Summer Slaughter @ Fowler’s Live, Adelaide (15/03/09)


Summer Slaughter hit Adelaide right in the face on Sunday March 15, after months of anticipation, built by general excitement and the foregoing Summer Slaughter Battle of the Bands to find the lucky local support act.

The Adelaide support was a Closed Casket – probably a worthy band – but unfortunately I missed these guys. If their last performance that I saw is anything to go on, then no doubt they played an excellent set. Talking to punters when we rocked up late, many were surprisingly ‘meh’ about A Closed Casket, so I won’t pass judgement, having not seen them.

In fact, the gig started on time to such an extent that The Faceless were already well into their set. Turning up to Fowler’s in the drizzle for a change (summer slaughter? More like autumn slaughter!), we could hear the wonderfully controlled, well-executed solos drifting out over that end of the city – which turned our quick walk into a quick dash into the venue and into the thick of the punters. Unfortunately, having got there late the only track I really caught all of was Xeno Christ, and it kicked arse.

It kicked arse so much that one punter screamed out, ‘The Faceless kick aaaaarse!’ The punters totally enjoyed it: I coathangered one on his way out of the stage area, who proclaimed how great the set was.

Pissed I missed most of it? You bet your arse I was.

For such a huge show, and on a Sunday night as well, there were seriously small breaks between bands. It was incredibly well-orchestrated; but it meant that unlike with many other major touring bands, there was little social time. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s nice to turn such a huge event as the first ever Australian Summer Slaughter into a social event as well.

Next up was Aborted. These guys played a whole range of shit from at least four albums: Goremageddon, Slaughter & Apparatus and Strychnine.213. While Aborted demonstrated a reasonable level of complexity that you’d expect from Aborted, but it was far more ‘core than I think a lot of people expected. I heard people talking about old-school Aborted: that hell groovy rhythm, that they were disappointed to find lacking in the band’s set. I was among them.

The problem wasn’t so much the core elements and the breakdowns – well, that’s a lie, that was the problem – but the fact that you know Aborted are capable of far more than that style of simplicity. However, kudos to them working a tough crowd, Aborted did at least go to great pains to build some semblance of unity out of Adelaide’s notoriously stand-offish crowd. They also managed to keep their pace and keep control of their style changes very well.

At once point, realising that their efforts to get a violent pit happening were failing, they split the punters at the front in two halves, to create a Wall of Death: and then unleashed their next track upon them, and let both halves go nuts. At each other. While this went down pretty well for those who were into it, it was the far more extreme, heavier tracks that got the best response. For all of the breakdowns and shit that I’m not into, Aborted put on a good show: great band dynamics, and tight musicianship, which both ensured a higher level of respect from the crowd. Indeed, by the end of the set, most of the punters were absolutely putty in the band’s hands: they did whatever they were asked to do by frontman Sven de Caluwe, and barely realised they were.

One of the more anticipated bands on this bill, Dying Fetus, took the stage not all that long after Aborted. These guys have a difficult-to-define sound when they play live: a kind of rolling, dark, evil drone that underpins their material, and highlights a lot of it. Lots of it is hell groovy, with a rock underpinning that is difficult to resist: but who’d try! The chunky, heavy elements were offset by a style of breakdowns that the young kids love and the rest of us cringe to hear. The major difference, however, is that Fetus have such an underlying groove that even the breakdowns are far less irritating, and the kids’ excitement about them is more understandable.

Fetus played material from so much of their history I don’t know where to start! They even playing material from as far back as 1995’s Infatuation With Malevolence, much to the delight of the punters: the majority of whom, let’s face it, really were there to see Dying Fetus.

But when Necrophagist made their appearance, nearly every single person inside, and outside, the venue piled into the main stage area. They didn’t all stay for the entire set, but they did stick around for nearly half of it.

Necrophagist are the sort of band that can blithely shred their way through a set without breaking a sweat.They exhibit a style of controlled pace and extremity that causes people to gasp. But it could perhaps be the point that Necrophagist have, at the moment, only two albums to their name – from 1999 and 2004 – that endears them to an Adelaide audience. Play oldschool material? Sure thing, it’s not really that far back.

And, like with any show at Fowler’s, you’ve gotta stand between the speakers to get the best sound out of the venue. Preferably right next to the desk at the back, which is where I often find myself perched. Lots of people don’t get it – but with Necrophagist they did. Crammed into the very centre of the room was the majority of the crowd: where that space had the best sound.

Although Necrophagist are great live, they’re best experienced with your eyes closed. The music is just incredible. The stagecraft is totally absent and they are fucking boring as hell to watch. The static nature of these guys on stage totally belies the extremity of their music, and it’s that weird gappy dichotomy that causes people to feel like they’re not getting out of this show what perhaps they should be. It’s so brutal – but is it really?

In great news though, Necrophagist announced that they are doing another album this year, and that they’ll hit Australia again in 2010. Let’s hope so: they’ve proved beyond a doubt that they can do what they do so well, on stage, so even if they aren’t much to watch, I bet everybody who was there at this show will head back again when they make their reappearance.

Summer Slaughter was a great show: but for some reason the vibe just wasn’t happening. Each one of these bands popped their Aussie cherry on this tour, and each one was excited as hell – and the punters were too – but the crowd’s general excitement just didn’t hit the peak I rather expected it would. Perhaps I should stop expecting things and I won’t be disappointed – but it’s awfully hard not to.

Let’s hope that having done this tour, each of the bands on the bill decides it’s such a great place that they’ll come back sooner rather than later. We just don’t get extreme metal of this quality – at least, not here in Adelaide – and I, for one, will take any opportunity to get my fill of it.