The weekend of Aug. 20-22 was one filled with metal, as I visited Club Vegas on Friday, the 20th to see Exodus’s March of Brutality tour, and then witnessed the Pentagrammaton tour featuring Enthroned and Destroyer 666 on Sunday at Bar Deluxe. Hopefully some of you metal fiends were at one of these shows at least. If not, you sorely missed some metal madness and mayhem. Reviews for both gigs are included here for your reading pleasure.
I arrived a bit late to Club Vegas, and unfortunately missed local metal crew Killbot. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to see them belt out their metaldom sometime soon. I entered the doors as Pomona, California’s Bonded by Blood were beginning their set, snagged some nice draft PBR and meandered to the back of the club, watching my first new-ish band playing old-school Bay Area thrash metal. The band had the early crowd worked up in a fervor, pumping fists and, surprisingly, singing along. But as a cynic and a critic and a metal fan whose first love of the music was thrash, Bonded by Blood were not just an average band—they were terrible. It truly felt like a fashion show over anything musically good. There was a lot of the typical metal posturing, and the vocalist even air-guitared his mic stand. The band was a raucous showcase of lots of noisy riffs and lousy guitar solos that I’ve heard played so many times before. They had a punk thing going on as well, but I just flat out didn’t get it.
Another new Cali band playing classic-style heavy metal, Holy Grail, hit the stage next in a nice and quick set change over. Holy Grail includes ex members of the much applauded White Wizzard. They had a pretty clean slate for my ears to judge, since I had only heard a couple recorded tracks of theirs. Alas, much like Bonded by Blood’s 80s illusion fashion show, there were plenty of cheesy poses, flying hair, leather and spikes. What sounded promising on record sounded fairly bland in the live setting. It just felt like a emulation of two of the biggest heavy metal bands in existence: Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Nothing stood out from their set. If they came to headline a show in SLC sometime, I’m pretty sure I’d miss it. To add insult to injury post set, the band’s singer proved to be worthy of the douchbag tag, as he offered me an empty glass in a sarcastic and asinine manner as I sat on the curb having a cigarette. I promptly thanked him with profanities, but alas my delivery of said profanities wasn’t loud enough and went unheard.
Encroaching closer towards the stage, I decided to start owning and experiencing the show as Florida’s long standing death metal wrecking crew Malevolent Creation got to blasting. It was exactly what I expected it to be and then some: plenty of death metal grooves as the guitarists, bassist and singer all pulled contorted death metal faces. What they lacked in technicality compared to many death metal bands, they made up for in sheer, pummeling old school death metal force. Vocalist Brett Hoffmann proved fact that if you rip your pants while on tour, you’re pretty much shit out of luck, with a nice hole right in the crotch of his jeans. Thank god he was wearing underwear or I’d have taken many steps back. Malevolent Creation were never high on my list of favorites of American death metal, but they have an extensive catalogue which they pulled from on Friday night. They gave their all and worked the crowd into dismal violence and headbanging. They got me reminiscing about my days as a teen, when mostly American death metal and Florida based death metal were prominent listening pleasures.
On to the main event: Bay Area thrashers Exodus simply owned the stage at Club Vegas. I didn’t have huge expectations going into this show, being pretty ho-hum on the band’s last couple albums, but they purveyed and delivered pure thrash mayhem, inciting the fairly packed club into frenzies of sing a longs, circle pits and a small-yet-devastating “wall of death”—if you don’t know what it is, look it up on youtube. The band grabbed you by the jugular from the very first song of their set and didn’t let go until they were done. They played songs that encompassed all of their lyrical themes: war, killing posers, thrash metal and politics. Current vocalist Rob Dukes had a dominating and commanding stage presence. With a gnarly scar on the left side of his face, his vocal delivery and stage banter only enraged the audience further. The guitars coming from Gary Holt, who was all smiles and pure shred, along with Lee Altus (Heathen/Angelwitch) played off one another’s energy and individual strengths. Drummer Tom Hunting proved his skill maddeningly and awesomely.
It truly felt like I entered a time machine and traveled back to 1984. Yeah, the guys don’t dress or look much like they did back in the day, but as mentioned in previous remarks about the opening bands, it doesn’t matter how you look. Your music is your vehicle and that’s the more prevalent thing that concertgoers and fans are going to remember. Club Vegas owner Dusty Ash got in on the action, screaming it up, hailing Exodus and getting some photos of the crowd. SLUG’s Alex Ortega was working the pit. This was easily one of the more rowdy yet fun sets I’ve seen at Club Vegas. The openers may have held some fans attentive or gave them some enjoyment, but at the end of the night it was all Exodus with a strong aftertaste of Malevolent Creation. In the words/lyrics of Zimmers Hole: “Exodus was fucking right, all the posers must die.” Funny thing is they had what I would consider some “posers” open for them. I’m sure Exodus had a good night. They fed off the crowd’s intense energy and expulsed it back, and judging by the amount of people wearing brand spanking new Exodus shirts, they sold a bunch of merch.
Having an ample amount time to heal my ringing ears from Friday’s Exodus concert, Sunday night rolled around and a night of metal of the more extreme fashion blasted through every nook and cranny of Bar Deluxe with four bands: Enthroned, Destroyer 666, Iconoclast Contra and Pathology. Before I get on with the review, I should let you know that I rant about the lack of what should have been a much bigger crowd to see this great assemblage of extreme metal from around the globe. I know there are more than 100 some odd extreme metal freaks in the Salt Lake area alone. Who gives a shit if it was a Sunday night? This concert was brought to SLC by people highly involved in the local extreme metal scene. Even though they don’t expect large turnouts to the shows they bring here, they’re all excellent shows that display talent that we would otherwise never get to see live. So, much thanks to the people who brought all these bands to Bar Deluxe, namely Blasphemic Hymns, and thanks to the folks who spent their cash to support the metal underground of Salt Lake.
I liked San Diego based brutal death metal band Pathology on CD, so I was definitely excited to see what they could do live. They garnered that much more respect from me by deciding to go ahead and play without their bassist, who was too young to enter Bar Deluxe. The absence of their bassist was definitely noticeable, and he probably would have thickened up the band’s brutality, but they still shined and pummeled. The band’s guitarist seemed a bit distant during their set, but the vocalist paced the stage and gurgled, grunted and growled his brand of brutal death vocals—he actually ended up being the focus and highlight of the band’s set. A lot of metal cynics complain about the generic and similar sounds of brutal death vocals, let alone death metal vocals, but the voice is just as important of an instrument as drum, guitar and bass. The volume alone of the band’s singer filled the bass void and literally shook the rafters of Bar Deluxe. I’d pay to see these guys play again without question.
Normally when you go to a show that has national/international touring acts, the local band opens the show, but for reasons unknown to me (or maybe because Pathology played with no bassist), Salt Lake’s Iconoclast Contra hit the stage and got an already violent, adrenaline-pumped crowd worked up into furthered frenzies with their raw black metal. The band requested that no stage lights actually be on them while they played, which gave the feeling that they wanted their music to be the focal point of the show and not the band themselves. That was something I’ve never really encountered, and it made their set. The band’s war-themed black metal featured some almost startling tempo changes, and their vocalist that can scream it out with the best of the best in the extreme metal world. If you get the chance to see Iconoclast Contra play live go, or tell Red Light you want their new CD, Combat is the Voice of the Heathen.
Some bands just own and dominate live, leaving you awestruck. Australian-borne Destroyer 666, who have since relocated to Europe, purely and simply devastated and kept beating the audience senseless until their time was up. Guitarist/vocalist K.K. Warslut, the man who initially started the band back in 1994 as a solo project, has now morphed it into a four-piece. Drummer Perra Karlsson (Nominion, Bergraven) took the live slot for this US tour, along with bassist Matt Schneemilch and guitarist/vocalist Shrapnel. The band played tight, loud, raw and just down-and-dirty nasty, and I loved every second of it. Getting closer to the stage during most usually sacrifices sound quality, but it makes the viewing experience more intimate. With Destroyer 666 it literally felt as if the energy the band was pounding into their instruments pierced through your entire body. It felt raw and empowering, as if you could go overturn cars and cause some sort of mass panic like you’re the Hulk. Destroyer 666 were a sight to behold and a sonic visceral burst of black/death/thrash mayhem that I had never before encountered in a live show.
By the time Belgium’s Enthroned hit the stage it was roughly 12:30 a.m. and unfortunately, the crowd had substantially thinned down. Yeah, it was a Sunday night and folks had to work the next day, but the faithful and willing stayed to witness the mighty Enthroned’s black metal fury. The band has undergone major line-up changes in the last few years, with vocalist Nornagest being the most longstanding member. The lack of chemistry between the band showed a slight bit as the players felt a bit disconnected from each other at times, but Bar Deluxe does have a smaller stage with a large beam splitting a third of the stage off. Even though my old bones were aching from a massive weekend of metal, I mustered up the energy to support to a band that traveled far across the Atlantic and underwent some issues to enter the country.
With corpse paint donned and Satan himself seemingly lurking about, Enthroned tore into their set and left little breathing room in between songs—the only chances for air were when the guitarists switched out their instruments. Nornagest dominated the stage and was staring down every audience member. I have huge respect for bands that give it everything they’ve got, even when they’re playing to a small crowd. A fan standing front and center was yelling at Nornagest, saying he had been waiting ten years to see Enthroned, requesting songs and head banging like his head was going to fall off the next day. The tremolo riffing blazed and buzzed, churning the somewhat stagnant feeling air into evil drenched freshness. Something I like to do when viewing black metal live is to stand and close my eyes because the spectacle can sometimes draw from the music or the walls of sound that black metal and Enthroned in particular feed my darkened heart. With eyes closed, the sheer brute force of the sound permeates, and it’s truly an almost violent meditative state. Enthroned’s set seemed short, maybe due to the lateness of the night/morning, but it was potent. It was a night I won’t soon forget, and there is seriously nothing like witnessing true black metal live.