Dark, damp, and loud, The Earl in East Atlanta Village hosted over 150 people for one of the best death metal shows of the year. The bill included local death metal act Malformity, New York avant-garde black metallers Imperial Triumphant, Norwegian black metal band Nordjevel (who are on their first ever North America tour), and the legendary quartet Deicide.
The Earl is an intriguing venue for live music even though the hall that the stage is located in is at the back of the venue. Walking up to the entrance, one would never suspect that this little neighborhood bar would play host to a death metal show. Walk straight past the kitchen and through the double doors at the back, and you will find yourself in a small and dark hall with a tiny stage and various band stickers on every inch of the doors and walls inside. The venue holds about 150 people and has a very cozy feel about it, which makes it a fantastic place to see live death metal. The intimate atmosphere of the place further hits you the second you realize that the stage is barely three feet off the ground with no barricade separating the band from the fans.
Atlanta’s Malformity opened up the night with a blistering set that included songs from their upcoming release. The band’s influences include early 90s death metal with a hint of thrash peppered in for a brutal yet cerebral sound that will please fans of both genres.
Imperial Triumphant have been around since 2005 and are one of the more original black metal acts to emerge out of the US scene. The band put on a stunning show both sonically and visually, incorporating elements from classical music, noise, and second-wave Norwegian black metal complete with constant tempo-changes, atonal guitar riffs, as well as blast beats. The trio (missing one guitarist on this run) reminded me of Mayhem and Mgła because of their spectacular visual presence on stage, which includes masks and hooded robes. The highlight of the set was the esoteric Breath of Innocence off their latest EP Inceste.
Next up, Nordjevel from Norway took the stage and immediately unleashed their brand of black metal upon the excited crowd. It was immediately clear that Nordjevel are heavily influenced by the classic Norwegian black metal of the early 90s; their compositions have all of the hallmarks of second-wave black metal. Yet, they are unique in the way they flirt with melody and epic passages that contain traces of thrash and melodic death metal and, consequently, include unique elements of the Swedish black metal sound as well. I was particularly impressed with the band’s precise performance and energy. Check out their latest EP Krigsmakt, which also includes Marduk’s Fredrik Widigs on drums.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for arrived. Deicide took the stage and kicked things off with Scars of the Crucifix, When Satan Rules His World, and In the Minds of Evil. I was standing right in front of the stage when people behind me started moshing and I soon found myself holding on to the dude next to me, leaning one knee against the stage monitor, and snapping photos with one hand. The rush of adrenaline, listening to my favorite Deicide songs, and having fucking Glen Benton three feet away from me screaming “Die!!!” is hard to describe.
This was the best death metal show I have ever seen live because of the intimate venue, dark lighting, and the solid lineup. Even though I am way past my days of associating any sort of symbolism to music, I must say that I was buzzing with all the blasphemy dished out by Deicide and felt like a total heretic walking out of the venue.