Concert Review: Hell In July Tour at Fubar

By Matt Albers

            It’s always exciting when one or more bands return to a city that they haven’t played in years, and that’s what happened on July 24 in St. Louis. Six Feet Under was originally a side project by founding Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes. But when Barnes left Cannibal Corpse in 1995, Six Feet Under became an animal all its own, drawing a unique fan base. Much groovier and less technical than Cannibal Corpse – though just as brutal in its own right – Six Feet Under last stopped in St. Louis in 2003 at the original location of the now defunct Creepy Crawl. In that time, the band produced seven studio albums, including the last two editions of their cover album series called Graveyard Classics. Six Feet Under’s headlining 2013 “Hell In July” tour was originally scheduled to stop at The Firebird, but was soon changed to Fubar (a venue much more accustomed to death metal acts, let alone metal of any kind). Although on a Wednesday night, the show brought out a respectable crowd to enjoy not only Six Feet Under and local support, but also national acts Decrepit Birth, Cannabis Corpse, and Dealey Plaza.

Two local acts were booked to open this show. The first was the rather renowned Illinois-based death metal outfit Suffer The Wrath. Known for wearing outrageous costumes of demonic-influenced battle armor donned with horns and spikes (or even nails, similar to the signature gauntlets of Slayer guitarist Kerry King) this band’s fun-loving shtick of overblown death metal stereotypes always makes them a perfect edition to any St. Louis area death metal show. The same could not be said about the second local opener, Rise To Sundown. This much more groove metal-oriented act seemed out of place for this bill. With the exception of their second song including some melodic guitar work and clean vocals, the majority of their songs sounded cut-and-paste from each other, as did the vocalist’s stale stage presence. It seems unclear how long Rise To Sundown has existed as a band – their musicianship was obviously well-practiced – but they seemed to show a lack of experience in front of an audience. Still, Rise To Sundown seemed to have a decent response from the smaller opening crowd (not yet to final full size during the opening acts) suggesting that they’d have better luck in the future – just not on this bill.

The first traveling act was a late addition to the tour, Southern Florida’s Dealey Plaza. Exhibiting a slightly more deathcore sound, this act featured two vocalists, suggesting they may have been attempting to rip off Despised Icon. But despite such prejudgment, Dealey Plaza surprised the crowd with strong, consistent songwriting and a tight stage performance. Even both of the vocalists proved to have their own vocal identity, one have deeper growls and the other higher shrieks, and both working together perfectly. Next up were the notorious, Richmond, Virginia-based Cannabis Corpse. Featuring members of Municipal Waste and GWAR, Cannabis Corpse is well-known for their marijuana-themed lyrics derived from Cannibal Corpse songs. With titles like “Blunted At Birth,” “Where The Kind Lives,” “Sentenced To Burn One,” and “Staring Through My Eyes That Are Red,” Cannabis Corpse’s fun-loving satire coupled with professional musicianship kept the now increasing audience smiling and laughing while still headbanging.

The brutal weed-loving antics of Cannabis Corpse set the tone rather perfectly for Decrepit Birth, who started off their set with an instrumental introduction that allowed for vocalist Bill Robinson to enjoy smoking his joint on stage, even blowing the occasional smoke ring over the audience. Decrepit Birth’s technical precision, enthusiastic stage presence and pummeling death metal blast demanded the crowd’s attention and appreciation. From Matt Sotelo’s solid shredding to the closing of their set with a cover of Death’s “Crystal Mountain,” there is little to say about Decrepit Birth’s set that isn’t positive. Had they had a longer set time, they may have stolen the show from Six Feet Under, who was welcomed to the stage with open arms and deafening cheers from an audience that should have pleased any band playing on a Wednesday night.

Performing as a four-piece, traditional for Six Feet Under (having added a second guitarist in 2011 when writing, recording, and supporting their two most recent albums), Six Feet Under shredded through a set of their most brutal material. Opening with “Silent Violence,” included were other favorites such as “Revenge Of The Zombie,” “No Warning Shot,” “Feasting On The Blood Of The Insane,” “Victim Of The Paranoid,” “Human Target,” “Seed Of Filth,” and “Shadow Of The Reaper.” Their most signature material was no doubt enjoyable, but in retrospect actually may have left die-hards desiring more. Not only was 2003’s Bringer Of Blood untouched on this set, but so were their two most recent albums (2012’s Undead and 2013’s Unborn) which one would think would be heavily promoted on this tour. Just as surprisingly for a tour full of pothead death metal bands, Six Feet Under did not play “420.” In typical Six Feet Under fashion, anyone wanting to hear selections from their Graveyard Classics series only received one cover; the Cannibal Corpse classic “Hammer Smashed Face,” which Barnes himself wrote before leaving the band.

Despite maybe an only decent set list, Six Feet Under’s show was by no means disappointing. All four members showed genuine dedication and enthusiasm for their own music, translating the brutal, bloody groove that the band is known for to the stage as best as it possibly could by any means. Vocalist Chris Barnes did not engage the crowd as much as other metal front men might, but his mannerisms and body language showed that he was both comfortable and happy to perform for an audience. This might not seem evident to a newcomer, but Barnes does indeed enjoy performing his music, particularly when he assisted guitarist Steve Swanson with a second hand on his guitar neck (another live staple of the band). With audience screams growing throughout the night, it’s no question that Six Feet Under’s show was a success, at least from a fan standpoint. Hopefully the band noticed this, and won’t wait another ten years to return to St. Louis in some capacity. And if so, ideally they could pull out some unexpected and diverse gems (both old and new) to the set list.

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