I attended the show with the beauteous and highly opinionated Mistress Hydra in tow. Having broken her into the delights of rabid thrash with a visit to last year's Slayer tour, this year I wanted to kick things up a notch and see if she could withstand a withering onslaught of pure raging death. Never one to back down from a challenge, Hydra gladly accepted my invitation and looked especially forward to seeing Goatwhore in action. Alas, she was to be disappointed on that score.
After enduring a quest for parking in downtown Chicago that would have caused Gandalf the Wizard to cry out in surrender, I arrived at Hydra's downtown abode. From there, we gorged on some excellent Vietnamese food and hopped on the infamous Red Line train to the House of Blues. It was my first time on the "L" and the experience proved to be surreal, to say the least, as one of the shabbily dressed patrons suddenly decided to tear down all of the promotional ads festooning our rail car. We were also amused at the ad that showed a black guy talking on a cell phone and saying "I'm glad I took my syphilis test and passed!" Only in the big city!
We got to the HOB after a brisk walk in the November air and found Kataklysm already in action. Goddamit, we missed almost the whole set by the French Canadian madmen. Curiously enough, we came in on a drum solo, which is a pretty rare sight at a death metal concert. They pounded out a killer "Shadows and Dust" as well as "Ambassador of Pain" from the new "Serenity in Fire" opus, both of which went over really well and which made me regret not getting there a half hour or so earlier.
After Kataklysm's set, we got some bad news from a fellow banger: Goatwhore was off the tour and not playing. This was pretty disappointing, especially for Hydra, who was all jacked up to see the evil furry prostitutes in action. "They're probably in prison," she guessed. Don't know about that, but it was yet more hard luck for a band that seems to endure an unholy amount of it.
That brought up hometown favorites Macabre, whom I have seen many times. In fact, I've seen them enough for their set to be really predictable to me. The usual favorites like "Albert Was the Worst Fish in the Sea", "The Hitchhiker" and "The NIghtstalker" were trotted out, along with the usual narration from Corporate Death. This time the guy in the Albert Fish mask got his ass spanked by some punk rock chick, for at least a little variety. I have to say this was the best sound I've ever heard in connection with a Macabre concert, a lot better than anything they ever got at Milwaukee Metalfest. I was glad to see the band include the excellent "Fritz Haarmann Die Metzger" in the set as well as putting "Zodiac" back in the list. Predictable or not, Macabre are sure unique and Hydra got a kick out of their ghoulish but catchy ditties.
Napalm Death was next. What a fucking massacre this was! I can honestly say this was the most energetic, the most brutal, the most raw and definitely the most REAL show I saw in 2004. It's hard to describe if you weren't there, but it's almost like a painful cleansing getting bombarded by Napalm's precision grindcore. You feel sore as hell but refreshed after the scouring. No stage effects, no long speeches to the crowd, minimal stage lights...just you and the band.
I think it is truer than ever to say Napalm is more of a punk band than a metal one. They just have that aura about them. Back in the day, the Pistols, Black Flag and Dead Kennedys hit the rock world like a 100 megaton bomb. In 2004, something stronger is needed and that something is Napalm Death. Barney Greenway, sporting his new shorter hairdo, was totally in command of the crowd with his barks, growls and squeals, while Mitch Harris and Shane Embury were the picture of furious concentration as they hammered out riff after grinding riff. And what more can you say about drummer Danny Herrera other than the guy cannot be human. I just have total respect for the physical ability of this man...a cyborg would have trouble keeping up with him.
Individual songs mean little during the frenzy of a Napalm set but some of the highlights were "Suffer the Children", "Scum", "Enemy of the Music Business" and the final barrage of "Siege of Power". During this last number, they were joined on stage by a cowboy-hatted Kevin Sharp, the former singer of Brutal Truth, who now resides in Chicago. They also thrilled the crowd by playing some cool covers featured on their latest album, "Leaders Not Followers Part 2". They ripped through Cryptic Slaughter, Agnostic Front and finally, "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" by the Kennedys.
It was just an awesome display of grindcore from the masters. Even Mistress Hydra, laidback groove queen of the rave dancefloor, was knocked senseless by Napalm and yelled her appreciation. "I think I'm gonna turn to the dark side, Doc," she told me. Now THAT is something you like to hear!!!
Cannibal Corpse was in a tough position following Napalm's great set, but they sure came through with a gore-soaked onslaught of their own. One thing's for sure, House of Blues doesn't scrimp when it comes to a sound system..the Cannibals came across loud and clear. That's cool, because they always run the risk of sounding like mud. But each guitar solo and each torturous bend of the strings was a crystalline burst of agony.
I just want to take this time to say that George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher is the GREATEST HEADBANGING MACHINE ON EARTH! My God!! What does this guy have in his neck and spine? He whipped his head in circles with so much force and speed that his face distorted from the G-Forces. It was an almost Matrix-like effect watching George's weirdly frozen features spin like a fan blade. The pain this guy must feel the next morning has to be indescribable and I shudder to think what shape his neck will be in in a few years. A freak of nature, to be sure...
Corpse played a very furious and precise set with little wasted time, going through such heart-warming ditties like "They Deserve to Die", "Rotten Bodies Bursting" and an awesome "Cryptic Stench". They often played at light speeds, but slowed down for some super catchy breakdowns that sounded really sick and got the maniacs in the pit frothing at the mouth. Hydra really dug Cannibal,too, proving she's got nerves of steel, but she was rather put out when Fisher dedicated "Fucked With a Knife" to all the women in the audience. For the final track, Fisher warned us: "Guys, look after your women on the way home tonight or they might get STRIPPED...RAPED...and STRANGLED!"
"It's nice to know he's thinking of me," chirped up Hydra, but she banged her head as hard as anyone (except Fisher) during the song. Unfortunately, that was CC's last tune, as the curtain descended with alarming rapidity. However, it's easy to understand why Cannibal can't play a two hour set...they would simply disintegrate if they had to thrash for that long.
It was a damn cool show and heavier than a John Deere combine. We had goofy grins on our faces as we staggered back to the train station and then to the House of Hydra. While we stopped to get a late night snack, a panhandler wearing a shirt that said "Jesus is my Homeboy" tried to get a few bucks out of us. "If Jesus is your homeboy, he can buy you some fries," Hydra told him. What a character!
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