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LIVE REVIEW: THE DEATH TO ALL TOUR, JUNE 23, 2012 IN HOLLYWOOD, CA

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Paul Masvidal @ Death to All

Say, is that Paul Masvidal wearing a “Metal Suckfest” t-shirt? Why yes, yes it is!

“Memories are all that’s left behind
As I lay and wait to die
Little do they know
That I hear their choice of life”

-Death, “Pull the Plug”

Who is Chuck Schuldiner? Can we ever know? So many of us fell in love with Death after Chuck died in 2001 that the mythology is all we have to go on. His outspoken stances against hard drugs. His disavowal of meathead metal shenanigans. His surprisingly square stage banter on the Live in L.A. and Live in Eindhoven albums (collected this year on Relapse’s Vivus! set). His affection for animals and the willfully short term limits for most of his Death bandmates. Schuldiner was a complicated, ever-evolving person, and his music reflects that. And because he wrote such idiosyncratic music, we assume that it must reflect something of him as a man.

In that context, the Death to All Tour – featuring seven former members of Death, and a host of supporting musicians – became more than a concert, more than an opportunity to raise money for the very worthwhile Sweet Relief charity. For the many of us who discovered Death well after Leprosy, Human and Symbolic had already passed into legend, Death to All was as close as we would ever get to experiencing Schuldiner live and in-person.

A lot had to be overcome to make this happen. Vocalist/guitarist Steffen Kummerer (Obscura) didn’t make it into the country, so he was replaced by Exhumed’s Matt Harvey last minute. Low ticket sales forced postponement of the Dallas and Atlanta stops. Cynic drummer Sean Reinert, who played on Human, tore his Achilles tendon just weeks before the tour and miraculously was still able to play six songs with a brace.

Yet despite the logistical nightmares leading up to Death to All, the sold-out Los Angeles stop couldn’t have felt more affirming. The vibe was atypically positive all night, from the humble announcements made by Harvey and the other vocalist Charles Elliott (Abysmal Dawn/Bereft) throughout the night, on to the ever-churning but friendly pit, all the way back to the merch tables. Total strangers chattered and high-fived in the House of Blues bathroom. This was a celebration of Chuck and his music, more wake than memorial.

And why shouldn’t everyone be happy? Following the better-than-I-could-have-ever-imagined set by Gorguts, four distinct lineups of Death alumni cycled through a 22-song, two-and-a-half hour set, and each one sounded nigh flawless. “Zombie Ritual” and “Suicide Machine” raged unrepentantly. “Bite the Pain” and “Crystal Mountain” grooved harder than they do on record. Not that anyone in the audience was surprised — when you funnel the virtuosity of musicians like Reinert, Paul Masvidal (Human), Gene Hoglan (Individual Thought Patterns/Symbolic) and Steve DiGiorgio (Human/Individual Thought Patterns) through Death’s always-demanding, colorful music, the fireworks fly unabated. The now-svelte Hoglan was the musical engine of the show, playing 15 songs with just one break (Intronaut drummer Danny Walker stepped to the throne for a breakneck “Secret Face”). At one point, the audience chanted “Gene! Gene! Gene!” almost as vociferously as they had chanted “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” earlier.

The one positive about Chuck’s absence was that it allowed the personalities of each of his former bandmates to shine through. Masvidal pranced around, smiling at his stagemates, clearly enjoying the fuck out of the proceedings. Dreadlocked guitarist Bobby Koelble, who migrated to jazz after performing on Symbolic, shredded his ass off on “Flesh and the Power It Holds” and “Voice of the Soul” while wearing a shit-eating grin. The Sound of Perseverance guitarist Shannon Hamm sauntered about in all-black and a ridiculous-looking keffiyeh thingy, while bassist Scott Clendenin (The Sound of Perseverance) played all-American dad in jeans and a t-shirt. The guests were a ton of fun, too. Matt Harvey proved an endearing frontman for the show’s second half, especially when he ceded the guitar podium and concentrated on the gesticulations. Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan showed up to growl over “Living Monstrosity” and spit beer at the audience. It was a motley crew, to be sure.

There was an air of inevitability about Death to All’s greatness. Even if the performances were half as powerful, there was no way that the tour would be a disappointment. For the Death veterans on stage this was a chance to reunite with old colleagues and raise money for a good cause. For the fans, Death to All contributed to the hagiography of Chuck Schuldiner. Watching a group of metal legends join forces for the first time to play the music that helped make them legendary, we not only witnessed history being made – we witnessed history being confirmed.

That felt a little uncomfortable. Death’s music (at least from Spiritual Healing on) was about nothing if not individualism, and the constant chanting of Chuck’s name, the myriad t-shirts emblazoned with his image, felt almost religious – like we were witnessing the process of Death’s deification, something that made the “Father of Death Metal” uncomfortable while he was still alive. During “Overactive Imagination” an injured audience member thrust a crutch towards the sky as if cured. Saint Chuck’s canonization was complete.

Of course, a healthy amount of cognitive dissonance was expected in an event that brought so much life to the music of a band called Death. Nobody seemed to mind the delicious irony of closing the show with an all-hands-on-deck version of “Pull the Plug,” as Death frequently did in its heyday. As Elliott, Harvey and Ryan bellowed “Release me from this lonely world / There is no hope / Why don’t you pull the plug?” Evil Chuck must have smirked from beyond the grave.

-SR

See the entire setlist and lineup for the Hollywood show [from MetalSetlists.com]:

  1. Zombie Ritual (Start of lineup 1)
  2. Leprosy
  3. Within the Mind
  4. Torn to Pieces
  5. Left to Die (Scott on bass)
  6. Suicide Machine (Start of lineup 2)
  7. Lack of Comprehension
  8. Flattening of Emotions
  9. Secret Face (Danny Walker on drums)
  10. The Philosopher (Start of lineup 3)
  11. Trapped In a Corner
  12. Overactive Imagination (Matt off guitar, Bobby on guitar)
  13. Bite the Pain (Scott on bass)
  14. Zero Tolerance (Start of lineup 4)
  15. 1,000 Eyes
  16. Crystal Mountain
  17. Flesh and the Power it Holds (Matt off guitar, Shannon on guitar)
  18. Symbolic
  19. A Moment of Clarity (Shannon on guitar)
  20. Voice of the Soul (Shannon, Bobby, Scott on acoustic guitar)
  21. Living Monstrosity (Travis Ryan, Bobby, Charles, Steve, Gene)
  22. Pull the Plug (with everybody, except Danny Walker)

Lineup 1:

Guitar / Vocals – Charles Elliott
Guitar – Paul Masvidal
Bass – Steve DiGiorgio
Drums – Sean Reinert

Lineup 2:

Guitar / Vocals – Charles Elliott
Guitar – Paul Masvidal
Bass – Steve DiGiorgio
Drums – Gene Hoglan

Lineup 3:

Guitar / Vocals – Matt Harvey
Guitar – Shannon Hamm
Bass – Steve DiGiorgio
Drums – Gene Hoglan

Lineup 4:

Guitar / Vocals – Matt Harvey
Guitar – Bobby Koelble
Bass – Scott Clendenin
Drums – Gene Hoglan

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