A free Immolation show should be seen as one of the finer things in life, and Tuesday’s show at Backstage Live SA certainly proved that notion. For the low, low cost of nothing, fans were treated to a stellar performance by one of death metal’s most venerable acts. The festivities were initiated by two of San Antonio’s favorite acts, Emperial Massacre and Engaged in Mutilating, and while their performances were enjoyable, they have been covered in this column many times before, so we’ll just say that they did their job well and get on to the touring bands.
Gigan had to drop off this tour for personal reasons, so Jungle Rot acted as the sole touring opener. To be objective, while their stage presence was intense, their songwriting left much to be desired, with breakdowns aplenty during their set, presumably influenced by their recent signing with hardcore label Victory Records. This reporter’s opinion aside, they had their supporters in the crowd, although an informal survey of several audience members yielded similar thoughts to this reporter’s. As such, we will essentially start this review by covering the mighty Immolation.
If one needs introduction to Immolation, a quick and easy summary of their music would be to describe it as chaotic and unnerving death metal with plenty of sinister riffing elements and technical drumming with growling vocals delivering intelligent lyrics. However, the idea of a death metal fan needing an introduction to Immolation is asinine, since anyone who considers themselves a fan of death metal should own at least one Immolation album. The band is currently supporting its new “Providence” EP (also available for free on Scion’s website), a fine release in its own right, and to put it bluntly, their hour-long set was one of the best of the entire year.
Vocalist/bassist Ross Dolan and guitarist Bob Vigna have some of the greatest stage presence in all of metal, with the latter’s manic energy deserving special notice. Vigna wields his guitar with such ferocity and mastery that anyone should be overwhelmed by the presentation, creating demented riffs while waving his hands around, as if he were a wizard unleashing magic(k)al spells. The aura created by these two musicians is something to behold and is unlike any other in this genre, and witnessing an Immolation show is akin to beholding a presence larger than one could ordinarily comprehend. Not to neglect the other two members of the band, that is, as guitarist Bill Taylor and drummer Steve Shalaty provide a perfect match to Dolan and Vigna’s twisted genius. Shalaty’s drumming is frantic and creative while Taylor’s riffing style bounces off Vigna’s in perfect (dis)harmony. One would be hard-pressed to find a death metal band with a more perfect chemistry than Immolation, and the fact that all four members bring their own unique touch to the table is nothing short of bewildering.
The setlist was a magnificent mix of old and new material, with two songs even drawn from Immolation’s superb debut, “Dawn of Possession” and “Into Everlasting Fire”, although the new material from the “Providence” EP and “Majesty and Decay” fit right in. Immolation are easily the most consistent band in all of death metal, and represent a true devotion to extreme metal that many other bands lack. Among others, cuts from “Failures for Gods”, “Close to a World Below”, and “Here in After” stood out as highlights, although it is difficult to say what exactly what was the best song of the night since all of the songs were amazing. The band even pulled out “Den of Thieves” from the “Hope and Horror” EP, one of their more obscure releases as noted by Dolan during the set. The band’s professionalism really shone through during their performance, and in a world of rock stars and egomaniacs, it’s unbelievably refreshing to watch a band with such dedication to their fans and their jobs. Those of us who are in bands should only hope to aspire to this level of devotion. The band closed on “World Agony” and hung out in the venue afterwards, chatting and taking pictures, highlighting their appreciation for their fans even further.
Soundwise, everything was crystal-clear, and the organization was superb. The Destruction show in May at the same venue left a bad taste in the mouths of many San Antonio Hessians, but this time everything ran incredibly smoothly so let’s give a hand to whoever was responsible for setting this one up. This is a high contender for one of the best shows of the year, so whenever the year-end list comes around, don’t be surprised if this one takes the top spot. Horns up to everyone who made this possible!
For more info: Immolation’s new EP can be downloaded here, and on a personal note, it slays! Look for a review coming soon!