February 14, 2022

The Apollo Theater, Belvidere, IL

By Dr. Abner Mality


This show felt like things coming full circle. Back in October of 2019, I headed up to The Majestic in Madison, WI to see OBITUARY headline with ABBATH, MIDNIGHT and DEVIL MASTER opening. It was a super enjoyable show in front of a packed crowd of rabid headbangers and one of the heaviest I have ever seen.

Little did I know that would be my last major metal show for more than 2 years. We all know why. The plague shut down virtually all live entertainment for longer than anybody should have to endure. Human beings need social interaction...concerts, sports, stay human. But in this case, that interaction might just kill you. Well, in early 2022, it still might, but folks have pretty much had it with living like groundhogs hibernating in a burrow. The tide cannot be turned back and by late 2021, concerts were starting to be a thing again.

One can only hope that all proper precautions are taken. Not going to preach, but in the last couple of years, a lot of musical heroes have left us because they maybe thought they were immune or the rules didn’t apply. Graveyards are full of fools who thought they were heroes. At any rate, in November, I ventured tentatively back to my first post-pandemic concert in Madison (where I saw one of the same bands playing tonight).

Tonight’s show was my second big plunge, discounting small local shows. How strange it was that OBITUARY was once again the headliner. And in Belvidere, Illinois, no less! This small town is just about 12 miles from Wormwood Laboratories and if you told me a couple of months earlier that a lineup of skull crushing bands like this would have played there, I would have laughed and twirled my index finger around my head. Well, credit where it’s due, the Apollo signed the show and put it right on Valentine’s Day. Instead of sharing lovey dovey hearts, these bands were more likely to rip your heart right out of your chest and start eating it on the spot.



Parking and getting in to the show was such a breeze compared to the peripatetic nightmare it would be seeing it in Chicago. Getting in to a show there is almost like setting up a military campaign and lots of extra dough is needed for the “privilege” of parking less than a mile from the venue. The crowd was sparse at first, but people continued to trickle in all night long. The show was definitely no sell out but I was afraid a Monday night in Belvidere would result in an embarrassing turnout and this was not the case. Even the curtain jerkers SPIRIT WORLD got a decent, lively reception.

Speaking of SPIRIT WORLD, I had read about the band but never listened to them before. They are said to be inspired by the spirit of the American West and yessuh, pardner, they take the cowboy image very seriously indeed. Three of the six members wore ten gallon hats and looked like they were ready to do the Achy Breaky instead of kick up a metal tornado. Lead singer Stu Folsom was a short haired dude with sunglasses and a rhinestone jacket. The bassist was hatless but also sported Western wear. The only guy who didn’t fit the yee-haw look was the keyboardist/sampler/second vocalist, who looked like he could have been in MINISTRY.

Smack my ass and call me Spanky, these boys did conjure up a bare-knuckled metal stomp that seemed be ½ American death metal crush and ½ PANTERA/L.O.G. style groovy beatdown. Yes sir, it was heavy enough for made for fighting and fucking, you could say. And yet if you listened close enough, you could hear the whisper of Western winds blowing beneath the mayhem. SPIRIT WORLD was given a generous chunk of time for a band opening a 5 band gig and they got probably about as good a response as they could get considering the circumstances.

Got to mention a cute scene that happened during their gig. Their drummer is apparently from Wisconsin and his folks were down to see the show, including his grandma, who had to be in her 80’s. “It’s her first death metal show!” announced Stu. She even looked like she was enjoying it and when I asked her to throw up the devil horn sign, she did it with both hands. That’s one kick-ass grandma!

I mentioned earlier that one of the bands I had seen last November in Madison was on the bill tonight. That band was ENFORCED. This band is just fuckin’ deadly. Their recent record “Kill Grid” was my #2 pick for best of 2021 (click HERE to see all the Wormwood Lists for 2021) and when I saw them open for EXHUMED, they were the band of the night. I’ll be damned if they didn’t come out and do the same thing here in Belvidere. This is the purest, most raging form of thrash metal that exists today. ENFORCED is not a genre-blending band. They are thrash metal and nothing but. They come out, they kill, they leave.

Most of the set was the same as in November, but I think they might have slipped a new one or two in there. There were no slow spots or dead zones in their set. I wound up speaking to buddy James Hogan at the show and mentioned that if ENFORCED had come out 25 years earlier, they would be the headliners, with OBITUARY and MUNICIPAL WASTE opening for them. That may still happen, but given the American music climate today, I wouldn’t bet on it. I just hope that someday this kind of thrash metal gets hot again so these Virginia boys get the respect they are due. If you have a chance to see them live, do not miss it. They have a special kind of energy.

After the crowd recovered from the hurricane known as ENFORCED, there was little time for relief as Arizona’s heaviest band GATECREEPER took the stage. This is the closest any American band is ever gonna get to the classic Swedish death metal sound. It was ripping chainsaw HM-2 sludge all the way with these guys. I have to give props to Johnny B who does all the sound for the Apollo. This guy has been manning the soundboards in the Rockford area for at least 30 years and always does great. That gruesome Swedish-style crunch was captured pretty well for the most part.

I’m not super familiar with GATECREEPER’s catalog so I couldn’t put a name to all the songs being played, but I would guess that many came from the last album “An Unexpected Reality”. Although they certainly did a lot of fast ripping stuff, I think they were at their best when they dropped the tempo and unleashed thick, gooey slabs of low-tuned sludge. You could find yourself floating away on that stuff. I can’t say that vocalist Chase Mason had great charisma. The band was very workman-like, diving into the crush without much comment or banter. But the swelling crowd dug them and I think they made some new fans as well.




MUNICIPAL WASTE brought a lot of fans with them from the looks of things. This was my first live encounter with the long-running crossover thrash rats who love to party. Some are starting to say that their goofy thrash shtick is wearing pretty thin. I can see that when it comes to recorded output, but on the live stage, what’s wrong with just letting your hair down and getting crazy? We are living in one of the darkest times in history and getting our faces rubbed in it...there’s nothing wrong with some cheerfully dumb thrash as a tonic.

Whereas the frontmen of GATECREEPER and ENFORCED were pretty stone-faced and to the point, pudgy Tony Foresta was full of quips and friendly banter throughout the MW set. He yelled “Boy, there are a lot of white people here!” at one point, while at another, he set up a big “wall of death” where two squads of crazed bangers slammed into each other. I’m sure that had the venue security ready to wet their pants. All the wildness maybe distracts from that fact that MUNICIPAL WASTE are extremely tight players. They were dialed in even on the fastest, most frantic tracks, especially drummer Dave Witte, whose chops have not been overplayed a bit.

The set was very much a “greatest hits” kind of deal, with classic tunes like “Sadistic Magician”, “Headbanger Face Rip”, “The Thrashin’ of the Christ” and of course, “Beer Pressure”. By now, the crowd had grown to a very respectable level and many of them were in constant motion. I think MUNICIPAL WASTE thrive in the live environment best and are certainly a tonic for gloom and doom.

So that brings us back to OBITUARY, the headliners. I remember in the 90’s when these guys threw in the towel and retired. Those were some of the darkest days of metal. If you would have told me then that they would be a successful headlining band 20 years later, I probably would not have believed it. But here we are. Full circle. They blew the Majestic apart in Madison before Covid hit. Let’s see how they do at the Apollo in Belvidere.



They have the best “one-two” opening punch in metal with the ungodly infectious groove of the instrumental “Redneck Stomp” and the raging storm of “Threatening Skies”. The former has riffs that destroys cities like Godzilla while the latter is a laser-guided missile of fast death metal that brings sick vocalist John Tardy into the picture. I noticed the same thing tonight that I did in front man seems happier in front of a crowd than John does. It’s corny but true...a smile is infectious, even if the infection kills you…

The OBITUARY set tonight was significantly different than the Madison one, which was heavily tilted towards their first two albums. This one roved through their entire career, with tracks like “Final Thoughts”, “Sentence Day” and “A Lesson In Vengeance” being delivered. I gotta say, the old stuff like “Chopped In Half/Turned Inside Out”, “Slowly We Rot” and “Find The Arise” still does it best for me. Those songs seem to OOZE more, if you know what I mean. They are thicker and groovier.

The band also did their great cover of CELTIC FROST’s “Circle of the Tyrants”, which probably even BTS couldn’t screw up. The crowd was in perpetual motion. The show was not a sellout...that would have been quite a feat on a Monday night in February...but there was more than enough people there to keep things lively and show OBITUARY some love. I was very pleased to see a lot of young faces in the crowd...that always gives me hope. A fair amount of these folks were not even born when “Slowly We Rot” and “Cause of Death” came out.

A great night was had by all. If I had to rank this show in comparison with the Madison one, I’d say the Madison gets the nod by a wee bit. That was just a super special night. But Belvidere was absolutely nothing to sneeze at and gave our metal-starved area a long overdue feast!