NIGHT DEMON/VISIGOTH/DOOM AND DISCO/BANGARANG

(May 9, 2016; FUBAR, Saint Louis MO)

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I’m gonna let you guys in on what may be one of the worst kept secrets in the universe: I love heavy metal… all kinds of heavy metal. However, if I were staked to the ground in close proximity to a colony of fire ants and the only possible salvation was telling my captors what type of metal was my favorite, I would have to say the classic, hard rocking stuff… you know, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Demon. So, even though I thoroughly enjoyed recent shows by Nile and Coal Chamber (and am looking forward to the return of Dez’s other band, DevilDriver), I gotta say that this night was Nirvana (the mystical happy place, not the band) to this old-school rocker. By the way, this was my first foray to the Lounge, a smaller room with impressive, clear sound, located to the left of the venue’s entry. What a great decision it was to put this show here and the other, more punk oriented bill in the main room.

Bangarang (John Loness; Cory Crowell; Ruben Guerrios) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Bangarang (John Loness; Cory Crowell; Ruben Guerrios) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Local three-piece Bangarang is the modern approximation of early-to-mid ’70s Mountain-ous (you know, Leslie West… Felix Pappalardi… Corky Laing) hard rock, filtered through ’80s SoCal punk. The group’s eight song set featured the five tracks from their recently released EP, SNACK TIME, including a raging jungle beast called “Jumanji,” which featured a cool breakdown, with Cory Crowell pounding out a brutal tribal beat. Other highlights were the thudding behemoth that is “Monsoon Tune” and the atmospheric “Egan’s Rats,” which put me in mind of those psychedelic freaks, NIL8. Guitarist John Loness holds an odd place within the musical structure of the band, as he – more often than not – adds chittering effects and weird little strands of rhythm rather than any kind of boisterous, balls-out lead or solo (even though he proved himself more than capable of those types of guitar heroics); when he does step out, it is always tasty and very much holding to the vibe of the song and the suitably heavy groove laid down by his bandmates, drummer Crowell and the lucidor-masked bassist Rubin Guerrios, who manages to be crushingly heavy and uncompromisingly funky at the same time. Loness, who is also the trio’s lead singer (the others provide some well-placed backing), has the perfect voice for the style of rock played by Bangarang and, though the final three songs were works-in-progress, presented as instrumentals waiting for lyrics, he still shied away from filling the lyrical void with over-the-top guitar parts… it just wouldn’t have made sense within the arrangements and would have been a distraction to what the band is attempting with their music; in fact, the first of the three instrumentals, called “Bangarang,” was more of an extended drum solo with minimal accompaniment from Guerrios and Loness. The three numbers, voiceless though they were, seemed to fit in well with what has come before and definitely bodes well for the next phase of Bangarang’s evolution; I, for one, can’t wait.

Doom and Disco (Fu Thorax; Henry Savage; Fu Thorax) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Doom and Disco (Fu Thorax; Henry Savage; Fu Thorax) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Doom and Disco, the second Saint Louis band of the evening, rather like their name, is somewhat of a paradoxical venture. The group performed as a duo, with a third member wandering the floor, unprepared to play. The band play classic riff-heavy metal at ear-bleeding volume; you know… the good stuff. Despite a count-in on virtually every song, everything sounded like it started in the middle and was over at least fifteen seconds before it ended. (Before continuing, I should point out here that the names listed are somewhat in dispute, as my best investigative efforts could only uncover one name associated with Doom and Disco, a guitarist/vocalist named Shalom Friss, the same person who gave me the band info for this review… plus, his Facebook profile looks suspiciously like the dude onstage.) Guitarist Henry Savage featured a beefy, bassy sound, while his vocals somehow reminded me of the legendary Lemmy Kilmister; skin-pounder Fu Thorax was merciless in his approach, reminding me of that wild-eyed family member who always looks like he just farted in the dip bowl while holding an internal running commentary on the social relevance of DUMB AND DUMBER TO. Doom and Disco’s musical selections included such blistering fare as “666 Death,” “Spaghetti Western,” “Savage Journey” and set closer, “Vengeance and Oblivion.” As a duo, the sound was heavy, oppressive and surprisingly full; I can only imagine what we would have heard if that third player HAD been on stage (I’m assuming that he would have played bass, which would have given their sound an even heavier vibe). Bottom line: Doom and Disco… whoever you are and however many of you there are, I hope to have the chance to see you again soon.

Visigoth (Leeland Campana; Jake Rogers; Jamison Palmer) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Visigoth (Leeland Campana; Jake Rogers; Jamison Palmer) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

So… what does Salt Lake City’s Visigoth have in common with long standing bands like Iron Maiden, Raven, Diamond Head, Tygers of Pan Tang, Witchfynde and Samson? Well, they may not hail from the United Kingdom, but they do hold the torch of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal high. The group has an epic sound, with lyrics retelling tales of legendary lore of castles and dragons and knights; vocally, Jake Rogers can wail like an earlier Briton, Rob Halford, while guitarists Leeland Campana and Jamison Palmer deliver majestic dual leads, ala classic Maiden or Judas Priest. In short, Visigoth is the best kind of throwback band… with a studious knowledge of (and respect for) those who have gone before, paving the way for a new generation of head-banging musicians, yet talented enough to add their own metallic twists to the mix. Much of their set draws upon the group’s latest release, THE REVENANT KING, including the epic, Arthurian title track; “Dungeon Master,” the new Gamer Nerds National Anthem; “Mammoth Rider,” a mystical retelling of Hannibal’s legendary march into Italy astride elephants; and “Necropolis,” a killer Manila Road cover. The rhythm section of Mikey T on drums and Matt Brotherton on bass were rock solid throughout, laying down a massive foundation, allowing the guitars and vocals to weave their magical spells and minstrel tales of adventure. For me, one of the ultimate highlights of the brilliantly well-paced set was another cover, as the band reached back into their NWOBHM ancestry to offer “The Spell,” from Demon’s 1982 album, THE UNEXPECTED GUEST… a song, a band and a record virtually unknown in these here United States. With a new release on the horizon, Visigoth can only continue their upward trajectory. If you have the chance, do not sleep on the opportunity to see these guys live. Oh, yeah… I gotta give bonus points to Jamison Palmer for his Tank tee. Plus, additional bonus points to me for not using the words “sacked” or “sacking” anywhere in this review.

Night Demon (Dusty Squires; Armand John Anthony; Jarvis Leatherby) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Night Demon (Dusty Squires; Armand John Anthony; Jarvis Leatherby) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

As much as I liked the under card, I was absolutely stoked for the main event. The Ventura, California trio, Night Demon, plays that classic Deep Purple brand of heavy rock, with more than just a dose of sinister Misfits style punk. They opened their set with a blistering “Screams In the Night,” the lead track of the band’s debut full-length, CURSE OF THE DAMNED, with solid vocals from their sole original member, bassist Jarvis Leatherby; in fact, Leatherby’s vocals were on-point and – thankfully – upfront throughout the night. Along with his battery mate, drummer Dusty Squires, Jarvis also laid down a monstrously heavy bottom end… on a Flying V, no less. New(ish) guy Armand John Anthony more than held his own on guitar, with amazingly tight leads and smoking solos. The set was enhanced by oddly effective lighting, more so because they were supplied by the band’s merch guy from the front of the stage.

Night Demon (Jarvis Leatherby; Armand John Anthony; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Night Demon (Jarvis Leatherby; Armand John Anthony; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

The guys tore through a solid song list that included tales of fast cars, ages-old evils, modern day madmen and religious rites, both sacred and profane: “Road Racin’,” “Ancient Evil,” “Killer” and the centerpiece of the band’s live performances and their raison d’etre, “Chalice.” With an intensity rivaling the original Blue Cheer or the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Night Demon took their place among the great power trios of hard rock and heavy metal, updating the model to represent, not only current musical trends, but also the grimmer, grimier aspects of our modern world. If I had to compare Armand’s six-string assault to a predecessor, I hear definite influences from Gillan-era Bernie Torme, the late, lamented Paul Samson and the guys from Maiden, particularly Adrian Smith… classic metal riffs laced with a speed and fluidity that few possess, all amply displayed on “Full Speed Ahead,” among others; it’s hard to pinpoint any one style in Leatherby’s vocals… his is a strong, forceful rock and roll voice that seems to be manufactured for exactly this style of heavy music; Squires is a rock-solid Ian Paice type of drummer, a brilliant timekeeper with the occasional flash of reckless abandonment. As the show built to its climax, from “Killer” into “Road Racin’” and into the moody, sombre “Chalice,” the trio was joined onstage by Rocky, the looming, leering personification of Poe’s THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, who bade all to “Drink from the chalice.” This theatrical cameo brought wild cheers from the (unfortunately) modest crowd, much like the Iron’s lumbering Eddie or the Misfits’ Fiend/Crimson Ghost used to back in the day. Rocky’s departure from the stage conjured the ultimate evil, as the band charged into the final number, “Satan.” Jarvis asked for the stage lights to be lowered and, upon learning that they were actually controlled by a wall switch by the stage, Visigoth’s Leeland jumped to the rescue, turning the lights off and on, creating a type of rhythmic lightning effect… a rather silly but somehow appropriate ending to a fun evening of live music.

Night Demon (Armand John Anthony and Jarvis Leatherby with Rocky; Rocky offers the Chalice; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Night Demon (Armand John Anthony and Jarvis Leatherby with Rocky; Rocky offers the Chalice; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

I was impressed by the professionalism of all of the bands (and their meager crews), as each went out of their way to ensure that I (and the entire room, really) had a great time. I had a brief interlude with Jarvis after the show and mentioned, rather offhandedly, that I wished the record companies would send out vinyl copies of their releases for review; he asked if I had a copy of CURSE OF THE DAMNED and, receiving my negative reply, walked over to the merch table and handed me a vinyl copy, saying, “Now you do, my friend.” I certainly wasn’t expecting that but, the gesture put me in mind of the way artists generally handled their business when I first got into this game more than twenty years ago. If I hadn’t been a fan before, I definitely was when I walked out of the venue with my brand new slab of orange vinyl!


NILE/TYRANNY ENTHRONED/ABSALA/PARADIGM SYMPHONY

(January 25, 2016; FUBAR, Saint Louis MO)

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My first visit to Fubar started well enough, but ended… uh… unexpectedly early. After confirming with the evening’s headliners, English punk legends, Slaughter and the Dogs, I hung out in the venue for the next three hours, talking to family members of the opening act, a group of teenagers called Million Hits; a few minutes before doors, everybody was ushered outside to either pay the cover charge or have their name checked off of the will call/guest list. This is where things took a downward turn, as the night’s main event forgot to leave their guest list before heading to their hotel for some much-needed sleep; even though I had been inside the venue most of the afternoon, it was either pay up, wait for my benefactors to return to the venue or make other plans for the evening. This really wasn’t any one person’s fault, but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth… I mean, do YOU pay at the door to do your job? Yeah… neither do I. So, anyway, I went into this visit with a more-than-slight trepidation but, as it turned out, the only thing I had to worry about was a stifling heat as the crowd roiled and pushed and head-banged to some of the heaviest music ever.

Paradigm Symphony (Bailey Hamor; Niko Alsup; Andrew Coppage) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Paradigm Symphony (Bailey Hamor; Niko Alsup; Andrew Coppage) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

The festivities were kicked off by Paradigm Symphony, sort of an amalgam of Death Metal and classic heavy metal, punctuated by a vocalist who not only looks like the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Anthony Kiedis, but sounds like him, too. These guys are definitely high-energy, with guitarist Niko Alsup and his partner-in-shred, Bailey Hamor, being the stand-outs. While – in my humble opinion – Andrew Coppage’s voice may be the weak link in the sound, he does have great stage presence. However, it’s hard to ignore Alsup’s Eddie Van Halen on steroids fingertapping style, as your eyes are inexorably drawn to his side of the stage, trying to figure out exactly how he is coaxing those sounds out of his instrument; at one point, he played one of the most amazingly fluid backward solos you’re ever likely to hear. Hamor left most of the soloing to Niko but, when he did take one, it was a precision strike and stunningly effective. The rhythm section – skin-basher Nick Sternfeld and bassist David McGillem – added to the Chili Peppers comparison with a loose and funky groove for the guitars and voice to work over. The group’s set was short and, though I have seen better, I also saw a definite upside and great potential in what they have to offer.

Absala (Tristin King; Jordan Harris; Dylan Lorinc) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Absala (Tristin King; Jordan Harris; Dylan Lorinc) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

With titles like “A Voyage So Bleak,” “The Mortician’s Penchant” (possibly the best song about necrophilia since “Code Blue” by TSOL, though Alice Cooper’s “I Love the Dead” remains the ultimate in what is, admittedly, a small sample size) and “Methods of Sacrifice,” the five-piece Absala definitely upped the Death Metal ante. Led by the vocal prowess of Jordan Harris, who falls somewhere between King Diamond and Six Feet Under’s legendary frontman, Chris Barnes, on the sonic scale, the group play with a technical precision that is both meat-clever brutal and scalpel sharp. Lightning-fast twin guitar runs from Dylan Lorinc and Jason Asberry highlight the sound, though both are also capable of tastefully dark solos; Lorinc may just have the edge over Asberry, more for his totally unassuming presence than anything else… there’s just something about watching an almost emotionless dude playing such passionate music. Noah Pogue, on the other hand, is anything but emotionless (or motionless), as he is a whirling dervish of constant movement and facial contortions; Pogue’s six-string bass playing, along with the drumming of Tristin King, is the ballast that keeps Absala afloat. After an impressive set of originals, the band paid tribute to one of the fore-fathers of speed, the recently departed Ian Kilmister, ending their set with a great version of Motorhead’s “Iron Fist.” The evening was beginning to take shape nicely.

Tyranny Enthroned (Jesse McCoy; Brandon Park; Gabe Price) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Tyranny Enthroned (Jesse McCoy; Brandon Park; Gabe Price) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Tyranny Enthroned kept the energy high – if not the speed – with their brutal blackened Death Metal attack. The set list was short… only four songs, extended takes of grinding ferocity like “Born of Hate,” “The Incubus” and “The Harrowing Inferno.” Drummer Brandon Park and bassist Anthony George anchored the sound with a pummeling style that threatened the Cervical plexus of even the heartiest of those who bang their heads. Jesse McCoy’s vocals were a thing of beauty (in a gargled glass sort of way), as he delivered both guttural growls and explosive roars with ease; the fact that he was responsible for most of the heavy lifting on guitar, as well, made his performance stand out even more. That, in no way, should diminish the six-string-slinging efforts of Gabe Price, who more than held his own through the melee, slashing out wicked leads and the occasional monster solo. Though all three openers exhibited moments of brilliance, proving their mettle (and metal) before a Nile-crazed crowd, Tyranny Enthroned appears to be the band closest to breaking out of the burgeoning Saint Louis metal scene into the big time. I look forward to hearing more from all three acts.

Nile (Karl Sanders; Dallas Toler-Wade; Brad Parris) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Nile (Karl Sanders; Dallas Toler-Wade; Brad Parris) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Our headliners, twenty-three year veterans of the dark metal wars (and closet Egyptologists) blasted through a thirteen song set, highlighting tracks from each of their riff-laden major label releases, beginning with “Sacrifice Unto Sebek” and the caustic “Cast Down the Heretic,” both from 2005’s ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED. With so much material to choose from, the set was tightly constructed, with only three numbers from the group’s latest, WHAT SHOULD NOT BE UNEARTHED; “Call To Destruction” and “Evil To Cast Out Evil” from that record stand as some of the most vicious and uncompromising work of Nile’s incredible career. Even the oldest song played, “The Howling of the Jinn,” from the 1998 offering, AMONGST THE CATACOMBS OF NEPHREN-KA, fit in seamlessly with primary songwriter Karl Sanders’ ever more densely layered progressive approach. Sanders shared shredding and vocal duties with Dallas Toler-Wade, with suitably grinding rhythm work, barbaric riffing and stinging solos delivered with buzz-saw proficiency. The double-bass thunder of human drum machine George Kollias was matched by the destructive force that is new bass player, Brad Parris; though both were excellent throughout, the duo seemed to up their game during the second half of the show, particularly on such fare as “Sarcophagus,” “The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh” and set closer, “Black Seeds of Vengeance.” By this time, the heat had taken a toll on me and I had moved to the relative cool by the side of the stage; from my new vantage point, I could see just how intense and rabid the crowd were for this band. I’m not always so blown away by doomy Death Metallers, but in this instance, I can definitely say that the audience reaction to Nile was well-deserved.