It was with much excitement that I arrived (late – will come to that later) to the Garage in Glasgow to witness “Battle of the Bays” a clash between San Francisco thrash royalty Exodus and Tampa Death Metal titans, the mighty (yes mighty) Obituary.
The support acts also carry a hefty punch on this roster in the form of legendary metallers Prong and Australia’s grindy sludgers King Parrot. It promised to be a battle of epic proportions and it really didn’t disappoint the packed audience.
So to my first admission, I was delayed in getting to the venue and so sadly missed King Parrot who took to the stage shortly after 6pm. From what I heard from those that caught them they were insanely entertaining and I will be sure not to miss em next time I get the chance.
By the time Prong took to the field, the large crowd were nicely warmed up and with the number of their t-shirts on show plenty had come to see these guys. They didn’t disappoint and their groove laden set increased the mercury considerably. Classics such as “Eternal Heat” and “Whose Fist Is this Anyway?” went down a storm and their ubiquitous finisher “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” had the masses begging for more trips down memory lane. A great, and insanely heavy, set (especially for for a three piece) from a much loved band. Could this get any better? We were about to find out….
After a much needed beer break, the strains of the intro to “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles” announced the imminent arrival of Exodus. The energy in the venue palpably rose and the start of what would become one of the craziest pits I have seen at the Garage began to form. As legendary frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza took to the stage he asked “are you ready to create mayhem Glasgow?” with his trademark wry smile. He knew the answer shortly after launching into “Then There Were None” from their first record Bonded by Blood, from the ensuing madness!
Classic tracks formed the backbone of their set from the title track from aforementioned sophomore album to Pleasures of the Flesh but were ably helped by newer stuff drawn from their impressive back catalogue such as “Blacklist” from 2004’s Tempo of the Damned to the excellent “Body Harvest” from their latest offering Blood in Blood Out. The former song being introduced by SZS asking the crowd “Boss piss you off? F*** you! Teacher pissed at you cos your assignment is late? F*** you!” which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
This was the first time I had seen Exodus in a more intimate setting than a festival and it really helped me appreciate just how good an old school front man Zetro is. From his constant bantering with, and praise of, the “Crazy Scottish” crowd to thanking (and asking the crowd to thank) the excellent security staff (who really needed to be on form during this set given the volume of crowd surfing). That’s not to downplay the rest of his bandmates who brought a classic wall of thrash and a masterclass in thrash guitar harmony. But he really made this gig for me. The encore of the classics “Toxic Waltz” and “Strike of the Beast” provided a fitting end to an awesome set and also provided, by virtue of Zetro’s choreography, the biggest pit of the night. Zetro signed off by declaring “F***ing amazing Glasgow” giving the distinct impression the band enjoyed themselves tonight. It was clear the audience did too.
Quite an act to follow but then who better than death metal royalty Obituary. And so to my second confession, Obituary remain my all-time favourite death metal band and consider their classic Cause of Death album to be untouchable in its class (save for perhaps Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness… but that’s a debate for another time). So it was with teenage like excitement I, like many others by the looks of it, welcomed Obies’ slow walk onto the smoke filled pulpit.
As front man John Tardy stomped last onto stage, the band launched into “Internal Bleeding” and the rarely-played “Words of Evil” both from their debut record Slowly We Rot, crushing the crowd with their trademark scooped bass heavy groove and of course John’s singularly unique vocal delivery. Many of the tracks from their recently released single/live EP Ten Thousand Ways to Die formed the basis of their set including the new and crushing track “Loathe” which went down really well with the by now rabid crowd.
However, it was Obituary’s classic tracks that really stole the show here and indulged the loyal audience. Following on from the opener, a “Cause of Death”/”Turned Inside Out” melody (and these guys really know how to do melody) had the pit in a frenzy as did the epic groove of “Dying” followed by the frenzy of “Find the Arise”, both again from the Cause of Death album, the insanely catchy “Til’ Death” from Slowly We Rot and the sing-along “I Don’t Care” from 1994’s World Demise finished the set but not the crowd whose incessant chants of “Obituary, Obituary” brought back a smiling band to the stage to perform an awesome encore comprising crowd favourites the Celtic Frost classics “Circle of the Tyrants” and “Dethroned Emperor” and of course the anthemic “Slowly We Rot”.
While John doesn’t indulge in the same audience camaraderie as his peer from Exodus, he doesn’t need to. Obituary’s sound does the talking and the excellent sound mix really brought out the band’s trademark heaviness. As Cause of Death’s promo material declared Obituary to be “The Heaviest Band in Existence”, to see them live really substantiates this profound claim. This was a band at the pinnacle of their abilities showing a fluidity and tightness that many aspire.
I, like my fellow fans, left the field emotional and exhausted but very happy. As for the victor on this night, I would have to say Florida takes the spoils but closely followed by their West Coast cousins.
All photos by Gary Cooper.