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Vader - December 12, 2009 - Ches-Arena, Cheswick, PA

By: David E. Gehlke

Death metal at a roller-skating rink. I kid thee not. With blow-up Santa Clauses, penguins, and elegant Christmas balls adorning the perimeter of the Ches-Arena's floor, the Masters of Death tour limped into the outskirts of Pittsburgh. 'Twas a site to behold, one that is characteristic of the never-ending problem in Pittsburgh of legitimate shows, post-Club Laga.

Already having lost Decrepit Birth, Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky and Warbringer due to a variety reasons (read: finances), the tour was dwindled down to Swashbuckle, Augury, The Amenta, Rose Funeral and headliners Vader. Not necessarily a bad lineup in any sense, although the inclusion of Rose Funeral threatened to bring the whole show down. Then again, the actual sound of the venue did its best job to foul the situation up.

Up first were New Jersey pirate metallers Swashbuckle, who were able to wade through the venue's muddled sound with a fun set of remarkably brutal thrash metal. Shaded by an inflatable palm tree, the trio were in fine form, with several cuts from this year's Back to the Noose receiving a relatively warm response in their way-to-brief 30 minute set.

Canada's Augury played without the benefit of a bass player, although singer/guitarist Patrick Loisel had the soundbite of the evening after snapping a photo of the sparse gathering of 200 concert-goers: "I'll just photoshop this all the way to the back to make it look like there's more people here so I can show this to my mom." Not sure how many in attendance caught the joke, but yours truly let out a hearty chuckle. Musically, the Canucks can wipe the floor with most, but sound issues and Loisel's David Drainman (Disturbed)-inspired vocals left a lot to be desired. Sight of the evening: the members of Swashbuckle roller-skating amongst the crowd during Augury's set.

Australia's The Amenta had their sound butchered to such an extent that sympathy crept in amongst the crowd, or at least from those who are in bands and have experienced the same thing. For a band with such a hyper, caustic sound, providing the right sound proved to be an insurmountable task, thus burying drummer Robin Stone to the point where his snare was inaudible. Of course the band on stage has no idea how they really sound, so credit The Amenta for putting on an energized performance. A shame that no one heard them properly.

Rose Funeral must be a joke band. Not wanting to subject oneself to what has to be the worst band of the deathcore subgenre, the Cincinnati-based quintet was skipped in favor of catching up with long-lost Pittsburgh metal scene friends who groaned over the absence of Decrepit Birth. Their pain was felt.

As for Vader, the inclusion of Decapitated guitarist Vogg bolstered an already formidable musical combo fronted by the legendary Piotr Wiwczarek, who sounded hoarse during his in-between song banter. Their latest Necropolis was the point of focus, although "The Ultimate Incantation" and "Back to the Blind" received a rapturous response. Enjoying the best sound of the day, Vader put on a death metal clinic, showing those who doubt the power of the band's death-on-Slayer approach who's boss. Perhaps a better pairing with a similar-sized death metal band (why hasn't a Vader/Behemoth US tour happened yet?) would help maintain the band's two decade-plus presence on these shores.


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