I have been a fan of Heavy Metal for over thirty-five years now, so it’s safe to say I’ve seen fads come and go, bands rise and fall (and some rise right back up again), trends turn into dogma and trends simply fizzle out, I’ve seen commercial and underground acts, but never in all my time have I seen Cannibal Corpse live. I’ve considered it a mortal sin, one that I rectified and made penance for last night.
It was brutally cold out, unusually cold this early in the year for Lexington, Ky. It had snowed all day but there wasn’t much of an accumulation other than a light dusting. It was the wind that was so bitter, a slicing, cutting breeze that would steal your soul as it passed through you. It was through these rancorous winds that I trudged in the Manchester Music Hall, a decent-sized room that hosts everything from country to metal shows as they pass through the region. Opener Harm’s Way had just started, so I got to see a good bit of their set. I want to say right up front that these guys just ain’t my thing. They play this weird mix of Fratcore and Death that I’m sure appeals to many people; I’m just not one of them. This is the kind of music that fans of MMA matches play to pump themselves up before they go to their local bar to watch the fights (and maybe get into one of their own). They had these weird bits of industrial noise between songs, and I began to wonder if I’d gone back in time to the mid-2000’s. Harm’s Way was just fine, thank you very much, but nothing extraordinary. They weren’t boring, at least.
Hate Eternal was next and I have to say, they were pretty good. Here’s another band that I haven’t listened to very much. Their style of Death isn’t my style, not really. It’s all technical and yet muddy and fast. I like all of that, but I’m more of a Sweden guy, myself. I like some melodies and groove in there. Hate Eternal flirt with those things but they don’t really embrace them. Listening to them is like being in shop class in high school, when you turn the table saw on and let it run, varying the speeds from time to time, making it go faster and slower. Every now and again you throw a picture of Jesus onto the saw and watch it get ripped apart and you nod your head and think, “Yeah, that’s it.” Don’t get me wrong, they were actually really good, and the sound Rutan and his band pull off with just three members is pretty astounding. But after half an hour, I started to get a bit restless. Relentless and brutal are great, but even they get boring if they’re not regulated and given some dynamic lacings. Their set ran just about 45 minutes and that was just about perfect.
Cannibal Corpse took the stage half an hour later and let me get this out of the way right now: if you’re stupid like I am and haven’t seen them before, it’s time for you to get your heart right with Satan. These guys are good live. No, let me take that back, they’re great. Their professionalism was apparent from note one and stayed locked in all the way through their almost hour and a half set. They played stuff from their new album, opening with several choice tracks from it (“Code of the Slasher,” “Only One Will Die”), and started to delve into their expansive back catalogue as the show progressed (one of my faves being “The Wretched Spawn”). By the end, they had wound the crowd up pretty good, there was a massive pit going almost the entire time, a girl kept getting crowd-surfed to the front, her tiny skirt pushed up to her chest in the process (she was wearing underwear, so there’s that, and nobody was being weird about it; these things just kind of happen sometimes). She returned twice more, that I remember, passed above the crowd, dropped in the security pit in front of the stage, grinning like a maniac, and running back to do it all over again. This is to point out that everyone was having a great time (except for a couple fights that broke out), and everyone was just smiling and headbanging and moshing and generally not being assholes.
The band was in fine form, ripping through song after song. They would mix mid-paced numbers with faster tornados, keeping things fresh and interesting. I never got bored, that’s for sure. Corpsegrinder is a fantastic front man. Those thick neck muscles whip that hair round and round and his sense of humor is outstanding. When it came time to introduce a crowd favorite, right before the end of their set, he said, “This is a song about when blood shoots out of your cock.” The crowd went wild. Corpsegrinder: “Everyone thinks it’s great, until it happens to them. This is, ‘I Cum Blood!’” This set off the wildest frenzy of the night. A fight broke out. People threw their hair around with wild abandon. A girl next to me dropped into the splits, popped back up, did some weird ballerina-contortionist twist move with her body (all while wearing the tightest jeans I’ve ever seen), and then started headbanging. It was an extraordinary moment. The band finished up with “Hammer Smashed Face,” another highly crowd-pleasing song, and that was it. I had finally been baptized in Cannibal Corpse cock blood and all my past sins were forgiven. They were beyond amazing and again, if you haven’t seen them, you simply must. Even if you don’t like Death Metal, you’ll have a good time. The band is so good, technically and with their stage presence, that you’ll marvel at their power. But they also lace everything with bits of humor, and that adds to the fun. They don’t take themselves seriously, but they damned do take their music seriously, and so should you.
It was a great night, spent with old friends and new friends. Get out and see a metal show, even if it is balls cold. You’ll be happy you did. And go see Cannibal Corpse. They’re always touring, so you have no excuse.