When it comes to metal shows in Des Moines, it’s either feast or famine. The month of April is proving to be quite the feast, boasting tour stops from genre luminaries such as Broken Hope, The Lurking Corpses and Embryonic Devourment. But the show I’ve probably been looking forward to the most was a three-headed beast; a headlining set from legendary German thrashers Destruction, supported by Brazilian brutal death metal trio Krisiun and SoCal up-and-comers Exmortus.
Exmortus were already in the midst of ripping through their set when we arrived at Wooly’s for Wednesday night’s show. I was previously unfamiliar with them, but they proved to be an extremely pleasant surprise. The quartet possesses an enthusiasm for playing live that’s positively infectious, and it’s always great to see a band visibly smiling and having fun on stage. This refreshing sense of playfulness was further evidenced by their set-closing cover version of Ozzy Osbourne’s classic “Bark at the Moon.”
Exmortus’ dual-guitar attack is thrash through and through, but it’s evident that these guys have soaked up a healthy dose of death metal, NWOBHM and even a hint of scrappy American power metal ala Manilla Road and Riot. It’s a highly technical sound, but their dexterous shredding is always in service of the song and never comes off as wankery. They won me over effortlessly and I’m looking forward to digging into the promo copy I recently received of their latest album, Slave to the Sword.
Krisiun was up next and were the band I was the most excited for. I had the pleasure of witnessing their blasting brand of sensory-overload back in 2006 at Los Angeles’ now-defunct Key Club while working as an intern for Metal Blade Records, and it was one of the most intense sets I’ve ever witnessed from any band. The power trio have since begun to experiment with incorporating slower tempos on recent albums Southern Storm and The Great Execution, but they’ve lost none of their ability to cause total devastation in the live arena.
Indeed, Krisiun put the “power” in power trio; the brothers Kolesne/Camargo are so locked in as a unit and exert so much overwhelming heaviness that they make most bands with twice as many members seem utterly weak. The band played a set that largely focused on their last four albums, proving that their newer material is every bit as brutal as their revered mid-to-late 1990s output, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Krisiun were appreciative of the pit action their music elicited, and the small but dedicated crowd in turn reveled in the band’s percussive, wickedly precise musical salvo.
After two-plus decades in the game, Krisiun continue to hone and sharpen their craft; they were even tighter and more vicious on Wednesday night than when I saw them eight years ago, which is no small feat considering my fond memories of the havoc they wreaked back in the day. If the sheer concussive force of their current live assault is anything to go on, I can’t wait for their next album to drop. Consider yourselves warned.
I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about seeing Destruction. Sure, I worship their seminal ’80s material, but I haven’t exactly kept up with them, which had me wondering if they’d be playing a bunch of songs I’d never heard. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, because although some newer material was aired, the Teutonic thrash gods’ set was jam-packed with classics.
“Total Desaster” “Bestial Invasion” “Curse the Gods” the fucking works. The German trio aired punishing versions of every song an old school fan could possibly want to hear, and then some. These songs benefited greatly from Destruction’s burly live sound; the production on some of those ’80s albums tends to be a little thin, but hearing them in concert was like listening to a Best Of collection on steroids. Not only that, but newer tracks such as “Spiritual Genocide” and “Armageddonizer” fit right in beside the golden oldies, and as a result I intend to start making my way through the rest of Destruction’s catalog ASAP.
Destruction were so energetic that you’d never guess guitarist Mike Sifringer and bassist/vocalist Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer are in their late forties; they still sound hungry and heavy as hell, but those qualities are tempered with the finesse and professionalism of a veteran band, which made their set a joy to behold. I walked in not knowing what to expect and walked out with a great big smile on my face, not to mention a severe neck ache. You can’t ask for much more than that.
[Special thanks to Nikki Law at Century Media Records for arranging this live coverage]