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It has been twenty years since the legendary grindcore/murder metal, Chicago outfit, Macabre released their famed album, Sinister Slaughter, and the band decided to embark on a celebratory mini tour in its honor. Even though Macabre only played four shows on their tour, they still played Cleveland. They always play Cleveland. I am very lucky to live in a city so sublimely metal, a city where dark, graffiti ridden clubs mark every street corner and black clad drunkards and musicians are the daytime norm.

It was a “Sinister Sunday” indeed, when Corporate Death, Dennis the Menace and Nefarious invaded “The Birthplace of Rock and Roll”, for a very special, exclusive performance with local bands, Merciless Reign, Benighten Empire and Punching Moses. The crowd prepared for an evening of drinking, debauchery and mayhem.

The first band to hit the stage was Merciless Reign. I didn’t really know what to expect from this new Death/Thrash act. These guys were friends of mine, however, so I stood center stage, awaiting my first listen. What a surprise! What stood out about this band, was the sheer power emanating in their sound. Merciless Reign has a sound that requires none of the fancy, technical frills that have become so popular nowadays, with the influx of tech death on the rise. No sir, Merciless Reign has a presence and an intensity that will tear your fucking face off and they deliver this ambiance with simple, aggressive, thrash-y riffs, a bit of blackened repetition, blistering leads and paralyzing blast beats. Tracks like 17 Years of Hatred (Unleashed) are an epic and driving force to be reckoned with when played live. The energy that Merciless Reign achieves in their live performances is not quite met in their studio recordings, however. That is not to say that their demo is no good. It is very well done. But Merciless Reign bludgeons the hell out of a crowd live. I think this is because of the intensity that their drummer, Chris Krucker, packs into his live performances. He’s a wild man up there. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more from this band, both live and in the studio.

The next band up was Cleveland’s own Benighten Empire. Formed from the ashes of local deathcore outfit Evisceration and early Benighten Empire, which was formerly a Viking metal band, the current sound of the band is interesting, for lack of a better word. With the look of a deathcore band, the stage antics of a flashy, black metal band, the belligerent audience interactions of a thrash metal band, and a mix of everything from “core”, to the clean chanting of Viking metal, to the epic onslaught of black metal in their sound, Benighten Empire is utterly confused. I really wasn’t exactly sure what they were trying to accomplish onstage. It wasn’t as though they played badly, I simply wasn’t sure what they were playing or what they were doing with those upside crosses. It looked more like Justin Beiber participating in a black mass than Mayhem. Confusing, indeed. My friends and I have dubbed the band “Vikingcore”. However, Benighten Empire is not innovative enough to coin a new genre, their sound is simply immature. Given a few years, this band may hone their sound. They are still relatively new, forming only five years ago in 2008. Until then, I’d say, pass on this band.

Next up was hardcore punk act, Punching Moses. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this band other than that they felt a little out of place up there. Maybe it’s just me, but I hate when hardcore bands open for metal bands. Stick to your genre and go play at the Spitfire. The Foundry is for metal. Not only that, but their sound quality onstage wasn’t great and the feel of the band was very common. There was really nothing special going on onstage with Punching Moses. If you’re going to call yourself punk rock, be punk rock and spit on the fucking audience or something. Upon further research, I found this band was voted “Most Un-listenable” by The Cleveland Scene. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this band un-listenable, boring is a better way to describe them. Listen for yourself.

Finally, the moment we’d all been waiting for had arrived. Macabre was set to hit the stage. Being perfectionists, Macabre took quite some time to set up. They were well worth the wait, however. Macabre certainly did celebrate Sinister Slaughter, playing songs they haven’t played in years, like Ted Bundy song, Mary Bell, Montreal Massacre and Night Stalker. As usual, vocalist Corporate Death prefaced each song with an eerie description of a serial killer’s horrific antics and exuded a larger than life stage presence. The sound quality was great and the songs were played to grindcore perfection. The audience was pumped, singing along to the songs and moshing like crazy. And even though Corporate Death, Dennis the Menace and Nefarious may have a larger than life presence onstage, they are incredibly down to earth guys off stage, interacting with fans, signing occasional autographs and watching the opening bands play. My high expectations of the evening were more than met, when Macabre finally hit the stage. If you missed them this time around, never fear. Macabre will be playing again in December for the Holiday of Horrors show with Cardiac Arrest, Witchbanger and Elbow Deep. Catch them in Chicago at Reggie’s Rock Club on 12/26/2013. Happy Listening. Hails!

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