27 May 2022
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Imperial Slave - Gig Review: Imperial Slave @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 07/05/2022

07 May 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

And so, it came to pass I was back in Dead Witch for the second consecutive night, and my third gig in as many days, which really shows how the scene is ramping back up again under the orange settings. We have all been deprived of live music for so long, and bands are now dipping their toes back in the water while others are resetting dates which previously had been cancelled. Tonight was set for a really loud and enjoyable evening with Imperial Slave continuing the tour for their incredible debut album. They had played the previous night in Hamilton and Teraset, who had supported them yesterday, were back tonight while I saw openers Silent Torture just a few weeks ago so knew exactly what to expect from them as well.

Liam Hand (vocals), Aidan McGorry (rhythm guitar), Daryl Hodgetts (lead guitar), Elijah Jurd-Pinho (bass), and Ross Curtain (drums) know exactly what they want to achieve, and that is Cannibal Corpse style intensity with plenty of tempo changes and locked in twin guitars. As with the last time I saw them they kicked off with Biblically Bastardized, at full intensity right from the off. Liam is such a wonderfully mild-mannered guy when he isn’t singing, but when there is a job to do, he provides incredible deep throated growls which are ripping from his chest while the band are at full pelt. They are driven from the back with some great work from Ross, while the twin guitars and bass lock in so they are almost one beast, and then at the front there is Liam who switches between Corpsegrinder and Barney Greenway in his approach.

Mutilator has more of a thrash approach, somewhat lighter, but still with plenty of brutality and the further it progresses the more into death metal territory it goes while the timing of the bass solo is just right as it provides the contrast which makes everything seem even louder. Bodies in the Sewers was one of the highlights with a riff which is quite different to everything else which is going on and has some cool dynamics. The mosh pit was already in full swing by now, and anyone daring to visit the front of the stage was taking their lives in their hands. The music is complex with very high note density which means everyone is concentrating on what they are playing, so often the only person moving on the stage is Liam, but the audience more than made up for the lack of mobility, warming up for what was promising to be a very special metallic night at Dead Witch. There was even an attempt at a stage dive, with the proponent last seen going headfirst into the ground, but at least the effort was there. They ended the set with Bloodbath, and yet again I came away impressed with a very special death metal outfit indeed.

Next up was Teraset, a band I was really looking forward to as I know drummer Will Stairmand quite well as not only does it play in other bands such as Primacy but he is also the person behind the wonderful The Distorted Transmission interview series on the MNNZ YouTube channel. Before the gig I had a long chat with Lee and I knew we were in for a load of fun. A short backing track intro and we were into The Ecstasy of Absolute Power, with a quartet who are channelling old school death metal with a real groove. Teraset are one of those bands who understand the need for dynamics and contrast within their songs, which means there are times when there is plenty of space, others where the layers are far more compressed, while they also change tempos and mix it up. While Slayer are an obvious influence there is a lot going on, so much so that one never knows where it is going to lead apart from it always being extremely heavy. Will drives it from the back, hitting the kit incredibly hard, while Ralph locks in on bass while also providing some deep vocals which maintain a level of intelligibility and not going too deep. Then either side of him at the front are guitarists Lee and Jakob who switch it up with both happy to provide widely when the time is right or slam it down.

They are quite a different act to Silent Torture who preceded them, but the intensity level is still incredibly high, and they maintain a groove throughout. This was particularly noticeable on the title cut of their last album, Shadow of the Vulture, which goes off like a train barely keeping on the tracks. Their music may always be brutal, but there is a real sense of musicality and melody within it which is massively appealing. I had not heard them at all prior to tonight, but I was having a blast! There is also something about older bands in that they have all been around the block, have seen and done it all, which means by the time they come to play together they are incredibly relaxed and just out to have fun which means the audience come along for the ride. Ralph stands planted behind the microphone and is in in total control of proceedings, riding and directing the maelstrom, Will using double kick pedals great effect while the guitars just crunch. All too soon they were into Nothing More Nothing Less and the set was ending. I’m already looking forward to seeing these guys again in the future while their next album is due out in the next month and that is something to keep an eye out for.

Now it was time for Imperial Slave, the new band put together by Sam Sheppard (Sinate, 8 Foot Sativa) who had now relinquished the drum stool to be the frontman, joined by Isaac Lundy and Ant Hati on guitars, Achilles Manley (bass) and Matt Wright (drums). Tonight was a first for me at Dead Witch, which led to a discussion with soundman Dave, in that we were actually ahead of schedule with Imperial Slave kicking off 25 minutes before they were expecting to. But given that they had the reverse the previous night and had started at 1:00 am, they were not complaining. They launched into Freedom Dies, with Sam sat on the side of the stage watching the rest of the guys kick it off, and then he was there. His presence is immense, and anyone not knowing his history would think he has always been a frontman as his intensity dominates everything else which is going on. They followed this with Confirm or Deny, which in the middle has a section which was probably the most atmospheric thing played by any of the bands tonight and then we were back into the pit with their thrash/melodic death crossover.

There is a real mix of styles in what they are doing, all exceptionally heavy, and while there are plenty of heads being banged on stage, Sam is always standing tall with a chain wrapped around his microphone lead leading to images of slaves. The mosh was by now going crazy, as the other bands had been leading up to this: metal royalty was in the house and he was determined that he and his mates were going to rip this place a new one, and if it felt full on before, Black Mass took it to a whole new level with a speed and ferocity which was simply insane. An Gorta Mór is another which starts off on one level and then quickly ramps up to become something brutal, yet they also find room for some syncopation, and it is this variety which makes the music seem that much more intense as there is plenty of contrast within. Sam obviously played drums on the album, which meant that Matt had a real job tonight as he had to provide the punishing attacks and power rolls we have come to expect, but this he did with aplomb, driving the band along.

Fear and Hate is another which seems to just get more brutal and over the top the longer it goes on and then suddenly it just stops! The set ended with the ripper which is End of Empires, driven along by intense kick drums and everything locking down and hoping to meet at the end. Sam apologised for the only having a short set, but as he pointed out they only have one album and they don’t play covers. But instead of finishing they went into Imperial Slave, which gave everyone one last chance for a mosh.

It had been a heck of a night at Dead Witch with three insanely heavy bands, and the sell-out crowd had a blast. I am so looking forward to seeing all these bands again, and make sure you catch Imperial Slave as they continue their tour around the country as they are immense.


Photo Credit: Kev Rowland

 

About Imperial Slave

Formed by Sinate and ex-8 Foot Sativa drummer Sam Sheppard in Palmerston North with local musicians from Deaths Door, Reignmaker, Skitz Hydro and Decoma.

Imperial Slave was formed in 2020 and released their first self-titled album in 2021.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Imperial Slave

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