By Andrew Bansal
March 8th 2017, The Belasco, Los Angeles CA: In the metal word, long-running Los Angeles based label Metal Blade Records is universally known for its rich history of bands that have majorly influenced the genre, and its continually unmatchable modern-day repertoire of bands on a widespread and diverse roster. Established in 1982, the label marks 35 years in 2017, and to celebrate the anniversary, five of its bands came together to embark on a full US tour this February-March. Headlined by Whitechapel, the much varied lineup also features Cattle Decapitation, Goatwhore, Allegaeon and Necromancing The Stone. The tour visited The Belasco in downtown LA last Wednesday March 8th. Even though these aren’t top-tier bands in the Metal Blade roster, they treated Los Angeles to a worthwhile evening, and their five distinct styles of extreme music combined to put forth an apt celebration of the label’s 35 years in the business.
Doors opened as early as 6 PM, with around 50 people lined up outside the venue. The show started promptly at 6:15, as Pittsburgh PA group Necromancing The Stone took the stage. This is a new band comprising current/former members of Arsis (guitarist James Malone), The Absence (drummer Jeramie Kling), The Black Dahlia Murder (bassist Ryan “Bart” Williams), and Brimstone Coven (guitarist Justin Wood and vocalist “Big” John Williams), and they released their debut LP ‘Jewel of the Vile’ in 2016. They were not on the initial announcement of this tour but were added later, and based on this short 25-minute set, proved to be a solid addition with their blend of thrash, power and melodic death metal. Singer John Williams was most impressive and could certainly hold his high notes, and the group demonstrated good energy to get the growing crowd started. The biggest indicator of their successful outing here was the fact that people here early enough to catch any part of Necromancing The Stone’s set but unaware of the band’s addition on this lineup had only one question to ask each other: “What band was that?”
Next up were Denver/Fort Collins CO technical death metal band Allegaeon, putting on a show of the quality that has become typical of them. Those that have seen this band previously would know that new vocalist Riley McShane had big shoes to fill replacing Ezra Haynes, but proved his mettle and metal on the band’s 2016 release ‘Proponent for Sentience’ and just as importantly, clearly does so in the live setting as well. This is a band that makes technical death metal entertaining for people that find it uninteresting, and this crowd responded well to Allegaeon with mosh pit action aplenty. A highly skilled death metal band singing about science is a win-win, and in every aspect, Allegaeon is a band impossible to dislike.
New Orleans stalwarts and perennial road warriors Goatwhore were up next with their punishing, unrelenting blackened thrash, leaving behind wrecked necks, blood and broken bones in the mosh pit by the end of their 40-minute set soaked in grim red lighting. It’s been nearly three years since their latest album ‘Constricting Rage of the Merciless’ and they are due for a new one soon, but attendees everywhere across would be grateful that this band decided to participate in this tour, because an out-and-out extreme metal lineup of Metal Blade signees would be incomplete without Goatwhore, a longstanding pillar of all things heavy and extreme. They presented a great mix of tunes from their four-album catalog, including crowd favorites like ‘The All-Destroying’ and ‘Fucked By Satan’ (a.k.a ‘FBS’). Easily the most “rock n’ roll” band on this lineup, it was only fitting that technical difficulties on the guitar front would mar the end of their set, as they started and stopped ‘Baring Teeth for Revolt’, then started ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’ only to stop it, guitarist Sammy Duet walking off the stage. That’s the unpredictability of real rock n’ roll, and Goatwhore embraces it better than most. They restarted and finished ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’, an apt closing to a fist-pumping, horn-raising, neck-breaking set.
San Diego deathgrind masters Cattle Decapitation took the stage as main support, and rightly so, being on the Metal Blade label for as long as 15 years now, and with two decades of pummeling heaviness through seven full-length albums and countless skull-crushing live performances behind them. Here, they played a 9-song set of unbridled intensity, vocalist Travis Ryan at the peak of his powers with the skill and stamina to deliver the kind of vocal pyrotechnics Cattle Decapitation songs are known for, and his band mates Josh Elmore (guitar), Derek Engemann (bass) and Dave McGraw (drums) just as equal to their task, drummer McGraw’s drumming standing out as one of the most memorable aspects of this entire evening. Every band brought something unique and distinct to this show, and Cattle Decapitation turned out to be the most brutal and technically skilled band of the lot. Just like Goatwhore, they are extending the end of their latest album touring cycle with this run, but this Metal Blade Anniversary tour deserved to be graced by Cattle Decapitation as much as the band deserved to be on it.
Cattle Decapitation set list:
01. Manufactured Extinct
02. The Prophets of Loss
03. Your Disposal
04. Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)
05. We Are Horrible People
06. Circo Inhumanitas
07. Apex Blasphemy
08. Forced Gender Reassignment
09. Pacific Grim
And lastly at 10 PM, Whitechapel arrived on stage in front of an excited bunch of fans ready to sing along to the words of vocalist Phil Bozeman, who carried a strong presence and commanded the crowd excellently, aside from delivering his vocals to perfection. For starters, Whitechapel has been in existence since 2006 and is primarily categorized as “deathcore”, but based on their studio material as well as live performances through the years, it is completely fair to state that the band has progressed as a group of musicians and has incorporated elements that have allowed them to expand but keep their core fan base. Even in this set, there were songs that sounded like they could have easily been part of the Cattle Decapitation or Goatwhore set, and one thing is for certain: Whitechapel are far better at utilizing their three guitar players now than ever before. The fast-paced title track off of the 2014 album ‘Our Endless War’ was the highlight of the 13-song set, but fans loved every moment of it and raged hard in the pit, which brings us to our next big revelation on Whitechapel: they are no longer the karate kick mosh pit band, as there was none of that at this show. If you saw Whitechapel ten years ago and decided never to see them again, it is time for you to change your stance, because this is a far different and far better incarnation of the same band.
Attendees left the show satisfied, and with no regrets whatsoever. Targeted at a younger age group, this was a relatively show, which was not a bad thing at all. Overall, a fitting celebration of Metal Blade Records’ 35th anniversary and a highly enjoyable exhibition of extreme metal.
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Whitechapel set list:
01. The Saw Is the Law
03. I, Dementia
04. Our Endless War
05. Mark of the Blade
06. Elitist Ones
07. Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation
08. Eternal Refuge
09. Vicer Exciser
10. Let Me Burn
11. Section 8
13. This is Exile
Metal Blade Records 35th Anniversary Tour remaining dates:
03/09/2017 – San Diego, CA @ House Of Blues
03/10/2017 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
03/11/2017 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace Of Spades
03/14/2017 – Houston, TX @ House Of Blues
03/15/2017 – Dallas, TX @ House Of Blues
03/16/2017 – New Orleans, LA @ House Of Blues