Hammer Smashed Face: Cannibal Corpse, 1349, Skeletonwitch @ Slim's, 5/5/10

“Mercury, the planet of communication, turns retrograde in Taurus on April 18, 2010. Usually Mercury retrograde means communication delays and mishaps. We need to prepare for glitches with computers, electronics, emails, files, and friends and business associates not responding promptly. There are often delays in getting contracts or agreements signed. It is a time to practice patience.”

Usually I do not believe this shit, but after a string of mishaps, letdowns, tragedies, disappearances, and the like occurring not only to me but to my close circle of friends, I have to blame something for sanity’s sake.

After two weeks rather devoid of shows, I was anxious to get back into the thick of it. Cinco de Mayo would kick off a rather metal May for me, and with a stellar lineup at that. But while my brain kept telling me to feel excited, something kept holding me back.

Before the show I sat on my kitchen counter, drinking tequila and tangerine juice and modding my Metal Blade t-shirt. There’s something that feels good about taking a pair of scissors to an object. And drinking tequila.

The sun was setting as I walked, albeit a little stumbly, to Slim’s. The room was already near full as I got inside. After greeting Umlaut, Alan, and Ray, I went to put in my earplugs, and noticed that one of my filters had fallen out. Normally I would moan and groan about this, but it’s been the kind of week where I just shrugged my shoulders and added it to the list.

It was great to see Skeletonwitch tear up Slim’s. I’ve been a big fan since seeing them last year. They truly deserve the slow climb to success that they’re seeing. They really do their death/thrash sound well, but it’s their stage presence that’s truly exciting. There’s something about the way Chance Garnette spews his vocals, his gauntleted arms commanding the crowd. The way the two guitarists- one lefty- shred in symmetry. Their high energy had the pit going at its roughest all night…and when you are opening for Cannibal Corpse, that’s a pretty mighty statement.

Cannibal Corpse/1349/Skeletonwitch

Cannibal Corpse/1349/Skeletonwitch

Cannibal Corpse/1349/Skeletonwitch

During Skeletonwitch, my view became eclipsed by an unusual number of tall guys in the crowd, so I fell back and tried to slip into VIP. Usually my photo pass is enough to get me in, but the security guy wouldn’t have it. A guy standing in VIP tried to help my case to no avail- thanks dude! During the break, I slipped back up front and wedged myself in the very corner of the barricade. The beam on the stage and the stack made it not the most ideal place to watch from, but it had the perfect sight line for what I really wanted to see- Frost on drums. Last time I saw Frost was in this same venue late last year with Satyricon. While I prefer Satyricon to 1349- there’s just something more accessible about Satyricon’s music, and the presence of Satyr definitely helps- I was interested to watch him work again.

Watching 1349 was akin to jumping into the pages of True Norwegian Black Metal. The hooded bassist, the corpse paint, the hair, the spikes….these things were not bought at Hot Topic. These were artifacts, dug from the Earth and baptized in Satanic rituals. The vocals were cacophonous; the guitar, piercing, heavy, and gloomy; the drums, heart attack inducing. I felt comfortable getting wrapped up in the dark fantastical theatrics that are a real black metal band. It just felt really authentic, even if it’s all fake. And, watching Frost work was as amazing as expected…not only does he play like a robot, but he looks like one, too. Drummers get such a good workout.

Cannibal Corpse/1349/Skeletonwitch

Cannibal Corpse/1349/Skeletonwitch

Cannibal Corpse/1349/Skeletonwitch

After the set, Alan came up to me and handed me a napkin, which I opened to find several lime wedges. Then he placed a robust shot of tequila in my hand. This was him making good on a Facebook comment, and I thank him for that, because, really, there’s no better way to watch Cannibal Corpse than mildly drunk off of tequila. And the bonus was that a 1349 tech was delivering a pick to Alan for his collection, and I got one as well. THANKS Alan!

Before Cannibal Corpse hit the stage, the barrier roping off VIP was removed, so I decided to retreat back to the wall since it would probably get pretty chaotic in there. I was standing by the wall as the screen lifted and a guy started introducing the band. I see a familiar face stroll up to stand next to me, and I’m realizing that it’s Phil Demmell from Machine Head just as the person on stage announces that there are special guests in the house and says his name. He winces and looks at me and goes, “What is THAT! Oh man…” HAHA! So I proceed to watch the show standing next to Demmell. A few songs in, and Robb Flynn walks up and stands in front of me. I try not to eavesdrop as people are walking in front of them and Flynn keeps scooting back. Like, my nose is in his hair. Any normal guy, and I’d either walk in front of them or tap them on the shoulder and tell them to skedaddle. But I’m kinda tipsy, and my brain is trying to process that I’m breathing in Flynn’s hair. I mean, it got caught in my pass. And then he scoots back more and steps on me. He turns around and says ‘Sorry’ and I think I said ‘my pleasure’. HA!

Luckily he moved after a few songs because it was getting a bit awkward. At about that time, Cannibal Corpse started playing more of their older hits. The last few times I saw them was in the harsh heat of Mayhem Fest, with insane crowds and things flying through the air. This set seemed so tame in comparison, but instead I just geeked out on the guitar work and watched Corpsegrinder, well, be Corpsegrinder.

Cannibal Corpse/1349/Skeletonwitch

The first time I saw Cannibal Corpse I was a bit nervous, just like the first time I saw GWAR. It just seemed like it would be really dangerous and unpredictable. Being there, for me, felt kind of naughty….the girl next door sneaks off on the back of a motorcycle to the metal show kind of bad. Now, I laugh that I felt like that as I openly tell my coworkers what show I’m going to without whispering. Not that they think I’m any less weird, though. Does that make me jaded?

That said, Cannibal Corpse is not a joke band. They may be so over the top that they make you laugh, but no band sticks around for 20 years without having chops. And they’ve got chops.

Highlights for me were ‘Evisceration Plague’ and ‘Hammer Smashed Faced’; those just stand out the most for having a little melody in the heavy. ‘Fucked With A Knife’ was sorely missed.

Wrapping up the set at an hour and a half, I went to leave the venue and noticed a lot of sweaty, beat up guys around. I guess it was a bit rougher over there than I thought.

Apparently I can still hold my tequila well, because after nearly 3 shots of it, I didn’t wake up feeling like I had a hammer smashed face. You can take the girl out of Texas, but…..

My pass, with Flynn’s hair stuck in it, and the 1349 pick:

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Check out Bay Area Metal Scene for video of the evening

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