concert review

Walking into the venue for Kreator and Accept, there was a feeling that washed over the entire experience. To quote Henry Rollins, it felt like “another Saturday night in old Deutschland.” There was everything one would expect from a tour trumpeting two of Germany’s most prominent and standard-bearing thrash bands; high-speed metal revival, fans who haven’t had a haircut since the Berlin Wall came down, and very few women. Fewer than normal at a metal show, and that’s saying something.

Asking Alexandria was technically asked to open the main stage, but in reality, they were ex post facto to Anthrax, and began performing as soon as the veteran band had finished. As such, double A (not Arn Anderson,) was forced to deal with the nearly impossible task of playing to a transitory audience. They had completed “Welcome,” and were through a good portion of “Closure” before the bulk of the crowd moving from one stage to another had even had their tickets checked.

The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival is an event practically out of its time. A traveling commercial, musical carnival in the era when all merchandise is available online and every conceivable form of entertainment, from live performances to shocking freakery, can be accessed by those with a broadband connection. Beyond that, it is also one of the last of the dying breed of road-bound music festivals, surviving in the post-Ozzfest, re-created Lollapalooza era.

On a rainy, bitter night, Overkill came to town and brought friends. The fans tolerated the chill and the dowsing with quiet fortitude, standing stoically in line awaiting their chance to pay tribute to the thrash legends and the crew they brought with them. This is the type of following and faith engendered by Overkill as they make headway in their fourth decade of writing and performing. Armed with their new album "The Electric Age," the Jersey veterans came to kick ass and chew bubblegum. You can venture a guess what they were all out of.

When Bonded by Blood is the first band of the evening, each paying individual should be well aware of the night that is to follow. A perfect scene setter for everything that came after, Los Angeles’ Bonded by Blood is one of those rare acts who would have exactly the same amount of fun whether playing in front of 20 or 2,000. It is clear from the band’s raucous delivery that they enjoy playing their brand of thrash revival metal whether or not anyone is there to hear it.

The evening’s conflict had already been constructed before the first fan ever walked through the door. Paganfest 2012 was a tour set on answering a variation of the usual internet quandary concerning pirates and ninjas (on which my pro-ninja stance has been well documented.) Rather, the task for the evening was to settle the erstwhile grudge match between the two groups that were hosting the entire event. Who is superior? Pirates….or Vikings?

Not so different from the halcyon days of Ozzfest or Lollapalooza, Gigantour has become an annual staple in the music community. At the same time, the tour is among the last of a dying breed. The preponderance of festivals and their emerging popularity has caused a sort of death to the travelling circus of large tours. Those that still exist, such as the Mayhem festival and, for those inclined, the Warp tour, have been corporatized and transformed into musical billboard advertisements.

Death Angel is one of the oft-overlooked also-rans of the thrash movement of the early to mid 1980’s. Their name is spoken mostly in the dusty corners of memory, their legacy not as pronounced as so many of their musical kin. To mistake that somewhat faded glory for a lack of talent or acumen, and place Death Angel on the discard pile is a fool’s errand. Death Angel remains a vital and virulent band in this new millennium, and their performance as the first band on the stage was evidence enough that they remain hungry and capable.

It was in places like this that heavy metal began. A small-time bar out in the sticks with a stage, where the old Peavey PA has a significant hum and half the gathered crowd was there to watch the NLCS. It was in places like this, where billiards tables were pushed out of the way and the walls were undecorated, where bands made their name under dim, yellow-hued incandescent lighting. (Lighting so poor that only black and white photos were exposing properly.) These were, and are, the proving grounds.