YOU WANT metal? You got it. The year’s first blockbuster tour is here, ready to crack your neck and put your teeth down your throat. It’s the last night of a mammoth European trek and even though it’s a Sunday, the Glaswegian legions are out in force. School-night or no, there’s plenty of beer to be spilled …and a little blood for good measure.
Unfortunately, the ABC’s winding, never-ending queue robs many of the crowd of the opportunity to catch Italian tech-death outfit Hour Of Penance. Luckily, even a truncated look at them is enough to gouge out an impression. Dealing in the kind of no-frills, no-ballads, no-mercy brutality that’d do the rest of tonight’s bill proud, they get the limited, early-doors punters moving nicely. (Extra credit for some killer, detailed T-shirt designs.)
By the time Michigan metalcore mob Black Dahlia Murder hit the stage, things are swelling towards a rich, moshtastic mayhem. More contemporarily brash than the others on the bill, they mightn’t command the arm-carving devotion of a more po-faced group, but the base mechanics of their music are as sturdy as a workman’s boot and twice as hard-hitting. Trevor Strand cannonballs about the stage with his standard, ritual aplomb. From the twisted, blackened assault of ‘Necropolis’ to the flesh ripping severity of ‘Miasma’, the setlist hits the mark. And as a thousand fists pound the air we could be watching the climax of some other gig in some alternate universe.
But we’re not. And the real brutality’s just getting started.
Cannibal Corpse don’t do bullshit. They do death metal. Straight. And very few do it better. Combining a grotesque sense of brutality, some exploitative, Technicolor stage banter and good old fashioned death metal menace, we’re in familiar territory for the duration. They mightn’t be headlining tonight, but their battleworn brand of barbarity would hardly waver whether opening some scuzzy toilet or headlining an outsized Euro-metal festival.
The great certainties of the genre are all in place: Corpsegrinder windmills. The tag-along girlfriends wince at the more lurid song titles. And the moshpit beats itself into a bloody pulp. As one punter is dragged out with concussion and bloodied face, it’s hard to tell whether CG’s greeting of “well done fucker, you busted yourself up” is delivered with admiration or scorn. Given their aesthetic villainy, it hardly matters.
Sure, the shock value of ‘I Cum Blood’ and ‘Priests Of Sodom’ has diminished over time (even when the latter was mischievously dedicated to “the ladies”) but as tracks they’ve become so ingrained into the metal culture they’re greeted with – dare we say – a degree of fondness. Cannibal Corpse are celebrating 25 years this tour. On tonight’s evidence, 25 more isn’t out of the question.
And so to our divisive headliners…
Slicker, catchier and more crowd-savvy than their tourmates, Devildriver might lack the brutality to satisfy some of tonight’s crowd, but they’ve snatched headlining duties from the New York death legends with good reason. They mightn’t have had hit records in the UK – and they’ll almost certainly not have the lasting impact that Corpse have – but their cultivation of reputation as a live band has been truly heroic. We mightn’t get any world-record circle pit attempts tonight (YouTube their download 2006 performance for that peach), but we do get a top-of-their-game Californian outfit bringing a hint of searing summer festivals passed to wintry Glasgow.
Kilted and seemingly perma-grinning for the duration, diminutive frontman Dez Fafara transforms into a giant onstage. High-fiving crowd-surfers, playfully gurning for photographers in the pit and deftly giving a thumbs-up to the wheelchair-bound fan at the side of the stage without ever breaking stride he’s looking more and more like a master performer as the years tick by.
His band don’t slouch either. Piling riff on riff and slicing through with some gloriously engineered solos we get throttled towards the harder end of the mainstream metal spectrum. It’s perfectly-staged, polished stuff, but the grit’s in the songs.
End Of The Line. These Fighting Words. Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Horn of Betrayal. Clouds Over California. Meet the Wretched.
Perhaps it’d be too much to describe this as a greatest-hits set (this band’s popularity having never rested on standalone songs) but the breadth and strength of tonight’s setlist does betray an outfit who’ve steadily crept up over the years, building track by track into an extremely respectable beast.
Most importantly, the audience lap it up. With most of those present circle-pitting too hard to really think, Devildriver could’ve phoned in something tired for the end of the tour. Thankfully, even those standing still get swept along. Five hours after doors, the sweaty masses spill, steaming into the chill night. There’ll be hangovers and bangovers and split lips and bruises to tend in the morning but – for now – there’s the glow of satisfaction from a metal crowd genuinely given their fill.
Until next time? We’ll see you down the front…