Obituary, Napalm Death Show Report From Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia
Band Photo: Obituary (?)
On Thursday, September 1st, I drove down to Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia to see Obituary, Napalm Death, and Dead To Fall play. This is a lineup that I would not normally have gone out to see, but one of my friends is a big Dead To Fall fan and I was interested in checking all of these bands out anyway, but I might not have gone to the show without any other motivation. As it turns out, my friend never showed up or returned my calls. (Note to self: get new friends that are into metal AND reliable). Having driven almost an hour to get there and paid $25 to get in, I was going to see this show anyway.
Wanting to miss the DC beltway’s rush hour traffic as well as the local openers, I arrived about an hour and a half after doors opened. The first local act, Dead Syndicate was just finishing up and I didn’t even get to hear the entire final song.
It was almost 8 pm on a weeknight, and I was surprised that another local act was taking the stage. Crass Judgment set up and played their set, however. They started out with some weak semi-melodic intro, but after what seemed to be two short songs of that, they played some heavier stuff. Their attempts to engage the crowd for a local opener were often humorous, but the lack of reaction did not stop them from remaining energetic and enjoying the chance to perform in front of a decent sized crowd. They sounded decent enough, but the drumming stood out to me as a bit weak. Not that it was particularly bad, but there were few to no surprises in their drumming – it seemed to lack the improvisation and complex drum rolls or bursts that would give the songs a more full feeling and more energy. Any other details must have been bludgeoned from my brain by the next three bands’ performances.
As I’ve come to expect, when the first non-local band, Dead To Fall, took the stage, the difference in sound and intensity was like night and day compared to the previous band. Dead To Fall have a very heavy metalcore sound. Their sound is so heavy that you almost don’t want to call them metalcore, with all of the more mainstream metalcore bands these days. But with the screaming vocals, occasional breakdowns, and newer melodic metalcore guitar parts, you can’t deny the presence of metalcore in their sound and style.
By the third or fourth song, the club started filling up fast and there was a pretty good mosh pit going. The band called for circle pits several times, but they did not last long, leading the frontman to ask the crowd to raise their hand if they knew what a circle pit was. Overall, Dead To Fall had an excellent sound and played a blistering show. I don’t think they could have picked a more perfect band to open for Napalm Death and Obituary – Dead To Fall brought a newer sound with them, but were just as extreme and intense as the headliners that night.
Having already done their sound check when they set up the stage ahead of time, Napalm Death took the stage fairly soon after Dead To Fall exited. They broke into a couple of songs that were so insanely chaotic I could not really enjoy them. Furthermore, quirky lead singer Barney was shaking his head in between singing in a way that made me wonder whether he had some condition causing it. When they started up the third song of their set, it had a fat death metal groove that had every head in the club banging, and a huge pit erupted that nearly reached both ends of the main floor in front of the stage. That got me back into a more positive mindset about them.
Napalm Death played a variety of material from many albums old and new that I am not familiar with. They played probably four songs off of their recent release “The Code is Red…Long Live The Code” as well. Regardless of the era of song, all of the music was fast and intense death metal. There was a good mix of blistering fast songs and heavier death metal grooves, the latter of which I enjoyed the most. There were even a couple of songs with a more thrashy feel to them. The newer material seemed a little more complex and modern, but still fit the previously mentioned description of variety of sounds it encompassed. They also played a song by the Dead Kennedys late in their set, which was entertaining to hear the simple punk riffs and beats played in Napalm Death death metal fashion.
Overall the band’s performance was enjoyable – even moreso than I’d expected. Besides being intense, the guys engaged the crowd in between songs, and Barney sometimes explained the [usually political] significance of some of the songs they were about to play.
Obituary took nearly 40 minutes to get ready and begin their set. It was getting late for a weeknight and I was already thinking about bailing out early. My perception of this band has been based on only a few songs I heard on compilations fifteen years or so ago, and I considered them a brutal death metal band. But after hearing their new album, they did not sound very brutal by today’s death metal standards. I was interested to hear what they sounded like live. Guitarist Allen West, who was reportedly out of the band just days before this show and then announced as back onboard, was indeed playing the show and seemed fine.
Not knowing much of their material, all I can say is that Obituary also played a lot of material spanning their old and new albums. Amazingly enough, their set sounded very cohesive, like it could have all been on one album. The trademark steady double-bass behind mid-paced riffage was present throughout nearly the entire set. But Obituary sounded more like a doom band than death metal. Much of the lead guitar was lost behind the rhythm, but the rhythm guitar’s riffs were excellent and more articulated than in most death metal. The mid-paced heavy riffing made excellent slow and deep headbanging music for the rest of the night while break-out faster parts (as well as a few very drunk guys) kept the mosh pit from dying out. They also played a couple mostly-instrumental songs and had some long solos and jam in several songs.
During the third song of the set, vocalist John Tardy came down the left side of the stage around the speakers and stood in the crowd behind me, apparently checking out the sound and the crowd and shaking hands before his vocal parts were reached in the song.
Obituary was a treat to hear and I could not pull myself away, despite being tired, having to work the next day, and still recovering from bronchitis. About the time I was once again thinking about bailing out of the show, the band left the stage. They returned for an encore which opened with an excellent drum solo and a few more excellent songs. I was compelled to sit through it all by their presence alone, and enjoyed it until the end.
Not being the biggest death metal fan, I found this show to be a surprisingly good one, and would recommend that any fan of death metal or extreme metal go see two of the genre’s stalwarts.
You can check out some photos from the show in the photo gallery, although I didn't get many good ones due to my batteries dying quickly.
This tour is still going on up and down the east coast mostly, and here are the remaining tour dates to catch them:
Sep. 06 - New York, NY - BB Kings
Sep. 07 - Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero
Sep. 09 - Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall
Sep. 10 - Cleveland, OH - House Of Blues
Sep. 12 - Chicago, IL - Metro
Sep. 13 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
Sep. 14 - Milwaukee, WI - Eagle's Club
Sep. 17 - St. Petersburg, FL - Jannus Landing
Sep. 18 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Revolution
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