Picture the scene: We’re in a town called Bad Arolsen which is somewhere in Germany. It’s the summer of 2008 and a group of us trekked to Europe to catch the annual metal festivals and on Wednesday, July the 9th, we were on our way to the Magic Circle Festival to witness the almighty Manowar play their first six albums in their entirety. It was going to be epic and we knew it. Before the onstage shenanigans of the leather clad bad boys of heavy metal took to the stage to deafen us with those classic albums, San Francisco’s thrash legends, Death Angel were playing a surprise set… at three in the freakin’ morning! Ok, so for the hardcore gig goer, that’s no big deal but we were jetlagged, we were tired, we had trekked with backpacks full of a month’s worth of crap and we watched as Poodle struggled to put his tent up opting to just do what he could and that would suffice. The first night’s antics found us hanging with like-minded individuals who were gathered around a Hummer that was painted with Manowar imagery and signatures with a stereo blasting Crown & The Ring at full volume. And why not? The festival’s opening day saw Alice Cooper headline the stage with legendary support acts tearing the small town of Bad Arolsen a new one like Michael Schenker Group (who were terrible but they had the legendary Chris Slade on drums so that’s cool) and Ted Nugent (who shot a crossbow and arrow on fire into a guitar… as you do). By the time Cooper’s incredible two hour set was done, I was knackered and told the guys to wake me up at 2:55 so I could see the bay area thrashers do their thing. Well, right on 2:55, I get my wake up call “Damo! Let’s go see some fuckin’ thrash!” and up I got and we headed to not the main stage where Cooper and his band did their thing, but this tiny shed where a stage was set up and Death Angel took to that stage for a blistering performance to about 50 people. It was truly a sight to see and by the time they were done, I was beyond exhausted. I headed back to my tent and was quite pleased at what I had witnessed. I never thought that I’d ever see Death Angel again so I was in no position to complain about anything, ever.
Fast forward six years and I am at the old Billboards venue, which is now aptly titled 170 Russell St, and I am getting ready to watch one huge double header thrash fest as Death Angel were supporting Germany’s greatest thrashers, Kreator. Ok, so I will say now that the term ‘thrash’ is going to come up quite a lot in this review and that is simply because there is just no other way to describe it. Besides, I’m not some wacko journo who likes to use big words to describe something we all know as one simple word. It is what it is. The doors opened at 7:45pm which meant the 8 o’clock start time saw a line go around the corner and down the street. I took one look and thought to myself “I’m gonna miss me some Death Angel at this rate!” but once inside, I found myself witnessing a packed house as Death Angel were delivering one insanely powerful set that stretched across their entire discography. For a band who have been doing this genre of music since the early 80s (they had a lengthy break in the middle but we won’t count that), it’s amazing to see a band stay true to their roots and just deliver each song with power and aggression. Vocalist Mark Osegueda belted out each tune with so much energy whilst shredders Ted Aguilar and long-time guitarist Rob Cavestany just didn’t stop all their fiddly noodling which was just awesome to see. Newcomers, and I use that term loosely cos five years is still a long time, bassist Damien (heaps cool name!) Sisson and drummer Will Carroll deliver a pounding rhythm section that just didn’t let up. And why would you want it to? These guys haven’t aged a bit musically and for thrash purists, that’s welcomed with open arms. They smashed through all the “hits” including Evil Priest (I love that song title, I mean, how clichéd and metal is that!?!?! So good!), Sonic Beatdown, Claws In Too Deep, The Dream Calls For Blood and Succubus. Of course there was no way they would be omitting possibly their most well known tune, Seemingly Endless Time, which went down a complete treat. So were they good? Yeah, Death Angel, I like ‘em and you will too. Good stuff!
So let’s go back to 2008 but skip to the end of July. We make it to the infamous Wacken festival for what was to be the end of all parties with the likes of Iron Maiden, Airbourne, Nashville Pussy, Carcass, Nightwish, Avantasia, Exodus, Hatebreed, and the original German thrash attack of Kreator. They were incredible. This was a band I was introduced to through seeing the video for Betrayer on RAGE in the early hours of the morning; Coroner’s Masked Jackal usually followed, if you care, and I was immediately hooked. Who else besides everybody loves that breakdown in the middle with the bitchin’ mosh part? Exactly. Kreator were insanely awesome that night and the crowd worshipped the stage they played on. It was totally rad. Really, you haven’t seen Kreator until you’ve seen them whilst you were surrounded by 79,999 other metalheads all headbanging in synch. Such a surreal experience.
So here we were, 2014, Kreator’s intro music hits and out on stage they came. Immediately the crowd were whipped into a pool of flailing bodies as they danced up a moshable storm of the most epic proportions that the likes of 170 Russell had ever seen, maybe. Even though a few fan favourites were not part of the setlist (nothing off Extreme Aggression or Terrible Certainty – What the fuck, dudes?), they still managed to find 90 minutes worth of insanely awesome ass kickin’ thrash metal. Opening with the immediate classic Phantom Antichrist (the title track of their last album which is most bitchin’), the band blasted their way through the likes of People Of The Lie, Endless Pain, Pleasure To Kill, Violent Revolution, Enemy Of God, Riot of Violence, but not before finishing with an encore that included the classics Flag Of Hate (complete with flag waving) and Tormentor. It was heaps good and was definitely well worth your $59 (plus booking fee).
Both bands really gave 100% and then some. It was quite a step back in time yet in a way it showed that the original formulas still ring true in 2014. Of course it does. I’d like to say thankyou to all involved in bringing out these two great thrash (that word again) bands. Two thumbs up… even if Kreator didn’t play Betrayer. Well, at least they brought the flag so we’re good on that.
Bonus (at no extra cost!): Here’s a video of Betrayer since Kreator forgot to play it last night!