I don’t very often drive over an hour away for a show on a weeknight. I’m up at 5:30 every morning to get Mini-Amps off to school and myself off to work, so these kinds of nights rarely happen. But when I received word that DEATH ANGEL was headlining at The Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA you betcher ass I would be there! I’d seen them four times previously but each one of those was a seven-song support set. I even said in my review of latest and super spectacular album Humanicide that the way to make America great again was for these guys to book a headlining run ASAP. Looks like The Metal Gods finally answered my prayers.
I met up with one of my oldest and dearest friends in Steve M1 and a new friend I’d made at this year’s DORO show in Steve M2, had a beer or two and settled in to watch the madness onstage unfold. First up was HELL FIRE, a band from San Francisco I knew nothing about but who turned me a fan. With a potent combo of Classic Metal meets Speed/Thrash Metal and a high-energy set they quickly made believers out of all three of us, and I hope they come back this way again soon. Latest album Mania is out now, so grab that one wherever you buy your music. I’m sure you’ll dig these guys.
Up next was one of my favorites in EXMORTUS. I’ve been a huge fan of this band since the early days of A&GS and this would be my fifth time seeing them in as many years. Suffice to say, when they come to town you will always find me there. Opening with “Slave to the Sword” from 2014’s album of the same name, the band was in full take-no-prisoners mode from the very first note. “For the Horde” followed and before long we were treated to a couple of new songs from the band’s latest EP Legions of the Undead, “Swallow Your Soul” and the title track. Both of them slay, and the EP rocks hard.
Latest full-length The Sound of Steel was represented by “Into the Maw of Hell” which sounded awesome and right behind it came “Foe Hammer.” I’ve seen the band do this one several times and it always goes HARD!! Now, if you’ve never caught these guys doing “Moonlight Sonata (Act 3)” by dear old Ludwig Van, then you haven’t lived. Because they do it justice and then some. BOSTON’S “Foreplay” led us into closer “Metal Is King” during which guitarist/lead vocalist Conan and fellow axe man Chase Becker slung their guitars over each other’s backs and played from there. This is always a show highlight and was great to see once again.
And now the time had come for DEATH ANGEL!! The festivities began with “Humanicide”, title track from the new record, then “Voracious Souls” reaching all the way back to the band’s debut, The Ultra-Violence. Steve M1 and I made eye contact and I thought he was gonna flip shit he looked so goddamn happy. That’s the kind of stuff that makes a show even better. When you’re with an old buddy who’s been a fan for decades, seeing him light up during the set is the best. Plus, the group was absolutely destroying! Vocalist Mark Osegueda was killing it, sounding just like he did 30 years ago. And the guys to the left, right, and behind him?
Let’s just say that Rob Cavestany (lead guitar) and Ted Aguilar (rhythm guitar) were simply laying waste to everything in their path with each tune, while bassist Damien Sisson and drummer Will Carroll were not only holding down the groove, they were in rarified air as a rhythm section. “Claws In So Deep” is one of my favorites from these boys and live it was a friggin’ chain saw at full speed. This five-piece unit was now three songs deep into one of the tightest sets I would witness not only at this show, but EVER. The new disc made another appearance with “Aggressor” and was met with much enthusiasm from everyone.
Another of Maestro’s favorites would rear its rabid head next with “The Dream Calls For Blood” followed by a double shot of new ones in “The Pack” and “I Came For Blood.” No surprise that those are two of the album’s heaviest and hardest so they fit seamlessly into the set. Last album The Evil Divide showed up with back-to-back tracks “Father of Lies” and “The Moth”, even more proof that these guys still have it and then some! One of the biggest highlights was “Mistress of Pain”, again from the debut and then “The Ultra-Violence” itself bled into “Thrown to the Wolves” from 2004’s The Art of Dying to close this epic performance.
When it was all said and done we couldn’t have been happier. DEATH ANGEL rocked our balls off. They didn’t just play a concert, no, they put on a motherfucking clinic!! This was Thrash Metal done right, live and in the flesh. This also was hands down one of THE best shows of 2019, and the best I’ve ever seen from the Bay Area boys. I never thought I’d get to drink them in doing a headliner, and they delivered on every level known to man. Steves M1 and M2 both shared my enthusiasm, and as we made our separate ways into the cold, dark night, we all got to share in the knowledge that we had just witnessed something special. And I know for a fact we were all smiling on our long drives home!!
LIVE IMAGES: FRANCES AXSMITH CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO