It may be a touch meta for a music writer to write about music writing, but Decibel Magazine warrants the spilling of some “inside baseball” ink. Since its inception in 2004, Decibel has represented the high water mark in heavy metal journalism, covering the genre’s breadth and depth with fervent passion, deep reverence, and intelligent writing. Never bowing to the latest trend, or dwelling on the most recent click-bait scene drama (we have Metalsux.net for that).
As such, it should come as no surprise that when Decibel started putting on a North American metal tour in 2012, the lineups have been pretty fucking spectacular. Each edition sees legendary bands paired with underground favourites and under appreciated gems. The 2017 edition was to be no exception with German thrash Godfathers Kreator headlining a bill that included Obituary, Midnight, and Horrendous.
I, thankfully, made it inside Club Soda while Philly’s progressive death metal prodigies, Horrendous, were beginning their set. I’d been looking forward to catching Horrendous live since falling in love with their latest LP, Anareta (Decibel’s 2015 Album of the Year). Not only did the band sound great, expertly executing Horrendous’ unique blend of progressive complexity and DM ferociousness, but bassist Alex Kulik, and guitarists Damian Herring and Matt Knox looked like they were having a fucking ball traipsing around the stage, sharing mics, and soaking up the energy from the already sizable crowd. The band finished their set with “Ozymandias,” an incredibly groovy, slow burn that shows off the band’s ability to make dense, multilayered death metal that is amazingly catchy.
In complete honesty, I didn’t know anything about the tour’s next act Midnight prior to that evening, outside of giving their latest album Shox of Violence a few spins. I mean, blackened Motorhead worship is fun and all but how cool could the live show actually b… Jesus Tap Dancing Christ! Who are these scary, hooded bastards? Is that maniac smashing a guitar before they even start playing? And thus, the feral, filthy onslaught that is Midnight commenced. Bandleader Athenar writhed with explosive energy, at one point jumping onto the crowd barrier while the audience screamed along to tracks like “Vomit Queens,” “Lust, Filth, and Sleaze,” and “Who Gives a Fuck?” Midnight’s positively grimy hybrid of proto-black metal, punk, and rock’n’roll feels like what would happen if you popped Speed Wolf, Toxic Holocaust, and Venom in a blender and force fed it to a group of ax-wielding psychopaths. Just to make sure no one doubted their commitment to lunacy, the band finished their set by smashing yet another guitar and then giving it to members of the audience.
It seems a tad silly to tell you that people were excited to see Obituary. But to give you a taste of just how intense the demand was from Montreal metalheads to see the legendary Florida band who helped pioneer the death metal genre in the 1980s, an internet meltdown of Trumpian proportions occurred when a typo on the event’s Facebook page indicated Obituary would only be playing for 30 minutes. IRL, the capacity crowd erupted when lead singer John Tardy took the stage. Reminding all those in attendance of their place in metal history, Obituary began their set with “Internal Bleeding,” the first track from their 1989 debut album Slowly We Rot. The band sounded razor sharp and the mile-long grin plastered on Tardy’s face perfectly encapsulated the enthusiasm that emanated from each member as they shredded through new material and fan favourites. It’s also kind of amazing that John Tardy’s signature growl sounds just as potent today as it does on those old recordings. As if hoping to whip the already frenzied crowd into an even frothier madness, Obituary capped off their set with Slowly We Rot‘s title track. Suffice it to say; the intended effect was achieved.
Most North American metal fans think of classic thrash as beginning and ending with The Big Four, but Germany’s Kreator, along with fellow Deutschland-ers Sodom, Tankard, and Destruction, were melting an equal number of faces on the other side of the Atlantic during the genre’s formative years and have now been doing so for nearly 35 years. The Montreal audience gave the Essen foursome a roaring reception as the band kicked off their marathon set with “Hordes of Chaos (A Necrologue for the Elite),” chanting along to every chorus. The band’s slick stage set up, which included an elaborate light and smoke show, perfectly accompanied Kreator’s blisteringly fast, ultra-precise assault. Honestly, the tunes sounded so note-perfect, it sometimes felt like the band was playing to a recording! Kreator’s setlist did a great job of spanning their expansive discography, along with a number of songs from the band’s latest LP Gods of Violence. While the band’s early stage presence felt a bit stiff, singer/guitarist Mille Petrozza quickly ramped up audience participation, calling for numerous circle pits, a massive Wall of Death, and a hearty clap-along during the ballad section of “From Flood Into Fire.”
Clearly, the fine folks at Decibel Magazine know what they are doing when it comes to building out a tour package. While the four bands on the bill each occupy very different spaces within metal’s sub-genre stratosphere, the evening felt like a perfectly built playlist anchored at its core by a pure love of heavy metal.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Danielle Kenedy