Vicious Rumors/Seven Witches – October 2, 2013 – The Middle East Nightclub, Cambridge, MAThursday, 3rd October 2013
As an old school die-hard, there was no way I would miss this show; as soon as the tour dates were announced I put in for a vacation day from work to make the hour trek to Cambridge, MA for Vicious Rumors, Seven Witches, Power Theory, and two local MA acts. The only thing I dislike is the amount of time it takes once in Cambridge to get to the club if you chose to drive in (makes sense why many take the train to avoid this headache). Never mind the limited parking situation and one-way streets if you happen to get lost. Fortunately for me, I planned ahead for the extra work traffic and got into the venue in a timely manner.
At 8:30 Seax took the stage for a quick set of their speed/punk-infused metal. This would be vocalist Carmine Blades final show fronting the group, and he made sure to get the crowd pumped and “High on Metal.” He would banter playfully with the crowd regarding the ‘nu-metal’ free bill, and the band seemed to go over well to the low double digit attendees. Ravage would follow next, another Boston-based traditional power outfit with a long history. Digging through their catalog with “The Shredder”, “The Wicked Way”, and “Grapes of Wrath” going over very well, let’s hope that it isn’t the end of the band on a live front as Alec Firicano hinted at during various points of their set.
Power Theory from Philadelphia, PA hit the stage next. They are a true metal act who I’ve heard through their two Pure Steel Records releases, Out of the Ashes, Into the Fire…and Other Tales of Insanity and last year’s An Axe to Grind. Adding a new vocalist in Jeff Rose to the quintet really improved the melodic aspect of their sound. I would describe the band in the Metal Church-meets-Saxon way, with a little bit of German traditional elements in their as well- not superfast and employing more mid-tempo elements to keep you head banging. Jeff has a Russ Anderson/Forbidden edge to his voice, making “An Axe to Grind” a big hit with the audience. Expect a third album to hit the streets before the end of 2013.
Seven Witches hit the stage at 10:40 pm, with the excitable guitarist Jack Frost commanding the stage with his face contortions and axe antics to engage the crowd with their brand of traditional metal. New vocalist Anthony Cross has a little bit more of a street grit to his range, not as ear-piercing as previous singers like James Rivera or Alan Tecchio. Opening with “Fields of Fire,” their 35-minute set spanned latest offerings like “Stand or Fall” with older material like “Pain” and set closer “Metal Tyrant.” The band seemed genuinely pleased with the audience reaction, as I saw plenty of hair windmills and fists pounding the air and stage.
When a new singer enters the fold under the radar for a renowned power metal act such as Vicious Rumors, chances are split if the person will be up to the task. Especially considering the upper echelon range and high octane screams that Carl Albert made famous to propel Digital Dictator through Welcome to the Ball into the hearts of metal maniacs all across the globe. I won’t get into the rumor mill regarding Brian Allen’s departure (search metal news websites for his official statement), but ultimately if a band wishes to sustain any sort of impact in 2013, the live show is the main way to spread your wares and hopefully make money at your craft.
So heading into the show at The Middle East, I looked up a few video clips of Nick Holleman – a 21 year old Dutch singer with the band Powerized. He certainly had the multi-octave chops, but the true test would be when the band hit the stage and performed those old classics. After the first notes of opener “Digital Dictator,” no one doubted Nick’s ability to soar like Carl, to make you feel every high scream, and every word he would sing. “Minute to Kill” followed, again slaying the audience at hand- followed by “Lady Took A Chance”, a personal favorite of mine that easily gets crowd participation because of its slower, seductive chorus. Guitarists Geoff Thorpe and Bob Capka trade off solos and harmonize like classic Priest and Maiden, while drummer Larry Howe flies around his kit and contributes with background vocals of his own.
Only one new song would make the set list with “I Am The Gun,” the bulk of material coming from the self-titled effort with “Don’t Wait For Me,” “Down to the Temple,” and “Hellraiser,” four songs from Digital Dictator and the title track set closer “Soldiers of the Night” from their 1985 debut album. Fifty-five minutes later and at 12:30 am, the small but fervent audience left sweaty and happy. Genuine smiles all around- but let’s get more bodies to these shows, because if you want the movement to survive, these professional musicians need our undying support. Let’s not wait 21+ years for a return engagement again, guys- Bay Area power metal reigns supreme!