Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Rich Thompson
A triple barrelled melting pot containing fragments of death, black and thrash metal should be enough to sate even the most fervent of metalhead’s appetite. However, the healthy crowd gathered at The Oobleck in Birmingham were treated first of all to the unexpected bonus of opening act Burden Of The Noose.
These Birmingham braggards have become familiar figures on the local scene in recent months and had performed just two nights previously at Scruffys. Having squirreled their way onto the bill they showed their gratitude in the best possible manner, by performing with their usual energetic fervour. The last time I caught them was at the nearby Rainbow, on a seven-band mega bill headed by October File. On that occasion the double pronged vocal charge made an instant impact. However, here at The Oobleck the vocal team had been reduced by 50%. Former hard core growler Poon has recently left the ranks, leaving Andy to carry the singing ‘burden’, so to speak, single-handed. Well it seems to be working so far with the now five-piece firebrands blowing hotter than a furnace. They certainly gave the early arrivals something to savour before the first of the three tour bands rolled up.
Don’t underestimate this unpretentious bunch who are easy to warm to. The fact that they’ve recently secured a high profile support slot across the Irish Sea when Nola kings Eyehategod come touring in the summer, speaks volumes about the progress they’ve made in a comparatively short space of time. Their next scheduled show in Birmingham is on the Metal to the Masses’ showcase at The Roadhouse on April 29.
The first of the three bands of the tour package to perform was Mortals; a female trio from Brooklyn on their first visit to the UK. I had some knowledge of these girls through their impressive album Cursed To See The Future. However, I probably had not given it the full respect it deserves, as once Mortals took off it quickly became apparent just how formidable they really are.
The vocals are shared by guitarist Elizabeth and Lesley on bass, although the latter’s blackened screeches are very much the dominant drive. In between Caryn gave a fairly awesome drumming display, laying down more rumble strips than a council road safety gang. The sound was riveting and relentless and scarier than a box set of Stephen King movies. In fact, even Carrie would turn and run if confronted by these fearsome ladies.
At times sending out more doom smoke signals than an indian reservation, they neatly tailored this with thrash riffs that contained more twists than a bowl of tagliatelle. It would be unchivalrous in the extreme to offer up such platitudes that Mortals are one of the most convincing female black metal crews around. The New Yorkers are simply a crushing black metal storm threatening to uproot and destroy anything that crosses their path.
I think it’s fair to say that as many people had been drawn to The Oobleck to see Goatwhore as headliners Skeletonwitch. They made a massive impression when last in the Midlands – supporting Dying Fetus in Wolverhampton – and they are currently pulling up more trees in metal-land than a lumberjack on time-and-a-half.
Ben Falgoust is a dynamic kingpin and the raging frontman has more energy than a Jaguar on a full tank of fuel. With his trademark leather studded protectors, Falgoust has the best forearm smash since John McEnroe ruled Wimbledon. Rampant riffs, ear bleeding solos and drums throwing off enough sparks to ignite a bonfire. Jesus, and that was just the first song!
By the time they got down to the serious business of crowd pleasers such as FBS (that’s Fucked By Satan, as if you didn’t know!) the crowd had been transformed into lambs at the Goatwhore slaughter. Constricting The Rage Of The Merciless was one of the standout albums of 2014 and there were no shortage of tracks from that album aired at The Oobleck. Throw in a few older numbers and you’ve pretty much got the Goatwhore package all done up in a box with a ribbon on top.
Time had run away with us a little by the time Skeletonwitch came on. However, it transpired that a slightly late off time has been the least of their problems in recent days. Some bands occasionally lose a guitar on tour, perhaps the merch man mislays a box of hoodies. But when a band actually loses a singer then you know something’s not quite right!
Regular frontman Chance Garnette was forced to pull out of the tour just before it set sail. Without wishing to pour petrol on the fire of personal grief, the singer’s battle with the booze has been highlighted in the past. It now seems as his departure may actually be permanent although let’s wait and see. So filling his shoes on this tour was Cannabis Corpse frontman Andy Horn who brought buckets of enthusiasm and energy along for the ride.
Skeletonwitch performed with trademark thrash levels reaching their customary heady heights, beginning with ‘I Am Of Death’ and taking in such killer anthems as ‘Crushed Beyond Dust’ and ‘Repulsive Salvation’. Sadly the crowd had long since started to diminish by the time they launched into closer ‘Within My Blood’, but any thoughts that this tour would collapse without their usual singer had by then long since evaporated.