Death DTA

support Abysmal Dawn + Loudblast
author EW date 02/03/15 venue Underworld, London, UK

A downgrade in venue to the cosy and on this occasion very, very hot Underworld, is the not status befitting a truly legendary act like Death. Well, I say Death, but really Death DTA, the touring 'tribute' act that has been doing the rounds for the last few years now. Previously at the much larger Forum in November 2013 the package may just be losing it's appeal but with the guarantee of classic death metal and this time, the tour de force that is Gene Hoglan behind the skins, a great evening was all but guaranteed.

All photos courtesy of Teodora Dani


First up was a French act whose history spans all the way back to the mid '80s and and whom can boast seven albums under their belt (the same total as Death managed in a much shorter timeframe) yet one who enjoy an almost non-existent profile. The reason why this is revealed very quickly into Loudblast’s set and it is not due to bad luck - the band simply have nothing in their arsenal to threaten even the third tier of international standard thrash/death metal. Fragmented listening to 2014’s "Burial Ground" in the build-up had given me an idea but the absence of hooks, or intrigue, in the plain compositions rendered a reception that could justifiably be noted as "lifeless" - and this was not due to a half-empty Underworld that often greets opening bands, either. To be fair you wouldn't have known it from the efforts of mainman Stéphane Buriez and his cohorts as they commendably pounded away despite the total disinterest of all present - truly, it must take a lot of balls to face-up to such a reaction thirty years into a band's career. Balls or not, something greater than mid-tempo death metal lite is needed to stir the emotions, whatever the scale of gig.


Abysmal Dawn

After this showing from Californians Abysmal Dawn I have to wonder why the band had not crossed my path before. Intensely technical, innately engaging and highly confident, their set only heightened the reason why Loudblast struggled to capture the imagination as riffs scythed past at great speed and intricacy without sacrifice of movement or personality from the band’s four members, a frequent and understandable problem commonly found in the more technical branches of death metal. Watching strings flayed and drums pounded I was taken back to past times standing in awe at the spectacle of Origin and Fleshgod Apocalypse, however the impression I could gather from the frankly perfect sound (huge commendations to the soundman tonight) was of AD harnessing a greater variety of songs than is commonly found in the genre - the standard preoccupation with incessant speed is often the undoing of even more the recognised names. I reserve the hesitation to confidently declare that AD never stray into the realms of style over substance, it has not taken much progression into 2014’s "Obsolescence" to get that feeling but at least the cautious opening to "By My Demons”, some mighty bass chops from Eliseo Garcia and a decent frontman showing from Charles Elliott guaranteed an impressive showing and invigorated the crowd ahead of the main show. Considering how little the extreme technical end of death metal exhilarates me circa 2015 this one turned out to be rather revelatory.

Death To All

Obviously the assorted works of Chuck Schuldiner and Death need no introduction to anyone daring to call themselves 'metal' so let's dive straight in. Ever respectful towards the immense legacy of the man’s work the feel around this particular DTA show is rather low-key, a fact continued through the performance of guitarist/vocalist Max Phelps, who as the only member never to have served in a Death lineup utters not a word between songs, instead letting bass extraordinaire and part-time hippy Steve DiGiorgio take the lead on that front. Advertised as a tour for "Symbolic", the band's 1995 penultimate album, I had expected the opus to be played in it's entirety at some point, but instead we got half of that record, interspersed primarily with cuts from "Leprosy", "Human" and "Individual Thought Patterns" and lesser amount from the remaining albums.

Naturally the sound was a spot-on - a reflection of the sterling work of the Underworld PA and the rigorous skills of the performers on stage - and with of course no 'new' tracks to be aired and a back catalogue known intimately to all there is a joyous, relaxed atmosphere to these performances unique to the circumstances. Seeing the combination of Hoglan and DiGiorgio up close is a wonder - the two would fit in the 'dream team' of many a metal fan - but we are all here for the likes of "Symbolic", "Suicide Machine", "Left to Die" and a dozen more, played out to enraptured audience of whom few would have ever seen the real thing. Despite DiGiorgio’s occasional announcements little time is left between tracks in a 100-minute set, which also features Obscura's Steffen Kummerer joining Bobby Koelble and others for three songs before the encore sparks a final paroxysm of joy from the multitude of flailing headbangers. Consequently the feverish mania found all around me generated a heat in the Underworld's dark confines unlike anything experienced for some time yet it seemed inconsequential when it comes to bowing at the altar of one of metal’s all-time most legendary acts, whatever form they take these days. It will never bring Chuck back, but every time his name is chanted you get the impression he looks down on us smiling from the great gig in the sky he must be fronting.


  • 1. The Philosopher
  • 2. Leprosy / Left to Die
  • 3. Suicide Machine
  • 4. Overactive Imagination
  • 5. Trapped in a Corner
  • 6. 1,000 Eyes
  • 7. Without Judgement
  • 8. Spiritual Healing / Within the Mind
  • 9. Flattening of Emotions
  • 10. Lack of Comprehension
  • 11. Symbolic (with Steffen Kummerer)
  • 12. Zero Tolerance (with Steffen Kummerer)
  • 13. Bite the Pain (with Steffen Kummerer)
  • Encore:
  • 14. Zombie Ritual / Baptized in Blood
  • 15. Crystal Mountain
  • 16. Pull the Plug

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