Dying Fetus, Incantation, Gatecreeper, and Genocide Pact Infect NYC on Relapse Contamination Tour

The greatest death metal tour of the year makes its way to New York City’s Gramercy Theatre.

WORDS: Chris Krovatin and Ethan Fixell
PHOTOS: Rory Higginson

In many ways, this year’s Relapse Contamination Tour should be easy and comfortable for your average New York death metal fan. The venue is a Big Apple headbanger mainstay, the Thursday night date keeps the night from spiraling out of control, and the headlining act will assuredly provide plenty of the slamming riffs and pinch harmonics everyone loves in music’s most brutal genre.

And yet, as the crowds of brolic death metal bros and the occasional black-clad cult hesher pile into Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan, there’s an exciting spark in the air. The younger two acts on this bill are part of a reinvigoration of old-school death metal, shrugging off the Metalocalypse cliches and reminding us all of the energy and raw power at the genre’s core. The vibe seems to permeate the night, breathing fresh life into the beery audience. 

From Washington, D.C., Genocide Pact kick off the night with groaning, misanthropic death metal that merges raw brutality with cerebral musicianship. The band is the youngest among the night’s line-up — both in vibe and age — but their performance is tight and strong enough to warrant their place on the bill. The crowd may be sparse this early in the night, but those who mosey in are fixated as soon as they begin watching the show. In a few years, these guys will be the hot headline ticket when they hit NYC.

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Along those lines, Arizona’s Gatecreeper appear to be the band that most people are here to see, as the crowd goes berserk when the band take the stage. Frontman Chase Mason stokes the flames of their fandom, roaring fervently from under his Burt Reynolds‑y mustache.

The band throws down its unique brand of hardcore-tinged death metal so hard that multiple moshers are ejected from the pit by security for unruly behavior (at least one dude is punched in the face…hard). In many ways, the band seems to be Dying Fetus’ successor, playing death metal reinvigorated by the incorporation of modern hardcore and extreme metal elements. The sheer excitement felt during Gatecreeper’s set suggests that this might be the last time anyone sees them as an opening band.

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The audience doesn’t go quite as insane for Pennsylvania’s Incantation — but what they don’t display with physical rapture is made up for in pure reverence. The band is legendary along this coast of the US, and their music is taken incredibly seriously by classic fans. Technical difficulties with vocal monitors plague the band for the first few songs, causing frontman John McEntee to apologize to the crowd — but no one seems to mind as the band pummels listeners’ ears with old-school technical death metal at its finest.

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Dying Fetus are, if anything, reliable, and tonight they prove exactly what has made a band with such a grotesque name acceptable as major tour headliners. The band opens with an absolutely punishing rendition of the title track from 2017’s Wrong One To Fuck With before raging through a combination of classic tracks like Grotesque Impalement and newer songs like Subjected To A Beating. All of this culminates in a countdown of gems that starts with Praise The Lord (Opium For The Masses) and closes with the immortal Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog. The crowd responds by burning their last energy reserves and going all-out in the pit, swinging fists and throwing bows along the the band’s kinetic slam riffs with renewed vigor.

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Fetus are the perfect headliner, countering the openers’ unorthodox new offerings with a heaping pile of bloody meat and potatoes. The sweat-soaked horde trundles out into the night feeling thoroughly tenderized and gloriously reminded of what made death metal so exciting in the first place.

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