour, showing where the future was heading for this specific scene — and if you’re the sort of -core kid who may be worried about the genre changing too much…don’t. It hasn’t.
One of the things that surprised me about Arsis‘ set aside from the fact that OH MY GOD ARSIS ARE PLAYING SACRAMENTO AGAIN was just how heavy the set was on the music from A Celebration Of Guilt. It’s not shocking when you think about it, as the group did a celebratory tenth anniversary run for the disc lat year, so the songs are probably still fresh in their mind. But the albums that made up their set were a large chunk of A Celebration Of Guilt, Diamond For Disease, We Are The Nightmare, and the always-welcome Unwelcome. Would’ve loved to hear something from the other discs like Starve, but considering their place on the bill, the band have a ton to pack into the amount of time they do have on stage.
The group actually opened with “Handbook For The Recently Deceased”, which is one of the best songs the group has done in years, and I still love the transition from death metal to ’80s cheese with a thick gallop behind it. James and Brandon are still both phenomenal guitar players and James made his axe look small with as much as he was moving up and down it during the songs.
Props also have to be given to both their bassist and Brandon’s headbanging hair as it was glorious to see. It always feels likes these guys are playing against stacked crowds though, and that Arsis should be far larger than what they are. They seem to have taken the slow and steady fanbase-gain over the years, and it seems like all the shows where I’ve witnessed them have always resulted in people around me going, “Holy shit, what was that?” and then I get badgered as to who they were because I was headbanging along with the whole set.
I’m always going to be a little biased with my love for Arsis though. I found out about them with A Celebration Of Guilt and it’s been fun watching people find out about them over the years. It’s also fun to observe, though, that since I last saw them in ’07 the band basically added two songs to their set that I hadn’t heard before and otherwise it was a throwback to a much older show. It was fun watching a huge crowd go nuts during “Face Of My Innocence”, much as I have over the years, and now I have to keep my fingers crossed that they’ll get the chance to come back with more set-time. There’s a lot of Arsis music out there that I would love to hear live.
Fucking smoke machines. I swear they follow me everywhere.
Destruction sure know how to roar through a set at this point. Armed with an impressive lighting rig and an equally impressive stage setup, Destruction are seasoned veterans on the road and they absolutely tore through their set. If you want to talk about a thrash fan’s wet dream, the set Destruction played absolutely would’ve filled it. There were times where it seemed like the guys just weren’t going to stop, and as such, the circle pit that was slowly beginning to take over Ace Of Spades kept getting bigger and bigger as the band tore through solo to rhythm to solo to super-fast rhythm in the blink of an eye.
The three men who make up Destruction are all magnetic showmen, and even though I’ve seen a ton of thrash-revivalist shows in Sacramento recently, Destruction still managed to leave an impression. They have a huge backlog of material to choose from, and it showed as they were just moving from track to track in a smoke-filled stage haze, all three microphones on stage set up for bassist/vocalist/giant Schmier to bark and shriek into over the course of the hour they were on stage. They actually had the effect of making this show feel like two anniversary shows because Destruction are a super-long-running band, as well and when your vocalist is calling to ask if you’re ‘ready to hear some old shit, some ’80s shit?!’ to rapturous applause, you’re reminded that if you’re a music lover this also a bit of historical anthropology.
Still, even with the familiarity of their material, as someone who has been following metal for some time, getting the chance to see a long-running band like this play like absolutely nothing has changed was awesome.
Given how little — if ever — they’ve played Sacramento, you’d think Sepultura were returning to this city as conquerors. Given that they were the headliner this night, they were clearly the largest draw, and to be honest with you, I doubt anyone would pass the opportunity to hear their anthemic Roots live (as confirmed by the fact that people were chanting for it from Song One, for fuck’s sake).
Sepultura, of course, were celebrating their thirty-plus years of existence at this show and drew from material spanning their whole discography, meaning we ran from Schizophrenia all the way to The Mediator Between Head And Hands to the most recent song “Sepultura Under My Skin” – which was created for fans of the band. Roots and Chaos A.D. still made up a big part of the setlist, but overall the spread of music across the career of the band was an interesting one, as the group sprinkled recent material in between older stuff, and it was interesting to see if we could tell the difference. I recognized “Kairos” off the bat, but I’m also a huge fan of that song’s simplistic and yelled chorus consisting of the song’s title.
Since the band have moved between a whole multitude of genres, from death and thrash metal, to nu-metal and groove metal, to their current thrash and groove. the one thing that still kind of sticks for Sepultura is that they are a percussive band. They’re one of the only groups who place a tom up front for the vocalist to play and, granted, whilst Roots was the one with most of the tribal drumming, Sepultura have made liberal use of it throughout their career. It was still exciting to see Derrick pick up the sticks and just thunderously drum along with Eloy on the kit behind him.
Needless to say, the crowd was absolutely wild for these guys, including two or three national flags popping up in the pit, which had the effect of making Ace Of Spades feel like a European summer festival show — though one poor guy got punched for blocking another dude’s view, so I guess that only flies so far. However, crowd enthusiasm is infectious, and as the group slowly built into their closing songs you could feel folks getting restless. Hell, I even found myself excited to hear “Mind War” — which was one of the songs I enjoyed from Roorback. It seemed like from “Under My Skin” on. though, the crowd would’ve freaked out for anything, so once they tore into “Territory” and started getting heavily into the Roots era of the band, the venue went nuts.
It’s an obvious thing to say, but OF COURSE everyone was jumping up and down once the actual “Roots Bloody Roots” song closed out the show. Even from my hidey-hole spot in the upper bar, this was a fun show to be at.
The always lovely folks over at Sick Drummer actually captured some footage from Sepultura’s Ace Of Spades date, filming drummer Eloy Casagrande as he tore through the song “Manipulation of Tragedy” and you can see that Here, and the folks over at Capital Chaos, one of my favorites to link to, conducted an interview with Sepultura here and have about twenty five minutes of live footage as well.