Dying Fetus, Exhumed, Waking the Cadaver, DNA Lounge, San Francisco CA, 17/10/13

Of strained necks and seasoned death vets...

At some point in the show, my neck totally gave out.

It happened acutely while Exhumed ground the place to a pulp. One minute, I was fine -- more than fine, actually, as Exhumed was reducing me to a headbanging fiend. The next, I was hit with a sharp pain that immediately curtailed any movement of the headbanging sort. Before I knew it, I found it difficult to look down at my phone, and instead had to raise it to my face like some gimp goon. Which I was.

But I digress. Injuries aside, what we had here in the City by the Bay was a night of fine brutality. While Texas deathmasters Devourment had to pull out of the line-up at the last minute, between Exhumed and headliners Dying Fetus, there was still more than enough gnarlitude to go around. 

I came in about halfway through Abiotic's set. The band is hella technically sound -- the bassist shone on their last song for sure. But their persistent incorporation of drops takes something away from some otherwise inventive compositions and really skillful playing. I had a similar problem with New Jersey's Waking the Cadaver as well. I get it, drops are sooo damn heavy, but they become schtick when they get used in every single song. Nevertheless, the dudes were good sports about a bad sound tech that took more than ten minutes to get them mixed OK. And they had some traction in the pit. Even a lone two-stepper got his shine. Aww.

During the first two sets, it was also interesting to note the split in the pit, so to speak, between 'bangers and hardcore kids. Those few courageous (or goofy enough) to run into the pit, fists a-swingin', often got targeted by the metalheads who clearly felt this was not the place for such antics. But that split added some good tension to the pit, which frothed steadily throughout the night. 

Exhumed was up next, and as I alluded to earlier, they tore shit up. Playing both old and new, there was no let-up between songs -- it was a brutally good set. Truth be told, the audio mix was pretty muddy and I had trouble making out much more than the rhythmic qualities of  some of the riffs, but the blasting of drummer Mike Hamilton was never in question. Likewise, Bud Burke laid down some blistering solo work that grabbed me by the throat and shook me. Metal. 

As I witnessed the grind, I got the distinct whiff of gasoline in the air. What could it be? Ah, naturally -- a dude in a doctor's coat wielding a chainsaw. Playing songs like Dysmorphic off their latest album, Necrocracy (Relapse), and closing out with -- what else -- The Matter of Splatter, Exhumed laid down an onslaught that would have been hard to follow for anyone.

Finally, it was time. At this point, I was both excited to see Dying Fetus and bummed that my neck was in such bad shape. But fuck it, right? I was hyped. Guitarist John Gallagher called out song after song, spanning the entirety of Dying Fetus' admirable catalogue of brutal, slamcentric death. The frantic yet brutal nature of Gallagher's pinch-n'-drop guitar work was on full display. Likewise, the vocals of Gallagher and bassist, Sean Beasley, were on point. And drummer Trey Williams-- I just kept hearing the words 'carpal tunnel' in my head as I watched his sticks blast around the drumset.

Playing the classics to a diverse crowd -- at one point, Gallagher happily noted a girl who couldn't have been older than six accompanied by family in the crowd -- Dying Fetus had the whole place screaming for more. One Shot, One Kill was a favourite, along with Homicidal Retribution, Killing on Adrenaline, and a whole bevy of other, brutal-minded tunes. Tracks from their latest release, Reign Supreme, were also tight as hell -- Second Skin was a personal favourite. And when you can get a whole crowd of folks to gleefully shout out, 'Kill your mother, rape your dog!' you know you've got something special.

Oddly, the mix for Fetus' set seemed astonishingly quiet. After Exhumed, Dying Fetus' set was still satisfying but didn't translate the same raw feel. All in all, however, the songs were played impeccably and I was happy to hear Gallagher hint at a forthcoming album for 2014. I left the show a satisfied customer, neck a-throbbing quietly growling 'Kill! Kill! Kill!' to myself.

Check out more Dying Fetus/Exhumed dates here