Live Show Review: The Black Dahlia Murder — October 17th, 2017
Hosted at the Bronson Centre Theatre, in Ottawa, Ontario, I had the opportunity to catch a solid line-up of death metal on a Tuesday night. The venue had good sound, and ample room, though the bathroom setup left a lot to be desired — you left a large theatre and had to find single bathrooms scattered throughout a community centre building. This is a minor complaint, but made the prospect of drinking a lot of beer — as is my custom — a somewhat dubious proposition. The show kicked off at 6:20pm and had no delays throughout the night.
First up was Wormwitch, a three-piece outfit with a "black 'n roll" sound, somewhat akin to current era Satyricon and Abbath. I had never heard of the band until this show, but I was impressed. Their set was intense and the band's performance was really tight; hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, I can add another Canadian band to my list of projects to follow-up on. Wormwitch played for about 25 minutes and did a good job warming the early crowd up for the remainder of the evening. In typical black metal fashion, the band essentially ignored the fact there was an audience at all. (This is not a complaint, merely an observation.)
Next to take the stage was Oakland, California's Necrot, playing some straight-up death metal. Another three-piece, this band still sounded huge in a live setting. Their set was another quick affair, as they ripped through approximately 5-6 songs. At this point, the crowd was starting to grow at a slow but steady pace. Necrot had a good stage presence, and kept the audience engaged — even inciting some brief moshing. It's been a while since I had indulged in no-frills death metal, and these guys reminded me why I love the genre in the first place.
Continuing the California death metal theme, Decrepit Birth took the stage next. When I saw the bassist brandishing a 6-string, fanned fret guitar, I knew I was going to be in for something special. The band's set kicked off after finishing their soundcheck and realising the frontman was nowhere to be found. The crowd eventually started a chant of "Bill! Bill! Bill!," and vocalist Bill Simmons eventually took the stage.
Decrepit Birth then proceeded to destroy the room with some incredibly intense, technical death metal. The bass sound, as expected, was massive, and every moment of each song was perfectly executed and ridiculously heavy. Bill took some time to thank the crowd for coming out on a Tuesday night, extole the virtues of pyschadelics, and then resume making a raucous noise. Tech-death is a genre I can take or leave, but Decrepit Birth put on a strong live showing and gave me cause to check out their recorded work. They have been active since 2003, but this is the first I can recall hearing them — and I somewhat regret the long wait.
Our fourth band of the evening, and the impetus for my even buying a ticket to this show, was Suffocation. I came to this show for the express purpose of finally seeing these death metal legends live, and they did not disappoint by any stretch of the imagination. As a fan of the group since their reformation — and the release of Souls To Deny — in 2004, I have heard stories about how intense their live shows are for over a decade. Suffice it to say, I was not going to miss my chance to witness them in the flesh. As an added bonus, this show was one of the few on this tour to feature an appearance by Frank Mullen, who has relegated live vocal duties to local frontmen and, more recently, Kevin Muller.
It is impossible to fully articulate how much heavier and more intense Suffocation is in the live setting. Their albums are by no means tame or sterile, but the wall of sonic violence they unleashed was on a whole other level. Frank and Kevin took turns handling vocal duties, with the former doing older material like the title-track to Pierced From Within and "infecting The Crypts" from 1991's Effigy Of The Forgotten. When Kevin was on the mic, the band stuck to newer material, from the group's current album, ...Of The Dark Light. None of the material felt dated or out of place, the whole set crushed and felt like it was over far too quickly.
After Suffocation, the show could have ended and I would have felt I got my money's worth. As a result, I felt utterly spoiled after The Black Dahlia Murder's set. My opinion of the band has never been overly high; I never had anything against The Black Dahlia Murder, and I even enjoyed Miasma when it came out, but I never found myself all that interested in keeping up with them.
In retrospect, this feels like an unwise decision on my part, as they quickly showed me why they were headlining this tour. The band's energy was incredible, and their live show was just under an hour-and-a-half of nonstop fury as they ripped through songs from each part of their discography. The new material, from the recently released Nightbringers LP, sounded excellent, and I will be buying that record in the very near future as a result.
In spite of not knowing much about 3/5 of the bill, this show seemed like a good value and that assumption proved correct. Everyone on the tour has a new record out and, in an example of marketing done properly, I now feel compelled to check them all out based on the strength of the live performances I saw. Suffocation lived up to my expectations of a veteran death metal band, The Black Dahlia Murder blew away any preconceived notions I had about them. I really could not have asked for more from a show.
Published: October 21st, 2017