An evening of brutal death metal was on the cards tonight, and with a bill boasting 5 bands the doors to the Rebellion had opened amidst glorious sunshine to welcome the early birds to the bludgeoning that is no doubt about to ensue.

Unfortunately I was cursed with gridlocked city centre traffic as I tried to haul my soul across Manchester in time to catch the openers on the bill, Cryptic Shift, but unfortunately I had to submit as I pulled up outside the venue just as the lights were going up. That’s one to keep on the burner and try to catch next time they are in town.

The venue was still painfully empty as the Italian death metal mob, Sadist, stroll onto the stage to a mild cheer, which went up a notch as Trevor Nadir ambled into the single illuminating spot light bearing his chainsaw and leather apron and sporting a demonic looking mask to complete the Texas chainsaw get up. As chainsaw buzzes emanated from the stage it wasn’t long before the Italians kicked into the opener and set their stall out that they were here to deliver ruthless and vicious pure death metal. This was studded with intermittent episodes of jazz type doodles which seemed to dissect the workings of the songs and keep halting the momentum that the band had gathered. Nadirs vocals were bludgeoning and hammering and he was backed up by technical precision from the strings of Marchini and Talamanca (who also put in a shift on the keys). Spallarossa on the drums absolutely pummelled the kit, with no let up from the start of their brief 40 minutes stint to the end bars of the closer for the set. These are definitely one horde to keep an eye out for and show them your support next time they grace a stage near you.

As the lights dimmed once more, the crowd had swelled somewhat and the spotlights highlighted the front microphone stands which had symbols adorned on them to signify that the death metal giants that are Atrocity were about to entertain us. Krull et al walked into the fray to an impressive cheer and wasted no time in launching into the absolutely fierce and violent riot of death metal, which seemed to inspire the crowd into creating some movement on the floor below them. Their latest opus ‘Okkult II’ got the most air time tonight with half of the set being made up of the album, although ‘Death By Metal’ and ‘Haunted By Demons’ from ‘Okkult’ probably generated the most action from the crowd below. It’s easy to see how Krulls solid frame can create the guttural roars which seeped from him tonight, but he prowled around the stage like a possessed beast.

He was flanked by Bauer and Streit who were technically magnificent and the fretwork was just sublime. Nijenhuis sat behind them all and seemed to orchestrate from his drum stool, and almost controlled the proceedings like a maniacal marionettist. Mid set Krull tried to lighten the mood by going through a chat about football, citing various teams from around the regions and trying to instigate a friendly war between the City and United supporters. Once they got it back on track, you could really see how these Germans have survived the test of time and have become legends in the death metal underworld with 10 full length albums and coming up to 34 years confidently under their belts.

Next up we were in for a battering of the senses and souls as Vital Remains took to the stage with a healthy crowd having now gathered to worship and pay homage to the violent and malevolent world that the Americans were about to open us up to. Werner was an absolute trooper and his passion for the music he commands is second to none. He stalked and scavenged around the stage and was a master to the puppets that were tearing the mosh pit up below him. Throughout the set he urged the crowd to create bigger and bigger pits and just before a thunderous wall of death he had some banter with the crowd in relation to battle vests and battle ‘bath robes’, I guess you had to be there. He also introduced a personal friend who was front and centre, and explained the reason for his attendance was that Vital Remains was a band on his ‘to see live’ bucket list which had been created in part to the fact that he was battling terminal cancer, before allowing his friend to signal the battering wall to collide.

The set was decorated with crowd favourites and store cupboard staples in the form of ‘Dechristianize’, ‘Hammer Down The Nails’ and ‘Icons Of Evil’ to name but a few. It’s also worth scribing that these were probably the gems which instigated the biggest movement and rampage within the confines of the Rebellion tonight.

Lazaro was a true stalwart and mesmerising with the axe, with Collier flanking Werner on the other side and creating pounding, thumping and pummelling bass lines which acted like sutures to the whole evening. Werner was an absolute maniac and spat out each line of each track with venom and intent, and the whole set felt like it could have been a headliners efforts tonight, I think very few in here tonight would have noticed or even given a damn that the band ran well over their predicted finish time tonight, they were just loving this party way too much. These stateside death metal veterans definitely need to return very soon, and this need ultimately supersedes any excuses not to grace these shores with their psyches on a tour of their own making.

So onto the main event of the evening, the main event of ‘Morbidfest’ and the main event that the significantly engorged crowd was here to bear witness to, and that is I Am Morbid with the absolute death metal royalty that is David Vincent providing the back bone on vocals and bass. He was joined by previously intermittent Morbid Angel drummer Tim Yeung, and the stage was fringed by the technical prowess of Hudson and McLauchlin on the guitars. Tonight they had promised us tracks from just the first four Morbid Angel classics, ‘Altars Of Madness’, ‘Blessed Are The Sick’, ‘Covenant’ and ‘Domination’, and with that prospect I just don’t know why this place wasn’t absolutely rammed, sold out or even had people hanging from the rafters to bear witness to this phenomenon.

The set opened with the ‘Omni Potens’ intro and the band then launched into an absolutely brutal ‘Immortal Rites’ where the pit opened up to the biggest it had been all evening, and Vincent et al seemed to be loving it, grins being brandished from each of the stage warriors stood (or sat in the case of Yeung) before us.

The band then alternated between ‘Altars Of Madness’ and ‘Blessed Are The Sick’ with ‘Fall From Grace’, an absolutely behemoth ‘Visions From The Dark Side’ and the title track ‘Blessed Are The Sick’. A triple whammy from ‘Covenant’ then ensued with ‘Rapture’, ‘Pain Divine’ and ‘Sworn To The Black’. The rest of the set was then built around the foundations that are ‘Covenant’ and ‘Domination’ except for the bands namesake ‘I Am Morbid’ from ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ and ‘Maze Of Torment’ from ‘Altars Of Madness’.

The whole place showed their appreciation to the Americans with energy and good old fashioned violent pits, with Vincent et al seeming to love every moment of it. Vincent commanded the crowd with ease and provided evil, malevolent vocals, along with absolute crushing bass duties. The guitar technicality was on point and flawless from the opening chords of ‘Immortal Rites’ to the closing bars of the evening. Yeung was an absolute behemoth behind the kit, the skills and power that he exuded was eye watering and he never let up on the intensity or ferociousness one iota.

As the band departed the stage it was true testament that Manchester loves getting a dose of brutal, old school death metal and each one of the soldiers that have fought in this war of friendly fire tonight had not been disappointed. The David Vincent phoenix has risen from the ashes and taken on the Morbid Angel form in a new fresh, re energised body and soul, who are bringing with them the intensity and commitment ready to take this journey to the next level. You definitely need to be a part of this !!

Review and Photos Phil Pountney