Review by Paul Castles, photos by Rob Stanley
When a bill heavier than a Weight Watchers class a week after Christmas rolls into town you expect the punters to be queuing around the block. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for this Cryptopsy headed night at the Robin. Whether it was the venue – not really a regular extreme metal haunt – the slightly out of the way location, or simply because it was a Monday night, you can argue among yourselves. Whatever the reason, those diehards who did journey to the Black Country town were rewarded with an evening of almost frightening intensity by some of the genuine legends of death metal.
Local opening act Spawned From Hate had to perform just to the early arrivals but they refused to let that get under their skin. Performing their second Midlands show within a couple of days – having appeared on the Kataleptic bill at Scruffy Murphys over the weekend – Spawned From Hate made an impressive din full of sledgehammer attacks.
Frontman Dan Phipps prowled across the stage like a bear with a sore head but kicked up sufficient volleys of vitriol to get the evening off to a blistering start.
Inspirational Israeli group Orphaned Land were one of the highlights at Bloodstock last month. I probably hadn’t expected to catch another band from the Middle East quite so soon, but Matricide, matched their countrymen in making a positive impression. Matricide didn’t bother with the Middle Eastern influence that pulsed through Orphaned Land’s set at Catton Park. More in sync with the rabid Robin bill, Matricide played a really heavy set although not the full on death metal mayhem that was to follow in their footsteps.
If tonight’s three big hitters from across the Atlantic were rolled into one, then they would not be far off collecting their pension such is their longevity. The first of the vets were Disgorge from San Diego.
You kinda knew things were going to turn serious at this point with two members of the band stripped to the waist before the set had even started. The only surviving member from their formation in 1992 is the drummer Ricky, although a couple of the other guys have been with the band almost since the start. One of the newbies is the vocalist Angel Ochea, who could always join the WWF crew if the singing doesn’t work out.
On the evidence of his Black Country performance, the wrestling can wait as Ochea’s growl has an old school death metal depth that threatened to rip the paint off the walls. Disgorge’s merciless momentum saw them literally rip apart songs such as ‘Cranial Empalement’ and ‘Deranged Epidemic’. And when Ochea introduced ‘Room Full of Scabs’, well you just knew it wasn’t written as some kind of miners strike tribute.
Disgorge have gone through a few line-up changes over the past two decades but the current bunch – with Ochea up front – are a seriously savage ensemble.
One frontman in need of no introduction was Dave Matrise from the Wisconsin veterans Jungle Rot. Last year’s album Terror Regime was about their ninth and certainly among their best.
Trying to turn around five acts is no easy ask, especially with the bands themselves having to do the humping. So by the time Jungle Rot came on the schedule was already being tested and so Matrise signalled to the sound engineer to forget the intro. To be honest when you’re serving up such a brutal battle agenda as Jungle Rot, you don’t need the trimmings. Instead we got song after cranium crushing song of unadulterated primal power most focusing on conflict.
‘Savage Rite’ and ‘Terror Regime’ were shuddering slabs of testosterone while the intense pounding of the riff that surged through old favourite ‘Worst Case Scenario’ gave an extreme workout to every neck in the room. The first pit of the night kicked into gear on ‘Demon Souls’ with its pounding blastbeats gathering more venom with every note. With closing anthem ‘Strong Shall Survive’ you feel Matrise is really singing about himself. Quite right too! After more than 20 years fronting one of death metal’s genuine greats he’s earned the right to shout about it.
Canadian crushing crew Cryptopsy have chalked up the quarter of a century, with their seminal debut album None So Vile released in 1992. No reflective comment piece on old school death metal would be treated as a serious piece of work without some reference to the Montreal men.
There were three clues to their status as bill toppers. They had towels, bottled water and their own stage decorations. Singer Matt McGachy may not appear as instantly threatening as someone like Cannibal Corpse frontman George Corpsegrinder, but from the moment he unleashed his abundant hair from its restraining ponytail and started spiralling his head like a Catherine Wheel on bonfire night his reputation as a death metal monster was rubberstamped.
Cryptopsy play such at such insane speed and with such pummelling gravitas that it sounds as though the opening blows are just about to be exchanged in World War III. Opening with ‘Crown of Horns’ – the opening shot of metal mayhem from None So Vile – Cryptopsy set about wreaking as much carnage at the Robin as possible with McGachy producing such a startling sound the likes of which you would only normally come across during a visit to the zoo.
The technical dexterity behind such a blitzkrieg sound, as on songs like ‘White Worms’ should not be underestimated. These guys know their instruments better that they know their own mothers. Having opened with a track from their debut album Cryptopsy closed with another, the ignominious piano intro signalling the oncoming devastation of ‘Phobophile’.
There’s a whole new bunch of new acts blast-beating their way through the death metal cesspit. But it was evident watching Disgorge, Jungle Rot and Cryptopsy perform at the Robin, that the old fellas are in no mood to hand down the baton to the younger generation just yet.