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East Coast Bruisers: Horrendous, Tomb Mold, Daeva, and Oxalate @ Saint Vitus (Live Report)

It’s not hard to figure why Philadelphia death-thrashers Horrendous are a hot ticket these days. They give the listener an array of rock clichés (metalheads obviously love that), and they also go further, catching the ear of the indifferent and picky, with taste and abstraction. I would say Horrendous’ greatest strength is that they remain progressive without ever becoming a parody. They’re certainly more thrash than death, and definitely more “goof” than glum; they’re having themselves a good time, and that’s obvious when you see them live.

Last Friday’s sold-out Saint Vitus show was all energy with nerds and toughies all hamming it up together, a reflection of a musical time that Horrendous honors with haste: thrash in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Oxalate opened up, playing something like a hybrid of the bands that are stickered to the New Jersey project’s guitarist Zakk Mild’s Dean Dimebag guitar: Nile, Necrot and Tool. Their music is dungeon low-death on the surface, then becomes concerned with a sort of higher structure, almost uncomfortable and neatly progressive. It’s cool to listen to because it breaks down in its own distinct way. The trio played a short set and it was nicely done, putting touches of personality within a canon of shadows.

Daeva was up next, blasting into warrior-death thrash, sounding mostly inspired by Iron Maiden, which is kind of a brave maneuver. I tend to think of Cannibal Corpse and Mayhem as direct negations of Iron Maiden-style theatrics, but Daeva meshed those sensibilities, with the vocalist leading the charge. The singer’s screeches were built upon a Bruce Dickenson platform, then dunked head-first into something like an Attila Csihar, King Diamond pool. The band hoped around with definitive energy, and the metal heads reached their nirvana.

Tomb Mold is a band I’ve been intrigued by since their 2016 debut cassette The Bottomless Perdition. I was thinking the group was a duo heading into the show (I love duos, and yes, they were originally a duo), but alas, they were a quartet on this night, and their music has changed likewise in the last three years. It still has the same hell-death sparseness as its axis, but is more mechanically full and occasionally boisterous than that first demo.

Nevertheless, there is still much dexterity and fluidity hidden beneath the thousands of death-grind layers the band spins out. Guitarist Derrick Vella goes off in free jazz madness, and contorts exactly to the maddening dark hum. On this night, he was wearing a sleeveless Keith Jarrett t-shirt, and I have to say, that was definitely a highlight. He backed it up with extensions and openness, locking in with drummer (and vocalist) Max Klebanoff’s tortured excursions, guitarist Payson Power’s beastly chugs, and bassist Steve Musgrave’s thunderous overlay.

Horrendous opened their set with bassist Alex Kulick dabbling with some Jaco Pastorious-inspired notes, the crowd in tune, yelling “Jaco, Jaco!” The band then thrashed around like Megadeth circa 1987. I cringe, because I can’t stand Megadeth. Perhaps it’s because Mustaine is such a hateful douche, but also because the band’s music is considerably empty, especially as it ages. Regardless, you sort of have to acknowledge where all these bands get a lot of their inspiration, and Megadeth is certainly a huge portion of that pool.

Horrendous though, is way cooler than Megadeth, and they ripped through a varied set, with finesse and sparkle, little pockets of garage heaven numbers and salient contrasts. There’s a lot of color to the darkness they open, and in the great vast reaches, you could easily connect the group both to hippies and punks, and in this way they achieve transcendence.

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