The timing couldn’t have been worse. Sitting on the crapper that was outside by the rodeo pit, I was missing the onset of Evile’s set. To make matters worse, I overheard some kid telling his friend about an Avenged Sevenfold show.
Kids = No redeeming social value.
But as I entered the venue my hope for the youth was rekindled, as I saw a group of teens violently moshing to a thrash throwback band. Evile’s thrash, shamelessly cribbed from the ’80s, even inspired a muscle-bound kid to go against his better judgment and become pit boss, in spite of the fact that he had a sling-wrapped, already-busted arm.
The UK’s Evile don’t just revel in hyper thrashing riffs, their structures and atmospherics are traditionally metal and powerfully epic. Frontman Matt Drake looks better suited to be in a boy band, but looks can be deceiving, as he charmed the crowd into a classic fist-pumping session.
Interestingly, while headbanging and getting into the groove, Drake, and their bassist Joel Graham (who replaced Mike Alexander, who tragically died while on tour last year in Sweden), kept observing and apparently analyzing the audience. Cautiously. It’s a very likely probability that they were curious about crowd response since this was their first-ever American tour.
But Evile actually took the stage following the opening act: Woe of Tyrants. The Ohio-based band plays death metal that’s progressively busy—too busy for its own good at times. Yet like a soccer team doing fancy footwork and moving up the field to score, so too does Woe of Tyrants understand the art of climax. Though technically impressive, some tracks were pointless; however they shined with their energetic, aggressive, more traditional metal songs.
Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan has found his Mini-Me in Woe of Tyrant’s singer Chris Catanzaro. His range isn’t as vast, but it’s impressive, and he similarly screams his ass off to the point where his face is apple-red and he appears to be on the verge of passing out.
Fast-forward past Evile, then, the thrash metal revival kept raging with LA’s Warbringer. Their style was more pile-driving and tech-minded by design. It was full-on thrash, yet I was shoegazing…at vocalist John Kevill’s soiled, worn-in white high-top sneakers. Do they still make those, or did he buy them from eBay from a burned-out forty-something thrasher now working at Radio Shack? In any event, those damn shoes perfectly represented the retro riffing and mayhem.
Kevill’s voice resembles Kreator’s Mille Petrozza, and he even maintains that rasp while chatting up the crowd between songs. With the shoes…and the metal voice even in between songs…there’s obviously a humorous aspect to this retro racket. And thankfully even Kevill was able to laugh at himself when he lunged atop the barricade to lean into the electrified crowed…only to bang his head against the overhead lights.
The crowd loved all of it. A wasted metalhead lifted himself above the barricade and leaned forward in apparent excitement. The security, literally comprised of cowboy hat wearing law enforcement officials, dragged him outside and to the ground. They pointed flashlights in his face, kneeling down to say something to him. Being a passionate metalhead isn’t a crime, as far as I know, so perhaps something else was going on. Or something like that.
But it was also time for the high-top sneakers to depart to make way for the devil’s hooves, as the Netherlands’ God Dethroned brought dark music from the netherworld, turning the evil dial to 11 with melodic blackened death metal. Oftentimes overlooked in a style that’s inundated with excess for its own sake, God Dethroned stand out and stand tall because of their great songwriting, moodiness and brutality. Spot-on and fully satisfying, they brought the deathly goods, surprisingly even though ringleader Henri Sattler’s presence is static and his demeanor calm.
Poland’s extreme metal veterans Vader (who are immeasurably better than the much-talked-about Behemoth) followed suit with their own unique take on death metal. Slayer’s influence on Vader is undeniable, yet their style, guitar tone and Peter’s voice are distinct. He has always been the captain, and he’s the lone original member, so it’s a fair assessment to say that Peter is Vader, much like Erik Rutan is Hate Eternal.
Regardless, his current lineup proved to be on par with the high standard of musicians he has worked with in years past. While Vader has the capability to beat you senselessly (proven since their classic, pummeling 1993 debut, The Ultimate Incantation), it’s more about the song and the aura nowadays. But it has always been about great riffs, great hooks.
But this was Overkill’s tour, and the headliners did not disappoint. With great clarity and unbelievable volume, they performed with precision and high energy. Considering that he came across as extremely confident during my interview with him a few years ago, it was surprising that singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth appeared to be so coy. Yet he was simultaneously intense, with the look of a frightened but tough wolf getting cornered and gearing up to tear some motherfuckers apart. And that’s what he did.
They certainly focused upon their latest effort, Ironbound, clearly one of their best albums in years, and one of the best albums of the year thus far. And they did justice to classics like “Hello From the Gutter” and “Elimination.”
All concert photos are the property of Mark Coatsworth and may not be republished without the permission of both Hellbound.ca and Mark Coatsworth. Check more of his photos out here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/markcoatsworth/sets/72157608037060984/