Deicide / Immolation / Skinless /
Despised Icon / With Passion
Monday, June 13, 2005
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada
**Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
Oh, what a year for concerts it has been?AND IT?S ONLY JUNE!! Vancouver?s place on heavy metal?s finest itineraries has been growing and growing over the last two years and 2005 has seen a real spike in activity with many bands having visited (or will be visiting) Vancouver for the very first time: Black Label Society, Into Eternity, Hate Eternal, Krisuin, High On Fire, Hammerfall, Edguy, Stratovarius, Therion, Suffocation, Vader, Decapitated?WOW! We can also add Deicide to that list as the fearsome foursome made their first ever appearance here on June 13th with Immolation, Skinless, Despised Icon and With Passion in tow for a bill that promised to be heavier than a fat man on the planet Jupiter.
The near-empty house for With Passion painted a grim outlook for the evening as barely forty people (there is 900+ capacity at The Commodore Ballroom) arrived for the Sacramento, California band?s 8:00PM start. Considering this was a Monday night, With Passion just released their (brilliant) debut album and, frankly, the busy summer concert season has forced many metalheads to be discriminating in who they drop their hard-earned shekels on, I suppose the turn-out was to be expected. Still, With Passion came out like gangbusters and gave their all to the few faces who could push themselves away from the bar long enough to see what I promise will be one of metal?s big up-and-coming acts. IN THE MIDST OF THE BLOODIED SOIL has been burning up my speakers since I first received the promo from Earache Records and while its foundation is certainly metalcore?a genre that is quickly becoming far too ubiquitous?With Passion mix things up with extremely technical riffing, ambient keyboard passages and enough energy to power a small country. The lyrics are far from typical either as there are no mournful emo wails or calls to ?break it down.? Granted, the band members (with the exception of keyboardist Brandon Guadagnolo) look like they fell out of the latest issue of Revolver Magazine sporting golf shirts, Vans, and short-cropped messy hair, but their appearance is deceiving. Andy Burt and Shaun Gier lay down some serious riffage and clearly know their way around a six-string, delivering squeals and finger-tapping techniques that are dizzying. Guadagnolo, the lone ?long hair,? stood expressionless behind his keyboards throughout the band?s 25-minute set in contrast to vocalist Sam McLeod who moved around the stage barking his lyrics with the vigor of a British soccer hooligan. A broken string threatened to suck the energy out of With Passion?s set (peppered with ?Train Wreck Orchestra,? ?The Prophecies of Hellfire? and ?The Last Scripture? from the new CD) but McLeod announced the band?s addition to the Suffocation/Cryptopsy tour (hitting Vancouver October 18th) keeping restlessness to a minimum. With Passion definitely has some kinks to work out of their live set but these guys are still very young and with the strength of IN THE MIDST OF THE BLOODIED SOIL fueling the fire, this band is definitely one to watch.
Montreal?s six-piece ?deathcore? warriors, Despised Icon, were up next and having seen them play a co-headlining show at The Brickyard back on April 11th (read review here), I was eager to see how they would deliver on a larger stage with a bigger crowd hungry for death metal. I spoke with vocalist/founder Alex Erian at their merch table prior to their set and was treated to a great road story starring none other than Deicide?s Glen Benton. Last time Despised Icon was here, they played The Brickyard, a grubby club in an even grubbier part of town. I assured Erian that when they came back for the Deicide tour that The Commodore was in a much nicer neighborhood, which it is, but anyone familiar with The Brickyard knows there is nowhere to go but up and area around The Commodore is still a bit rough around the edges. Anyway, Erian revealed to me that just an hour earlier, one of our local crackheads decided to break into the band?s van behind the club but was thwarted by none other than Mr. Decide himself?Glen Benton! Turns out, the crackhead took one look at Benton and fled in fear! Great stuff!!
As I learned last time, once Despised Icon takes the stage, Erian is like The Incredible Hulk, turning from a quiet, polite, unassuming chap to a whirling dervish of arms and legs stalking the stage and spewing anger (NOTE: Erian never turned green nor uttered the phrase, ?You wouldn?t like me when I?m angry!?) making him damn near impossible to photograph! Still, intensity like that has to be admired and Erian and the rest of Despised Icon delivered a killer 25-minute set drawn heavily from their brand spankin? new Century Media debut, THE HEALING PROCESS. The band has perfected their blend of grindcore, technical death metal and hardcore on this release with guitarists Yannick St-Amand and Eric Jarrin dropping riffs more complex than Chinese math. With comparisons to such giants as Cryptopsy?s Flo Mournier and Krisiun?s Max Kolesne, powerhouse drummer Alex Pelletier is unbelievable behind the kit offering more than the standard blastbeat/double bass combinations of his peers. The band?s intricate songs translate well live and show that the technical soloing found on tracks like ?Silver Plated Advocate? can be reproduced with as little effort live as in the studio. ?Bulletproof Scales,? ?Immaculate? and personal favorite ?Retina? absolutely smoke live as the band tears through their set crushing everything its path. The crowd about doubled for Despised Icon?s set and a good moshpit formed but at 100-150 people, it was still anemic by all accounts. Like With Passion, Despised Icon is a new band not to be missed and also like With Passion, they will be back as part of the Suffocation/Cryptopsy tour.
Albany, New York?s Skinless is a band whose recorded output has never really dazzled me. I would not call them ?bad? or ?boring? but they just don?t float my boat. FROM SACRIFICE TO SURVIVAL is listenable but hardly anything to rave about (**cue critics here) and their early influence of gore/grind, as on 1998?s PROGRESSION TOWARDS EVIL, is cookie-cutter at best, paling in comparison to other releases of its type. Now maybe it?s the addition of new vocalist Jason Keyser, but this band seriously ripped it up live! Keyser apparently forgot to take his Ritalin that morning because he was bouncing off the walls. He wore a gas mask at first before doffing it and parlaying his endless energy onto the still-growing, and now-hungry crowd. Guitarist Noah Carpenter is a sea of hair backed by the powerful rhythm section of bassist Joe Keyser and drummer Bob Beaulac, whose dominance in the band?s music is eminent. Skinless? live rendition of ?The Optimist? is brutally heavy and these two make it so. As the surprise of the night, Skinless gets my vote for ?Most Improved Band In The Live Setting? and they also get bonus points for leaving the stage to the theme from THE DUKES OF HAZZARD!
It was hard to believe that this much metal could be safely consumed in one sitting but alas, two more bands were yet to come and it was only 10:00PM. Veteran Yonkers, New York natives, Immolation, took to the stage next and vocalist/bassist Ross Dolan apologized profusely for their nine year absence from Vancouver soil promising to narrow the gap between their next visit. Immolation unleashed a brutal death assault on the senses for forty minutes and the crowd ate it up. Dolan, possessing perhaps the longest hair in metal, kept the between-song banter to a minimum utilizing the band?s stage time to incorporate seven tracks from the band?s fourteen-year career onto the masses. Rather than dwell on the punishing new album, HARNESSING RUIN, Immolation drew tracks from as far back as 1991?s DAWN OF POSSESSION (?Despondent Souls?) and 2000?s CLOSE TO A WORLD BELOW (?Father You?re Not A Father?) treating fans to a mix of old and new. The crowd responded with great feedback and mucho headbang-age to the old-school lineage of Immolation, a cult band with a dedicated following, which is a rare treat to see come around these parts. Let?s hope Dolan sticks to his promise as Vancouver is surely ready to be set ablaze once again by Immolation very soon!
Crown The Liar
Father You?re Not A Father
My Own Enemy
Swarm of Terror
Challenge The Storm
Of Martyrs and Men
Uncharacteristically brisk set changeovers saved us from the endless loop of the new Mudvayne and System of A Down CDs and also saw Deicide coming on forty minutes earlier than scheduled, which was good news to me after seeing the original 1:15AM finish time. My excitement was also at a crescendo since, in Deicide?s fifteen years of recording together, they have never come to Vancouver. Depending on whom one believes, the now-departed Hoffman brothers were the cause of the strife within the band while others may point fingers at the notoriously prickly Benton. Cancelled shows, border hassles and abbreviated sets were the norm for years. After witnessing the revamped lineup of Deicide circa 2005, my allegiance tends to lean towards Benton since?well, he finally came to Vancouver, didn?t he?! At one point during the show, Benton announced that he and drummer Steve Asheim had wanted to come for years but ?previous members? kept them out of Canada altogether, possibly alluding to the steroid and firearm charges laid against them during a 2004 attempt to cross the border. Replacing Brian and Eric Hoffman were none other than former Cannibal Corpse axeman, Jack Owen, and journeyman Ralph Santolla, who in the past year has played with Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach and now Deicide (quite the eclectic mix!!). Having never seen the ?original? Deicide, I cannot comment on the stage presence of the Hoffmans but Owen?s total lack of personality or verve on stage is legendary and frankly, Santolla is no charmer himself. Watching these two play live is about as exciting as watching paint dry! Technically, they have the chops without question but man, are they a snoozer to watch! Owen?s cool guitar got him some attention at first but the focus was front and centre on Benton. Sadly, the mask and body armor was left off for this show but like Slayer?s Tom Araya, Benton need not do any more than stand silently, smirking at the audience and they go berserk. The venue was still only about half full at best but the crowd was extremely energetic and Benton seemed to feed off of it. His between song banter was as canned and generic as I have ever heard but the seventy minute, seventeen song set was enough to get fans salivating like Pavlov?s dog. Brutal versions of ?Scars of The Crucifix,? ?Serpents of The Light,? ?Blame It On God,? ?Kill The Christian,? ?Dead By Dawn? and the mesmerizing ?Once Upon The Cross? with chants of ?Kill him! Kill him!? repeated over and over reserved everyone in attendance their own seat in the seventh circle of Hell. Benton humorously mentioned that after playing ?Christ Denied? in Montreal, the venue actually burst into flames!
After all this time, seeing Deicide was a bit of a letdown as they are not the most exciting live band and the chemistry between members is lacking almost totally as Benton never acknowledges them and no one even seems to look at each other. The bottom line is such: this is half of the original band and one cannot help but feel that Owen and Santolla are merely hired hands being paid to go through the motions as dictated by Benton. Still, there is no denying that this fearsome foursome can deliver a spot on setlist that will please old and new fans alike.
*Minor complaints: smart move omitting anything from IN TORMENT IN HELL but ?Bible Basher? would have settled nicely into this set and not totally ignored the otherwise lackluster INSINERATEHYMN CD as would ?Repent To Die,? ?Revocate The Agitator? or ?Satan Spawn, The Caco-Daemon? from 1992?s underrepresented LEGION.
Scars of The Crucifix
They Are The Children of The Underworld
Bastard of Christ
When Heaven Burns
Serpents of The Light
This Is Hell We're In
Blame It On God
When Satan Rules His World
Kill The Christian
Once Upon The Cross
Dead But Dreaming
Lunatic of God's Creation
Behind The Light Thou Shall Rise
Dead By Dawn
***Thanks to Curran at Earache Records, Betsey at Relapse Records, George at Century Media Records and Jamie at House of Blues for the press passes and photo approval.
Deicide Official Website
Immolation Official Website
Skinless Official Website
Despised Icon Official Website
With Passion Official Website