Saturday December 14th, mother-nature was in a piss-poor bitchy mood, showering Ohio with sleet, rain and snow making travel difficult to nearly event missing for many motorist, metal heads and death metal players. The Columbus and surrounding scenes really showed the heart, will and passion it takes supporting heavy music, coming out to the Alrosa Villa for Unkured Band, Dismemberment, Nero Di Marte, Origin and Gorguts presented by Columbus Events Group. Indeed, the top three touring bands drove 10 hours through mother-nature’s fury to play for the people. Nero almost didn’t make it, arriving just in time, going directly from vehicle to stage, but they made it. Fiercely devoted fans also trekked from Indianapolis, KY, PA and Cleveland to see the return of Gorguts. Other crowd devotees included Nathan Garnette & Dustin Boltjes from Skeletonwitch.
Unkured Band from Cincinnati opened the frigid wet evening with an old school death throwback feel, harkening back to the late 80’s early 90’s thrash attack of Sepultura, good, given their name is taken from a lyric in Mass Hypnosis. (The fear grows as a sickness un(k)ured). They start, overthrowing the gates of hell Taking the Abyss, becoming the new dark lords of damnation. Breaking out the triple windmill head-banging barrage, they play with a sound that started way before their years, when file sharing was called tape trading and eyes and ears were your ‘recording devices’. It’s a young metal heads world and they spread their Dark Dominion to all who came to hear. Influenced by Death, Immolation, Vector and Nocturnus AD (formally Nocturnus) they finish with Before Us, Heaven Trembles. Guitarist C.J. Washington’s red pants and matching Danzig cross just kick ass on principle as singer/guitarist Cody Knarr yells with Schuldiner Leprosy era youth, why do you kill? Because I Can!
Next up Columbus death metal hero’s Dismemberment. Guitarist/vocalist Luke Shively sporting a blood stained/splattered white strummer, brother Jacob sporting all black with bullet belt meaning things were about to go dark and brutal Dexter style. Though bassist J.D. Henderly wore white with jeans, gotta add a little light and color to the show. Shively has some old school working man’s basement black metal in his voice. Looking a bit like metal director Sam Dunn doesn’t hurt his metal cred either. Guest drummer James Watson filled in for the injured Taylor Emerine. They opened Possessed by the music from the Condemned EP and possibly the Seven Churches. Gateways to the Past and the rampant marching Reap What You Sow were represented from the Denied Salvation EP with a reaping intro from the holy Sabbath via the devils tritone. They play new tune Eye of the Keeper then pay respect to the godfather of technical death high on the Crystal Mountain, prompting pit number two to open. They finish with an untimely, live burial on Cryptic Isolation. Their first full length, Embrace the Dark is coming soon. Jacob has toured with Acheron and Dismemberment will be opening an upcoming mini-tour for Skeletonwitch.
The first of the touring bands, being fashionably late, Nero Di Marte, formally Murder Therapy made it just in time to play some experimental, weird but very cool avant-garde metal, Italian style from their new self-titled CD. The chilling intro to Convergence starts with tribal drums and the cathartically brilliant disjointed sound of Tool meets Opeth fills the room. The icy whispers of guitarist/vocalist Sean Worrell begin pulling us closer to the abyss’ edge, after the disturbed, pursuing drum beat is joined by clanging chime guitar sounds and the voices of the gods. Now join and fall forever. They could be the art-rock version of Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah meet Mastodon. Time Dissolves sounds like Rush going to the ultra-dark side of uber-prog. Their 12 minute plus namesake takes us through the many demented twists and turns of a nightmarish roller coaster ride through the subconscious of a decaying mind, sucked and trapped in a maze with no escape. It’s what a band would sound like playing in ‘the further’.
Nero Di Marte an opaque, intense black pigment from iron oxides has been used in paintings since the beginning of the XX century. It originates from the mythological god Mars and the planet, in processing the iron according to alchemical tradition. The band has three releases under Murder Therapy. Part of their sound came from guitarist Francesco D’ Adamo’s first listen to Bathory’s Blood Fire Death on vinyl, the intro chilling him, inspiring his own beginning of musical evolution. www.nerodimarte.com
Kansas pummeling death shredders Origin come out to destroy and bring the crowd to them, literary. Starting out immediately in blitzkrieg blast beat fashion opening the Portal to the sea of waiting death metal dancers. Wrath of Vishnu starts with some machine gun fire Fear Factory guitar shots spiraling into decibel busting chaos. Origin is music of perpetual aggression, volume and speed. Singer Jason Keyser mourns the loss of Peabody’s, admitting to getting knocked on his ass there, a few times. He dedicated Staring From the Abyss to the former Cleveland metal hub with guitar sounds squeaking/squealing their way into frayed eardrums. Stage diving into the crowd he welcomed Columbus to join them. Spreading arms wide, waving them up proclaiming ‘our stage, is your stage’. The gates of hell and controlled reckless abandon quickly opened as the first of several metal heads took the initiative, climbing up and sailing off. Keyser interacted with several, even shaking hands and head banging with a few. It was a scene straight out of an old school 80’s hardcore, thrash documentary, when fans made the show happen as much as the band did. It was definitely an Expulsion of Fury in the vulgarist display of power as the crowd performed a ‘silent wall of death’ their war cries filling in for the music.
Then they bring it down a little (for the first few seconds) of Purgatory. Sweep picking, YouTube video Aftermath pummels the eardrums with insane frantic high pitch notes and drums that signal the warp speed marching of the oncoming cyber-damned. The deadly speed of the Swarm comes without warning infesting humanity and Saligia is Fear Factory played a thousand beats, notes faster. You could almost hear Paul Ryan’s guitar screaming for mercy as he fondled its frets break-neck speed.
Colored Sands is a concept album of sorts telling intelligent, emotional stories of the history of Tibet and the origins and teachings of Buddhism. The record itself is a comeback for the band and founder/singer/guitarist Luc Lemay, being the first release for the hailed Quebec tech-death metal band since 2001’s From Wisdom to Hate. Since their formation in 1989 they’ve released five records and had their share of turmoil and down time. Roadrunner signed them early on then dropped them after 1993’s The Erosion of Sanity; a five year break up ensued, returning in 1998 with the critically acclaimed Obscura followed by From Wisdom to Hate. 2005 saw them split up again after a band member’s passing. They reformed in 2008 by Lemay encouraged by Steeve Hurdle of Negativa, a band they were both in at the time, preparing for the 20 anniversary. Colored Sands (Seasons of Mist) was inspired by Opeth and the album The Incident by Porcupine Tree, also featuring Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston of Dysrhythmia on guitars and bass with Origin’s John Longstreth on drums.
Lyrically the songs tell historical stories of conflict, war and death in Tibet’s history along with Buddhist customs and mythology. Le Toit Du Monde discusses Tibet’s geographical prowess as the highest region on earth, almost touching the sky with its vast mountain peaks and mass expansion. It’s an almost impenetrable land of mystique and mystery surrounded by a mountain range six times bigger than Western Europe, adding to its aura. ‘An Ocean of Wisdom’ the English translation for Dalai Lama tells of the monks search for their reincarnated 14th leader. After the 13th passed, his body was kept and preserved while they searched for clues. His head was discovered turned northeast several times on its own from the pre-positioned south ‘direction of long life’ position. They consulted oracles going to the sacred lake of wisdom for guidance.
Forgotten Arrows takes inspiration from a Matthieu Ricard book.The title track means The Kalachakra Sand Mandala aka the Wheel of Time which gives peace and healing to all beings and the planet. The wheels intricate construction consists of delicate sifting of colored sands into elaborate patterns and symbols rich in meaning and represents a visual sculpture and vital key to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Enemies of Compassion told about the mythical beast of Tibetan legend, the Snow Lion. Known as a protector, its image once emblazoned on the Tibetan flag is outlawed today. Embers Voice are the last words of Tamding Thar, an elderly Tibetan who set himself on fire in protest of the Chinese Government hoping for the Dalai Lama’s return someday. Absconders is dedicated to Kelsang Namtso a 17 year old Tibetan killed by border guards in a group fleeing to India via Nepal that was witnessed by mountain climbers scaling Cho Oyu. Reduced to Silence is inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. Instrumental, The Battle of Chamdo about the Chinese campaign to seize Tibetan forces and incorporate Tibet under Chinese sovereignty wasn’t played. Colored Sands has made several top ten metal records of the year lists (#5 Rolling Stone, #1 Loudwire).
Le Toit Du Monde immediately crashes into Opeth guitars and drums playing into the spooky, dreary musical moor quickly clearing into much heavier, faster territory with twisting, convulsing dementia guitars. An almost hyper-speed hammering of pans effect turned into death metal poetry, back drifting away into the noise void of the unknown. An Ocean of Wisdom begins sounding like the gears of a possessed animatronic jazz band of the damned borrowing the Nile-istic breath of the god’s mid-way. Forgotten Arrows takes a few samples of the pharaoh’s sands mixing with Tibetan colors to form the sounds trapped in a Nile-Opeth hourglass before exploding from within. Colored Sands starts slow with the haunting tranquility of a simple grain of guitar chord with a light, pleasurable melody approaching, before deep haunting notes take over. Probably the most tranquil a death metal song can be with bits of apprehension and ascending majesty of its lyrical inspiration.
Enemies of Compassion musically describes the feeling of a huge wood block hammer back-smashing during a medieval pillage, with demonic, morbid, screaming guitars five minutes in. Embers Voice inferably captures the cries of a tortured, agonized soul from the flames. At a little over nine minutes Absconders sounds like a massacre in slow-motion, playing every wound, stab and open slash slow and red to appreciate the intricacies and bloody details of the ugly guitar violence. Reduced To Silence starts with mellow melancholy notes quickly exploding into machine gun speed guitar/drum pummeling, slows down a bit then heads back to more cranial clobbering.
Lyrically Colored Sands is a historical portrait of the conflicts, struggles and ideologies of Tibet and Buddhism. Musically it’s a thudding sound wallop hammering at your brain until it cracks open.
A fan politely yelled for Obscura (all of it) on the encore. They went back to 1993 on Orphans of Sickness. Then dedicated Inverted to Origin and a Happy Birthday to lights and soundman Blacky from Voivod, finishing with the ex-halted death metal finger-dancing diamond Obscura. www.gorguts.com
Gorguts will return to Columbus in April on the Decibel Magazine Tour.
Gorguts trio images by Mike Ritchie.
All other band images courtesy of Samantha Stewart Photography.
Colored Sands Image courtesy of www.amazon.com