We’re just starting March and I’ve already been to more than twenty concerts. Such is the life of the tired jaded music critic. Night after night in dive bars drinking piss beer and wondering if it’s all really worth it. It’s oftentimes a thankless task, you work eighty, ninety hours a week, but hey, at least you get in shows free…Which is a novelty for the first few years and then starts to get old. So why do I do this when it only seems miserable? Well, simply put, because of nights like last Sunday, an evening that I will always remember.
After interviewing the charming Tommy Dahlstrom of Aeon, Tribulation were just about ready to take the stage. Their unique combination of hippy inspired jam oriented rock with black metal blew me away. The touches of the occult and the rock star posing these guys pulled off was a joy to watch and seemed to nicely match the occult tones roaring out of their guitars. A trusted friend told me they were the band to see on this bill and boy was he right. These guys are going places and fast, they seem innovative and exciting, the kind of black metal who remind me why I loved the genre so much in the first place. My only complaint, petty as it may seem, is that the singer has dreadlocks and a distinctly different look than the rest of the band. While the guitarists and drummer all rock a sort of blackened hippy chic, the singers stoned demonic features provide a strange alternate face to the band. Regardless, Tribulation were far too much fun to watch and I desperately want to see them again.
Aeon were up next, with a half hour set. To be completely honest, I don’t think I could take much more than half an hour of their death metal assault. Very much in the “Death metal by numbers” camp, they were still fun to watch for a few minutes. They got the crowd fired up, but I think that some of the more jaded members of the audience had a hard time enjoying it. Yet, for the Cannibal Corpse/Behemoth crowd which consists largely of fans who only go to a few shows a year, it was probably a rare treat. (Side note: Every stereotype you might have heard about Cannibal Corpse fans is true, and it is f*cking hilarious) As is though, Aeon are definitely a solid entry level band, it would just be cool to see them grow their sound a bit.
When Behemoth came on I knew it was time for something special. They have an elaborate stage show, and I was excited to see a bit more of them than the two songs I had drunkenly watched at Hellfest back in June. Now, I’ve never been a Behemoth fan, but they utterly killed it. Every part of the show, from Nergal waving incense to the ferocious headbanging and distinctive stage garb captured my imagination. On top of that, these guys are f*cking tight. When they came on for an encore of O Father O Satan O Sun it was hard to believe we were in America. People screaming along to pagan anthems is not something you stumble across every day in these parts, but the fans seemed to eat it up. Behemoth understand what people want from a live show and they will inspire you to make you own music greater. Bombastic to a fault this is a band who write their own rules, and now that Nergal is back on his feet, the whole world seems to be their oyster.
Despite all this I still was feeling a little grumpy and tired, it was snowing, I had midterms coming up, and I just didn’t know where my life was really going, simply put, I felt overworked. Then Cannibal Corpse came up and washed away any semblance of sadness in my life. Here is a band who are purifying in their heaviness, a band who crush your skull in and encourage the fans to f*cking kill each other. Their set took me right back to being 12 years old and spinning them for the first time. As I flew around the pit crashing in to kids as well as men well into their forties I got the sense that Cannibal Corpse have become one of those bands that unify fans across the globe regardless of background. The original death dealers have managed to smash in skulls and leave everyone going apeshit more than three decades into their career. Faces were broken, skulls cracked, and gallons of blood left on the floor, and it was glorious. Cannibal Corpse provide death metal redemption, angry, shitty, and proud of it.
So in the end, being a music journalist really isn’t that shitty. Sure it can suck at times, but it really is worth all of the trials and tribulations that we go through. There is a sense of freedom and profound liberation, that some of metals biggest bands can still provide that makes it all worth it, even after hundreds of concerts and thousands of late nights. Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth have achieved the status of elder gods, men who have transcended the genre and been able to make a statement that speaks to our very humanity. Aeon still may have a ways to go, but Tribulation certainly seem ready to challenge listeners. One of the most exciting tours of 2015, I can only hope that I am honored with seeing these bands again in the near future!