The air is getting chilly as autumn digs her merciless claws into our skin and begins to strangle the summer out of us. But the energy in the air is more than enough of a tradeoff, starspawns, and I was fortunate enough to siphon some of that lifeblood directly from metal god Philip Anselmo and his legendary cohorts in Down on September 7 as they performed in Salt Lake City, and bring you a review of the event! It was truly a night to remember.
This week in the Valley of Salt, we have a very special metal show at Pierpont Place starting at 4pm on Monday, September 19th. This show is a benefit for the family of Caleb Worman, who recently passed away. The bands are getting together on this bill to help his family, with proceeds going to assist the financial issues of losing Caleb. The lineup is huge: Visions of Decay, I Capture Castles, The Dark Past, Here Comes The Chaos, These New Empires, To Ashes, Velvet City and Roxborough. This is a great cause, so stop by and enjoy some brutality while helping out the Worman family.
American power metal stalwarts Kamelot will invade Salt Lake City this Saturday, Sept. 17th with support coming from The Agonist, offering some strong contrast to Kamelots melodic and majestic style with the female fronted sing/scream metalcore approach. Local support comes from Visigoth. All this metal goes down at the Complex at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $22 though Smith's Tix.
Colorado's Velnias and their infectious blend of blacked doom and folk metal will be rocking the socks off Sugarhouse at Raunch Records this Sunday, Sept. 18th with Bountiful, UT's Nevertanezra. Show starts at 6 p.m.
REVIEW OF DOWN, PONYKILLER, IN SOLITUDE
I have missed every single arrival of Philip Anselmo in SLC. It’s a blasphemy of the highest order, considering all this man and his many acts have contributed to the metal scene over the last two decades. When Down announced their stop at The Depot on their latest tour, I would have sold a kidney to make sure I was at that show, if that’s what it took. (If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from the Phil-adjacent tragedy of the loss of Dimebag Darrell, you never know when a show will be someone’s last; get your ass out and celebrate while they’re here.) And it ain’t like Phil, Jimmy, Pat, Pepper and Kirk are getting any younger. So I bought my ticket the day they went on sale—no kidney removal needed, thankfully—and got to The Depot early enough to find some bros of mine waiting at the front row barricade, which is where I intended to stay the remainder of the night.
The crowd trickled in slowly, which was a shame; they missed some solid opening acts. First up was Down’s fellow Nola-based band Ponykiller, a psychedelic-metal group that was not at all what I was expecting. The lead singer’s towering vocals reminded me of a higher-pitched Jim Morrison. Musically one could hear the influence of The Melvins strung throughout the thick rhythms. The band had some amazing energy. Unfortunately, these “big name” rock shows tend to bring out the douchebags as more underground shows do not, and next to me on the front row, a few lame dudes were yelling insults at the band loud enough for them to hear, telling them to get off the stage. The band took it with aplomb and never reacted to the taunts, but I find that kind of behavior from crowds absolutely deplorable. If you don’t like the band, go outside and have a fucking cigarette. Don’t make me embarrassed for my home town by acting like an entitled wiener just because you spent some money on a ticket. But I digress—Ponykiller was creative, inspired, professional, and unique, and I was glad to have seen them.
Next up was Swedish power metal group In Solitude, whom I was supposed to interview earlier that evening, but as happens, the strings didn’t quite tie together in time. Nevertheless I’d been listening to their album “The World. The Flesh. The Devil.” all week, and was stoked to see them live. Their sound harkens to the likes of King Diamond, of that proud Nordic legacy of bloody, heavy music and banshee vocals. I expected their singer Hornper to be rocking the corpsepaint, as he frequently does, but this evening the wildest outfits we got were super-tight leather pants and a fox fur (with head still attached) that he lost mid-headbang halfway through the set. I have no idea how old these guys are—they looked incredibly young—but they know how to write a damn metal song. It was awesome to see their shredding solos up close. The crowd absolutely loved them.
By the time In Solitude closed out their set, The Depot was filling up fast in anticipation for Down, and the douchebag population had grown as well. My friend Steve and I had maintained our front row positions with ease, but now a group of drunkards who had just arrived decided they wanted our spots, and quite loudly began to formulate a plan behind our backs: “When shit starts, you push this way, and I’ll push that way, and we’ll get up front!” Now, I’m no military strategist, but it seems to me plans like this work a bit better when your enemies don’t know what’s coming. As it was, however, those of us who’d been there for hours only locked our arms a little tighter on the barricade when we heard this genius idea, and no amount of elbows to the kidney, pushing, shoving, calling me fat or threats to “bash my brains in” dislodged me the entire night. That’s how you metal, amateurs. You’ll pry front row from my cold dead fingers. Take notes next time, and stop acting like jackasses in front of the guests.
Finally the moment had arrived, and out came the legendary Down. The place went crazy. Being five feet from Philip Anselmo was a truly incredible experience for me, and the man looked healthy and happy (a victory for sure; I’ve heard he wasn’t in such shape during past visits). Being that close also made me realize, and with all respect, how fucking old this band was getting. But the gray in their beards did literally nothing to stem their energy and passion for what they were doing. They were all over the stage more than the younger bands on the tour, and they sounded album-perfect. Phil bowed his head with his signature prayer-hands and chatted us up a bit, as he is known to do, and then it was time for the goddamn metal.
With no new album to promote this time around, the band launched into favorites from their classic albums: “New Orleans is a Dying Whore”, “Eyes of the South”, “Hail the Leaf” (dedicated to all the dope-smokers), “Temptation’s Wings”, and a performance of “Lifer” dedicated to who else but Phil’s fallen brother Dimebag Darrell. That moment got me teary-eyed. You can still see the pain all over the man’s face when the memory surfaces. Their music was so fantastic to hear live, with those booming, dark riffs that sound like the heartbeat of some swamp monster, that thick sludge that only comes from the American South. They played one of my favorites, “Ghosts Along the Mississippi”, and then Phil gave a pre-song speech aimed at the previously mentioned chucklefucks who were heckling Ponykiller during their set. It was so satisfying to hear Phil stand up for his tourmates and rail on the guys who had been so disrespectful. “You stand up for your kin,” he said. Goddamn right.
As the lights fell for the encore, people were already chanting for more, and in particular for “Bury Me In Smoke”; I think I was the only one who was yelling for “Stone The Crow”, but everyone got what they wanted, and I got mine first. The crowd was singing along to “Stone The Crow” so loudly that Phil didn’t even need to sing, and the band ate it up. The night ended with “Bury Me In Smoke” and a lovely little collaboration, with Down bringing on both Ponykiller and In Solitude, and performing quite the switcheroo with instruments even as the song kept playing, never missing a beat. Kirk handed his guitar over to Henrik Palm of In Solitude; the vocals went to Collin Yeo of Ponykiller, and so forth, and suddenly the song was this amazing amalgam of bands and styles and energy, with almost twenty metalheads on stage jumping around and singing along. It was such a badass way to end the set, and seeing the camaraderie between the acts was really special, almost like the granddaddies of Down were passing the proverbial torch.
For my first date with Down and Phil Anselmo, it almost couldn’t have been better. A week later I still have the bruises and obligatory headbanging neck pain. And Phil even let us in on an exciting announcement: 2012 will be bringing us the next new album from these sludgy metal bastards, and this little darkheart can hardly wait. 2012 better bring them back to Salt Lake, too. I’ve got about twenty more songs of theirs I have to hear live before I die.
Sleepers in the Rift
Morbus Chron = Entombed (classic) + Asphyx + Autopsy
Sleepers in the Rift is quite the anthem to raise the dead—a purely and greatly executed Swedish death-metal album well worth adding to any metal fiend’s collection. There’s quite a few old-school Swedish death metal-influenced bands popping up constantly—it’s not surprising. Morbus Chron are far from old school—the five-piece band from the Stockholm area are fairly new. Influences do shine through on the album’s nine bits of brain-eating, flesh-tearing mayhem. Morbus Chron delivers the goods with a tasty variety of sounds from speedy thrashing to grizzly, distorted, blistering death-metal grooves to doom dirges. The vocal approach is less guttural regurgitation and more punk/hardcore, which the drumming approach also follows (don’t expect too many blastbeats here). Oh, and the cover art simply destroys. –Bryer Wharton
The Unspoken Hymns
20 Buck Spin
Mournful Congregation = Evoken + Skepticism + Asunder
Mournful Congregation and 20 Buck Spin are releasing this compilation of rare tracks. The release serves as a semi-introduction to the Australian funeral doom act’s upcoming full-length, The Book of Kings, to be released in November. The band’s been serving up these dreary and soul-sucking tunes for nearly 18 years now. Funeral doom is a hard genre to stand out in, let alone be really one of the more accessible metal sub genres—listeners require variances of patience to let songs develop. Instead of hanging onto some catchy riff or chorus, funeral doom is about the emotions pushed forth. The fortitude of this compilation is it highlights different styles the band encompasses—tracks aren’t meant to flow, but be their own entity. Mournful Congregation do well at putting simple but somber melodies next to unholy life-draining guitars and sloth-growling vocals. At the very least, the comp serves as a great intro to a band many (even genre fiends) may not have heard of. Punish yourself—you know you want to. –Bryer Wharton
Awaken to the Suffering
Pathology = Devourment + Suffocation + Putrid Pile
Do you want guitar technical mastery that means absolutely nothing or do you want something that’s going to beat the living hell out of you from the instant you hit play? Pathology are not only a great reminder that all the tech/brutal death metal bands that think they’re innovative and fancy can be flattened like sad little pancakes by a band that obviously is doing exactly what they want. Southern California’s Pathology have been cranking it up to eleven since they’re get go in 2006. Awaken to the Suffering is another notch on their brutal belts. Comparatively to their last opus Legacy of the Ancients. The new record at times slows the tempo a bit focusing on cranium crushing riff after another, it runs into a bit of the slam death metal territory, but not enough to say the bands just dishing out lame breakdowns. There’s a direction with every track – and it’s pacing isn’t all slow – this is exactly what brutal death metal fans want, music with a bottom end that goes straight to the center of the earth, guttural vocals resembling far from anything human and drumming that’s could easily crack concrete. The guys added a second guitarist this time around which offers a bit of change-up by way of some guitar leads and soloing – all done with a brutal death metal old school flavor. –Bryer Wharton