Friday, May 20, 2016

Hate Eternal, Vital Remains, Black Fast, Inanimate Existence @ Saint Vitus

Pure death metal shows have become a rarity for me - what with living in a clueless theocracy and all. And so even with Deathfest looming, I couldn't turn down a whole night full of the heaviest of heavy metals.

This was my second time seeing Inanimate Existence, who have grown in popularity if nothing else. Flag-bearers for modern tech death, the band is at their best when they let their slow, Cynic-inspired riffs create a mood and atmosphere quite unlike their Unique Leader peers. But when they stray into breakdown territory, it feels like the ghosts of haircut metal past are coming back to haunt us, and I want to deactivate my Myspace account all over again.

Every time I see a group of young heshers wrapping themselves in a style they were too young to experience first hand, I prepare myself for the worst. But I was completely won over by Black Fast, who tore it up like a shred-off between Chuck Schuldiner and Dave Mustaine. Like DoC friends Unkured, their youthful enthusiasm brings the most out of their old school devotion. It takes a prodigious amount of skill and passion to crack my cynical heart and renew my faith in death metal. Black Fast did both.

Like a beat up junker on the Fury Road, a constant infusion of new fresh blood is what keeps Vital Remains going. 60% of the line up weren't in the band the last time I saw them - guitarist Tony Lazaro being the sole remaining founding member on stage, and sadly without his light up Crucifire guitar. The band teases a new song, their first in 9 years. It impresses on pure venomous speed alone. That aside, the set list leans heavily on ten minute songs from the last two albums - which, as their current frontman pointed out, doesn't leave much wiggle room in a 45 minute set. Those long songs were also at odds with his constant demands for the crowd to get more active. You can't have your ten minute cake and mosh to it, too.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more amiable guy in death metal than Jersey's own Erik Rutan; so much so that it's a little funny he called his band Hate Eternal. While those early HE albums were enjoyable for their single minded pursuit of face-melting speed (and indeed, alongside similar albums by Nile and Krisiun, signaled death metal's rebirth), the restrained tempos and melodies on their most recent releases show a commendable willingness to stray outside of their comfort zone and stretch as songwriters. Besides, there are already too many bands trying too hard to replicate early Morbid Angel; at this point in his career, the former Ripping Corpse guitarist doesn't need to be living in the shadow of his peers. Especially since he's far more engaging on stage than any of his former bandmates, gleefully connecting with his audience at every opportunity and never missing a note while he's mugging it up. It helps that he's got a prodigious amount of talent behind him; especially drummer Derek Roddy, who demonstrated that you can blast and swing at the same time, and killed his snare head in the process. God mode activated.