Death metal can’t get any respect—from most critics, rock radio, or the Top 40 charts. But, death metal scores and attracts the kind of allegiance and fanaticism that most pop acts can only dream of. And, they do it one fan at a time, touring for decades, delivering high-octane spectacles of noise and fury, and releasing classic death metal classics that never deviate from the formula. The formula is tried and true—Lyrical themes of death, mental illness, gore, violence, suicide, mythical creatures, all set to break-neck, galloping double bass drums, screaming guitar solos, rumbling bass, and demonic “vocals.”
Despite the fact that Kourtney Kardashian recently donned one of their T-shirts, massive popularity remains fleeting and they are not a household name like Metallica. Still, in death metal and thrash circles, they are a known and revered commodity (managing to sell a combined two million albums to date), and this dedication and loyalty were on display at their packed, ass-to-ass, head-to-head sweat-fest at their Monday night sold-out show at St. Louis’ Red Flag.
A four-bill show consisting of the headliner, White Chapel, Revocation, and openers, Shadow of Intent, delivered non-stop, thunderous, sweaty, and rapid-fire death metal for slightly over four hours.
Before Connecticut’s Shadow of Intent took the stage, one could already tell that this would not be any passive, peaceful, navel-gazing affair or a show for the weak-kneed. The mostly male crowd sporting Lamb Of God, Sabbath, Slipknot, KORN, and Cannibal Corpse T-shirts, jeans, and long hair were ready to rumble. You could feel the electric energy and pent-up demand from a crowd that hasn’t seen a good metal concert in years and is primed and ready to shed the post-pandemic blues and bang their heads. This was their night. This was their show. This was their tribe.
West-Hartford, Connecticut’s deathcore quartet, Shadows of Intent, took the stage at seven and lit the match. The already steamy and sweaty confines became a notch hotter as the mosh pit opened and swallowed the faithful into a sea of elbows and steel toes.
Shadows delivered a tight, hard-hitting set, clocking in at approximately 30 minutes, and started the headbanging. Vocalist Ben Duerr commanded the stage as drummer Bryce Butler, Andrew Monias, and guitarist Chris Wiseman laid it down. The band performed a few tracks off their 2022 self-released CD and LP, “Elegy,” and tracks off their previous three releases.
Next on deck was Boston’s death metal quartet, Revocation. The dual-guitar attack and weaving of guitarist and lead vocalist David Davidson and guitarist Dan Gargiulo’s fretwork and progressive metal stylings were definite crowd-pleasers. As with all of the bands this evening, these bands are all firmly in the death metal camp, and there’s no fluff or ballads, just hardcore metal fast and loud, or slow and loud. Those are the variations. Frontman, guitarist, and lead vocalist David Davidson exclaimed, “Thanks for coming out and supporting death metal!” You couldn’t say it any better. Revocation pulled tracks from their seven full-length catalog and fed off the crowd’s energy.
And, next, it was Knoxville, Tennessee’s White Chapel’s turn to throw down and leave the ears ringing. Clean-cut, handsome lad, and lead vocalist Phil Bozeman, connected right off the bat. He raised the spirits under a barrage of blood-red gels and crouched like a spring-loaded banshee. After digging into a few tunes, Bozeman said to the crowd, “It’s been two years of bullshit, and it’s so good to be back.” Judging from the crowd response, they felt the same. White Chapel treated the sold-out and enthusiastic crowd to selections from their seven Metal Blade Records releases. I’ve seen White Chapel before, and they never fail to impress. They continue to grow their audience, and there’s no reason not to expect them to be headlining their own tours very soon.
And, finally, it was time for the big moment. Even before Cannibal Corpse took the stage, hundreds of fans chanted, “Cannibal Corpse, Cannibal Corpse!” Cannibal Corpse fans are not casual fans. They live it and talk the talk. It was total pandemonium from the first note to the final cymbal crash. For over an hour, The Corpse pummeled the audience with volume, deadly riffs, and scary lyrics delivered by the behemoth, imposing form of vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. Fisher, a man who possesses one of the scariest “voices” in metal, the best hair, and an unmatched headbanging and thrashing noggin and tree truck-sized neck, must need hourly chiropractic maintenance.
You don’t really listen to a Cannibal Corpse song; you get thrashed by it as the sheer volume and power prod, slap, and punch you. A Cannibal Corpse show is over an hour of non-stop extremeness. One moment of levity is when Fisher recognized that there were a few ladies in the sea of testosterone and commented that “Girls like death metal too.” This got a big laugh and loud yells and applause. Cannibal Corpse pulled from their deep catalog of nine full-length albums. The SRO crowd was treated to oldies but goodies and more recent tracks, including “Fucked With A Knife,” “Inhumane Harvest,” “The Time To Kill Is Now,” and much more.
Metal is alive and well, and this solid bill of some of thrash metal’s OG’s and the new kids on the block, the future of thrash and death metal is alive and well. St. Louis metal fans will remember this special show for decades to come.