(Live Review) INCANTATION, SUFFOCATION + MORE - Chicago, 11/15/23
The Beard & Little Johnny
Tonight, good readers and Beard followers, hold on to something firmly because Little Johnny booked this evening’s event. I asked him what we were going to and was told, The Ancient Unholy Uprising Tour featuring Incantation Suffocation Skeletal Remains, Stabbing, and Casket Robbery. This marks show #67 and bands #286-290 on our 2023 The Reviews Never Stop Tour.
Our patron saint of the mosh pit, your own IPA swigging superstar, Little Johnny, is front and center for the evil festivities while the fragile and quite breakable Beard has taken a more distant viewing position. Tonight promises some likely bruising.
First up this evening, from Madison, Wisconsin, was brutal death metal act Casket Robbery. Although these guys have technically been around for over ten years, they only have two official releases including 2022’s Rituals of Death. Female fronted death metal acts are always interesting. From the mix of New World Music & Death acts like Sylvaine or Myrkur to the more straight-ahead assault of Arch Enemy or Otep, woman and death metal are not that unusual any longer.
This was a Wisconsin girl all right. Megan Orvold-Scheider had some size and heft to her voice. Pretty traditional death growl. Her actual voice however was 180 degrees opposite. Very feminine and light. I would always worry if I dated a female death metal vocalist. One minute you are debating whose turn it is to take the dog out and the next minute you are arguing with Pazuzu from the Exorcist.
Musically, Casket Robbery were on the lower end of the death metal rankings. I was not particularly taken with their stylings until the third number when they mixed in some decent Slayer-like guitar riffs (South of Heaven style.) Megan’s voice in the later numbers had touches of the Sepultura sound, but overall, despite them working hard, the Beard could only go 75/100.
Casket Robbery also did not really generate any pits, so Little Johnny remained at Defcon two. They did have one of the top three T-shirts for sale though, so there is that.
Second up this evening were relative newcomers from Texas ...
With only one full release. Extirpated Mortal Processes, this was another female led death metal act. They had a Dying Fetus kind of sound (just with a female lead), but I am somewhat guessing. When it comes to death metal acts, The Beard is still only a C student of the genre. What it was though, was brutal sounding (compliment not criticism).
Howls and Cookie Monster vocals throughout from vocalist Bridget Lynch. The band itself sounded better than Casket Robbery, but was still really not my thing. Johnny, however, was into it and some early pits did emerge, just never with full force. After some of the pits we have experienced this year, a lazy circle run around is not a pit. The Beard will give them a touch more than the first band and so Stabbing gets 77/100 for a better overall presentation and a bigger crowd response.
Third up this evening were west coast act ...
Skeletal Remains - whom the Beard saw earlier this year as part of the Morbid Angel tour - credit to these guys for tirelessly touring.
Although they have four full length releases, three of the current four members on stage only played on one of them (The Entombment of Chaos), as only guitarist Chris Monroy predates 2020 with the band. These guys were more traditional death metal in the vein of old school acts like Death or Morbid Angel.
After coming out to the “spooky” intro before launching into their first number, I immediately noticed an upgrade in sound quality and musicianship. Skeletal Remains, despite such new blood in the band, has clearly benefited from their non-stop relentless tour schedule. This was more harsh thrash-meets-death than just straight death. The stage show also added some effects (smoke bursts and the like), to help give their act a little extra pop. Guitar work by Mike De La O and Chris Monroy was easily the best of the first three acts.
Skeletal Remains songs had structure not just chaos. (Yes, I know…Skeletal structure. Sometimes these are not even intentional.) This was a good set and had pits for Johnny to bounce in. A solid grade of 85/100 for the west coast thrash/death of Skeletal Remains.
In a surprise change of band order, headliners Suffocation took the stage next.
Suffocation announced that vocalist Ricky Meyers allegedly had strep and therefore could not perform that evening. As cancelling would have instigated a nightmare for the band (and club) of refund requests, Bridget Lynch of earlier band Stabbing was tapped to stand in. This change, (while technically meaning they still provided a show), definitely affected that shows grade.
Despite the substitution, without actual band vocalist Ricky Meyers, audience members were clearly not getting the full Suffocation experience. (Yes, Johnny, there is a joke about still being able to breathe around the pillow just lying there for you. Let us continue to let it lie shall we?)
I will award points to Bridget Lynch for truly stepping up and helping Suffocation create a show anyway, (she was able to sing some of their older numbers, while the band played instrumental versions of their newer numbers). However, I also grade the set in front of me, and I’m going to penalize accordingly.
Pluses, these guys bring an Immolation sound with some definite musical style as well as speed. Thunderous drumming by Eric Morotti and the guitar work of Terry Hobbs and Charlie Errigo was strong (especially with no vocals over it). Negatives, if Tom Araya isn’t singing, I’m NOT going to call it Slayer and, likewise, it is not Suffocation without Ricky Meyers. The set was fine for what it was, but the grade is 78/100.
Finally, the evening’s unplanned headliners hit the stage. East Coast’s own thirty-year death metal act ...
With thirteen full releases (plus a few live albums), Incantation has been doing their Satanic death metal thing for over thirty years. Currently, they are touring behind 2023’s Unholy Deification. There were also some cool t-shirts and despite the 35-dollar price point, the Beard picked up a tour shirt while Johnny grabbed himself a hat (on MY credit card) saying “Winter's coming Beard, and sometimes my ears get cold. You don’t want me to get sick and miss a show right?” “You’re killing me Johnny.”
Upon seeing the enormous all white lion’s mane of hair and beard being sported by Incantation vocalist John McEntee, Johnny said “Holy crap Beard, God is their lead singer, and he looks pissed.”
Points also for drummer Kyle Severn, Chuck Sherwood (bassist since 2008), and Luke Shively (formerly of Dismemberment) picking up guitar duty since 2020. Incantation presents a good stage look.
Incantation also has a good sound although vocally McEntee is a bit too guttural for my tastes. This band was pit generating and Johnny found his way into several. One other small thing that kept grabbing me was McEntee growling out the song titles. Sometimes the album and song names were so long and complicated that the death growl introductions seemed overwrought. On the other hand, maybe it was just me. Incantation played a reasonably strong hour of music, so I will allot them a solid 81/100 for a good, but not great, set.
Little Johnny, however, may have a totally different view and ranking on tonight’s event. Tune into the December Beard and Little Johnny top 40 live acts of 2023 countdown series to find out.
In the end, surprisingly, the Beard enjoyed the Skeletal Remains set the most. Hopefully, Johnny really enjoyed tonight’s performances, however, I am not looking for quite that much death metal in one evening for a while.
For tonight though, we shall put show #67 to bed. 290 bands this year, and the end is in sight. Just two more metal shows to go.
Stay tuned each Wednesday and Thursday for the latest reviews and all the other great material on your award-winning site The Mighty Decibel.
Then check out the videos of this (and all our reviewed shows) by searching our TikTok page at Thebeard0738 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny
Until next time ...