Vader Brings The Morbid Reich To Southern California

By Jason Williams

September 6th 2013, Yost Theater, Santa Ana CA:  Polish Death Metal.  Three bands would immediately come to mind for the casual death metal fan: Behemoth, Decapitated and Vader.  Many know that Vader are one of the longest running death metal bands to ever grace the earth, but few could remember that this year is their 30th anniversary. For many years, Vader have given us catchy riffs, brutal drum passages, singable and coherent lyrics (especially for the death metal circle), chaotic, powerful leads, and tight, honest metal. Of my 15 years being a metalhead, I have always considered Vader to be my favorite band. Tonight’s event would be my 11th Vader show, and given their last U.S. tour appearance was nearly 3 years ago, fans alike would be calling for their return, to give us more Vader brutality.

The Yost Theater is a concert/club venue located in the Downtown area of Santa Ana in Southern California. Originally, there was to be the Vader show and right after, a club event. They ended up closing the club event and starting the show at 8 PM instead of 7 PM.  Doors were opened at 7 PM as I made my way into the show with other fans waiting behind me in line. The Yost Theater isn’t your typical music venue. Because this was an all ages event, the areas that normally meant for the club VIP bottle services were instead for anyone wanting to relax before and during the show. There’s also a smoking and non-smoking patio next to the line to get in. The food menu was surprisingly reasonable and had selections such as various fried vegetables, flatbread pizzas and shrimp. Drinks were of the normal price range and the staff and servers were all very friendly as well.  All in all, a great place for a metal show. I attended the Sepultura/Death Angel show here last year, and from experience, recommend this venue to attend.

By 8 PM, Extremely Rotten took to the stage. Being the first band on the tour bill, the crowd was still making its way inside, so Extremely Rotten played to around 75 people.  A three-piece gore metal band hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, they wasted no time getting started. The sound was surprisingly well mixed, especially for the style Extremely Rotten plays, and for being the first band playing. Unfortunately, the bass guitar was hardly audible. And it was even worse, because the bass player was extremely competent. Lots of appregios (yes, on bass guitar), tapping and high level playing. Visually beautiful, but ends up being fairly lackluster when you can’t even hear the high level of playing. Both the bassist and guitarist shared singing duties. Slightly above average for gore metal, but nothing out of the ordinary. I would recommend them to fans of Devourment and Dying Fetus for sure. Crowd was headbanging along but still not warmed up yet. Overall, fairly good.

Execration took the stage at 8:50 PM, playing to a bigger crowd at this point.  A 5-piece from Colorado Springs, Colorado, they play a fairly standard side of death metal in the vein of Cannibal Corpse. By this time, the crowd was far more into them than the previous band, headbanging and moving around more; although no mosh pits in sight yet. The lead vocalist had a wider range as well with growls and screams, and he was moving all around. That also applied to the rest of the band members, even to the point of the rhythm guitarist falling down and still playing away. One big flaw though was the lack of lead guitar. For this style of death metal, having any form of lead guitar would definitely go a long way. The riffs somewhat suffered and made their set almost monotonous. But their energy still made the band enjoyable and the crowd cheered for every song.

At 9:35 PM, the 12-year old band Sacrificial Slaugher took the stage. I had previously seen them a number of years ago, and while they have gone through many changes in the lineup, it was good to see this consistency in their stage work stay strong. This was also the first band of the night to really get the crowd going. Mosh pits, headbanging and movement could be seen everywhere on the floor. The vocalist, who goes by “Crusty”, sang in a Suffocation/Deicide style. His vocals were powerful and he did a great job commanding the crowd. Their sound was pretty good, but the drums weren’t loud enough to be distinct. You can clearly see that the drummer was a very good one, but they lacked power from the lack of a quality sound onstage. I wasn’t able to attain a setlist from them, but they played 6 songs and 2 from their new album The Great Oppression. Great with the crowd, and definitely got the night started.

With some sound problems to be worked out and taking a bit of time, Vital Remains hit the Yost Theater stage at 10:30 PM, their Where is Your God intro from their last album, Icons of Evil sinisterly gracing our ears. I can definitely tell the ones here for Vader were also here for Vital Remains. About 300 or so were in attendance and they let their voices be known. “Icons of Evil” started and the pit went absolutely mad. Very much fixated on their stage presence, Vital Remains are one of those bands that get your attention when playing. However, the lead guitar was barely audible (and that happens to be a key component in Vital Remains). During the instrumental part of the song, the vocalist Brian Werner, formally of Monstrosity, demanded the sound engineer to fix the sound problems that would sadly be a part of most of their set.  The engineer must have had a difficult time, because at least 7-8 requests were being made all at once to fix the sound, given Vital Remains’ special sound. One positive note, you could absolutely hear every single element of the drums. Each hit was extremely powerful and jaw dropping. “Scorned” was played next, and happens to be my favorite song off Icons of Evil. Very powerful and commanding, rhythm guitarist and founding member Tony Lozano headbanged on with his crushing riffs and menancing music. The lead guitar was slightly more audible in the mix, but the drums were way, way too loud. Unfortunately, that has been a problem in the last two albums of theirs. If you didn’t know the bands music, it would be extremely difficult to decipher what was occurring. Introducing “Hammer Down the Nails”, Brian annouced that his best friend died 2 hours before the show, and proclaimed that metal would always be a family to him and everyone else. This lit a fire on the already energetic crowd, asking them to also make a special wall of death. The crowd definitely obliged. By the time “Dechristianize” played, it was their last song and that’s when the sound was audible and improved. The entire crowd went crazy for it and sang along to the lyrics and famous guitar solos. While the sound could have been better mixed and wishing that the band would play anything off of their other albums aside from only the last two (this sadly has been going on for years now), it was fixed at the end of the show, and Vital Remains still gave a great performance.

Set List:
1. Where is your God (Intro) – Icons of Evil
2. Scorned
3. Savior to None…Failure for All
4. Hammer Down the Nails
5. Let the Killing Begin (Intro) – Dechristianize

The setups took about 30 more minutes after Vital Remains, and at 12:15 AM, the almighty Vader took the stage.  Even though it was fairly later than many would be used to, the crowd showed no signs of wear and were screaming for Vader as they walked on stage.  This tour was to celebrate 30 years of the band’s history, and was earlier annouced that this set would concentrate more on Vader’s early material.  And absolutely so, as “Sothis” graced the stage. Not one person in the front was standing still.  Cheers, headbanging, constant crowd surfing and moshing all took place, and I’m only talking about the first song. Vader’s sound was outstanding. The new members of the band gave a great performance and the member of the band who was in Vader for the very beginning, Peter Wiwczarek demonstrated his oustanding frontman skills while shredding away.  Every instrument could be heard, although I wish Peter’s vocals could have been a tad higher.  This may have been my fault as I was right on the very front of the rail. Peter thanked the crowd numerous times and the fans were cheering for them after every single song.  Highlights from this delectable set included “Reborn in Flames”, “Chaos”, “Breath of Centuries” and “Vicious Circle”. In fact, 11 of the songs tonight were from the first three albums The Ultimate Incantation, De Profundis and Black to the Blind.  Their latest album Welcome to the Morbid Reich is a fascinating and powerful record, and it didn’t get ignored in the set. The title track and “Come and See My Sacrifice” were played back to back and had the crowd roaring in excitement.  “Wings”, announced as the last song, graced our ears and showed the band how brutal and rowdy a Southern Califorina crowd can truly be. Vader left the stage and encore chants could be heard all over the venue.  After only a few minutes, Vader came back and blasted into “Helleluyah!!! (God Is Dead)” from the blistering 2006 release Impressions in Blood. Singing along and crowd surfing were the observations all around. Little did we all know what would be in store for us…

As Vader left the stage, more encore chants would be prevalent, and as any Vader fan would know, here and there they play a very special cover of “Raining Blood” from the legendary Slayer. That very famous “Dun Dun Dun” played and the crowd could not contain themselves. The guitars let the sustain go, drums continued and we all were waiting for that famous riff set….and as it was ready to start, it wasn’t “Raining Blood” at all, instead, Santa Ana, California was treated to “Hell Awaits”!! The very last time Vader played this was on their very first live CD, The Darkest Age. In no shape or form was I, or anyone in the venue, were able to contain themselves, and all Hell broke loose. Right into the song, Peter screamed in the mic to all of us simply, “JEFF HANNEMAN!!!” Which in result had everyone screaming and cheering with horns in the air in honor of the late metal legend.  An absolute blistering hour-long performance from the Polish Kings of death metal, solidifying their already legendary status.

Set List:
1. Intro – Sothis
2. Vicious Circle
3. Fractal Light
4. Carnal
5. Reborn in Flames
6. Silent Empire
7. Chaos
8. Welcome to the Morbid Reich
9. Come and See My Sacrifice
10. Breath of Centuries
11. Decapitated Saints
12. Dark Age
13. Vision and the Voice
14. Wings
15. Helleluyah!!! (God Is Dead)
16. Hell Awaits (Slayer cover)

It was a fantastic night for all of us, and although the crowd attendance was disappointing to me (about 300 or so), everyone in attendance made this show absolutely worth it and got their money’s worth. Vader always give a fantastic performance and tonight was an absolute highlight for all of us attendance.  When Vader comes into your town, join the madness!!!

Remaining Tour Dates:
09/08/13   Alhambra Theatre – Portland, OR
09/09/13   El Corazon – Seattle, WA
09/10/13   The Venue  – Caldwell, ID
09/12/13   Marquis Theatre – Denver, CO
09/13/13   Aftershock – Kansas City, MO
09/14/13   Fubar – St. Louis, MO
09/15/13   Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
09/16/13   The Detroit Pub – Detroit, MI
09/17/13   The Paper Box – Brooklyn, NY
09/18/13   Mojo 13 – Wilmington, DE
09/19/13   Kings – Raleigh, NC
09/20/13   Oasis – Charleston, SC
09/21/13   The Orpheum – Tampa, FL
09/22/13   The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
09/24/13   Chameleon Room – Oklahoma City, OK
09/25/13   Korova – – San Antonio, TX
09/26/13   The Boiler Room – Dallas, TX
09/27/13   Launchpad – Albuquerque, NM
09/28/13   The Rock  – Tucson, AZ
09/29/13   Whisky A Go Go – Hollywood, CA