Metal Blade Records Brings 35th Anniversary Celebration To NYC 2-25-17

Back in 1982, a little record label was formed out of Los Angeles, California are under the title Metal Blade Records. Founded by former Record Store Employee Brian Slagel  as a way to garner attention for Los Angeles area Metals bands, through the years, the label has seen many mega bands be a part of the family from Slayer, to Behemoth, to Amon Amarth, to even the Goo Goo Dolls. Growing into the juggernaut that it is today, the label supports over 100 active bands including Cannibal Corpse, the aforementioned Amon Amarth, King Diamond, and so many more. 

Proudly celebrating the label’s 35th anniversary, four current Metal Blade Record labelmates – Cattle Decapitation, Goatwhore, Allegaeon, and Necromancing The Stone – join up with Whitechapel for an stacked touring bill. Begun back on February 21st, the tour extends through March 16th, and on Saturday, February 25th, fans crowded into Irving Plaza to celebrate. An extra early show, doors opened at 4:50 PM and the entire Metal assault was wrapped up before the 9 PM hour. Unheard of for most Metal shows, the killer late afternoon with Necromancing the Stone, Allegaeon, Cattle Decapitation, and Whitechapel was set to begin. 

First to kick things off was Ohio-based Heavy Metal outfit Necromancing the Stone. Coming together in 2014, the band features Bassist Bart Williams (formerly of The Black Dahlia Murder), Guitarist James Malone (formerly of Arsis), Drummer Jeramie Kling (formerly of  The Absence), Guitarist Justin Wood (formerly of Brimstone Coven), and Vocalist “Big” John Williams.

Playing songs like “Crusher” from their 2016 debut full-length Jewel of the Vile, they showcased their considerable musicianship and dedication to their genre. That said, Necromancing the Stone’s vintage Metal influences are apparent in their guitar-solo-driven cuts and the crowd responded eagerly to “Big” John’s requests for chants and circle pits.

Though the band only played for a brief twenty-fives minutes, their classic Metal sound gave them full attention from the slowly-growing crowd around the stage. Primed for a bright future, Necromancing the Stone displayed a plethora of talent. 

Moving along smoothly, from there, the circle pit opened up as Denver, Colorado’s Allegaeon (pronounced like “allegion”) took the stage next. Formed in 2008, Allegaeon have created an impressive discography of imaginative-but-brutal Death Metal that fuses technical ability, melody, and heart-stopping riffs. Following several lineup and financial shake-ups, Allegaeon’s current rotation features Greg Burgess on guitar, Wretched’s Andrew Grevey on bass, Michael Stancel also on guitar, Brandon Park on drums, and Riley McShane on vocals.

While McShane has only been with the band since 2015, his vocal abilities are well-suited to all of Allegaeon’s previous releases as heard during their set at Irving Plaza. With four full-length albums including 2016’s critically acclaimed Proponent for Sentience, Allegaeon had a deep catalog to pull from, provoking fans to sing, mosh, cheer, and put up their devil horns.

Performing for roughly 30 minutes, their set included tracks such as “Terrathaw and the Quake,” and “1.618.” Overall, Allegaeon’s display of musicianship was impressive, highlighted by Grevey and his mastery of his six-string bass which was simply mesmerizing to watch. For those who missed them a part of the Metal Blade 35th anniversary, Allagaeon has select dates lined up through March 31st.

At this point in the early evening, the floor was packed and ready for charmingly named Cattle Decapitation. Judging by the cheers and abundance of devil horns in the air, the audience was on tenterhooks, or perhaps meathooks, waiting for the San Diego quartet. A force to be reckoned with, the band has sustained lineup changes in their ten years together, currenting consisting of Vocalist Travis Ryan, Guitarist Josh Elmore, Drummer Dave McGraw, and Bassist Derek Engemann. Now having released seven albums since their inception in 1996, their stop in NYC saw them mainly concentrate of tracks from their most recent release, 2015’s The Anthropocene Distinction.

A offering that was aggressive as much as it was brutally delightful, the most pit never closed as Cattle Decapitation growled and wailed through their 45 minute set. Getting the macabre party started with “Manufactured Extinct,” fans chanted and bodies flew through songs like “The Prophets of Loss,” “Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot),” and “Pacific Grim.”

The excessive strobe light often made the stage impossible to look directly at, but no sight was necessary to hear Ryan’s incredible vocal control. Then there was Elmore’s hands as he changed chords with inhuman speed while McGraw’s relentless drums kept fans captivated. Cattle Decapitation was clearly the highlight of the evening for some of the crowd as the floor cleared out some once their set was finished, but there were more than enough fans eagerly awaiting the arrival of main attraction, Whitechapel.

Rightfully the evening’s headlining act, Whitechapel are, no question, currently one of Metal Blade Records’ most successful acts. Named after the district in London in which the infamous Jack the Ripper murders took place, this alone gives off a pretty good idea of their brutal and violent sounds.

Since forming in 2006, the Knoxville, TN Deathcore six-piece have released six full-length albums, but progressed with each new offering. Their 2014 LP, Our Endless War, perhaps is their boldest statement to date, climbing all the way to the number 10 spot on the Billboard Top 200. This is while 2016’s The Mark of Blade equally garnered favorable reviews. Now more mature and refined than ever before, yet still hungry, Whitechapel was ready to unload on the NYC crowd.

Best known for their use of blast drumming and hard-hitting breakdowns, fans were hyped to see the double bass drums brought onto the stage. Ready for the attack, Drummer Ben Harclerode, Lead Guitarist Ben Savage, Rhythm Guitarist Alex Wade, Bassist Gabe Crisp, Guitarist Zach Householder, and Vocalist Phil Bozeman filed onto the stage at 7.30PM as their silhouettes looked imposing against the ominous blue backlighting.

Starting out with one of their most well-known songs, “The Saw Is the Law;” a single off Our Endless War, shirts practically flew off as fans thrashed and crowd-surfed to the heavy headbanger. The band’s energy was infectious as the crowd responded in kind to the fast-paced “Faces” and the slow-but-vicious “I, Dementia,” both from 2012’s self-titled album. At this point, the floor seemed to shake as the audience bounced to the pounding beat of “Mark of the Blade.” Adding to the mood, everyone happily obliged Bozeman’s request for devil horns in the air as he thanked them for coming out to the show.

Continuing to speak with the audience, Bozeman even went so far as to say, “I don’t think we’ve ever come here and had a bad show.” The compliment went over well as the room seemed to be a renewed energy when Whitechapel dove into another single from Mark of the Blade, “Elitist Ones.”

Adrenaline continued to pump from the stage when Bozeman announced that they were about to play “old stuff.” This is when the pit reached its peak during “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation,” a hard-hitting track off the band’s first record, 2007’s Somatic Defilement, and “Eternal Refuge,” from 2008’s This Is Exile. After thanking each band on the tour, Whitechapel ended their set with “Possibilities of an Impossible Existence,” departed, but of course, fans asked for “one more song.” Making good on the request, they returned to played the title-track from This Is Exile, filling the air with a dark and drum-heavy array of sounds that made for a pummeling conclusion. 

Each band on this 35th anniversary tour has a distinct and unique sound, but when brought together, they formed a solid representation of Metal Blade Records’ current roster of artists. It is rare to see a crowd respond so positively to all bands on a bill, but the Metal community seems more supportive than most. Unfortunately, Goatwhore was unable to make the NYC date, but thankfully for other select cities, they will be present to gift bonus Metal. Overall, Metal Blade Records provided fans a fun and exciting night packed with talented musicians, but most of all a testament to their dedication to Heavy Metal for 35 years, and still going strong. 

Photos credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography

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