Article and Photos by: Steven Principato
Webster Hall, NYC — On a mid July evening that may have very well been hotter than the hell-spawned satanic theme of Summer Slaughter 2016, ten bands ranging from promising newcomers to seasoned veterans of the well established death metal scene brutally executed their personal approach to the sonic torture of a helpless crowd below. Celebrating ten years of condemning millions of souls into the fiery pits of perdition, Summer Slaughter kicked of this year featuring a list of the world’s most vile acts of musical terror that would make Satan himself tremble in terror.
Switching back and forth from two simultaneously occupied stages, I had my work cut out for me in keeping tabs on 10 different death metal acts, most of which I couldn’t make out what their names were based on their heavily serrated logo artwork. Focusing on the second stage, the first and to accept the undertaking of terrorizing the second stage,(The Marlin Room) was U.K.’s Ingested. Delivering their very own custom tailored brand of “Slam” death-core to an already battled hardened mob of bloodthirsty hellhounds, and armed with obligatory grind-core inspired blast beats, Ingested proved a worthy beginning to what would be along night. Arguably pioneered by their own local forebearers, Napalm Death, Ingested remained loyal to the immortal sounds and lessons of their never forgotten roots. Not long following the removal of the broken and mangled viscera of those who couldn’t endure the festival thus far, and just when those still left standing thought they were in the clear, Russia’s Slaughter to Prevail made it brutally clear that no mercey would be given on this hellish night. As they say in old mother Russia, heavy metal play you! By the one man rage-riot unleashed by the devilishly inked frontman, Alex Terrible, the rage infected mob was effortlessly whipped into a furious whirlwind of mass destruction. Under the assault of his guttural growls of profane poetry, I desperately clutched my camera for a decent shot amidst the destruction and chaos surrounding me. Leaving little time for recovery, Krisiun stormed the stage and reassuring us there would be no break from the slaughter to come. This power trio from Brazil reminded metal fans at large to the fact of how the long standing scene of heavy music from below the equator, which spawned legendary acts by the likes of Sepultura and Sarcafigo, continues to raise hell. I always find it amazing on how death metal lyrics sound even better growled in Portuguese.
Following up was Revocation, the final and most revered band to take the second stage before the now raging sea of bloody wall to wall flesh. Possibly the baddest band from Boston since The New Kids on The Block, Revocation has been on the extreme metal radar for over ten years, earning them the top spot on the second stage at Summer Slaughter. With an extremely eclectic and diverse crossover sound, combining the death growls of grindcore with the virtuously technical nature of their riffs, Revocation’s set exhibited a generous amount of unpredictability to a fresh listener like myself. Comparable to a wild roller coaster of sonic enlightenment and terror, one may actually welcome the technical breaks bracketed within their many compositions as it gave short but valuable opportunity for one to catch their breath between the violent moshing outbursts.
Meanwhile on the main stage – Eager to witness the headlining acts, which included: Carnifex, After the Burial, Suffocation, Nile, and Cannibal Corpse (playing simultaneously to the bands mentioned above), a collection bands with barely legible logos that continue to uphold the classic death metal genre of yesterday and uphold the current tattered flag of death-core music flying high and proud.
Kicking off the mainstage lineup was the meteorically successful Carnifex. As the contemporary prime representative of the death-core classification, the west coast based Carnifex commanded the combined rage of the angry mob before them. Such a band that enjoys generous airplay on metal friendly radio, Carnifex suffered from none of the issues that opening acts frequently endure, rather playing before a fully prepared and fanatical mob of pissed-off metal lunatics. As the mainstage lineup slowly clawed its way to our headlining classic death metal pioneers, Cannibal Corpse, It was evidently clear that not one of these opening acts was anything of the sort based on the consistency of the nonstop bloody rage and violence of the crowd, never falling nor rising with the progression of bands. Following the ferocious chaos of Carnifex, Suffocation – a veteran band with a over 30 years in the death metal business reminded us as to the true meaning of Summer Slaughter, in the event it was unclear to anyone.
Shifting gears forward to the contemporary sound of “djent” metal-core, After The Burial, another solid example of today’s metal-core sub genre had no issues in conquering a merciless house of angry metal heads, hardly worn down from the brutality of the many acts that had already been endured that night. As the last of the “junior” metal-core bands to wrap-up their set, After the Burial respectfully cleared the way for one of classic death metal’s most revered acts: Nile. Formed in the early 1990’s by guitar virtuoso Karl Sanders, Nile, known for their ancient Egyptian themed lyrics and intimidatingly complex riff work, the four piece progressive death metal act reigns eternal upon their loyal fanbase, just like the ancient gods they so gloriously celebrate. Showing a full spectrum of talent from all members, Nile utilized the fierce vocal styles of all three guitarists, personalising them with unique performance styles, elevating the band to a different level than what is expected in death metal music in general.
Finally, wrapping up the ten band festival of today’s heaviest death metal acts, and headlining the show, was the legendary Cannibal Corpse. Armed with the bragging rights of being one of the last standing bands of the original Tampa death metal scene of the late 1980s, Cannibal Corpse has refused to sell-out or back down in their ongoing journey to offend and disgust the world at large. Frequently banned in several countries worldwide due to their extreme imagery and graphic lyrics, Cannibal Corpse is perhaps by definition the ultimate death metal band in music today. In an ultimate release of virtually a million metric tons of pent up anger and rage, being a direct result of unbearable heat and nine relentless opening acts to boot, the brutal headliners kept the outnumbered security staff on edge as they struggled to repel a volley of flying battered bodies carried toward the stage under the relentless pounding of brutal anthems of dismemberment and gore such as “Evisceration Plague” and “A Skull full of Maggots”. Fronted by the orcish behemoth appropriately knowns as “corpsegrinder”, with his trademark guttural growls and massive beast-like frame fulfills a nearly perfect image of sight and sounds to represent such a legendary name in extreme death metal.
Crushing every last drop of life blood and energy from the now satisfied but partially dismembered and dehydrated mob of hell-bent metal heads, the Summer Slaughter tour, now in its 10th year wrapped up as Cannibal Corpse left the stage. As the broken and beaten sea of flesh below dispersed and sought relief from the brutal ordeal, I myself, having suffered from a serious case of death metal overexposure after enduring ten of the genre’s most prolific acts, I too sought refuge. As I struggled back to the subway for my return trip plagued by the unrelenting ringing in my ears signaling the final stages in irreparable hearing damage, I battled the constant urge not to be completely overcome by the crawling madness that frequently results in such an unsavory ordeal. The question is, what horrors shall await our delicate collective sanity for Summer Slaughter 11 in 2017? Sanity was never much fun for too long anyway.