Morbid Angel Brings a Night of Metal Madness To The Queen City
The 2019 USA Sickness Tour Makes A Stop At The Underground Charlotte
Over the years, I have been to more than my fair share of rock shows and quite often the term metal gets thrown about willy nilly. Some were really great metal shows and others were more of the hard rock or even pop-rock variety and people will always say to me things like “oh, you were at that metal show.” No big deal, but when the 2019 USA Sickness Tour rolled into town there was absolutely no mistake about it. You were at a METAL show. Everything from the music, to the lyrics, the lighting, and even the scents wafting around the venue (more on that later) screamed metal and contributed to the gloom and doom feel of the evening. For die-hard Charlotte metal fans, this was better than Disneyland and the sense of anticipation was palpable. The tour features headlining band Morbid Angel, one of the most influential and pen-ultimate death metal bands in the world along with Swedish black metal band Watain and the death-doom of Incantation.
Kicking things off was the American death metal or sometimes called death-doom band Incantation. This was my first time seeing Incantation so I was pretty stoked and ready for them to get things rolling. The band members took the stage amidst a sea of green lights with a lone Incantation banner the only stage adornment with the exception of their instruments of course. Before they began, the band gathered around drummer Kyle Severn’s kit for a group fist bump and then we were off.
Even though their set was short, the band did a great job at covering as much of their catalog as they could touching on songs from at least six different albums including “Rites of the Locust” from their 2017 album Profane Nexus. Vocalist and guitarist John McEntee is a striking figure with a voice that hits you hard and with the blistering leads from guitarist Sonny Lombardozzi and punishing rhythms from bass guitarist Chuck Sherwood and drummer Severn, Incantation was definitely firing on all cylinders. Before they were even off the stage, I was already eagerly waiting for the next time I could catch them live.
After a break for a set change, there was a lot of talk going around about the next act, Watain. The Swedish black metal band is known for their bloody stage show and everyone was wondering what surprises they might have up their sleeve. The stage was decorated with various animal skulls and bones hung across the back of the stage and mounted on the microphone stands. Right before showtime, the band’s crew came out with buckets from which they took bloody animal heads and attached them to tridents at the front of each side of the stage.
There may have been other organs or “parts” as well, I didn’t get close enough to find out for sure. At this point, I would be remiss if I did not mention the smell which was slowly wafting toward the back of the venue, filling the Underground with a vile stench that was overpowering. The lights went out and the band walked on the stage, covered in blood, incense in hand, performing a type of ceremony before they greeted the crowd and launched into “Sworn to the Dark.” The fans were loving every minute of it, flashing the devil horns in the air as Erik Danielsson worked a little of his magic as the ritual was in full swing. The band was performing as they had all tour as a four-piece guitarist Pelle Forsberg was not allowed in the country. Alvaro Lillo moved from the bass to the guitar with Danielsson handling the bass and vocals along with guitarist Hampus Erkkson and drummer Emil Svensson.
Love them or hate them, Watain’s set was the epitome of metal and about as close to the fiery pits of hell as you’re going to get in a controlled environment. They played for almost an hour and there wasn’t a dull moment during the entire set. Their songs are well crafted and the fact that the band was able to forge ahead with the tour minus Forsberg is a testament to their talents. If you haven’t experienced Watain, you should check them out at least once to see what all the hype is about.
After clearing the stage of Watain’s accouterments, it was time for the masters of death metal, Morbid Angel. Morbid is one of the most highly lauded death metal bands of all time, often credited with starting the genre as an off-shoot of thrash metal and their debut album Altars of Madness is considered to be a classic. Founded in 1983, the band has gone through numerous lineup changes over the years with original member, guitarist Trey Azagthoth, being the only constant.
They are one of the few death metal bands to achieve mainstream success during the MTV era with their videos enjoying heavy rotation and “God of Emptiness” even being featured on an episode of Beavis and Butthead. Today’s version of the band features Azagthoth on guitar, Steve Tucker on bass and vocals, Scott Fuller on drums, and Dan Vadim Von on guitar. Their stage set up was strikingly bare-bones compared to Watain with only a metal figure front and center.
They began the show with “Piles of Little Arms” from their 2017 Kingdoms Disdained album and it was non-stop from the very first note. Azagthoth’s style is something special and I could literally stand and watch in amazement. His riffing is haphazard at times, piling riffs top of each other, not always knowing where one stops and one begins. He is a true master of his craft and it’s easy to see why. Dan Vadim Von has been a great addition to the lineup and he is proving to be quite a showman as well.
Tucker’s voice sounded top-notch as they ran through a set heavy with fan favorites, even going back to the Altars of Madness record for a little “Blasphemy.” My evening was made when they closed out with “Nothing Is Not” from Formulas Fatal to the Flesh which is one of my favorite albums and in my opinion some of Trey’s best work. Tucker put his fist in the air and gave a “Hail, Satan!” while Trey followed him off stage, flashing the devil horns to the fans upfront.
My head was literally spinning from the craziness of this ultimate night of metal as I made my way to the parking lot. The night was cold and the air was crisp as I squashed my Morbid Angel beanie on my head not wanting the night to be over but already thinking about their next show.