It’s 70 miles to the Intersection in Grand Rapids, MI, I have a half a tank of gas, two tickets to the Skeletonwitch and The Black Dahlia Murder concert, it’s mostly cloudy with snow flurries and I’m wearing sunglasses. Hit it!
The people of Grand Rapids, Michigan were visited by the Thanksgiving fairy, who delivered them two Metal titans two days before the holiday: Skeletonwitch, whose new album “Serpents Unleashed,” which I reviewed in November, is the best material the band has released; and home state favorites The Black Dahlia Murder, whose 2013 album “Everblack” is among the best I’ve heard this year.
The last time I was at the Intersection I had the privilege of watching Chimaira, who put on a great show, but unfortunately the attendance number was low. So when my son Nick and I hit the road, I was really hoping my metalhead peers wouldn’t miss out this time. After battling the 5:00 out of work highway traffic and the start of snow showers, we arrived surprisingly early at the venue. After we visited the merchandise tables and the bar, the concert started. There were two opening bands who both played thirty minute sets, Chicago based black metallers Wolvhammer, and San Francisco based death metal band Fallujah. I loved Wolvhammer‘s style of hypnotic riffs and neck snapping grooves. Fallujah‘s first couple songs sounded like a wall of noise but I quite enjoyed the last 20 minutes of the band’s show, which switched from mind blowing atmospherics to ripping technical skills.
I’m happy I hit the bathroom right after Fallujah, because Skeletonwitch exploded on stage with no warning. For those of you that don’t know, this band puts on a killer live show. Chance Garnette and company go about their business in a very workman like manner and waste no time fucking around, transitioning quickly from one song to the next. I wondered how many new songs they would put in their playlist and how they would sound. I’m happy to report that “Serpents Unleashed,” “Burned From Bone” and “I am of Death (Hell has Arrived)” fit in seamlessly. Drummer Dustin Boltjes, bassist Evan Linger, guitarists Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick, along with vocalist Chance Garnette brutally tore through the rest of their set. Songs like ‘Beyond the Permafrost,’ ‘Repulsive Salvation,’ ‘Reduced to the Failure of Prayer’ and and ‘Within My Blood’ sounded so great I felt like I was sitting at home listening to them on my ipod. I tip my hat off to Skeletonwitch and say, well done, boys.
The thing I took away from watching The Black Dahlia Murder is that they are a relentless ball of energy. Frontman and vocalist Trevor Strnad never stopped. Throughout the set he was constantly fist pumping and running around the stage, whipping the crowd into a frenzy by yelling crazy stuff like “Stop itching your dicks!” and “Get off your assholes!” and “You’re all moles looking for your holes!” The last quote made me laugh so hard I thought my beer was going to spout out my nose. Musically, drummer Alan Cassidy, bassist Max Lavelle, guitarists Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight, with Strnad destroyed the Intersection. New songs ‘In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me,’ ‘Goat of Departure,”Phantom Limb Masturbation,’ ‘Every Rope a Noose,’ and ‘Map of Scars’ were executed flawlessly. I have to give a special shoutout to Knight, his amazing solos were the highlight of my concert experience.
Getting back to the crowd attendance, when we first arrived I believe the line had 20 to 30 people. About the time when Skeletonwitch hit the stage, though, I looked around and let out a sigh of relief, realizing a ton of people had shown up. And let me tell, you they were ready to rumble. Multiple pits, crowd surfing, and people throwing anything they could get their hands on up in the air. The intensity ratcheted up when The Black Dahlia Murder started to play. Old favorites like ‘Unhallowed,’ ‘Necorpolis’ and ‘Moonlight Equilibrium’ delivered vicious circle pits. You had guys getting a running start and plowing into the pit, sometimes blindsiding unsuspecting people minding their own business. At one point in the show Strnad took off his shirt, hilariously revealing the word “Heartburn” tattooed across his stomach. In turn 6-7 big guys in the pit also tore off their shirts and proceeded to act out a metal gladiator “only the strongest survive” pit. I saw a lot of bodies crash on the concrete floor and security breaking up fights, and I’m sure there were a lot of sore people waking up the next day, but damn it was entertaining to watch.
When the music was over and the dust had settled, Nick and I surveyed what was left of the Intersection: countless beer cups on the floor, tattered remains of clothing, some people limping away from the pit area, and most important of all, a lot of people with huge smiles on their faces, including mine, knowing that night Wolvhammer, Fallujah, Skeletonwitch, and The Black Dahlia Murder just kicked major ass.