Text and Photos: Teddie Taylor
The Curse of the Dead tour has a bit of everything for everyone, with Gatecreeper, Oathbreaker, Iron Reagan and Skeletonwitch on the bill. Nothing sounds alike and no set feels the same. The only common thread between beginning and end were bassist Sean Mears’ and drummer Dustin Boltjes’ Star Wars tattoos.
Gatecreeper have very few days off – exactly one in 22 days, in fact. The previous night I had seen them play a self-booked show, which most of the other bands still attended, and now they were back to play most of their new album once again. Their set is one that makes you go buy everything they’ve ever released immediately afterwards. You begin to feel invincible after the initial “Creeping Flesh,”and by the end of “Stronghold” tinnitus has set in and you’re more or less immortal for a while. It’s daunting to describe a band that is as immediately impressive as Gatecreeper. The guys played most of Sonoran Depravation and, so far, it’s a “top ten of the year” type of record that is only made better by seeing the band in person.
When Caro Tanghe began the acapella intro of “10:56,” you could hear people talking at the bar because it was so completely opposite from what was expected. Automatically, Oathbreaker were starkly different from anyone playing that night. The ability to pull off the contrasts and storyline of Rheia live is nearly as awe-inspiring as the album itself; Tanghe’s vocals seamlessly shift between fragile and destructive. Her hair obscured her face and, bathed in blue light, the whole band possessed a natural, otherworldly quality. As with Gatecreeper, their album and the corresponding live show are “best of the year” level. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a band intertwine styles as fluidly and logically as Oathbreaker. The Deafheaven comparisons run rampant, but Oathbreaker are incomparable in person. Even during “Glimpse of the Unseen,” it’s obvious that there were always undertones of light that are only now more elevated and tamed. The Belgian-based group has only toured the States twice before, but based on the response to the new record, they will be back soon.
There’s no such thing as photographing an Iron Reagan show in front of the stage. I should’ve known that… There is, though, the guarantee of the longest setlist of the night with a matching bruise for each one. Cannibal Corpse and Gang Green covers were scattered amongst the 15+ other songs that were sped through with little time to recover before Tony Foresta was on to the next. The whole show can be explained by one scene: someone shouted their song request from the rear and drummer Ryan Parrish replied, “We played that 15 minutes ago!” Tony answered, “Yeah, that was 24 songs ago!” Oh yeah, it was.
Having lost track of Skeletonwitch over the last few years, it’s incredible how the tracks from The Apothic Gloom stand out from the earlier Beyond the Permafrost ones. In part due to Scott Hedrick’s increased songwriting contributions, the four new songs are significantly less thrash-influenced and are bigger. Transitioning from “This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)” to EP closer “Red Death, White Light,” it became clear that with Wolvhammer’s Adam Clemans, this is a new era for the band. Seeing the former band a few months earlier, it was a pleasant surprise that Clemans could do justice to Chance Garnette’s deeper vocals. In fact, the whole show was impressive. They’ll always be able to pull off their brand of blackened thrash like no one else, but perhaps the recent changes will push them into more progressive territory for the inevitable next LP.