Prior to Inter Arma’s set at Big Shot’s in Valparaiso this past Friday night, I don’t think I had ever seen a Theremin in person. I’m positive that I had never seen a metal band make use of one. It worked, though, as did pretty much everything about the Richmond band’s entirely too brief 30 minutes on stage. I’ll be honest here: even though I tend to appreciate bands that are difficult to classify, for some reason Inter Arma had never really clicked for me; I’ve always preferred the more straightforward black metal of Bastard Sapling, which also features both of Inter Arma’s guitarists and their lead vocalist. Inter Arma is a much different animal live than they are on record, though – they’re much leaner and a lot less atmospheric, melding dissonant black metal riffing with some of the more tribal elements of Neurosis, with drummer T.J. Childers deftly navigating all of the shifts in tempo and time signature. These guys impressed the hell out of me, and I need to go back and give Paradise Gallows, their most recent record, another listen.
There’s already been a ton of virtual ink spilled about how Deafheaven is the odd band out on this bill, so I’m not going to get into that here. The truth is that we’re pretty big Deafheaven fans here at Indy Metal Shows, so we were thrilled to see them on this bill. We were actually supposed to see them back in January with Lamb of God, but ended up missing most of their set. I’m actually glad we got to see them in a smaller venue rather than at the Old National Center, though, because George Clarke is entirely too mesmerizing a frontman not to be experienced from up close. Frequently waving his arms like a conductor, he led the band through a highly enjoyable (if occasionally slightly loose) nearly hour-long set that included songs from all three of the band’s full-lengths, including a stellar version of “Unrequited” from Roads to Judah to close out their set. And say what you will about the band being divisive among metalheads: they had pretty much the entire crowd with them from first note to last.
Carcass has been sitting near the top of my metal bucket list for a while now, and since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, let’s take a moment to not only be thankful that Bill Steer and Jeff Walker are still touring under the reunited Carcass banner, but that they’re not just touring as a nostalgia act. They played just as many songs from 2013’s excellent comeback record Surgical Steel as they did from their seminal 1993 album Heartwork, and the fact that the newer songs like “Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System” and “Captive Bolt Pistol” were just as well-received as classics like “Heartwork” and “Carnal Forge” shows that they’re just as musically vital as they ever were. On stage, the band was clearly having a blast as they tore through a 75-minute set that touched on all phases of their long and legendary career, and video boxes perched atop the stage amps flashed a series of appropriately grisly images to accompany the songs (though I probably could have lived without seeing some of the visuals for “Genital Grinder,” but I digress). Somehow Bill Steer has barely aged a day, and his solos were fluid, shreddy, and totally on point all night. Here’s hoping they don’t put this reunion to bed any time soon.
All told, Friday was one of the best shows I’ve been to this year, and I wish there were more tour packages with that much variety between the bands. Also, it was nice to see such a big turnout at Big Shots – I’ve been to a few shows there, and Valpo seems to be kind of a tough town for death metal. Hopefully it bodes well for future metal shows in NW Indiana.