The Skull @ Reggies, Chicago (US)

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THE SKULL / WRETCH / WRATH / ROMERO

Date: 24th March, 2017
Venue: Reggies Rock Club
Ticket:
$12/€11
Promoter: Dot To Dot Entertainment


That Friday started with an awesome weather that could potentially make it hard to keep you inside. However, this was about to change for two reasons; first, the weather keeps changing moods like a spoiled brat, and second (and most important of the two), the mighty THE SKULL were to deliver another great show in their hometown. I know, I shouldn’t spill the beans in the intro but it is impossible to pretend that I didn’t know beforehand how that night would go.

After cutting through the crazy storm, we finally entered the friendly Reggies which had ROMERO already onstage. Sure, the crowd was kind of sparse but this was definitely going to change as time passed by. I had no info about this band from Madison, WI, but listening to their loud performance, it did not take much to see their Stoner/Doom Metal with a Sludge twist. It took me a couple of minutes to get used to the sometimes shouting and echoed vocals but once I tied them up to the music, it all made sense. Yeah, I did enjoy their pounding and occasionally riff-driven music with the old-school sounding keyboards which – I think – adds another dimension to ROMERO’s musical footprint. The slower parts were lead-heavy and the passion Jeffery Mundt had in his singing/guitar playing, combined with Joseph Cummings drum-kit torturing, helped me dust off that annoying end-of-the-week fatigue. Yes, I was in my concert-going mood right away. If I am not gravely mistaken, two songs stood out during the time we managed to catch from ROMERO’s set; the hard-hitting and ultra-heavy “Distraction Tree” and the riff-based “Compliments & Cocktails”. Now, I have to do my homework and, in fact, the band has the “Take The Potion” album on vinyl... Hmm...

Next in line was the Chicago-based WRATH, a band which has been rejuvenated after the return of the original singer Gary Golwitzer. And I am saying this based on what I am hearing and watching whenever this band hits the stage. This time was no different, even though I think the set came out tighter than the last time I saw WRATH at Reggies and, on top of this, the lineup looked even more pumped. Yeah, without bells and whistles “Licking Wounds” kicked off the set changing the music scenery from Stoner / Doom to vein-popping Thrash. There was a lot of movement onstage and it did not take much time for the energy coming from the band to infect the audience (which by then had grown in numbers) and enjoy the old-school Thrash with a modern dusting on top. Without stopping, “Test Of Faith” and “R.I.P.” came back-to-back, and I have to admit the latter of the two got back to the mid-‘80s when this style of Thrash was gaining significant momentum. By the way, the song comes from the “Nothing To Fear” LP which was released 30 years ago… Damn, how fast time flies!

Of course, the old stuff hit the nerve but I am not a die-hard fan of bands who live in the past, so the second part of WRATH’s was really interesting featuring only new songs. We got served “Mother’s Hell”, “Draw Blood” and “Insane Society”. Since I had listened to this triplet before, I had another chance to pay more attention and I have to say “Draw Blood” was the one that god stuck with an awesome bridge/chorus. As it happened in the previous WRATH show, Gary pointed towards the Lemmy portrait hung high inside the venue and introduced the setlist closer which was an energy-pumped cover on MOTÖRHEAD’s “Ace Of Spades”. Based on what I have seen and listened in the last two WRATH shows, I can surely say I am very much interested to see how the new album will come out.

WRATH setlist:

01. “Licking Wounds”
02. “Test Of Faith”
03. “R.I.P.”
04. “Mother’s Hell”
05. “Draw Blood”
06. “Insane Society”
07. “Ace Of Spades” (MOTÖRHEAD cover)

WRATH

Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wrath @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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“Wretch” made it into my most-listened records for 2016, so the opportunity to see WRETCH live as part of this solid billing was a real treat. Something that did not take much time to happen since the onstage preparations didn’t take much so the Indianapolis-based trio named WRETCH took over the dimly lighted stage according to the timetable. “I’d like to dedicate this to my uncle Brian; I love you uncle Brianwere some of the few words Karl Simon used that night. Yeah, if you don’t know his onstage doings, then know that you should not expect anything close to chit-chat, so the focus is on the music and really there is nothing wrong about it. After all, the setlist opener, “Running Out Of Days”, hit the stage with a ton-heavy hammer of Doom, leaving no space for anything else other than low-tuned riffs, smashing drums and dominating basslines. It is amazing seeing a trio creating such a wall of sound and how this is highlighted during the guitar solo where the bass and drums have to step up to keep the rhythm section solid. Following the EP song sequence, the amazing riff of “Rest In Peace” hit us back-to-back. This song and the pain it expresses gets flesh and bones when performed live, so expect to get shivers down your spine as Karl spits out these lines: “Set me free / let me rest in Peace”.

Like I said, there was no room for talking but I am sure no one thought about complaining, especially during the fuzziness of the instrumental “Blood Finger” that draw the spotlight on super-tasty Hendrix-type phrases and the massive bass sound. “The next one is not one of ours; this was written by Al Atkins some years ago”, Karl said as a short introduction to the killer cover on JUDAS PRIEST’s “Winter”. In case this title sounds alien to your ears, it’s because it comes from the first PRIEST album and is not consider as a classic. However, I strongly believe that this track along with some other pieces from “Rocka Rolla” have set the seeds for this type of Doom Metal. Check the three parts of “Winter” if you’re laughing as you read these lines…

“Icebound” and “Drown” completed the WRETCH EP suite (well, they did the entire thing) but to my surprise, there was also the THE GATES OF SLUMBER song “Bastards Born” which - by the way - comes from the LP that named this band. At any case, the crashing and mid-tempo groove is cut from the same cloth with the WRETCH tunes and gave us goosebumps.

WRATH and WRETCH managed to wet our appetites from different sides of the Metal spectrum, so everyone was ready to welcome THE SKULL who were about to face a nicely filled Reggies.

WRETCH setlist:

01. “Running Out Of Days”
02. “Rest In Peace”
03. “Blood Finger”
04. “Winter” (JUDAS PRIEST cover)
05. “Icebound”
06. “Bastards Born” (THE GATES OF SLUMBER song)
07. “Drown”

WRETCH

Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wretch @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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I think this would be the first THE SKULL show for 2017, following an ultra-busy 2016 which watched the band touring in both sides of the Atlantic with a great success, I have to add. For me, this is no shocking news since after having watched THE SKULL quite a few times, I have witnessed how the lineup grew and how it got into the present form where the chemistry and the vibe are more than enough to make a live experience feel awesome. You see, good musicianship is not enough to make a great band and, in fact, there is more needed to get to that status.

Thirty minutes after 11pm, the lights went out and THE SKULL showed their happy faces in front of friends, family and fans who sounded absolutely excited to greet the Chicago-based Doom machine. The sound was awesome as the band started in a rather unconventional way (at least, that was a first for me) with the “Ides Of The March” instrumental which worked perfectly to help everyone to get into THE SKULL mood. There was a new face behind the drum-kit with Brian Dixon in charge of torturing the skins, and in case his name sounds familiar, then know that – indeed – he was in CATHEDRAL. Last but definitely not least, Eric Wagner entered the stage wearing his usual happy face, being the ultimate reflection of how this band feels. Of course, he walked closer to the front rows to greet as many people as he could, since time was running out with “Tempter” getting ready to start the Doom festivities… Yeah, the setlist started with a bang delivering three TROUBLE songs without even pausing. Of course and I do prefer getting original songs from the band I watch onstage but I think we all agree that this is a great exemption, especially if you weight in how awesome Eric sounds. After this power triplet, Eric said: “Chicago, is good to be fuckin’ home, man” before making a pass to the first THE SKULL original. “The Touch Of Reality” slowed things a bit down (don’t you love the opening basslines here?) in a BLACK SABBATH way, meaning that heaviness was right on the spotlight. Yeah, Rob and Lothar have become an awesome guitar duo and it is great watching their two different styles live. Alas, after this one, Lothar’s AMP decided to go to sleep and so we had to wait for some assistance to get this resolved. It was true what Eric said: “I guess we’re having some technical difficulties” but no one was bother because the band was really among friends and dedicated fans. After all, it is always nice to hear the exchange of jokes between the band and the fans, highlighting something that may have been forgotten these days; the bands exist because of the fans, and as the years go by, those two become an inseparable family.

After the AMP change, everything was again ready for some more action, and the amazing and riff- based “Trapped Inside My Mind” got as back into the headbanging mood, following another massive groove. To my delight, next was my favorite “Till The Sun Turns Black” where the double guitars deliver all the flavors from the traditional US Doom Metal sound (pay close attention to the solo here). No pressure, of course, but I would love to learn that THE SKULL are in writing mode... The more THE SKULL originals, the better, right? Ok, I totally understand the need to hear the TROUBLE tunes with Eric’s voice, but a band can only be called band when it is producing music, ok? “The Longing” (the chorus is so addictive) and “A New Generation” ended the originals streak because: “Enough of that shit, would it be ok we do some TROUBLE shit now? I know that’s why you came, so we figured to do out shit first”, Eric joked and then opened another TROUBLE suite with “R.I.P.” prepping the way for “At The End Of My Daze” and “Plastic Green Head”. No matter the size of the stage, Eric manages to break down all the boundaries separating the band from the audience, making the entire performance feel intimate while boosting up the energy at the same time. I mean, how can you say ‘no’ to this guy when he’s asking with that accent “how you doing?”

The band said a brief goodnight after two more THE SKULL tunes, “Send Judas Down” and the hard-pounding (and kind of moody) “For Those Which Are Asleep”, and if you’d twist my arm hard enough, then I would pick the latter of the two as a personal favorite. The encore (of course, there was one) had two more TROUBLE tunes dropping the curtain for another excellent THE SKULL show; the all-time favorite “Pray For The Dead” and “Revelation (Life Or Death)” which seemed to give a bit of a pain to Rob who tried and successfully followed Lothar’s lead. It was really great watching many fans throwing horns and fists high in the air, underlining that really doesn’t matter how old a song is – the feeling is still there...

If I was to compare this performance with the most recent ones, I’d say that I enjoyed this one the most, since the band was rested (there was not traveling in between shows), and judging by the looks of everyone, getting back onstage was very much needed. I will repeat myself to make this statement a bit louder; this band sounds absolutely happy and solid, so the most exciting next step is to return to the studio and see what this magic-makers may give life to.

THE SKULL setlist:

01. “Ides Of The March”
02. “Tempter”
03. “Psalm 9”
04. “Assassin”
05. “The Touch Of Reality”
06. “Trapped Inside My Mind”
07. “Till The Sun Turns Black”
08. “The Longing”
09. “A New Generation”
10. “R.I.P.”
11. “Fear”
12. “End Of My Daze”
13. “Plastic Green Head”
14. “Send Judas Down”
15. “For Those Which Are Asleep”
16. “Pray For The Dead”
17. “Revelation (Life Or Death)”

THE SKULL

The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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