Metal Blade 25th Anniversary Tour - September 17th, 2007 - Slim's (San Francisco, CA)
By: Jacob Richardson
San Francisco's sticky-floored Slim’s is one of the only local venues known for harboring extreme music acts. So it was fitting that it hosted the show celebrating Metal Blade Records 25th anniversary as one of the premiere labels for the most evil, vile, and vicious bands on earth. Arriving just in time to hear the first screeching riff of the night explode from the speakers, I braced myself. When a lineup includes Goatwhore, The Red Chord, The Black Dahlia Murder, and heavy metal juggernaut Cannibal Corpse absurdity is inevitable.
Goatwhore terrorized first. Their set was a schizophrenic mass of heavy, downtrodden tunes bursting through their own suffocating fog with machine gun rapid blast beats and jet-black punk riffs. Somewhere around their fourth song “In the Narrow Confines of Defilement” elbows began levatating, testosterone started simmering, and faces scrunched sour. They managed to keep the mood floating in a tense limbo. Rising waves of psychosis often ceded to a sludge of muddy metal viscous enough to halt necks from premature whiplash. It’s close to the end of their set and the crowd is less than impressive. 20 minutes had gone by and I’d yet to see a single middle finger waving in respect. During “Serpents Enslaving Whom It Once Worshipped” a small but undeniable pit thankfully began frothing with a guy the size of a Golem dominating the Western edge. They ended with “Alchemy of the Black Sun” and achieved as much as they could in their allotted 30 minutes.
Next was The Red Chord and they were absolutely on fire…for the first 10 seconds. After that, well, let’s just say that the severely unenthused audience sapped a lot of vigor from their performance. It’s ironic how much a concert glorifying death can suffer when the crowd actually plays dead. After the first two songs, RC lightly criticizes the lack of brutality poisoning the air. Maybe they didn’t know the rules yet (this being first death metal tour), but one strict commandment at a concert like this is, Thou shalt not insult the crowd. A downpour of “Fuck You!'s" and multiple variations of this same basic concept rained onto the stage during each song break thereafter.
Though I felt sympathetic- to be fair the crowd was so calm a flatline tone was almost audible- I had to smile. You just don’t insult metalheads, plain and simple. Vocalist Guy Kozowyk did win the "Quote of the Night Award" when he ended their last song with, “For the next 25 seconds, pretend we’re a band you really like!” An interlude of Michael Jackson hits, from “Thriller” to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” settled down the huffy headbangers during the set change.
The Black Dahlia Murder takes the stage and I’m awestruck. Their lead singer Trevor Strnad, looks just like an evil doppleganger of Jack Black’s “School of Rock” metalhead parody character. After the first chaotic offering he takes off his shirt, exposing his portly gut, and a noticeable spark of life shoots through the crowd. At first the sound quality was unbalanced, as a couple guitar solos sounded like a windchime caught in a Kansas tornado, but after making the necessary adjustments the intensity from the speakers rivaled that coming from the stage. Their smoldering persistence slowly thawed Red Chord’s lingering cold shoulders. And how did BDM achieve this? Flattery. Sometimes merciless, brutal Scandinavian-flavored bombast isn’t enough. A single “You’re awesome, motherfuckers!” goes a long way to a guy sporting an Orgy of the Sick T-shirt.
Then, one song shy of their finale, I was witness to something that is occasionally heard of, rarely seen, and never fully understood - the heavy metal marriage proposal. Before ending their set, BDM gave some guy the chance to come on stage, drop to one knee, and ask for his girlfriend’s hand in holy matrimony -right before Cannibal Corpse. How effing romantic. She of course said yes.
But enough love, marital bliss, and the beautiful union of souls. Those aren’t fitting precursors to a band with a song catalogue that includes “Meat Hook Sodomy," “Nothing Left to Mutilate," and “Dormant Bodies Bursting." Cannibal Corpse lumber onstage shrouded in full thrash, crash, and trash hubris and by their second song, “Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead” the mosh pit had evolved into nothing but a mass of violent convulsions, like how it’d look if a hundred people fell into a wrought iron cauldron filled with a foot of boiling water.
CC’s long manes spiraled like flaming windmills while they charged mercilessly through hit after blood soaked hit such as “Vomit the Soul”, “The Wretched Spawn”, and “Death Walking Terror”. Half the fun for the crowd was shouting out song requests, not because they actually wanted to hear them (although I’m sure nobody would’ve minded) but more just to say them. Where else in public can someone scream “Blood Drenched Execution!” without anyone batting an eyelash?
The gory lyricism, morbid longing, and torturous instrumentation gave off a fun, dare I say, festive stench to the show. Their set (which lasted over an hour) sent everyone away with smiles on their faces and murder on their minds.