Tear Through the City, Tear Through the Soul
Deicide, Immolation, Skinless, Despised Icon & With Passion
@ BB King's Blues Club & Grill, New York City, 30 May 2005

by: T. DePalma
Here in the States May 30th is Memorial Day, a day when America honors those who have died in numerous wars throughout its history. But beyond the solemn tones of sacrifice and bravery lies a pith of morbid celebration displayed in public cliché as all across the nation's families congregate at cook-outs and military parades, feasting and laying in the summer rays like kings. Top of the food chain, the American way, and all that. It is never quite possible to honor the military yet maintain pacifism in the face of it. The institution affirms the dead and assures that the causes they fell before were just. We exult our predatory impulses in a celebration of war and meat. Monday's bill featuring Skinless, Immolation and Deicide seemed a perfect fit for the occasion.

As the more well known underground haunts have been shut down or lately silent (what happened to Lamours?) and the local groups find a stage in various bars across New York, the larger name bands have been coming back to BB King's. With a $10 minimum if you wish to sit at a table (there aren't any stools at the bar) and on-duty attendants in the bathrooms, BBK is a strange venue for death metal. On the upside, even though the bar charges $8 a shot, I observed with wonderful anticipation as the bartender filled mine in a cup the size of two -- two times. So, you'll get what you pay for; but don't pack your wallet without realizing this is tourist central and the service charge is steep.

I had arrived on time, meaning early, as the place only had about 40 people inside; took a seat on the floor and waited as Glen Benton power walked back and forth through the club. A merciless queue of Pantera and Rage Against the Machine played on the stereo system.

With Passion began the night with a solid performance of keyboard enhanced metalcore that wasn't at all troubling to listen to, and I almost thought about buying their CD before realizing that this only meant I had become a little too lubricated early on. This was typical genre stuff with scratchy yells and melodic riffs driving the songs, but thankfully no clean vocals blubbering about regret or loss; good energy to warm up the evening, but otherwise a quick market cash-in for Earache.

Despised Icon was next, and I had a bad feeling when I heard the two vocalists on stage for sound check. As I kind of anticipated, Despised Icon plays hardcore music with some death metal licks around the edges. (To be fair, their first record is technical death/grind with only a small hardcore influence, while their latest on Century Media is slam-saturated bilge with constipated vocals.) During this, I walked outside and stared at the "Hello Kitty" mascot on the sidewalk.

Magically, the crowd appeared larger upon reentry. Soon Skinless took the stage, with new vocalist Jason Keyser (brother of bassist Joe Keyser) and a slave girl tied up just off to the right. Albany's alright-ist band arguably had the best live sound the whole night. Although "Deathwork" was a bit clunky, older songs like "Tug of War Intestine", "Extermination of my Filthy Species", and "Tampon Lollipops" sounded infinitely more crisp and distinct here than on CD and Keyser did a fine job vocal-wise, maintaining a lively presence even if he wasn't nearly as chaotic as Sherwood Webber is reported to have been.

Almost as if they walked out of the "Harnessing Ruin" video, Immolation appeared around half-past ten in their simple and constant attire to much applause. This highly anticipated portion of the show opened with "Crown the Liar" merging seamlessly with "Of Martyrs and Men" and "Our Savior Sleeps" before Ross Dolan even said "Hello". The sound could have been a little better here: the music formed a carapace of distortion that was breached only by the vocals and Rob Vigna's trepanned solos. At times it was hard to tell what they were playing, but the combination of muffled hell behind an imperforate performance on lead guitar was a frequent moment of utterly transporting atmosphere in the night. From there the band went on to play through "Despondent Souls", "Swarm of Terror", "Challenge the Storm", "Father You're Not a Father" (it looked like Vigna popped a string at this point, but recovered in time for its eerie break), "Harnessing Ruin" and "At Mourning's Twilight". They could have gone on playing twice that amount and still kept the crowd rabid till the end, but the night was not over.

As darkness finally implanted itself onto the summer sky, it was time for Deicide to wrap up the evening. Flaunting replacement guitarists Jack Owens and Ralph Santolla (decked out in shirtless vest with Flying V, the man was dressed to shred) they barked out a lengthy set that included: "Scars of the Crucifix", "Bastards of Christ", "Children of The Underworld", "Blame it on God", "Serpents of the Light", "When Heaven Burns", "Sacrificial Suicide", "Christ Denied", "When Satan Rules His World", "This Is Hell We're In", "Once Upon the Cross", "Dead but Dreaming", "Behind the Light Thou Shall Rise", "Lunatic of God's Creation" and "Dead by Dawn". Both guitarists handled the leads with ease, but the ambience of the Hoffmans' distinct style couldn't quite be imitated. (In not quite the same way, the phrase "While Demons Mosh" endears me to the brothers more than ever. I can't wait to see if this spat really does go to court.) What of Jack Owen's notorious complacency on stage? I saw him mouth the chorus to "Kill the Christian", but other than that... this is not a visual man. Not only is Owen not imposing in the slightest, he's so damn bald. Not cage-fighter bald; not suave, Vigna bald; wrinkly, this was a last resort bald. Headbanging with it just looks ridiculous. I don't know what he could do on stage besides strapping on the old Deicide armor that would look minutely interesting.

Although gradually demystified through time, from animal killing nihilist sage to second rate Lemmy, Benton still appears motivated today. He put everything into the songs before noticeably gassing toward the end, becoming almost unintelligible as he huffed the titles into the microphone, finally closing the evening with "Deicide" -- not a mark of fatigue showing during the actual performance. Deicide today acts less like they're on a mission to destroy Christ than they are to put on a good show and send the crowd home happy. This makes for shitty new records but a damn fine concert. While you should be out seeing this tour for Immolation alone, the Florida legion does not disappoint.

Tour dates below. As always these are subject to change:

05.30.05 Manhattan, NY @ BBKings

05.31.05 West Springfield, VA @ Jaxx

06.01.05 Latham, NY @ Saratoga Winners

06.02.05 Quebec City, QUE @ L'Imperial

06.03.05 Montreal, QUE at Club Soda

06.04.05 Toronto, ONT @ The Opera House

06.05.05 Chicago, IL @ Joe's on Weed

06.06.05 Omaha, NE @ Ranch Bowl

06.07.05 Minneapolis, MN @ Ascot Room at the Quest Club

06.08.05 Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid Cabaret

06.09.05 Regina, SK @ Riddel Hall

06.10.05 Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Room

06.11.05 Calgary, AB @ Mac Ewan Hall (U of Calgary)

06.13.05 Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom

06.14.05 Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven

06.15.05 Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater

06.16.05 Orangevale, CA @ The Boardwalk

06.17.05 San Francisco, CA @ The Pound at Pier 96

06.18.05 Santa Ana, CA @ The Galaxy Theater

06.19.05 West Hollywood, CA @ Key Club

06.20.05 Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater

06.21.05 Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater

06.22.05 San Antonio, TX @ The Sanctuary

(article submitted 3/6/2005)


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