Death To All

support Obscura + DarkRise
author MST date 13/11/13 venue Voxhall, Århus, DEN

On December 13th 2001, the world of metal suffered a terrible loss when Charles Michael 'Chuck' Schuldiner, the founder and main composer of the legendary metal band Death, lost his battle with cancer. The year 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the first Death album, "Scream Bloody Gore", and that year it was decided that a tribute tour featuring members of previous Death line-ups should take place. One tour turned into multiple tours, and on this Tuesday night in November, Voxhall was the place to be for Danish death metal fans as the Death To All tour brought the late Chuldiner's legendary tunes back to life.


Two bands had been given the privilege of preparing the crowd for Death. The first of these was a relatively unknown Swiss band called DarkRise. The 4-piece play relatively straightforward brutal death metal, a genre that doesn't really fit the general theme of the tour. The riffs were slightly technical at times, and the bassist switched between slapping and regular finger-technique. As is the case with pretty much all opening bands, the crowd was small in the early hours of the evening and hard to win over, and the strange choice of subgenre for the opening band didn't exactly help. What could've helped was interesting music or a good performance, and DarkRise presented neither. The music wasn't necessarily bad, but it didn't take long before the songs started to blend together. In terms of a performance, it didn't look like the band even wanted to be on stage; it was an incredibly stationary show, and not even the monotonous vocalist walked more than a single step away from his favourite monitor. The vocalist would shake his head a bit between vocal lines, and that was it. I was baffled as to how a band such as DarkRise could get featured on a tour like this, and I left feeling disappointed that any band could put on such a lacklustre show when they're touring with the most legendary band in their genre.


Obscura's bassist Linus Klausenitzer


Booking the German technical/progressive death metal band Obscura for the Death To All tour made a lot more sense than DarkRise did. The first Obscura album, "Retribution" was pretty much Death-worship, but even though they don't play anything from that album these days there is plenty of Death to be heard in their newer material. Obscura are one of my favourite bands, but they've always disappointed me on stage for various reasons. The last time I saw them the crowd was tiny, and although Voxhall wasn't anywhere near maximum capacity when Obscura played their set there were significantly more people this time around.

Obscura's Christian Muenzner doing what he does best

From the impossibly tight drumming laid down by Hannes Grossmann to the duo of guitar wizards in Christian Muenzner and Steffen Kummerer, watching Obscura play their technical and progressive death metal tunes is an experience in itself. The setlist consisted of songs from the "Cosmogenesis" and "Omnivium" albums, with the added bonus of a new song that draws on the band's Death-influence a lot. The technical and progressive nature of the band's songs both limits and discourages a very active performance, but Kummerer did at least try to act as the frontman he is by interacting with the audience. The biggest point of criticism that I had the last time I saw Obscura live was Kummerer's vocals; on certain songs from the "Cosmogenesis" album he would either skip lyrics or change them in a way that made them sound improvised. This issue was still there this time around, as especially the lyrics on "Incarnated" were completely wrong (trust a fanboy who has practiced the whole album countless times). Apart from that however, this was the best Obscura show this writer has borne witness to; the talk between songs was professional yet personally engaging, and just being there when Obscura perform is enough to make it worth attending whenever possible.


Death To All

Every single metal fan in existence should be familiar with Death, the band often hailed as the very creators of the death metal genre. The legacy of Chuck Schuldiner lives on in the hordes of death metal fans and bands whose lives his music has touched. One of the legendary albums hailed on this Death To All tour is 1991's "Human", and the three musicians who recorded that album with Schuldiner are on stage on this tour: drummer Sean Reinert and guitarist Paul Masvidal of Cynic fame, as well as Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Iced Earth, Testament etc. etc.) on bass. To finish the line-up, the vocalist/guitarist for the tour is Max Phelps, a relatively unknown musician who has been a touring member of Cynic in recent years.

Paul Masvidal playing Death's legendary riffs

As the first notes of "Flattening of Emotions" were played it was clear that what was to come was something special. This was probably going to be a once in a lifetime experience, and for the hardcore Death fan seeing those legendary musicians playing their own classic tunes was almost orgasmic. Phelps performed his guitar and vocal duties the way he should, and apart from that he pretty much stayed completely anonymous throughout the show. For any other band this would be a hugely negative factor, but since the show was a tribute to Chuch Schuldiner it would've been inappropriate for Phelps to attract too much attention. Instead, he let Masvidal and DiGiorgio receive the attention as they walked around the stage playing their iconic music. DiGiorgio's switched between a 5-string bass and a 5-string with the second and fourth string removed effectively making it a 3-string bass while Masvidal played his own signature Masvidalien guitar.

The Death To All tour formation on stage

Although the setlist was focused on the "Human" album, there was room for songs from every single Death album. From "Baptized In Blood" from the 1987 debut album to "Spirit Crusher" from the last album before Schuldiner's tragic death, every single song played is a metal classic in its own right. The 4-piece played the set convincingly until Obscura's Grossmann and Kummerer were invited on stage instead of Reinert and Phelps to play "Spirit Crusher" to great effect. Reinert and Phelps then returned for "Together As One" before leaving the stage preparing for the mandatory encore consisting of "Lack Of Comprehension" and "Pull The Plug". When the group left the stage they did so having performed a convincing set that the late Chuck Schuldiner would have approved of, and one that fulfilled the dreams of many a Danish Death fan.


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