January is hands down the grimmest month of the promoter’s year. It’s cold and everyone’s skint, hungover and depressed about the bleak reality of returning to work and beginning another mundane year of Yes sir, No sir, Three bags full sir. Which means if you’re going to put on a night, you better be damn sure you book good enough bands to draw out the crowds. We did it last year with the debut Thrash Hits Presents… gig at the Old Blue Last (which sold out) so believe us when we say we know it ain’t easy. Tonight’s billing is strong enough to fill The Underworld for two consecutive nights, something quite rare for this time of year.
Six things we found out when we went to see The Black Dahlia Murder at The Underworld:
1) It’s good to see people down early to catch Fleshgod Apocalypse, and considering they released one of the finest extreme metal albums of 2011 in Agony, they bloody deserve it. Clad in gothic shirts and corpse paint, they not only look like the heaviest band of the night, they sound it. Unfortunately their live show doesn’t seem to capture the greatness they show on record. The clean vocals sound horribly out of tune and a lot of the integral keyboard parts get lost in the mix. We were hoping for better.
2) Fleshgod Apocalypse are a good band that have a lot of potential, but dressing up smart and playing extreme music just reminds us of how awesome Akercocke were when they released Choronzon back in 2003. Don’t remind us of bands that were better than you, even if they are now a mere shadow of their former selves. Just sayin’.
3) In contrast, Skeletonwitch sound colossal, butchering this crowd with their tight, neanderthalistic blend of thrash and melodic death metal. It’s way less polished than all the other bands on this bill: much more crude and barbaric in an almost European sense.
4) Skeletonwitch frontman Chance Garnette is one of the most entertaining frontmen in metal today. His banter in between songs is inspiring: urging this crowd to drink quicker, headbang faster and party harder. He is part Viking, part Redneck – almost as if he’s marching to war via a keg party.
5) As brilliant as Skeletonwitch were, the crowd response proves it is very much The Black Dahlia Murder‘s night. From that opening riff to the closing crescendo this pit swarms with crowdsurfers upon a sea of fists and hair, and the band welcome wave after wave of stagedivers. There is a massive sense of fun for such brutal music – perhaps a quality that loses them the more serious / tr00 fans of extreme metal (eg. that hilarious video for ‘Necropolis’). But this crowd don’t care one bit, lapping up every note being blasted out of that PA.
6) As far lead guitar players go, Ryan Knight is one hell of a virtuoso that serves as the icing on the cake of this juggernaut. His solos are blistering yet well thought out and musical – avoiding the cliched pittraps shredders often fall into. Coupled with the trouser-flapping blastbeats coming from Shannon Lucas behind the kit, TBDM take no prisoners tonight and deliver something very spectacular indeed.