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Live Report: Relapse Showcase: Exhumed, Black Tusk, Revocation, Tombs, Royal Thunder


An all-ages mixed-genre metal show in West Hollywood–madness! Scion, increasingly the bastion of excellent free shows, brought us yet another label showcase at the Roxy–this time for Relapse–and the breadth of metal on display was ridiculous. From doomy ’70s rock to progressive thrash, sludge to grinding death, there was no repetition and very little overlap. All in all, it was a smorgasbord of delicious metal.

— Text and video by Aaron Lariviere

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Royal Thunder kicked off bright and early at 1:30 pm. The crowd–by and large young thrashers who came out for Exhumed and Revocation–weren’t prepared for slow ’70s rock, but that’s what they got. Like a half-speed Devil’s Blood, these guys were instantly familiar from note one, but delivered the thunder nonetheless. Bassist/singer Miny Parsonz injected some wailing blues into the lumbering proto-metal, which proved an interesting counterbalance as the riffing intensified, making for a nice warmup to the more brutal acts to follow.

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Tombs hit the stage like they had something to prove. No resting on laurels: their set was explosive and intensely physical. Mike Hill flailed across the stage, coming dangerously close to beheading the audience with is Les Paul (I flinched every time he came near), pouring sweat as he shredded out bursts of tremolo picking and aggressive palm muted grooves. The noise rock influence was more obvious live than on record, hearkening back to Hill’s noisier days in Anodyne. With an expanded 4-man lineup, Tombs’ delivery was pure sonic punishment–deadly serious and really fucking loud, the way it should be.

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The kids were stoked on Revocation, and it was easy to see why. It’s party music for the shred-obsessed. While the intensity was dialed back compared to Tombs, they wisely shifted the focus to having a good time. It’s hard to describe exactly what these guys do–somewhere in between thrash, melodic death, and progressive shred–but more than anything else, they entertain. I’m not usually a fan of the wheedly-wheedlies, but singer/shredder David Davidson was surprisingly tasteful considering the degree of excess–the only cringing came courtesy of a story told in full “metal voice” about Viking blood and a heathen chalice. But the audience–mainly teenagers, for this band–was feeling it, and rewarded the band with a constant offering of horns and shred-fingers held aloft. One moment of arm-in-arm group headbanging was particularly amazing (captured on video below)–one of those rare instances of pure metallic magic. If these little thrash maniacs are the future, we’re in for a hell of a ride.

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Revocation: Live at the Roxy 2/11/12

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If Revocation are the shredders of tomorrow, Black Tusk are the stoner cave-dudes from the land that time forgot. Compared to the rest of the Savannah sludge bands (Baroness, Kylesa), Black Tusk hew closest to their roots, delivering rock and roll by way of primitive sludge and nothing more. On record, the songs are pretty straightforward. Live is something else entirely. Ear to ear grins, a tornado of long hair and beards, these guys are an onstage party: beer-soaked and ready to headbang until they pass out. We got riffs upon riffs and thudding drums without end–the Devil must be a caveman, too, for all the groove he bestowed upon his bastard children in Black Tusk. Swamp metal of the highest order, served hot and sweaty from a flying V. Consider me converted.

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Black Tusk: Live at the Roxy 2/11/12 – “Bring Me Darkness”

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The curtain was still drawn as the first strains of the Re-animator theme song crackled through the PA. Which meant . . . Exhumed! Man, what a difference a venue can make. I caught these guys on tour last year at the Key Club. The neon interior and over-glossed sound system did them no favors, but force of will and solid tunes were enough to make it a great show. The Roxy, on the other hand, feels like a legitimate skuzzy rock venue. A quick trip to the bathroom is all it takes to confirm that this place is, in fact, rather disgusting. As it should be! What better for death metal than blood, shit, and tears?

The preceding four sets of excellent metal had the crowd primed for action, thirsting for the deathly goods that only Exhumed could deliver. With a slightly different lineup this time around–former drummer Danny Walker wasn’t playing, though he was in the crowd, earning a hearty shout-out from guitarist/axeman Matt Harvey; and “Bodybag” Bob of Gravehill covering bass duties instead of Leon del Muerte–Exhumed were raw, thrashy, and furious. The kids roared to life, tearing ass around the circle pit while Matt Harvey and Wes Caley shredded their own circles around them. A stream of stage-divers terrorized the front row, while the ripping pit threatened destruction from behind. Occasional physical pain and a mild-but-persistent fear of death added another layer of sensory enhancement to an already overloaded experience.

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Exhumed: Live at the Roxy 2/11/12 – “As Hammer To Anvil”

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Towards the end of the set, a lunatic decked out in scrubs and a surgical mask presented a severed head to the audience before upending it, dumping blood all over the guys up front. It was give and take like that all night, as much giddy excitement as furious brutality, and it was glorious. Calling out the Sunset Strip backdrop, Harvey gave us his best Blackie Lawless as he led the crowd in a bang-along cover of W.A.S.P.’s “Wild Child”, before closing out with a final blast of gore-drenched goodness. Next time these guys come through town, get there early and stay fucking late–I guarantee you will not regret it.

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Exhumed: Live at the Roxy 2/11/12 – “I Rot Within”

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BANDCAMP BAND LINKS

Tombs
Exhumed
Black Tusk
Revocation
Royal Thunder
Relapse Records

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