The Death Metal Arena Tour Ends in LA: There was a sense of wonder radiating from all of the denim and leather-clad metalheads at the Forum on Saturday night, so warm and actually quite sweet that it was tangible. How in the hell, you could almost hear them thinking, are these bands playing this venue? Usually, when metal hits an arena or stadium, it’s the giants of the genre. The Metallicas and the Ozzy Osbournes. Occasionally the likes of Slayer (who played their last show at this same venue).
The four bands that performed at the Forum on Saturday are very different beasts (almost literally) to those aforementioned giants. Bands with names like Cattle Decapitation, Obituary and Carcass usually only see crowds of this size when they’re playing Europeans festivals. In the States, they generally plays midsize theaters at best. The last time we saw Cattle Decapitation, they were opening for Mr. Bungle at the Fonda. The fact that we just saw the San Diego death-grinders go down a storm at the Forum is ever so slightly surreal.
Not that they don’t deserve it. On the contrary, the band has busted their ass and we’re delighted to see them doing so well. It’s just that hearing songs like “We Eat Our Young” and “Bring Back the Plague” in this setting took some getting used to.
By the time Florida death metal icons Obituary took to the stage, our bewilderment had settled down and we could just enjoy it all. And my god, they were immense. Through a fog of dry ice, Obituary emerged to the taped sounds of Pat Travers’ “Snortin’ Whisky,” and pummeled straight into “Redneck Stomp” from 2005’s Frozen in Time album. Their cover of Celtic Frost’s “Circle of Tyrants from 1990’s Cause of Death record was very welcome, and the closing “The Wrong Time” was relentless. The set was incredible, but way too short.”
Liverpool’s Carcass took the challenge laid down by Obituary and faced it head on. Their set was slightly longer at nine songs, but still way too short.
Carcass, who are one of the many bands with a Napalm Death connection (guitarist Bill Steer was an early member), are considered a pioneer of grindcore, though they also helped develop the melodic death metal sub-genre. But that’s all academic, and the impact of Carcass is purely visceral.
“Buried Dreams” and “Kelly’s Meat Emporium” had blasted by before we’d blinked, and by the time “Corporal Jigsore Quandary” gave way to the untouchable “Heartwork” from the epic album of the same name, we were spent. Carcass were the best band of the night, but then they’d be the best band on just about any metal bill they happened to be on.
That just left headliners, Swedish melodic metal band Amon Amarth, to close things out. The group has been around since ’92 and this year’s The Great Heathen Army is their 12th studio album. It’s a great record, but no more commercial or mainstream accessible than any of their others. So quite what prompted the leap to “arena headliner” status is quite honestly beyond us. But we like it.
We especially like it because they could go full Iron Maiden with the stage design. The band loves its Viking imagery and lyrics, so the giant statues, horns and stuff make total sense– it was all perfect.
“Guardians of Asgaard” was the perfect way to kick off this show, and that quickly flowed into “Raven’s Flight.” The music is undeniably metal — the riffs are crunchy and the vocals super growly. But underneath it all, by design, the viking influence make it kinda folksy in a sea shanty sort of way. That’s the brilliance of it all. Strip it down to the bare minimum, and these songs could be heard in ancient coastal taverns.
The crowd was well into it, especially when instructed to sit down and row like vikings. That’s something you won’t see when Harry Styles is here.
“Twilight of the Thunder God” ended the night in style, and we left to wonder who will be here next? Cannibal Corpse? Morbid Angel? We can only dream.
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