This Deathcrusher Tour 2015 was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells. Lead photo by www.cardinalsmedia.com
As a casual metalhead, with only a passing familiarity with some of the bands playing tonight, I head to Bristol’s Motion with some trepidation. I join the queue outside the venue, hoping that, in my trusty EyeHateGod hoodie and vegan DMs, I can blend in with the uniformly pasty-faced, black t-shirt-wearing metal fans. Overheard from the group of long-haired teens stood behind me: “the heaviest thing she listens to is, like, Gojira.” The sneering tone suggests that the French metal band is simply not heavy enough for this hardened listener.
Tonight’s five-act bill – part of the UK leg of the Deathcrusher Tour – begins with Swiss progressive sludge act Herod, who deliver powerful, harmonically dense riffs, irregular time signatures and heart-on-sleeve bellowing from frontman David Glassey, no doubt earning some new fans from those whose attention hasn’t been diverted by the heaving merch table in the adjoining room.
Despite the greater commercial successes of their contemporaries Metallica and Slayer, Voivod are arguably the only band to emerge from the eighties thrash scene who are still making artistically challenging music. Their set draws on some of their thrashiest material, and the crowd are appreciative, chanting the band’s name between songs. However, this is nothing compared to the amount of fun the band appear to be having. They throw themselves about the stage, headbanging, pogoing, high-fiving fans; Guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain has a perpetual grin for the entire performance, never more prominent than when unleashing another electrifying solo. In a genre with such a reputation for over-seriousness, it is a pleasure to see a group play with such unabashed joy.
“If you hadn’t guessed from the noise, we are Napalm Death from Birmingham”, announces Mark “Barney” Greenway, frontman for the legendary Grindcore act. They rip through a high velocity, high intensity set comprised of tracks from latest album ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ as well as a selection of early classics, including the infamous ‘You Suffer’, which elicits cheers and wry smirks from the audience. They prove to have lost none of their punk fury and political awareness in their 30-odd years as a band, the anti-capitalist tirade ‘Smash a Single Digit’ a highlight from tonight’s performance. Greenway visibly shakes with rage as he delivers his vocals, and by the end of their forty minute set he is dripping with sweat, as are the people staggering from the moshpit.
The most impressive thing about Florida death metal titans Obituary is how metronomically precise they are in dispatching their brutal, pummelling attack. While Napalm Death subjects you to a series of sudden violent jolts, Obituary steadily grinds you into the dirt with the heel of its boot. John Tardy, possessor of one of the most distinctive growls in all of metal, is in especially fine form tonight, prowling the stage like an antsy lion, curdling the blood with his mighty death-roar.
The evening is concluded by Scouse metal icons Carcass, led as always by the virtuosic guitarwork of Bill Steer and Jeff Walker’s gargling-nails vocals and grotesque lyricism. Walker – an on-stage fan blowing his long black hair as if he were in some twisted pop video – is an affable stage presence, enjoying easy repartee with the crowd and doling out advice for young bands (his top tips, for those interested: learn to play while drunk, hire a young drummer to lower the group’s average age, and have “William Geoffrey motherf***ing Steer” as a member). The band’s visceral, vicious melodeath inspires a rapturous reception from the assembled masses, the room a sea of nodding heads. Songs turn on a sixpence from frantic blast beats to mammoth riffs, with the headbangers in the crowd following instinctively from one tempo change to the next.
I am struck by the camaraderie between fans during this final set, as I witness several instances of burly, black-clad men clasped in joyous embrace. That this music – notoriously macho, and completely impenetrable, even objectionable, to the average music listener – can provoke such ecstatic displays of affection between its devotees is a testament to the metalheads’ communitarian spirit. Walker ends the night by hailing supporters of “true metal”; tonight, I understand what it is to be one.