Eyehategod / Goatwhore – April 9, 2023 – The Brass Mug, Tampa, FLSaturday, 15th April 2023
Photos by: Brittany Barkasi
Easter Sunday. Typically a day reserved for plastic egg hunts, chocolate, watching a zombie flick or two, and that silly church stuff for those so inclined. For me, it’s usually spent watching the original Dawn of the Dead or something in that realm. For a metal fan, there’s usually not a whole lot related going on. This year, however, was very different.
The Louisiana twosome of sludge legends Eyehategod and blackened thrash/death mainstays Goatwhore were teaming up for a tour, and the date nearest just happened to fall on, you guessed it: Easter Sunday. The ironic naming conventions of the bands involved was way too delicious to pass up, though obviously a show worthy of any number of special occasions, or just to have a fun and blasphemous evening out.
Onward we went to Tampa’s long-standing location for anything metal, The Brass Mug, for a good time fit for any heathen. Arriving just in time for the local openers, with a packed house of fellow metalheads ready to celebrate the season awaiting.
Dirtwitch kicked off proceedings, bringing a downtrodden post-metal flair to the table. Think Holy Fawn’s melancholic shoegaze style merged with a little bit of Oathbreaker for a dosage of angst, together forming the basis of their overall sound. Lead vocalist Ana Figueroa adds a standout component, smoothly traversing from harsh screams to emotive cleans like flicking a switch. The band have a debut EP titled Guided by Confused Light that was recently released via various music streaming services, and it’s absolutely worth a listen. We’ll be keeping an eye on this group for more in the future, as they’ve fostered something intriguing that is right in yours truly’s wheelhouse.
Tunnels of Set
Next up was Tunnels of Set – formerly known as Merciless Scum – having gone from a blackened grindcore sound, to shedding the grind portion and focusing more on crafting black metal going forward, complete with a new moniker. The band played a powerful set, including cuts from their previous moniker and more recent material, putting forth a straightforward black metal assault that keenly connected with the growing crowd. Hopefully newly recorded material in their updated musical avenue is on the horizon for these Tampa locals, as we’d definitely like to hear more.
The last of the local acts was Tickle, who play a sludge-inspired doom that’s quirky in an enjoyable manner. Vocalist Jack Peak was ear-to-ear smiles throughout the entire set, joking with the crowd about being old and having Easter dinner at Carrabba’s, all while playing songs about a horse (complete with horse mask on the mic stand), a cat named Bradley that hung around their practice space and had a not so friendly tussle with a dog in “Bradley’s Revenge,” amongst other bits of silliness. With that said, their sound was heavy and calculated, spinning their brand of sludgy Dad doom to the delight of the crowd. This writer will gladly check the band out again, or even catch a meal with them at a local buffet, to aid in Peak’s stated plight of helping bassist Eddie Perkins add a pound or two. Good times, all around!
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Intensity was about to hit a fever pitch, as Goatwhore arrived to obliterate the now warmed up and raucous crowd with their trademark thrashy black/death metal onslaught. Vocalist Louis Ben Falgoust II instantly whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his bellowing growl and commanding stage presence, showing the fervor that’s made Goatwhore a household name in the black metal realms. He of course needed to bring up the Easter holiday, welcoming the audience to “This holy day, for this unholy ceremony,” while also humorously stating that it took him six hours to figure that quote out. Quite a ceremony it was, as the veterans annihilated the crowd with a furious set of both classic and recent tracks.
From the raw intensity that is early piece “Sky Inferno” to the hook-filled “Apocalyptic Havoc” from the Carving Out the Eyes of God album, which was key in elevating the band back in 2009. “In Deathless Tradition” brought a crunchy melodic edge, while “Baring Teeth for Revolt” sped by relentlessly, with a mosh pit that engulfed most of the floor. Not to be left out were several selections from their most recent and acclaimed album Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven, such as the crunchy title track, the thrash-incarnite “Death from Above,” and the ground stomping potency of “Nihil.” Every song, no matter what era of the band, was masterfully executed with precision and flair.
Guitarist Sammy Duet swiftly breezed along the fretboard, making the complex look effortless, as his razor sharp tone cut deep and drove the crowd mad. The rhythm section of drummer Zack Simmons and bassist Robert “TA” Coleman set the pace with aggression; the stage constantly reverberating from their violent attack. Of course, the already mentioned Falgoust II, roared with ferocity and lit up the patrons with gusto.
Goatwhore tours relentlessly, spending more days on the road than many of their peers. Their work ethic and determination pays off, as their skill on stage is finely tuned and demonstrative. Simply put, if blackened death metal with gobs thrash insanity is one’s bag, then Goatwhore is assuredly on the radar, and experiencing them live comes at the highest recommendation.
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Headliners and NOLA legends Eyehategod capped the evening off with their no holds barred southern style sludge moods, much to the delight of the audience, who had recovered just enough from Goatwhore to get riled up once more. Playing selections from their now 35 year career, the group’s smoldering of mammoth riffs and agitated attitude were on full display. This tour is also part of the band celebrating the 30th anniversary of their legendary Take as Needed for Pain record, with several cuts sprinkled into their set being highlights, along with selections from their latest expedition in grime, A History of Nomadic Behavior.
The band’s stripped down and nasty demeanor on record translated well to the live setting on this evening, boasting a cohesiveness that was a pleasure to witness. Guitarist Jimmy Bower took in the atmosphere with every grime-soaked riff and lick; his stringed weapon of choice reverberating through the walls with each downpicked note. Vocalist Mike IX Williams’ displayed an embattled focus with his indignant howl, and it was good to see him perform to a high level, considering the significant personal and health-related battles he has fought through. Gary Mader’s thumping bass lines added an integral heft, while drummer Aaron Hill’s vicious drumming is the backbone to performing this music to the required levels of devoted fury.
It’s certainly good to see Eyehategod firing at a precise clip, with the aforementioned struggles that they’ve endured. This scribe enjoyed seeing the doom legends cranking out their tunes with the pain-ridden rage that clearly defined their sound, and most of all, embracing the impact they’ve collectively made and letting loose to have fun with it.
This was a crowd that was hyped up for a night of heresy and heavy metal, and all of the bands on the bill played their part, delivering a show that was fit for defaming the holiday it shared a calendar date with. The Brass Mug was a perfect setting, being a legendary spot for Tampa metal that continues to be a comforting locale for our style of music. The local bands all provided their own distinct flavor to the feast, along with Goatwhore and Eyehategod providing a savage main course.
It had been at least 9 years or so since last seeing Goatwhore – though we’ve seen them about 20 times to date – and it was excellent to witness a satisfying smattering of their distinct brand of black metal. Goatwhore have sharpened and perfected their craft over the years via immense skill and unmatched hard work. I’m convinced that they’ll never slow down, continuing to cement their heretical legacy for years to come.
As Eyehategod is concerned, we hope that Williams’ health issues are truly behind him, and there are numerous albums and many shows like tonight in store for a band who have paid their dues, while contributing immensely to their chosen genre.
Happy slimy and depraved Easter everyone!