review n pix by MWJ
"Why canít all the old bands reform?" is an ironic lament/bleat in a Jello Biafra song that had come to mind quite often in my thoughts on this gig. Obviously Iím of advanced enough years to actually give bands a chance to reform but is this a trend for the future where Iíll just be revisiting past experiences with ever diminishing returns? At the moment I think I retain enough interest in and support for loads of new bands and their material remains innovative and exciting to me but, you know, the good old days and all thatÖ
And I was discussing with some fellow old-timers that noticeably influenced the demographic of the 200 or so gathered, drawn from throughout the north half of the country (only one other date in London), how lucky we were in the late 80ís early 90ís with a constant stream of "everyone a winner" thrash/death/metal albums that we were blasted with in that time, before the kids energy was diverted off into "punk without rebellion"(grunge) and a pile of cry-baby angst/shite (nu-metal). Love it or think itís a joke death metal was massive then and Obituary were probably matched only by Death themselves in terms of revered status and delivering the goods live, relying on sickening heaviness instead of out and out speed. I saw them headline the Aardshock festival in Holland when there was actually an earthquake, must have been connected. They may have gone off the boil with latter releases before winding up in the middle of the 90ís but was this a reflection of the changing music climate/trends or just in comparison with their untouchable earlier material? Pah, debate. For me, their return for their 20th anniversary just gave a shiver of excitement and again, confident feeling knowledge that theyíd destroy as ever.
Rioís is a top notch venue I think, good stage height, visibility and straight away fantastically heavy sound for Visceral Bleeding, youngsters from Holland and tonight reprazentiní the new school of death metal. Maybe it helps if youíre into it in the first place but itís quite amazing how in such a constrained and flooded genre the impact and excitement of it being done well still blow you away. Factors like the precision of playing, rapid changes and complexity in structure, and just sheer energy invested into the performance all make the difference and they gain the crowds respect. Maybe the set is slightly over long to maintain that high level of consistency but they are undoubtedly quality, in the vein of Suffocation or Insision.
Master are also as virtually old school death as it is possible to get, again having a cult reputation back in the day. As a three- piece theyíre not going to get as technically diverse as the first band and they stick to their strengths, relentless speed and heaviness, although with a slightly wider lyrical subject matter, getting into a bit of politricks. At times thereís almost a bit of a Motorhead/Disfear rockiness creeping into songs but the majority is successful if formulaic Massacre style riff and double bass drum madness. The repetition/simplicity doesnít hold the attention quite so well but songs such as "unknown soldier" with its fantastic gruff chorus are stand-out achievements.
Roared reception for the band shows that weíre all grateful for this opportunity of another Obituary onslaught no matter how it turns out. And they donít disappoint, far, far from it. All the ingredients that made them such legends the first time around are still there, the uniquely sick down-tuned guitars sound from Trevor Peres (despite growing a beard, still looking THE face of death) and Alan West, rolling, punchy drums from Don Tardy (also play for Andrew WK) and the growled, pained, horror vocals from his brother Jon. Frank Watson on the bass is more animated than ever, constantly on the move between the rest of the musicians, linking them altogether. They grind out lots of the classics, "infected", "dying", "final thoughts" "cause of death" and my personal favourite "chopped in half" (are you spotting a theme here?) but thereís also plenty aired from a forthcoming new release that blends right in. Crowd go suitably mad when tempo sporadically picks (right) up but the main satisfaction for me is just being drenched in that evil, sludgy sound. Encore demanded and finish in fine style with their "theme tune"/title track of their first album "Slowly we rot", they seem well chuffed with the response.
Itís probably testament to how good they were the first time around that they can still cut it (sic) so very well now and personally any qualms I had regarding dead horses being flogged were certainly laid to rest. The resurrection of these, the persistent strength of Napalm Death, and the wealth of fresh blood boosting the scene means the wave gathers momentum once more. If this is the soundtrack to death then Iím ordering my eco-friendly cardboard coffin today.
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