Morbid Angel – The Masquerade, Atlanta 25/05/17

I was driving down Elm street in Dallas on a hot summer day (May 8, 2004 to be precise) when I saw the poster on the front door of Dallas’s legendary Trees club: “Morbid Angel + Suffocation + Satyricon Live Tonight”. I couldn’t believe my luck; it was my first night off from work in a long time and here I was being afforded an opportunity to catch three of the best extreme metal acts in one night. It was Suffocation’s first tour after coming out of hiatus, Satyricon’s Frost was banned from entering the country due to a visa problem, and Pete Sandoval was still behind the kit for Morbid Angel. I remember being awed at the sonic assault that was Morbid Angel’s live production. I also remember running into Pete Sandoval at the bar and pissing him off by something I said but that’s a story for another time.

Fast forward 13 years, and here I am writing a review of a show with almost the same lineup minus Satyricon. Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Revocation, and Withered rolled into town last Thursday night for a memorable show and I was there to witness it.

The night got off to a good start with locals Withered showcasing their repertoire littered with signature death-doom songs. Vocalist/guitarist Mike Thompson’s tortured growls rang out throughout the venue supported by a loyal home crowd at every step of the way. The band released their fourth full-length, Grief Relic (Season of Mist), a year ago and have been on the road for a good portion of the last 12 months. Their performance was spot on and got the crowd in the mood for what was to come the rest of the night.

Boston technical death masters Revocation have gone from strength to strength in a career that stretches over a decade and seeing them live, it is easy to see why. Vocalist/guitarist David Davidson’s mastery of complex, syncopated death/thrash riffs and equally impressive growls leave little doubt of the kind of talent on display at a live Revocation show. I was particularly impressed with how tight the band was sonically and how effortless everything seemed on stage. My favorite moment of the set was the groovy yet ferocious instrumentation on Madness Opus. Great Is Our Sin on Metal Blade is one of my favorite albums of 2016. Be sure to give it a listen.

Suffocation haven’t changed one bit since the last time I saw them. Yes, vocalist Frank Mullen is no longer touring and there have been a number of lineup changes since the band came back all those years ago, but the core of the band and the philosophy behind the sound has not changed. Suffocation are undisputed legends of brutal death metal and there’s nothing anybody can do to change that.

From Terrance Hobbs’ majestic riffs to live vocalist Kevin Muller’s deep growls, Suffocation sounded like a bulldozer ready to destroy everything in its way. They kicked off the set with old-time favorite Thrones of Blood and moved on to Effigy of the Forgotten and Return to the Abyss. My favorite song of the night was the new single, Your Last Breaths, with its hypnotic and haunting melodies and machinegun double-bass beats. Be sure to check out …off the Dark Light out on June 9th by Nuclear Blast.

Headliners Morbid Angel stepped out on the stage after a brief delay due to sound issues. The new lineup includes Dan Vadim Von and Scott Fuller on guitar and drums respectively. I had heard the band would be sticking to songs from Formulas Fatal to the Flesh onwards and that turned out to be true. As much as I would have liked to hear material from the legendary first four albums, the band’s lively performance more than made up for my brief moment of disappointment. Steve Tucker’s beastly growls are truly amazing and one of a kind. The ripper of an intro to Summoning Redemption coupled with Trey Azagthoth’s effects-ridden tapping solos just about made me go berserk with joy and I found myself headbanging and enjoying the show from the pit.

The highlight of the night was the band featuring Warped, a mid-tempo song full of odd time signatures and some serious grooves, from their upcoming album. The set also included To the Victor the Spoils, Prayer of Hatred, and Beneath the Hollow, with the band closing out the night with Ageless, Still I Am.

Seeing Morbid Angel reminded me how much I appreciate the atonal, complex arrangements written by arguably the most talented death metal guitarist of all time: Trey Azagthoth. Seeing Morbid Angel should be required for all fans of metal regardless of scenic affiliation. Keep your eyes pealed on the new album rumored to come out after the US tour.


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