Local openers Divination played a short set of competent metal tunes that did a respectable job of exciting the still-assembling crowd. They ended the set with a cover of Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye.”
The touring portion of the evening began when Virginia’s Inter Arma hit the stage, cued by an ever-present smoke machine. Though featuring two guitarists, to start, much of their work was fairly inaudble. The introduction was led by aggressive, tribal drumming and propulsive bass. This would have been a fine way to start but the majority of the set seemed to be comprised of this with screamed vocals overtop. Perhaps this was an issue with the live mix but it wasn’t until a little over midway through their set that the guitars began to assert themselves with some good solos. This may have been a too little too late, though, as the crowd was attentive, but almost uniformly sedate throughout the set.
It wasn’t until Deafheaven came out that things took a turn for the theatrical. Much of the time, the band was backlit with flashing (and occasionally blinding) lights. The audience seemed to be rather familiar with the band’s catalog. It’s no wonder as they have been a bit of a buzz band over the last few years with critically acclaimed records 2013’s Sunbather and 2015’s New Bermuda. Other bands have blended a version of black metal with shoegaze elements, but none have achieved the accolades of Deafheaven. Even though New Bermuda, was more consistently harsh, their live show on this evening was nearly evenly blended between their recent releases. The track selection thankfully felt like it favored the metal end of their spectrum though there were certainly ambient passages throughout. “Brought To the Water” was a great way to kick things off. Singer George Clarke sounded absolutely possessed and played up the spectacle of the whole thing though he was generous with the high fives to those in the front of the crowd. They ended with a treat for longtime fans as they played “Unrequited” from their debut. Overall, they are a hungry young band whose live show deserves the same amount of credit that their albums are receiving.
Of course, Carcass concluded the evening and brought it all back home. Since their reformation and especially since the release of Surgical Steel, they have been perpetually on the road. Tonight’s selection drew heavily from Surgical Steel and Heartwork with a sampling from Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious. About 2/3 of the way through, they acknowledged their early grindcore roots with a cluster of songs from that time period. This really helped to highlight their evolution as a band. Carcass was clearly into the show’s vibe as they decided to pull out old live standards “This Mortal Coil” and “Keep On Rotting In The Free World” late in the set. These are some of my personal favorites, so it was a nice bonus.
Being my first time seeing Carcass live, it was a treat to see Bill Steer, Jeff Walker (joking around and in very fine voice), Dan Wilding and Ben Ash in person. Say what you will about them prioritizing playing live over recording new music, but all of this time on the road has ensured that the tools of their trade are still sharp indeed.
Words by JJ Ellis
Photos by Mark Morton