Nov. 12, 2021
The Crucible, Madison, WI
By Dr. Abner Mality
How does the parched land of the desert feel when the rain finally pours down after a drought? I don’t really know, but I imagine it would feel something close to the way I felt when I finally caught this killer show after 2 years + in Covid Lockdown Hell.
Last true metal show I caught was October 19, 2019, also in Madison, when I saw OBITUARY, ABBATH, MIDNIGHT and DEVIL MASTER at the Majestic. At that time, who among us could have guessed that the world would soon shut down and the fellowship of live music...something everybody takes for granted...would cease to exist due to the Andromeda Strain running amuck across the world? You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Maybe that’s a cliché but it’s oh so true.
It wasn’t entirely Covid that kept me from the rush of live metal. Work and real life also got in the way. But finally the stars all aligned on a cold, dreary November night in Wisconsin and I made my way to the Crucible club for the first time to experience one badass mother of an extreme metal gig. Even so, a blast of freezing sleet and trying to find the club on an obscure frontage road made me wonder if God wanted me to suffer yet another disappointment.
Nope, finally made it to the Crucible with plenty of time left to go. It’s a venue usually oriented towards the dance and industrial crowd, but not so much that the occasional metal show doesn’t pop up there. Like every other decent gig in Southern Wisconsin, this was promoted by the No Fun Shogun, Randy Kastner. I hadn’t seen Randy since the Majestic, but it was a real pleasure to behold his masked mug once inside the venue. Randy’s suffered a lot of setbacks due to Covid, including the Blades of Steel fest being postponed no less than three times, so I’m sure he was stoked to see a nice crowd of rabid metalheads show up here.
You miss the human connection that these gigs provide. There are people you meet only at shows...a whole world of interaction that disappears when the shows stop. I was glad early on to run into “Boss Man” Randall Mikkelson and his brother Chad. We had time to chat and catch up and run into other familiar faces during the course of the night. And I got to talk to some new folks that hopefully I will see again. There were some dudes that apparently knew me but I had no idea who they were?!
Enough, let’s get into the show itself. Just hearing the roar of ENFORCED’s guitar during soundcheck put a chill up my spine. Anybody who read my review of the band’s awesome “Kill Grid” release knows how highly I think of these Virginia thrash monsters. They are the future of thrash metal and this show only confirmed it. They opened the night but I tell you now, as much as I liked the other bands, ENFORCED should have been higher up the lineup. I got the feeling watching them tonight that this was what it must have been like seeing SLAYER at Ruthie’s Inn in Frisco around 1983. They are that good, that intense, that focused.
They ripped through most of “Kill Grid” during their set while hardly stopping for breath. The sound was awesome and the crowd was into them from the get-go, with pits popping up frequently. THIS is what I had been missing for so long! “UXO”, “The Doctrine”, “Hemorrhage” and probably some cuts from their earlier works that I missed all raced by with a perfect combination of SLAYER, NUCLEAR ASSAULT and ANTHRAX style riffs and mosh parts. I am 100% sure that this will be the last time I see these guys opening such a concert. Next time, they will be headlining or at least on the top half of a show. They deliver on album and they sure as hell deliver live!
Following ENFORCED was going to be a tough task. It fell to Portland’s BEWITCHER to pick up that gauntlet. Playing what they called “satanic speed metal”, their approach was immediately different than the raw thrash of ENFORCED. There was a lot more of a “rock n roll” feel to BEWITCHER and in many cases, I was reminded of MIDNIGHT, but these guys were not quite as tight as the hooded ones. Some of that might have been due to the fact that they were now reduced to a three piece, down one maniac from their original four man configuration. So when M. Von Bewitcher cut loose with one of his many manic guitar solos, the bottom kind of dropped out behind it.
I thought BEWITCHER’s recent “Cursed Be Thy Kingdom” was kind of a mixed bag of songs and that was reflected in the live set...a melange of hell-paced speed like “Satanic Metal Attack” and “Electic Phantoms” with some “rockier” (but still potent) cuts and more melodic, gloomier tunes where the crazed energy of the set fell off notably. This was still a fun extreme metal set, but BEWITCHER were kind of the odd men out on the bill.
CREEPING DEATH crept up from Texas next. This was the band I was least familiar with, although I caught a couple of tunes from their new EP “The End of Existence”. I can safely say they are 10 times heavier live than on record, with a super low tuned guitar tone from the depths of hell...very reminiscent of the thunderous ooze that OBITUARY expelled during that Majestic show a couple of years back. The band is aptly named. No, they don’t sound like METALLICA, but they favor a mostly mid-paced burly chug of death metal that kind of worms its way into your brain. One of the guitarists wore a GRAVE T-shirt and the influence of that band could also be felt.
There were enough times when the band speeded up to a ripping assault that you couldn’t label them a doom/death band. But their pace is deliberate...deliberate and effective. CREEPING DEATH played a good long set of their swampy death chug and got a great response with plenty of pit action. Their next full album I will be on top of like a cherry on a sundae!
MATT HARVEY, EXHUMED
The show so far had flown by, feeling like very little time had passed. That’s a good sign, I find, and I liked the size of the crowd, which was large enough to create a lot of energy, but not packed like sardines. An old duffer like me could find a chair between sets…
A bald mad butcher character with a face shield and bloody apron ran wild on the stage, signifying EXHUMED were about to make their appearance. TV’s on stage were turned on and played a nonstop barrage of grindhouse horror videos that continued throughout the show. EXHUMED are almost up there with CANNIBAL CORPSE and OBITUARY in terms of death metal longevity, playing a gore soaked brand of frantic American death that was noticeably a lot faster than what CREEPING DEATH purveyed.
These guys are 100% pros and know how to put on a show. I saw with interest that the band’s new bass player was none other than Ross Sewage of IMPALED fame. This guy delivered gut-churningly low vocal growls while long-time mainman Matt Harvey did the shriekier vocals. These guys just keep coming with very little time to breathe between songs, making it somewhat hard to figure out what they were playing. They had some cuts from latest album “Horror” and went all the way back to “Gore Metal” for “Limb from Limb”. They also played a cover from Swedish death metal gods CARNAGE that was a real surprise.
It was chaotic and exhausting, but in a good way. The Mad Butcher, possibly on loan from DESTRUCTION, came out to cut up a guitar with a shower of sparks. I tried to keep track of some of the videos playing throughout the show...saw “Body Melt”, “Lady Frankenstein”, “Atomic Hero”, “Wildcat Women” and some horrid African mondo flick with animals getting shot in the head. This is what EXHUMED are known for and they delivered. The crowd was with them most of the way, but a bit of fatigue crept in towards the end.
It was just a great night of raw extreme metal played by fans for fans. This will always be a special show for me, the show where I broke out of quarantine and got back to doing what I love the most. Think the other fans felt that way, too. So did the bands. It was a feeling of relief that you could reach out and touch..or maybe stab with a scalpel, hehe...
BROTHERHOOD OF STEEL!