Better Than: It’s hard to think of something that this wouldn’t be better than.
This was one of the wildest shows I’ve seen at Saint Vitus. It seemed telling that the venue had moved all the tables out of the bar, presumably to make more space for mayhem.
There were five bands, and, to my chagrin, the sets were running dead on time, so I arrived in the middle of Jungle Rot, the third band of the night. (Word was that Rings of Saturn, the Bay Area natives who had played second, were stunning. You and I can both watch their set here, on Gander.tv. In fact you can watch the whole five-hour night, as it was live streaming and now lives immortalized in video.)
No sooner had Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Jungle Rot begun their super tight set of retro death metal, a brave fan took a stage dive and crowd-surfed the entire length of the room, out the door, and into the bar, where he didn’t even waste time getting a drink. (Dude, you should have at least done a shot or used the restroom while you had the chance!) Up he went again, carried haphazardly aloft by the audience, back to the front of the stage. Double devil’s horns way up for not landing on your head, man.
Sidebar: Jungle Rot guitarist Geoff Bub has some of the longest hair in metal, and its windmill action extends so high above his head that you can see it from the back of the bar. He has kind of a blonde Nathan Explosion thing going on. Looks awesome, but that’s gotta be tough to keep clean on the road.
Next up were Exhumed, from San Jose, California. I’d been told to expect nastiness, and nastiness they did achieve. Their second song was called “Dis-assembly Line,” if that tells you anything. At this point, the slam-dancing mosh swirl starting getting almost violent. “I have to say, this feels a little more like the real New York instead of playing Gramercy or one of those nice, ‘professional’ venues,” said guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey. Cool compliment, but I have to say: yo, metal dudebros who like to thrash around spastically–watch out for the skinny chicks on the sidelines who don’t want you crashing into them. Body awareness, y’all. Some of us nerds like to listen attentively to the music.
Aaaaand then there was that bloody guy (pictured above) who ran up onstage with a roaring chainsaw. Later, he’d use defibrillator paddles to “revive” guitarist Bud Burke during a solo. Theater of the Exhumed.
Long Island veterans Suffocation were the main event: their banner obscured the Saint Vitus logo painted on the back wall for the whole night, even when they weren’t playing. Their reputation for being local legends of deathly metal is well-deserved, with a 25-year legacy of heavily intense albums to their name. (Said lead singer Frank Mullen of their recent release, Pinnacle of Bedlam, “I’m still not sure what a pinnacle of bedlam is.”)
The stage banter by Mullen was particularly amusing. Political proselytizing about dropping bombs on North Korea notwithstanding, he had some notable ideas of how he’d wield his power, were he to become President.
On legalizing marijuana: “I’d be smokin’ it at my induction ceremony.”
On the sex industry: “I would also legalize prostitution for all the lonely people out there.”
He likened the origins of Suffocation to a tank full of sea monkeys. Perhaps he was also “smokin’ it” before the show?
Suffocation have earned the unique distinction of being the only death metal band to be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (yes, that’s a thing)–alongside the likes of Billy Joel, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Salt-N-Pepa. As Mullen said, “Because of my strong fuckin’ New York accent, everybody knows where I’m from.” Represent.
Overheard: “The last time I partied here, I threw up in that bathroom twice.” — Matt Harvey of Exhumed
Critical Bias: None? Actually, no. I’m one of the skinny chicks on the sidelines. Please don’t hurt me.
Random Notebook Dump: By the end of the night, with so many bodies crammed into the room, the air was…wait for it…suffocating.