Cannibal Corpse @ Fowler's Live (Adelaide), 11 Sept 2009

Despite all of the bands I've ever seen, I have to admit that until Friday night I hadn't had the pleasure of Cannibal Corpse. The two support acts I also hadn't seen for a while, so was looking forward to a generically good night. What I didn't expect that it would be quite so good as it was. This show fucking slayed.

Rocking up early on the first really warm day after this year's winter - perfect gig-going weather - we arrived at Fowler's to discover a scattering of people throughout the venue, a great vibe, and a general buzz of excitement. Most of those there early were young kids, off the parental leash for the evening and filled with the amazement of seeing Cannibal Corpse. It's not that the older peeps among the crowd were any different: they just expressed their excitement in a different way. Like powering through beers and debating excitedly about which early Corpse release was the best, and telling each other which track the fuckers better play.


Local technical death metallers Altars were up first. In some respects it would have been nice if the running order had been altered slightly (no pun intended) to allow these guys to play second - just to provide a bit of contrast between the second act, A Closed Casket, and the headliners. In other respects, the fact that Altars played first meant that they also scored the best mix of the evening.


Fowler's Live is renowned for a muddy mix at metal shows; it is actually the biggest gripe among punters who head there, because in many other ways it's a great place for a show. That said, the mix for Altars was outstanding. By outstanding, I really mean the best I've heard at Fowler's: I could hear all of the elements of this band - the bass line, the guitars, the percussion, the vocals. All beautifully mixed. Whoever was working the desk for this band needs a medal for what he achieved. 


And, happily, the band itself put on a solid show. It was tight, technical, and heavy. The band worked well together, front-man Cale Schmidt worked his magic on the crowd, and the vibe was just right. The setlist itself was structured in such a way as to keep up the interest and warm up the punters who were already there, and it was a shame these guys didn't have longer to grace the stage. In particular, the moving from the straight-up death metal into a song that was chunky as fuck about three or four songs in, worked magic on the younger members of the audience: it really got them moving. After that point, the movement didn't stop. The younger kids who were there totally got into the Altars set, and if anything's a good indication of a band hitting its mark, and of a generation that's helping death metal to keep on, that is. I hate to say 'best yet guys', because with young bands that sort of comment is in some ways inevitable, but it really was. 


It turned out that even if the running order hadn't been set up the way it was, the bands would've had to perform in the order they did anyway. A Closed Casket's bass player didn't turn up on time. In fact, while I was having a fabulous time deep in conversation the band was setting up and the bassist still hadn't turned up. You'd think that when you're supporting a band like Cannibal Corpse you'd be there on time - early even - just to make a good impression. There may have been a good reason for his tardiness, but as a critic I'm inclined to say, 'that was well unprofessional'. Some I know were surprised by it, and others not impressed at all.


But when A Closed Casket did hit the stage, they had the audience - swelled to three or four times its size by this time, with the venue filled to capacity (yes, Cannibal Corpse sold out! Well done, Adelaide!) - absolutely rivetted. These guys put on a really mature performance: they worked fucking hard, their sound was fat and heavy, they were tight as hell, and they played like they have grown up. Granted, A Closed Casket gig heavily anyway; but comparing this performance to their Krisiun support is like trying to compare mandarins with oranges: sort of similar, but really a different thing. This may have something to do with the band parting ways with their long-time bassist Sam Ahrens, or it may not. Who am I to speculate?


Either way, this set was so much better than I'd anticipated. It was a shame that, compared to Altars, the mix had reverted to the typical muddiness we have unfortunately come to know and put up with at Fowler's. Also, the band's aggressive, full-on performance - where they were just so focused - resulted in a set that wasn't necessarily boring, but it yielded some form of 'metal fatigue' quite early. I don't quite know how they could have overcome this, so I'm not even going to suggest anything. Suffice it to say that the overall impression of A Closed Casket that I walked away with was 'oh my god haven't they improved'. 


Two fabulous sets by the locals meant that the audience was well keyed-up for the headlining act. Beers were flowing, the venue had heated up with the hundreds of bodies crammed into it, and the vibe was just right.


After a suitable break, wherein anticipation was allowed to build, Cannibal Corpse hit the stage and blasted into their set; a set that hammered the audience, a set that was  damn nearly orgasmically heavy. If you haven't seen Cannibal Corpse live and you think you know what a death metal show is all about, you need to be re-educated. This is all about experiencing metal with every single cell in your body.


Of course, Cannibal Corpse was plagued with the same bloody awful, muddy, mashed sound as A Closed Casket. I couldn't hear Webster's bass properly, for example, which, while it was sad, didn't really matter a great deal because I could hear it in my own head. Having said that, I wanted the live experience, and so it was a little bit disappointing  that I had to recall elements of the performance instead.


But that aside - and that is the only thing I really have to grumble about - Cannibal Corpse absolutely slayed. From start to finish, it was a full-on set, interrupted only by time for the band members to mop up the copious amounts of sweat pouring out of themselves. It was full-on for the punters too, who banged their heads old-school style from the front of the stage to the back wall. Cramped, hot, sweaty, and filled with excitement and amazement that this was really happening, the punters gave as good as they got.


When Corpsegrinder Fisher announced, 'This next song is about blood spurting out of your cock,' the audience went bananas for I Cum Blood. When, after a pause, he dedicated a song to the ladies - all of us screaming like banshees - you knew, and were far from disappointed to be right, that it was Fucked with a Knife. Of course, when Fisher dedicated Priests of Sodom to the sluts in the audience - to no screams at all - and then told us that all women are sluts because he tells us so, some of the chicks were far from impressed. One or two even hurled abuse! But, you know, some girls really take offence at that sort of thing. What they never think about is that old adage passed from generation to generation of women that you should 'be a lady in public and a total slut in the bedroom'. To take offence at it, at a Cannibal Corpse show, is just mind-boggling.


But back to the action.


Right from the beginning to the end of the show it was a heavy-as-fuck wall of metal, battering your brain, mesmerising your mind, and forcing you into submission. Cannibal Corpse ripped through material from their latest album Evisceration Plague, to as far back as their first full-length, Tomb of the Mutilated (1990). Despite having such a good time I recall that they played tracks from 1994's The Bleeding, 1996's Eaten Back to Life, 1998's Gallery of Suicide, 2002's Gore Obsessed, and 2006's Kill. If I missed any albums that get on my list here, I apologise. But I was banging my fucking head, as I should've been. As Fisher bluntly stated at one point, 'There's no time to play with yourself at a Cannibal Corpse show'. Damn straight.


But for those of you who are curious, the tracks I remember and those I managed to scrawl down in the darkness of the crush were: I Cum Blood, Fucked with a Knife, I Will Kill You, Perverse Suffering, Priests of Sodom, Make Them Suffer, Hammer Smashed Face, Vomit the Soul, Pit of Zombies, A Skull Full of Maggots, Five Nails Through the Neck, Devoured by Vermin, Stripped Raped and Strangled... and so it went on.


Of course, they wouldn't have gotten away alive without playing Hammer Smashed Face. Not when it was asked for; not when it was supposedly the final track; but when Cannibal Corpse decided to play it. It whipped the crowd so hard that, unlike as I have experienced with other bands, where a favourite track is played and the audience sits back contented, the punters went harder than ever until the end of the set.


There were no encores, not even one; but for such an intense show it somehow didn't seem to matter. Even with the sound problems it had, this gig was fucking awesome. 


Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go hunt down a time machine just so I can experience it again...