I’ve been on a bit of a death metal bender lately so I jumped at the opportunity to check out the monster lineup of The Devastation of the Nation Tour III, which included Gloom, The Kennedy Veil, The Zenith Passage, Rivers of Nihil, Decrepit Birth, and Cryptopsy at The Masquerade in Atlanta.
Gloom opened up the show with a brand of black metal that draws on influences from some of the best acts in the doom and black metal scenes. The four-piece from D.C. celebrated the release of their first full-length, Solaris, out on eOne on June 2nd, by playing some of the best composed blackened death metal I’ve heard in recent times. Frontman Bill Calomiris’s vocals covered the whole spectrum from death metal growls to black metal shrieks while the rest of the band displayed impressive instrumentation with varying tempos and progressive passages, including bassist Jason Sayell’s fingertapping, providing a groove-oriented twist on solid compositions.
Next up, Sacramento brutal death metallers The Kennedy Veil entertained the crowd to a headbang-fest with monstrous choruses and crushing drums providing the perfect background to Monte Bernard’s growls. The Kennedy Veil may be a newer band but their brand of technical death metal has that old school vibe about it. Check out the band’s latest album, Trinity of Falsehood, for some seriously brutal death metal.
LA outfit The Zenith Passage were the most progressive and eclectic band of the night. They immediately reminded me of The Faceless with their syncopated off-time rhythms and overall musical sensibility. Extremely technical and at once melodic, the band pulled off some seriously challenging, almost academic riffs with ease. I was particularly impressed with Greg Hampton’s brutal vocals, which fit seamlessly over the most atonal/techy progressions. Fans of technical death metal with a progressive and atmospheric bend will surely enjoy The Zenith Passage’s first full-length, Solipsist, released in 2016.
Next up, Rivers of Nihil from Pennsylvania pulled the crowd back into more brutal territory, dishing out some of the best thrash-inspired death metal of the night. Chugging guitars, harmonies, and lead shreds characterize the band’s attention to melody. Vocal duties were expertly handled by Jake Dieffenbach, whose growls covered the entire spectrum of old school thrash and death metal. Fans of melodic metal from all subgenres will enjoy listening to the band’s 2015 release, Monarchy.
Decrepit Birth is one of the more visible products of the technical death genre that came after the first generation of American death metal. The band’s sound is one of perfect balance between the more techy side of complex guitars and melody. However, the most defining element of the band is the extreme guttural vocals of frontman Bill Robinson. With their new album Axis Mundi due out in July, Decrepit Birth put on a solid performance, taking the crowd on a journey through their entire discography, engaging the crowd in the process by inviting fans on stage for a sing-along towards the end of their set. I highly recommend catching these guys live at some point in the near future.
Headliners Cryptopsy closed out the night by performing their 1996 album None So Vile in its entirety. There are very few bands that can pull off brutal death like Cryptopsy; from the schizophrenic guitar work to the frantic drums, the band didn’t let up for a single moment until the very end. Matt McGachy’s vocals were merciless and his windmills perfectly on time. My favorite moment of the set was the song Phobophile; the eerie piano intro and dramatic stage lighting giving me the goosebumps right before the thrashy riffs drove me into a state of pure death metal bliss.
Overall, this was a night to remember because it proved that the good ol’ death metal scene in North America is as vibrant as ever. It was also encouraging to see the solid crowd pour in to see some young and talented bands that are pushing the genre boundaries when it comes to the many different forms of death metal that have evolved since the mid-to-late nineties. Also, kudos to all the labels and folks at MetalSucks for arranging this tour and including so many interesting bands on the bill.
A solid 8.5/10.