It’s my inaugural post for Indy Metal Vault, and as a recent Indianapolis transplant I figured there’s no better way to check the pulse of a local scene than observing turn-out for a stacked bill on a Tuesday night. Just a few weeks removed from unloading my precious heavy metal vinyl from a U-Haul truck, I was told by a few kvlt locals that Black Circle Brewing is one of the spots to watch for upcoming shows. So I threw on my battle vest—stained with dried blood from Trap Them vocalist Ryan McKenney’s broken nose—and prepared to revel in ear-hammering death metal goodness from Necrot, Blood Incantation, and local profaners Obscene.
When Obscene took the stage the projector behind them malfunctioned just as Ripley was torching some Xenomorph scum in Aliens. No matter, because Obscene brought their own incendiary assault. Frontman Kyle Shaw deserves every beer bought for him during the evening for booking the show and bringing Necrot and Blood Incantation into town during a Decibel Tour off-day. As a performer, his arched eyebrows and unblinking stare feel diabolical. His hoarse, bone-dry scream captures the rawness of Malevolent Creation’s Brett Hoffman and the diseased power of Iron Monkey’s Johnny Morrow. Behind him, the Obscene instrumentalists mined death metal’s history for a tasty pastiche of early ‘90s Floridian tempo changes, Gothenburg harmonies, and passages of subterranean death-doom. After saluting the crowd with double devil-horns and sipping his Miller Light, Shaw joined in a literal stomping finale that shook the room.
“Our set was 90% newer material that will find its way onto our debut full length The Inhabitable Dark, set to be released through Blood Harvest Records,” Shaw confirmed after the show. “We enter Earth Analog studios in June with Carl Byers (Coffinworm, Kvlthammer) engineering and mixing under the Clandestine Arts banner. Damian Herring will be mastering via Subterranean Watchtower. The material is much more aggressive than our Sermon to the Snake demo which was a bit of a moody release, for lack of a better term. However, fans of that demo shouldn’t fret. There’s still plenty of ignorant riffs, melodic harmonies, and acid vocals that will satiate any hesher’s rotting desires.”
Before leaving the stage, Shaw challenged the audience to stay engaged and keep supporting extreme music. “If you keep coming out to death metal shows, I’ll keep booking ‘em,” he promised.
Obscene beer pairing: Exemption (Belgian tripel from Taxman Brewing Company). A delicious take on an unfuckwithable brew style with an 8.5% ABV mean-streak.
All photos: Joshua Lohrman
In one of the most perfect marriages of movie selection and live music possible, Black Circle started playing John Carpenter’s The Thing while Rocky Mountain cosmic-terror explorers Blood Incantation took the stage. Even barefooted drummer Isaac Faulk noticed, taking delight in Kurt Russell’s snow-smothered beard gracing screens across the venue. If you haven’t heard Blood Incantation, picture the shapeshifting extraterrestrial entity from The Thing mutating the most twisted compositions from Demilich and Morbid Angel. They loaded their set with dizzying cuts from their Starspawn LP, illuminating their technical prowess without sacrificing urgency. While listening to spacebound epics like the two-part “Vitrification of Blood” is worth the entry fee alone, one of the best surprises is how god damn funny vocalist/guitarist Paul Riedl is between songs. Soaked in red light, Riedl’s deadpan elevator-pitches sharing the sci-fi narratives of each song inspired inebriated smirks throughout the set. Whether he was talking about freezing to death in a jettisoned escape pod or (allegedly) writing their songs on shrooms, he kept the quips and the riffs coming. On a personal note, I actually fell in love with my girlfriend during a Demilich/Blood Incantation show in Philly almost a year ago. Maybe lyrics about astral beasts and corrupted DNA don’t spell romance for most people, but I think most in the audience have probably slow-danced to Altars of Madness at some point. Their 35-minute set was as dense as a dying star, punctuated with laughter and eye-widening fretboard wizardry. Blood Incantation are a don’t-miss death metal act and I’m salivating over potential new material.
Blood Incantation beer pairing: Escape Goat (Raspberry Ale with Earl Gray, from Black Circle Brewing). Complex and sneakily psychedelic flavors.
All photos: Joshua Lohrman
I last saw Bay Area crushers Necrot when I was at Decibel’s Metal & Beer fest in Los Angeles. Dwarfed by the massive stage of a historic theater, they seemed slightly out of place. But their crusty death metal propulsion is perfect for a venue like Black Circle, where frontman/bassist Luca Indrio can spray the front row with sweat as he headbangs. Indrio confirmed he had only played in Indy once prior, and the weather welcomed them rudely this time with temperatures nearing single-digits. But Necrot’s buzzsaw worship by way of Bolt Thrower is the perfect chaser for Blood Incantation’s mind-bending set. Death metal trios can sound a bit thin when the lone guitarist is soloing, and Necrot faces that limitation occasionally as Sonny Reinhardt lets it rip. But overall they deliver the bulldozing riffs and pit-stirring intensity that made their Blood Offerings record such a head-turning release. Scanning the audience, fans were growling in unison with Indrio. Obscene’s Shaw pumped his fist as “Breathing Machine” exhaled from the amplifiers. Explaining they had to reach Buffalo early the next day to rejoin the rest of their tour mates, Indrio charmed the audience when he wasn’t demolishing eardrums. The tunes were over by 10:35 PM so corporate goons like me could clock in and pretend I wasn’t listening to songs about torture and dismemberment on a Tuesday evening. But all those concerns were pushed aside for a night. As Idrio reminded us before closing with “The Abyss,” “Only death is real.”
“What appealed to me about booking a show like this is unabashed fandom,” Shaw admits. “I’m not the kind of person who can book a show every week, and I’m only interested in booking shows for something I think would appeal to me as a fan and regular attendee at gigs around town. I also hadn’t seen either Necrot or Blood Incantation prior which was even more appealing. As a death metal fan, I think they’re two of the best in the game right now. And I really liked the dichotomy of having meat and potatoes death metal like Necrot and Blood Incantation who sort of straddle the line between progressive and raw death metal.”
Necrot beer pairing: Deflection (Dunkel, from Centerpoint Brewing Company). Reliable and malty, with “Layers of Darkness.”
All photos: Joshua Lohrman
“The turnout was great; much better than anticipated,” Shaw beams. “As far as per numbers, [it was] the second ‘biggest’ show I’ve booked in town. Booking extreme metal shows in Indy can be very risky business. I’ve seen bands I felt should pack a house play to nobody. I vividly remember seeing Incantation play to 10 people in 2000 when The Infernal Storm was released. So, it’s almost a minor victory when underground metal gigs have a healthy attendance in town.”
“As far as I can tell, everyone had a great time and respected each other,” he continues. “No pit drama, no Nazi shitheads, no bullshit. Just metal maniaxe congregating for the right reasons.”
It looked and sounded like a victory to me. No “minor” qualifying word required.