Monday, September 24, 2012

Morbid Angel • Dark Funeral • Grave • VadimVon • Dismemberment - September 23, 2012 - Screamin' Willies, Columbus, Ohio

Screamin' Willies is a hell of a haul from home - damn near ninety miles. For Sunday night's line up, though, it was worth the trip. Ohio's brightest keepers of the metal flame, Dismemberment were opening a five-band bill topped by none other than Morbid Angel. No way in hell I was going to miss this one. Today, ears still ringing, sleep-deprived and punch drunk from a full-scale riff assault, I'm still reeling from a spectacular show.

First, the venue. Screamin' Willies sits far on the east side of Columbus (think east like "Pennsylvania") and, apparently, usually splits its time between hip-hop and country. The metal showcase occupied a country side with plenty of genre decor and a large floor that one must guess sees a lot of line dancing. Facades aside, it was a large room with lots of space to sit or stand, everywhere a good view of a decent-sized stage. The sound in the room was good though most acts seemed to suffer from some woes in the set-up department. Acts switched in and out quickly and everything seemed to move smoothly across over five hours of music.

Jacob Shively / photo by gogmagogical
Dismemberment opened and, as always, tore the place up. For a 6:45 start on a Sunday night, I was impressed at how many fans found their way to the floor and were immediately engaged in the action. The churning bass introducing "Last Rites" kicked off the proceedings and Dismemberment set the bar high for the evening. So high, in fact, it took a few more acts to get back to the level of excitement they generated. The set was saturated with Denied Salvation selections, featuring all of the EP's tracks save for "System to Rise." A killer new song, "Eye of the Keeper," was introduced and their six-song set was closed with a momentous "Cryptic Isolation."

Much like the hallowed Skeletonwitch, Dismemberment get stage presence and, most importantly, get what's right for their sound. There's no choreographed Tipton/Downing rocking nor immovable, emotionless monoliths such as Cannibal Corpse. Each member plays his role to perfection - be it J.D. Henderley's spiraling, increasingly manic spasti-sasquatch-tistic attack on the bass, Taylor Emerine's faceless, heartless abuse of the drums as if starring in a Bill Lustig picture, or the telluric currents of electricity flowing freely between the brothers Shively that would leave Nikola Tesla dumbfounded - each simply operate in what appears to be the comfort zone of someone fully engulfed in the moment of music. To witness this is a powerful, powerful thing and Dismemberment manage to pull this off every time I have seen them live.

DISMEMBERMENT / photo by gogmagogical

The polar opposite of Dismemberment, then, had to be VadimVon. In their defense, they're not a band I know nor a sound I gave any time to cultivate and perhaps it was just an off night. The two guitars never quite seemed to find a balance or groove that worked and the frontman played the disaffected role unconvincingly. The crowd never seemed to warm to them, either, with the set leaving the room largely motionless and underwhelmed, essentially killing the momentum Dismemberment had built.

Grave were up next. They're a band I know, not one I follow. They delivered a muscular, aggressive set that had the floor jam-packed - possibly with the biggest crowd of the evening - with a pit in full effect. VadimVon would be well-served to watch and learn as frontman Ola Lindgren was able to convey hostility while uniting the crowd to his cause without coming across as angry and alienated. Their sound was ragged in all the right places and the set lean enough to leave the listener wanting more. Indeed, I do, and some Grave will find its way onto my shelves in the near future.

Dark Funeral / photo by gogmagogical

Dark Funeral were a hoot. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Fully painted and outfitted, they of course recalled my recent experience with Watain, but they never seemed too dour. The band was constantly mobile, players shifting positions throughout each number, vocalist Nachtgarm was conversant and engaged and, yes, they did start a few too many songs with their backs to the crowd, but Dark Funeral seemed to be having fun, too. As with the best of current black metal, they struck a nice balance between melody and power. Having only dabbled in their discography online, I only recognized a few tracks, "666 Voices Inside," "Stigmata" and the relatively recent "My Funeral." All in all, they weren't nearly as theatrical as Watain (and, admittedly, they don't quite approach them musically), but for five corpsepainted Swedes playing a room decorated with a Budweiser Clydesdale, mechanical bull and lighted "Honky Tonk" sign, they pulled it off. It was also nice to see them interacting with fans after their set, actually speaking, smiling and posing for photos instead of sullenly retreating to a dark spot to sacrifice a possum and cultivate interesting odors.

Morbid Angel / photo by gogmagogical

Morbid Angel assuaged any doubts anyone had regarding their credibility (or even ability) after the polarizing Illud Divinum Insanus (I'll still stand by my assessment of the record as A-OK). The band cemented themselves onstage with an authority befitting these godfathers of American death metal and proceeded to tear through the catalogue, focusing heavily on Altars of Madness and Covenant. They were tight as hell, Destructhor and current drummer Tim Yeung steadfast in their roles as supporting players to David Vincent and, the man, Trey Azagthoth. Vincent was in fine, booming voice with a baritone to match his bass and a commanding presence while the otherworldly Azagthoth seemed to play on a plane all his own, simultaneously in synch with the band but stretching into sinewy and slippery solos that were nothing short of awe-inspiring. If the man was aware of the audience before him, he never let it show, remaining in what seemed trancelike concentration all the while photographed and filmed by fan after fan desperate to document his art in motion.

Trey Azagthoth /
photo by
With a set stretching well over an hour, Morbid Angel avoided any off-kilter material from Illud, playing it safe, so to speak, with the more traditional sounds of "Existo Vulgore" and "Nevermore" and liberally sprinkling the set with gold nuggets from across their history, including a sprawling "God of Emptiness," "Maze of Torment," "Where the Slime Live," and "Rapture," to name just a few. Morbid Angel remain, musically, one of my favorites in their genre and Sunday night's performance served to solidify that position. To follow progenitors of a sound as they simultaneously maintain a distinct musical identity while refusing to sit in a neatly-defined box is more than a little heartening. To see them practice their craft onstage with a mastery such as that on display Sunday night? Perfect.


  1. Fanastic pix, amazing quality video, great review. Wish I was there!