(January 25, 2016; FUBAR, Saint Louis MO)
My first visit to Fubar started well enough, but ended… uh… unexpectedly early. After confirming with the evening’s headliners, English punk legends, Slaughter and the Dogs, I hung out in the venue for the next three hours, talking to family members of the opening act, a group of teenagers called Million Hits; a few minutes before doors, everybody was ushered outside to either pay the cover charge or have their name checked off of the will call/guest list. This is where things took a downward turn, as the night’s main event forgot to leave their guest list before heading to their hotel for some much-needed sleep; even though I had been inside the venue most of the afternoon, it was either pay up, wait for my benefactors to return to the venue or make other plans for the evening. This really wasn’t any one person’s fault, but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth… I mean, do YOU pay at the door to do your job? Yeah… neither do I. So, anyway, I went into this visit with a more-than-slight trepidation but, as it turned out, the only thing I had to worry about was a stifling heat as the crowd roiled and pushed and head-banged to some of the heaviest music ever.
The festivities were kicked off by Paradigm Symphony, sort of an amalgam of Death Metal and classic heavy metal, punctuated by a vocalist who not only looks like the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Anthony Kiedis, but sounds like him, too. These guys are definitely high-energy, with guitarist Niko Alsup and his partner-in-shred, Bailey Hamor, being the stand-outs. While – in my humble opinion – Andrew Coppage’s voice may be the weak link in the sound, he does have great stage presence. However, it’s hard to ignore Alsup’s Eddie Van Halen on steroids fingertapping style, as your eyes are inexorably drawn to his side of the stage, trying to figure out exactly how he is coaxing those sounds out of his instrument; at one point, he played one of the most amazingly fluid backward solos you’re ever likely to hear. Hamor left most of the soloing to Niko but, when he did take one, it was a precision strike and stunningly effective. The rhythm section – skin-basher Nick Sternfeld and bassist David McGillem – added to the Chili Peppers comparison with a loose and funky groove for the guitars and voice to work over. The group’s set was short and, though I have seen better, I also saw a definite upside and great potential in what they have to offer.
With titles like “A Voyage So Bleak,” “The Mortician’s Penchant” (possibly the best song about necrophilia since “Code Blue” by TSOL, though Alice Cooper’s “I Love the Dead” remains the ultimate in what is, admittedly, a small sample size) and “Methods of Sacrifice,” the five-piece Absala definitely upped the Death Metal ante. Led by the vocal prowess of Jordan Harris, who falls somewhere between King Diamond and Six Feet Under’s legendary frontman, Chris Barnes, on the sonic scale, the group play with a technical precision that is both meat-clever brutal and scalpel sharp. Lightning-fast twin guitar runs from Dylan Lorinc and Jason Asberry highlight the sound, though both are also capable of tastefully dark solos; Lorinc may just have the edge over Asberry, more for his totally unassuming presence than anything else… there’s just something about watching an almost emotionless dude playing such passionate music. Noah Pogue, on the other hand, is anything but emotionless (or motionless), as he is a whirling dervish of constant movement and facial contortions; Pogue’s six-string bass playing, along with the drumming of Tristin King, is the ballast that keeps Absala afloat. After an impressive set of originals, the band paid tribute to one of the fore-fathers of speed, the recently departed Ian Kilmister, ending their set with a great version of Motorhead’s “Iron Fist.” The evening was beginning to take shape nicely.
Tyranny Enthroned kept the energy high – if not the speed – with their brutal blackened Death Metal attack. The set list was short… only four songs, extended takes of grinding ferocity like “Born of Hate,” “The Incubus” and “The Harrowing Inferno.” Drummer Brandon Park and bassist Anthony George anchored the sound with a pummeling style that threatened the Cervical plexus of even the heartiest of those who bang their heads. Jesse McCoy’s vocals were a thing of beauty (in a gargled glass sort of way), as he delivered both guttural growls and explosive roars with ease; the fact that he was responsible for most of the heavy lifting on guitar, as well, made his performance stand out even more. That, in no way, should diminish the six-string-slinging efforts of Gabe Price, who more than held his own through the melee, slashing out wicked leads and the occasional monster solo. Though all three openers exhibited moments of brilliance, proving their mettle (and metal) before a Nile-crazed crowd, Tyranny Enthroned appears to be the band closest to breaking out of the burgeoning Saint Louis metal scene into the big time. I look forward to hearing more from all three acts.
Our headliners, twenty-three year veterans of the dark metal wars (and closet Egyptologists) blasted through a thirteen song set, highlighting tracks from each of their riff-laden major label releases, beginning with “Sacrifice Unto Sebek” and the caustic “Cast Down the Heretic,” both from 2005’s ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED. With so much material to choose from, the set was tightly constructed, with only three numbers from the group’s latest, WHAT SHOULD NOT BE UNEARTHED; “Call To Destruction” and “Evil To Cast Out Evil” from that record stand as some of the most vicious and uncompromising work of Nile’s incredible career. Even the oldest song played, “The Howling of the Jinn,” from the 1998 offering, AMONGST THE CATACOMBS OF NEPHREN-KA, fit in seamlessly with primary songwriter Karl Sanders’ ever more densely layered progressive approach. Sanders shared shredding and vocal duties with Dallas Toler-Wade, with suitably grinding rhythm work, barbaric riffing and stinging solos delivered with buzz-saw proficiency. The double-bass thunder of human drum machine George Kollias was matched by the destructive force that is new bass player, Brad Parris; though both were excellent throughout, the duo seemed to up their game during the second half of the show, particularly on such fare as “Sarcophagus,” “The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh” and set closer, “Black Seeds of Vengeance.” By this time, the heat had taken a toll on me and I had moved to the relative cool by the side of the stage; from my new vantage point, I could see just how intense and rabid the crowd were for this band. I’m not always so blown away by doomy Death Metallers, but in this instance, I can definitely say that the audience reaction to Nile was well-deserved.