The Meatlocker in Montclair, New Jersey is a far cry from a cushy venue, but it offers a very real and engaging setting to get up close and personal with whoever is performing. When I heard Primitive Man and Spectral Voice were on tour together, I knew that attendance was not optional for me. The fact that their unbridled misanthropy and haunting whirlwind of chaos respectively were going to be locked inside a small and enclosed space only increased that urgency.
The first band on the bill was a local opener by the name of Locus Mortis. They don’t fit very neatly into any particular subgenre, but the strongest aspects of their sound are death and doom, with some black tossed in for good measure. The crowd was a bit antsy by the time that Locus Mortis began because the show didn’t start until almost two hours after it was scheduled to, for reasons that were never addressed. Annoying as that was, the delay allowed for the bulk of the crowd to show up for the openers, which is rarely the case in my experience. Despite being young, early in their musical careers, and taking on the burden of warming up a full house, Locus Mortis had no problem putting on a fantastic and, more importantly, memorable showcase of pessimistic and moody extreme metal. Their set fluctuated in energy levels but the majority of it was a captivating, slow-paced stew of hate that set the tone of slowly smacking into each other perfectly for the rest of the night. Or rather, for most of the night.
I say ‘most of the night’ because the second set was from Organ Dealer: a fantastic band in their own right, but a wild change of pace coming from Locus Mortis. As engaging as live grindcore tends to be, I wasn’t sold on the idea of a grind opener for a death/doom and sludge tour. However, apparently a lineup like this one works much better in practice than it does on paper, because the crowd didn’t take more than a second to transition into the ferocity required from a display of deathgrind. A mosh pit was in full swing before Organ Dealer even finished their first song, and a couple tracks later the vocalist was being carried among the fans and pressed up against the ceiling mid-performance. It’s worth noting here that the Meatlocker has a very particular DIY charm to it: the exposed pipes, the grimy, sticker-covered walls, and the claustrophobic dimensions of the venue ooze a character (among other things) that matched up perfectly with the raw and in-your-face aggression of Organ Dealer. The band wrapped up their set by playing some new tracks off of yet-to-be-released splits, all the while sneaking some banter in whenever they could. Organ Dealer’s performance ran for longer than I’ve come to expect from the grindcore family of subgenres (somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes), but it was more than enough to get the crowd excited and drenched in some especially rank-smelling sweat.
Spectral Voice followed Organ Dealer, meticulously setting up their gear and keeping chatter to a minimum before playing. I knew something special was about to go down when they carried out candelabra and set them up around the stage. However, anyone familiar with Spectral Voice should have been excited long before that; Necrotic Doom and their 2017 full length debut Eroded Corridors of Unbeing are masterful demonstrations of the band’s ability to conjure up a frightening and cavernous atmosphere of mystery and terror. The candelabra obviously suggested that the lights were going out for their set, but the near-total darkness still managed to catch me off guard. The stage lights went out, along with every other light that wasn’t from a candle, piece of equipment, or bleeding in from the merch table area.
The Denver-based death/doom outfit didn’t hesitate to envelop the Meatlocker in dangerously loud and Lovecraftian horror from the first note they played. Their mysterious but undoubtedly malevolent presence came down like a wave on the crowd in what I can safely describe as one of the most immersive live performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. It was difficult to grasp the audience’s reaction in the dark, but the feeling in the air seemed to be one of shared awe. The experience, I have to say, was soured by far too many people thinking it was okay to film the show with their flash on (completely defeating the purpose of the candlelight), but most of them respectfully put their devices away after the guitarist waved disapprovingly at them when he realized it wasn’t going to stop on it’s own. Spectral Voice’s songs are reasonably long so if memory serves, they were only able to play four tracks. Nevertheless, their live show was remarkable and absolutely sated my thirst for old-school death metal with a fresh and captivating twist. A good number of fans were moshing during this set as well, which is another thing that I would have frowned upon if I heard about it before the show, but in the moment it amplified the sense of danger and powerlessness that the music alone is capable of invoking. It was strangely fitting.
Primitive Man had the unfortunate challenge of being the act to follow something as unique and exhilarating as Spectral Voice, but even against the high bar that was established, they were positively crushing. I hadn’t been moshing (when I could avoid it) or anything like that, but the night had worn me down and I was tired as all hell. I may have considered leaving if the headliner weren’t something as promising as Primitive Man. How fitting, then, that their brand of sludge is particularly draining and pissed off, so that it was able to convert my exhaustion into a sticky and unpleasant anger mixed with fascination at the sheer volume and weight of the band. Sludge is powerful enough on the record, but to watch someone pour that negative emotion out in a live setting is something else altogether. Towards the end, their vocalist’s voice began to grow weak and the show had to come to an end when his voice was totally shot. I don’t know how much would have been left if his voice were in an optimal condition, but either way, their set was a satisfying length and served as a beautifully disgusting sendoff to this stacked concert.
Not every show can boast a lineup as strong as this, and of those that can, not every show delivers like this. While this particular tour has since come to an end, I cannot recommend seeing Locus Mortis, Organ Dealer, Spectral Voice, or Primitive Man enough if you ever get the chance. You can listen to Primitive Man’s Caustic and Spectral Voice’s Eroded Corridors of Unbeing at their respective Bandcamp pages.