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–Fall 2014 Concert Recap: Pentagram, Carcass, Arch Enemy

Pentagram Last-Days-Here-Poster

–Fall 2014 Concert Recap: Pentagram, Carcass, Arch Enemy

Yes, I know. This post is a long time coming, and sometimes it’s better never than late. Wait, that’s not quite right. Or maybe it is, depending on your taste in bloggers. Either way, I have a perfectly reasonable excuse for not writing a prompt update: I’ve been far too busy working and wasting time with all my sundry entertaining hobbies and excursions. That said, it’s never too late to offer a brief recap of the last quarter of the fantastic musical year that was 2014. O contraire, my hard rocking friends, the first of the Neue Jahr/mid-February is the all-too appropriate opportunity for such a posting.

Firstly (my, that was an annoying and awkward transition), one must find Doc Brown and the silver Delorian and travel backwards in time to Oct. 25th. That would be the precise date the legendary stoner-metal vocalist Bobby Liebling and Pentagram performed at The Pyramid Scheme here in Grand Rapids. Liebling, who’s been championed in the doom-metal underground for decades, has benefited from a surge in popularity in recent years due to the popularity of the 2011 documentary, Last Days Here. That film chronicled the Pentagram singer’s struggle for sobriety and relevance after 30-plus years of floundering in severe drug addiction. Like a proverbial rising Phoenix, albeit in Virginia rather than Arizona, Liebling has risen from the rubble of addiction and is enjoying the resurrection of his beloved band.

This past fall, doom fanatics here in the U.S. were also able to enjoy the ultra-rare opportunity to witness the almighty Pentagram on tour. With longtime guitarist Victor Griffin back on board, alongside bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley, Pentagram decimated our Northern eardrums with a punishingly heavy performance. In fact, their sound was so loud it distorted speakers and seemingly rattled the dinosaur mural right off the Pyramid’s Scheme’s walls. Pentagram and their classy brand of doom methodically crushed us with their brutal riffing, even as they wooed us with their infectious vocal melodies. As for Mr. Liebling himself, his no-frills mid-range voice was on fine display, as well as his bizarre and freaky stage demeanor. His icy, zonked-out stare and frenetic movements belie any negative effects of his 60-some years of hard living. He also evidently still possesses the seductive charms on the ladies, but that’s perhaps best left to the reader’s imagination. Seeing Pentagram live may be a once-in a-lifetime chance, and Liebling and co. didn’t fail to create some mystical doomy magic.

Pentagram performed many favorites from throughout their four-decade career, including: 1.) Deathrow 2.) All Your Sins 3.) Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram) 4.) Sinister 5.) Forever My Queen 6.) Frustration 7.) Review Your Choices 8.) Lay Down and Die 9.) The Ghoul 10.) Walk in the Blue Light 11.) Broken Vows 12.) Relentless 13.) Nothing Left 14.) Be Forewarned 15.) When the Screams Come.

Carcass Surgical SteelSpeaking of once-in a-lifetime opportunities, anybody ever hear of a little band called Carcass? Back on November 11th, Liverpool England’s grindcore geniuses graced the oh-so-not-worthy The Intersection audience with a sublimely masterful performance. Yes, I’ll gladly admit I am prone to dramatics and hyperbole (life’s more fun that way, ha!). But that doesn’t change the fact that Carcass delivered one of the heaviest and tightest 90-minute sets I’ve ever seen. This was a full-on blitzkrieg, a sensory onslaught that rendered this humble listener physically and emotionally exhausted. That’s not some mere “Corporeal Jigsore Quandary”, folks. It’s the dishonest to Ares truth.

Carcass steamrolled through the best material of their 30-year career, focusing primarily on the prime melodic death metal of their mid-‘90s Michael Amott-era. Songs off the Necrotism and Heartwork albums sounded infectious and cutting, but the several cuts off their fantastic 2013 release Surgical Steel were no slouches either. Bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker was on-target vocally with his mid-range rasp, while original guitarist Bill Steer aptly delivered the guttural growls. The band, also featuring guitarist Ben Ash and drummer Daniel Wilding, barely let up for air as they plowed through their unique sonic concoction: punishingly brutal riffs melded with orgasmic guitar melodies. If anything, Walker’s soft-spoken and good-natured banter between songs only contributed to the brutality of the affair. Light only darkens the shade by way of contrast, right? Bravo, guys!

–Approximate setlist: 1.) 1985 2.) Buried Dreams 3.) Incarnated Solvent Abuse 4.) Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System 5.) Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard/ This Mortal Coil/ Reek of Putrefaction 6.) The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills 7.) Unfit for Human Consumption 8.) Genital Grinder/ Pyosisified (Rotten to the Gore)/ Exhume to Consume 9.) Black Star/ Keep On Rotting in the Free World/ 10. Captive Bolt Pistol 11.) Corporeal Jigsore Quandary/ The Sanguine Article 12.) Ruptured in Purulence/ Heartwork 13.) 1985.

Arch Enemy War Eternal

Then, just a little over a week later, the Swedish barons of melodic death metal, Arch Enemy, followed Carcass’ brutal footsteps to that same Intersection stage. In fact, Thursday, November 20th marked a triumphant display of international metal with German thrash titans Kreator sharing the stage with AE, alongside American opening acts Starkill and Huntress. My brother and I entered the halfway full venue midway through Huntress’ set, who were playing second on the bill. The L.A.-based band impressed the Grand Rapids crowd with their aggressive brand of melodic metal, led in no small part by singer Jill Janus’ dynamic and operatic vocals.

I admit I am no expert on Kreator’s back catalog, though I thoroughly enjoyed their Coma of Souls album back in the early ‘90s. Their aggressive-yet-concise brand of German thrash holds up well over all these 30 years, with guitarist vocalist Mille Petrozza’s technically precise rhythm guitarwork continuing to be a signature component of the band’s sound. Kreator’s pummeling thrash-tastic rhythmic assault, coupled with their catchy hooks and intriguing socio-political lyrics, made for a captivating set. And when Petrozza entreated the enthusiastic audience to part waters down the middle of the floor to create a massive circle pit, the controlled violence was, to quote a hyperbolic adjective from How I Met Your Mother’s Barney, legendary.

Arch Enemy has remained one of my favorite bands ever since their second album, Stigmata, won me over back in 1998. Their hyper-melodious style of extreme metal has thrived and subtly progressed over the years in the face of two singer changes and several moves at guitar opposite Mike Amott. In fact, recent lineup shifts in the Arch Enemy camp make the backstory for this particular tour all the more intriguing. Not only did Canadian (and ex-The Agonist) singer Alissa White-Gluz replace longtime long-time front woman Angela Gossow last year, but the band announced that shredder extraordinaire Jeff Loomis would be joining the band for the upcoming European tour. In the meantime? That’s right, longtime guitarist Christopher Amott would briefly be returning to fill in for just a few shows, including right here in G.R. Now the excitement factor was amplified even more.

The lights dimmed in accompaniment to the “Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor) intro from the new War Eternal album, and we diehard AE freaks pushed as close to the stage as we could. Heat rose, the pungent scent of sweat permeated the air, and the almighty Arch Enemy plunged straight into speedy juggernaut “Enemy Within,” off their 2001 classic Wages of Sin album. Unsurprisingly, the band sounded was an impeccably-timed heavy metal machine, with the dual guitar interplay of the Amott brothers leading the charge. Their rhythm playing was crisp and precise, while their harmonized leads sounded just as awe-inspiring and melodious live as on record. Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo and drummer Daniel Erlandsson provided the withering pulse for the proceedings.

White-Gluz commanded the stage with the confidence and charisma of a 20-year metal veteran. If her guttural growl sounds a bit forced on record, her energy and enthusiasm on the stage screamed AUTHENTICITY. Arch Enemy’s fans will not forget Gossow anytime soon, but White-Gluz’s inspired performance proved that their vocal position is in very capable hands. Their setlist this time around drew heavily from both Wages of Sin and the new album, with a nice mixture of fan favorites from throughout the Gossow era sprinkled throughout. It would have been nice to hear another song or two from the first three albums, but one can’t have everything. Regardless, the unadulterated truth remains: Arch Enemy dominated The Intersection, and they left a pandemic of emotional exultation in their wake.

–Approximate setlist: 1.) Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor) 2.) Enemy Within 3.) War Eternal 4.) Ravenous 5.) Revolution Begins 6.) My Apocalypse 7.) You Will Know My Name 8.) Bloodstained Cross 9.) Under Black Flags We March 10.) As the Pages Burn 11.) Dead Eyes See No Future 12). No Gods, No Masters 13.) Dead Bury The Dead 14.) We Will Rise. Encore: 15.) Khaos Overture 16.) Yesterday is Dead and Gone 17.) Snow Bound 18.) Nemesis 19.) Fields of Desolation (ending instrumental section only) 20.) Enter the Machine.

Cheers until next time, and as always, keep it LOUD!–Jonathan Kollnot

 

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on February 19, 2015.

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