On Friday, Tampa Bay-based death metal forefathers, Obituary, played their first South Florida date in over five years. Droves of the black-shirted and unshorn-hair set convened at Miami’s Grand Central to bring the “redneck stomp” and turn the place “inside out” with one of the genre’s first – and finest – bands. Obituary brought some friends to help them “brush off the cobwebs” before embarking on their impending European tour.
Local band Thrash or Die played a set of fun, ’80s style thrash metal to warm up the crowd. The band fused lyrics that walk the line of parody with authentic early thrash riffs and superb drumming in a style that nods a bit at fellow thrash revivalists Municipal Waste.
Following Thrash or Die was Hellwitch, another local band that has seen a good bit of national success in their time. Hellwitch has been kicking around Florida since the mid 1980s, and the band played a set featuring impossibly fast guitar-work, beefy drums, and other hallmark sounds of early era of death metal.
Unfortunately, guitar-shredding frontman Patrick Ranieri’s unique vocal style has not worn particularly well with the years, and came off as rather cartoonish Friday – something I didn’t think possible in the extreme metal world. To add insult to injury, Ranieri addressed the audience via animalistic growls between songs, operating like some sort of spike-cuffed, bullet-belt-wearing method actor. Hellwitch played a solid set that was unfortunately overshadowed by things like Ranieri’s act, the authentic medieval maces that dangled from his microphone stand, and the fact that he told the audience the pill he popped on-stage was “not a prop” … in growl form. The band did receive more than their fair share of raised “metal hands” at the end of their set, setting me firmly in the minority of people that didn’t really dig Hellwitch nor Patrick Ranieri’s growling shtick.
Massacre took the stage next. Massacre’s lead singer,
Kam Lee Ed Webb, is the man generally credited with the advent of the guttural, “cookie monster” style of vocals we all now know and love as the standard in heavy music today. Massacre guitarist Rick Rozz served as a member of Orlando metal titans Death for a period. And Massacre was once favored to be the first big Tampa Bay death metal band to take off. However, infighting and a revolving door of members thwarted their would-be success early on.
However, Massacre seemed invigorated Friday – with the more important members in place – as the Grand Central crowd became a blanket of united heads bobbing the minute the band started their set. Head bobbing soon gave way to a violent mosh pit as Massacre settled into a chunky, rhythmic stomp. The highlight of the set definitely came with
Kam Lee Webb’s “Miaaaaaami!!!” mosh call at the end of the song “Defeat Remains,” which coincided with an extremely tall, extremely stocky, extremely bearded, and extremely shirtless man crashing face first into the ground mid-mosh. The band ended their set with a somber dedication to the late Chuck Schuldiner of Death, who would have celebrated his 45th birthday last week.
In true ’90s style, Obituary’s merchandise manager stepped on stage to hype the crowd after Massacre’s set was complete. After greeting the room with the ever-clichéd “What’s up motherfuckers!?” and being assured that the audience was, in fact, “ready for this shit,” a sizable roadie disappeared and the crowd was found in the midst of a serious case of premature moshing. The unassuming looking longhairs from Tampa made stage break to a crowd already completely encompassed in a full-bore metal panic. As the band started playing, a young man wearing an Elton John and Billy Joel duet tour shirt leapt from the stage, only to disappear within the front row of show goers. Lead singer, John Tardy, hit the stage to a roar of fanfare and let loose his inimitable death-throe growls. For all of the bullet belts and spiked regalia worn by Hellwitch, the members of Obituary appeared rather unassuming, wearing shorts and sneakers on stage and keeping the performance focused on the music rather than the costumes.
Fan favorite “Chopped in Half” brought an onslaught of movement in the center of the room as the brothers Tardy, guitarist Trevor Peres, and bass player Terry Butler chugged and pummeled their way through the songs three minutes and 45 seconds of twisting and turning double-bass patterns and tremolo-picked guitars. For the most part, the band stuck to the classics that people in South Florida haven’t had an opportunity to hear live for so many years, and the crowd showed their appreciation as metal fans do best: by beating the piss out of each other the entire time Obituary held the stage.
As was expected, the mosh opus that is “Redneck Stomp” was the climax point of the set. Although Obituary was lacking their touring lead guitarist on Friday, the songs were no less potent, and by my estimation, the cobwebs can be considered thoroughly “brushed off.” When the crowd of sweaty and bruised metal fans exited Grand Central, a man was helped to his car with a visibly broken ankle, and all was right in the world of Florida metal.
– By David Von Bader