Even without The Faceless, a bill featuring Unravel, Whoretopsy, Putrid Pile and The Black Dahlia Murder goes very hard, indeed!
It’s a nice, cool, Thursday evening as we trudge down the slope of Wilson Street amongst the metal hordes, awaiting entry to Max Watts to witness the cosmic horror of Michigan death metal titans The Black Dahlia Murder. However, the evening is not without drama, with this tour package having been marred by the absence of its main support act, The Faceless. Conversation in the line ranges from “Yeah, I’m pretty cut to miss them. ‘Planetary Duality’ is still a sick album,” to “What a bunch of colossal fuckwits.” (My personal favourite – editor). So, it’s safe to say that opinion on the issue remains somewhat divided. This aside, the Brisbane metal community is still turning up, with their shit-eating grins and crusted jacket-finery, as we descend into the belly of the Max Watts-beast for tonight’s proceedings.
As we grab a frothy beverage, punters generally mill about the room, surveying the array of merch possibilities, searching for the darkest corners and most oblique vantage points available. First off the rank this evening is Perth act Unravel, who waste little time in throwing down track after track of vicious HM-2 worship at the Brisbane crowd. As is the case with most metal performers, you can tell a lot about a band by the ‘stage or tour shirt’ they choose to display, and tonight, the four young men that constitute Unravel are decked out in Hurricane Death, All Out War and Hatred Surge gear, which pretty much tells us everything we need to know, given that the band’s buzz-saw guitar attack is suitably relentless.
It’s almost as if Unravel went back in time to the early 90s, flew all the way to Sweden purely to roll Entombed for their prized guitar tone, only to then brutally skull-fuck them with it and scream ‘Cheers cunts!’ during the exchange. Tracks from last year’s ‘Final Dawn’ 7-inch go down a treat with the crowd, as heads bang and sporadic windmills pop up, alongside choice cuts from the band’s recent split with Ash Mouth, with the death ‘n’ roll bombast of ‘Carcinogenesis’ being a real standout. If you’re a fan of contemporary groups like Nails or Gatecreeper, or even Perth locals like Cursed Earth, then you need to check Unravel out, as they’re doing cool shit and show plenty of potential! Even The Racket’s own Lochlan Watt gave this band a shout out on their Triple J Unearthed profile, saying “Very sick tbh,” before chucking the band four and a half stars. If that’s not a deserving accolade, we don’t know what the hell is.
During the interchange, we replenish our beverage and see that Brisbane’s patron saint of metal and everyone’s favourite Norse god, Odin, has arrived to split the heavens open with his mighty war cry. To the unfamiliar, Odin has been “the face of the Brisbane scene for over 500 years”, showing up to “every gig imaginable,” festooned in his horned helmet, cape and eyepatch, ready to “thrash the barrier for every band.” It’s not a true metal gig without Odin in attendance, so his mere presence bodes well for the evening and with this good omen, the mead begins to flow like the blood of Odin’s enemies across the ruined plains of Midgard.
Next up, Melbourne extreme metallers Whoretopsy take to the stage and prove once and for all, why they’re Australia’s answer to Suffocation. With a varied set, the five-piece get down and dirty with incendiary bursts of technical death metal and bludgeoning hits of the dankest slams. Fill-in vocalist Zac prowls the stage during cuts like ‘Fiddler In The Roof’ from 2014’s ‘While You Were Sleeping’ EP, with his black socks pulled high, making his exposed kneecaps shine all the more luminously, as he swings his unruly mane wildly between bowel-splitting gutturals. Guitarists Matt “Poey” William and Luke Graham get busy riffing on the title track from their ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ record, while bassist Lachy wields his left-handed bass like a bloody axe, striding over the monitors and baring his teeth at the crowd. Drummer Jake even loses a tom drum mid-song, but seems rather non-plussed about the situation, and continues to beat his kit like it owes him money.
Yet the most defining characteristic of Whoretopsy is their er, “thoroughly” Australian charm, perhaps best exemplified on the ridiculously heavy and insane ‘White Men Can’t Blump,’ which features such lyrical wizardry as: “Keith drops his guts/A nugget drops into the water/ ‘Oi ya kinky prick you’re into blumpys?’/Keith’s very limp penis is bending/Like pushing rope into a hole.” Incredible. Now, we know that this type of lyrical content has seen the band recently cop flak from certain people (like having a show cancelled at The Tote last year due to their lyrics and moniker), however this reviewer can’t help but feel that those same groups aren’t really in tune with metal’s history or its origins, especially with iconic groups such as Cannibal Corpse and Cradle of Filth facing the exact same accusations in recent decades. Nor the fact that Whoretopsy are merely taking the utter fucking piss. Metal is as metal does, and sometimes, brutal and offensive imagery just comes with the territory. Ultimately, tonight’s Brissy crowd don’t seem to give an ounce of shit either way as the vibe is a joyful one, with many horns up in solidarity for Whoretopsy’s strong performance.
As we watch the stage crew remove some of the backlines and replace them a singular mic stand and drum machine, we listen to tunes from Kvelertak’s stellar 2010 debut album over the PA. Which reminds us, that banger tracks like ‘Mjød’ and ‘Blodtørst’ are nearly seven(!) years old, and we start to grow weary from rapid, on-set ageing. Clearly, more beer is required, and we step down from the pricey range of tap beers to some Big Kev-approved, bargain-bin tinnies to hastily remedy the situation.
When the one-man show that is Putrid Pile takes the stage, the crowd greets the arrival of Shaun LaCanne with slight trepidation. LaCanne quickly butters them up, asking “What’s up party people?” and calls everyone a bunch of “sick cunts,” before ploughing right in to some austere and frenetic death metal. Now, the approach of Putrid Pile might not be for everyone: essentially, LaCanne does it all solo; he slings riffs, he drops savage vocals and he programs the drum machine to pick up the remaining slack. So, from a pure performance standpoint, his live show certainly isn’t ‘off the chain’. However, if you can get past the musicality that sounds like someone fed a Napalm Death record through a 56k dial-up modem, and just enjoy the sight of a clearly devout death metal fan doing his thing and bringing the heavy, then there’s a lot to love about Putrid Pile.
And thankfully, this is what Brisbane does, as LaCanne barrels on through a huge set list of tracks, pulling from across his back catalogue, with a focus on material from the ‘Blood Fetish’ record. Roughly mid-way through the set, a wild Jordan James Phillip of Disentomb fame appears, joining LaCanne for one song, and the dual vocal approach brings some much-needed vitality to the set. Between the two men, the vocal range on display borders on the downright demonic, with LaCanne’s shrieks sounding like someone auto-erotically asphyxiating a banshee, while Phillip’s mercurial bellows channel the spirit of the Prince of Darkness taking a hell-spawn dump. As Black Dahlia frontman Trevor Strnad headbangs from side of stage, LaCanne wraps up his set of lo-fi shredness and gets a deserving round of applause from the punters for his efforts.
It’s at this point in the evening when Californian heavy merchants The Faceless miraculously arrived and took the stage, thrilling dedicated fans with a brutal, ‘dynamic’ show and-
Nah, PSYCH! Of course they fucking didn’t!
Now, this reviewer doesn’t need to recap the ‘he said-she said’ politics of The Faceless fuckery on this tour. If you care for drama, read our posts about the band’s tour date cancellation here – including comments from the good folks at Soundworks Touring – and then the ‘TL;DR’, Johnny-Come-Lately response from the band here. What we can say, however, is that metal fans – especially Aussie metal fans – are extremely loyal and forgiving, up to a point. And when it becomes clear that a band is taking adoration for granted, and in turn, taking the piss, well, some fans will turn on you faster than you can say “Crikey!” and they’ll burn those bridges of yours to cinders. Taking a quick look at the comments from fans on the Facebook response post from The Faceless, opinions range from: “Be a man and take responsibility for your fuck up rather than blame everyone else like a half pulled off window licker,” to “Your treatment of everyone seems Graceless. Keep abandoning shows and you’ll end up The Fanbaseless,” and the awfully succinct “You lot talk so much fucking shit. Disappointing your fans over and over again. Excuse after excuse. Bunch of fucking tossers, mate.” In short, with their management now dropping the band in light of these events, it appears that The Faceless thoroughly and messily shat the bed on this one, and it seems unlikely that Aussie fans will see them here again (if ever).
However, nothing could diminish the crowd’s sheer enthusiasm for headliners The Black Dahlia Murder this evening, and as the Michigan five-piece take the stage, the throngs of punters quickly push to the barrier and get ready for the assault. With a stage banner for 2015’s ‘Abysmal’ behind them, this reviewer fully expected the band to begin with that record’s opening track, the ripping ‘Receipt’. Instead, Black Dahlia throw a nostalgic curveball and pay homage to 2007’s seminal ‘Nocturnal’ album, as they launch their set with the glorious chugs of ‘What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse’. A long-haired Strnad smiles from ear to ear, pushing his fists in the air, as the crowd heaves and bounces to the band’s melo-death stylings.
This tenth-anniversary homage to ‘Nocturnal’ continues for most of their set, as the band plays almost half of the record, unfurling tracks like ‘Deathmask Divine,’ the album’s title track and the glorious ‘Everything Went Black’. Elsewhere, the band smatters their setlist with tracks both new and old, favouring cuts from ‘Abysmal’, 2005’s ‘Miasma,’ 2009’s solid ‘Deflorate’ and even 2003’s breakout record ‘Unhallowed’ (completely neglecting 2013’s weak-link ‘Everblack,’ which is just fine in this reviewer’s humble opinion).
Old hat member Brian Eschbach keeps the night rolling with humorous stage banter, while also ensuring that rhythmic riffs are delivered thick and fast on heavy cuts like ‘I Will Return’ and ‘On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood’. Slowing things down slightly with the concussive blow of ‘Malenchantments of the Necrosphere,’ Strnad keeps the crowd engaged, asking repeatedly for chants of ‘Hey! Hey!’, asking to see the bottom of people’s shoes, and cheekily stating “Thanks to the bands that actually came out for the tour.”
The sickest of burns.
Drummer Alan Cassidy and bassist Max Levelle team up to breathe new life into classics like ‘Contagion’ and ‘Funeral Thirst,’ while new blood Brandon Ellis proves that he has monstrous chops as lead-guitarist, filling former guitarist Ryan Knight’s formidable shoes with crisp leads and virtuosic solos on tracks like ‘Vlad, Son Of The Dragon’ and ‘Statutory Ape’. During fan-favourite ‘Miasma,’ Strnad hams up his own perverse lyrics, thrusting into the crowd as he screams “No, we don’t want to work /We just want to fuck!” and squatting to take a pseudo-dump as he shrieks “Just another piece of shit!”
Even with their ever-changing line-up, Black Dahlia sound tighter than ever tonight, with energy and precision on stage that’s simply unrivalled by their peers. When some cretin throws a worn pair of panties at Strnad, he catches them one handed and laughs mid-scream, before remarking to the crowd that “We get panties thrown at us occasionally, and they’re always from dudes. You’re not fooling us, bro.”
As the band close out with their nearly hour-long set, Strnad thanks the Brisbane crowd for the raucous reception, with parting words of “Stay metal my friends!” Copy that Trevor; will do mate. Bring on album number #8!
All of the photo credit here goes to our new pal, Third Eye Visuals. Find more of his work right here. Also, here’s hoping that The Faceless can sort their fucking shit out soon!