Black Dahlia Murder, Goatwhore, Iron Reagan, Entheos, Artificial Brain
December 9, 2015
How much metal is too much metal for a Wednesday? The good people over at Warehouse Live have always been good about asking the right questions. To find some answers, they hosted this winter’s rippingest tour last night. The Black Dahlia Murder, America’s modern masters of death metal, held court in the concrete bunker that is the venue’s Studio room, and they’d be joined by your good pals Goatwhore for good measure. The year might be rapidly drawing to a close, but for Houston’s dedicated mosh professionals, this was still a tentpole event for 2015.
And we haven’t even touched on the undercard. There were so many bands on this tour — sponsored by T-shirt slingers IndieMerch—that the show had to begin at 6:30 p.m. just to get everyone home at some kind of reasonable hour. While plenty of fans were still sitting in traffic somewhere, New York’s Artificial Brain had already turned on the brutality full-blast, doing their damnedest to turn the early arrivals into mulch. Entheos kept things pounding right along up next, spewing out stomach-churning grooves right at dinnertime.
Before long, Warehouse Live began to feel uncomfortably full, particularly when the pit broke out for Iron Reagan in the 8 o’clock hour. As more and more black T-shirts streamed in from the streets, the crossover-thrash supergroup worked up the first good sweat from the crowd with their ‘80s-themed homages to D.R.I. and other metallic forebears.
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Iron Reagan front man Tony Foresta’s voice is as-mosh ready as they come, and on any other bill, he and his compatriots might have been the highest-energy act of the night. But folks, this wasn’t your average tour. As gnarly as the night had gotten through three bands, we were barely getting warmed up.
New Orleans’ Goatwhore is one of the most fun and engaging death-metal groups on the circuit. Much of that comes down to singer Ben Falgoust, a charismatic front man who boasts some of the best air-guitar work in the history of the genre. But more than that, Goatwhore simply plays with a special energy that makes worshipping Satan sound like the best backyard kegger you’ve ever crashed. Guitarist Sammy Duet’s buzz-saw riffing split the crowd in two, instigating a wicked mosh pit that sucked in men, women and children with a terrifying gravity.
Despite the music’s violent intensity, Falgoust was all smiles up on stage as the murky funk of sweat-soaked denim and leather began to fill the air.
“Thank you all for coming out to enjoy this wonderful show,” the singer beamed.
Duet was a tad less gracious, smirking “This next one goes out to your girlfriend!” before lighting into the outrageously thrashy “Fucked By Satan.” The song’s wicked pummel, led by drummer Zack Simmons, made it clear that the coupling would not be a gentle experience.
The audience had been enthusiastic all night, but there was no question who the stars of the show would be. Black Dahlia Murder added to their strong case to become America’s pre-eminent death metal band this year with Abysmal, the latest in a string of strong releases that has positioned the group as too big and too good to be dismissed as illegitimate contenders for the crown. Their fanbase is thriving, and the Houston contingent had no problem filling up the club on a weeknight.
It had been years since I’d last seen BDM on the Warehouse Live stage—long enough for front man Trevor Strnad to completely grow his hair out. When he arrived at last on stage, smiling and ready to conduct the chaos in his usual fashion, a roar (and rather large clouds of dope smoke) went up in the building. Almost immediately, Black Dahlia’s impeccably triggered bass drums started blasting, and a crazy, oblong mosh pit blew up in the middle of the room.
Black Dahlia Murder are sometimes referred to as a melodic death metal band, and they certainly know their way around a guitar lead. But the band is far more interested in mauling people with audio power tools than grabbing them with a catchy hook. They pulled from Abysmal early, shredding with a speed yet unseen from them on “Threat Level No. 3” and forcibly compelling heads to bang with “Vlad, Son of the Dragon.”
The pit was not for part-timers. Sometimes a proper circle would begin churning, but more often, it was simply a frightening maelstrom of pushing and shoving, biting and slapping. As the set wore on, the fallen were replaced by fresh bodies as BDM kept the energy level unmercifully high in the crowd. It was a bit like watching defensive linemen substitutions in a college football game.
Too much crowd participation is never enough for Strnad, who happily egged the crazies on as Warehouse Live grew steamier and steamier.
“I wanna see some crowd surfing, man,” he crowed into the mike. “I really like that shit!”
That was all the invitation that was needed. Dude after dude was hoisted aloft and carried toward the stage during “Unhallowed” and other screeching cuts, nearly overwhelming the benevolent Mr. Clean-lookalike tasked with keeping the surfers from crashing to their deaths at the barricade. It was powerfully hot in the club by 10:30 p.m., with the band putting themselves through a sweat-soaked wringer of callous-shredding finger aerobics.
The crowd wore themselves out, too, for crushing songs like “Miasma” and “Statutory Ape.” It was bonkers, but there was no holding back: hey, there’s no telling when we’ll see Black Dahlia Murder again. Could be years. But having seen the metallic frenzy they inspire on a Wednesday, I’m no longer sure that all of their fans would survive a weekend show.
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Personal Bias: From the old school.
The Crowd: Juiced-up and fierce.
Overheard in the Crowd: “They’ve had a bunch of awesome drummers come through that band.”
Random Notebook Dump: Fittingly enough for a tour sponsored by IndieMerch, the t-shirts were selling fast at this one. You can really make a fashion statement flossing a Goatwhore tee.