Words by: Danny Ryan
Photos by: Dillon Vaughn
Heavy metal has long been the subject of more criticism than most music genres for various reasons. It is often stereotyped as being aggressive, hard to understand, structurally abrasive, and needlessly obscene. Nobody embodies these traits more than Dying Fetus, but they do so with full embrace and awareness of these criticisms. While many metal artists have tried to reach a more mainstream audience by toning down these aspects of the genre, Dying Fetus doubles down on what it truly means to be heavy metal legends by never compromising their sound or image to appeal to outsiders. If you don’t appreciate death metal or Dying Fetus’ sound, they do not care what you think. They’re a death metal band for fans who deeply love the genre, and they’re easily one of the most grandiose performers in the scene. They personify the spirit of heavy metal in every way possible by being the loudest, fastest, darkest, most brutal band possible and their recent headlining show at the Regent Theater represented this spirit of metal at its deepest core.
Upon arrival at The Regent Theater, the venue was filled with long, shaggy hair and colorless wardrobes of different band merch that could be seen all around you. Metal music is signature for its devoted fanbase that has a burning passion for the genre and its aesthetics. Metalheads are often devoted to the genre entirely in their lifestyle and image, and this allegiance to the dark and heavy could be felt throughout the entire evening. Metal shows do have an immediate noticeable feeling of grand celebration due to the obsessive love for the genre felt from the crowd around you. Even if Dying Fetus is a band that rejects an appeal to the mainstream, their loyal fanbase has such a fervent affection for the genre that they provide the enthusiastic feedback and applause that one would often find exclusively at larger stadium performances.
Chelsea Grin were an interesting choice to co-headline, as they are from an era of heavy metal that represented a massive shift from the gritty and obscene to a cleaner image with more sex appeal seen often in the early-00’s Vans Warped Tour circuit. Although the band has a more sanitized appearance than the hostile and offensive aesthetic of Dying Fetus, they were certainly experts in bringing high energy movement throughout the crowd. Vocalist Tom Barber had excellent charisma in addressing the crowd with the rough growls and shrill pig squeal-type vocals that their genre of Deathcore is known for. Rather than the slam-dancing and circle pits that the other bands of the night inspired, Chelsea Grin did have a lot more hardcore dancing with windmills sending limbs flying in all directions and spin-kicks shooting towards the sky. Chelsea Grin may have contrasted to Dying Fetus in many ways due to their history in deathcore rather than the vulgar nature of the 90’s death metal scene, but they still provided a lively atmosphere that anticipated the crowd for the brutality of Dying Fetus’ set that would follow.
The lights on the stage dimmed while “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy played, as Dying Fetus casually approached the stage with deafening screams echoing throughout the room. Although death metal may be a more niche and underground genre, they are easily some of the biggest stars and the fanfare could be sensed all around you. Even with the riotous applause, there was no intro. The band swiftly broke into the opening growls of the track “Schematics” as a massive circle pit opened up taking up the entire venue’s dancefloor, as the high-pitched and piercing sounds of guitarist John Gallegher played. The venue looked like a riotous battleground of flailing bodies being shoved aggressively in all directions, with the vibration of the track’s ferocious drum beat following the crowd in this movement. Death metal is a genre that needs no introduction speeches with performance-based ego, as the vigorous and provocative music immediately says everything that needs to be said upon hearing it.
It’s absolutely astonishing how Dying Fetus is the loudest band while only having 3 members, which is incredibly uncommon in metal but especially death metal. I had never realized that they had two vocalists, considering death metal is often a genre where the vocalist performs growls and screams interchangeably. Guitarist, John Gallagher, growled in the vocal style that death metal is known for, sounding like Cookie Monster on heavy stimulants as the blast-beats of drummer Trey Williams sync up perfectly with these grunts and growls behind him. In contrast, bassist Sean Beasley performed with a much more chaotic and evil-sounding growl sounding like he was possessed by a demon. One of death metal’s biggest strengths is how the signature growls feel as if they are an instrument that is added to the track rather than the melodic singing associated with most forms of music, and having 2 distinct vocal styles of these growls adds multiple layers to the band’s music making them sound far more giant than a 3-piece group.
A moment in the set that encapsulated Dying Fetus’ message perfectly was when they told the crowd that a love song would be played next, only to announce that the song would be “Skull Fucked” before diving into the shrill alarm-like guitar riff with blistering blast beats behind it that bring the listener into a spiraling state of pure adrenaline and darkness. The crowd enthusiastically cheered when they announced that a love song would be played, but only grew in volume once they announced the title of the song. Death metal is evil, violent, offensive, and provocative. There really isn’t any room for love songs in a genre as dark as this, and Dying Fetus knew this when they teased the crowd with the statement. If somebody wants to experience conventional emotions such as love, euphoria, reflection, joy, or peace that are often sought out when people listen to music, Dying Fetus is not the band for these outlets. But if the danger of laughing at obscenity while being shoved around violently in a large circle of passionate sweat brings you emotions such as joy, there is not a better band to have you smiling from ear to ear.
At the peak of the expansive and intense setlist of the evening, a vocal sample of a baby crying could be heard softly as the completely pitch-black stage commanded the front of the venue. The wails slowly raised in volume and became more and more distraught turning from a soft cry to bone-chilling hysterical howl. Although the discomfort of the crowd was raising gradually to a snapping point of anxious uneasiness, the applause only increased in volume along with this rising air of disturbing energy that could be felt throughout the room. This segment of the evening felt like being stuck in the middle of sadistic gory horror film with no escape, but the anxious energy was shattered in a climax by the militant opening drums of “Homicidal Retribution” with the crowd violent reacting by slamming in all directions sending bodies flying from wall to wall throughout the Regent. Even if the darker and more sinister themes of metal are deeply disturbing to the listener, the audience is always welcoming of the nightmare in gleeful embrace.
The set ended in a way I could have never predicted when they closed with every edgy metalhead’s favorite classic, “Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog”. The track is personally one of my favorite metal songs of all time and I felt starstruck. The signature riff has an infectious groove that is way easier to dance to than one would think and the more higher-pitched screams of “Kill, Kill, Kill, Kill” part of the chorus make the track an anthemic sing-a-long in ways not often seen in the genre. The song is a perfect blend of iconic brutality in its themes and vicious heaviness in its instrumentals, creating a whirlpool of chaos in the mosh pit as a final celebration of pure aggression to close the incredible evening with.
Dying Fetus’ live shows are a showcase demonstrating the pinnacle of the most noisey and vulgar qualities that heavy metal has to offer. The dancefloor is turned into a combat zone of pure adrenaline as the aggressive sounds of blistering blast-beats, complimenting tones of different vocal growls, and spiraling high-pitched guitar solos fill the venue with deafening non-stop volume that leaves the listener leaving with nonstop ringing filling their head. Dying Fetus are one of the original legends of death metal, embodying the most brutal and abrasive qualities that the genre is known for. Although death metal may reject many aspects of the mainstream rockstar image, Dying Fetus manage to be such a large force in their scene that they are undeniable heavy metal stars carrying the torch of its profanely evil essence.