Cattle Decapitation + Revocation + Full of Hell + Artificial Brain @ The Opera House, Toronto on 31st October 2017
It’s the creepiest time of the year and there really is no better way to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve than to attend a gristly death metal tour. The range of bands haunting the Opera House tonight for ‘The North American Extinction Tour Part II: Inhuman Beings‘ is extremely commendable, one of the more sumptuous extreme metal packages to scythe its way through the continent this year.
Emitting out-of-this-world technical death metal is New York’s Artificial Brain, arriving on stage to an intro tape from the bemusing TV show Twin Peaks. Voivod-esque angular guitar riffs, brutally progressive drum work and stellar atmospheres conjure sci-fi horror vortexes. This breed of extreme metal is far from stale; it’s tastefully proficient, hypnotically memorable and down right beastly.
Contradicting the musical aesthetics is the band themselves. In line with the Twin Peaks intro, it appears the band members are dressed up as a less obvious assortment of characters from the aforementioned show for the spookiest day of the year (top marks goes to the stand-in vocalist dressed as Judy, complete with dress and wig). Despite the hilarious performance, the New Yorkers are besieged with poor sound that chokes the guitar melodies. This problem improves as the set progresses but remains far from flawless.
This year oversaw sophomore release ‘Infrared Horizon‘ and the likes of ‘Static Shattering’, ‘Synthesized Instinct’ and ‘Ash Eclipse’ pummelling Toronto should be enough to encourage all death metal fans in the venue to check out these astronauts of death if they haven’t already.
Full of Hell
This year saw American grind crazies Full of Hell release a new album too, ‘Trumpeting Ecstasy‘, and they instantly tear up the venue like a brand new meat grinder with first shot fired – ‘Deluminate’. Strikingly, all members on stage are wearing diapers with their legs completely bare; it’s infinitely entertaining to see such violent songs emanating from men ostensibly dressed as babies.
Their grind infiltrates power violence territory and is peppered with electronics, occasionally encasing the music with a robotic tinge. Drummer Dave Bland is a particular highlight, issuing bruising blastbeats in addition to off-beat, unpredictable tech rhythms.
Tempos vary throughout with ‘Digital Prison’ utilizing face-ripping speeds that don’t let up, ‘Gnawed Flesh’ slowing the evening to a heavyweight crawl and ‘Crawling Back to God’ launching itself as a mid-paced dissonant death metal track. Vocalist Dylan Walker unloads throaty growls and abrasive grind yelps, taking care of the electronics and acting like a possessed man (or baby) unchained.
Those with keener ears are treated to the one second long Napalm Death classic ‘You Suffer’. It goes without saying Toronto’s locals go batshit insane in the pit. Honestly, those who worship at the altar of sonic intensity will forever pat themselves on the back for attending a Full of Hell show. Simply masterful.
Third up is Metal Blade Records death metal troupe Revocation, coming on stage to the Spider Man theme song before blasting out ‘Teratogenesis’. Technical and progressive elements are the order of the day, bolstered by straight-up death metal with thrash markings. Artificial Brain’s Dan Garguilo is pulling double duty tonight as he wields his guitar for this Boston-based act.
There is plenty of variation between the setlist selections. The fretboard acrobatics have a tendency to be simultaneously soothing, atmospheric and otherworldy, prog death metal of epic proportions that feature in a multitude of youthful tech band’s discographies these days. However, it feels like the pure death metal sections are pedestrian and nothing to write home about.
Songs like ‘Existence Is Futile’, ‘Scorched Earth Policy’ and ‘Copernican Heresy’ relegate the prog elements and leave a lot to be desired given the capabilities of Revocation. But songs like the closer ‘Dismantle the Dictator’ are significantly more interesting with angular riffs and jazz inspirations. Either way, the crowd response is vociferous and there is no sign of their energy waning as the night ploughs on.
Finally, California’s death grind misanthropes Cattle Decapitation take the stage. All of the band members are dressed in adorable animal onesies – a bull (most fittingly), a dog and a chicken (drummer David McGraw was unfortunately not visible to this reviewer). Deranged vocalist Travis Ryan has donned a ceremonial style cloak and the oversized skull of a cow.
They begin their Malthusian onslaught with ‘The Carbon Stampede’, unhindered by their outfits. McGraw’s drums aim for the apex of brutality, while Ryan’s growls and insane trademark cleaner shouts narrate the depths of humankind’s careless depravity. The guitar attacks are akin to being dropped into a vat of burning oil, replete with headbanging rhythms and frenetic darkness. Josh Elmore’s bass efforts dip into technical wizardry when not thumping on the door of the relentless.
The floor of the Opera House morphs into a hurricane of humans swarming around the venue. It’s hard to remain stationary to the unabashedly gory likes of ‘The Profits of Loss’, ‘Your Disposal’, ‘Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)’, ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ and ‘Forced Gender Reassignment’.
The headliner’s career progression has been exceptional, dialing back their original coarse grind sounds in preference for prog but never compromising on their hateful heaviness. The set draws solely from their two most recent full-lengths of horror, ‘The Anthropocene Extinction‘ and ‘Monolith of Inhumanity‘, evidence of their youngest compositions’ strength.
With so many bones in their music, there’s always something to chew on that grips the viewer’s attention and resolutely refuses to drop it. Not only is Ryan an impressive extreme metal vocalist with a commendable range but his emphatic stage presence regards the sedentary as the enemy and shames most other death metal frontmen.
‘Pacific Grim’ exerts full force on an already devastated audience before the band leaves the stage. No one moves in hope for a much appreciated encore and surely enough, these Americans deliver, rounding of with the wild-eyed ‘Kingdom of Tyrants’ for a final homicidal display.
Holy shit, what a night!
Review by Elena Francis | Photos by Danielle Griscti