It's the 19th July 2014, and the Trash Invasion Tour hits the Bristol O2. Having Thrashmasters Onslaught & Artillery on the bill already ensures this was going to be a night to remember, then throw in the addition of Nightlord and Demonic Ressurection and the carnage grows expotentially. In his first Scribes Of Metal appearance, Nigel Savage took himself down to check out the Thrash Invasion and brings us the following live reviews.
“The demon king shall riiiiiise….” India’s Demonic Resurrection kicked things off with a thick slab of symphonic black/death metal. Fourteen years into their career, the band was promoting its new record, concept album The Demon King; it was unfortunate that their efforts were presented to a largely empty room (OK it was 7pm, but come on, Bristol thrashers, where’s your support for the lesser known bands that need it most?), but the band’s efforts were rewarded by the discerning few.
Prominent keyboards, blast beats, and growling vocals laced tracks like ‘Trail of Devastation’ with the requisite balance of epic and heavy, while the crunching riffage of ‘Death, Desolation and Despair’ brought to mind more of an old-school thrash feel.
For me the highlights were ‘Apocalyptic Dawn’ (from the band’s 2005 A Darkness Descends album), where lead vocalist Sahil ‘The Demonstealer’ Makhija switched from guttural death metal delivery to a more melodic style that was more akin to a more brutal Helloween; and final track ‘The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance”, where the up-front horror-movie keyboards worked best.
For those of you who like your metal in the Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth/Opeth style, Demonic Resurrection are worth your time – check ‘em out.
London thrashers Nightlord were one of numerous bands formed in the wake of the mid-late 80s thrash explosion. With one album (1990’s Approaching Thunder) and one EP (1993’s Cult Of The Moon) to their name, their star faded as grunge rose in the early 90s, but on tonight’s evidence, they’re back with a vengeance. Winning instant plus points for using the Star Was Imperial March as intro music, this was a high-energy set of classic old-school thrash mixed with an occasional dose of doom.
As with many bands formed in thrash’s second wave, Nightlord’s lyrics generally avoid the Satanic side of things and tend more towards politically charged songs, evident especially on ‘Vote For Me’, frontman Jamie Thorne’s angry delivery having lost none of its verve.
The band is currently finishing off recording a new album for release in the Autumn, and the new numbers on display this evening show the band retaining their elements of Megadeth-style speed while adding sludgier passages that wouldn’t be out of place on To Mega Therion-era Celtic Frost. The venue, finally filling up (better late than never, right?), gave these thrash titans the first real cheer of the night – and deservedly so. On the strength of this evening, the new album promises good things.
Artillery killed it. I could stop there, but…
These Danish techno-thrash pioneers remained, inexplicably, somewhat under the radar in the UK, despite three acclaimed releases in the mid-late 1980s. The quality on each of those albums – Fear Of Tomorrow (1985), Terror Squad (1987), and By Inheritance (1990) – make Artillery the perfect contender for the genre’s ‘if any band deserved to be huge, they did’ award. A cult following has rendered them one of the genre’s great unsung bands, and tonight’s performance – their first-ever visit to Bristol – only enhanced that reputation.
Those riffs!! Playing a blend of newer material (from 2013’s Legions and 2009’s When Death Comes) as well as choice cuts from the band’s 80s output, this was simply a masterclass in technical, melodic, intelligent and relentless thrash metal. Of the newer material, ‘When Death Comes’ sounded flat-out massive and deserves to be a stone-cold classic, while the older tracks (among them ‘Khomaniac’, ‘Terror Squad’ and ‘The Almighty’) had heads banging and the pit moshing.
And that singer!! Many bands would falter upon the departure of their lead vocalist. Not Artillery. In Michael Bastholm Dahl, who joined the band in 2012, Artillery has, to my mind, one of the best singers in metal (I mean, the guy previously fronted a MercyFul Fate/King Diamond tribute band – trust me, this dude can sing). Dahl was faultless throughout, doing justice to the rougher-edged older material while adding a spot-on melodic counterpoint to the newer tracks’ complex riffing.
Founding member Michael Stützer wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “I'm Fucking Metal”. Yes, sir – you are. This might have been Artillery’s first time in Bristol, but I sincerely hope it won’t be the last.
Onslaught were – still are – the UK’s biggest thrash band to come out of the 80s. They also originate from Bristol. Needless to say, therefore, the O2 was packed with friends and fans both long-term and new, eagerly awaiting this homecoming show.
Onslaught’s brand of razor-sharp riffs and full-on delivery makes it pretty easy to see why, back in the day, they were touted as “the UK’s answer to Slayer”. The one-two-three punch of newer tracks ‘The Sound of Violence’ (2011), ‘Killing Peace’ (2007) and ‘Chaos Is King’ (from latest release, 2013’s VI album) are heavier, more intelligent, and, fuck it, just downright better than anything from the most recent records released by Araya, King et al… if proof was ever needed that thrash is timeless and age-irrelevant, this is it.
Four songs in, things really kicked off with the first of the 80s classics, ‘Let There Be Death’ (from 1986’s landmark album The Force), and the band made damn sure the energy levels never let up throughout the rest of the set, which featured a seamless mix of new and old songs.
Much like Artillery, Onslaught are blessed with a frontman who can really sing. The fact that Sy Keeler can still cut it 28 years after his Onslaught debut on The Force is awesome. Keeler’s ability to hit the highs whilst retaining the essential aggressive undertones that typify thrash singing at its best is one of the reasons why Onslaught continues to impress. His stage persona – which I can only describe as ‘evil ringmaster’ – is the perfect foil to the frantic riffing behind him.
Unearthing a rare gem in ‘In Search Of Sanity’ – performed on this tour for the first time since 1988 – heralded the unleashing of an old-school rage through ‘Fight With The Beast’ and ‘Metal Forces’, before the obligatory encore: the band’s anthem, ‘Onslaught (Power From Hell)’ followed by the punk-thrash ‘Thermonuclear Devastation’, the first song the band ever wrote, which reveals their origins in second-wave punk bands like Discharge and The Exploited.
Keeler announced that the show was being filmed for a live DVD release. If that recording manages to capture even half the energy in the room, fans who couldn’t make it along the Bristol will be in for a treat.