Symbolic Tribute to Chuck Schuldiner Report
Band Photo: Death (?)
Given Chuck Schuldiner’s profound influence on the death metal genre, which some say he created, I was looking forward to this local tribute to the work of this legendary guitarist who died far too young in 2001. If nothing else, we got to see some local talent with a guarantee of some good cover songs at The Cobalt, one of the few Vancouver venues dedicated to the metal and hardcore music scene.
We arrived at the venue way too early and worked our way through a few beers while listening to “The Number of the Beast” in it’s entirety. Finally around 10:30, the opening act, Delta, BC’s Mecha Messiah, took to the stage. The band wasted no time in getting the show going as they ripped through some killer harmonized lead guitar work and got the crowd shouting “Oi oi oi oi.” Vocalist Brian Langley let out a fine mix of Lemmy-esque vocals combined with the occasional black metal style screeching while Ryan Mackie maintained a thunderous bass drum heavy beat. Bassist Darin Wall was sporting an Anvil shirt, a nice nod to some Canadian heavy metal.
Mecha Messiah worked through a setlist that included some of their own tunes such as “Sacrifice,” “Me or Him” and “What.” “Sacrifice” was particularly well received by the crowd and got the mosh pit going with its Judas Priest style intro, double bass drumming and a overall excellent mix of fast-paced riffs, power chords, pinch harmonics and energy. Langley claimed that the band has been around for ten years and given the interplay between the guitars you could tell these guys had been together for a while. Great energy on stage and guitarist Mike Fezza and Wall rocked got the synchronized rocking like Tipton and Downing going. I really enjoyed Langley’s vocals as they were aggressive but decipherable and, at times, melodic.
The last two songs of Mecha Messiah’s set were two Death classics “The Philosopher” and “Pull the Plug.” The band didn’t set out to reproduce the album versions of the songs, using more low and mid gain compared to what Schuldiner commonly used but the notes rang crisply despite the bass occasionally drowning out the guitars. “Pull the Plug,” off 1988’s “Leprosy,” was equally well done as Langley managed to play the technical riffs while belting out the lyrics, with help from the audience who sang along.
Chosen is actually an Irish metal band that had relocated to Vancouver, where they recruited vocalist John Matter. Once on stage, Matter announced that they would be playing Death’s “Symbolic” album in its entirety. Good news considering it is one of my favourite Death albums. Guitarist Paul Shields let loose on “Symbolic,” playing the song note for note while Matter added a personal touch to the song using more hardcore screaming rather than trying to emulate Schuldiner, which worked for me. Bassist Matt Gaynor’s basslines had a jazzy quality that echoed Steve DiGiorgio’s work with Death and provided good balance to Shields' guitar work given the fact that Chosen doesn’t have a second guitarist.
Their rendition of the album had a heavier feel than the original but was a quality tribute to Schuldiner’s genius. The melodic leads on “Zero Tolerance” rang clear and the crowd roared out “This is not a test of power!” with enthusiasm. “1000 Eyes” was a highlight of their set with its thrashy riffage and Matters ditched his shirt and stepped up the energy level onstage, giving his all and even singing decipherably. The leads in this song are awesome and sounded much like Michael Amott doing a “Death” cover. Great stuff from a skilled guitarist who gets points for wearing a Ghostbusters T-shirt to a metal show.
The band continued to work through the album with bang-on interpretations of “Without Judgement” and “Crystal Mountain” from a band that “everyone knows,” according to Matters. “Misanthrope” got the heads banging even harder before the band closed with “Perennial Quest” with some intensely brutal vocals, which actually worked well for Chosen and balanced the soulful lead guitar work. Gaynor really seemed to be enjoying pounding out the bass lines as the band closed out the album before launching into some original tunes.
Overall, it was a fine tribute to the work of Chuck Schuldiner and I was pleased to hear that some of the proceeds would go to support cancer research. I would have liked some music off “The Sound of Perseverance” or even some Control Denied-era Schuldiner but this show definitely satisfied. Chosen is about to relocate back to Ireland to record a new album, so Vancouver metal heads should check them out while you still can.
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