CAGE, Skull Hammer, Chronovore – November 18, 2015 – Firehouse 13, Providence, R.I.Thursday, 26th November 2015
American power metal mavens CAGE are currently on tour in support of their latest album, Ancient Evil, and since the San Diego quintet doesn’t often make it out to the East Coast, their stop at Firehouse 13 in Providence, R.I. was a can’t miss affair.
Rhode Island’s Chronovore made the trek from Newport to kick things off with their brand of progressive-like melodic death metal. All the hallmarks of melo-death are present in their sound, from the low, guttural vocals of Bill Barbrie (think Johan Hegg gargling shards of glass), punishing riffs provided by guitarist Erik Smith and bassist Alex Scofield, who is a ball of energy on stage, his hair whipping about in furious headbanging fashion, and double bass action from drummer Ethan Proulx, but several times the band veered off into elongated instrumental sections, leaving Barbrie to stomp around the stage while the other members traded solo exhibitions. If not for Smith’s melodies and lead breaks, the band’s raw and gritty sound would be more in line with brutal death metal. Unfortunately, the turnout was not large for this Wednesday night show, especially early on, but the trio of moshers during Chronovore’s set slammed from beginning to end, and there was a bit more crowd participation toward the end of their brief set, which consisted of three originals and a couple covers with “Blood and Thunder” and “The Trooper,” which the crowd helped out on.
Boston thrashers Skull Hammer were next to take the stage, and take it by storm they did. Shifting tempos and energy levels into overdrive, the band is all about speed, but it’s penchant for injecting NWOBHM-infused melodies into its thrash serves to keep proceedings lively and memorable. Like all good power trios (Destruction, Exciter, Motörhead), each member is adept at his instrument, whether it be singer and lead guitarist Steve “Ace” Hammer living up to his namesake with crushing mid to upper tempo riffs and barking lyrics in a clean, powerful delivery, bassist Nick Ferrero’s heavy grooves and backing vocals, or the way drummer Chris Gervais attacks his kit with reckless abandon. The band played a range of material, from “Fear the Truth,” the first song Steve ever wrote that gained the band a brief record deal, to a number of songs from full-length debut Pay It in Blood, including the title track as well as “Soldier of Misfortune” and “I Defy,” and two new songs slated for the next record in “Nomads of the Wasteland” (dedicated to all the fans who travel for shows as well as CAGE) and closer “Street Vultures.” The show was a bittersweet moment for Ferrero, who announced this was his last performance with the band, as he will be moving on to other endeavors after spending four years as a part of Skull Hammer.
Before getting to CAGE, it must be said that getting to meet vocalist Sean Peck was a real treat. A diehard metalhead to the core, he was front and center at the stage supporting both opening acts and also took time to pose for photos and meet the fans. His banter from the stage was both hilarious and engaging, especially when he treated the cinder block resting up against Sean Elg’s bass drum as a ventriloquist dummy carrying on a conversation back and forth and asking if it would help do its part to support the drum and keep it from moving.
Once Peck’s cohorts joined him on stage and tore into the proper set, it was as if a Japanese bullet train came screaming through the Firehouse. The best way to describe CAGE’s sound is if you took Judas Priest’s Painkiller album and injected it with steroids, and they are even more explosive in the live arena. Sean Peck’s vocals carry a power and intensity few can match and just when you think he’s given his all, he soars even higher reaching the heights of a King Diamond falsetto, which he lets ring out for maximum effect. Flanking Peck are double axe attack six-string sensations Dave Garcia and Casey Trask, who each put on a clinic whether dishing out turbo-charged riffs or delivering a master class in shredding. The rhythm section is ably handled by four-string monster Dwight Magic, who serves to beef up an already powerful metallic barrage, and the speed and precision of the aforementioned Sean Elg behind the kit might as well earn him the nickname of the Kraken.
Throughout the performance, Peck stalked the stage, pounding fists and shaking hands with fans and even invited them to sing the chorus on “I Am the King.” Setlist selections were spread among the CAGE discography, whether it was early cuts such as “Shoot to Kill” and “Final Solution” from Unveiled and Astrology, respectively, to favorites from the band’s mid-period with “Kill the Devil” and “Philadelphia Experiment” from Darker Than Black and the title track and “Metal Devil” from Hell Destroyer, or more recent fare in “Speed Kills” and “Black River Falls” from Science of Annihilation. The three songs from Ancient Evil, “Sinister Six,” “Beholder” and the epic-like “Across the Sea of Madness,” went over well with the crowd and were welcome additions to a power-packed set that closed with “Wings of Destruction.”
With a ferocious, unrelenting performance, CAGE proved why they’ve earned the moniker the American Power Metal Kings. It may have taken a while for the band to make the cross country journey to the East Coast, but the reward was well worth the wait. Here’s hoping they return to wreak more metallic havoc and destruction sooner rather than later.