TROUBLE / HELSTAR / MIND ASSASSIN
Date: 22nd October, 2016
Venue: Penny Road Pub
Ticket: $30/€28 (in advance) - $35/€33 (day of show)
I got really excited when this two-day event was announced, because aside from the almighty TROUBLE, HELSTAR and MIND ASSASSIN were included in the billing. And one should not forget the local bands which most of the times are responsible for spreading the word out and in other cases bringing more people in the show. There was a last minute change for the second show of this tight Metal package and my feeling says that this had to do with the CUBS playing a really important baseball game. I apologize for my baseball ignorance, but to be perfectly honest, sports come after music. Anyway, the venue was changed, so we did not make it earlier at the Penny Road Pub and when we entered, MIND ASSASSIN were really close to finish up their set. And since I am in the complaining mood, I will also say that it does not make sense having the TVs on, when a band is performing onstage.
“The Riddle” came out great with Bob Mitchell nailing the vocal lines, and despite the TV distractions, the band managed to attract a fair number of people closer to the stage and away from the bar. So, “Anger Rising” ended the set on a high note, with a killer and epic rhythm section that made me think that I hadn’t pay the appropriate attention to the band’s debut EP, “The Pay Off”. Aside from the vocals, the chant-along riffs and the pounding rhythm section were the first thing one will notice the moment this song will kick. The band got a loud round of applause and a fitting cheer that did not match the number of the people in front of the stage, but soon enough I discovered that the additional happiness was for the baseball game... This was their miss.
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The good thing was that the party after the CUBS’ win was not that interesting as the actual game was, so HELSTAR were lucky to get more attention. The band has recently released the amazing “Vampiro”, so I was super-excited to get the live treatment. The stage was super tiny for a five-piece band, so James Rivera had some issues moving around in his vampire outfit to deliver the theatrics of this set. The clean guitar intro marked the time to visit the “Nosferatu” album with “Baptized In Blood”. There was no backstage space, so James had to wait on the side before making an entrance, but you cannot have everything, right?
Larry Barragan was pretty much confined on his corner but his fellow guitarist Andrew Atwood and bassist Garrick Smith were in charge to keep the energy flowing from the stage to the people who had come at a less than an arm’s length distance. Yeah, this is the definition of an intimate show, and if a band cannot deliver the goods, then it becomes an absolute disaster. But no, HELSTAR kept pounding and with minimum breaks let the Metal flowing under the vampire aesthetics. “Blood Lust” was awesome and it is amazing how the old and the new songs blend into each other, and really, there are not many bands out there which can revisit a classic album by releasing music of the same high quality level. Yeah, the setlist was moving back and forth between “Nosferatu” and “Vampiro” during the vampire suite and everything went out smooth and headbanging. Before the creepy “Black Cathedral”, the onstage show got a tad more realistic but not on purpose; as James was re-entering the stage, he got hit above his chin by the bass and soon enough was bleeding. Nothing severe to make him stop (the show must go on, right?) and, in fact, he made the bleeding part of the show.
“I am going to take you back to 1984 when I was five years old” James joked just before “Dracula’s Castle” from HELSTAR’s debut LP that I think dropped the curtain for the vampire-inspired part of the set. The fast “Fall Of Dominion” and the headbanger “Pandemonium” came back to back and I hope there were quite a few who noticed how current the lyrics of the latter song are. The sing-along “Run With The Pack” (don’t you love the last part of this one?) was the final song we got from HELSTAR and to make a bit more special, the band invited the organizer’s fiancé to share the singing duties, fueling even more the party mood and getting everyone ready for the Doom legends TROUBLE. And yes, we will see HELSTAR soon enough supporting FLOTSAM AND JETSAM.
01. “Baptized In Blood”
02. “Blood Lust”
03. “To Sleep, Per Chance To Scream”
04. “To Their Death Beds They Fell”
05. “Harker's Tale (Mass Af Death)”
06. “Black Cathedral”
07. “Dracula's Castle”
08. “Fall Of Dominion”
10. “Run With The Pack”
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I hope you don’t need me to tell you how important TROUBLE (still) are in the classic side of Doom Metal, even though this genre has changed so many faces that I have lost count. Of course, I understand those who are whining about not having the original singer in the band's ranks, but hey, if there are in-between-members reasons for this not happening, then let it never happen and that’s the end of it. From the music / live shows perspective, I am in the happy position to enjoy TROUBLE and THE SKULL and getting my socks knocked off in every show.
There was no space in front of the stage, so TROUBLE were among friends and were ready to deliver the goods with that amazing guitar sound which is impossible to recreate or duplicate. Yeah, the Rick Wartell / Bruce Franklin guitar duo has left a burning mark on the traditional Doom Metal sound and, in case you have been living inside a dungeon, has inspired countless of bands to digest the BLACK SABBATH sound and then go beyond that. “The Tempter” and “The Sleeper” woke everyone up (pun intended) and it always amazes me how the band members are being transformed from the ‘cool guys setting up their gear’ to the ‘hard hitting rockers’ in a flip of a switch. Being able to witness the power on Bruce’s guitar-playing from a spitting distance, and then get blown away by the massive sound, are two things you can only get from a small stage setup like that one. Sure, I’d love to see TROUBLE in a bigger stage in a packed venue, but the feeling you get when you almost share the stage with the band is unprecedented. Comparing this show with the last one (unfortunately this happened a year ago), I’ll say that Kyle Thomas looks more relaxed onstage and has gained a level of confidence which makes his performance more powerful. “Good evening Chicago, how are you feeling tonight”, Kyle said before acknowledging CUBS’ achievement and before letting the guitar duo do the rest of the talking with the groovy as hell “At The End Of My Daze” (remember the guitar sound I was talking about?). Following the band’s tradition, the talking between songs was kept minimal and despite the minor mishaps with Rick’s guitar pedals (they didn’t want to cooperate for some reason), the legendary band kept the songs coming back-to-back. After the fast paced “The Wolf” and the hard-hitting “The Eye” (headbanging was in order), it was time to visit the latest TROUBLE album with “Paranoia Conspiracy” and “Sink Or Swim”. It is amazing to watch Rick and Bruce performing with the former being absolutely relaxed and the latter already sweating his arse off, but both of them coloring their playing with unique '70s colors which I think makes the TROUBLE music so special.
“It is time to dive back to the beginning”, Kyle said as a short introduction to “Psalm 9” with Hard rockin’ “Mr. White” that followed next with no pause. “Let’s go back one more time. This next one is about Easter”, were Kyle’s exact words that sounded a bit funny to introduce “The Skull” but who cared because the song came out crushing (especially the fast break close to the end)! Based on how awesome the songs from “The Distortion Field” sound live, I have to admit that I’d prefer a couple more from that album, even if this would mean to replace some of the classics. I mean, the mid tempo start of “When The Sky Comes Down” and the way it picks up the speed are things you just got to have in a setlist. “This is a cover that we just love to play”, Kyle said before “Supernaut” that yes, could have been replaced by a TROUBLE original, but it came out fantastic, like each and every time they do this live, so I cannot disagree hard on this choice. After “R.I.P.”, the promoter came up onstage to thank everyone for coming despite the last minute venue change and those who helped to make this show happen. Of course, such things have to be heard because sometimes it is easier to complain about this and that than seeing the difficulties and challenges when one wants to set up a show. However, I think it would have been more appropriate for him to wait until after the set because this break kind of messed with the flow of TROUBLE’s set which ended with “All Is Forgiven”, so I guess all is forgiven because this song quickly restored the Doom Metal guitar-based grooviness we had been tasting for almost 90 minutes. I hope it won’t take long to see TROUBLE again live and - why not? - discuss a brand new LP release (fingers crossed).
01. “The Tempter”
02. “The Sleeper”
03. “At The End Of My Daze”
04. “The Wolf”
05. “The Eye”
06. “Paranoia Conspiracy”
07. “Sink Or Swim”
08. “Psalm 9”
09. “Mr. White”
10. “The Skull”
11. “When The Sky Comes Down”
15. “All Is Forgiven”
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