Event ReviewsNews & OpinionSuffocation and Belphegor Clash In Pittsburgh! (11/19/2019)

Darren LewisNovember 24, 2019

When the underground was young, black and death metal were synonymous with each other. Those days are no more. However, these genres have crossed streams quite often since then and remain kindred to this day. Tonight’s gory revue was an opportunity to examine and celebrate that.

In one corner, hailing from Austria, we had the occult death/black metalists known as Belphegor snorting brimstone and kicking with cloven hooves. In the other, hailing from Long Island, it would be the baseball bat-swinging, streetwise technical brutality of death metal puritans Suffocation. Who won?

Before we got to find out, Automb opened the gala of dark rites with a set of blustery Dissection worship and an overall sense of frostbitten scorn, guitarist Serg Stretlov playing as if he were auditioning for Emperor or Bloodbath as vocalist/bassist Danielle Evans howled with the ferocious intent and conviction of veterans twice her age.

Montreal’s Necronomicon furthered the black ceremony by blurring Morbid Angel into Dimmu Borgir with insane drumming from Jean-Phillipe Bouchard and an ominous presence in band leader Rob Tremblay.

Abiotic’s progressive death fires failed to start any infernos, their Origin-inspired mission falling short before the awesome might of the co-headliners.

Belphegor used the theatrics of both Death SS and Watain to clobber Behemoth into submission, chief demon Helmuth Lehner beating more famous bands at their own vocation with a canny sense of song and a deadly serious aura. Large, wooden, inverted crosses adorned the stage as winged devils such as “Sanctus Diaboli Confidimus” and “Stigma Diabolicum” took flight.

Suffocation damn near got over on me, their music not being something I’ve ever completely warmed to. Nonetheless, original frontman Frank Mullen would’ve been proud to watch current torchbearer Ricky Myers growl and prowl the stage, stuttering with a latent violence that borrows from hardcore punk. Many fans left after Belphegor, but that didn’t stop key member and founder Terrence Hobbs and his squadron of Pyrexia and Dying Fetus alumni from busting brains and looting the storefronts of more complacent acts. As the weeknight show approached its end, only the most devout and battle-hardened were left standing, and as long as someone was bouncing off of someone else and snapping necks, Suffocation were content.

So yes, a curious gig this was. Belpehgor may have been a more fitting team-up with say Mayhem, but there were no complaints or regrets for this was an evening where two of metal’s most barbed and volatile genres strengthened their innate, primordial bonds.