The Iron Will Tour has come off its Canadian leg to violently penetrate America with dose after dose of death metal. I drove up to St. Paul in the rain and then in circles downtown looking for a place to park, but I persevered, and made it to Station 4 in time to catch opening act Rose Funeral.
I wasn’t sure how this lone deathcore band would fit on a tour of death metal heavyweights. But when the band launched into their set, they proved themselves with a fury. Vocalist Ryan Gardner made several obscene stroking gestures which the crowd seemed to appreciate. “You know all the controversy, breakdowns versus solos,” he said. “Fuck all that. We’re here to play music. Even for zero dollars, we’re happy to be here and play you motherfuckers.”
By the time Rose Funeral left the stage, the crowd had grown and the sweat was flowing. Station 4 is a goddamn oven. But more metalheads kept showing up, willing to bake in hell for Vital Remains, who blasted through “Icons of Evil,” “Dechristianize,” and “Hammer Down the Nails” among others, bathed in infernal red light. “We’re old school death metal,” Vocalist Brian Werner proclaimed, “we’ve been doing this shit for twenty years” (though guitarist Tony Lazaro is the only remaining original member). And after twenty years Vital Remains have lost none of their fury. They dedicated the set to Gwar guitarist Cory Smoot—whose birthday would have been the very same night—who played his final show last year across the river in Minneapolis.
At this point in the show I found I could almost wring out my shirt. Between every set there was a mass exodus to the bar and the front sidewalk. But there was no way I would miss Fleshgod Apocalypse, a band I had been dying to see live. They did not disappoint. Clad in their torn tuxedos and face grime, the Italian quintet performed material from Mafia, along with the best from Agony: “The Deceit,” “The Egoism,” and “The Violation,” finishing with “The Forsaking.” I haven’t seen a band provoke fans into such self-brutalizing in quite a while. Afterward I overheard fans saying how Fleshgod put on an even better show than last time. My only complaint is that the set seemed short—but that’s just because Fleshgod Apocalypse left me wanting more.
Those of you who just can’t live without seeing Origin will be disappointed: after Iron Will hits Chicago, Origin drops off the tour. But in St. Paul, they delivered a brutal set that kept the night’s energy going strong. Jason Keyser sure does talk a lot, though. He repeatedly waved a camera on a stick at the crowd, taunting with it, threatening live DVDs and other forthcoming material. I’m not as familiar with Origin’s music as I am with the other bands’, but it’s every bit as brutal. If you’ve never seen Origin before, they’re worth checking out—it’s rare you find a band that both kicks your ass and makes you laugh (with them, not at them). At the end of the set, Keyser collapsed in a chair at the merchandise table, melting, as miserable as everyone else, but obviously pleased with himself.
Last of the night, Kataklysm. Like Vital Remains, after twenty-one years of death metal, Kataklysm still has what it takes. They played a forty minute set that spanned the Kataklysm discography. Maurizio Iacono was in a humble mood throughout, dedicating the performance to us, the fans. He drank repeatedly to us. Those who were left, anyway. The crowd had thinned considerably—by now the heat had become unbearable. Iacono seemed genuinely grateful to the fans who stayed. “You can’t break the spirit of a metalhead,” he said before the band unleashed “I slither” and “Crippled and Broken” and other brutality upon us. Afterward, I stepped out into the night and almost froze. But Kataklysm made sweating in the Station 4 oven worth it.
The Iron Will Tour is halfway over. Catch the tour at the following stops.
8/28 – Poughkeepsie, NY – The Loft
8/29 – Worcester, MA – The Palladium
8/30 – New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre
8/31 – Springfield, VA – Empire (previously known as Jaxx)
9/01 – Charlotte, NC – Tremont Music Hall
9/02 – Tampa, FL – The Orpheum
9/04 – Houston, TX – Numbers Night Club
9/05 – Dallas, TX – Trees