Thursday night's co-headlining DevilDriver and Cannibal Corpse gig at London's HMV Forum got off to a dismal start for me. With different sources giving different opening times for the venue, I – along with many others – ended up missing opening band Hour of Penance, a band I've been assured are not to be missed live. My bad mood was further heightened when I paid near £5 for what was undoubtedly the most watered down Jack Daniels I've ever drunk. Annoyed? Yes! But what better way to vent that than at a death metal gig!
Thankfully by the time The Black Dahlia Murder hit the stage, I was amped up and ready to go. While the band aren't one I'm all too familiar with, I knew I was in for an amazing performance when the pits opened before they even started playing! The band however, seemed to divide the audience somewhat and it was only the front half of the main standing area that really got into them. Unfortunately, at times vocalist Trevor Strnad could barely be heard and often the songs felt a little repetitive but overall their set was enjoyable, with tracks like 'What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse' and 'A Shrine to Madness' really standing out to me. Midway through the band's set, it was announced that it was guitarist Ryan's birthday and the band tried to convince the girls in the audience to sleep with him by getting everyone to chant Fuck Ryan Knight!" – I don't think I yelled "NO!" loud enough but it was a great comedic moment nonetheless! Despite what the drunken asshole behind me kept screaming ("Play some real metal you fat fuck!") melodic death-metallers The Black Dahlia Murder gave a great performance and I endeavour to listen to them more from now on!
Next up were the legendary Cannibal Corpse! It felt a little odd that they were playing before DevilDriver – after all they are the bigger and certainly the most popular act of the night, so surely they should have played last? – but I was too pleased to finally be seeing Cannibal Corpse in action to really care. The majority of the crowd seemed to be at the gig for Cannibal Corpse, proved when they produced deafening cheers as the bands banner was raised and when they nearly tore the roof off when the band appeared on stage. Unfortunately, technical issues with their drum kit meant Cannibal Corpse couldn't let rip straight away but this did nothing to deter the audience, who chanted "Corpse, Corpse, Corpse!" until they could finally start playing.
George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher may have come out wearing a World of Warcraft t-shirt, but nobody could accuse him of being a geek! His menacing stage presence was something the entire audience got caught up in. Ruthless pits broke out straight away, continuing near constantly throughout their performance, spreading like a plague throughout the standing area, drawing moshers to them like flies to a rotting corpse, with 'Hammer Smashed Face' of course, having the most ruthless pit of all. Corpsegrinder proved to be one of the best frontmen I've ever had the pleasure of seeing perform live, from his near flawless vocals to the way he taunted the audience before 'I Cum Blood' ("I want to see everybody headbanging during this next one! Try to keep up. You will fail.") while guitarist Pat O'Brien shredded like nothing I have seen or heard before and drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz played with such power I felt every beat tear right through me. 'Make Them Suffer' and 'Scourge of Iron' were the high points for me, being two of my favourite Cannibal Corpse songs, but really, there was no low point with Cannibal Corpse's set, nothing even close the band was unwavering in their dynamic, feverish performance from start to finish. Cannibal Corpse blew all my expectations out of the water tonight and are without doubt, a band whose sheer brutality you cannot appreciate fully until you have seen them live!
Cannibal Corpse's performance was so incredible it seemed like nothing could really follow them and honestly I was expecting DevilDriver's set to be somewhat anti-climactic. The crowd didn't thin out as much as expected after Cannibal Corpse's set, but those that remained seemed to lack the energy they had 90 minutes earlier. The cheers that rang out as the band hit the stage just didn't have the same enthusiasm as those for Cannibal Corpse but this did nothing to put DevilDriver off and they launched into opening number 'End of the Line' with such frenzy it rekindled the fire in the audience burnt out during Cannibal Corpse's set. The bar may have been set high by Cannibal Corpse, but Dez Fafara and co were clearly looking to smash right through it!
Last time I saw DevilDriver live, way back in 2007, frontman Dez Fafara came across as a bit of a pretentious twat who seemed to think he was above all those around him, but not this time. No, there was no cocky bullshit from him; he was just a man clearly thankful for the amazing audience in front of him and the chance to play with the band that "got him into death metal". Guitarists' Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer were a formidable duo and had you told me that bassist Chris Towing was new to the DevilDriver fold, I would not have believed you; they played like a well-oiled machine tonight! The band ripped through a crowd pleasing set, from classics such as 'I Could Care Less' and 'Cry for Me Sky' to newer material such as 'Dead to Rights' while their brilliant performance was only made more enjoyable by the randomness of my friend handing out chocolate éclair's midway through! Ultimately though, the best moment of their performance was encore 'Meet the Wretched' (before which a load of people left, despite the lights still being down... did they not realise there'd be more?) which blew the rest of DevilDriver's performance away. A floor wide circle pit opened up that not even I (a dedicated headbanger) could stop myself leaping into. It was a pit that put every Cannibal Corpse pit to shame and was a great end to an amazing night.
The Black Dahlia Murder were entertaining and DevilDriver gave an amazing performance but nothing could top the sheer brutality and raw power of Cannibal Corpse. They were indisputably the band of the night, but DevilDriver weren't far behind!