Grave/Dark Funeral/Morbid Angel – The Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah 08/10/2012

A dervish of blasphemous metal sweeps through Salt Lake City.

It's the close of conference weekend; a time when this area's predominant religion holds its annual mass congregation and the city is descended upon by a swarm of suits and ties, and neat, tidy haircuts from LDS members around the world. So what better way to punctuate the event than by a blasphemous benediction provided by Grave, Dark Funeral, and Morbid Angel?

Kicking things off were Swedish death metal pioneers, Grave. Touring behind their latest album, Endless Procession Of Souls, Grave wasted no time in jumping into a fierce eight song set. The bulk of which was from their classic 90's material with three from the latest release. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a solid set of straight up death metal. Bassist Tobias Christiansson played the entire set on a bass with three strings. A sobering example of how bad it has gotten for musicians these days; truly dark times when bassists must sacrifice a string just so the band can eat.

Following Grave was the ironic accoutrement of a Dark Funeral. A minor 'Spinal Tap' moment preceded Dark Funeral when their massive, canvas banner was accidentally hung upside down, un-inverting the inverted crosses in their logo, making them a Christian band – for about one minute. It's been nearly a decade since these Swedes have graced this state with their dark blessing. They burned through a blackened set list that included 666 Voices Inside, The Arrival Of Satan's Empire, and, for the couples in the room, Goddess Of Sodomy. The band was pure intensity and vocalist Nachtgarm prowled the stage like a menacing Golem, belting out raspy Satanic hymns, while staring down the crowd and occasionally breaking into a wickedly unnerving smile.

Closing out the evening was Morbid Angel. Formed from the same swampy, Florida ooze that burped out Obituary, Death, And Deicide; Morbid Angel set themselves apart from their contemporaries, eschewing the traditional violent and satanic themes of their colleagues and approaching lyrics from a more Lovecraftian, occultist standpoint; songs became incantations to conjure the occasional ancient Sumerian god. The band stomped their way through the thirteen song set-list. Primary songwriter, Trey Azagthoth's unique style is the unlikely result of an obsession with Eddie Van Halen, but it's almost impossible to identify that influence in his writing. He somehow internalized and processed the snappy, party riffs of Van Halen and catalyzed them into sinuous, dark, mid-paced grindings that loop and twist. Much like your bowels after hearing them at crushing volumes, God Of Emptiness being a prime example. Midway through the set, charismatic singer David Vincent was faced with equipment issues. Not to let that get the best of him, he ditched his instrument, and, being the pro that he is, sang the next few songs bass-less; treating the stubborn mic stand, that was set up by a roadie who may have been worried about tornadoes, like remains of a gazelle carcass. The band closed their set with the song World Of Shit (The Promised Land) off 1993's Covenant album. No encore was needed, and all bands graciously stuck around to chat with the fans and sign autographs. .

Photo provided by Winter Moon Photography: