Review by Jason Williams
[Videos by Arturo Gallegos]
May 1st 2014, The Complex, Glendale CA: This would be a very special night for those in Los Angeles who love their death metal. New Zealand’s very own Ulcerate would make their very first California trip on their second US tour ever. Playing the US for the very first time in 2012, Ulcerate made a small East Coast tour to also coincide with the Maryland Death Fest of that same year. And thankfully, we were the very first show of their first West Coast tour this time. Supporting their newest release ‘Vermis’, Ulcerate would bring their massive techincal death metal sound to us all, and I was extremely curious to see how people would react to a band of their caliber of musicianship and presence.
This was to be my first time at the Complex in Glendale, CA, and I had confused it to be The Complex in Hollywood. A large difference indeed: the one here in Glendale is a bar/club and the other an arts theater. I believe all of us would have been curious to see a death metal show played next door to art classes and performances in Hollwyood, but nonetheless, I arrived at the real Complex at around 10:30, as I missed Doesn’t Matter perform while Children of God were just opening their set. But our man behind the video camera captured Doesn’t Matter’s full set and you can watch it below:
Walking in, this was a small venue with a fairly impressive bar on the right side and a small 3-feet wall separating the stage on the left side. The bar had reasonably priced beer, along with a good selection to choose from. It surely beats the taste of Corona, Modelo or any of that lower level beer (just my opinion, of course). A number of fans were in attendance, watching from the bar side and on the stage side. The venue was a solid fit for this kind of music.
From the depths of Los Angeles, Children of God opened their set with some extremely heavy doom. The drums were mic’d loud and clear, something that should always be done at metal shows, especially for their style of music. The intensity of the drums add to the power and emotion for playing a doom style, specially live. Both guitarists in this four-piece band played with a lot of emotion in their stage presence and music. The vocalist/guitarist was screaming his soul out to the slightly headbanging crowd, something you’re hearing more in this type of genre. However, as the first song progressed, blast beats and extremely swift strumming blistened our ears. Normally their style might come off to some as indecisive and non-fitting, but because their sound was full of clarity and power, their music stood out. It was an interesting twist to hear a doom metal sound followed by somewhat brutal black metal from them. Their first song was surely around the 10-minute mark, as I couldn’t tell exactly when it ended until much later in the set. Children of God played about 25 minutes of powerful doomish black metal that was met with approval from the crowd. Although some of the screaming had a little too much of a metalcore vibe to me, it wasn’t bad by any means and I would love to see them play a longer set in the future.
The show was running behind, as Lake of Blood had difficulties with their bass cabinet. Scheduled to start at 11:10, their equipment problems were fixed at around 11:40, and playing a somewhat similiar style to Children of God, Lake of Blood performed a more catchy style of doom along with intense moments. The drummer stood out with a very complex drumkit, however, as talented as he was, the sound and his playing style didn’t quite fit their music, I felt. He would have been more than suited for a band sounding like The Faceless or anyone as such. The riffs were slower and had more effects from the guitar pedals, developing into harmonies from both guitar players, having the crowd cheering on and moshing, although this would start a problem later in the evening. The singer had a large mix of delay in the mic, but it fit well with the screams and lesser growls used during their 30-minute set. By the middle of their set, the venue had a large amount in attendance. A number of the audience seemed also there in support for Lake of Blood, so it was comforting to see local bands getting the support they deserve. This is how the big bands that we love came up. We should be treating this new generation of starting bands the same way. Lake of Blood performed a solid set of intense doom metal, and hopefully they’ll have more opportunities with bigger bands down the line.
Lake Of Blood links:
The show was 20 minutes behind and it was about 12:20 AM, quite late for a Thursday night. I wonder, especially on the weekdays for most, how much that could impact the level of attendance and the bands on it. I personally have no problem with later shows, and impressively, the attendees were by no means leaving at this time. I do believe that Ulcerate themselves had all to do with it.
By 12:30 AM, Ulcerate finally took the stage to a massive reaction from the crowd. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one waiting for them to finally play in California, as the moshing had already started, and they hadn’t even played a note yet. Right from their newest release ‘Vermis’, “Confronting Entropy” opened their set, devouring our souls with absolute power in the form of crushing, intense and jaw-dropping technical death metal. Playing from all but their first album ‘Of Fracture and Failure’, Ulcerate incorporated from the rest of their discography, representing their last 3 albums, with 4 songs off of ‘Vermis’. Songs from their 3rd album ‘The Destroyers of All’ I noticed were the audience’s favorite songs. Sadly though,a small group in attendance were completely intoxicated, moshing away but in the very ‘douchey’ sort of way. Running into everyone around them, crowd surfing and at the same time, trying to take the ones who caught them down on the ground. As brutal as Ulcerate is and the fact that moshing would almost be perfect here, their style of playing had the rest of the audience in awe. No one wanted to miss a single note slip through their eyes and ears. Thankfully, by the middle of the set, that group of drunkards settled down and were just lightly moshing and cheering to Ulcerate.
Drummer Jamie Saint Merat was in true form, pounding out the life of his drumkit through blistering fills, exceptional techinque, and some of the most powerful bass drum sounds I’ve heard in a long, long time. My skin was in goosebumps everytime they went off and literally, his bass drum attack sounded like rapid machine gun fire. And yet, his face looked like he was reading his email. It truly showed me the level of musicianship I was in for tonight. Bassist and vocalist Paul Kelland showed a menancing presence with his bass playing and deep growling vocals. Very reminiscent of Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal, his growls were powerful and very consistent. Some may argue a high scream here or there would be appropiate, but with their quite unique style of brutal technical death metal, there were none to complain about, especially when the quality was high.
Video footage part 1:
However, the true highlight of the late evening for me was guitarist Michael Hoggard, founder of the band along with Merat. Ulcerate’s riffing style is truly complex, haunting and binding. No guitar solos were found here and none were needed at all. Not only was his guitar tone absolutely brutal, deafening and crystal clear, it was also majestic and told stories; something many guitarists lack by hiding their ‘ability’ with constant sweep picks and licks. Songs such as “Dead Oceans” and “Weight of Emptiness” truly showed the magnitude of Hoggard’s playing. Carnage, absolute carnage was what I felt witnessing this captivating style of brilliance. I wasn’t able to headbang or ‘rock out’, because the music was so captivating and deep, it held me like quicksand, unable to move but still able to appreciate the velocity of Hoggard’s playing. As a guitar player myself, I could not believe the chords and progressions I was able to finally see live from him. Add to the fact that he’s only 29 years old, I cannot wrap around my head what more incredible music and guitar playing we will be seeing from him in the very near future.
I was somewhat skeptical of how the croud would react to Ulcerate’s long song durations, (the average time for their songs are at least 6 minutes). Now, that isn’t a long time exactly, but there’s so much happening in their music, I can certainly understand some being drained from it. Yet, time went by very fast, almost too fast, and the crowd was eating up all what was being witnessed onstage. They came back for a 2-song encore, the highlight of their set “Everything is Fire” which had the crowd in a roar of excitement, cheers and chaos. Ending their set was “Omens”, a true standout track that had the small venue converting the energy back into headbanging and moshing too. Kelland was very appreciative of the crowd response and thanked us throughout the set and extensively after they ended.
Video footage part 2:
70 minutes of Ulcerate was something I thought I would never be able to see and almost something I wouldn’t be able to handle. I permit that anyone who was not able to see Ulcerate tonight, to send an apology letter to their home of Auckland, New Zealand. And truly cannot express how remarkable they were onstage, Ulcerate were definitely a highlight of my death metal attending shows and an extraordinary limelight of 2014. Also, Auckland’s zip code is 1000, in case you weren’t here.
(Check out parts 3 and 4 of the video footage on Arturo Gallegos’ YouTube channel at youtube.com/SexThrash69)
01. Confronting Entropy
02. Dead Oceans
03. Clutching Revulsion
05. Weight of Emptiness
06. Soullessness Embraced
07. Cold Becoming
08. Await Rescission
09. Everything is Fire
Ulcerate Vermis North America MMXIV Tour remaining dates:
5/02/2014 Elbo Room – San Francisco, CA
5/03/2014 Tonic Lounge – Portland, OR
5/04/2014 The Highline – Seattle, WA
5/06/2014 Starlight Lounge – Sacramento, CA
5/09/2014 Boot & Saddle – Philadelphia, PA w/ Inter Arma
5/10/2014 Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY w/ Inter Arma
5/11/2014 Middle East Upstairs – Boston, MA w/ Inter Arma
5/12/2014 Les Katacombes – Montreal, QC w/ Inter Arma
5/13/2014 Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Noranda – Rouyn-Noranda, QC w/ Inter Arma
5/14/5012 Comfort Zone – Toronto, ON w/ Inter Arma
5/15/2014 Corktown Tavern – Detroit, MI w/ Inter Arma
5/16/2014 Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL w/ Inter Arma
5/17/2014 Brass Rail – Fort Wayne, IN w/ Inter Arma
5/18/2014 Carabar – Columbus, OH w/ Inter Arma
5/19/2014 The Shop – Pittsburgh, PA w/ Inter Arma
5/20/2014 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA w/ Inter Arma
5/21/2014 Empire – Springfield, VA w/ Inter Arma
5/25/2014 Maryland Deathfest – Baltimore, MD