Despite our best efforts to contain them, our resident metal-heads escaped the chains and got out in public last week. Here's what they saw, heard, and thought during a recent Cannibal Corpse show at the Chicago House of Blues:
Last week we were sent uptown to review Cannibal Corpse and their menagerie of opening acts. First of all, I should point out that this is actually only 5/8ths of a review, as we were only able to catch 2 and 1/2 out of the show's 4 sets (thanks to the box office guy's apparent inability to read and/or decipher simple letters of the English alphabet). Too bad, I was looking forward to seeing Incantation, having listened to them for years and never caught them live. I was especially interested in checking out how their guitarist performed after being stabbed in the arm last year.
So, hardcore metallers Pissing Razors were well under way when I got in, and I realized I was actually glad that I'd already missed as much of them as I had. The sound was good and they were very heavy and hard-hitting, but over all were way too slow and uneventful for my taste. I'm not sure I saw the drummer ever actually depart from the standard hardcore crash-snare-crash-snare beat or the guitarist play one lousy rhythm that didn't seem like it'd already been played a million times before. The vocalist was good, and the fact that his voice was more of a death-tinged growl than the standard hardcore "guy yelling" was definitely a plus.
Unfortunately however, he had the same shortcoming as the rest of the band: too slow, too simple, too bland. The realization that Pissing Razors sounded exactly like every metal/hardcore band ever caused me to wonder how much metal/hardcore these guys have actually listened to in their lives. They seemed to have absolutely no identity of their own, but instead were nothing but the vaguest representation of all of heavy music's averages and mediocre half-assedness that I've heard to date. Next up was Dark Funeral. We were really looking forward to seeing them since there are very few black metal bands around America and not many that tour from Europe. Once Dark Funeral hit the stage, you knew they meant business. All of the band was decked out in corpse paint and a collection of spikes.
Unfortunately, I couldn't hear them at all. Anyone who knows the first thing about modern (mid-late '90s) style black metal knows that its most defining quality is melody. Much of black metal (and especially Dark Funeral) music is based on dual guitar parts of the sort where the first guitar plays fast-picked, Minor power chords and the second guitar compliments that with a single-note-at-a-time, trem-picked melody of a corresponding Minor scale. There is usually not much rhythmic variation, these parts are either trem-picked or rung out, and because of this it's extremely necessary that the guitar parts be heard loudly and clearly. So what does the sound guy decide to do to Dark Funeral's guitarists? Bury them under bass and vocals, of course
Similarly, anyone who knows the second thing about black metal knows that its second most defining quality is its sheer unrelenting speed. All of the drummers who have recorded on Dark Funeral's 5 CDs have put in exceptionally ferocious performances, filled with blazing blast beats and tight-as-all-hell double kick work (not too mention some fiercely explosive fills, especially those on '98's "Vobiscum Satanas"). Funeral's current drummer looked like he might have been pulling it off up there on stage, but naturally, the sound guy had taken him out completely.
Towards the end after "The Secrets of the Black Arts" incited a large pit, the lead singer did some fire breathing, which was really cool. I missed the severed pigs' heads though, fabled to have adorned the stages of Funeral shows past.
Cannibal Corpse are still one of the best bands out there, and definitely one of the best live performances a body'll see. The sound was amazing, as it always is for them. Strange how different the sound quality can be from one band to the next when they're using the PA system. That's a testament to the importance of a sound person who knows what they're doing.
Everything, possibly with the exception of the bass on certain parts, was clearly audible. The togetherness of this live band never ceases to amaze me. Their execution is flawless. To see five band members playing in unison to the point that it sounds like one person is incredible. But they don't play the songs note for note from the albums either. A little slower here, a little faster here, a lot of their songs seemed to rock harder than they have in years.
My only complaint was that they hadn't really changed up the song selection very much. While I give props to all of the Corpse classics, and recognize their need to play them, I was starting to feel the need for some new material. This being the fourth Corpse show that I've caught in as many Chicago-area tour stops, not too mention the two live videos and live CD that I've faithfully bought and watched/listened to, I was beginning to want to hear something fresh. Other than 3 or so songs from the new album, and 3 unexpected classics (including Pick-Axe Murders and Addicted to Vaginal Skin), every song they played was one that any worth-his-salt Corpse fan has heard (and/or seen) too many times. Though no Cannibal Corpse show could ever be complete without the crushing "Hammer Smashed Face".
But overall, it was a kick-ass show as always. Rock on, Cannibal Corpse, rock on.