Review by Paul Castles, photos by Rich Thompson
Death metal diehards were out in force at the Asylum with one of the legends of the genre, Morbid Angel, making a welcome return to the Midlands. Even more so as the focus of this current tour was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of the Florida giant’s most iconic albums; Covenant.
An evening of serious aggression got off to a lively start thanks to local crew Selfless. The Brummie quartet, featuring the familiar figure of Fear Me Music supremo Chris Fear on guitar, had all pistons pumping from the off. Selfless have performed at most of the smaller Birmingham venues over the past year or so but not in front of a crowd this size. Keen to make the most of the opportunity they annihilated their way through a typically blistering set at breakneck speed.
Dunc did his best to whip up the crowd and when he felt the response was not as forthcoming as he would have liked he hurdled the barrier to get in amongst the punters without so much as dropping a note.
Taking a page or two from the template laid down by local legends Napalm Death, anything much longer than a couple of minutes practically constitutes doom territory for this blitzkrieg bunch, who even rattled out a couple of songs that barely came in at around 15 seconds. One song, ‘Religion’, pretty much saw Dunc bark out the title with the crowd encouraged to hit back with the phrase ‘Fuck Off’. Pleasingly, many obliged!
Selfless have a special pre-xmas single launch show at Scruffys this Saturday (December 20th) so pop along and check these hardcore headcases out if you can. (More info here)
Another Brummie band followed, and one we’ve not heard a great deal from for quite a few years. Cerebral Fix were a well known hardcore crew for many years but having performed at Bloodstock in 2007 they’ve more or less fallen under the radar. Their name finally re-emerged for Fear Fest at The Asylum in the summer when they performed on the same bill as Selfless.
This latest show was especially significant as it featured the first gig with the band for new vocalist Al Osta, following the recent amicable departure of Simon Forest. Osta also fronts Ravens Creed and he certainly showed he’s up to the task on his Cerebral Fix bow. Judged on this showing, the return of Cerebral Fix is cause for celebration as they delivered a riotous set of pulsating rhythms that set the tone ideally for the evening’s headliners from across the pond.
Whenever death metal fans get together the name of Morbid Angel is almost nailed on to get a mention before the first pint has been emptied. Among the true US death metal pioneers, Morbid Angel could have taken any one of several landmark releases to celebrate and use as a hook for the tour. Twenty years on from Covenant, this was as good as any, and once the deep rumblings of ‘Rapture’ started to fill the Asylum it really was 1993 all over again.
David Vincent is a consummate professional and after the machinegun fire of ‘Pain Divine’ he reflected briefly on the passing of two decades since Covenant was first unleashed on the world. “It’s 21 years years since we made this album,” Vincent addressed the throng, “but it’s still a ‘World of Shit’,” before launching into that very song, its trembling beginning eventually giving way to a more frantic surge.
While this tour was paying due diligence and respect to their halcyon origins it was also in some way a bridge building exercise for Morbid Angel – the broken bridge in question being the band’s last release Illud Divinum Insanus in 2011. That was such a significant departure from everything that Vincent and fellow songwriter guitarist Trey Azagthoth had done before that it was widely slammed at the time and many consigned Morbid Angel to the wastelands of yesterday’s men. No material from that album was aired at The Asylum.
Instead, once the whole of Covenant had been successfully navigated, Vincent moved onto more stuff from the early days, including the singalong steamroller ‘Immortal Rites’ from the 1989 album Altars of Madness with the by now rampant crowd in good voice on the harmonies of aaaarggghhhh!
On this showing the bridges are more than mended and the name Morbid Angel is cemented among the death metal elite.
2. Pain Divine
3. World of Shit (The Promised Land)
4. Vengeance Is Mine
5. The Lion’s Den
6. Blood On My Hands
7. Angel Of Disease
8. Sworn To The Black
9. Nar Mattaru
10. God Of Emptiness
11. Where the Slime Live
12. Bil Ur-Sag
13. Ageless, Still I Am
14. Curse The Flesh
15. Existo Vulgoré
16. Immortal Rites
17. Fall From Grace