While Wynwood, and South Beach, and the other hip areas of town were a bustle with the likes of Thurston Moore and other high profile members of the art and music community, Downtown's Grand Central became a churning maw of black t-shirts and chugging guitars.
When you think about it, death-metal -- particularly when provided by the band that defined the archetype of the genre -- is as artistically relevant as anything else one might find lurking in the galleries and installations of Art Basel. After all, isn't the point of art to solicit an emotional response? Name another art form that can compel grown men to remove their shirts and run in a circle as fast as they possibly can, while growling?
South Florida is known for boasting a strong metal scene, but last night's show did not have the sort of attendance we've come to expect from a Cannibal Corpse date in the heart of death-metal country. Perhaps some of the would-be attendees were still adrift on the Barge to Hell Cruise? At any rate, those that did show up enjoyed a positively relentless night of death-metal, and on the bright side, during Cannibal Corpse's set, we witnessed a shirtless, musclebound, and bald man spinning at full speed through the pit with a nearly identical character laying across his shoulders -- an endlessly entertaining maneuver we doubt could have been executed if not for the extra bit of room.
The show was opened by local outfit, Murder Suicide. Though the group played to a paltry gathering of sober early-comers, they gave their all in warming the crowd and rising to the honor that is opening up for the top act in your genre.
Following Murder Suicide was Italian band Hour of Penance. The Italian's play a more technically advanced and modern style of death-metal, full of swept guitar histrionics and bogglingly angular drum fills. Though the performance was solid and received by some head-bobbing and a few rogue air-guitarists, the band's request for a circle pit was denied, and the sound quality was kind of mushy, causing a lot of the really interesting things the band did was lost in the mix.
However, by the time Misery Index took the stage, the mix had been sorted and the band's gnarly, rhythmically driven assault was heard loud and proud. Featuring absolute drum beast, Adam Jarvis (who also performs with Pig Destroyer), the band performed as a trio and finally shook the crowd loose from the opening act standoff into a dominant mosh that peaked with a wall of death. Now, describing mosh-dynamics in a review usually sounds pretty ridiculous, but, two small hordes of bodies colliding into one another at full force really deserves mention: beer bottles flew about, people collapsed, others limped away, and almost all wore a smile. The scene was epic and made for a completely fitting visual for Misery Index's guttural barking, pummeling drums and fleet-fingered guitar work.
Cannibal Corpse took the stage to a crowd of metal fans that were already growling in anticipation of the set. As George "Corpse Grinder" Fisher and company greeted the crowd with their first onslaught of hulking, drop-tuned guitar and hammer-smashed-drums, the audience stirred to life in a way that had not been seen all night. The band opened with "Demented Aggression" and by the time it hit the quicksand chug of "Scourge of Iron", it was made completely clear (once again) why this band is still held so high atop the death-metal totem. Everything was precise, the energy level was monstrous, and the songs were somehow even heavier live than recorded.
As always, some highlights of the night came by way of Fisher's stage banter, including the ever-present song introductions that must never be spoken -- only growled or screamed -- and the incredible display of the vocalist's huge neck muscles via what felt like two hours of head-banging. "Fucked With a Knife" was dedicated to the somewhat surprising number of women in attendance, all of whom cheered when Fisher dedicated the song to them. The final four songs Corpse played were worth the price of admission alone for fans, including favorites (there are no hits in the death-metal world) "Make Them Suffer", "Unleashing the Bloodthirsty", "Hammer Smashed Face", as well as a surprise closer and somewhat deep track, "Stripped, Raped, and Strangled".
As the show came to a close, Pharrell Williams from the Neptunes was spotted taking a peak at the action, most likely drifting from the hip-hop event taking place at the Garret upstairs, and crowd members were still growling as they got into their cars in the parking lot. Seriously. We're not making that up.
Personal Bias: "Stripped, Raped, and Strangled" is like, my go-to death-metal track.
Overheard in the crowd: "THAT'S MY BROTHER AND HE'S NOT MOSHING" - Large man who proceeds to then physically throw his brother into the mosh pit.
From the Stage: "This song is about shooting blood out of your cock" - George Fisher
Cannibal Corpse's Setlist:
-"Scourge of Iron"
-"The Time to Kill Is Now"
-"I Cum Blood"
-"Encased in Concrete"
-"Covered With Sores"
-"Burn in a Casket"
-"Pit of Zombies"
-"The Wretched Spawn"
-"I Will Kill You"
-"Fucked With a Knife"
-"As Deep as the Knife Will Go"
-"Priests of Sodom"
-"Unleashing the Bloodthirsty"
-"Make Them Suffer"
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-"Hammer Smashed Face"
-"Stripped, Raped, and Strangled"