After playing to what frontman Jeff Walker called “a bunch of children” on the bottom of the bill at the inaugural Chicago Open Air festival in Bridgeview, death metal legends Carcass felt more comfortable headlining in the city for Open Air’s only official aftershow on Saturday. They brought critical darlings Deafheaven up with them from Toyota Park to rock the more intimate Metro. “It’s refreshing to see male pattern baldness and a complete sausage fest,” Walker told the crowd. “We feel at home.”
Despite a double bill that would likely lose audience members to both Metal Threat Fest (in Carcass’ case) and Pitchfork Music Festival (in Deafheaven’s), the line to get in was starting to wrap around the building when I arrived. I’m not sure the show sold out, but the crowd was solid and highly energetic.
I was curious how Deafheaven would fare opening for an influential extreme act compared to their headlining show. It was clear early on however that many attendees came for Deafheaven specifically. I should have been worried about how Carcass came off to Deafheaven’s fanbase instead. The atmospheric black metal group tore through most of last year’s New Bermuda. Vocalist George Clarke slithered around the stage making his bizarre gestures while the four instrumentalists hung back and let the music speak for itself.
Despite constant touring since New Bermuda and it being their second performance of the day, Clarke’s rasp was in top form and his energy was off the charts. The closer, “Dream House,” was not quite as intense as last fall, but the crowd chanted for one more song. something I’ve never seen before from an opener.
Things kicked up even more when Carcass took the stage. The British masters had the crowd in the palms of their hands from the moment they walked out, opening with the scorcher “Unfit For Human Consumption” off of the comeback album Surgical Steel. Carcass have toured non-stop since that album’s release in 2013, keeping the setlist mostly stagnant. But they play with a vitality that belies both their complexity and the age of Walker and guitarist Bill Steer. The reason that Carcass are one of the most successful death metal bands is that they’re just fun as hell. I’ve rarely seen a metal crowd go berserk as this one did during “Incarnated Solvent Abuse.” The power of the band was just too undeniable. It’s not surprising that they’re a festival staple.
Individually, the musicians were at the top of their game, particularly when Steer and Ben Ash traded blazing solos. Walker’s voice is still in strong shape and his bass playing is deceptively great. Young gun Daniel Wilding keeps the band in lockstep even as the guitar licks threaten to go off the rails. It seems that Carcass haven’t tired at all since reuniting. Their combination of high energy and tight playing has made them a festival staple.
Walker let it slip that they would be touring with Deafheaven in November, but that they would be skipping Chicago. If you do get a chance to see these two together outside of Chicago, do yourself a favor and go. If not, I’m sure both bands will be back soon and ready to rip.