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Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse live at Boston’s House of Blues

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It’s the definition of a strange vibe to see a death metal show at a House of Blues. That America’s most prominent restaurant chain venue would host bands who call themselves Cannibal Corpse, or who openly worship Satan is confusing in and of itself; it’s extreme music in the world’s least extreme setting. Still, the often overbearing security at Boston’s branch played things remarkably cool (aggressive pat-downs aside) for the February 27th stop on Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse’s co-headlining North American tour.

I arrived a minute or so too late to catch first opener Tribulation, though I’m told that impressions were positive. Sweden’s Aeon were up next, delivering a straight-ahead set of technical and solidly executed death metal. Vocalist Tommy Dahlström exuded a general animosity that suited the band’s ferocious sound nicely, and drummer Emil Wiksten deserves particular commendation for executing hair-whipping headbanging on par with the rest of the band while continuing to keep perfect time.

Polish blackened death metal giants Behemoth were up before New York legends Cannibal Corpse closed out the night, but it was their energy and theatrical flair that ultimately stole the show. Guitarist, vocalist and frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski’s victorious battle against an advanced form of leukemia in late 2010 is a well-documented segment of Behemoth’s history at this point, but one can’t help but construct a narrative around his experiences in recent years and his infectious enthusiasm for performing in 2015. He was a constantly mobile presence on stage, engaging the crowd, encouraging sing-alongs and roaring every vocal with readily evident fervor. Bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski and guitarist Patryk Sztyber were clearly enjoying themselves too (as was drummer Zbigniew “Inferno” Promiński presumably, though his enormous kit largely obscured him from view), but it was certainly and rightfully Nergal’s show.

Behemoth tore through cuts from last year’s much-lauded The Satanist alongside other career favorites in a blistering and relentless 50-minute set, recreating their savage blackened death sound with the appropriate balance of precision and chaos. Corpse-painted and flanked by cast-iron eagles and snake-wrapped mic stands, the band was clearly operating with spectacle in mind, but the showiness largely complimented the music rather than distracting from it.

Buffalo death metal mainstays Cannibal Corpse took the opposite approach to presentation as their Polish brethren, embellishing their stage presence with nothing more than the giant banner bearing their bloody logo. They take a total no-nonsense approach to their uncompromising music; blast beats, manic riffs and the guttural growling of imposing vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher are their trademarks, and they stick to them. There were no theatrics or painted faces to be found here, just five dudes in band Ts focused squarely on headbanging and cranking out efficiently brutalizing songs. And really, what more can one ask of Cannibal Corpse? They delivered what their reputation promised, and the crowd (minus the Behemoth diehards who’d already made their exit) ate it up. With a discography-spanning set list and a total commitment to their fixed aesthetic, they brought a satisfying close to the evening. Cannibal Corpse were the no-frills answer to Behemoth’s over-the-top show; one extreme to balance another.

—Ben Stas

Aeon

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