My relationship with Eyehategod is a long standing one. It started as a teenager around 2003 and coincided with my unpacking of metal’s more offensive artists (think Anal Cunt, Burzum or Cannibal Corpse) and discovery of the Gummo soundtrack. But beyond the immediacy of the name and authentically depraved existence, their tortured, heroin stained brand of nihilistic sludge punk is something that’s never failed to engage. Impressive when measured against their small discography and lack of enduring qualities amongst many other teen discoveries.
But this longstanding interest has been frayed by missed live opportunities: London 2010 – SOLD OUT, Sydney 2012 – BUSY, Australia 2014 – OVERSEAS. The fear of never seeing them was only accentuated by Joey La Caze’s 2013 death, Mike William’s failing health, prison, natural disasters and new drummer Aaron Hill’s stabbing in Mexico this year. I’d resigned myself to never seeing them live, but in spite of near death and their knife’s edge existence, in 2019 I finally (FINALLY) witnessed Eyehategod in the cesspit more commonly known as Melbourne.
Opening the evening at Max Watt’s was local band Burn The Hostages (who I missed), and was followed by Black Rheno who were supporting EHG on the Australia, NZ and Japanese leg of the tour. Black Rheno were pretty upbeat by relative standards and produced a boisterous kind of post-Pantera sound with a whole lot of added groove. This strain of music isn’t usually up my alley, but their commitment was more than enough to win over the audience. Happening upon a radio interview on Triple R only days later, their humble attitude regarding the support slot was well respected.
But finally, the wait was over. Without the interference of murder or overdoses, EHG swayed into about 3 minutes of sharp feedback (think Shinobi’s intro) before falling into the sludgy anthem of New Orleans Is The New Vietnam. Bouncing between a few newer, and a few older tracks, the band seemed pretty tight and enjoyed a bit of on-stage destruction without missing cues or compromising their sound.
Moving through crowd favourites like Methamphetamine, Sister Fucker and Masters of Legalized Confusion Mike Williams was still more than able to deliver his painfully tortured cries at length, sounding sharper with time, but nowhere less recognisable.
As he’s just come out the other end of his well documented struggle to get his new, crowd sourced liver, it was a little surprising to see him openly drinking on stage, especially as it’s possible that audience members donated their own money to the cause. Nevertheless, complaining about another man’s excesses really isn’t keeping with the spirit of the band. I’d daresay many people contributed financially with the expectation that it would prolong his capacity for vice.
But Mike IX Willaims did have a glimmer in his eye. Between his manic performances there was a humbleness to his presence which indicated that he was thankful for being where he was. Audience interactions were usually in the form of genuinely inquisitive open questions, to which it seemed he wanted real answers. Meeting his conversation starters with screams, the band would cut off the audience’s frivolous noise with the intro to the next song, but at no point was he more dismissive than to the audience’s “EYEHATEGOD” chant. Maybe it’s the wisdom acquired with age, maybe it’s the near death experiences, or maybe it’s a combination of it all, but it felt like there was a deep sense of appreciation in the man and his few on stage ponders showed him taking a moment to soak it all in.