The final bank holiday Sunday of the year and a gig that had whetted the appetite ever since it was announced. A bright sunny day faded into a dark malevolent night as US death metal legends paid a rare visit to Bristol. The Bierkeller was, as always, swathed in a murky half-light and with the temperature set to level sweat it promised to be a sticky one. Earlier flyers for this gig had promised Power Trip as main support. Unfortunately, this didn't appear to have ever been the plan but it wasn’t a problem as the promoters pulled in three local bands to increase the heat.
Opening the evening was South Walian melodic death metal outfit Democratus (8). These guys nearly made it to Bloodstock this year, losing out narrowly to Malum Sky in the final of the MTTM. Having seen Malum Sky at BOA, I was at a loss as to how they beat Steve Jenkins and co. Democratus took the bull by the horns and put in one of the shifts of the night. Older material was spiced up by a beast of a new track, the impressive and crushingly heavy Blind Torture Kill. Jenkins never stops working the crowd, his strong clean vocals mixing with a more traditional death growl to superb effect whilst the twin guitars of Kerrin Beckwith and Joey Watkins sliced through the venue. There’s a lot more to come from these guys and if you haven’t seen them yet then I suggest you rectify that over the coming months with a trip to one of the several local events they are playing at. A perfect start to the evening.
Bristol based Seprevation (7) seem to have been around for ever. It’s actually six years but in that time the band has established itself as a solid opening act for many a visiting band to the South West area. Backed by a partisan local crowd, Lluc Tupman, Joss Farrington, Ian Aston and Jamie Wintle ripped through their 30-minute set of intense death thrash. Tupman’s screaming delivery isn’t to everyone’s taste but it works with the aggression that the band channel into their sound. My position in the Bierkeller left Farrington and Aston’s shredding somewhat muted but tracks from recent EP Echoes Of Mercy settled comfortably alongside more familiar songs in the set.
Main support Embodiment (8) are another band to keep a careful eye on. The band won their regional MTTM event and graced the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock this year. For a four piece, they make a rather beautiful sound and their Decapitated/Lamb Of God reverberation soon got those sat down on their feet. Vocalist Harry Smithson prowls the stage, his unearthly delivery contrasting with his between song banter. Leslie Preston maintained the groove with his fine drumming whilst Kieran Hogarty and guitarist Finn Maxwell ensured that the headbanging didn’t let up. Maxwell’s guitar was lost in the mix for much of the set but emerged razor sharp for the impressive The Beast and new track Dragged Into Hell. Most excellent. Their self-titled debut is available for free on their bandcamp page too.
During our interview with the band earlier in the evening, Suffocation (9) had promised a wall leveling performance. This promise was kept in full as the New York legends laid waste to the venue. Their technical death metal is an experience best had live, as it’s here that you really begin to appreciate the craft and skill of the band. It was an hour of the most brutal aural pummeling I’ve taken for a long time and despite a few technical issues, mainly with the band appearing to blow their back-line and vocalist Kevin Muller’s muffled microphone, this was a master class. A set list that combined three meaty chunks from this years Of The Dark Light with plenty of choice cuts from the back catalogue gave all present something to enjoy and it was noticeable that the old school tracks such as Funeral Inception, Catatonia and Effigy Of The Forgotten from the band’s 1991 debut all earnt huge cheers.
Suffocation don’t fuck around and whilst the visceral riffage of founder Terrance Hobbs and co-guitarist Charlie Errigo was astonishing, it was left to Muller to lead from the front. Muller, frontman for the Merciless Concept is on his first European tour with the band but it didn’t show as he coerced the small but enthusiastic pit at the front of the stage to a greater and greater frenzy. Meanwhile long-serving bassist Derek Boyer contented himself with laying down the bass lines from hell whilst drummer Eric Morotti is just a machine. It was like being hit by a jack hammer, repeatedly. If you’ve never experienced Suffocation live then you really need to correct that. It was vicious, but oh so impressive. The band closed off a show that will live long in the memory with Infecting The Crypts as my ears continued to bleed. A brilliant finale to an excellent night.