EXCLUSIVE INTER/REVIEW: GRAVE, DARK FUNERAL & MORBID ANGEL DO TEXAS
It certainly has been a quiet fall season in terms of extreme metal shows in some parts of America. But as luck would have it, Grave and Dark Funeral teamed up with Morbid Angel to tear across the US for roughly five weeks in what very well could be the most brutal tour of the season, and a great way to cap off the year 2012. But as Meatloaf would say, and you will see at the end of this article, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
First up for the headlining portion of the night, following two disappointing local openers, Grave hit the stage in support of their excellent new album “Endless Procession of Souls” which features new additions to the band and certainly gave them a real shot in the arm. Grave are absolutely nothing to sneeze at, but their new album exhibited an intensity that was instantly noticeable. “The overall sound of it has to do with getting some new blood into the band, Mika [Lagrén – guitar] and Tobias [Cristiansson – bass],” exclaims Grave founder and mainman Ola Lindgren. “It’s definitely a band effort, we wrote everything in the rehearsal place. Like the previous albums, our drummer and I did pretty much everything, and bounced files back and forth through email and shit and kind of did pre-productions of all the songs. We had the whole album written [prior to entering the studio] in maybe two months, writing everything, and everyone was very involved in it, so it was certainly a band effort. And it was nice to get some fresh ideas in, some new blood, and we’re very happy with it as well. Century Media [Grave’s record label – ed.] were very excited when they heard it and they’ve done a great job promoting it.”
I would suppose in any band situation, the addition of new members can drastically change a band dynamic, one way or another, with the skill, musicianship, and enthusiasm that new members can bring in. But as Lindgren will tell you personally, their new effort, which features two new members, went in the best possible direction. Lindgren explains, “It has a lot to do with Tobias for instance; he played with Dismember earlier on. He’s been with us for two years, but he wasn’t on the previous album. It’s just a different way of how he plays bass. He really plays bass, not just third guitar, kind of like what a lot of bass players do. He plays bass like a bass player, which is different to us and very cool, as well as putting a different touch to recording and to live shows. Mika, super skilled guitarist, he brought a lot of riff ideas. And the kinds of leads he does is different to what we’ve had before. Its more worked out and thought out than just noise.”
Just a few hours later, Grave certainly didn’t disappoint the crowd of the night as they rip through new songs and classics alike, such as “Disembodied Steps,” “Morbid Way to Die,” and “Into the Grave.” Despite being a longtime fan of the band, it was this writer’s first chance at seeing the band live in the flesh. They were tight, energized and absolutely flawless. European bands hitting the United States can be a challenge, both in terms of finances and support, and sometimes just simply not be in some bands’ best interests. But this is probably not the case for Grave and Dark Funeral as Lindgren will attest “It’s been really, really good, and an easy tour. We share a bus with Dark Funeral and we know those guys, so it’s been pretty easy. I did a tour with Morbid Angel in ’93, so I know Trey and David. It’s been very familiar, with no fuckin’ rock star shit. It doesn’t get you anywhere to be an asshole really. But this tour for us is definitely worth doing.”
Next up for the night is the mighty Dark Funeral, who aren’t touring in support of a new album, but instead showing off their new line-up, which features vocalist Nachtgarm and bassist Zornheym. “I wish we had a record ready, but we’ve just been busy touring, and before the end of the year, we would have been pretty much playing around the whole world,” says Lord Ahriman in our pre-show chat. “My plan was just to go out and introduce the new line-up, and especially our new frontman. I didn’t want to just go into the studio and throw it out. I wanted to go out on the road and build up a rapport and show off the new singer of the band. I think we’ve proven a lot, and those who didn’t believe in the new line-up have come around.”
After their night’s performance, there will hopefully be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this new Dark Funeral line-up is a force to be reckoned with. Blasting through the band’s catalog, fans are treated with gems like “The Arrival of Satan’s Empire” and “666 Voices Inside” before rounding off their time on stage with “The Secrets of the Black Arts” and the classic “My Funeral.” Similar to Grave’s performance, the camaraderie on this tour is certainly noticeable as the band seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and exhibiting nothing but professionalism, even down to their drummer’s foot-pedal mishap early on, that they adapted well to as they soldiered on.
Dark Funeral are no stranger to the US, and to constant touring. As Lord Ahriman explains, taking the step back and not headlining will have its perks. “On this tour, we’ve made so many new fans. We’ve been headlining for a long time, and you don’t really reach new fans that way. You play for your own crowd. And we toured that way for a long time. So this was perfect for us. I didn’t expect to reach so many new fans on this tour, but we win them over every night. That’s been really cool, being around for as long as we have, and meeting people who’ve never heard of us before. It’s been great.” Once you hit Texas though, you’re bound to be searching around for those old stereotypes you read about, such as people in cowboy hats riding horses and harassing minorities on every street corner. But for Dark Funeral, they hone in on a different characteristic of Texas when he tells me “I was joking yesterday when we played Dallas that I wanted to go out and find JR Ewing [from the television show “Dallas” – ed.]. When we saw the skyline I could hear the melody!”
I wish I could say that it was a great night all around, but as I mentioned previously, only 2/3 of the night actually was. Morbid Angel are hitting the highways in America for the first time in quite a few years in support of their recent album “Illud Divinum Insanus” and its follow-up remix album. I certainly don’t need to take up too much column space to explain the overall negative reaction to that album, as well as the band’s condescending replies to the not-so-positive reviews. In scheduling my interviews, I was well aware of what the band’s reactions to my questions could be, and I was prepared to throw a round of soft-ball questions towards them, just as a gesture of saying that the fans still like and respect you, even if your new album didn’t live up to the hype. Sadly though, none of this would come to pass. Despite being promised an interview with the band, their tour manager explained to me that the band no longer wished to grant interviews on the last part of the tour. Why would this be? I can’t really say. Frankly, I guess David Vincent and company feel that 10 minutes of their time to magazines that support them and help them reach their fans isn’t worth it. And who could blame them really? David Vincent was most likely too busy shopping at the mall for new threads and finding a new stylist to compete in local Nikki Sixx look-alike contests, while cooking up new operatic backing vocal tracks to hide the fact that he can’t sing clean, or give old Morbid Angel songs the intensity that their live performances once had. So by this point, you might say that all this could very well be true or just sour grapes, but throw out the question “How was their set?” I can answer that question with one quick reply, I left three songs in.