Contributed by Jake Holmes
After venturing to Metal and Lace (also known as Headhunters) two weeks beforehand to see a thunderous doom and sludge metal showcase, it was time to return for a TXDM grinding on Thursday, September 5th for what was dubbed “The Reawaken In Flames” tour. TXDM, for the uninitiated, is a brutal style of death metal of Texan origin that expands upon the intensity of bands like Suffocation, Immolation, and Incantation and adds percussive grooves and thundering slams (see the bridge of Suffocation’s “Liege of Inveracity” for the codifying example) to contrast against faster and more technical riffs. Obviously, there are differences between each band falling under the TXDM umbrella and the above is far from a comprehensive description, but for readers not already familiar with the style, this should give you an idea of what to expect at a show like the one that took place on Thursday night. The headlining act was TXDM veteran Shawn Whitaker, playing songs from his previous bands – Viral Load and Insidious Decrepancy – under his own name, and with compelling performances by Iniquitous Savagery, Psychiatric Regurgitation, Flesh Hoarder, and VBT, the night was a night for the books.
San Antonio’s brutal death metal grinders VBT were the first band of the night (introduced as “The Band Formerly Known As “URGH'”), and after resolving a technical difficulty by way of swapping out a guitar, the band wasted no time grinding, blasting, and d-beating through a brief but memorable performance. Although VBT are substantially influenced by brutal death metal, their material tends to lack the spastic and technical guitar workouts of several bands of the genre in favor of a more condensed riffing style that derives from grindcore. This combination undoubtedly works to VBT’s advantage, as they are able to combine the pulverizing violence of brutal death metal with the straight-to-the-point mentality of grind to deliver a metal mixture that any fan of extremity should be able to enjoy. For metal fans who are adverse towards grindcore’s tendency to play short, hyperblasting microsongs, VBT’s focus on songwriting with memorable riffs (as opposed to atonal whirlwinds that clock in an less than ten seconds — not that there is anything wrong with that style at all) will likely win them over, especially in the context of their live shows, which always feature the band not taking themselves too seriously with their stage banter (an example being found in the introduction of every song as “URGH!”). Many of the band’s songs feature thrashy breaks that lead in to either a relentless blast beat or a disgustingly heavy show chug that allow for maximum amounts of headbanging. Standalone bass and drum parts were also utilized during VBT’s set when a particular riff or beat was supposed to be emphasized before every instrument was used to collide into unified deathgrind desecration. As was the case with the band’s appearance opening for War Master last month, the Terrorizer cover of “Corporation Pull-In” was played after the band offered a choice to the audience between the Terrorizer song and a Dying Fetus cover to hear. The sound in the venue was very clear throughout the set (and night overall), with the frequencies of guitar, distorted bass, and drum kit ringing out loudly and clearly (but especially loudly). VBT ended their set with “The Devirginization Process” from their most recent album, “Just The Tip”, allowing Thursday’s show to begin on a high note.
Playing a perverse and sickening form of death metal, Flesh Hoarder continued the show and brought a bloodsoaked presence to Metal and Lace, figuratively transforming the venue into a chamber of horrors. Flesh Hoarder ripped through a visceral set packed with savage songs with over-the-top titles that were both repulsing and containing a macabre sense of humor about them, such as “Hog-Tied and Deep-Fried”. A new song, “Tortured Beyond the Grave”, was included in the setlist, and the song maintained the putrefying atmosphere that one should expect from Flesh Hoarder. Vocalist Nick Moreno favors a low and violent growl, occasionally rising to vile and high-pitched screeching, as if to illustrate the ghoulish dynamic between a psychopath and their victim. This technique is perfect for Flesh Hoarder’s style and could be compared to the death howls on Embalmer’s “There Was Blood Everywhere”. Guitarist “Metal” Mike De Leon (who also plays in the latest incarnation of old-school thrashers M.O.D.) is a TXDM riffing machine, churning out everything to Morbid Angel-inspired tremolo-picked lines to whiplash-inducing slams. Bassist Jason Rodriguez held down the low-end with a mechanical bass tone that that complimented Metal Mike’s bludgeoning riffs appropriately, with drummer Rene Martinez (also of Whore of Bethlehem and Disfigured) battering away at his snare and cymbals in a clashing cacophony. The closing song, “Human Drapery” served to represent the band’s combination of old-school terrifying death metal with a newer, more brutal sound. Flesh Hoarder will also be opening for Morbid Angel (along with Vesperian Sorrow and Vex) on the Austin date of their upcoming tour, which promises a performance of 1993’s “Covenant” in its entirety. As “Covenant” is one of the best Floridian death metal albums ever released (disclaimer: it was also the second-or-third death metal album I ever bought as a nascent hellraiser), it is safe to say that attending this show should be seen as mandatory. After the fury of Flesh Hoarder’s performance, there was a significant change of scenery in the form of the first band on the “Reawaken in Flames” tour package: Psychiatric Regurgitation.
Dallas’s Psychiatric Regurgitation is a highly interesting live band, combining melodic European harmonies with a Texas death metal influence and keyboard-driven interludes that keep the pace flowing between songs. In addition, the band is a two-piece guitars-and-vocals outfit with all other instruments (including a drum machine) being programmed to backing tracks to support the two live musicians. Although it was somewhat difficult to hear the drum machine during some parts of the set, there were enough guitar gymnastics going on to keep the audience fixated, with both musicians showing a high capability for playing lightning-fast scales and melodies with impeccable timing. A low roar was used primarily for vocals, keeping an extreme sensibility even during the more melody-driven moments of Psychiatric Regurgitation’s set. The band’s set consisted of lengthy compositions, such as the second song “Now Is Forever”. Psychiatric Regurgitation also displayed a transparent respect for their influences, dedicating one riff in particular to deceased Death mastermind Chuck Schuldiner. In addition, the last song of the set was dedicated to old-school Swedish death metal deities Dismember and Entombed (specifically, the first riff was dedicated to Dismember and the last riff was dedicated to Entombed). The band also mentioned that this was the first time they had ever played Austin and were very grateful for the opportunity to be playing Thursday night on the tour. Psychiatric Regurgitation is certainly a unique band unlike any other in the Texas death metal scene, and if you happen to be in the mood to watch a band blend technically-executed guitar harmonies, confrontational death metal vocals, and choral keyboard-driven interludes, you will want to catch Psychiatric Regurgitation on this tour.
Hailing all the way from Scotland, Iniquitous Savagery played a very brutal and instrumentally complicated form of death metal that falls into somewhat of a niche audience. Fans of the hyper-blast assault of brutal technical death metal (see Disgorge’s “Parallels of Infinite Torture” or Greece’s Inveracity for examples) will find much in Iniquitous Savagery to absorb, although more traditionally-minded death metal fans may not be able to sink their teeth into the band. Thankfully I happen to be able to appreciate blisteringly-violent brutal death metal and thus enjoyed Iniquitous Savagery’s performance. Many of the guitar riffs used pinch harmonics and frantically varied techniques to serve as a sledgehammer in the face of the audience, never letting up in brutality for a second. The vocal style was a mix of low gurgles and growls in the vein of Cephalotripsy, blending in with the detuned guitars with vile vomits delivering songs with verbose titles such as “Subjugated Into Pathological Servility” and “Propagating a Pestiferous Enmity”. Not content to simply chug along to root notes, the bass guitar was very active, jumping around from fret to fret with a sickeningly grinding tone and playing off the equally-intricate drumming techniques used by drummer Euan Harrison. Throughout the barrage of blistering tremolo-picked and harmonic-laden riffs, there were dynamic shifts in the form of crushingly slow sections that emphasized the lower chugging of the guitar and bass, bringing in a welcome variety to Iniquitous Savagery’s set. At one point a topless woman walked across the stage much to the bewilderment of the band (the audience living here, however, is somewhat more jaded towards antics from a city with a never-ending campaign urges to “Keep Austin Weird”). The band had a high amount of energy throughout their performance, enthusiastically moving around in spite of having to adjust to a completely different time zone in a short amount of time. As their bassist noted, at roughly 11:45pm it was six in the morning where they were from, and as it was only the second night of the tour Iniquitous Savagery should be commended for adapting to this change quickly and not let it tarnish a performance. Closing with “Execrating Post-Operative Wound Trauma” from their 2012 EP “Compelled By Perverse Immortality”, Iniquitous Savagery left a solid impact on Metal and Lace with a fairly-short but still powerful performance.
The name of Shawn Whitaker is highly revered in Texas death metal circles, and with a look at his recorded output, it is easy to see why. Having been associated with underground vanguards of horrifying death metal Insidious Decrepancy, Viral Load, and Uncleansed, Whitaker’s resume is a distinguished one indeed. Solely accompanied by a drum machine (other than a surprise guest whom I’ll get to shortly), Whitaker performed a mix of Insidious Decrepancy and Viral Load material (a full set list appears below) to a supportive audience, whom Whitaker addressed in appreciation multiple times throughout the night. For those who may not be familiar with Whitaker’s material, Insidious Decrepancy is the more instrumentally-complex act of the two, with Viral Load’s style being more dedicated to groovier, neck-breaking riffing. Throughout the 50-minute set, Whitaker’s fingers flew across his fretboard like the legs of a venomous spider moving in for the kill, never faltering above the rapid beat of the programmed drums. For those who have never played to a drum machine before, you should know that the musician playing alongside the machine has to be incredibly precise and on top of their game, because unlike a human drummer who can alter their beat if a guitarist happens to speed up or fall behind, the drum machine does not stop or change without prior programming. This means that the guitarist in question has to be prepared with their parts and have the stamina to play them at a consistent speed without showing a sign of fatigue. It should go without saying that Whitaker mastered the art of intricate death metal guitar playing many years ago, as he did not show any sign of error or miscalculation, and used the drum machine as a valuable tool to work with. The biggest surprise of the night came in the form of the aforementioned guest, who was none other than the infamous Goat of Goat and Your Mom, who was featured on the popular Comedy Central program “Tosh.0”. During Insidious Decrepancy’s “Once Revered” the cape-clad Goat, wielding his trusty bass, jammed with Whitaker, leaving the stage after the song’s conclusion to wild applause. After one last Insidious Decrepancy song (“Tribulation”, which holds a distinction as the only one-word Insidious Decrepancy song ever to be written) was played, Whitaker than played a set of classic Viral Load material, kicking off the five songs with “My Mighty Sword” and concluding with the putrid “U-Haul Full of Dead Bodies”.
As someone who always had a blast at Insidious Decrepancy shows in the past, it was great to be able to go to Thursday’s show and see that Shawn Whitaker hasn’t lost an iota of power as a live artist. According to Whitaker’s Facebook fan page, this tour will be the last tour in which Whitaker performs a full set of Insidious Decrepancy and Viral Load material, with future appearances dedicated to material written under the Shawn Whitaker name (although the post does state that there will be some Insidious Decrepancy and Viral Load material played). As such, if you happened to miss this show, you can still check out Shawn Whitaker headlining the free pre-fest party of the third annual Building Temples From Death Festival in Houston, Texas on September 27th at Fitzgerald’s (the main fest is Saturday the 28th at the same venue). Thanks to all the bands who played, to Metal and Lace/Headhunters for hosting the show, and to all the fellow metalheads I talked to at the show! See you at the next one!
Shawn Whitaker set list:
Befouling the Adoration of Christ
Rancid Cesspool of Unimaginable Splendor By Ritualistic Butchery
Surreptitious Misanthropy Voraciously Consuming Rationality Thus Invoking Dormant Sociopathic Desires
Festering Oral Infestation of Parasitic Anomaly
Inebriated by the Blood of Divine Suffering Through Secular Dissection
My Mighty Sword
Awaken in Flames
U-Haul Full of Dead Bodies