Live Review : Fit For An Autopsy + Venom Prison + Vulvodynia + Justice For The Damned @ Rebellion, Manchester on June 2nd 2019

This tour is a true barometer of where the extreme end of heavy music find itself in 2019. You have four bands that share a love of Death Metal but present that central influence in four highly distinctive ways, you have four continents represented, you have a diverse crowd made up of a cross section of extreme music's many distinct tribes (with scissor-kicking hardcore kids and head nodding trad-metallers both out in force) and you have a pretty decent turnout for a Sunday night where every single act gets an appreciative pit and their lyrics screamed back at them. Overall this feels much more like a package tour of acts of a similar stature as opposed to a headliner and an undercard of also ran's, there only to make up numbers.

Justice for the Dammed (or JFTD as they seem to be known by the kids) get the prize for having travelled the furthest to be part of this tour as they hail from Sydney in Australia. They conform splendidly to my personnel stereotype of all Australian bands being made up exclusively of hard bastards you wouldn't want to pick a fight with and they play Deathcore in its purest sense. There are blastbeats, stuttering riffs and planet splitting breakdowns a plenty within their overall sparse but direct sound. There is a real anger at JFTD's core and this fury at the world and all its ill’s seems to propel their material forward. Formidable frontman Bobak Rafiee seems righteously pissed off and conveys that with every grunted and growled syllable that he spits out. The audience reaction is highly impressive for the first band on and you get the feeling that there are a number of the whirling derbies in the pit who are here specifically to kick shit out of people to the sound of JFTD.

There is a regimented primal rhythm to Vulvodynia brutally simplistic Death Metal. Their sound is repetitive, basic and based on the same technically proficient drum pattern repeated over and over but god is it powerful and infectious. Everything is stripped back to precise striking riffs backed by the aforementioned ritualistic tribal beats but this is very much a case of less being more as their sound is so potent because it is so concise, rhythmic and cyclical. On top of this vocalist Duncan Bentley pours on some of the nastiest and primitive death growls and squawks you will find, which add to guttural confrontational beauty of the whole thing. They bait the audience for more reaction and sporadic pits of crowd killing violence break out and then fade away. As becomes the norm, they finish with declarations of new friendship and admiration for the other acts on the tour and then we get the utter vulgar splendour of 'Drowned in Vomit' which brings a fitting finale to a snarling, trim and pulsating set.

As Venom Prison are a much branded about name to watch, they manage to pull a crowd that almost outshines the one that awaits tonight’s headliner. They produce probably the most “Metal” set of the evening, replacing the clinical meticulous repeating tempo of Vulvodynia with a much more freeform and complex style. Larissa Stupar’s vocals are distinctly Death Metal, harsh guttural grows (with the occasional Black Metally screech) but the music that accompanies her is becoming more intricate and refined each and every time that I see them play. The material from new album “Samsara” is quite simply stunning and the six tracks aired tonight highlight the ambitious nature of what they are trying to. Yes there are still ferocious buzz-saw riffs and blurring drum beats but there are so many changes in structure and shape within each and every track that this marks out a band unafraid to mess with the formula. In places, this is Swedish Melo-Death circa 1993 as there are chunks of melodic interludes spread through all the tracks. Tonight, Venom Prison are nothing short of spectacular, they have a conviction and work ethic that just shines off the stage, they are also pushing at Death Metal’s boundaries as they do not seem content to stay within its tight parameters. The aforementioned “Samsara” is magnificent, but the next record, well if they continue on their trajectory then it will be something to behold…

I love a band that seem chuffed to be on the stage in front of me, Fit For An Autopsy spend a large part of their ridiculously short set singing the praises of the tour mates and humbly stating that they feel blessed to have spent the last three weeks in their company. They visibly look over the moon that they have got to do this jaunt and as chuffed as chips to be in a position to go out as headliners for the first time in Europe. With Fit for An Autopsy, we are back to the Deathcore but it is much more refined and in places understated version than we got with JFTD.  Long standing guitarist Will Putney and Pat Sheridan trade licks and on more than one occasion, we get a good old fashioned guitar solo. This is very much a band that is comfortable in their own skins, they have built a fanbase (by this point at least half the throng are in Fit For An Autopsy tops) and they are content in giving them what they want. In fact, with the one new track we get signals that they do not plan on changing their formula any time soon. The crushing finale of ‘Black Mammothseems to come only instances after they hit the stage with the awesome 'Hydra', as for a headliner, the set length is way too short, but we get an impassioned call from the audience for an inevitable encore. Pat Sheridan looks genuinely moved as he thanks all those who have stuck with the band and once again his touring buddies. The final hurrah of 'Murder in the First’ sees Duncan Bently join Joe Badolato on vocals and the rather bizarre sight of Josean Orta having his entire drum kit disassembled as he plays on. As the track ends a Chorus Line of tonight’s entire line up descends on the stage for a final group hug and we are done.

I’ve said this before but tonight once again showed the vastly different styles and sounds that live within one musical genre, Death Metal. It is that variety and thirst for innovation and evolution that makes our music so exciting. Every single act tonight showed that Metal is not about following a set path, it is about taking the music that you love and making it your own.

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki