It was an unusually cold Tuesday night in
West Hollywood when a Sunset Boulevard time warp had Ratt debuting their newest release, Infestation to a sold out Key Club. Infestation is a fantastic return to power (see previous review). The night started with a photo shoot on the Blvd. The boys all seemed in a light mood which boded well for the upcoming live performance in a “very rare” small club date. The Key Club was packed but comfortable. Opening band The Drills played a short uninspired set. They have an amazing guitar player who is wasting his talents on mediocre mash ups and silly antics… yawn.
Thankfully Ratt did not keep us waiting long, and at ten fifteen they hit the stage with a bang, ripping right into You’re In Love, followed by Lay It Down and Lack Of Communication. We were off to a fine start, with Stephen Pearcy prowling the stage like a caged panther. Although his voice has been to hell and back, he sounded fantastic and was not relying on audience participation or backup vocals. He was pushing and howling just like a rock star should. The interesting but completely understandable thing is that the show really felt like it got started when Ratt played the first song on Infestation, Eat Me Up Alive; which if you think about it is amazing: to see a band rock that hard and an audience go nuts for a song that most of them have never heard is something that just doesn’t happen very often. It was awe-inspiring. Also from the new record - Best Of Me, Take a Big Bite and Last Call – were all met with equal fervor (go buy the CD… duh).
As expected, Warren Demartini was in his guitar god trance. When he and Carlos Cavazo play dueling (and sometimes synchronized) solos it really is hard rock guitar heaven. The ever-smiling Robbie Craneon provides the low end, and he and drummer Bobby Blotzer kept things locked. The funny thing about rhythm sections is: the better they do, the less there seems to be to comment on; they were perfect. Ratt did not disappoint for those with the nostalgia itch, either; playing many hits including Slip Of The Lip, Back For More, Way Cool Jr, A Little Too Much, and of course the ultimate signature song Round And Round (complete with a confetti shower)!
After the show, my buddy David and I went downstairs to the after party where they were cranking the new record through broken speakers while lingerie-clad vixens did “the grindy-grindy dance” on stage. Some of the audience members (dudes in suits) started getting involved with the dancers and it started taking on a kind of Ashley Madison vibe (I’m more of a Dolly Madison guy). To make a long sordid story short, me and my bud hung out and got smashed, made lewd comments and threw dollar bills at the girls until we got kicked out. Okay the truth is we stayed about 30 seconds then we went to his car so he could give me a box of hand-me-downs from his son for my 1-year old son. I’m not completely lame though, because as I was carrying the box of clothing (which happened to be in a 200-count box of Huggies) a young woman dressed to the metal nines looked at me and exclaimed: “Man you rock!” I though about it and decided that she was right. So thank you Ratt, for a fantastic new record and a reason to get out and see a rock and roll show. You guys keep the flame burning and I’ll keep writing about it.
4 out of 5 Anarchy Speakers
“Slaughter By The Water” was the nickname of the 2010 Bay Area Thrash Fest, featuring 10+ bands spread over a neck-snapping evening at Oakland’s Metro. My date and I elected to take the Ferry from San Francisco to Oakland, to kick off our evening on a genteel, civilized note. It takes longer than BART, but BART doesn’t serve beer, nor can you watch the sunset from a tunnel under the Bay. (How great would it be if BART started offering a bar-car on every train, though? Just a thought to aid the Bay Area’s underfunded transit systems. You can thank me later.)
We arrived just as Prayers of Sanity were taking the stage. They’d come all the way from Portugal for the gig, according to host DJ Shredder from Metal Assault Radio. Their thrash features a slight dusting of black metal, with the vocals occasionally sliding into shrieky territory. But their music was tight and melodious, and the vocalist has impressive range for a thrash band. I picked up one of their CDs after the show, because if a band can fly all the way from Portugal for a gig, I can spring $5 for some merch. (The CD is well-produced and as strong as their live show. I will be watching what these boys do next.)
Here’s an important pointer for bands playing one of these all-afternoon festivals: tell us who you are at every opportunity. At several points I had to ask the soundguys who was onstage, and there were so many bands playing that the sound engineers hadn’t a clue. (On the upside, the mix was solid all night, an impressive bit of work given that there was a new band onstage every 30 minutes.) Between bands I ambled around the merch tables, looking for vinyl singles. Being at a warehouse-concert in Oakland gave me a heavy wave of nostalgia, and I decided to buy every 7″ I could lay hands on. Sadly, Toxic Holocaust was the only band flying the flag for that old-ass format, but I bought a copy of their “Graveland” single, out now on Relapse.
Premonition were always going to have a tough time following Prayers of Sanity, and their generic monopaced ho-hum thrash lacked dynamics and killed off any pit-action POS had gotten started. Their best song by some distance was a cover of “Subliminal” by Suicidal Tendencies (“They’re f’n with me, subliminally…”), which revived the crowd and ended the set with a welcome burst of energy. They weren’t terrible, but they do need to work on their songcraft so it’s not just “chugga chugga chugga” for three minute bursts.
Local boys Fog of War charged out of the gate playing thrash-paced Maiden intros tacked onto punk songs. They’re from nearby Benecia, a town more noted for its punk history than for its metal. Indeed the vocalist was more Discharge than Maiden, although he did proffer the occasional high-pitched squeal. Oh, and the bassist looked like he was playing in a jazz band. Something about his style, holding the bass high on his chest, just seemed “jazzy”. But he was clearly talented. Despite playing a punk/metal hybird, they did avoid the “metalcore” tag. Where a metalcore band would feature hardcore-bellowing over breakdown after breakdown, they kept the thrash sharp and to the point. Fog of War won me over solidly enough that I decided to buy a CD. But then I couldn’t find one as their merch was apparently tucked away in the darkest corner of the venue.
Fueled By Fire come from the Kreator/Destruction school of abrasive thrash, by way of Southern California. They split opinions amongst my companions. My friend Paul thought their blatant Slayer worship, down to the meandering stuck-pig solos, made them his band-of-the-night. The crowd was also thoroughly onboard, and I have to confess they had a grasp of dynamics that almost made up for their pedestrian song titles. (“Sickness of Humanity”, “Stare Into The Eye Of The Demon”, “Dreams of Terror”, etc. Gotta work on those lyrics a bit, guys.) I’d say the jury is still out for me, although apparently they were just signed to Metal Blade, so what do I know?
Local lads Zombie Holocaust offered tech-shred mosh, and shared the same jazz-bassist from Fog of War. There are obviously two schools of thrash; the “Dead Skin Mask” serial-killer-metal of your Slayers and Sepulturas, and then the neon-green party-thrash with lyrics about comic-books, pizza, and…well, thrashing. This second school was kicked off by Anthrax and has found a home in many of the new-wave of thrash bands such as Municipal Waste. Zombie Holocaust clearly fall into this second group, with songs about Boba Fett, horror movies, and partying. And they brought the party to the stage with silly-string, inflatable sheep, and all manner of flying debris. Perhaps it wasn’t as “grim” as some would have liked, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. (And really, if you’re the kind of fan that thinks flipped up baseball hats, hi-tops, and denim vests are still fashionable, how the hell “grim” can you be?) ZH’s debut record is out soon from http://ebmrecords.com/.
By this point we’d settled into a routine: headbang during the band, then break between sets for a $1 zombie-taco and a cheap-ass $3 beer (I love Oakland). Repeat as needed. I was settled into this groove when my notes say “circle pits are for rule-following pussies.” Perhaps it was the Corona talking, but I think I had a point. Back in my day, if a band kicked ass, the audience broke into a frenzied pit that splattered in all directions. Nowadays, pretty much every thrash or hardcore band starts exhorting the crowd “I better see an f’n circle pit right now, mother fu#$ers”, halfway through the first breakdown. Like we need to be told what to do? (I didn’t get into this kind of music because I enjoy following instructions.) It’s like bumper-cars at the County Fair nowadays. When I was a kid, bumper-cars let you go in any retarded whiplash-inducing direction you wanted. And you could collide head-on, full-speed, launching your best buddy into next week. Good times. Now they have all these signs posted at the tracks, commanding you all to go in a circle, in the same direction. The best you can manage is a gentle sideswipe now and then, if you’re lucky. Not to come across like (more of) a cranky old bastard, but bumpercars and moshpits were a helluva lot better before everybody started following the rules.
Bonded By Blood is breaking free of their Exodus influence, largely due to vocalist Jose “Aladdin” Barrales having dramatically more range than Paul Baloff ever offered. Their set didn’t delve into as much new material as one would have liked. (A year ago we saw almost the same set of tunes played at Thee Parkside in San Francisco.) But they did treat us to the title track of their new record (due this Summer from Earache) called “Exiled to Earth”. It featured an awesome finger-tapped intro from their bassist, who is apparently named Jerry Garcia. Seriously.
By the time Toxic Holocaust took the stage, a lot of the crowd was suffering “metal fatigue” and the last BART trains were departing, so the venue started to clear out. Toxic Holocaust is a one-man-act, with Joel Grind writing and performing all the music, and then employing session musicians to back him up live. He’s sort of the Trent Reznor of thrash-punk, I guess. I’m not sure if it was the seven-hour show, or the knowledge that this wasn’t a “real” band of like-minded musicians. But I knew I was watching a group of hired-hands, and the set didn’t really catch fire for me. Toxic Holocaust were solid, but Bonded By Blood was the more-exciting live act. We stuck around for some of Toxic Holocaust’s set, then called it a night and hit Oakland’s Chinatown for late-night vittles. “Slaughter By The Water” set a very high standard for local metal shows, and I look forward to the next one. I feel a bit spoiled, because even the weaker bands of the night were still at least good. In fact I can’t remember when I attended a show that ran that long where I didn’t get bored at some point. Set times were short, and the performances were solid.
4 out of 5 Metal Studs.
Ratt’s new release Infestation (due out April 20th on RoadRunner Records) is a welcome return to their much celebrated sound, with an intensity that is both urgent and well-devised. In short, this album really rocks. Following a fantastic trend, Ratt toured behind an anniversary of their seminal juggernaut Out Of The Cellar, playing it in its entirety (you should remember that when a classic record first breaks, bands rarely preform it complete). What I believe this did for Ratt (as well as others) is it got their blood moving in the direction of what it was that made them blow up in the first place. Therein is the magic of Infestation, an 11 track straight rock-and-roll record guaranteed to please even a casual Ratt fan. Credit and due must be given to Michael (Elvis) Baskette for ignoring all temptations that contemporary production offers (pitch correctors, drum loops , etc.). Stephen Pearcy has never had what people consider a great voice (which is exactly what’s great about it!); and I always felt he had a voice almost more suited to punk than hard rock – maybe that’s what cornered the market all these years for Ratt with their Sunset Blvd. alley-cat brand of stiff rock and roll. It is Pearcy’s unforgettable growl that makes even the softer tracks, like track two’s Best Of Me, still retain enough grit to keep it safely out of ballad land. Warren Demartini is fantastic as always (he is so much of the Ratt sound we know and love). He really seems like he is energized on this new outing, with blazing riffs aplenty. Another thing to note is how great the drums sound: they are panned perfectly and really give you a sense of what drummer Bobby Blotzer is selling. Keeping the low end in line is Robbie Craneon on bass, while on guitar number two – the uber awesome Carlos Cavazo of the late great Quiet Riot – shows absolutely why he was the perfect choice to fill out the lineup. Track one, Eat Me Up, kicks it off just the way a rock record should: it gives you hope that there will be more of the same to follow… There is – in spades! Most specifically, A Little Too Much, Lost Weekend, Take A Big Bite, and Don’t Let Go. The big anthem (and yes, for a record like this you must have a big anthem) is without a doubt Take Me Home; a homage to the lighters in the air (well I guess cell phones now). Bang your head halfway, well maybe more like a nod really that says I have feelings but you can still suck it. Over the years I have heard Ratt detractors say, “All Ratt songs sound alike – ya know, like Round and Round.” My answer to that is you should hope they do because that sound and that song is a perfect example of what uncompromising rock-and-roll sounds like. In reality I do not agree that all Ratt songs sound the same, but I will say: much like Out Of The Cellar, there is a very nice cohesion to Infestation; it plays like it should: like a record with an A side and a B side. On the strength of this new release I will be reviewing the CD release party and concert as well, and if this stuff comes off live as it should, it will be one kick ass night! It’s been 26 years since Out Of The Cellar blew out the speakers, and this new record begs the question: Can Ratt-and-roll ever die? I hope it doesn’t for a long, long time.
I used to be a Ratt fan and now I am again and it feels great!
“Round and round, what comes around goes around. I’ll tell you why” Dig.
4 out of 5 Anarchy Speakers
MEGADETH 20th Anniversary concert of their seminal masterpiece Rust In Peace began before the show even started as evidenced by the sign in the box office window “yes we really are sold out” The electricity was palpable as two perennial beasts EXODUS then TESTAMENT pounded the audience into a desperate frenzy. While we waited for Megadeth to hit the stage I was treated to possibly the worlds largest karaoke sing along to Iron Maiden’s Two Minutes To Midnight which was funny, cool and a little scary. That was when I met a young man who seemed a bit down, you see he had rocked so hard during Testament that he had lost his pant’s! Once I explained to him that most human’s simply can’t rock that hard he seemed to lighten up a bit. For those of you who are not familiar with Rust In Peace let me say this, it is a perfect record from start to finish (which is almost impossible in any genre) And was nominated for a Grammy in 1991 for best metal performance (the winner that year was Mettalica for a cover of the queen song Stone Cold Crazy umm… yeah okay whatever, it’s good but umm… yeah whatever) What was so great for myself and fans alike is that Megadeth would be performing this record in order and in its entirety (many of these songs had never been preformed live like Five Magics, wow) Any fans of this kind of Metal know the first two tracks Holy Wars and Hanger 18 lick for lick and can air guitar, bass, drum or vocal wail it in their sleep. This concert was filmed for a live DVD and the crowd did not disappoint, singing along, moshing and head banging all the way through (I was out of breath just watching it go down) It’s no secret that Dave Mustaine who is the singer, chief cook, song writer, founding member and ax bending genius has had his troubles with drugs and alchohol over the years and that that is something that catches up to you physically, I understand that he has been clean for some time now (way to go Dave)! That being said he looked fantastic, played fantastic, sounded fantastic and gave the loyal following everything that they asked for which is the mark of a true rock warrior. One thing that should also be noted is that Megadeth’s newest record Endgame is like the previous two, fast, unrelenting and awesome… so go buy it, you will not regret it.
The band was in fine form with the return of David Ellefson on Bass, Shawn Drover on drums and on the other lead guitar the amazing Chris Broderick. For anyone who understands music theory even a little you can see that this is a very difficult record to play as there are multiple time changes per song, trading solos and marathon lengths. The band not only handled the material they nailed it to the wall. Megadeth ended their legendary set with Symphony Of Destruction Peace Sells and a very cool Holy Wars reprise which was met with much deserved fanfare. One of my favorite moments was when I met a dad who had brought his 8 year old son to see one of his favorite bands do in his words “their greatest album” The kid was having a ball, and as each one teach one about the things we love we can be sure that this transcendent music will find it’s way through the generations. One thing I know for sure is that Metal is alive and well in Southern California and I suspect the rest of the world as well.
4 out of 5 Anarchy Speakers
Photos by Jdoggs Magoo
Original artwork poster by Two Rabbits Studios www.tworabbitsstudios.com