• Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Sunday, May 26th was the final day for deathcore/death metal tour Chaos & Carnage. After nineteen shows across twenty-six days, the expedition of the extreme came to a close in Las Vegas’ House of Blues. The lineup – featuring seven bands – included co-headliners Cattle Decapitation and Carnifex, supported by Rivers of Nihil, Humanity’s Last Breath, The Zenith Passage, Vitriol and Face Yourself. Taking place in one of the few all-ages venues in the city, this gallery of brutality was the perfect soundtrack to the linkage of hardcore-favoring younger crowds with the older heads seeing shows off Fremont Street. One of my past visits to the heart of Mandalay Bay included last year’s iteration of the tour. While there were no returning acts from 2023’s edition, it was made up for by maintaining the same quantity of bands touring through the United States. However, the varied lineup, raw energy and atmosphere left a much more memorable mark.

Face Yourself

Up first was the international deathcore group Face Yourself, appearing on their debut tour. On a tour of this magnitude, that caught my interest. This band, primarily based out of New York, has a sound comparable to bands like Distant, Immoralist, Suicide Silence and others that reigned from the late 2000s into the early 2010s; featuring a viciously percussive and typically vocal-heavy approach to the genre, leaning more on the chug than speed.

Face Yourself formed very recently amidst the new wave of symphonic deathcore and dropped three EPs in 2023, demonstrating a strong focus and dedication to planting themselves in the scene, contrasting themselves from their orchestral peers. An element I always respect deathcore for is how well it translates in a live setting. Something about good old down-tuned chugging leaves me treating even the string instruments like their own drums, clicking in unison to form a new beat. That is my inner deathcore kid speaking – the subgenre was the soundtrack to my high school experience. Face Yourself is a powerful newcomer group full of youthful rage and inspiration. Typically featuring 6 people, Face Yourself crushed the audience with a 5 man lineup, unfortunately missing vocalist Yasmin Liverneaux Belkhodja. Guitarist/vocalist Corey Doremus put his strings aside to assume full vocal duty for the tour in her absence. This was a successful move due to Corey’s energetic stage presence and his deep knowledge of the material. His vocal techniques and endurance were on point.

Their setlist was a fairly even blend of all three EPs and the second half of the set locked in my appreciation for the band. Guillotine in particular kicks off with a flurry of blasts, picking up and maintaining the pace through the track and setting itself up as my favorite of their set. Face Yourself was a solid opener and a brutal appetizer to the seven-course meal we in the audience were to gorge upon. Out of their discography, I recommend you listen to their latest EP, Tales of Death. Let’s face it and yourself too, this is a band you should keep an eye on going forward.

Setlist:
  1. Grosse Bagarre
  2. Shadow Self
  3. RED
  4. Death Reflection
  5. Sirens
  6. Guillotine
  7. Die for Less

Vitriol

Vitriol is a band whose sound matches what’s labeled on the tin. Blistering blasts, aggressive string magic and rage-fueled screams make up their sound. They are a band I have wanted to see ever since they dropped their debut album, To Bathe From The Throat Of Cowardice back in 2019. Nearly four years after their debut, Vitriol secured Nithing/Gorgasm drummer Matt Kilner and dropped Suffer & Become the next year. This cemented the band as an extreme powerhouse of speed and anger. In the wave of old-school inspired death metal, these guys are in the fast lane and they show no signs of stopping.

A great aspect of the band in a live setting is how much energy immediately bursts forth from every member for the entire stretch of their set. The way guitarist/vocalist Kyle Rasmussen wails on the strings is a clear reflection of his focus and passion towards pulverizing the soul. That energy is matched beautifully by bassist/vocalist Adam Roethlisberger. The duo have maintained a musical partnership since the band went by the name Those Who Lie Beneath. With a decade of unity, they only seem to grow more furious with age. Rounding out the lineup is second guitarist Daniel Martinez.

Their setlist included a mix of tracks from both records, including the opening tracks of each album as the last songs of their set. Shame and Its Afterbirth is a harrowing opener that devolves into a frenzy of inescapable rage, a sound choice to follow the clean channel tremolos and atmospheric approach of Survival’s Careening Inertia. Closing their beatdown was The Parting of a Neck, which is a rager start to finish. I believe it has the potential of working at any point of their live setlist, but this placement choice stood out. A wholesome surprise during the show was the mention of original drummer Scott Walker flying from out of town to see the band tear up the stage. Through all the unhinged mayhem of their music, to have room and the breath to shout out a friend and former bandmate before closing the night shows the band has an immense respect for what brought them to this point.

Give their debut record a listen, it’s a vicious beast that will tear you to pieces. Shoot, listen to both albums if your heart can handle it.

Setlist:
  1. Weaponized Loss
  2. Victim
  3. Survival’s Careening Inertia
  4. Shame and Its Afterbirth
  5. The Parting of a Neck

The Zenith Passage

Another band I had high hype for was The Zenith Passage. The Los Angeles tech death metallers have been kicking it for over twelve years and dropped their latest record, titled Datalysium, in 2023. The Zenith Passage is an interesting group in the way they share ties to The Faceless in their sound and lineup. Current vocalist Derek Rydquist and bassist Brandon Giffin were long-standing members of The Faceless, featuring on Akeldama and Planetary Duality. TZP Founding member Justin McKinney also played for them in their later years. This lineup, including guitarist Christopher Beattie (Dreamer), was the powerhouse that brought the Planetary Duality sound into the 2020’s. The band’s lineup on the tour would’ve had drummer Matthew Paulazzo, however, he suffered a rough car accident earlier in the year. In his place was Atavistia blaster Max Sepulveda and the change in staff did not choke the band up even for a moment.

It was a big treat to get a setlist of mostly Datalysium tracks, including The Axiom of Error as an opener, both Divinertia I and Divinertia II back-to-back and my favorite TZP song Algorithmic Salvation as a closer. The main riff is etched eternally in my brain and hearing it live with the same laser-accurate precision as the album version is an intense display of musicianship. Fans of their 2016 album Solipsist got some attention too, as they included Deus Deceptor as their second song of the night. From what I could tell, TZP was the first band to get movement in the pit through the night and for good reason.

Technical death metal as a genre, depending on where you look, either emphasizes notes or atmosphere. On one hand, you have Inferi and Enfold Darkness-type bands that you’d typically see working with labels such as The Artisan Era. On the other is your dissonant bunch, following the sound of Gorguts’s Obscura era like the living word. TZP takes the heavy notation of the former and blends groove into each riff so seamlessly. A few other charming moments include Rivers of Nihil drummer Jared Klein taking a nap during their set – very worth it after such a long journey on the road. Guitarist/vocalist Andy Thomas later hopped on stage to shotgun a beer with Rydquist. Rydquist covered himself in beer and finished the set drenched. If you want a quick jab of accurate alternate picking and blasts in your veins, you cannot miss The Zenith Passage.

Setlist:
  1. The Axiom of Error
  2. Deus Deceptor
  3. Lexicontagion
  4. Divinertia I
  5. Divinertia II
  6. Algorithmic Salvation

Humanity’s Last Breath

Humanity’s Last Breath hails from Sweden, bringing what I can only describe as illegally imported chugs into our ears. This was the band’s first tour in the US, a fact I find shocking. They’ve been around since 2009 and have five albums and an EP under their belt. Releasing a steady stream of deathcore bangers throughout their career, it’s fascinating to hear how the band evolved from their Structures Collapse days to their latest outing, titled Ashen. Their sound has evolved into a vile hybrid of progressive and atmospheric deathcore. Dare I say that it’s a blackened form of djent? This is thanks to songwriter and guitarist Buster Odeholm. Since the inception of the group, he has remained the constant force behind the unending heaviness of HLB.

Odeholm started the band as the drummer and was credited as such up to their 2013 self-titled album. Following a major lineup shift in 2014, he made the switch over to the guitar before recording the Detestor EP. As a left-handed musician like myself, he learned guitar right-handed, had an interest in switching his style to fret with his left and chose to flip his guitar upside-down. This puts his bottom string where the top typically resides and allows for unique fretting. This decision gave the 2016-onward era of the band a strange dissonant edge, becoming more intense with each passing album. Välde felt unforgiving like the end of days was composed into a piece of music in its doom metal-like force. The record’s album cover featured a massive monolith littered with souls in the center; a crystal clear representation of the band itself. Ashen displayed the band turning up the groove dial, occasionally utilizing electronics and generally having a faster pace than its older brother.

The Stygian qualities of their music are reflected even clearer in a live setting, wherein the band chose to keep lights at a minimum during their set. The result wreathed the entire band in darkness, leaving only mere blips of light in their harrowing rhythm. HLB without a doubt was the hardest band for me to catch on camera. They maintained a claustrophobic environment, with a sound comparable to that of heavy machinery and left the listener mechanically crushed by the unforgiving low end of the whole band. Almost as low as both guitarists Odeholm and Tuomas Kurikka dropped during their many, many breakdowns. HLB, to put it simply, was an unforgiving monolithic attack in the dark, a terror of the night in which each beat ticks the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. I eagerly await their return to the United States.

Shortly after their set, I was speaking to a friend who was also photographing the show and mentioned the lighting of the band. Drummer Klas Blomgren overheard me ask “Why was the lighting so dark?” while he was walking up the stairs with us and simply said, “Because they’re cool.” I agree. Humanity’s Last Breath is cool, too. I recommend Abyssal if you want a place to start on your journey into this band. Praise Thall.

Setlist:
  1. Väldet
  2. Abyssal Mouth
  3. Tide
  4. Labyrinthian
  5. Passage
  6. Bellua Pt. 1
  7. Instill
  8. Earthless
  9. Human Swarm

Rivers of Nihil

The Pennsylvanians in Rivers of Nihil have been kicking it since 2009, like HLB, however, but with wildly different sonic directions. The band began with a vicious blend of technical and progressive death metal heard in their first two records, The Conscious Seed of Light and Monarchy. These, alongside their latter two records, Where Owls Know My Name and The Work all link through their use of seasons as an overarching concept. Each album would also carry its version of a song called Terrestria. The four iterations connect individually but all serve important roles in their respective record. Their latter records would see the band embracing the progressive side of the band, bringing an airy, almost retro quality to their music.

The band, in my opinion, symbolized the passage of time through music in more ways than one. After the quadriptych, Rivers of Nihil experienced a heavy change in staff, with the exit of guitarist Jon Topore and vocalist Jake Dieffenbach in 2022. After thirteen years, the band dropped the fifth man and moved forward as a four-piece, with bassist Adam Biggs picking up vocals in addition to his six-string. Andy Thomas (previously of Black Crown Initiate) joined the fold initially as a live member but made a very comfortable home in the band as second guitarist and clean vocalist. This lineup dropped 3 singles over the last year and saw the band leaning even further onto the progressive, experimental and ambient side of their sound.

It was a total treat to see these guys included on the tour bill. What separates them from everybody included on Chaos & Carnage is their tone. They do not pummel the listener but rather lull the listener to sleep only to scare them to death. Tracks like Death is Real follow this approach incredibly well. It starts slow and quiet before throwing the listener a fastball with blast beats and technically proficient riffage. If you’re a fan of post-Monarchy era RoN, then you know of the inclusion of the saxophone in their music. Best heard in tracks like The Silent Life and the title track Where Owls Know My Name, both of which were featured on each end of the setlist. My partner saw the show with me and was instantly hooked once saxophonist Patrick Corona (Cyborg Octopus) stepped on stage. They waved to each other! It was incredibly wholesome and that positive energy seeped forth any time he came forward. She isn’t the biggest metalhead, yet gets so stoked about elements considered unorthodox in the genre, showing a part of what makes their sound so accessible.

You can also point to the combination of progressive, thought-provoking riffage with memorable song structures and a heavier emphasis on experimentation as other pieces of Rivers of Nihil’s puzzle. Biggs had a big presence on stage, assuming the frontman position with a badge of honor and the clean vocals of Klein and Thomas were very welcome. They both carry an impressive range, but the coordination of Klein, especially with the number of lines he had to sing, reminds me strongly of Mastodon’s own Brann Dailor. I find their inclusion a great choice and a small sweet treat before getting to the final courses of the night. I cannot recommend Where Owls Know My Name enough, as it bridges the old and new eras of the band in a fantastical yet bleak manner. I am eager for the future of this band as their creative output and varied history suggests that there are many more seasons to come for them.

Setlist:
  1. The Sub‐Orbital Blues
  2. The Silent Life
  3. Hellbirds
  4. The Void From Which No Sound Escapes
  5. Criminals
  6. Death Is Real
  7. Where Owls Know My Name

Carnifex

Of this entire cavalcade of bands, Carnifex is the one group I have seen live before. They were direct support for Whitechapel on their 2017 “A Decade of Defilement” tour, about a year into their Slow Death album cycle. I have incredibly fond memories of that day, as it was my very first metal show. I was fifteen and had a fascination with Deathcore for a couple of years, well into an endless pursuit of finding heavier music to pump into my system. While I at the time wasn’t going entirely to see them, I left thinking they stole the show. They were immensely accurate and had the best mix of that night, giving the strings all the space they needed to travel about the fretboard without losing power. Frontman Scott Ian Lewis had so much bite to his vocals, which were accurate to his delivery in the studio. Their performance put the band in my listening rotation for years to come – including 2019’s World War X, which quickly became one of my favorites that year.

Carnifex has been active since 2005 and quickly cemented their sound and placement in the deathcore community as a powerhouse of rhythm and riffs. Two members have been involved with the band since their inception: Lewis and drummer Shawn Cameron. 2008’s The Diseased and the Poisoned would introduce guitarist/vocalist Cory Arford and Fred Calderon. Carnifex fall into a certain category of bands; they managed to find their lane in deathcore and have stuck with it since then, but their last few records carried a tinge of black metal through stinging tremolos, blast beats and unforgiving breakdowns. This allowed them a very strong hand in consistency and since their inception, Carnifex has churned out nine albums. Their most recent, Necromanteum, dropped in 2023. It’s been nearly six years since I’ve witnessed these beasts from San Diego rip the stage. What was most intriguing was how little the band had changed within that time. While they have experienced a lineup change; with the introduction of former DevilDriver guitarist Neal Tiemann, the group delivered the same style and depth that I remember them bringing in the Summit Music Hall in Colorado. I felt so much nostalgia through it all, made even stronger by the inclusion of Dark Heart Ceremony and Drown Me In Blood in the second half of their set. Interestingly, 2014’s Die Without Hope had four appearances that night, three of those songs making up the first part of their performance. Die Without Hope was the point in their career where they went full steam ahead in creating black metal-infused deathcore, yet strayed distinctly away from being blackened deathcore.

Carnifex always manages to keep both subgenres close at hand to call on if needed, as opposed to creating a symbiotic creature. While it is unfortunate to not hear any tracks from 2019’s Graveside Confessions, we still have a mighty list of tunes that even includes Dead in My Arms track Lie to My Face. Carnifex played the sixteen-year-old song with youthful energy as if they had just written the song moments ago, primed and ready to show it to the world. I firmly believe the band will keep this fire in their gut for as long as the name Carnifex lives.

Setlist:
  1. Salvation Is Dead
  2. Dark Days
  3. Dragged Into the Grave
  4. Torn In Two
  5. Hell Chose Me
  6. Lie To My Face
  7. Necromanteum
  8. Dark Heart Ceremony
  9. Die Without Hope
  10. Drown Me in Blood

Cattle Decapitation

Closing the night on an incredibly high note were the maniacs running the operation known as Cattle Decapitation. This was a name that blew my mind when I first heard of them in middle school. As the oldest band in the lineup, they have a long history of writing grinding yet progressive music with lyrical themes of human suffering through violent acts typically committed against animals.

The San Diego titans formed nearly 30 years ago with an entirely vegetarian lineup. Ryan, the longest standing member has been involved with the band since 1997 and did not perform on their first demo. This early incarnation of the record also included drummer Dave Astor (who would eventually form the band Pathology) and guitarist/vocalist Gabe Serbian. Founding member Dave Astor would leave the band after their album To Serve Man leaving the band with no original musicians. Then Ryan, guitarist Josh Elmore and later drummer Dave McGraw (who joined the fold a couple of years before 2009’s The Harvest Floor) would maintain a somewhat consistent lineup. Derek Engemann (currently of Scour) played bass for Cattle Decapitation for nearly 8 years, but Cryptopsy/Vengeful bassist Oliver Pinard now commits the 5 string havoc. Rounding out the lineup is second guitarist Belisario Dimuzio (Eukaryst). This lineup is credited in 2019’s Death Atlas and most recently, 2023’s Terrasite.

Cattle Decapitation without a doubt nailed their sound in 2012 with Monolith of Inhumanity, blending and producing the grindcore sound from their early days with progressive death metal. The Anthropocene Extinction took that combination and gave it a refined edge, creating what is easily their strongest work. As mentioned, Terrasite is their newest record and received the most attention from the band during their set. Kicking off with the opening track Terrasitic Adaptation, the band filed in with an opposing posture, preparing to release an assault to the packed crowd, looking to them like bugs on a corpse. I got a big chuckle out when vocalist Travis Ryan was brought on stage by piggyback, looking stoked to act like a straight nut on stage.

A lot like Carnifex, the band hasn’t pulled their punches as they grow with time. Terrasite, alongside Monolith of Inhumanity both received a lot of attention by the band, with four tracks from the former and three from the latter in their setlist. This included the return of one of their most popular tracks, the kindly named Forced Gender Reassignment – this Monolith song was a constant member of their live performance until about 2022. The band’s last tour through Europe excluded the track and leaned heavier on tracks on their latest two records. Regardless, the ferocity and accuracy of the band remain. It’s evident that Cattle Decapitation ages like a vile wine with every show they play and every album they drop.

Setlist:
  1. Terrasitic Adaptation
  2. We Eat Our Young
  3. Scourge of the Offspring
  4. Your Disposal
  5. Bring Back the Plague
  6. The Storm Upstairs
  7. Forced Gender Reassignment
  8. Manufactured Extinct
  9. Kingdom of Tyrants

This year’s festival, better than ever, was an incredible experience filled with memorable moments. Everybody that night put 110% of their soul into creating the ultimate death metal/deathcore show – fitting for the final show of a nearly month-long stretch. Moments like the charming ditties of The Zenith Passage’s set or the glimpses of a man in a cockroach costume during the setup for Cattle Decapitation’s performance tied the overall experience in a brutal bow. For nearly a decade, this marriage of genres was best known for being put together by Summer Slaughter, but after several years of silence, the tour returned this year revealing their most divisive lineup yet. Combined with their general lack of responsibilities in public relations, Summer Slaughter is unfortunately a shadow of its former glory. Chaos & Carnage are doing what needs to be done to crown itself the new most extreme tour of the year.

During the show, the venue did experience a few medical emergencies, including someone fainting due to dehydration, some blood spilled in the pit and a dislocated knee. It’s no secret that Las Vegas is dangerously hot during this time of year and no amount of A/C could save the deep crowd from the heat. I give big props to the bar staff and security at House of Blues for handing out cups of water to as many patrons as they could leading up to Cattle Decapitation’s set. While this may simply be routine on their part, that hospitality goes an incredibly long way and I now have a deeper appreciation of the location. I’ve consistently had positive experiences at House of Blues shows and this takes the cake for the best experience I’ve had since I began going to shows in Vegas two years ago. I hope next year sees Chaos & Carnage making a return to Mandalay Bay for a third time. Well done and many congratulations to everybody who played, as well as for their role in keeping metal alive and kicking.

Setlists:
https://www.setlist.fm/search?query=face+yourself
https://www.setlist.fm/search?query=vitriol
https://www.setlist.fm/setlists/the-zenith-passage-73ddd2ed.html
https://www.setlist.fm/search?query=humanity%27s+last+breath
https://www.setlist.fm/search?query=rivers+of+nihil
https://www.setlist.fm/search?query=carnifex
https://www.setlist.fm/search?query=cattle+decapitation

Research/Sources:
https://www.facebook.com/Fyourselfband/
https://fyourselfband.com/pages/about-us
https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Vitriol/3540446375
https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/The_Zenith_Passage/3540346785
https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/rivers_of_nihil/3540301156
https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Carnifex/91003
https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Cattle_Decapitation/2840

Playlist:

Article and photos by Chase Pozzie for ZrockR Magazine 2024 – All Rights Reserved.

Additional coverage:
Chaos & Carnage 2022
Chaos & Carnage 2023
Cattle Decapitation – 201720192022
Vitriol (with Defeated Sanity)

By Chase Pozzi

Chase Pozzi, Drummer (Scathen, Omen King) Writer/Photographer Born September 25th, 2002, Chase Pozzi has been invading the Las Vegas metal scene since he first moved to Sin City in 2022. With a strong fascination with metal music and its many facets, Chase is dedicated to discovering as many bands as he can to add to his encyclopedia of brutality. Chase is also a musician, playing the drums since he was thirteen years old. He is best known for past work in bands such as Autosarcophagy and his involvement in black metal bands Scathen and Omen King.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.