Skull Fist, Elm Street, Night Demon – January 6, 2015 – Firehouse 13, Providence RIFriday, 9th January 2015
Night five of the You’re Gonna Pay US tour pulling together bands from Canada, Australia, and California would hit another Providence, RI venue that I had not ventured into previously, Firehouse 13, on a bitterly cold, snowy Tuesday evening. Seems to be a running theme on the East Coast to start out the New Year, and may have been something the headliners Skull Fist brought south of their Canadian shores. Something that California’s Night Demon are getting used to after their earlier late fall run of shows opening for Raven – and brand new to Australia’s Elm Street, as their guitarist/vocalist Ben Batres told me it’s a humid 90 degrees Fahrenheit currently back down under.
Doors would open at 7pm and I would immediately get the chance to converse with Night Demon tour manager, light person, merchandise guy, and super nice Andrew Bansai, who also has his own webzine Metal Assault. My friend Matt and I would square away all of our merchandise needs right from the start, so we could concentrate on the show at hand. A wider array of offerings from all three bands to meet your desires including baseball jerseys, patches, buttons, hats, coasters, and limited edition vinyl offerings, made this feel very old school right from the start. Firehouse 13 is a former converted firehouse into a night club, decently spacious with a stage that sits in the corner for great sightlines anywhere you desire to watch bands.
Everett, MA NightSlasher took the stage first – a six piece with three guitarists and performing a frantic 30 minute set of speed/thrash metal. Doses of Dark Angel, Vio-lence, and Nuclear Assault came to mind- as all three guitarists certainly know their way around their fretboards in terms of arpeggio sweeps and tapping action. This is my third time taking in this particular local act, and they get better as they gain more seasoning in different club environments. The same could not be said for RI act Liquid Destruction. This six-piece appeared out of place on this particular bill, more suited for a hardcore/groove metal bill as their songs were very tough to really grab onto. It didn’t help that the singer made fun of Providence for being known for crackheads and snow…, whether attempting to provide levity to a less than enthusiastic crowd response or sensing indifference, most in attendance didn’t get what these musicians wanted to deliver.
At just before 10pm, Ventura, California’s Night Demon took to the stage, and owned it right from the first Brent Woodward guitar licks to opener “Screams in the Night” until the closing encore cover of Jaguar’s “Axe Crazy”. The trio are unafraid to pull all the stops to entertain: fist pumping, chanting, brandishing their flying V instrument weapons on a warrior mission – and even including the ‘Night Demon’ mascot for the song “The Chalice”. 30 minutes flew by and I wish they could have performed for longer – if you miss the NWOBHM spirit and love a little bit of that old school Bay Area speed at times, this band is for you. Jarvis Weatherby is a killer bassist and front man – be it a slower song a la “The Zoo” from the Scorpions for “Curse of the Damned” or the speedier fare like “Ritual” or “Full Speed Ahead”. And their fierce interpretation of Riot’s “Road Racin’” also wins over newcomers. Expect this band to go places and hit more states in the coming year as they aim to prove metal’s timelessness and underground appeal.
Australia’s Elm Street are in a tough position for their first tour of America. Supporting an album Barbed Wire Metal that came out four years ago and didn’t even receive US distribution can mean an uphill climb to gain even cursory attention (unless you sought out social media outlets for some fix of their music). You know you aren’t dealing with a typical metal band though when you see band members adorning Cacophony and Annihilator shirts – as well as taking in an Eddie Ojeda style bullet hole guitar that Twisted Sister lived for in their prime. They didn’t let this deter their attack from the stage – opening with the title cut from said album, they would be the second act of the night to feature a lefty musician (bassist Anthony Longordo, take a bow). Guitarist Ben Batres had a ton of reverb on his main vocals, which I think made much of his stage patter difficult to discern between songs. Nevertheless, they expect to have a new album release in the spring, and judging by an airing of preview track “Sabbath” as their closer if you like semi-thrash meets heavy metal, it could meet your approval.
Shortly before midnight, Skull Fist would end the night. 20 seconds into their first song, the small audience would turn rabid – starting a pit, stage diving, and climbing all into each other at the quartet’s speed/ heavy metal template. The high pitched singing, adrenaline-fueled tempos, lightning fast riffs and tradeoff leads – everything you could hear on their two albums Head öf the Pack and Chasing the Dream amplified to the exponent number by their live performance. “Get Fisted”, “Head of the Pack”, “Sign of the Warrior”, “Bad for Good”, “Commit to Rock”, and “No False Metal” all went over brilliantly, feeding the flock of metal heads as they clamor for more. Songs would be punctuated with ‘Right on!’ or other humorous quips – ‘do you want a fast one or an even faster one?’ We would get a short drum solo from JJ Tartaglia and Zach Slaughter hoisting fellow guitarist Jonny Nesta on his shoulders near the end of their set. Even the antics of a few ‘unruly’ fans didn’t stop the band or the rest of the audience from becoming one in the moment – a celebration of the power of metal, proving that it isn’t always the size of the crowd that matters when it comes to talent and quality.
Let’s hope more of these package tours come to cities and towns near you. These up and coming artists need your support, and often offer better product and value for your money.