A few years ago, if word got around that Cannibal Corpse were to be performing in Bangalore, most of us would have laughed it off as a rumor, refusing to believe it. Now, a few days after the festival, some of us are still in a state of disbelief- that it actually happened! The first edition of Cult Fest took place on the 11th of April 2015, at Manpho Convention Centre, Bengaluru. This was no genre-specific festival, with the line-up boasting of a diversity of bands like Pyramids, Abraxas, Plague Throat, and international headliners Suicide Silence and Cannibal Corpse.
Gig day started off well, with the sun out in its full glory and a reasonably decent turnout even at the beginning of the festival. Pyramids, the winner of the battle of the bands, kicked off the show with a tight set. Short of time, as is the case with almost any band starting the events of the day, Pyramids were fun to watch for the couple of hundred fans who had arrived already. Certainly a band to keep an eye out for on the progressive scene if you haven’t heard of them before.
Pune metal band Abraxas followed up Pyramids with a strong hassle-free performance and kept the proceedings tight. Abraxas has a unique sound that needs to be mixed perfectly and spot on they were. Announced as the support act for Suicide Silence, the boys from Pune certainly kept the organizers’ faith in them with their set. It was also the first time many of us were watching Abraxas perform with their new line-up, and they have evidently improved remarkably over the last few years. Their music, however, has not moved away from being very typical, formulaic metalcore. Yet, that didn’t stop the crowd from kicking up a dust-storm in the pit and enjoying their set.
The scarce early crowd had started to grow in numbers during Abraxas’ performance and grew to fill the venue more by the time they ended a well-played set. Up next was a band which a lot of fans had flown in to see. As expected, the three piece act started with an explosive song and demolished their way through to the end of their set. Shillong’s Plague Throat have been to Wacken, and for good reason. Their Dying Fetus-like setup was like a prime ribeye steak being served to death metal fans’ woven hunger for that style of music. With an extremely low-tuned rhythmic approach to their wall of sound, the boys from Plague Throat interacted with the audience, got the pits going and made sure that the stage was set for the first international act of the evening, Suicide Silence.
The venue suddenly filled up significantly when Suicide Silence came on stage. It was a pleasant surprise to see the huge number of Suicide Silence fans who had turned up for the show, grooved along with them, and knew each song word to word, cementing the band’s reach to their Indian audience. The deathcore act from Riverside, California, played a super tight and energetic set that they unfortunately had to cut short because of the threatening weather. The highlight of the set however, were the vocals. Vocalist Hernan “Eddie” Hermida’s versatility was evident in this live performance where he literally leveraged every unclean vocal technique to give the band’s performance a fitting impetus. All in all, the wait to watch the headliners Cannibal Corpse was made worthwhile by these acts and the audience was definitely satisfied with what they experienced.
The most awaited band of the evening sent the crowd into a roaring, restless tizzy. As the rain started beating down and the blood red logo of Cannibal Corpse raised as the backdrop, the atmosphere grew monstrous as ever. The adrenaline rush grew from the time the techs were setting up till the instant the five of them walked in and took their respective spots- the most conspicuous being George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher. His dominant, mammoth like presence sent the crowd into a whirlwind of cheers and roars, and in an instant they started “Scourge of Iron”, and the crowd were mowed down by the rhythmic bulldozer of Cannibal Corpse. Note after note, groove after groove, Paul, Rob, Alex, George, and Pat showed the audience why they have established themselves at the pedestal of death metal. As the rain beat down harder, there were slush pits on either side, giving some the opportunity to indulge themselves in some mud play while the others cringed at the thought of having their clothes dirtied. The rain also prompted George to say that even Mother Nature could not stop them that day. As the set carried on without a glitch, we were taken back in time, from ‘Evisceration Plague’ to ‘Gallery of Suicide’ and back again to ‘A Skeletal Domain’. “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” was massive and to see George do it was truly fruitful. His windmills terrifyingly delighting, and the combined mastery of Alex and Pat O’Brien was truly divine to watch.
Watching Alex Webster in the flesh was truly a dream for many, and as most would agree, the highlight of the night. The mosh pits were well below expectation, and besides the general roaring and cheering, the crowd otherwise seemed weak. Except of course, when “Hammer Smashed Face” was announced, which is when everyone seemed to go ballistic- An understandable fact, considering that whether CC fan or not, it’s a go-to song for many a death metal listener. This was supposed to have been the last song, as the rains had made their mark and rendered the stage and the equipment unusable. A great blow to a lot of fans, who were expecting 20 or so songs and were witness to just about half of that. The set list was concluded with “Make Them Suffer”, a fine choice to end (as would have been pretty much any song), the outro comprising of Paul and Alex showcasing invincibility when it comes to death metal drums and bass. The vast monolith had finally called it a day.
A shout out has to be made to S&D Audio, who, despite the imminent storm and unfavourable conditions for their own equipment, went on with the gig. It has to be said that the downpour was quite heavy as Cannibal Corpse was about to take stage. Though prepared for the rains, some of the sound equipment took a beating. Wires were lying in water because the ground near the stage had turned into sludge and the stage itself had become unsafe to use. Much gratitude has to be expressed to S&D Audio, without whom even watching as much of Cannibal Corpse as we did, wouldn’t have been possible.
Cannibal Corpse was not just a gig, it was an experience, a serum injected into our respective memories, venomous and incurable. A night very few will forget and even fewer will not want to re-live.
This review is a combined effort by the entire Headbangers India team.
Photographs by Subhramani Sathyanarayan.