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Sunday 10 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Decapitated (Live Review By Charlie Rogers & Dr Claire Hanley)

Decapitated, Obscura, Inferni & The Materia, The Redhouse, Merthyr Tydfil, 03.12.23

Twas a rainy sunday evening, the typical bleakness you’d expect for a welsh weekend in early december, especially given that most of our journey to the top of the Valleys took place on the roadworks strewn A465. Much like the bands playing, it was our first visit to the RedHouse in Merthyr, and we were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get to (by car) and that such a lovely building was willing to host a bunch of death metal geezers. The friendly door staff showed us where the bar was, and how to get to the bands - the first of which, Poland’s The Materia (3), kicked off proceedings. 

Clearly thrilled to be on the tour, these young musicians bopped along to their selection of songs with a lot of energy. Energy, while important to fuel a good live appearance, can’t be the only thing you bring to the table however. Suffering from a sonic identity crisis, their songs had no consistency with each other, and the set sounded like someone had put a mid-2000’s “all music” playlist on shuffle. One song sounded like they were lampooning the headline act, one like they were a Wish.com Meshuggah, followed by a baffling metalcore tune complete with whiny clean vocals. While they had technical ability on their instruments, the guitarists flanking the stage playing melody-free tapping passages embody the phrase “just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should”.

Next up was Tennessee’s Inferi (6), a band we were much more familiar with having seen them previously and listened to most of their fantastic back catalogue. Upping the energy from The Materia, Inferi bounded into their set with aplomb. The crowd reacted pretty much immediately, with the half hearted nodding that was present so far being amped up to full blown headbanging, and even a pit breaking out. Inferi rely heavily on their technical ability, which is unquestionable, and their capability to pair this with actual songwriting skills was on show. Unfortunately, their bassist wasn’t present due to his prior commitments with another band, so their overall sound came out thin. As big as the duelling chords and riffs were from guitars, it just felt incomplete without the low end providing the bottom third of the harmonic content.

Penultimate band of the night was Germany’s Obscura (9), easily one of the top technical death metal bands going. Seamlessly tight, and showcasing a highlight reel from their 6 albums, Obscura’s ability to draw representatively excellent songs from a large catalogue is a testament to just how phenomenal they are. Highlights included soaring melodies from tunes such as When Stars Collide and The Anticosmic Overload, while neck breaking heaviness coming in spades from tracks like Devoured Usurper. The entire set was a tour-de-force, and arguably the performance of the evening.

Rounding off the night’s proceedings, Decapitated (8) took us back 20 years to the release of their acclaimed album Nihility. Playing the entire record in full, which was the point of this particular tour, the current lineup absolutely nailed the songs leaving the baying crowd enthralled. The pit going strong, crowdsurfers aplenty, the RedHouse it’s own Sphere Of Madness

Hearing the album in full was an additional treat for regular Decapitated concert goers, as some tracks are rarely featured in the live environment, yet during this portion of the set there was absolutely no filler. Praise for Nihility is not unfounded. Things took a slight departure during the second half of the set, where the band played tunes from the rest of their catalogue, which didn’t hit the audience quite as hard generally. 

Decapitated’s recent work has it’s fans, but perhaps the impact of hearing arguably their pièce de résistance at the start of the set meant that the peak of the evening had now passed. Solid playing throughout, and an emotional thank you to close the event from founding member and guitarist Vogg, this felt like a particularly special tour to attend.

Legendary death metal bands playing their seminal albums live in full is a great trend, and one we hope to see more of. If you do get chance to go catch this particular tour, it’s well worth your time.

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