CANNIBAL CORPSE/DARK FUNERAL/IMMOLATION/BLACK ANVIL
Dec. 5, 2022
The Apollo Theater, Belvidere, IL
By Dr. Abner Mality
Alex Webster, CANNIBAL CORPSE
The Thanksgiving feast is past and our bellies are full as we look forward to the season of giving and the approaching Yuletide festivities. What better time is there for songs of good cheer...like “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” or maybe “I Cum Blood”?
The answer is none...there is no better time for such merriment. So I head to the Apollo Theater in nearby Belvidere to witness one of the most brutal extreme metal tours to come down the pike in a long time. It’s always a pleasure to find such a show virtually in my backyard, where I can avoid the cost and headache of a long trip to Chicago or Milwaukee. I parked for free literally across the street and walked 20 yards to the venue, where I was transported into a world of seasonal camaraderie and celebration of all that is vile and horrendous.
This was one of those shows that really renewed my faith in underground metal. It was a Monday night in December in small-town Illinois...and the show was ¾ full even before the first notes of BLACK ANVIL filled the air. I have to say, that really warmed my heart. I figured CANNIBAL CORPSE would have a healthy crowd, but to have the venue almost packed before the first band played was a surprise. And the crowd was a good mixture of experienced metal greybeards and young kids. I even saw Moms and Dads bringing the kids along to experience the relentless pounding of the CANNIBALS and Friends...no lie!
Travis Bacon, BLACK ANVIL
When New York black metal diehards BLACK ANVIL took to the stage first, they were welcomed like conquering heroes by a crowd that was ready to GO! A great response for the openers, whose set was taken exclusively from their new album “Regenesis”. To be blunt, I was disappointed in the album, but the songs came across more aggressively live and the atmosphere at the Apollo was great. The drummer’s kit was so close to the edge of the stage, he was in danger of falling off, but it gave a really cool close-up look at how this guy raged. Highlight of the set for me was “29”, which is also the best song off “Regenesis”, and it showed how BLACK ANVIL can mix extreme black metal with some more Gothic tones. There was even a pit for the band, which you don’t often see for the opener of a multi-band bill. Also, the sound was just about perfect, a situation which kept up for every band.
Raeph Glicken, BLACK ANVIL
Paul Delaney, BLACK ANVIL
Ross Dolan, IMMOLATION
IMMOLATION was the second band on the bill, which surprised me, as I thought DARK FUNERAL would be filling that slot. In the Good Doctor’s humble opinion, the New Yorkers were the most talented band on the tour, especially in terms of songwriting, and Ross Dolan has the best voice in American death metal PERIOD. These guys just hit the stage and slay. They have refined their style of DM to where it has a unique form of dark Gothic melody that you just don’t hear in other bands. And yet the aggression remains.
They started with the title track to their latest album, “Acts of God”, and from there, they ranged all over their history, even going back to their classic first album “Dawn of Possession” to play “Burial Ground”. Ross Dolan...I don’t know what more you can say about this guy. His roar is inhumanly deep but he retains an articulation that allows you to understand what he is actually growling about. That’s a lot harder to do live than in the studio, but his phrasing was perfection as he blasted through tracks like “Swarm of Terror” and “When the Jackals Come”. As for lead guitarist Bob Vigna, how underrated is this dude? He has such a flamboyant and entertaining way of playing live, with lots of dramatic gestures and posing, but he never missed a note. In contrast, the other lead guitarist Alex Bouks was so laid back in his style, he could have been playing smooth jazz instead of intricate death metal. Add the relentless double bass assault of Steve Shalaty on drums and you have the killing machine known as IMMOLATION.
The crowd was into IMMOLATION from the first note and showed its appreciation with mosh pits and vocal support. I was super happy to see this band getting such a strong response when I wondered going in if they would get much feedback at all. I needn’t have worried. Tonight was a special kind of night and the fans were there for everybody...in spades!
Bob Vigna, IMMOLATION
Alex Bouks, IMMOLATION
That included Sweden’s DARK FUNERAL, who had the enviable second to last slot on the bill tonight. In the interest of transparency, I must confess that I have never been a fan of this long-running black metal institution. And institution they are, as they have been around since the very dawn of the second wave of black metal in the early 90’s. The CANNIBAL CORPSE guys must obviously be fans of black metal, hence the presence of DARK FUNERAL and BLACK ANVIL on the bill. It did provide some variety to the tour.
My complaint about DARK FUNERAL has always been that they are too fast for their own good and lacking depth. The trebly guitar sound also just doesn’t match the warm thunder of low-tuned death metal. Well, those issues were still present in their set tonight, but I must admit, I have never seen a band in my life that looks more Scandinavian black metal than DARK FUNERAL. And the Belvidere crowd seemed more than ready for freezing high speed Satanic BM, which they got in spades. There was an impressively huge backdrop for the band and the stage was bathed in low key bluish light for the entirety of the set.
Vocalist Heljarmadr was the essence of a ripped-throat Norse troll with his unending raspy screams. Much like CANNIBAL CORPSE’s Corpsegrinder and his impossible headbanging antics, you wonder how a human being can possibly keep this kind of sound up. But Heljarmadr did. It also did not escape my notice that at a few key points, he used a way more “human” sounding voice. Speaking of inhuman, there was a great debate about Jalomaah’s drumming and whether it was triggered or not. If it isn’t triggered, then this guy must be a cyborg or demon or some combination of the two, because his high speed assault was beyond comprehension.
Heljarmadr, DARK FUNERAL
Adra-Melek, DARK FUNERAL
The Apollo crowd again gave a great response as DARK FUNERAL visited all phases of their career, even going back to the very beginning and “Secrets of the Black Arts”. One unusual track was the Gothic, almost ballad-like “When I’m Gone”, where the band slowed down to a pace less than a cyclone. That was just a bit of a break before the holocaust returned with “Let The Devil In” and the final onslaught of “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, where Heljarmadr literally waved the flag of Satan. I’m still not a big believer in DARK FUNERAL, but their set tonight was certainly furious, archetypal Swedish black metal and for that, they deserve a tip of the pitchfork.
By the time CANNIBAL CORPSE took the stage, the Apollo was just shy of a sellout. Some crowds would have been tired out after the assault of the opening bands, but this one was as fresh as a daisy. When CANNIBAL’s lead growler Corpsegrinder Fisher stepped out on stage briefly before the set, a chant of “Fuck Chris Barnes!” started, which had the burly frontman smirking and rolling his eyes.
Corpsegrinder, CANNIBAL CORPSE
These cats didn’t waste time with a long, elaborate intro, they just took the stage and slammed right into “Scourge of Iron”. This was an awesome choice to start the set with, as it has a monstrous mid-paced groove that guarantees headbanging satisfaction...the insane speed kicked in with second track “The Time To Kill Is Now”, which is absolutely ferocious. Contrary to the belief of some, not every CANNIBAL CORPSE track is a 1000 mph belter...there are quite a few groovy, more controlled songs as well. Tonight the band demonstrated their mastery of both.
The topic that floats to the top of every discussion about CANNIBAL CORPSE live is...is George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher man or machine? I would lean towards the “machine” description, with maybe a good portion of “demon” added a well. The fucker’s headbanging and “hair-copter” abilities are truly beyond belief. He was whipping his head around at supersonic speeds on every single track! And he didn’t even seem to sweat or be breathing hard between songs! At one point, he growled at the crowd “You will try to match my headbanging, but you will fail miserably!” There were plenty in the crowd who tried to meet the challenge, but nobody came close. The dude is an absolute freak of nature!
The machine description can also be applied to the band as a whole, as they just don’t miss a beat. They are locked into a faultless groove for the duration of the set and I was unable to detect even the slightest fuckup in their playing. Considering the intensity and even complexity of their material, this is no mean feat. The great guitarist Erik Rutan from HATE ETERNAL has only been with them for a year and a half, but he fit right into his slot like a cog in a gear. A real tip of the hat should go to the long-running drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, whose percussive attack was relentless and precise.
Corpsegrinder, CANNIBAL CORPSE
The set list was a real tour through 30 years of CANNIBAL CORPSE history, ranging from “A Skull Full of Maggots” from the debut “Eaten Back to Life” to “Inhumane Harvest” and “Necrogenic Resurrection” from the latest platter “Violence Unimagined”. I think they hit every single album. For once, the crowd seemed to love the newer material just as much as the classic stuff. And speaking of the crowd, their energy was off the chart for the gig, with a constant procession of crowd surfers testing the ability of security personnel. Lots of pits for the duration of the set, but nothing out of control and if there was any trouble, I never saw it.
It’s hard to believe, but these guys have been at it for so long, they have become a multi-generational band. I saw a great scene when I was sitting in the upper balcony of the theater. A mom and dad had brought along their three young girls to enjoy a wholesome evening of death metal...or at least, that’s what it looked like. When Fisher talked about blood coming out of his penis, we knew the next song was “I Cum Blood” and these girls were ready for it. They all started trying to do the Corpsegrinder “hair-copter” in sync and did a pretty fair job of it. But one by one, they tuckered out. Nobody can match Corpsegrinder’s cyborg headbanging antics.
As you might expect, the show ended with the most heartwarming of CANNIBAL CORPSE’s catalog of songs, “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” and “Hammer Smashed Face”. As the last notes of those ditties echoed through the Apollo, a warm glow seemed to spread amongst the fans in attendance. There was something about this whole show that was different. I know it gave me a lot of hope in the future of extreme metal. If every gig on the tour was like this one, it was something special indeed. I hope to have such an experience again.
Chaq Mol, Lord Ahriman, DARK FUNERAL
Ross Dolan, IMMOLATION