Over a decade after Chuck Schuldiner’s untimely demise by cancer of the brainstem following a long and expensive medical battle, fans worldwide were certainly pleased to hear that past members of the highly influential group would be banding together to reactivate the long dead crew in select cities. The 2012 tour saw some enormous fiscal controversy, what with money being mismanaged, the scope of the tour being underestimated, and of course, the charity aspect making any and all profit almost non-existent to begin with. Not to mention the lack of Chuck Schuldiner himself due to being inhumed, and the last-minute nature of adding Exhumed’s Matt Harvey in place of Obscura’s Stephen Kummerer. It was destined to fail from the beginning, and reviving Death was a huge mistake.
Or was it?
Drama aside, Death (To All) lives once more, and now that those in charge (presumably) have all of their armoured ducks in a row this time ’round, the tour will no longer be a metaphorical game of Duck Duck Goose. Featuring the line-up of Death’s seminal and prog-leaning Human, along with guitarist/vocalist of Cynic’s current line-up, Max Phelps (which totals up to the men you see onstage being Cynic give or take a guy), there’s no doubting the technical ability of this crew. As if to say anything of the previous year’s staff, consisting of the same members sans Max, with “mean” Gene Hoglan, Scott Clendenin, and Charles Elliot of Abysmal Dawn to name most of them. This is beginning to sound like the history of a football team, so let’s move on to the actual show.
Sadly I missed my buds in Forest Of Remorse and all their technical/silly slamming brutality, but I was informed that it was a fun set and that there was a fair amount of gettin’ down. Nerds beware. Aversed, I’ll assume they also put on a great show, if not much less breakdowny and more on the side of the proggy jams that Death fans tend to gravitate toward. Black Trip and Necronomichrist were also sadly missed.
Since I wasn’t a fan of the other bands that played up until Exhumed, I’m gonna go ahead and skip to Exhumed because I don’t care.
Carcass worshippers and damn proud, California’s Exhumed have been delivering (WARNING: gory Metal-as-fuck hyperbole ahead) frenetic skullblasting intestine-shredding chainsaw-wielding sickness since 1990 in the form of buzzing guitars, shredding solos, and of course, drums that couldn’t settle down for the life of them. Of course, it takes a crowd that’s willing to tear it up to complete the equation of an Exhumed set, and unfortunately the mosh action was startlingly lacklustre, with sporadic shoving action, underfed circlepits, and just plain ol’ not enough brutality of the right sort. Oh, but the band was on point, nailing every bone-crunching chord, every artillery-round blast, every gurgle and growl, all in place. The people just seemed lazy or unwilling to serve up the blood and guts befitting such music. I did get hit on, though, and that’ll be the highlight of the night.
Death (To All), the main course of tonight’s metal-as-fuck feast, had a lot of expectations to live up to. Being one of the most well-known death metal bands of all time will do that.
With the setlist consisting of all of Human aside from “See Through Dreams” and “Vacant Planets”, and the rest being from Leprosy, Spiritual Healing, and Scream Bloody Gore, naturally there was a lot left out. Compared to last year’s setlist, it’s almost disappointing that they didn’t even touch on greats like The Philosopher, Scavenger Of Human Sorrow, or Crystal Mountain. There just simply wasn’t enough time. Though I do suspect that had they gone without the Chuck Schuldiner memorial video and played a few songs in its stead, perhaps the entirety of Death’s meisterwerke as it stands in the genre would have been better represented.
Underfed set time notwithstanding, the band crushed live. The guitar was even heavier and crunchier than on the original recordings, the drumming was spot-on, the vocals were highly reminiscent of Spiritual Healing/Leprosy era Chuck, which is (in my humble opinion) where he was most distinctive and vicious. The bass provided by Steve DiGiorgio didn’t get to shine as much due to the band not touching on the proggier material of albums like Individual Thought Patterns and The Sound Of Perseverance, but why complain? He’s Steve goddamn DiGiorgio and he’s good at what he does, so shut up. For your money’s worth, seeing these OGs perform their hearts out and be stoked on their olden days is still an experience worth having. Watching Paul Masvidal run about in unbounded excitement and not even miss a note with his trademark headless Steinberger all the while is quite fun, and of course, watching someone clearly nervous about filling in Chuck’s place and still nailing their performance in front of thousands of watchful and judgmental eyes is worth at least half the admission price alone.
All in all, Death may not be truly alive, but it is an autojector, an experiment in the revival of once dormant musical energy that seemed destined to remain in the confines of bedrooms and wherever a cover happened to be played. Going back to the source was a great success; let’s see how long they can keep this going before everyone gets sick of it.