The pain I felt when first looking at Mutilation Rites’ tour dates is one I wouldn’t wish on most people. When I saw that their Chicago date was during a span of time during which I would be on tour, my heart sank. But, upon scrolling to the bottom of the list, I found that not all was lost. Milwaukee, sweet Milwaukee, would play host to their final day of tour. I hailed the Dark Lord for his gift and made concrete plans to be at the show.
Weeks later, I made my way up to Milwaukee. After some general wandering, I ended up at Frank’s Power Plant. I’d never been to the venue and the name conjured up a myriad of different possibilities. Would this be an actual abandoned power plant? Perhaps a warehouse filled with mad scientists? I’ll save you the trouble – it’s a bar. That said, it’s a great, small place that’s perfect for a show. After saying hello to an old friend for a minute, I noticed that the show was beginning.
The first act, Cannabinol Synapse, was not what I expected in a band opening for Mutilation Rites and Inter Arma, two American black metal acts. This is a one man vehicle that is decidedly not metal, but definitely dark, brooding, and weird. It consists of keyboards, a theremin, and a backdrop of visual projections from horror films that play silently underneath the cacophony of sound. The music itself is akin to lots of 70’s horror film soundtracks – lots of long electronic tones which are meant to be atmospheric, spooky, and unsettling. It was pulled off well and made it a perfect counterpart to the black metal headliners in spirit and mood.
Next was Milwaukee’s Ara. I knew their drummer right off the bat from playing in bands like Half Gorilla, Northless, and other area heavyweights. This project, though, was different than the aforementioned acts. What we were served up with was less blatantly heavy and significantly more technical than the aforementioned acts. While it got a bit busy at times, as is often a problem for me when listening to straight up death metal in this vein, the songs had enough to latch onto for me to enjoy their set.
The final local behemoth of the night was Sacrificial Massacre. Having heard this band’s demo a while back, I was looking forward to checking out their live show. Unfortunately, the beginning of their set was plagued with technical difficulties that broke the mystique and general atmosphere the band tried to create with their corpse paint, stage clothing, and intense introduction. The band also lit some sort of wood piles before their set to create an earthy smog in the room. Too bad for me because by the time Sacrificial Massacre had figured out their gear issues, I had retreated to the outside to avoid my allergies destroying me completely. I was forced to listen to their repetitious, yet aggressive brand of black metal from the next room while drinking a Shirley Temple. A disappointing set overall, but not chiefly at the fault of the group.
With the local openers complete, Inter Arma began to set up. The type and amount of gear this band was using was making me drool. Stacks upon stacks of power backed this Virginia-based behemoth as they readied their assault. I’d only heard a few songs by Inter Arma and wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I was unprepared for what I was about to experience. Crushing heavy riffs perfectly intermingled with a ferocious black metal attack and howling, intense vocals that I can’t do justice on a page.
Inter Arma band clearly draws influence from the gamut of heavy metal history and flawlessly melds these influences into something unique and uncompromisingly heavy. The aforementioned walls of gear made it possible for Inter Arma to use volume to their advantage as it afforded them the ability to go from quiet and low-key to blisteringly loud at a moment’s notice. This band’s finest talent is their ability to build tension for an unreasonable amount of time while maintaining a crushing intensity only to release the tension in a perfectly orchestrated burst of aggression. I can’t say how pleasantly surprised I was by this band’s set and how highly I recommend checking out their live set, as well as their recorded material.
Finally, the band I made an epic (read: hour and a half) trek for, Mutilation Rites, was about to play. They shared much of the gear that Inter Arma had utilized so flawlessly which means they were off to a good start. They set up and immediately blazed into their first song. Mutilation Rites are one of those too-rare black metal bands that know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to melody. The songs they write are loaded with hooks. They get stuck in my head all the time. But, they bury these underneath an aggressive barrage of screaming black metal with nods to d-beat and undertones of hardcore punk. They go from straight forward blasting darkness to straight forward, pummeling d-beats flawlessly and do so in ways that are interesting and unexpected, but, upon multiple listens, also totally catchy. A lot of this can be attributed to their unstoppable drummer. This New York four piece is a force of nature that, as of this writing, has a perfect recorded track record, free of a single dud, which brought me to this show. You can now add a menacing, bestial live set to their resume, leaving you with a band that is one of the finest metal has to offer in 2013.