Obituary Turns Hollywood Inside Out

By Avinash Mittur

September 27th 2012, The Key Club, Hollywood CA: In so many ways, the “Carnival of Death” tour has been a special occasion for every city it has visited. This is Obituary’s largest national headlining tour in three years and the band has been armed with a special setlist exclusively made up of material from their first three records. Not to mention, this tour marks the return of Broken Hope, one of the forgotten heroes of the original death metal movement. With Jungle Rot and Encrust in tow, the tour stopped by Hollywood’s Key Club and gave fans a long evening of quality old-school death metal.

In order to sell some advance tickets, the Key Club booked many local bands to open the show. Unlike what happens at the Whisky down the street, the additional bands did not cut into the touring acts’ sets. Sadly due to a small issue out of Metal Assault’s control, I wasn’t able to enter the Key Club until all the local openers had finished playing on the main stage. I would like to think that these bands were well chosen for the event, but my skepticism when it comes to the venues on the Sunset Strip forces me to feel otherwise.

When I finally did enter the Key Club, I was greeted by the downtuned sludge of Encrust. I was actually very surprised to hear southern riffing in the style of Black Tusk and early Mastodon instead of the straightforward death metal of the other touring acts. Chris Angelucci’s doomy, bass-heavy bellow was also a cool surprise, but I could barely hear him at all. A couple of their songs contained a thrashy swing that ignited the pit, but most of the songs were focused on mid-tempo riffing. I actually really enjoyed Encrust’s set, and I think that their fusion of southern sludge and death metal with just a bit of doom was a great way to open up the show and add some variety to a bill filled with a mostly old-school sound.

Due to some truly awful luck, Decrepit Birth was forced to drop off the tour. After seeing the band play a set opening for Exodus and Origin at the Roxy about a year ago, I knew that the band would have been a great fit for this show. It was nice to see the road crew and other band members sporting Decrepit Birth tees in support of them, and I really hope that they are able to return to Los Angeles soon.

Next up was Jungle Rot- I had last seen them blow Deicide off the stage months ago in San Francisco, and I was prepared for yet another stellar set from the band on this night. Luckily Jungle Rot once again lived up to my hopes and even managed to best their prior performance. The band were allowed an extended set due to Decrepit Birth’s absence, a move that I considered very cool and classy by all involved. Just like before, Jungle Rot’s style of marching death-thrash was a delight to hear but their performance sounded just a bit more natural than the last go-around. I had previously complained about Jesse Beahler’s artificial drum sound and his robotic performance, but the guy appeared to have completely addressed that criticism in the months in between the two shows. While still playing to a click this time, his drumming was a much more driving force for Jungle Rot, and the band sounded more like a live unit instead of a copy of their studio creations. As before, the highlight of their set was a new song, “Worst Case Scenario,” but the set as a whole was very fun, and the crowd duly responded with a respectable pit.

Making their return to the touring circuit for the first time in twelve years was Broken Hope. Though they were without their fallen vocalist Joe Ptacek, their new singer Damian Leski ably provided the death growls the band needed, even if he didn’t sound much like Joe. Guitarist Jeremy Wagner and bassist Shaun Glass were monsters onstage, constantly working their small area and interacting with fans in the front rows. Damian however, was content to keep his stage banter to a minimum, only jokingly announcing song titles. He more than made up for it by constantly high-fiving fans he could reach and headbanging with Jeremy and Shaun during solos. The fans were perhaps the most energetic though, constantly keeping the pit alive for old classics like “Gorehog” and  “Swamped in Gore.” The fans clearly loved every minute of the set, constantly chanting the band’s name after every song and shouting out their favorite songs when they could. Broken Hope was a potent live act for their hour onstage, and pairing them with Obituary was a fantastic idea in my humble opinion. During “Pitbull Grin” Jeremy could be seen constantly glancing towards the soundman for an additional song- his wish was granted to the absolute delight of the crowd, and the band tore through “Felching Vampires” with utter abandon. Jeremy also made sure to stick around to hand out picks and meet fans seconds after their set, and seeing his love and passion for the band’s fans was honestly pretty cool. Broken Hope’s hour of gore infested old school death metal was the perfect primer for the carnage that was to ensue, and I can’t wait to check out their material as soon as I can.

Broken Hope Set List:
Repugnance
1. The Dead Half
2. Dilation And Extraction
3. Coprophagia
4. Swamped In Gore
5. Preacher Of Sodomy
6. Siamese Screams
7. Remember My Members
8. He Was Raped
9. I Am God
10. Gorehog
11. Into The Necrosphere
12. Pitbull Grin
13. Felching Vampires

The final act of the night was the one that nearly everyone in the house was most excited to see- Obituary. The Key Club became packed in the minutes before they went on, and a chant for the band started soon after. Drummer Donald Tardy, guitarist Trevor Peres and veteran bassist Terry Butler came out to begin “Stinkupuss” and the show began. John Tardy didn’t take long to come out and let out his bloodsoaked growl, and before long the crowd on the floor went ballistic. For all of Obituary’s 80 minutes onstage, the pit was a relentless sea of action. While I personally favor partaking in a thrash metal mosh pit, the violence at this Obituary concert was truly a pleasure to witness. Many fans have noted the lack of guitar solos from the four-man lineup currently playing on this “Carnival of Death” tour. After seeing them live, I can easily say that the lack of guitar solos did not lessen my enjoyment of Obituary’s set one bit. Sure, they would have been a cool addition to the songs, but the strength of the tracks lied in Trevor’s riffing and John’s vocals, which remain strong on the live stage despite two decades of throat-shredding.

Trevor frequently made the effort to shout his thanks to the crowd, even without a mic to help him address everyone. John in turn offered the occasional “fuck yeah Los Angeles” in his insanely cool death metal voice. His vocal performance proved to be the highlight of the set- he managed to sing his parts extremely well and even adjust for the occasional song that was double tracked in the studio (“Infected” was one such example).  “Chopped in Half” proved to be a delight for the crowd, with all of us shouting along with John and the pit flaring up with even more intensity. However, the audience indicated what they most wanted to hear with frequent calls for the title track to “Slowly We Rot.” This only happened after fifteen of Obituary’s best songs had passed, but the audience seemed more than happy to hear those tracks. Having the entire setlist comprised of songs from the first three albums was a very cool idea, and it made for a truly flawless set list. The only ill-advised move I heard was a drum solo from Donald to kick off their encore. Drum solos are generally no fun regardless of the player, and sadly this was no exception. Donald kept it mercifully short though and Obituary finished off their set with the one-two punch of “I’m in Pain” and the crowd’s long awaited “Slowly We Rot.” While I wished that the band had played for just a little bit longer, I can say that I came out immensely satisfied with their set. Not a single song played was less than exemplary, and the performance matched the quality of music played.

Obituary Set List:
1. Stinkupuss
2. Intoxicated
3. Bloodsoaked
4. Immortal Visions
5. Gates to Hell
6. Infected
7. Cause of Death
8. Chopped in Half
9. Turned Inside Out
10. Body Bag
11. Back to One
12. Killing Time
13. The End Complete
14. Dead Silence
Encore
Drum Solo
15. I’m in Pain
16. Slowly We Rot

Overall, I am more than happy with the touring package that the “Carnival of Death” presented. Every one of the acts provided a stellar set, and the bill was extremely well made. Fans were treated to nearly four full hours of great death metal on top of whatever the local acts had to offer- all for only $22 ($30 if one was a minor- yikes!). As a whole the “Carnival of Death” tour stands as one of my favorite events of year, and certainly one of the most consistent packages I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.

Overall Gig Rating: 9.5/10

Related: Obituary interview | Broken Hope interview

(All set lists courtesy of setlist.fm)

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