Epica/Infidel Rising/Divine Retribution/Exalt The Throne: Gas Monkey Bar N’Grill – Dallas, TX 2/11/16

I recently celebrated another birthday, and how did I choose to do so? On assignment for Amps And Green Screens, covering the EPICA show at Gas Monkey Bar N’Grill on February 11! This was my first time at the venue with the semi-covered patio, and the sound and lighting were as near perfect as you can get. With three local openers, you might have thought fans would be trickling in nearer to EPICA’s onstage time, but no – the floor area was almost completely full when we arrived half an hour before the first band. We quickly staked out a spot next to the sound guy and made friends, so we had one of the best views for photos and sound that you could ever ask for!


First up was EXALT THE THRONE from Fort Worth, and they did a fantastic job. They classify themselves as brutal melodic metal and they lived up to the name with some great songwriting and the harsh vocals of bassist Kanyon Lloyd. On the other end of the spectrum, Courtney Johnson was making her first appearance as lead vocalist for the band, and after they got her situated on stage where her vocals weren’t being overwhelmed by the intense music of the band, she sounded great. The band fit in well with the symphonic/power/prog metal theme of the night and I look forward to seeing them perform in the future.


DIVINE RETRIBUTION hit the stage next and took us on a bit of a left turn into a more Christian, yet thrashy and progressive corner of the metal spectrum. Kitty Garces has some outstanding vocal chops, her husband Eric Garces is insane on the guitar, and nephew Gunther rounds out the family on bass with some great crunchy rhythms. Joining them on drums tonight for the first time was Daniel Almagro (bassist with INFIDEL RISING) and he fit right in with their skilled playing. They crushed their half hour allotment and sounded amazing.


INFIDEL RISING was the final support act of the evening, and came out with all guns blazing, playing selections from their debut album, including “Exodus To Kadesh”, “The Torn Wings Of Illusion”, “Finding Nevermore”, and my personal favorite, “Reflections.” I’ve seen the band live several times, but never in a venue where the sound was so close to perfect, and they really took advantage of the opportunity. Daniel was back on bass, and was roaming the stage while Travis Wills (vocals) was bouncing all over the place, connecting with as many people as he could throughout their set. It’s wonderful to see such a talented and deserving group of guys getting visible gigs like this, and hopefully the outstanding crowd reaction will be an indicator of great things to come. By this time, the venue was packed as tight as a can of sardines, and everyone was amped for the coming band.


EPICA came onstage right on time, and didn’t waste any screwing around – they launched right into “The Second Stone” from their most recent album, and added a few more from the same disc scattered through the set. The rest of the set, however, touched on all of the bases and provided the excited crowd with a stroll through their catalog of hits, pulled from all of their first five albums. “Cry For The Moon”, “Sensorium”, Design Your Universe”, and the obligatory “Consign To Oblivion” as the final encore made the crowd go nuts and made the whole evening a success. The band’s energy, despite it being near the end of a 14 stop tour that included several days at sea on the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise, was insanely high, and they were all running around the stage and playing directly to the fans.


Since Gas Monkey Bar N’Grill is technically an outside venue, they stop performances at midnight, but never fear – EPICA and the three support bands packed as much music as they could into four hours, and kept right to the schedule. Not a single person went home disappointed on this show, and I was a tired and happy guy who just so happened to be a little bit older than when I went in.



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