Gramercy Theater, New York, New York – 9/11/12

Being in New York City on this particular date has lost some of its immediacy, and even though my cohorts and I were tossing back cheap beer and getting amped up for the night ahead, the WTC memorial light beams downtown were impossible to miss. But hey, what’s a better middle finger to fundamentalist nutbags than getting drunk at a death metal show? Let it begin.

Work schedules and parking meant we missed out on opening act Encrust. Keep an ear out for these guys; their debut From Birth To Soil is a rager and displays some serious songwriting chops. If Amon Amarth invaded Mastodon’s jam space circa Leviathan . . . well, you get the idea.

I don’t think I’d ever heard a Jungle Rot song before strolling into Gramercy this night. For whatever reason, I lumped them into the Six Feet Under/generic-by-numbers DM category. While a few of the songs were lackluster, the band made up for it in sheer intensity and force. They played every song like it was the encore at Rock In Rio, slamming each riff into a Bolt Thrower-esque lockstep groove. I still don’t know what they sound like on disc, but Jungle Rot is one of the better live death metal bands I’ve seen in a long time.

Gramercy is selling “cheap” ($5) beer called Chang. It’s terrible, so you have to drink fast. It works. The crowd is a familiar NYC mix of nu-school skater kids, old hashers, and random goth girls. Hipsters don’t come out of their Brooklyn caves for Obituary; not yet, anyway.

Decrepit Birth was up next, and holy shit could these guys shred. This was already better than the masturbatory tech-death I was lead to believe they were. None of the songs were very memorable, but their singer made the most of his time onstage and was constantly in motion, getting a mostly unenergetic crowd moving. They ended with a near-perfect cover of Death’s “Crystal Mountain” which got everyone pumped for what was coming.

My love for Obituary can’t be overstated, but the real draw for me on this tour was Broken Hope. They were one of my extreme metal gateway bands, the stuff I got into after Pantera and Sepultura. They disappeared before I could see them live the first time around, so this was special. Unfortunately, their sound guy didn’t wake up until about six songs in. The momentum was lost at that point, but it was still cool to hear “Gorehog” and “Coprophagia” live. While Tom Leski did an admirable job on vocals, Joe Ptacek (R.I.P.) is sorely missed. He made Corpsegrinder sound like Tiny Tim.

All’s well that ends well, right? This did not end well. Obituary is currently touring without a lead guitarist, but instead of Trevor Peres picking up the slack he just plays all his rhythm parts. This turns every song into a kind of death metal jam session, which got awfully damn tired after the fourth song or so. Add that to a playlist comprised solely of songs from the first three albums, and you have a recipe for the unimaginable: a boring Obituary show. When you’re checking the time and thinking about what bar to go to afterwards, it’s not a good sign. Hopefully this clusterfuck of bad ideas doesn’t happen next time. C’mon dudes, “Threatening Skies”!

— Chris Rowella

. . .

ENCRUST

OPEN DENILE

JUNGLE ROT

DECREPIT BIRTH

BROKEN HOPE

OBITUARY

Photos by Wyatt Marshall