Review & photos by Andrew Bansal
April 5th 2014, House Of Blues Sunset Strip, West Hollywood CA: The fourth edition of the annual Metal Alliance Tour began in Tempe AZ on April 4th and made its way to Los Angeles the evening after. Featuring Polish extreme metal giants Behemoth along with Goatwhore, 1349, Inquisition and Black Crown Initiate, this year’s lineup once again promised to present something completely different from previous years, with an intriguing combination of bands that would cater to metalheads of varying tastes and preferences. Taking place at the House Of Blues Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, its usual LA venue, this show had been sold out several days in advance and promised to be a massive gathering of the LA metal horde.
Doors opened at 6:30 and the show was pushed forward from its scheduled 7 PM start to 6:45, with Reading PA-based progressive death metal band Black Crown Initiate playing a dynamic 25-minute set laden with low-tempo dark melodies smoothly transitioning into heavy riffs and fierce vocals. They were by far the most technical band of the show and the only one to employ the usage of clean vocals. They formed quite a solid first impression of me and and I would recommend attendees on the remaining dates of the Metal Alliance Tour to give them a try. All five members did a great job in demonstrating their individual and collective skills, with bassist Nick Shaw’s instrument in particular standing out crisply in the mix. Their music would go down very well amongst fans of Gojira, early Opeth, Gorguts and the like. They began in 2012 and have released a killer 4-track debut EP called ‘Song Of The Crippled Bull’. It’s very surprising to note that they’re still unsigned, but I can’t imagine them being so for too long.
Next up was a band many in this audience were eagerly awaiting, Colombian/American black metal duo Inquisition, who lived up to expectations and put on an immensely crushing performance, delivering what could be best described as black metal at its purest. There is a clear sense of simplicity in their two-piece setup, yet their music possesses great strength, depth and expression, and this performance was a perfect representation of it. Dagon on vocals/guitars and Incubus on drums blended riffs, melodies, blast beats and tempo changes in a manner the audience could easily find enjoyment in, as was evident from the constant breakout of mosh pits during their set. Their set slot and duration was justified when you look at the relative popularity of the bands higher up on this bill and it’s truly great for them to be part of this tour, but Los Angeles would certainly want Inquisition to return and play a longer set next time.
Visit Inquisition on the web:
After taking a while to set up and do their line check, Norwegian black metal quartet 1349 finally took the stage, and in all honesty, left a lot to be desired as they got their mix horribly wrong and the guitar was barely audible. This was such a clear flaw that many in the crowd were yelling at the band to turn the guitar up, but to no avail. Besides, the overall volume of their sound was itself too low, and considering that they took extra long to set up, it was a little hard to understand because all the other bands had their sound spot-on. And to make this worse, while the stand-in drummer did a fair job, Frost’s absence was definitely felt as he has been an integral part of the 1349 sound over the years. In all, this was not quite a true representation of 1349 as a live band, and for the sake of their North American fans, I hope they do better on the remainder of the tour.
The New Orleans juggernaut of Goatwhore came next and devastated this stage with 40 minutes of unabated intensity in a manner only they can. Their 11-song set was dominated by tunes off of the previous album ‘Blood For The Master’ but an appropriately sufficient dosage of the older albums was injected into it as well, along with a song called ‘Baring Teeth For Revolt’, off of their upcoming 6th studio album ‘Constricting Rage Of The Merciless’, slated for a July 8 release via Metal Blade Records. The influx of old-school thrash and rock ‘n roll amidst black metal riffs and blast beats is what makes Goatwhore stand out on their own as an unstoppable force in the live setting, and garners them a fan base that doesn’t merely consist of black metal fans. Except for a brief halt to fix guitarist Sammy Duet’s equipment, Goatwhore were at the peak of their powers at this show, and upon witnessing vocalist Benjamin Falgoust’s performance, no one could have guessed that he had just flown back from New Orleans after attending a family function and made it to the venue only 10 minutes before the band went on. This set once again proved that Goatwhore is the most rock ‘n roll extreme metal in existence today, and the new song is even more rock ‘n roll than their previous efforts. “If you like Accept, you’ll love the shit out of this one”, said Falgoust before the band played it, and rightly so. Aside from the undeniably awesome ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’, my favorite track of the set was ‘When Steel And Bone Meet’, perhaps because of its strong resemblance to bands like Motörhead and Venom. As it turned out, Goatwhore were the best band of the night by a long distance, and I’m already looking forward to seeing a lot more on them in the immediate future on the new album touring cycle.
Related: Check out a phone interview I did with Ben Falgoust a couple of days after this show here.
01. The All-Destroying
02. When Steel And Bone Meet
03. An End To Nothing
04. In Deathless Tradition
05. Baptized In A Storm Of Swords
06. Collapse In Eternal Worth
07. Baring Teeth For Revolt
08. Judgement Of The Bleeding Crown
09. Alchemy Of The Black Sun Cult
10. Parasitic Scriptures Of The Sacred Word
11. Apocalyptic Havoc
And lastly, Behemoth made a grand entrance onto this stage, much to the delight of this jam-packed House Of Blues, opening up with ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ off of their latest Metal Blade release ‘The Satanist’ and proceeding on to play three other songs from the well-received album during the course of the 13-song set. It was evident from the crowd’s response that they were anticipating this show ever since it was announced and for them the moment they had waited for had finally arrived. Every song was greeted with raucous cheers and every time frontman Nergal addressed the crowd, he had their complete undivided attention. For several reasons, till now I had missed out on seeing this band live, and this was my first live Behemoth live experience. I kept hearing all these amazing things about how great of a live band they are and built up this expectation in my mind which made me approach this particular show with much curiosity. Unfortunately, Behemoth didn’t quite deliver in a manner I was expecting.
To me, their set came across as completely bland and uninspiring, and lacked juice. May be it was just not a good follow-up to a band like Goatwhore, or may be they just had a below-par performance than usual. I wouldn’t know about the latter, because I have no frame of reference in terms of any past Behemoth experiences. All four members of the band did a good job in fulfilling their roles on their respective instruments, but as a group they simply did not impress me. I’d be more than willing to give them another chance the next time they come around, but as far as this set was concerned, it wasn’t the Behemoth I had heard great stories about, and left me largely underwhelmed.
Overall, even though this show had its ups and downs, it was clear this edition of the Metal Alliance Tour offers an interesting lineup for extreme metal fans across the continent and I have no doubt that it will play to packed venues everywhere. If the show in your city isn’t yet sold out and you’re doubting whether you should attend, do it for Goatwhore, Inquisition and Black Crown Initiate if not for the others on the lineup.
Check out a photo gallery from the show below (view the photos here if you’re on a non-Flash device):
01. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
02. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
03. Conquer All
04. As Above So Below
05. Slaves Shall Serve
06. Christians To The Lions
07. The Satanist
08. Ov Fire And The Void
09. Furor Divinus
10. Alas, Lord Is Upon Me
11. At The Left Hand Ov God
12. Chant For Eschaton 2000
13. O Father O Satan O Sun!
Remaining Metal Alliance Tour Dates:
4/06/2014 Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA
4/08/2014 Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO
4/11/2014 House Of Blues – Cambridge Room – Dallas, TX
4/12/2014 Emo’s East – Austin, TX
4/13/2014 House Of Blues – Houston, TX
4/15/2014 Beacham Theatre – Orlando, FL
4/16/2014 Tremont Music Hall – Charlotte, NC
4/17/2014 Theatre Of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
4/18/2014 The Palladium – Worcester, MA
4/19/2014 Irving Plaza – New York, NY
4/22/2014 Club Soda – Montreal, QC
4/23/2014 The Opera House – Toronto, ON
4/24/2014 Agora Theatre – Cleveland, OH
4/25/2014 House Of Blues- Chicago, IL
4/26/2014 Skyway Theater – Studio B – Minneapolis, MN
4/27/2014 The Garrick – Winnipeg, MB
4/29/2014 MacEwan Hall – Calgary, AB
4/30/2014 Union Hall – Edmonton, AB
5/02/2014 Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, AB
5/03/2014 Studio Seven – Seattle, WA