Live Review: Carcass, Crowbar, Ghoul, and Night Demon Live at Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT

After a two hour drive down to New Haven, Connecticut on yet another hot, humid summer night and two trips from the car to the front entrance of Toad’s Place (I had forgotten the camera) I was pleasantly surprised to step into an air conditioned venue. I had never been to Toad’s, let alone New Haven, and unlike the sticky floors and musty smells of some of the hole in the walls I frequent, the place could be one of the perfect spots to take in a metal show with its wide open and simplistic floor plan of stage, floor, bar. Green neon lights gives the place almost a carnival feel and as people trickle in from the sidewalks of beautiful downtown New Haven they collect together in groups, belly up the bar or check out the merch booths. The mood is light and the stage was set. Not long after I’ve arrived the house lights fade to black and the crowd collects lazily as the drummer of Night Demon, a band I had never heard before tonight, settled in behind the kit.

A moment and half later the night began and the California trio tore into their set with a brand of heavy metal music that seems to mix elements of 80’s speed metal with old school punk. Flanked by two giant gothic crosses the band belted out ‘Screams in the Night,’ a track that almost reminded me of Metallica’s classic ‘Hit the Lights.’ A headbanging anthem with some very catchy guitar riffs, lightning fast mini-solos and a very rock and roll feel, I was impressed with the band’s energy and big sound. Jarvis Leatherby, the lead singer and bassist of the group, did his very best to inject some life into the growing audience with his clean vocal style and range. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of traditional heavy metal, but the band played great; they were tight, they were fun and while there were a few riffs throughout the set that sounded like they were stolen from Metallica or Iron Maiden the band fired up the crowd and played a solid set. I would recommend any fan of classic metal to take a look at their 2015 full length ‘Curse of the Damned.’

The next band to take the stage last night was the one and only Ghoul, the California by way of Creepsylvania quartet of undead thrashers who kicked off their chaotic set with a track from their latest album called Ghoulunatics. A thrashing, grinding stomp fest that opened the pits up and got the crowd moving for the first time of the night, Ghoul stole the show with their eerie surf riffs, breakdowns, twists and infectious chorus. Midway through, the band had an impromptu birthday celebration for Digestor where the crowd sang him Happy Birthday and the band went right back to work with some new material. To paint a picture for those of you who have yet to see Ghoul live, you can expect entertainment as well as bone crushing Splatterthrash; the spectacle between songs included two fictional political candidates (an obvious parody of the 2016 election) who took to the stage to fight for domination. There was a jackbooted, gas mask wearing fascist, who I assumed to be modeled after Republican candidate Donald Trump after his promises of global domination and his obsession with building walls, who came on stage to spray the audience with fake blood. Facing off with him was a pig-creature, who I could only assume to be Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who was gutted on stage as the band jumped into ‘Off With Their Heads!’ from the 2011 full length Transmission Zero. Ghoul was definitely my reason for making the trek to southern Connecticut and they did not fail to make the night memorable with tight, crushing Death/Thrash, a stage show reminiscent of Gwar or Green Jelly, and a high energy, fan pleasing show. In addition to the previously mentioned tunes, they played on with a mix of fan favorites like ‘As Your Casket Closes,’ as well as showcasing stuff from their latest album Dungeon Bastards.

After scrubbing all of the fake blood from my face and body I managed to get back to the floor just in time to see New Orleans sludge metal veterans Crowbar take the stage. Seeing these guys in action was like being swept back to when I was a teenager and these guys dominated the scene alongside bands like Down and Eyehategod. Lead singer Kirk Windstein was larger than life, a giant of a man with a shaved head and wild, gray beard, he chugged his way through a ton of oldies including ‘Like Broken Glass’ from the 1996 album sharing the same name, ‘Planets Collide’ and ‘To Build a Mountain’ as well as stuff from the latest album Symmetry in Black like ‘Walk with Knowledge Wisely.’ Unlike Ghoul, who kept the crowd entertained with their onstage antics and amusing stage show, the band kept things rather bare bones letting the music speak for itself and fans were not disappointed as Crowbar pounded through their set. A grateful Windstein made sure to thank everyone for coming out to see them before they left the stage and the road crew went to work breaking down the equipment and clearing the way for the show’s headlining act.

The venue looked like it had reached maximum occupancy by the time U.K. grindcore masterminds and melodic death metal forefathers, Carcass, took to the stage amid thick white clouds of smoke, two giant screens, and a giant surgical steel backdrop. The instrumental intro ‘1985’ was deafening and as the crowd roared and threw up the horns, the band kicked into ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’ and Toad’s Place erupted. Seeing these guys on stage was amazing; Bill Steer on guitars tore through the set with flawless precision as Jeff Walker’s throaty lyrical style assaulted the packed venue. Mosh pits opened, and fans screamed and exchanged ecstatic smiles as Carcass pushed onto “Buried Dreams”, a fan favorite from their classic 1993 album Heartwork. The onslaught continued amidst green smoke and an epileptic light show as “Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” had fans chanting the chorus as Steer tore into another epic solo. Carcass did not relent as they churned out an impressive set list including ‘Exhume to Consume,’ ‘Captive Bolt Pistol,’ and ‘Keep on Rotting in the Free World.’

All in all it was a great night for metal in the outskirts of New England. A great night for fans of all ages and all tastes with the exception of the poor metalhead getting arrested in front of the building halfway through Carcass’ set. For those who couldn’t make it out to New Haven last night: you really missed a great night of metal. Thanks to everyone for coming out and just having a good time, we’ll see you next time!

Written by Nicole Rush aka The Black Metal Bitch

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