Venues and promoters often attempt to book their own mini music festivals around the local date of national tour. If there’s enough space and time it correctly, you can have up to ten or more bands including local openers on a single bill, sometimes with set times crossing over. Local acts always love the opportunity to open for or play on the same bill as big-name acts, and even though set times might be reduced, it gives fans an opportunity to experience many acts for the price of a single ticket in a single night. And we all know how hard it is to make it to multiple shows with real world priorities like working for a living. Sometimes though, festivals (regardless of their size) can backfire; poor promotion and the inability to attract an audience with the right bands can lead to poor ticket sales and a missed opportunity for all parties.
Fortunately for St. Louis, the venue Fubar has booked enough of their own “MetalFests” to have a proper handle on how to do it right. It takes a good balance of predictability and risk-taking when booking bands, all centered on a single theme. So when San Francisco Bay-area thrash legends Death Angel hit the road to support their latest and seventh studio album The Dream Calls For Blood with four – count ‘em – FOUR supporting acts, the home town heroes accepted the challenge to make the St. Louis date of the tour a little extra special. Especially considering that a year and a half earlier, Death Angel was originally booked to stop at Fubar as an off-date of their tour with Sepultura, Kirsiun, and Havok, only to end up opening for Volbeat across the river at Pop’s in Sauget, IL that same night instead.
As with previous Fubar MetalFests, the number of local bands booked for this tenth installment matched the number of touring bands (five). And also as with previous Fubar MetalFests, those same local bands had to be somewhat associated with the theme of the music on the tour which, in this case, was thrash metal. Sounds easy, right? Just book the first five speed metal/thrash bands that show interest in playing the show. Well, hold on; unfortunately it’s not that easy, considering that booked earlier in the year for that same night, just down the street from Fubar, was another, smaller thrash metal show at The Firebird: Warbringer would be headlining as a warm-up date, preparing for their slot opening for Kreator and Overkill. And to make things more difficult, local bands ThorHammer and Manifest were set to open that show (cross two bands off the list you can’t book). There was talk and hopes that these two shows could’ve been combined, boosting ticket sales and attendance instead of lowering them for both shows, but unfortunately to fans’ dismay, a deal was not reached. No worries though, as five local openers were ultimately booked for the Tenth Fubar MetalFest which not only fit the theme, but successfully matched the diversity of Death Angel’s tour.
As with previous MetalFests, Fubar utilized both the venue and lounge spaces inside the building, swapping back and forth between the two as each band played a set until the end of the night. Beginning in the lounge was probably the most different band on the bill, the Irish-themed hardcore of Danny Greene. While most early-arriving patrons seemed puzzled why they were booked on a thrash show, their crossover appeal kept their relevance and undoubtedly pleased any Hatebreed fans in the audience. Starting off the venue side was Encrypted. Formed within the past few years and featuring members of former bands, this groovy thrash outfit seems to have been influenced by the speed and ferocity of bands ranging from Testament and Nuclear Assault to Machine Head and Soulfly. Moving back into the lounge, fans were treated to another group of members of now defunct bands, Truculent Void. While their guitarists had impressive solos to fit the evening’s thrash theme, their dark tones and use of keyboards were actually more reminiscent of European melodic death metal bands like Children Of Bodom and Dark Tranquility.
The first touring act to perform back in the venue was Chicago’s Diamond Plate. This group has undergone several lineup changes and has now returned to their original three-piece format, but with a new bassist and guitarist who both provide vocals. Even if the musicians and singers are different, the “Windy City street-thrash” exhibited by this trio remains impressive. Not only are they intense in their speed and volume, but the fact that they can keep such a vicious display contained and functioning so on point is impressive; it’s a wonder these guys aren’t bigger. Back in the lounge were the newer local act Hallow Point, a four-piece exhibiting strength in their groove and aggression while still being surprisingly catchy. Sounding like a heavier version of Trivium, their set left a little to be desired when they broke into a cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” But in their defense, a newer band probably has less original material ready for a live audience.
The second national act really exhibited the diversity on this particular bill: Massachusetts’ latest and greatest extreme, progressive export, Revocation. Familiar to St. Louis and especially Fubar, Revocation is easily one of the most eclectic metal bands around today; combining technical thrash and both melodic and brutal death metal, their blindingly fast precision, incredible musicianship, and voracious growls ripped through the venue once again, no doubt gaining many satisfied fans. There were only two downsides to their set, and they were very minor: 1.) There was some kind of unidentified technical feedback throughout their set that could not be fixed (not that it inhibited them one bit, they still gave the people their best show) and 2.) Their shortened set time left for only six songs, leaving them to focus on their latest, self-titled release (not that the album isn’t amazing, probably their best work yet) as well as its predecessor, their 2012 EP Teratogenesis, and only one song from each of their previous albums.
The lounge’s final act was not actually local; Scent Of Remains hails from Knoxville, Tennessee and continued the evening’s unique musical diversity stemming from thrash metal. Scent Of Remains combined thrash’s crunchy riffing with Lamb Of God-esque groove, but most notably seemed to also have a heavy influence of bluesy stoner doom metal throughout their melodic structure. The vocalist, though primarily growls and screams, were not afraid to utilize clean singing, even occasionally harmonizing with the bassist. Back in the venue, the next national act was a new rising star in modern metal and friend of Damnation Magazine, Detroit, Michigan’s Battlecross. Arriving to the venue within just hours before their set time due to trailer and transportation issues, the band plowed through their exhaustion to deliver a satisfying set of fast, non-stop fun American blue-collar metal. Battlecross’ sound and style combines many various metal aspects including melody and brutality as well as technicality and speed, making it impossible not to have fun during their show.
The last national supporting band, Vancouver, Canada’s 3 Inches Of Blood have become respectable legends in their own right at this point in their career, also enduring lineup changes which have prompted sound change and experimentation throughout their albums. Central to the band however, is their dedication to the preservation of classic, traditional forms of heavy metal, ranging from bands like Iron Maiden and Accept to Deep Purple and Led Zepplin. Their over-the-top presentation and cheesy, fantasy and battle-based lyrics also always make for a fun time for true metalheads, but the greatest thing about 3 Inches Of Blood is that, regardless of their time on stage, they never repeat their live sets. The band is not afraid to leave out singles and live staples like “Goatriders Hoard” and “Night Marauders” – like they did this night – in order to give their audience something different, while still playing at least one song off of each of their albums – often at least one you wouldn’t expect – and still promoting their latest release (in this case, 2012’s Long Live Heavy Metal).
The bands that had played by this point in the night would’ve been enough to satisfy the very reasonable ticket price of $16 in advance and $20 day of show, but no one was leaving without experiencing Death Angel closing out the show. Taking the stage with full force, pride, and confidence, they Bay-area thrash legends led with the first two tracks from their latest album, The Dream Calls For Blood, then wasted no time delivering an old classic, “Mistress Of Pain” from their 1987 debut The Ultra-Violence. Most of Death Angel’s set focused on songs from the four albums released after their reunion in 2001. This did not seem to bother fans though, as that material was met with generally high praise, especially as their career progressed. This reaction seems proof that some bands defy the stereotype and do get better with age, even after such a traumatic event (a bus crash in late 1990) which led to their ten-year breakup. Old school fans were not left out though, as Death Angel also shredded older gems “Seemingly Endless Time” and “Bored,” and also made sure to work some of the title track of The Ultra-Violence into their encore closer, “Thrown To The Wolves.” Their encore also included a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell.”
Even in a smaller venue like Fubar, Death Angel showed undying enthusiasm in their live show, their fans, and their music in general, as showed especially through front man Mark Osegueda (with his now dreadlock-less shoulder-length hair). When he wasn’t singing or taking pulls from his bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, Osegueda emphatically preached to the crowd of his appreciation for fans of Death Angel’s music for over twenty-five years. Many of his pontifications included the importance of keeping music alive; he didn’t just say metal, he made sure he talked about MUSIC itself. Osegueda expressed his displeasure with the shape of music at a time where venues, labels, rehearsal spaces, and record stores are shutting down across the country. He also made sure to mention the theme of Death Angel’s latest album, central to their set, of perseverance for the love of music, mentioning naysayers who lost interest in the band at the 2009 departure of founding members Dennis Pepa (bass/backing vocals, replaced by Damien Sisson) and Andy Galeon (drums replaced by Will Carroll) due to inabilities to tour.
One of the greatest moments of musical appreciate from Death Angel came when Osegueda dedicated one of their newest songs, “Fallen,” to Lou Reed, who had died the day of this concert. With one of Reed’s last released projects being Lulu, the poorly-reviewed collaboration with Metallica, hearing a reminder of Reed’s positive musical contributions from another respected thrash outlet was certainly refreshing, especially so shortly after his death. Toward the end of their set, when Osegueda was introducing his band mates as an introduction to “Thicker Than Blood,” founding guitarist Rob Cavestany immediately broke into Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode,” to which rest of the band played along for a few measures. His band mates laughed and smiled, and the crowd got a kick of Cavestany remarking how you have to remember Chuck Berry When You come to St. Louis.
This was probably the defining moment to cap off the evening; Death Angel, a long-running, highly respected band of the thrash metal genre (particularly in America) is still having fun and remembering not only the importance of music, but the importance of the heritage that surrounds it, even when it becomes so unique, it can be pinpointed to one individual city. Death Angel made it clear that, while metal is what they and their tour mates play, it’s just as important – if not more – to remember the power that music has. And just as important as this lesson, is to remember that St. Louis was able to share and experience this in their own corner of the world at Fubar, who prove exactly how to work hard to make a date of a tour even more special of an opportunity for a local music community. To another ten more Fubar MetalFests; may they be just as fun and memorable as the last!