Skeletonwitch

support Toxic Holocaust + Goatwhore
author EW date 02/12/09 venue Underworld, London, UK

In this recent period where there seems to have been a gig I desire to attend every other night few had I been as eager to arrive at as this one, as the prospect of seeing three eminently decent bands, none whom I had caught before, playing on one bill was way too good to pass up. All these American acts have released albums worthy of your attention this year, and as evidenced by Skeletonwitch's appearance on the cover of the new Terrorizer mag, some of them are going places...

Goatwhore

Given the similar stature of the bands the package is touring on a revolving headliner policy, meaning Goatwhore were tasked with opening up proceedings on this show. (I had read online before the show that Toxic Holocaust were to be headlining, but in chatting to Chance Garnette (Skeletonwitch vocalist) after the show they were promoted to headliners in light of their Terrorizer appearance). This was fine with me as the running order had allocated all three bands 40 minutes and it was Goatwhore whom I had been most looking forward to in the build-up to the gig as I have been enjoying their newest album "Carving Out The Eyes Of God" more with every listen of late. If you like your extreme metal old-school in nature with a twist of the modern and some serious riffing chops about it then I suggest you check this album out. On the basis of tonight's performance I recommend you make the effort to catch Goatwhore live too. Most likely through the deployment of just one guitarist in the band's live make-up the sound they emitted at the usually flaky Underworld was superb; free of unnecessary distortion and fuzz which allowed the scintillating riffs of "Apocalyptic Havoc", "Razor Flesh Devoured" and the new title track among others room to breathe and room to destroy all there to witness. Goatwhore's music would be best described in the mid-category of complexity, with riffs colliding head-on into each other at high speeds and Ben Falgoust's verbal vitriol the icing on the cake to a sound that manages to be both restrained and unrestrained at the same time. All these thoughts and more came to me in a set packed with as many songs as possible that came to be the best I have seen of anyone in this recent gigging period. With my only gripe being the relative lack of movement from guitarist Sammy Duet and bassist James Harvey Goatwhore were otherwise a powerfully effective method for getting this night's music underway and a name I'm beginning to think should thrown around a lot more given 2009's infatuation with anything that thrashes at all.

Toxic Holocaust

It can be easy to forget but punk-heavy thrashers Toxic Holocaust predate the recent thrash revival by a number of years, a fact which has helped their profile stay reasonably clear of the mud slinging that is seemingly beginning to envelope the over-saturated thrash waggon these days. Not to mention too that with releases such as last year's "An Overdose Of Death..." Toxic Holocaust brew a very different fusion, with a far greater emphasis on Discharge-influenced punk than on mere Exodus and Testament worship. Having effectively always been Joel Grind's vehicle he mans the band's energy onstage, encouraging his two cohorts to fly through tracks off "An Overdose...", 2005's "Hell On Earth" and Toxic's 'classic' tune "War Is Hell" in seemingly double-quick time. Infact such was the speed that Toxic sped through their set tonight I did not feel alone in thinking that the band was surely some way short of their 40 minutes, and so surprised I was when they did not re-emerge after the closing of "War Is Hell" barely half an hour after first appearing.

Alas, within that time Joel and crew ably demonstrated their know-how in perpetrating some good friendly violent fun to the assembled masses in a set that was entertaining in it's style yet lacking in the overall power and morbidity that made Goatwhore's preceding set so brilliant.

7

Skeletonwitch

Such is the way of life that Skeletonwitch were the band I was least familiar with at this gig but a quick cursory listen to new album "Breathing the Fire" and a viewing of the video to highlight track "Repulsive Salvation" prior to the gig gave some idea of what to expect - an interestingly odd mix of black, thrash and death metal that in it's execution is a sound just unique enough to warrant some further attention in the future. By this point of the evening I had begun to be taken over by the night's drinking activity and knew full well that short of Skeletonwitch coming out with a set of Beyonce covers I was going to enjoy what they had to offer. Thankfully we got a performance that contained a great deal of sweat, hair and beer (three things you'd never see at a Beyonce concert...) but one too that again didn't seem to reach the 40-minute mark (though I could be mistaken on this such occasion). Like I have expressed previously in reviewing Amon Amarth, a band Skeletonwitch take certain influences from, a stage full of men furiously whipping their long-hair is always a pleasant spectacle and one that is immediately harder to dislike than a group of clean-cut neatly attired indie boys, and so from this tendency Skeletonwitch's set simply could not fail to be good. As my one listen to "Breathing the Fire" had indicated might be the case, the highlight of the set was the 80's thrashalong of "Repulsive Salvation", a song which symbolises Skeletonwitch quite neatly. What they have done on record (on the basis of "Breathing..." at least) and on stage this Wednesday night is nothing revolutionary or life-changing but the conviction with which they went about their business was the sign of a rapidly developing band that I should expect will become a more frequent visitor to our shores in the future and a band that will be gathering further warranted publicity too.

All in all then this was a very good night out in an Underworld that was unexpectedly some way short of being full. I would recommend all three bands to anyone who likes metal plain and simple. Sometimes there is just no need to beat around the bush trying to decide what category a band falls into...

All photos courtesy of Greg Readings.

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