Words by Brady Irwin
Photos by Anne-Marie Laure
Due to unfortunate circumstances leading to this writer being late to the venue, a bit of last-minute citizen journalism was conducted in the form of asking around between punters, ranging from the sprightly and alert to gloriously inebriated, to get an idea of the day’s prior acts. With such a long afternoon in tow, there were only one or two who had a memory of openers Monoliyth. Reports were positive, however, with more than one remark of people being kicked into gear by the locals’ groove-heavy brand of death metal.
Likewise, Cryptic Abyss were assuredly nothing like the first half of their band name, with a very in-your-face brand of groove-laden blackened death metal. It seems a couple more of those asked had turned up by this stage and noted a small but very loud following by this stage.
Breaking things up sonically a smidgen were local melodic black metallers Blackhelm, who generally were perceived as an interesting but welcomed break between the death-and-groove format of the line-up thus far. Conversations about the band focused on the fast pacing of the riffing, which had helped set the adrenaline levels even higher.
Unquestionably well-received were local thrash heroes Mason, who pulled no punches with their brand of histrionic guitar shredding and lead work, bringing things from the riff-heavy basement into lofty lead-driven territory whilst being grounded in fast thrash riffs.
Scaphis had an… interesting reception. Some who were a bit off-put by the whole gothic aesthetic noted they were quick to move past this once the crushing female-fronted death metal troupe got into their set. While not exactly expecting Nightwish, it seems some had judged a book by its cover but were pleasantly surprised by the actual ferocity on offer.
Which brings us to In Malice’s Wake. These stalwart thrashers had an unequivocally positive response from all cornered (I mean questioned! Questioned!), and this was apparently where “shit started getting real for the mosh”, according to one sweat-wreathed audience member. Damn. Lucky mosh ducks.
Yours truly had made it, finally, in time to catch Perth death metal juggernaughts Earth Rot, and gladly so. Finally able to take in a first-person perspective, the penultimate act demonstrated their prowess for being so high up on the bill. Sporting a breakdown-heavy but also fast, thrashing brand of blackened death metal, the band caught a riotous crowd happy to oblige their requests for getting some movement going. A band worth catching in their own rights as headliners, as with many, if not all supporting acts on the bill.
Soon thereafter, in between discussions with gig-goers of varying energy levels about the day’s prior acts, our conversations were cut short by the red dimming of the stage and a death-metal growl-inflected roar of approval from the crowd. Some buzzing flies and crying babies set the horror tone as the zombie-like makeup of the band took the stage, horns aloft. Singer “Old” Nick Holmes entered last – the suit an interestingly formal contrast with the bands’ metal getup. Saluting the crowd, he took to the mic stand to deliver a guttural performance to the opening Swedish buzzsaw distortion of opener Fleischmann. Ripping into it immediately, a ravenous circle-pit swirled like a drain across the pits’ mid-section, sucking bodies into the headbanging vortex.
The dual Flying V’s of the highly overdriven guitar tones of newly-introduced lead guitarist Tomas Åkvik and rhythm guitarist Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström accentuated the widdly leads and histrionics that sang out from the otherwise caustic evil of the tremolo and groove-heavy riffage. Unfortunately, these were buried in the mix a little by the absolute drenching in nasty distortion, but it was not enough for any to mind and both were on their A-game. Backing the pair and vocalist as the band galloped into the immediately-brutal Let The Stillborn Come To Me was the incredibly tight and precise rhythm section of Jonas “Lord Seth” Renkse and Martin “Axe” Axenrot, the former a powerhouse of precision and depth and the latter a swirling maelstrom of d-beat, blast-beats, rolls and fills at blinding speed.
Atop all this, Holmes’ awkwardly immobile stature (due to said suit) only added to the menacing prospect of his guttural vocals. Prowling the lower end of the vocal register with a sneering snarl, any concerns about his capacity to carry over Peter Tagtren-era shrieks such as the bombastically received Brave New Hell and Cancer Of The Soul – “This is a f**king fast one!” – and Mikael Akerfeldt-era rasps were quickly wiped away. Bringing his own trademark to tracks such as Breeding Death, Like Fire, So You Die and Wretched Human Mirror, the live setting added a dimension of thickness and depth to the trebly studio production of older material. Of course, the man was right at home amongst the seething of his own era, from Warhead Ritual – “a song for life after Brexit” – Chainsaw Lullaby and Bloodicide. His recurrent self-deprecation and politeness sat oddly well against his imploring of us “mother**kers” to headbang and create “a real circle pit”.
Swirling like an ice cream machine bolted to a turbo, the endless crashing of circle-pit enthusiasts came and went as knocks were taken from all direction. The sweaty mass continued with the black-metal-esque tremolo of Outnumbering The Day, Holmes proclaiming humourously, “This may be the last song I ever do. I don’t feel well, as you can obviously tell,” in his corpse-like bloodied getup, “AKA this shitty suit”. Requisite crowd-pleaser Cry My Name got the crowd really pumping, but nothing was as hugely received as the mosh-heavy chugs and satirical refrains of Eaten. Delivered with an unmatched level of venom and showmanship, as the mosh gave way to a sea of horns for a histrionic outro, it was very clear this supergroup are still apex predators of the death metal scene.
In Malice’s Wake