Summer Slaughter Tour
If you want to see a festival of unrelentingly aggressive music in Orange County, the Observatory is usually the place to go these days. Last night, American Satan presented the 2016 Summer Slaughter Tour, featuring Cannibal Corpse and (count ‘em) 11 supporting bands. The tightly kept schedule of this raucous celebration started the minute the venue doors opened at 2:00 p.m. and concluded after headliner Cannibal Corpse’s set ended, at 11:00 p.m.
Fans and neophytes of all ages packed the house to fan the Death Metal flame. The youngest guest seemed to be around 6 years old, and the eldest (whose metalhead moniker is Slam-Ma) appeared to be in her 70’s or 80’s. The age range of the attendees demonstrated the universal appeal of this extremely heavy music — as a genre, Death Metal has quite a history of being targeted by conservatives as a bad influence on society. Granted, the unflinching references to Satan and other atrocities, the unintelligible guttural growling, and the punishing rhythms do not conjure the image of a walk through the park on a beautiful day; however, as yesterday’s festival demonstrated, not only does the music appeal to sinners of all ages, it also unites folks who have an appreciation for honest, stained-black entertainment.
Each of the bands possessed a tight, powerhouse sound that would likely upset most people’s neighbors if it was played too loudly. That being said, in between many of the songs, the singers stopped growling and addressed the audience in casual tones. The central message that all of them had (in between their fantastical songs about monsters, mutilation, and other colorful topics) was essentially one of appreciation for the crowd’s commitment to supporting their act and Death Metal, in general. The subtext could be read as: “Hey man, we’re not bad cats. We’re just doing our thing here. Thanks for being cool and supporting our art.”
The heavy vibes and dark imagery also took a break in between sets, when the house played songs like “Spice Up Your Life,” by the Spice Girls. In this milieu, the crowd was casual, friendly, and there was not a hint of evil (unless you count the drugs and alcohol which are a staple of most concert environments), but as soon as the next band fired up, hands raised in the universal metal sign of the devil horns, heads thrashed, and legions of virtuoso air-guitar performances commenced.
In order to accommodate the impressively sized line-up, the first five bands (Caligula Dance Party, Akasha, Enterprise Earth, INGESTED, and Slaughter to Prevail) kept to a strict 20 minute set. Following them, Krisiun, Revocation, and Carnifex got a half hour; Suffocation, After the Burial, and Nile got just over a half hour; and Cannibal Corpse had an hour. It’s too bad the line-up was one band short of lucky 13; it would have been a nice touch, but then again, the Observatory had to clear the house for the hip hop concert, which was scheduled to take place after the festival concluded.
As for the performances, each of the bands performed very tightly and showcased some great shredding. With Akasha, the theatricality increased, as most of the band members took a turn walking along the slightly risen front of the stage. Enterprise Earth introduced some more progressive and psychedelic influence, and it was during their set that enough people had filed into the venue that a small mosh pit was able to form periodically. With INGESTED, the intensity of the music continued to increase as did the duration of the mosh pits; however, the harshness of the music did not eclipse the good nature of the environment, as INGESTED gave a shout out to Slam-Ma during their set. The next few bands maintained the very heavy musical vibes, and this celebration was cemented when Carnifex performed their encore. For the song, the audience was encouraged to complete the lyrical refrain; lead singer Scott Lewis screamed out “I didn’t choose Hell,” the audience concluded “Hell chose me!”
During Suffocation’s set, things may have gotten a bit too heavy for some people, as one metalhead was seen sitting by himself and holding his head. Then again, too much thrashing can do that if you’re not used to it (as can too much beer). Other fans maintained their wild thrashing and gesticulations throughout, and some were so zealous that they body-surfed their way into the photo pit, with the regularity of the tide, throughout the whole day.
The enthusiasm and fervor of the scene was not restricted to the audiences (who were partly comprised of the musicians who had already performed or who were yet to perform). When After the Burial was onstage — in between songs / during the intervals between their persistently flashing strobe lights — lead growler Anthony Notarmaso proclaimed, “I’d like to thank each and every one of you for coming out tonight. It’s so cool to see so many people under one roof supporting real heavy music and not just cookie cutter...uh...you know what the fuck I’m talking about!” The crowd responded positively to his effectively phrased sentiment.
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The enthusiasm for Nile reached a new pitch, as some fans continually screamed, “Fucking Nile!” throughout their set. Following that, some audience members could hardly contain themselves, and they compulsively bounced in anticipation of Cannibal Corpse. Once the headliner hit the stage, another wave of mind-boggling shredding began. Their set began with “Evisceration Plague,” and included “Time To Kill Is Now,” “Sadistic Embodiment,” and “I Cum Blood.”
As the facts clearly show, even the most wretched subject matter (speaking of which, Cannibal Corpse also played “Wretched Spawn”) does not yield a threat to society. All it does is threaten to create a society of like-minded individuals — people who assemble peaceably in order to celebrate their shared interest. In the midst of this most heaviest of music, great joy was experienced, friends were forged and reunited, and maybe just a few eardrums were split open.