Death is one of those groundbreaking bands I thought I'd never get to see live, on account of coming to the metal scene so late. So I was pretty stoked to hear that original members of Death were doing this charity benefit tour as Death to All. Funny though, before hearing about Death to All, I actually hadn't listened to Death that much, for whatever reason. I may or may not have streamed some full albums on youtube the week before the show, and then got really, really stoked about seeing them, cause I realized that they were absolutely amazing. When you think about the fact that at the time, nobody else was really doing what they were doing, it's even more amazing.
I was so busy listening to Death that I didn't look into the openers. The first band to come on was Anciients, from Vancouver, Canada, a band whose sound varies from meandering stoner guitars to much more energetic and headbangable riffs with a black metal feel. They started out a bit soft and slow - most of their songs began with stoner-ish intros - but then quickly got loud and heavy, once the jackhammer bass and drums kicked in. They used mostly clean
mellow vocals, some growled harsh vocals. Their style of mixing clean and harsh vocals in songs such as "Overthrone" reminds me of Enslaved, right down to the vocal tone. This song features some of the their fastest and most prominent guitar work; usually the guitars stayed pretty mellow and were drowned out by the pounding bass and drums when things got heavy. This meant that although they were nice and heavy, the heavy parts were a little repetitive. I still enjoyed their set much more than I might have predicted from the first five seconds, though, and even discovered that I liked listening to "Overthrone" again later.
I didn't know what to expect from Exhumed, either, except that based on the name, I figured they would be a typical death metal band. They were fast, a whirlwind of sound with machine gun fast drums, and surprisingly technical guitar solos. There was just a small pit for most of their songs, which was surprising considering the intensity of the music, but perhaps the "Absolutely no moshing or crowd surfing" signs of the venue were having some effect (ironically, the pillars where the signs were posted had been covered in padding, as though we were fully expected to break the rule in a violent way). Their screamed vocals and intricate guitar work gave their music a bit of a black metal flavor, especially in their newest songs (they played a couple of brand new songs that had only been played on their concurrent tour with Suffocation), while a really old song they played (the singer said it was old and crusty like his mom) had a more thrashy sound. S. saw them the night before with Suffocation and said they sounded much better here at the Fillmore, probably due to their superior sound system.
Exhumed had some interesting stage antics - an "evil doctor" in a blood spattered apron came out with a chainsaw (S. said it was a real chainsaw, because at Empire one could smell the gas), which he waved over the crowd and even jumped down into the crowd with; then later during a guitar solo, he used a defibrillator to try to the revive the guitarist, who I guess had been overcome by his own awesomeness, to no success, heaving finally to resort to beer; he also stage-dived and crowd-surfed, and finally brought out a severed head and squirted green goo onto some hapless fan in the pit.
When Death to All finally came out, I was feeling pretty tired, and so got a bit distracted during their set. They seemed to put on a solid performance, although not being terribly familiar with their songs or having ever seen them live with Chuck Shuldiner, I can't say how true to the original they sounded. The line-up was guitarist Paul Masvidal, bassist Steve DiGiorgio, and drummer Sean Reinert who were once members of Death, and vocalist Max Phelps, the touring vocalist for Cynic; at least that's the line-up according to Metal Injection, I can't say if they were the ones who actually appeared. Halfway through the set, they switched drummers, so I'm not sure who that was.
As would be expected, they had a thundering thrashy sound, with vocals that seemed a bit more growled than what I remembered hearing on my youtube spree. They were also masters, in the way of Sabbath and Celtic Frost, of using the guitars to make haunting sounds that created a sort of weird, creepy atmosphere in the intros of some songs.
In the middle of the set, there was a photo and video tribute to Chuck Shuldiner, which was cool to see. The crowd was very appreciative. The venue was not filled - the upstairs and side areas were closed, but there seemed to be several hundred people there at least.
As a tribute to a pioneering musician and a chance to see a band from another era, I thought this was a great show, definitely a worthwhile evening for any fan of death metal.
S. also wrote a review with setlists and posted photos.
Next show: Arsis, 4/30. Not sure what happened to my two concerts a month pledge :/ Gonna work on that in May, really.