The Convalescence is one of the most aggressive touring bands in America right now. The heavy metal band, hailing from Toledo, Ohio, wrestles highways and grapples planes to maintain a relentless touring schedule that encompasses North America, Europe, and Asia. As part of their “Harvesters Of Flesh And Bone” album release tour, they stopped by Pittsburgh to bring their religion of chords, decibels, and face paint to the City of Champions.

Keith Wampler, the lead singer of The Convalescence, is a force of nature. The former frontman of Blood of the Prophets has grown in tone and reputation. Today, his voice is one of the strongest in the death metal scene, no amplification required. Fans have pointed out his vocal progression over the years, but I’d argue that his personal progression is even more interesting.

I’ve produced free music festivals for fun over the last two decades. Thousands of bands have come across my desk asking to be booked. Most people enjoy their favorite music on stage but are unaware that the industry is filled with middlemen: bookers, publicists, labels, etc. I first met Wampler in the late 2000s because he calls you. He played on my stage that summer, and we stayed in touch.

Wampler has spent the last decade mastering what it takes to be a great band. He’s run booking agencies. He’s managed artists who are unmanageable. He’s run audio when the sound guy can’t be found. He’s critiqued lackluster merch and had “strong words” with suppliers. Not much gets by him because he doesn’t have time for things that keep him away from the stage. He knows that a good band is the sum of the effort behind it.

The Convalescence performs to metal heads at Pittsburgh’s Hard Rock Cafe in South Side Credit: Foo Conner / The Pittsburgh Reporter

Behind the scenes at Pittsburgh’s Hard Rock Cafe, Wampler puts on his war paint. It’s a ritual. A thin curtain separates the ordinary from the extraordinary that will shortly take the stage. Volcandra is The Convalescence’s opener. The audience is an abyss of black shirts with white text. The metalheads ask me between songs, “Why don’t more people know about them?!” Now you do. So there’s one more. Here’s Volcandra’s Bandcamp if you like melodic black metal.

Spotify and AirPods will never replace the turbulence of a metal show, just as the History Channel can never replace travel.

There is a common Appalachian fear of never being able to explore the world. Bands often fear they’ll never get out of the garage and consider tour buses a dream. Wampler said, “F*ck that,” and got on the phone. Then he got on the road. Now, he is one of metal’s super connectors. Most bands meet him through messaging apps or phone calls before ever meeting him in real life.

The Convalescence, collectively, is a generous band. They stay after hours to meet fans. Whether there are thousands in the audience or just a handful, they perform the same. They understand that shows live on forever in the cell phone era. Besides, you earn the tour bus every night.

Volcandra holds down the stage as they preform at Pittsburgh’s Hard Rock Cafe. Credit: Foo Conner / The Pittsburgh Reporter

Wampler and company have come a long way in years that most wrote off due to COVID. Where some stagnated, they perfected. Their latest tour and album are testaments that death metal is alive and well.

“Harvesters Of Flesh And Bone” is their latest album, released earlier this month under Cleopatra Records. The tour was supported by Volcandra, Mantra of Morta, and Ignominious. Each of them are as black as holiday coal. If you love death metal, be sure to check them out.

Foo, editor of The Pittsburgh Reporter, guides our newsrooms and meets neighbors. He shares heartfelt stories often overlooked.