Well, what do we have here? HAVOK and EXMORTUS on the same night in the same place?? Where in THE Hell do I sign?? Voltage Lounge in Philly was the scene of the crime for a night of blinding Thrash Metal provided by two of the best in the game right now. And as a bonus, Long Island’s own EXTINCTION A.D. (where I’m from!), who I’d never heard before, was the band to kick off the festivities. I, like many other metalheads, have been clamoring for a tour like this since first hearing the sweet, shreddy sounds of both bands, and to finally have them together in one glorious package was pretty goddamn sweet.
EXTINCTION A.D. came out to a crowd that quite frankly was half-dead from the two previous local bands that I can only call “Bad” and “Worse,” so they had their work cut out for them. With some kickass riffage, angry vocals, and that familiar and undeniable L.I. attitude the boys eventually got the crowd on their side and delivered what I would definitely consider a winning set. Suffice to say they made a fan out of me and I look forward to seeing them again either here in Philly, or maybe on one of my trips back to the old stomping grounds.
EXMORTUS was up next, and as I’ve come to expect, they ripped the shit outta the joint!! “Rising” and “Foe Hammer” from my favorite record Slave to the Sword got this shit off to a brilliant start, followed by “Speed of the Strike” and “For the Horde” from newest album Ride Forth. The band was absolutely on fire with axemen David Rivera and Conan leading the charge, guitars threatening to burst into flame any minute.
It was back to the debut for “In Hatred’s Flame” before another new track “Death to Tyrants” had them up and running. “Moonlight Sonata” is always a crowd favorite as well as one of mine. The neoclassical shred of this band is on another fucking level, and anyone who doesn’t get that needs mental help. From the debut once again came “Axes of War” before epic closer “Metal Is King” was intro’d by an instrumental cover of BOSTON’S “Foreplay.” The now-legendary move of Rivera and Conan playing over each other’s backs soon followed, something that never fails to amaze me. I’m running out of ways to describe the EXMORTUS experience live, so just do as I say and catch them at a show, huh?
When it came time for the Mighty HAVOK to hit the stage my blood was pumping furiously. Realize I’ve been such a fan of these guys since the early days, and A&GS has done more features on them than almost any other band and you get it. This would also be my fifth time seeing them, and first on a proper headlining run (not counting the 2013 show in Dallas). With a double shot of “No Amnesty” and “Fatal Intervention” from Time Is Up it was clear that this band was on a mission to fuck shit up while elevating everyone’s consciousness.
From the same record “Prepare For Attack” was sandwiched between brutal new tunes “Hang ‘Em High” and “Claiming Certainty”. Now, those of you who ain’t familiar with HAVOK’S drummer Pete Webber, well then let me educate you. This guy sounds like he has eight arms and legs, and when he goes off he GOES OFF!! Again, see them live one time, you’ll get it. Vocalist/guitarist David Sanchez was spitting venom at every turn, guitarist Reece Scruggs was ripping notes out of thin air, and bassist Nick Schendzielos was one of the most engaging and groove-heavy dudes I’ve ever seen/heard.
Another new song “Intention to Deceive” from forthcoming album Conformicide (March 10, Century Media Records) rocked us before “Point of No Return” and the subsequent Webber drum solo tore us a new one. This guy is my favorite fucking drummer on the planet for a reason, people! “From the Cradle to the Grave” has such an old school thrash groove, especially live, and then new song “Ingsoc” steered us into somewhat different waters for a bit before it turned into an all-out thrasher. And then it was time for one of my favorites, a tune I’d seen them open with before, “Covering Fire.” If you aren’t ready to throw someone or something from a sixth floor balcony hearing this one, then you’re dead inside.
“D.O.A.” is the band’s anti-drunk/substance abuse driving anthem and live it always packs a punch, especially when Sanchez launches into that scream towards the end. The band left the stage only to come back for one more, from 2013’s Unnatural Selection, “Give Me Liberty…or Give Me Death.” I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of my favorite HAVOK songs of all time.The guys kicked everyone up the ass one last time before saying goodnight, and that was that. HAVOK will forever be one of my favorite Thrash Metal bands until they give me a reason not to be, and on this night, all they did was reaffirm my loyalty and allegiance.
LIVE IMAGES: MIKE SIEVILA PHOTOGRAPHY
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO