This was it. The most unfuckiwthable lineup of the year. Cannibal Corpse, the biggest selling death metal band of all time, Napalm Death, legendary grindcore pioneers, and Immolation, stalwart NYC metal veterans who release mind bending-ly awesome albums like clockwork, all touring together thanks to Decibel Magazine. The good folks at Decibel cover the "extremely extreme" side of underground metal. I've been enjoying the magazine since issue #1 but I've got to say, they really outdid themselves with this tour.
So the show was sold out. Of course it would, I mean c'mon look at that lineup! The Observatory is kind of a drive from the usual SoCal metal haunts but proved to be an excellent choice for this show. Did we all really need to get packed into The House Blues like sardines again? I think not. This venue offered excellent sight lines, clear sound that wasn't deafening, but most important of all, breathing room. Hundreds upon hundreds of mild (and not so mild) metal heads converged inside The Observatory to catch this near historic show and for once, it didn't smell like a dank locker room inside.
NorCal grinder's Cretin opened the show which was sort of surprising. I was under the impression that they were the main support band for the western region of the tour and would play after whatever local band was added to the bill. But no, they went on first to a less than packed house but they still brought the grind like champs. By the time they completed their set a sizable crowd had gathered inside and was rocking out to their energetic brand of thrashy grindcore.
Unfortunately, Los Angeles natives Abysmal Dawn were up next and basically put me to sleep. I try not to hate on these guys, they're a fairly competent death metal act (except their sloppy slop drummer), but they're just oh so generic. They're like the Diet Coke version of Behemoth and really don't do anything for me.
Immolation on the otherhand, continue being awesome at just about everything. They've churned out nothing but winners since their 1991 debut album, Dawn of Possession, and are one of the most crushing live acts I've ever seen. I don't even see them as musicians at this point. These dudes are more akin to snake charmers, casting hypnotic spells that sway and and manipulate (i.e., mosh) the masses. Seriously, their music sounds like it was crafted by Satanic magicians. Uber heavy riffs, oddball time changes, thrash breaks, and just about the most menacing vibe you could conjure without a legitimate antichrist popping up. Immolation was on fire this night (get it? I...nvm).
Cannibal Corpse. If anyone could headline a mammoth gig such as this, it's Cannibal. The undisputed heavyweights of the extreme metal world wasted no time once they took the stage, opening with "A Skull Full of Maggots," can causing pandemonium in the process. I don't know why this is but, Cannibal Corpse is the only band I've ever seen in concert where the floor section of the venue gets so jam packed, that the "pit" ends up overflowing and eventually spills into the regular general admission/standing areas. In other words, the nice little perch I had on the side of the stage quickly turned into the mosh pit recovery zone.
The band played a marathon set, mixing old and new jams together with great fanfare. Just like Immolation and Napalm Death from earlier, Cannibal Corpse are one of those workhorse bands that continue making excellent new albums as their career's progress and don't solely rely on their oldschool "golden years" material. Newer songs from the band's last three albums like "Demented Aggression," "Make Them Suffer" and the heavy as fuck "Evisceration Plague," caused just as much excitement as their Barnes era classics...except for the always lethal "Hammer Smashed Face/Stripped Raped and Strangled" combo, that always starts WWIII.
They ended the night by dedicating their set to the late Jeff Hanneman of Slayer, as guitarist Rob Barret played the notes of "South of Heaven," while wearing a Slayer shirt onstage. I have to say, I stood right next to guitarist Pat O' Brien during Cannibal's entire set and, although NO ONE can replace Jeff Hanneman, Pat, who has previously toured with Slayer in the past, seems like a much better choice over Gary Holt from Exodus. It was kind of scary actually how Slayer-esque some of Pat's solos sounded throughout the night. The dude is an amazing guitar player.
Decibel Magazine, kudos for making this tour a reality. It ruled. Hard.