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DATE: Tuesday 30th April 2019
VENUE: Rebellion in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
At 7pm, intro music plays through the PA - namely the '39 Steps' instrumental from their Hitchcockian-themed latest album, 'Spellbound' - and Sadist members take to the stage, with frontman Trevor "Sadist" Nadir last out, wearing a menacing mask and wielding a chainsaw, with accompanying loud buzzing pumped through the PA. It's a visually striking entrance, to match the aurally engaging menace, brutality, sublimity and technically refined essence of opening number, 'The Birds'. I don’t particularly recall a chainsaw being using in said movie but, if it had, perhaps the eponymous feathered enemy would’ve been far easier dispatched!

With what's been billed as a "special set" (as have all bands’ sets on this Morbidfest tour), whereby Sadist would be presenting both their latest album and tracks from their back catalogue, the mere 40 minutes they've been given is no time at all. So, 'Bloody Bates', which follows ‘The Birds’, is the only other new track aired tonight. But that leaves space for classics, including ‘Perversion Lust Orgasm’ and ‘The Path’ from 1997’s ‘Crust’; 2015 ‘Hyaena’ track ‘The Lonely Mountain’; the title track from their 2010 album, ‘Season in Silence’; and the penultimate song in their set, ‘One Thousand Memories’ from 2007’s ‘Sadist’. For their closing number, they draw from their debut full length, 1993’s ‘Above the Light’, for a particularly incredible rendition of 'Sometimes They Come Back', which sees the return of Nadir’s chainsaw, as he grips guitarist/keys virtuoso Tommy Talamanca in a headlock during a solo spot.

Sadist are on fine virtuosic form throughout their whole set. Sticksman Alessio Spallarossa has a free-flowing energy behind his kit with a monstrous performance, but also one with a refined subtlety during the less frantic passages. A newly recruited bassist (following the amicable departure of Andy Marchini earlier this year) plays each of the parts to perfection, while moving sleekly around his area of the stage. Talamanca impresses immensely, as ever, with not only his dual keys/guitar shenanigans (I am in awe of the man… he makes it all look so easy!), but his fretboard work is simply stunning. And Nadir is a commanding presence on the stage - with a kind of theatricality to his stature - and delivers his growls with affective vehemence. My only criticism of Sadist? 40 minutes is way too short! I would’ve been more than happy with these Italians as headliners.
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Sadist at Rebellion in Manchester, UK, 30th April 2019
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
With visages that look like they haven't had a decent wash in a few weeks (it’s tough on the road)… or, more accurately, effective stage makeup for the occasion, Morbidfest continues at 8pm, after an impressively quick 20 minute change-over, with German stalwarts Atrocity. Following Sadist's progressive take on death metal, they deliver a set that ramps up the epic factor. And their advertised “special set”? A little over-egged during the pre-tour blurb, methinks. What was promised to be a set comprised of tracks taken from their two ‘Okkult’ albums, along with classics from the band’s history… it is kind of that, but condensed over yet another mere 40 minutes. Too short!

So, ‘Death by Metal’ (announced by frontman Alexander Krull as the band’s “homage to death metal”) is the sole representation of ‘Okkult’, although three tracks feature from its successor, ‘Okkult II’ - namely ‘Masters of Darkness’, ‘Shadowtaker’, and ‘Spell of Blood’. Then we have old death numbers, lifted from the band’s early days, dusted down and delivered with a 2019 zest - their 1989 single, ‘Blue Blood’; ‘Fatal Step’ from 1990 debut album, ‘Hallucinations’; and ‘Necropolis’ from 1992’s ‘Todessehnsucht’. Then there’s a particularly epic version of ‘Reich of Phenomena’ from 2004’s ‘Atlantis’ to close their short set. So, yep, kind of what was advertised, but a truncated version of what was expected from the blurb.

You can't fault Krull's affability as a frontman. He's a perennially likeable guy. Between delivering blood-curdling growls, it's all smiles, as he chats away to the punters about all kinds of random stuff. From amusingly informing people, "We might be German but we're not going to kill you!", to enquiring whether people here tonight are Man United fans... very few cheers. "Okay, so Man City?"... similarly few cheers. With an evident awareness of football sensibilities, he almost apprehensively asks, "Liverpool?"... which interestingly receives the biggest cheers and biggest boos simultaneously!

With a phenomenally good sound through the PA, everything can be heard with perfect clarity - and loud enough, but without death metal becoming deaf metal. Their homage to death metal, 'Death By Metal', kind of becomes an apt hymn for the evening, as Morbidfest feels like a celebration of the genre in many of its different forms. And Atrocity’s take on death metal has been a triumphant one in Rebellion. It seems everyone is in mutual agreement, judging by the loud cheers these Germans receive as their set concludes.
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Touted as playing “an exclusive 30th-anniversary set” on this tour, I guess it's only Tony Lazaro who can nostalgically reminisce about Vital Remains' existence in its entirety, as he's the sole remaining member from the band’s early days. While he might be vital to what remains of the band, as is, arguably, bassist Gator Collier who joined in 2008, it's seemingly up to the other members to bring vitality to the party, as the evidently younger, newer recruits - frontman Brian Werner (since 2012) and current live members, drummer Chris Dovas (who looks like he probably wasn't even born when the band started) and guitarist Caio Kehyayan - are responsible for the onstage energy this evening. And when Werner requests of the Rebellion crowd, "Manchester, I wanna see fuckin’ some violence" a short way into their set, following a King Diamond joke that seems lost on just about everyone present, the party truly gets started amongst the hordes, acting as the trigger for a frenzied pit to erupt in the middle of the floor. He swiftly follows that up with, "I wanna see some fuckin’ blood"... albeit it seems to be a good natured, respectful pit, with space and time made for the fallen, helped back to their feet by those who crashed into them in the first place.

Tracks from their most recent studio album, 2007’s ‘Icons of Evil’ are mixed up with older material. Lengthy song durations, including the title track from ‘Icons of Evil’, along with ‘Scorned’ and ‘Hammer Down the Nails’, also from said album, leave little space for earlier Vital Remains classics within this supposed “exclusive 30th anniversary set” that spans their 45 minute allotted stage time. However, the likes of 1995’s ‘Descent into Hell’ and 1997’s ‘Forever Underground’ go down a storm. And the pit violence is taken up a notch by a wall of death refereed by a terminally ill man, who Werner informs the crowd is here to see one of his bucket list bands. It's quite a moving, heart-warming moment, actually, despite the ensuing carnage when those who've opted to partake charge the fuck out of each other.

This current lineup of Vital Remains performs the material with impressive conciseness and tightness, and their satanic-themed songs are delivered with a relentless rage and untamed savagery. While Sadist and Atrocity impressed me much more, Vital Remains must be admired for working up the crowd into a mutual frenzy, and owning both the Rebellion and “rebellion” during their three quarters of an hour on stage.
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Whereas Vital Remains were all about raw aggression through their death discharge, I Am Morbid bring an added layer of brooding intensity to their music, such is the moribundly dark songwriting prowess of Morbid Angel abscondee, David Vincent. For it's all his own compositions in I Am Morbid's set; Morbid Angel tracks that he wrote while fronting the band during two ten year stints. This is personal and all delivered with a ton of axiomatic integrity tonight.

And how do they start their set? By going back to the beginning, three decades ago, for an airing of ‘Immortal Rites’, the opening track from Morbid Angel’s debut album, ‘Altars of Madness’. It’s clear from the off that I Am Morbid are a formidable live act. There’s an unsettling malevolence inherent in their music that succeeds in creating an ominous mood within Manchester’s Rebellion during their set. Which is kind of apt for a band called I Am Morbid. You’d be disappointed if their music wasn’t awash with waves of anguish. Yet, it’s an uplifting, cathartic morbidity they purvey and convey, which continues throughout the next hour and a quarter, with classic after classic brought to life in faithful yet freshly ferocious renditions. ‘Altars of Madness’, ‘Blessed are the Sick’, ‘Covenant’ and ‘Domination’ are all represented well in the set, along with an airing of the track after which the band was named, taken from the more recent ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’.

David Vincent casts a striking presence on the stage, and ex-Morbid Angel drummer, Tim Yeung, delivers the goods behind his kit. New recruit, Pessimist and ex-Possessed axeman Kelly Mclauchlin, does a remarkable job in nailing all of his parts, considering he only came into the fold 3 or 4 weeks ago, after the exit of Ira Black. And Bill Hudson is the man who provides the most onstage energy during the set, throwing himself and his instrument around while chugging out solidly regurgitated riffs.

Around three quarters of the way through, Vincent tells the thinning crowd, "Manchester, you might be few, but you are loud". And the depleted numbers are surely explicable by the night overrunning... twofold. The show was originally advertised to end at 11pm through some sort of club curfew, but stage times had been arranged on the night so that I Am Morbid were scheduled to finish at 11:15pm. Overrunning, as such, before the first band even stepped onto the stage. A delay in Vital Remains finishing up, coupled with I Am Morbid exceeding their 20 minute change-over time, and everything's running 30 mins late by the time Vincent and co. hit the stage, with these headliners not done until 11:45. Those with trains and buses to catch, etc. have obviously had to depart earlier than they wanted. But, as Vincent said, the few that remain make themselves heard in their appreciation and enthusiasm for the Morbid Angel tracks of yore that have been aired tonight. And rightfully so, for it’s been a nostalgic blast.
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