A tough crowd of jaded metal elitists showed up at Zanies Too Thursday night to see Summon the Destroyer, Christ Beheaded, Mercykill and headliner Septicflesh. Long dreadlocks, beards and shaved heads abounded at the bar before the show, and the talk centered around "best-of" lists, recent shows and new projects.
Summon the Destroyer opened the evening with the crowd-pleasing favorite "Perdition Unbound." This band has gone through many incarnations since its inception in 2007, but its signature blast beats, tempo changes and technical riffs have remained, keeping them in line with death metal groups like Necrophagist and Suffocation. The current lineup includes new vocalist Chris Durham, who lends a distinctive grindcore sound, and two talented lead guitarists, Mike Morgan and Josh Kappell, who provide battling solos that range from the chaotic to the precise. Their set was musically irreproachable but lacked energy, only bringing a few crowd members to the front to softly nod their heads along with the synchronized headbanging of the band members.
Two members of Summon the Destroyer, Mike Morgan and bassist Corey Clark, pulled double duty, putting on corpse paint to take their place with Indy's favorite blasphemers Christ Beheaded. As befits their genre, they rely heavily on stage presence during shows, coming out soaked in blood and wreathed in fog, but their high ability level saves them from relying on shock value alone. Vocalist Count Magnus (Sean Cruz) maintained his persona throughout the set, returning the crowd's uniformly upturned hands with insults and sacrilegious screeching. Guitars retained a ringing tonality even during the fastest riffs and drummer Mormo (rhythmical mastermind Dustin Boltjes) imparted complexity to the comparatively simple chord progressions. The scene up front became livelier as hair flew in windmills and eyes closed in ecstasy during guitar solos. Christ Beheaded left the stage abruptly after their last song, with band members only reemerging to join the rest of the crowd once they had removed the corpse paint.
Mercykill began slowly, the band and listeners gradually forging a symbiotic relationship, feeding off of each other's energy, both becoming increasingly enthusiastic throughout the set. Their single guitarist, Scott Bronner, played non-formulaic running scales while the rhythm section made a powerful presence through Sean Myers' chest-throbbing use of his five stringed bass. Drummer Sean Young used all of his enormous set proficiently and intelligently, more than keeping up with the high standards of the evening. The show reached an apex during a King Diamond cover when vocalist Ray Willis shared the mic with audience members. Mercykill's announcement of "last song" brought applause and whistles and even sparked a small circle pit of a few heavy, long-haired fans during a tight half-time riff.
Eager mutterings took over the bar as headliners Septicflesh set up their equipment. Hailing from Greece, they took a break from their multinational tour with Cradle of Filth to grace the stage of Zanie's with their singular sound of atmospheric death metal influenced by Behemoth and late Hypocrisy. After a four-year recording hiatus, they recently released their latest album, Communion, which showcases a full orchestra and operatic interludes that contrast with their more traditional brutality.
Vocalist/bassist Spiros Antoniou was the star of the show with his low gutturals, spastic mid levels and heavy, crunchy bass notes. His twitching, almost possessed stage presence was impossible to ignore; even the most dedicated barflies left their stools to join the growing throng up front.
The piped-in orchestral sections enveloped the live players without detracting from their performance, adding a darkly melodic sense to their set. Although everything took a backseat to the vocalist's performance, the two guitars formed a resonant body of sound that threatened to break out of its own skin and drummer Fotis Giannakopoulos resembled an octopus as he hammered on his set. The drums strayed from the death metal trend of blast beats and straightforward rhythms, relying instead upon a pulsing double bass accented by intricate work on toms and cymbals.
When Septicflesh interrupted their newer songs to play some from the archives, they dropped the orchestra, emphasizing distorted, high-speed guitars spiked with technical solos. They diligently worked their audience throughout the set, building tension and encouraging active participation. Everyone jumped up and joined in feverishly for the last song, pumping their fists and chanting along with the vocalist. It was a hard crowd to impress, but Septicflesh clearly did the job.