The USA Sickness Tour left but charred remains in Orange County.
Photos by Heaviest of Art, taken at The Observatory in Santa Ana on November 27th.
Rainy days in California are not a common occurrence, and neither is a touring bill with multiple genre defining bands all tearing together night by night. The pouring (and traffic) did little to stop hundreds of riff-starved fans from driving down to The Observatory in Santa Ana for a night of blasphemic symphonies, courtesy of MORBID ANGEL, WATAIN, and INCANTATION. This trio from hell are on the road for the 2019 USA Sickness Tour, which is set to hit stops across the country through mid-December.
Decades after each unit's inception and yet they still manage to level venues with a masterclass in stage presence and musicianship. The Santa Ana tour stop was no exception and it all kicked off with the roaring of INCANTATION's Entrantment of Evil. The ominous intro did right by the crowd, who began to gather towards the stage as the lights dimmed in preparation for the death doom to follow.
John McEntee and co. proceeded to demolish (as they always do) with an explosion of double bass and sadistic Lombardozzi fretwork. The guitarists played with upmost precision and commanded the venue stage with an ownership that comes solely from experience. Tracks like The Ibex Moon and Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies still rumble as good as they did upon first arrival, proving that INCANTATION is here to stay.
The band's hymns wouldn't be what they are without a pairing proper bass work and cataclysmic drums, which were led by Luke Shively (Dismemberment) and session drummer Charlie Koryn (Ascended Dead, Funebrarum). These two add a new layer of energy to the INCANTATION live performance, making Carrion Prophesy and Rites of the Locust sound malevolently crisp. It goes without saying that Koryn and Shively's touring support for McEntee and Lombardozzi rounds up a lineup that must be witnessed.
Following the death doom display of INCANTATION was the mighty WATAIN, who's band duties shifted after guitarist Pelle Forsberg was denied entry into the U.S. The dilemma stirred much discussion across social media with some arguing that the band's live performance would be severely affected by the change, in addition to all sorts of other political discussion. Politics and skepticism aside, WATAIN reigned with the same satanic energy they deliver during each live set.
The primary performance shift that occurred was that Chilean bassist Alvaro Lillo was now on the axe, joining Hampus Eriksson for the riffage. Erik Danielsson took care of the vocals and bass while Emil Svensson's banged on the skins. Despite Forsberg's absence, WATAIN remained cohesive and fired on all ends for one black metal display Santa Ana is sure to remember. Behind the dark red hues and smoke lied a band not willing to let circumstances drown their persona, rather using said fallback to propel even higher.
From the opening Sworn to the Dark to the closing On Horns Impaled, the black metal horde was immaculate. Barricades did little to stop the electricity presence throughout the room, further charged by continuous moshing and crowd surfing to tracks like Nuclear Alchemy, Furor Diabolicus, and Malfeitor to name a few. Inverted crosses and tridents fronted the stage as Danielsson's blood curling screams resounded throughout, pairing hellish soundscapes with on-stage character. Those who assumed Forsberg's absence would leave a significant impact are sure to eat their words one track into this gem of a performance.
Two magnificent sets in and it was time for death metal legends MORBID ANGEL to hit the stage. Coming off of a successful Decibel Magazine Tour alongside CANNIBAL CORPSE, NECROT, and BLOOD INCANTATION, the Steve Tucker-led ensemble had no issues hitting the road once more, more so with a bill of this caliber. Our legends needed no elaborate props or lighting fixtures to start and exploded with the earth shattering Piles of Little Arms. Our night was about to get even better.
Moshing ensued along with Scott Fuller's double bass kicks and Azagthoth shred as if it were 1983. Though decades into existence, MORBID ANGEL performed in full form, showing no signs of wear and tear as many have come to demonstrate at this stage into their musical career. This is a band still producing elite death metal in an era where the subgenre is undergoing a renaissance guided by genre crossover. Despite said crossover, MORBID ANGEL still reign with no gimmicks, just pure death metal and this Santa Ana showing is testament to that.
With a setlist that spanned tracks from Covenant to Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and Kingdoms Disdained, there was something for all to love despite whatever era you first came across the band's expansive discography. Dan Vadim Von and Fuller may have been on the younger side while Azagthoth and Tucker were belting out Prayer of Hatred and Summoning Redemption, but that didn't stop either of them from ripping through each track with precise ferocity. Tucker led the charge with his signature bass riffs and deadly vocal work, supported by Azagthoth's iconic riffs for a musical experience for the hundreds present.
Bills of this magnitude are not to be missed, and even more so that each icon is still at the peak of their game. It's not every day that you can say that you witnessed a masterclass offering of death doom, followed by an elite black metal showing with death metal legends at the helm. With over a dozen dates left in different states across the country, it's imperative that you take the opportunity to bask in the presence of metal greats.
Enjoy a slideshow of additional show images below:
The 2019 USA Sickness Tour is currently underway and set to terrorize cities for the days to come. Get your tickets here and be part of the madness.