Cannibal Corpse, Hour of Penance, Metro Theatre, Sydney, 14/09/2014

Death metal comes alive at the Metro...

Cannibal Corpse. It’s the name on everybody’s lips and t-shirt tonight at the Metro. That’s right; the biggest death metal band in the world is back once again to lay everything that stands before them to waste…

But first, we were to be treated to the destructive delights of Hour of Penance. One of the biggest problems heavy metal faces when being played in a live setting is its issue with volume and intricacy.  Simply put, heavy metal is a genre that is supposed to be played loud, but this oftentimes comes into conflict with the technical and intricate nature of the music; it’s just not possible to capture everything that’s going on and more often than not things can turn into an indistinguishable soup of noise. Technical death metal suffers more from this affliction than other genres, and as such to this reviewer’s – admittedly failing- ears, Hour of Penance’s set was marred by muddy sound.

However, that didn’t stop them playing one cracker of a set. Distinguishable or no, the band’s sound has real weight behind it that certainly managed to grab the crowd’s attention. Material equally culled from their Paradogma, Regicide and Sedition albums whipped the punters into action and provided a fitting beginning to this evening of brutality.

With that said, we all knew who we were here to see. There are a lot of people willing to write off Cannibal Corpse as old hat, but it speaks volumes for their status as the biggest name in death metal that they were able to get enough Sydney metalheads to come out to a show on a weeknight (!!) to fill the Metro to near capacity. The punters weren’t just here in numbers; they were ravenously hungry for what Corpse was serving up. From the moment the band launched into their opening number, Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead, the pit swirled into a sea of motion that did not relent for the duration of the set. I’ll go one further with the sea metaphor, because the numbers of people crowd-surfing looked as if they were being spat out of the ocean during a tropical storm, it was enough to nearly overwhelm the security guards at the barrier.

As if to match the level of energy put out by the crowd, the band was bringing their A-game tonight. Vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher and his impossible neck spent as much time windmilling as he did singing while Alex Webster stood back, casually being one of the best bassists in metal.

One thing many don’t concede about Cannibal Corpse is that their music is a bit more nuanced than you might think. Oh, their music is still like being bludgeoned by a hammer, but the band will mix things up by focussing on your kneecaps for a while instead of your face. The set was immaculately constructed with material new and old designed to control the energy of the room. Whenever you felt like blastbeats were growing thin, they’d chuck in a mid-tempo song like Scourge of Iron off of 2012’s Torture album and have the whole room headbanging.

Ending with the one/two punch of the classic Hammer Smashed Face and Devoured by Vermin, Cannibal Corpse stole away into the night leaving us battered, bruised and completely sated of every violent impulse for at least the next month.