CONCERT REVIEW: Death Metal Maestros FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE and OBSCURA Deliver Theatrical Performances at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre (March 4th, 2023)

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On the fifteenth stop of their 2023 North American Tour, co-headliners Fleshgod Apocalypse and Obscura, hailing from Italy and Germany, respectively, landed in the Gramercy neighborhood of Manhattan for a sold-out death metal show for the ages this past Saturday night, March 4.

At 6:30 pm, doors to the 86-year-old Gramercy Theatre opened and the queue of at least 150 fans, wrapped around the corner of E. 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue, suddenly began to move. Approximately one hour before the night’s first of two opening acts would take the stage, and with the intimate venue filling up fast, heavy metal fans overflowed into the warm confines of the lower level bar and band merch areas looking for the perfect souvenir to forever remind them of the night yet to unfold.

The Germanic black death metal spin-off of Obscura, known as Thulcandra and formed twenty years ago by Steffen Kummerer (performing double duty as front-man tonight), took the stage at 7:30 pm for a 30-minute set of extreme metal. The current quartet, rounded out by Alessandro “Erebor” Delastik (drums), Mariano Delastik (guitar) and Carsten Schorn (bass), ripped through their catalog of career-spanning, aggressive tracks. With one selection procured from each of their five studio albums, the night’s apogee was the relentless and catchy “As I Walk Through the Gateway,” the lead single from their forthcoming album “Hail the Abyss”, via Napalm Records, set for release on May 19.

Thulcandra Setlist:  Deliverance in Sin and Death / Funeral Pyre / As I Walk Through the Gateway / Aeon of Darkness / Spirit of the Night

THULCANDRA Picture Gallery

Initially created as a solo project by Finnish multi-instrumentalist Tuomas Saukkonen in 2012, the second band of the night, Wolfheart, attacked the stage at 8:15 pm. Along with Joonas Kauppinen (drums), Lauri Silvonen (bass) and Vageliss Karzis (lead guitar), the acclaimed melodic death metal band associated with its winter-themed compositions gifted the rapturous audience with six offerings from its six-albums catalog. Although there was a notable absence of material from their third album, “Tyhjyys”, the audience was treated to two numbers from their most recent full-length album (King of the North”, 2022), including “Skyforger” and “The King.”

After a quick turnover of the stage following Wolfheart’s blistering set, Kummerer was set to return once again with his co-headlining band Obscura. Formed in 2002, the current lineup of Christian Münzner (lead guitar), Jeroen Paul Thesseling (bass) and David Diepold (drums) suddenly appeared in the dark shadows at 9:10 pm, ready to launch a technical death metal assault on its audience. Over the course of 55 minutes, the band of music theorists blew our collective minds with precisely delivered, compositionally complex music spanning five of their six studio albums – only an offering from their debut album (“Retribution”, 2006) would be absent.

Wolfheart Setlist: Skyforger / Ghost of Karelia / Aeon of Cold / The King / Breakwater / The Hammer

WOLFHEART Picture Gallery

The opening number from Obscura’s latest album (“A Valediction”) released via Nuclear Blast in 2021, “Forsaken,” set the tone for the virtuosic black metal to follow. With a circle mosh pit forming almost immediately in the center of the floor crowd, the band next ripped through “Emergent Evolution”, and followed with one brilliantly sculpted track selected from each of the previous three concept albums – The Anticosmic Overload (Cosmogenesis”, 2009), “Ocean Gateways(Omnivium”, 2011) and “Akróasis (Akróasis”, 2016). If the crowd was still craving unhinged, highly technical melodic death metal, they got their ultimate fix with the set closer, “When Stars Collide,” another monumental cut taken from A Valediction” with Kummerer and his band-mates exhibiting unprecedented polyrhythms and solo structures.

Obscura Setlist: Forsaken / Emergent Evolution / Devoured Usurper / The Beyond / A Valediction / Akróasis / Solaris / The Anticosmic Overload / Ocean Gateways / When Stars Collide

OBSCURA Picture Gallery

Following one last stage conversion, the moment finally arrived when the symphonic death metal sextet based in Perguia, Italy hit the stage at 10:30 pm for a 13-song set spanning five studio albums. Like Obscura before them, the only missing representation would be from their debut album, “Oracles”, released in 2009. Formed by their front-man Francesco Paoli in 2007, the membership ingredients of Fleshgod Apocalypse are longtime bassist Paolo Rossi, lead guitarist Fabio Bartoletti, pianist Francesco Ferrini and drummer Eugene Ryabchenko. The recipe is made complete by operatic vocalist Veronica Bordacchini who joined the family as a dramatic soprano in 2013.

For the next hour and change, and the crowd on the verge of self-combusting from the jump, Fleshgod Apocalypse blew the doors of the concert hall with the sonic wizardry of “Fury” and “Healing Through War”. After a quick address by Paoli to his audience, “New York, it’s a pleasure to be with you tonight,” Fleshgod Apocalypse were off and running again as they ripped through one symphonic masterpiece after another, including the self-titled track from 2020’s “No,” featuring a rather peculiar lyrical tribute to Brittney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” during the operatic chorus. With the show’s conclusion drawing near, including an epic collision of head-banging souls after Paoli commanded the floor crowd to split up the middle and then crash back like a tidal wave, Fleshgod Apocalypse went back to 2011 and their second studio album (“Agony) for “The Egoism and “The Forsaking,” spotlighting praiseworthy guitar and drum work on each of these meteoric, unrelenting songs.

If you like death metal, then you’ll love Fleshgod Apocalypse, and I recommend that you catch these gothic titans of the genre in their lavish, theatrical setting as soon as you can. The culminating show of Fleshgod Apocalypse and Obscura’s 25-date tour of the United States will be on March 16 at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles. While Fleshgod Apocalypse will be appearing at the Infernum Meets Porkcore Festival in Werneck, Germany on August 25, Obscura is scheduled for two dates in Australia (March 18 and 19), followed by festival dates in the Czech Republic (May 12), Germany (July 21) and Mexico (November 10).

Fleshgod Apocalypse Setlist: Fury / Healing Through War / Sugar / Minotaur (The Wrath of Poseidon) / No / The Praying Mantis’ Strategy / Monnalisa / The Violation / Prologue / Epilogue / The Fool / The Egoism / The Forsaking

FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE Picture Gallery

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