Live review by Tharsh Matel (except where specified)
Photos by Marita Mirabella
NDF 2014 promised to be a loud, sweaty, beer-laden smorgasbord of death/grind goodness (or badness, depending who you ask!). Set in the apparently quiet town of Tilburg, the 013 venue provided the perfect setting for this event – sleek and well organized, the sound, as I would find out later on is one of the best I’ve heard in any concert hall anywhere. This quite literally can make or break a band’s live set, and probably made up for any of the half-assed performances during the festival.
The evening's proceedings were opened with DECEASED, opening things with Night Of the Deceased... a thrashy intro to what was otherwise a night of extreme brutal death metal. As the evening's first band, the floor was only slowly filling up, but the band raged like a headline act. But what was up with those strobe lights!? Argh! There should have been some kind of potential epileptic seizure warning somewhere. This was probably the single biggest annoyance during several of the performances over the next three days, but the sound was crisp and clear. Animated as always, King Fowley was entertaining and the band banged away with their crusty thrashy death metal touching on a fair share of material from Luck Of The Corpse and Blueprints Of Madness. Old Man Rip Van Winkle, looking like he came out of a wood carving made his presence felt, probably the biggest fan of the set.
Next up... ABORTED... I hadn’t heard much of these guys, but barring the absolutely ridiculous blinding strobe lights, they tore the place up. Closing in on two decades of deathgrind, Aborted were as furious on stage as their material was tightly wound and unwound, frantic start-stop blastbeats and breakdowns replete in just about every song. The pit was raging from the get go, pummeling nonstop. No, not just the big shaven-headed bruisers but the pair of Viking looking dudes in florescent green bellbottoms and blazer and a batman tracksuit, NDF bringing you the weird and entertaining, on stage and off! Sven de Caluwe, exercised total control over the jam-packed crowd, the circle (or rather, oval!) pitting making their first appearances and the only wall of death of the fest. Two new songs from the just-released Necrotic Manifesto make up part of the set. Aborted may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and maybe a tad more popular in the Benelux region (taking a guess), but they definitely set the bar for live intensity and crowd interaction for the duration of the festival.
So I’ve waited to see MASSACRE with serious anticipation, and long story short, ZZZZZZZZZZ. Ed Webb didn’t hold the audience’s attention, awkward silence between songs gets you some serious minus points. Terry Butler’s bass sound overpowered everything else, and the drumming was completely lackluster – and you gotta pull your socks up at an event with drummers of the highest goddamn caliber. I don’t think Rick Rozz moved an inch. Classic cuts like From Beyond and Biohazard would have sounded better had I NOT been watching the stage, expecting some headslamming madness. The Bilbo Baggins looking dude with the ultra-old school cut-off and Carrot Top Guy enjoyed themselves, but there was no put action to speak of, a reflection of what the audience felt. By the time they closed with Back From Beyond, watching felt like a chore. Pity, for a band with such a rad record from the heyday of Floridian death metal. Good songs, ass performance.
SCHIRENC PLAYS PUNGENT STENCH, always the quirky oddball band, played their 45 or so minutes with sludge, blasts, rockabilly sensibilities and everything in between. The band opened with their eponymous track with a set culled largely from the early 1990s period, ending with the quasi-blues Viva La Muerte. After a weak performance by Massacre, it was definitely refreshing to see a band put some punch into their playing. Hats off to the couples dancing to some of the most weird and morbid songs in metal, and Mr. Butcher’s Apron guy fistbanging like he couldn’t give a shit about the ridiculousness of his getup and antics.
Second show outside their homeland for the temporarily reunited swedish cult death metal band GOD MACABRE. Consumed By Darkness opened the show in a crowded hence sweaty hot second stage hall, followed by Ashes of Mourning Life. The band was tight, tighter than at the show I personally attended 2 weeks before in Italy. Per Boder owned it on vocals; Jonas Stålhammar and Ola Sjöberg on 6 strings, Jörgen Kristensen on low end and Tobias Gustafsson on drums shred Lost, Teardrops, Spawn Of Flesh, between the band’s only album tracks, during the 40 minutes show while the crowd went crazy. Predictable, but still killer set. What you can’t predict is the in-your-face punch you get from this band live. Not to be missed while it lasts.
It seemed a little odd to be seeing an entirely revamped version of TERRORIZER... which always calls into question the “legitimacy” of the band, so to speak. But there was none of that apprehension when Pete Sandoval, Sam Molina and Lee Harrison, took that stage in a glare of green lights and slammed out After World Obliteration, Storm of Stress, and Fear of Napalm in quick succession. Didn’t take much to figure out the entirety of the blueprint for all things grind – World Downfall – was going to be played in its entirety! Sandoval is as mechanically accurate as any other time in the past three decades the man has been blasting out the grind, and as always it’s a pleasure watching the guy beating the crap out of the kit. A cover of Infernal Death before the last song of the full album, and a couple of cuts from the latter efforts rounded up the set, with Horde Of Zombies ending the evening in style. Old Man Rip Van Winkle, Carrot Top Guy… and yet more NDF originality with a dude with boobs-on-an-apron making themselves heard and felt in the pit. All in all, a solid rendition of the songs, if a tad lazy with the on-stage movements. Maybe that explains the strobe lights… and so ended Day 1 at NDF.
With more bands packed into the second day, the festival kicked off at 3:00 PM with FUNERUS taking the main stage with their sludgy doomy death giving the crowd an opportunity to slowly get into the groove. Jill McEntee, having recently recovered from a heart attack, spoke about the support from the metal community to much heartfelt applause from the crowd slowly streaming in. The set included a new track Black Death, the oddly titled Bedpan Commando, along with what I can assume are other set staples from their two records. Not built for a moshing time in the pit, the band nonetheless went over well and paved the way for the unrelenting grindfest to come.
BRUTAL TRUTH, as many know, is set to retire later this year, and in what may just be one of its last performances in Holland, did not seem like a band on the verge of punching the clock. Opening with a pair from the classic Extreme Conditions, the band covered an array of classics from their first stint around and staples from their most recent output including Malice, Simple Math and End Time. What’s there to gripe about... tightness was the order of the day – you’re talking about people like Terrance Hobbs, Nick Barker, Dave Culross, among others playing in a couple of hours and you don’t want to get shown up. But perhaps Dave O’Hare could work on his stage presence a little, to avoid looking out of place with Dany Lilker’s constant headbanging, Kevin Sharp running amok and rousing the rabble, and Richard Hoak’s wild stop-on-a-dime rapid blasts. Having “lived a life of grind” as Sharp put it, one can only wonder what these guys will get up to next. Maybe it’s a younger audience thing, the crowd wasn’t as wild as for the acts to follow, but most certainly, there wasn’t a head that wasn’t impressed with the face-melting blasts, riffs and squeals that Brutal Truth helped craft in the scene’s formative years.
Montreal’s DESPISED ICON, was a perfect fit for a festival with a fair share of younger kids. The grooving slamfest marked the return of the ridiculous strobe lights and that awful piercing snare sound. Is it just me, or do these “deathcore” bands seem to have a penchant for raping eardrums, or what? Regardless of what I thought, the crowd lapped it up. Bodies went flying and breakdowns gave way to the kickboxing moves in the pit, as the higher energy level of the band was apparent. Songs included In The Arms Of Perdition, MVP , and Les Temps Changent, dedicated to touring buddies Skinless and Cephalic Carnage to close the set.
What better way to take things back to a more raw sounding form of old school grind than a band comprising stalwarts of the scene with Shane Embury and Nick Barker holding down the rhythm, Anton Reisenegger from the cult Pentagram Chile, and Tomas Lindberg to rile up the crowd. LOCK UP’s performance was nothing short of expected, fast, harsh, and a headbanging fury. The band blasted its way faithfully through The Embodiment of Paradox & Chaos, Slaughterous Ways, Rage Incarnate Reborn, Violent Reprisal, and of course a cliché dedication to the ladies with Triple Six Suck Angels. Barker teased the crowd with the intro to Dark Angel’s Act Of Contrition, Kevin Sharp's appearance in the crowd caused a little furor of selfie opportunities while Danny Lilker joined the band for Stygian Reverberations. Lilker’s guest spot had Barker tinkering with the intro to Nuclear Assault's My America which turned into a full-fledged impromptu jam cover – a wicked treat for the old timers in attendance. The NDF pit kept it original with glow sticks this time (haha!) as the band pummeled the crowd with The Jesus Virus, Submission, Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Necropolis Transparent, The Vomiting Evil, and a blistering rendition of Afterlife In Purgatory confirmed Lock Up’s performance as one of the highlights of the entire festival – a band not to be missed on the live circuit!
MALIGNANCY on second stage have been a total blast. The New York based band is technically incredible, simply perfect; the quartet formed by Danny Nelson on vocals, Ron Kachnic on guitar, Monty Mukerji on bass and Mike Heller on drums deliver pure technical death metal straight in your face and stomach. The opener Mortality Weakness kickstarted the mass of deadly tracks the American combo had to offer - from Neglected Rejection to Eugenics, from Global Systemic Collapse to Xenotransplantation. Danny’s witty crowd banter was entertaining between songs too and frontmen from some bigger bands could take a lesson or two from him on how to keep an audience engaged.
Next up came New York’s SKINLESS… raw and vicious, having seen them over a decade ago, the band hasn’t seemed to change a whole lot in terms of the material presented and the live fury on display. A fair share of breakdowns among the slew of standard brutal death metal, the audience certainly enjoyed the set whole lot more than I did. Can’t comment on the songs, but the band played in form, most definitely a bunch of gifted musicians and Sherwood Webber certainly knows how to command a crowd. Again with the bloody strobe lights though, Jesus…
The main stage headliner and undisputed highlight of the night, SUFFOCATION, launched into a devastating set introduced by way of a couple of cuts from their latest LP Pinnacle Of Bedlam, with tightness befitting leather pants on Kim Kardarshian. Each song incited the same response from the crowd, who did not relent as the band hammered through. Newer songs As Grace Descends and Dismal Dream, received the same roars as old classics Pierced From Within and Mass Obliteration, which possibly predate a large contingent of the people attending. You have to give it up for a band playing such technically complex notes and wild riffs and managing to thrash their way around the stage and keeping up the showmanship. As far as blast-beating precision and speed goes, Dave Culross was toe-to-toe at par with Pete Sandoval. But I don’t know if Frank Mullen just talks too much, or he had to fill the void while his bandmates rehydrated and adjusted their settings, though I suspect his chatter took up the space for another song. OK man, less talk about your ballsack and organized religion (don’t we have enough black metal bands doing that!?) and make with the tunes. On with the show, Entrails Of You, Purgatorial Punishment and Abominations Reborn rounded up the end of the set. A stunning act of controlled chaos, Suffocation slaps the crap out of just about any deathgrind band half their age. The smiling faces at the day’s end were enough evidence of that.
Day 3 at the NDF had another lineup chock full of great bands on the mainstage. Unfortunately, I missed CEPHALIC CARNAGE, but can safely assume judging from the amount of chatter I caught coming in in time for Grave that their live intensity hasn’t abated in the 10+ years since I’ve last seen the band.
GRAVE, while placed early in the evening, launched into their trademark crusty old school Swedish death metal sonic assault to a packed audience and a tremendous response. Classic cuts from the 1990s including You’ll Never See and Christinsanity, made up the bulk of the set while. Despite the early slot, Grave never seemed to kick the pace back or relented with awkward moments of silence that plagued a few other bands. Then again this is Grave we’re talking about, unyielding, slamming and raw. There’s nothing quite like hearing those buzzsaw riffs come to life at a gig, as with any great metal band, and Ola Lindgren & Co. sent many a beer flying through the crowd, confirming their relevance as a force in death metal well into their third decade. Closing with the thrashing title track of their newest EP Morbid Ascent, Grave certainly went down as one of the highlights of the three-day festival.
The crowd thin out a little for Baltimore death merchants MISERY INDEX, oddly enough, who brought in a groove laden set of staples with cuts from their upcoming record The Killing Gods. Jason Nethorton’s range on tracks as diverse as the ambient Thrown Into The Sun , slamming favorite You Lose, and the punk-flavored circle-pit inducing rendition of The Spectator could not have sounded more perfect, and the fabulous sound at the 013 most certainly helped shape the experience of seeing these guys belt out these massively spinecrushing tunes. Closing the set with Manufacturing Greed and Traitors, Misery Index certainly gained over the curious few who may have been previously unfamiliar or disinterested.
PESTILENCE, the biggest homegrown band of the night, left a lot to be desired. Over half the tracks in the setlist were culled from the latest three releases, and the picks from the older catalogue were not necessarily crowd-pleasing. Fair enough for an active band to promote their latest material and having a fairly standard set, so why gripe about the lack of Dehydration or Out Of Body, right? Opening with the title track of their most recent release Obsideo, the highlight of the performance may just have been the second song Echoes of Death, with Patrick Mameli seemingly more intent on getting through the songs while the crowd seemed to be waiting patiently more than eager for more. If you look like you’re in the recording studio and completely unengaged with the audience, you might want to reconsider why you’re playing live to begin with. Not to mention the sudden abrupt ending to the set with Twisted Truth when the band seemed confused about whether it was their last song or not. WTF? Pestilence has plenty to offer the discerning metalhead, and no doubt plays with dedication, but seriously guys, work on the performance, and don’t let a couple of missed notes or off-time beats twist your knickers.
Double duty for Anton Reisenegger on two different days, playing guitar and singing with PENTAGRAM CHILE on the last day of the festival. The Chileans went through The Malifice, Demonic Possession and Fatal Prediction, to name a few, to the joy of the crowded second stage hall. The audience moshed like hell to show its appreciation to a killer set and performance. I personally think they deserved to be on the main stage, with other bands that were nstead billed on the second smaller stage, but hopefully next time. I definitely treasure their performance as one of the best of the entire festival.
Next up on the main stage, GORGUTS. Here’s how to be technical, tight and engaged with an audience at the same time. The band launched into their latest effort, seamlessly going through Le Toit du Monde, An Ocean of Wisdom, Forgotten Arrows and Colored Sands. The lights work was top-notch, perfectly complementing the ambience of the desolate droning of the new record. Luc Lemay, not looking unlike a serious yet charismatic university professor, held the crowd’s attention and respect, certainly helped by the precise and heartfelt performance. Not to be outdone by the more extreme bands at NDF, the set concluded with a trio of more brutal offerings from earlier in the catalogue with Orphans of Sickness, The Carnal State and Obsura.
CANCER’s performance was outstanding! Their presence in the bill was the reason I decided to attend the festival. Of course other killer bands were announced too, but my decision was already made. My high expectations were not only met, but definitely exceeded. John Walker, Barry Savage, Ian Buchanan and Carl Stokes, basically all the original members that were part of the band during its existence, OWNED the second stage for their 45 minute show. The audience wanted more and more after Hung Draw, Quartered, Into the Acid, Cancer Fucking Cancer and To The Gory End. Although Dark Angel were about to hit the stage, caught Cancer’s show until the very last note because they were simply killing it! I hope there will be other chances to catch them live and in a bigger stage where you can actually breathe.
The anticipation for one of the greatest metal legends of our times, the mighty DARK ANGEL, could be felt no sooner had Gorguts left the stage… while Cancer played to a packed and rowdy lot at the second stage (complete with a balcony dive!) it was clear the main room was already getting pumped. Being a little older than the average gig-goer does have its advantages, considering you’d have seen the LA Caffeine Machine during their heyday. Nevertheless, front row spots were already staked by scores of kids who probably weren’t even born when the Leave Scars lineup last performed. Down went the lights, and in came the intro… enter Gene Hoglan waving at the crowd, roars during the feedback intro which was to launch into the opening notes of Darkness Descends as Jim Durkin, Eric Meyer and Mike Gonzalez took the stage… you know what I’m talking about… dadada daawah daawah daawah, dadada daawah daawah daawah… the heads started banging, the pit started moving, and along came Ron Rinehart to a thousand cheers. The band pummeled through the opener like no time had passed, note for note as precise as the record, yet quite definitely tighter compared to their 1980s performances. Dark Angel was always one of those bands that played so fast they risked sounding like a wall of noise. But coupled with the fraction of a second slowdown and the fantastic acoustics of the 013, they sounded better than ever. We Have Arrived, with its more stripped-down polka-beat thrash followed. A tiny break to introduce the band before The Burning of Sodom brought down the house.
Pit stars included some older friends of the band, who didn’t seem to have retired from the slamming and bruising at all, but then again, when you’re a big Dutch fella, doubt anything will slow you down. Time Does Not Heal opened to a couple of jeers – there’s always those clowns right? With the pressure to always focus on a classic record during a reunion, this rendition was sufficient justice for a record with enough riffs to comprise any lesser bands' entire catalogue. No One Answers, the first cut to feature the lineup before us, was played with ridiculous precision. How Eric Meyer never contributed to any song writing efforts in Dark Angel is mind-boggling. And for a guy who hasn’t been on stage in over a decade, his leads are mechanically sharp and riffing impeccable. Hats off for the windwills, especially at this age (I suppose compensating for the two who’ve lost their hair!). The rest of the set was no surprise, but certainly well received… Death Is Certain (Life Is Not), Welcome To The Slaughterhouse, Never to Rise Again, and Death Of Innocence. Highlights in the pit included the dumbass who very ably managed to step up on the barricade, launch himself on the stage, but then plant himself face first onto the floor (a first for the main stage at NDF 2014). It took a little coaxing for the crowd to get riled up for Merciless Death, but Ron didn’t even need to pick up the mic, we could have handled it. Having already run over time, thanks to the good graces of the organizers, the band closed the set with Perish In Flames, with the insertion of the intro to Older Than Time Itself before the last verse and chorus. What more can you ask for in 70 minutes?
Dark Angel, like fine wine, sounding better with age, and most certainly better than the aural picture the production on their records paints. As for the Rinehart haters, stick to your first two records, they’re doing just fine with a singer whose voice hasn’t changed the slightest in the two decades since their last record.
And so ended the main event at NDF while GORETRADE had the odd task of closing on the second stage. Ron and Eric took time to come and chat with the crowd, and everyone got their money’s worth of bitching and praising in the end. Here’s hoping they keep up the tempo and are back on a more permanent basis!
NDF could not have been better managed, a big hats off to the organizers for maintaining an impeccable schedule, the security for handling the drunkards patiently, and overall for a great bill which had a little something for everyone. Till next time.
Tighter than Kim Kardarshian's
leather pants; Suffocation
Time cannot kill great thrash
metal bands: Dark Angel
Click below to see
Marita's pitures from