Rivers of nihil w/ alterbeast & inferi at  cattivo, pittsburgh pa, 7.17.18

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    Ain’t nothing like a little brutal technical death metal on a piping hot Tuesday night in a basement of Pittsburgh club to start things off on the RIGHT goddamn foot (or severed limb) for Death Comes Lifting’s first live show review.. and I think ya’ll for tuning in. I’m your host, ‘Ol Zak B, taking you on a journey into the maelstrom riddled with armies of double bass pedaling, blood - curdling growls, viscous behemoths that dwell in ice and crave human flesh, and just general decay and death. Without further ado, kids…

    For this I think I gotta go back to my earlier days, or better yet, literally first days of going to shows. The first ACTUAL metal show that took place in a club setting, specifically the almighty Mr Smalls Theater, was Behemoth.. when I was 13. I had seen a fair amount of bands by that point, but in much larger venues or “festival” type outdoor settings, so I had SOME experience with the whole metal band thing. But. Let me tell you, as if you don’t know, there is nothing that can compare to 600 sweaty, screaming, moshing, cursing, drinking, spitting and bleeding; yet at the same time beatuiful, sweet, and wonderfully passionate and misguidedly extreme in a beautiful perpetuated state of adolescence whom are at the command of a Bible-ripping, ferociously growling and guitar smashing, relentless, heavy metal band on that stage. That experience stays with you and never goes away. Every once in a while you’ll go to another packed club show full of that glorious energy that can be on that level, or at least compare. But almost NEVER can that energy be recaptured in a traditional, larger, “concert” setting, at least in my experience. And not to shamelessly pump up and display my ego for you all as if you are McDowell in A Clockwork Orange strapped to your seat with your eyelids held open as I SHOW YOU HOW MUCH MUSIC AND CONCERT KNOWLEDGE I HAVE. So please forgive a brother, that ain’t what I’m trying to do. BUT, I’ve been to my fair share of shows. At this point, pushing 350, by my estimation. That’s 350 SHOWS, the amount of BANDS individually I’ve seen, I honestly can’t even say. The only reason why I’m sharing this super important and interesting self indulgent information with you is just to kinda say I know what I’m talking about KINDA when I’m reviewing a show. Just setting the stage a little bit, pun intended, you feel me? Great. 

    Now, it’s been a good bit since I’ve seen a purely death metal club show, let alone got their early and saw the complete sets from the openers as well as the headliner, and I definitely do not regret it. It took me right back to my younger days where we would be standing outside, usually freezing, melting to death, drenched in a thunderstorm, you get the Pittsburgh weather grind; just waiting for the fucking doors to open so we could get every single once and decibel of music pumped through our heads like goddamn junkies. Now, as the years passed, I’ve grown from a rabid bloodthirsty music craving kid into a still pretty damn passionate jaded cynical diva man child about attending shows; as I’m sure most of you have. And for those of you that haven’t, keep holding it the fuck down you beautiful bastards, I love you! But, admittedly, unless the opening acts are really something special or I’m interested in them for whatever reason; these days, I go see the band I want to see and support, then bail. Not that I don’t love and want to support every small death metal band on God’s Green Earth, but it’s just not possible for me as much anymore. So what made this show special was that I was able to do that, and I wanted to. I was able to tap into that 13 year old mentality that I often rely on so much and go see 3 hours of straight unrelenting death metal; and enjoy every fucking second of it. Not to mention get up for work at 5 AM the next morning with a smile on my face and the ever permanent ringing in my ears. Being able to tap into that eager and immature part of your mind and past is something I strongly recommend trying to do, especially for concerts. You’ll just enjoy everything so much more, trust in me. No drugs or alcohol needed… sometimes. Now, lets actually talk about the bands, shall we? Might be a good idea…

    Cattivo, being a relatively new venue just off the beaten path in Lawrenceville, is seemingly starting to host a BUNCH of great acts (metal and otherwise), bringing a lot of cool bands to the Pittsburgh area that otherwise may not have made it here. So shout out to Cattivo and much love for that. Having only been there 4 times at this point, I understand they have a bigger/nicer upstairs bar and stage, and a lower; well say more punk rock, basement stage. 1 time I’ve been upstairs but the rest were in the basement, this was no exception, and I’m thankful for that. Entering on the opening song of Nashville’s own Inferi, walking down the steps to a war dance of rapid drums and crushing growls, an inevitable and involuntary grin washed over my face; it was time. Inferi’s whole set was something to be marveled at. These guys really bring it, and they did just that.. the whole time. There set consisted of nothing but high-octane technical death metal with an old school death metal kinda vibe; which might not make sense if you are no death metal aficionado, as I pride myself to be. But for those of you who know, you know. I strongly suggest you check out Inferi, as I has very little prior knowledge of them before the show, and I was stunned by how into them I was. Chugging riffs, brutally delicious drumming, and, seriously  a totally AWESOME and inspiring asian bassist that was absolutely murdering it the entire time. You know how crazy tech-death bass can be? It was like that. And very awesome. But as I’ve stated on this very website several times, I’m a sucker for a nice bass section, and I will like your band more BASED on that. HA! Yes I did. And I do. To top it off, those dudes were up there giving there goddamn ALL for this semi-full crowd on a Tuesday night and having a DAMN GOOD TIME doing it. I love seeing bands up on stage not only playing their tunes well, obviously; but having fun. Passion lasts way longer than a 30 minute set, and that is important to note. Its infectious, inspiring, and energetic. For me, there’s no better way for a band to captivate the audience, and they did that quite well; wether they were aware of it or not. Either way, Inferi is sicker than sick.. consider me a new fan. 

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    Alterbeast approached the alter like beasts ( ;) ) next, and they we’re pretty much one speed the whole time - fast. As shit. The first thing I notice is their singer Michael Alvarez’s Wu-Tang Clan baseball jersey whirling around the stage, afro going in every which way, as he rips and howls his way through the set; trying to deliver all he can to get the crowd moving - and they do. There was no shortage of moshing and dancing for these dudes. But, for me, after such a great act as Inferi; they fell short. They definitely have more of a “core” element to them that the other bands do not, and they just are not completely my thing. Also, they didn’t have a bassist (!?!?) and we all know how I feel about that. That being said, I totally enjoyed their performance, just didn’t love it. The lack of bass I suppose was made up by their two very talented guitarists riffing off one another quite well, while the drummer was in full force the whole time.So, all in all, Alterbeast proved themselves to be a solid, fast and brutal, metal band - especially if you’re into the more meal core flavor of things , that are definitely worth checking out, But, for me, nothing all that special. Still better than most shit out there today. And now we venture down by the river… but this ain’t Neil Young…

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    Pennsylvania’s own Rivers of Nihil took the stage next and my excitement and enthusiasm were not let down for a second by their performance. Opening with the first two tracks from their newest 2018 release, Where Only Owls Know My Name, they took the crowd on a journey not only down a river, but through the whole goddamn jungle. Complete with head-hunting natives and mutilated bodies hanging from the trees like something out of Predator. No, really, as far as technical death metal goes, Rivers of Nihil are about as interesting and atmospheric as it gets. Where Only Owls Know My Name is not only by far their best release to date, but one of the best records released thus far this year, in my opinion. I unfortunately did not have a chance to review it upon its release, so I am very thankful I had the opportunity to see them on tour in support of it, and review them now. YAY FOR FUCKIN ME! Anyway, what makes this band, and this record specifically, so great to me is their seemingly effortless infusion of jazz and atmospheric rock elements to it. I guess its not that far of a stretch, because more or less technical death metal is a bunch of jazz-related scales and such maybe just speed way the fuck up, supercharged with blood, guts, death grease, and palm muting with a whole lot of double bass and insanity.. but you get it it. It’s a very cool and refreshing sound in the death metal realm, and its done to perfection. The show opener, The Silent Life, even has a slow and jazzy instrumental breakdown (I guess you can call it a breakdown) admits the chugging insanity around it. To start the show off with such an obscure track takes some stones, but rivers run through that shit, and they crushed it. 

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    The next couple tracks they reached into their back catalogue a little bit and although I much prefer the new stuff (which is weird to say about a death metal band) it sounded quite brutal and good. It provided a nice kick of pure speed into their set. Among all the tempo changes and musical insanity going on, the band members themselves were fascinating to watch. They, more or less, handle their shit like ballers (shout out to Kenny Powers). Vocalist Jake Dieffenbach channels the beast within on his live vocals, almost effortlessly, and takes control of the crowd like a death metal king. The string section stays tight and absolutely kills it the entire time; both guitarists shredding in and out of solos and riffing scales all day, while the bassist, Adam Biggs, does not follow far behind. I’ve come to learn that he is also the band’s lyricist and handles some pretty bad ass backing vocals. All this is brought together by their powerhouse of a drummer - displaying his tech death brutality capabilities and shifting to a jazzy groove without breaking a sweat. Rivers of Nihil rove themselves a force to be reckoned with as they power through their set and tear Cattivo a new one. As they played a good mixed bag of tunes, leading to my favorite title track of the record, and finally closing with their hit Sand Baptism. Those songs back to back were the perfect does of heavy hitting death metal and mind bending musicianship displayed to destroy you. They’re a solid group of hard working and extremely talented metal musicians that I believe will become a house would name (in the death metal household world) with their next couple releases. I’m looking forward to seeing them live again, and seeing YOU at a show. 

    All in all in was a damn fine show, and I’d recommend seeing all of these bands if you can get a chance. And if you’ve never experienced a packed brutal death metal club show, please do that for me. Til next time, freaks.

 
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