Saturday night was shaping up to be a night of extremes as the Death Chopping North America tour made its way across the state of Texas right at the heels of a cold front that was forecasted to last several days. This tour would be original Suffocation vocalist Frank Mullen’s last with the band before his retirement and no stops were pulled to make sure he would go out with a bang. Arguably one of the heavier tours to make its way across the state, the night was packed with the musical intensity of supporting acts: Cattle Decapitation, Krisiun, Visceral Disgorge (filling in for Soreption) and local Dallas, TX band, Renatus. All these bands would take the outdoor stage at the Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill where the temperature was quickly dropping to 45 degrees Fahrenheit and a chilling wind was starting to pick up, bringing with it the trademark bone-chill of a dry Texas cold front.
The music got started right around sunset with Renatus setting things off. Diligently touring the Dallas-Ft. Worth area over the past several months, Renatus members brought forth their ferocious take on death/grind metal to a captive audience. With a sound very reminiscent of early Lamb of God, the band grooved and pounded their way through their set. Aided by a powerful vocal performance that sounded like a mix of grind style, modern Cattle Decapitation with some core elements thrown in, the band had the audience going crazy during each song of their set. With an almost full venue so early in the night, Renatus finished their performance setting the energy level for the rest of the night.
Next up was Baltimore’s one and only Visceral Disgorge. Filling in for Soreption (I swear, one of these days I’ll finally be able to see that band live), Visceral Disgorge’s brutal grindcore/slam metal brought in some very much needed animation into the crowd as the temperature kept steadily dropping. Starting off with “Force Fed Shredded Genitalia”, the assault on the auditory senses was invigorating. Usually, I am not a fan of slam metal but after this performance I think I might have to re-evaluate some things. The intense drumming of Billy Denne punctuated by the guttural droning of vocalist Travis Werner created an atmosphere of chaos that was beautiful personified in the pit. The audience was getting more and more amped as the all too short set kept pounding through. Ending their set with “Skullfucking Neonatal Necrosis”, it was hard to see how the upcoming acts were going to top such a performance.
Third on the set was Brazil’s Krisiun. With a more traditional approach to death/thrash metal, Krisiun seemed to be a bit of an outcast in a sea of more extreme metal, but they were nonetheless greeted by the most enthusiastic audience of the night yet. A veteran metal band, they opted to start their set with an older song “Kings of Killing” and focused mostly on older material throughout their set. Starting off with an intensity that would only increase with each song, Krisiun’s music had an amazing sound reminiscent of early Sepultura aided by the wah-pedal and technical proficiency of guitarist Moyses Kolesne. Hard-hitting riffs, pounding drums and basslines from the 3 piece band culminated in thunderous audience approval. The night was going excellent and it was only going to get better.
Kings of Killing
Scourge of the Enthroned
Blood of Lions
By this point, the anticipation in the air (along with the cold) was palpable. Cattle Decapitation, one of the stalwarts of the grind scene, was getting ready to play to a full audience that was eagerly waiting for them to take the stage. With the sweet sounds of Pantera’s discography playing over the PA system while the stage hands prepped the instruments, the crowd would take furtive glances every once in a while in hopes to catch one of the band members as their set time drew nearer. Finally, after what seemed to be forever, the lights went off, the band took the stage and started their set with the punctuated chords of “The Carbon Stampede”. With enough time during the song’s intro for frontman Travis Ryan to pump up the crowd, the band expectedly went into the flurry of chaos that is this song. Audience members were rushing the stage as the first couple of crowd surfers entered the fold. “Here they come, the ones that will destroy the earth” sings the audience along with the band. I’m not sure about the earth, but if this level of energy keeps up, there is a very real possibility that the pier that holds the stage over the small man-made lake overlooking the restaurant will fall into the water.
The set continued with “Dead Set on Suicide”, another song from the album Monolith of Inhumanity. The band worked great together and the addition of guitarist Belisario Dimuzio and new bassist Olivier Pinard definitely brought forth a robust sound from the band. You could not tell that these members were new additions to the band due to how well they meshed together with the rest of the members. The path of destruction continued as the band decided to focus on some of my favorite songs from The Anthropocene Extinction album. The band was definitely feeding of the crowd’s energy. Guitarist Josh Elmore looked entranced as he handled his instrument during some of the harder sections of the songs. The almost demented stage persona of Travis Ryan gave the music and even darker mood than it already conveyed as the band barreled on to my favorite Cattle Decapitation song – “Forced Gender Reassignment”.
After seven songs of pure speed and ferocity, the band slowed things down a bit (or at least as much as a grind band can slow things down) and went into the intro passage of “Manufactured Extinct”. Every head in the crowd was banging along with the strong beat of the song as the band members unleashed their final assault. It seemed the audience knew the end was near because they were moshing non-stop at this point. Finally, the band ended their set with the somewhat slower and somewhat more melodic “Pacific Grim”. As close to an anthemic closer as you can get with this subgenre of metal, the crowd chanted the last couple of lines in a farewell to the band for their amazing performance, almost as if Cattle Decapitation was the tour headliner.
The Carbon Stampede
Dead Set on Suicide
The Prophets of Loss
Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)
Not Suitable for Life
Forced Gender Reassignment
Finally, the headliner for the night, Suffocation wasted no time in getting started as soon as they walked on stage. The pounding bass line of “Thrones of Blood” opened up their set to massive cheering. The booming guitar and bass riffs dominated the song and vocalist Frank Mullen sounded incredible. With almost 30 years worth of music, choosing the songs for this swan song tour must have been hard for Frank. According to him, the setlist consists of some of his favorite songs to perform live, but considering the vast discography of this band, that must have still been quite a monumental task. Suffocation kept a high level of energy only to be broken every two or three songs at which point Frank would address the audience like old friends in order to share stories. Amidst his thankfulness for the fans, there was a break in which Frank (apparently a die-hard Cowboys fan) went on a tirade praising the team while also lamenting their current performance as well as calling for head coach Jason Garrett to be fired in a few choice words. These comments, as well as some personal jabs at himself regarding how he would have to handle retirement and the quintessential early-bird eating specials that come with the package, made for some great and amicable banter.
It wasn’t all fun and games however, as the band played some of their more intense songs such as “Jesus Wept” and “Breeding the Spawn” only to be matched in intensity by the crowd. The moshing and crowd surfing was at a fever pitch. I don’t think venue security really expected how crazy things were going to get. As the night reached the end, and the encore of “Infecting the Crypts” died down, there was a very somber moment as you realized that never again would this line up play live. It was an emotional and cathartic goodbye for Frank as well as the audience, almost as if you were saying goodbye to a long time friend.
Thrones of Blood
Effigy of the Forgotten
Pierced From Within
Surgery of Impalement
As Grace Descends
Liege of Inveracity
Breeding the Spawn
Infecting the Crypts (encore)
In the end, this was one of the best concert performances I have seen. Add to that the diversity in members of the crowd as well as the bands playing. From younger newcomers into the music scene such as Renatus and Visceral Disgorge as well as the older bands with multiple years and albums under their belt, to the young and old fans supporting all these bands. For such a visceral genre of music, the connections made between artists and the audience members during this night was amazing. I think this tour marked a great ending to a great career. Frank joked about going out on top rather than performing while being wheeled out in a wheelchair. Joking aside, this tour marked the end of his legacy and he went out on top. Bands and band members come and go but in the end, it is not just about the music, but the sense of community that it helps foster.