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Australian death metal fans generally aren’t quite as lucky when it comes to high-profile gigs like their brethren who enjoy less-heavy strains of metal. You could probably blame the state of the music industry for the lack of international death artists all the way over here to our little patch of dirt in the middle of nowhere.
Therefore it’s a testament to the talent, determination and endless road miles put in by death metal legends Cannibal Corpse that Aussie fans have had the luxury of seeing the band live on our shores no less than three times in the last 10 years. However, despite the surprising regularity with which we have been able to enjoy Cannibal Corpse’s punishing live show, tonight’s gig at Sydney’s iconic Metro Theatre is no less special for it. The fact that the band is being supported by three Australian death metal acts tonight just adds to the impact.
First up is Western Australia’s Entrails Eradicated whose brand of super fast, super technical death leaves a half-full venue worth of punters with heads spinning. As if having two guitarists wildly sweep picking their way through a set wasn’t enough, their bare-footed, 6-string-wielding sweep picking bass player is enough to make this reviewer want to put the bass away and go become an accountant.
Having just signed a multi-album contract with US label Brutal bands and with a debut long-player due for release in 2013, there was a bit of a buzz surrounding Disentomb‘s set tonight. The Queensland quartet put on a blistering show jammed with complex riffs and ground-shaking, detuned breakdowns that get the quickly growing crowd moving. While singer Jord looks more like a pissed off rugby player than your average metal front man, he’s easily the visual focal point of the group, stalking and stomping the stage for the duration of their short set. It all than more makes up for the grueling 10-minute drum sound check the audience found themselves subjected to beforehand.
With a history dating back to the late 1990s, Tasmania’s Psycroptic are no strangers to mainland stages. You soon realise the extent of the large and rabid fanbase that exists here in Sydney for the band when the venue erupts into hysteria as the band’s intro tape starts rolling. Touring in support of their latest – and critically lauded – album, ‘The Inherited Repression’, Psycroptic waste no time in turning the packed Metro into a war zone of flailing limbs and demented air-guitar histrionics. Guitarist Joe Haley’s one-off custom Ormsby fan-fretted axe is a sexy bit of kit too, and he utilises the entire fretboard to translate the brutal down-tuned riffs that make up their sonic signature.
While Psycroptic clearly take the night’s performances to a whole new level (no doubt aided by a better mix, better lighting and a more varied vocal performance from Jason Peppiatt), the crowd are ultimately here to see Cannibal Corpse and after a short changeover, the audience gets their wish.
Interestingly, we reckon the lighting in the Metro actually dims at the start of CC’s set and the typically dismal Metro lighting silhouettes the dark and menacing figures on stage in shades of red for the duration of the show. While it sets an appropriately sinister mood for the audience and the band, it sucks pretty hard for the assembled throng of photographers scampering around in the pit trying to grab some snaps.
Despite this purely professional and artistic gripe, Cannibal Corpse proves yet again just how punishingly tight and clear this kind of music can be. In doing so, they also display to the rabid crowd why they’re still the greatest exponents of the style in the world. Just how they can inject groove that still translates in the live forum into such aurally assaulting riffage remains an eternal mystery, and totally impressive. Man-mountain front man George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher is like no other: whereas most death vocalists seem to have to hunch down or lean right back to squeeze out earth-shaking guttural abuse, Fisher seems to be able to accomplish the feat at any angle. Between the seemingly endless wind milling and head banging, we’re not surprised his neck is wider than his head and his menacing appearance almost has you convinced the band’s horror themes are totally legit.
Interestingly, there are more women in the crowd tonight than this reviewer has ever seen at an extreme metal gig and certainly more than last time we caught the band at the Gaelic Club a handful of years ago. It’s a great trend, even though we did see one girl more interested in texting on her phone than what the band was doing. Bodies fall over the barrier like a waterfall of cadavers for the duration of their extensive set that takes in tracks from the band’s entire catalogue. From classics like ‘Born in a Casket’ and ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ to more recent songs such as ‘Evisceration Plague’ and ‘Encased in Concrete’, the ‘Corpse have the crowd head banging right to the back of the venue and down the hall toward the bar.
It’s a life-affirming set (yes, we get the irony of calling a set of death metal life affirming) that leaves no body unscathed and no set of eardrums permanently damaged. Can’t wait to see them again in another few years.
Bands: Cannibal Corpse – www.facebook.com/cannibalcorpse
Psycroptic – www.facebook.com/psycroptic
Disentomb – www.facebook.com/disentomb
Entrails Eradicated – www.facebook.com/entrailseradicated
Venue: Metro Theatre, Sydney
Date: 6 October 2012
* More articles by Ben Hosking…