This will not be an ordinary review. Yes, I'll say familiar things about the excellent bands that played that night, how things sounded, and whether or not you should catch this tour as it continues across the country (and you should). Since Ghoul didn't make it to the show, however, I am forced to speculate as to the REAL reasons the band didn't make it to the venue on that July night. I can't confirm that the details of my account are correct; nevertheless, there were some strange events in town that night, occurrences that could be explained by Ghoul's mysterious absence from the venue. We'll see.
Let's talk about the essential items first: the One Foot in the Grave Tour is worth any effort you make to catch it. The bands are all terrific and they sounded amazing. On this stop, there was a just a superb vibe throughout the night; the fans were obviously in good spirits and seemed primed for a good night of heavy metal. There was plenty of disappointment about Ghoul's absence but there were no obvious signs of disrespect toward the other bands on the ticket. On the whole, the evening rewarded fans with several hours of excellent heavy metal. I'll review things in order and get to the crazy Ghoul materials toward the end.
The night began with a set by Night Demon, an excellent band that put on a strong and impressive set. Even though I've never heard Night Demon before now, I will certainly listen to them in the future and will definitely catch them on the road as often as they roll into town. Night Demon has only been around since 2011, but they already have a handful of very impressive songs that should please any fans of occult metal with more than a hint of NWOBHM thrown in for good measure. They reminded me of a cross between early Armored Saint and Number of the Beast-era Iron Maiden, though I'm sure fans will draw other comparisons. Whatever the influences, the band sounds great. The music is confident, aggressive, and well played.
For those who don't know this band, Night Demon has three members: Jarvis Leatherby (Bass / Vocals), Brent Woodward (Guitar), and Dusty Squires (Drums). Woodward and Squires are both impressive performers. As I listened to them play, I was transported back to the days when we expected bands to be as fast and as impressive as possible. Leatherby's bass playing was also good: equally loud and aggressive. I especially enjoyed songs like "Night Demon" and "The Chalice." The latter also brought out a hooded skeleton figure that took the stage to offer band members (and fans) some devilish liquid.
Crowbar hasn't played in Salt Lake City for 22 years. Kirk Windstein joked about the passing of time and becoming an old man, saying that he should probably write a song called "Day Demon" because he certainly isn't a "Night Demon" any more! Joking aside, there's no loss of heaviness of power in Crowbar's music or sound no matter how old these guys get. I was so impressed with Crowbar's performance that I actually texted myself the message: "Holy cow are they good live!" I realize that some fans may not like the band's slower tempo—it's hard to mosh to it—but the band sounds so good that it's just hard not to love them. One fan told me that he wasn't a big fan of the band but that the set changed his mind.
As most fans know, the band is currently made up of Kirk Windstein, Matthew Brunson, Tommy Buckley, and Todd Strange. Strange returned to the band in May of this year, a move that generated some online griping that I didn't follow and didn't care much about. He played well and even hung around after the band's set. Seems like a nice guy. I was also impressed with Matt Brunson's guitar playing. I could simply write that he keeps up with Kirk, but he's not just that guy. He is a solid guitarist in his own right and adds texture and intensity to the band's overall sound. Kirk is obviously the band's most recognized member and he is a charismatic and impressive leading man. I enjoyed a brief chat with him before the show and he struck me as a down-to-earth guy. Overall, Crowbar's set was awesome; I could have watched them perform all night. I was especially impressed with the cover Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter." Kirk introduced it by saying that it was a different arrangement than the recorded one from a few years ago, one that he actually likes better. He dedicated it to Jeff Walker. What a strong set from a great band!
It's no surprise that Carcass put on a very impressive set. Just like Crowbar, Carcass hasn't played in Salt Lake for 22 years. They were worth the wait but if they wait another two decades before coming back, we might be too old to care! Much of the night was devoted to material from Surgical Steel, the band's 2012 release. Even though fans are surely itching for newer music from the band, the songs sounded terrific. I've heard plenty of bands in concert that don't always hit the twin guitar harmonies as well as they should but Carcass was always spot on. Honestly, the guitar harmonies were tight, clear, and impressive. Even the jointly-played pinch harmonics sounded great. Both guitarists are impressive, but there were times when Bill Steer's playing simply took my breath away. How is it this guy doesn't get even more attention for his playing? As for Jeff Walker, what more can I say than others have said? He's a great front man, a solid vocalist, and an energetic bass player. These guys are legends. The crowd loved them.
Here's an excerpt from Ghoul's Facebook post about missing the show in Salt Lake: "We regret to say that we will not be making the show in #SaltLakeCity tonight. We seem to have a blown Heiflitz confabulator, and the glebunctendorfer needs a new kerploperty valve. We think. Do not miss #Carcass, #Crowbar & #NightDemon at the Complex, and we'll be back in action on Friday in #Sacramento, Numbskulls!"
Car lingo has never meant much to me so I can't question the band's seemingly unusual terms here. I've had intermittent trouble with confabulators myself. Nevertheless, I am skeptical about the car trouble excuse. We've all used it for one reason or another and I think the band was up to something else instead of making its way to the show.
Here's my theory: this tour hit town right before Pioneer Day weekend (a big deal in this town--for the uninitiated, it's kind of like a state-level 4th of July). While driving to the show, I happened to pass the biggest arena in town and noticed that it was hosing a huge outdoor / indoor event connected Pioneer Day. What especially caught my eye was a series of tents set up to cover all manner of animals. These tents were so close that I could actually stare down one llama that looked like it was ready to spit at me. I didn't think this makeshift petting zoo would have any impact on my night at a metal show until I learned that Ghoul wasn't able to play that night. After much thought, I've decided that an angry mob waylaid Ghoul and that all those cute and furry critters were just a trap. I also feel confident that Ghoul hunters somehow convinced the guys that the gig was actually at the Pioneer Day rodeo and that the band was supposed to keep audiences happy with splatterthrash versions of patriotic anthems and a handful of smarmy pop country hits. When the audience finally realized they were watching cannibal mutants instead of the usual clichéd hat act, it revolted. Realizing their dilemma, the guys in Ghoul hit the road on the backs of the llamas from the petting zoo. They've since rejoined the One Foot in the Grave Tour and so all is well in the world.
I'm glad the guys are safe, but I was sad to miss them. As a confirmed "Ghoulunatic" I even had some money in my pocket for a t-shirt and a shiny new patch. Come back, guys!