Suffocation

support Cattle Decapitation + Blood Red Throne + Sadist + Cerebral Bore
author EW date 13/03/12 venue Underworld, London, UK

In a calendar month bursting with concerts of a varied and interesting palette, the prospect of Suffocation and friends arriving in town signified the death metal highlight of the month as the weak support line-ups which have been a feature of their past tours had been exchanged for this one of steely brutality, and great length for a workday gig. Missing the entirety of Carceri en route to the Underworld, this review instead begins with…

Cerebral Bore

When it comes to initial perceptions Earache's Scottish death metal miscreants Cerebral Bore are most remarkable for the presence of a female vocalist whose roar is so guttural it makes Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow resemble Whitney Houston. Never mind that soon after it becomes apparent that said Simone Pluijmers grunts are monotonous at best and her inter-song banter reflects a performer still nervous and inexperienced at doing the job, her sheer gravity is something to behold from a death/grind performance which ticks the required boxes of the scene - blastbeats, fat room-filling riffs, songs announced in indecipherable fashion - but little beyond to suggest there's a new contender to the throne of UK extreme metal since arguably Akercocke have vacated it. Live brutal death metal for one uninitiated in a band's act is always a tough prospect and only a combination of great songwriting and performance is enough to achieve any sense of deep satisfaction and here Cerebral Bore fall by the wayside like so many others before. True it must be said there was a healthy contingent enjoying themselves down the front but save for the verbal barrage from Pluijmers there was little to focus the eye on and with each song obliterating the eardrums with little differentiation throughout there was the sense that the Bore's live promise needs a lot of fine-tuning to keep up with the reputation.

5

Sadist

A little look at Sadist's Metal Archives page reveals the extent to which these Italians have missed my radar down the years, with 6 years of varying quality since 1993 passing me by with nay but a listen. So with nothing but the knowledge of their supposed progressive death metal leanings to hand, the imaginative (at least compared to Cerebral Bore) structures in their songs belied a band intent on messing with the rule book, at least still in a formative stage. To even be compared to the legendary Death a band must have some weight behind their music, and while Sadist are a long way from operating at that level, the fluid bass work of Andy Marchini and guitars/keys of Tommy Talamanca reflect desires to pursue more than the most trodden of death metal paths. With frontman Trevor Nadir resembling S.O.D.'s Billy Milano in appearance and their short set giving an airing of latent potential Sadist can be proud of their efforts stuck in the middle of a collection of acts all considerably more brutal than they.

7

Blood Red Throne

The popularity of certain acts within metal circles can often be put down simply to their longevity and refusal to give in as opposed to any great quality in their musical output. Enter Norway's Blood Red Throne. Their history is that of decent-at-best death metal catalogue but now devoid of Tchort on guitars and a line-up almost entirely new since 2010 they have regressed significantly in quality since my previous outing with the band in 2007 to such a trivial extent. The amateur performance of vocalist Yngve Bolt Christiansen can be passed off as over-enthusiasm only in the closeted extreme metal scene, but his awfully duff grunts exposed the cracks in the songs of a band treading serious water as exposed by those before and after on this pleasant spring night. Writing songs which whizz by in a cacophony of brutality and hatred is par for the course these days, so the need for something on top to spice up the recipe is absolutely essential for anyone attending more than 3 concerts a year. Given it's just days since a performance for which I was stood entirely sober just a few rows back and little is recalled in the memory but the bumbling and stumbling of Christiansen it is best I leave BRT the familiar phrase of my schooldays, now passed onto them: must try harder.

4

Cattle Decapitation

US animal-supremacists and general mentalists Cattle Decapitation were however a much more enticing prospect. Blending the finer sounds of Dying Fetus and Cephalic Carnage into a soup of intelligent lyrical topics cloaked in a humorous facade, CD do have something about them worthy of investigation as eschewed by PP previously. As you many well expect from a band who count this album cover amongst their collection, they are not high on subtlety as their audial wrecking ball decimates any perception there might be nothing but premise behind a vegan band called, well, this. Naturally there are issues with regards picking apart the bones from the muscle, or one riff from another for the musical analogy, in such a frantic sound but CD's honest delivery and fine technical performance provide plenty to enjoy. If not for greater variation in speed and tempo Cattle Decapitation would be quite the live proposition, especially if lyric sheets were distributed in order to aid lyrical understanding.

Suffocation

Had I not come prepared with the knowledge of drummer Mike Smith's permanent and vocalist Frank Mullen's temporary departures from DM legends Suffocation this review would probably have a lot more negativity about it than it is shortly to present you. Upheaval in the ranks has seen Dave Culross (ex-Malevolent Creation among others) brought in on the skins and Decrepit Birth frontman, and self-confessed Suffocation diehard, Bill Robinson acting as frontman in a new look line-up which could easily act as a death knell on an act who have never managed to replicate their recorded quality of the early days since reformation in 2002. But as you may sense, the honourable performance of Robinson in particular and a set of tunes which are the blueprint upon which all brutal technical death metal is based, brought about a worthy performance against all the odds.

From the outset Robinson made a point of emphasising how he is only attempting to fill Mullen's boots on a temporary basis and what debt he owes to Suffocation for introducing him to the genre many moons back. Having given the performance the feel of a tribute about it the likeable and confident leadership of Robinson took the band through the historic classics within the "Effigy…", "Breeding…" and "Pierced…" records, as well as improving how tracks from the latter three albums ever come across at home. Brutal though it undoubtedly is, Suffocation's slower and more considered sound than the likes of Cattle Decapitation before them, has always meant for easier digestion live and with an improved sound the resultant performance was the best of the night and further proof that when it comes to this league of death metal, the original are still the best line-up problems or not.

8

All photos by Greg Readings.

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