Holy Grail, Savage Master – June 9, 2016 – Ralph’s Rock Diner, Worcester, MATuesday, 14th June 2016
Another stellar lineup would hit Metal Thursday at Ralph’s this evening – featuring California’s road warriors Holy Grail in the middle of a small headlining tour with Kentucky’s Savage Master – while the four band bill would be rounded out by a couple of New England groups who have already made a decent impression on the Worcester metal crowd through previous appearances. Well worth the drive up from my southwestern CT stomping grounds, especially considering with all the tours HG has been on through the years, this would sadly be my first interaction live with the band after reviewing all three studio albums.
Sharply at 9 pm as the Diner filled with familiar patrons and newbies, Ancient Power hit the stage and proceeded to peel through their 30 minutes of tracks in quick hitting fashion. Meaning no introduction to songs, a lot of feedback in the guitar department at times, and a sound that certainly crossed over the speed, thrash, punk, and traditional lines. The four-piece love DRI as much as Slayer, Nuclear Assault, and Sodom – making for an entertaining volley of songs, in addition to Tye and Razzle’s dual vocal tradeoffs beyond their bass and guitar duties. Would love to hear some of these originals coming out in demo form soon.
Driving up straight from work 2+ hours away in New Haven, CT and surrounding towns, Nightbitch immediately make an impression based on vocalist Chris Taylor’s dual role as affable frontman and potent instrumental punch on the Hammond Organ. His multi-octave register brings Ian Gillan, Glenn Danzig, and a bit of Rob Halford to the mix. Musically there’s a firm grasp of 70’s metal and groove going on – definitely not stoner, more of a straight doom and traditional crossover. Beyond their addictive originals, we were treated to a cover of “Tyrant” by Judas Priest, reaching back into the Sad Wings of Destiny album. For their first time back in Worcester in 3 years, they made a strong impression and hopefully will be back very soon.
Savage Master is back on tour in support of their latest album With Whips and Chains. You don’t get many newer bands willing to put on masks, chains, S+M gear and deliver a theatrical ‘show’ these days – but that’s what this quintet does, along with a healthy dose of old school metal in the mix. Songs such as “Dark Light of the Moon” and “Looking for a Sacrifice” along with first album favorites like “The Ripper in Black” and “Mask of the Devil” recall a lot of early Metal Blade 80’s artists intertwined with Accept and Priest, while Stacey Peak appears to be gaining more confidence in her singing as well as stage role. Recently impressing European audiences for the first time with their live show, we can expect more touring in 2016 down the line stateside from this impressionable Kentucky act.
And then there’s the modern answer to classic, traditional, and power/shred metal through Holy Grail. Charging the stage like energizer bunnies let loose for the first time out of their cages, the band takes no prisoners and pulls out all the stops to deliver their sound to any and all comers. It’s almost as if they are playing arenas or large festivals like Wacken – even if there are only hundreds in the crowd. Trust me, that’s an asset to have and cultivate, probably due to the years of relentless touring with a variety of bands – as a result reinforcing the high quality of their studio records. Whether it’s exhorting chanting, properly shouting out ‘Worcester’ at all the key ending or beginning moments of songs, or relentless hair windmills and dual guitar poses, the quintet understands the need to transfer energy from stage to crowd and re-energize off of that immediate, excitable feedback.
Fairly drawing from all three platters, favorites include “Immortal Man”, the ‘ballad’ for 40 seconds turned upside down for “Ride the Void”, newer tracks like the anthem-oriented “Sudden Death” and shred-tastic “Descent into the Maelstrom” and crowd pleasing closer “My Last Attack”. Vocalist James Paul Luna traverses the power of Bruce Dickinson with the personality of John Bush, while guitarists Eli Santana and Alex Lee unfurl all the axe licks, riffs, and tricks that make the younger generation jealous of their skills. The well-behaved audience occasionally broke into a pit, more often than not choosing to scream along to the songs, and left well satisfied. Reliable to execute on the North American tour landscape, world domination for Holy Grail can’t be far behind.