Date: 09th November, 2019
Venue: Walker’s Point Music Hall
Promoter: Mercyful Mike Productions
THE SKULL are ready to cross the Atlantic and deliver a hearty dosage of TROUBLE classics to all the European metalheads who have a sweet tooth for traditional US Doom Metal. In order to get a last rehearsal and get a proper send off from the solid THE SKULL fanbase, an amazing event was put together by Mercyful Mike. The plan was to deliver two sets on the same night; one full of THE SKULL songs and the other would be a test run of the ‘Hammer Of Doom’ setlist. The keyword here is “plan” because life or god(s) - for some - always laugh when humans choose what and how to do things. That’s right; there are so many moving parts in one’s life that you can never be 666% certain what the next day will throw at you. In this case, it was THE SKULL bassist Ron Holzner who gave us quite a scare with a Facebook posting letting everybody know of his most recent visit to the ER. Oh my, it was a terrifying experience watching the photo of Ron’s hand with a patient ID band… This was one of those moments when you feel deep inside you how things can change in an instance, throwing all of your plans out of the window, being a painful reminder that time is relentless. Fortunately, he was already on the path to recovery and therefore the next question was “would THE SKULL be able to travel abroad”? Not only the answer was a doctor’s supported ‘yes’ but Ron let everyone know that next day’s show was still a ‘go’. How does the saying go about the “show must go on”? That’s right; Ron proved to be trooper and decided to move forward with the show after adjusting a bit the set by only keeping the TROUBLE part. Was anyone bothered by that? Not at all, and in fact, I think more people were drawn to Walker’s Point Music Hall to show their support to the band and to this genuine and dedicated musician.
After a smooth 100-minute drive, we reached the venue and saw in person the number of people that had showed up to show their support for THE SKULL. The band was already onstage (minus Eric) and everything looked ‘business as usual’ although it was obvious that Ron had some issues with his leg. Let’s not forget the psychological aspect of such health scares as they give you a powerful blow on your confidence, being a reminder of how frail human bodies can be. Around five minutes before 10pm, the band started jamming, attracting everyone’s attention towards the stage. The jamming took longer than expected and everyone started looking for Eric… There were only smiling faces waiting for the iconic singer who eventually showed up ready to blow all the grey clouds that had gathered above the band the last couple of days. THE SKULL kicked off the set with the fast “R.I.P.” that I think sounded the rawest when compared to past shows. I guess this was the band’s way to storm through the numbness caused by Ron’s health issue. Think of this like an athlete returning to the track after an injury and spends some time to get his footing and performing confidence back. Ok, Ron had to occasionally sit on a strategically-placed stool, but this was absolutely understandable. Eric was his ‘usual’ self, greeting everyone in the front rows with his characteristic smile, although I sensed that he also had to overcome this incident. This freshly acquired raw power in THE SKULL made “At The End OF My Daze” sound even heavier, drawing the first singing-along for the night, showcasing that on and off stage everyone was getting their mojo back. “How the fuck are you doing? We only are doing TROUBLE crap tonight”, said Eric getting all the cheers under the sun, from supportive ones to the classics “we love you, Eric”. You bet we are and the same goes for Ron who looked like way better than I had in mind. Thank god I was wrong, with “Come Touch The Sky” giving me the time to appreciate how much guitarist Alex Johnson has been assimilated by THE SKULL. Yes, the Lothar / Alex duo sounded and looked more in tune than one and a half month ago when I’ve seen this lineup. And the more we were getting into the set, the better things looked and sounded as fresh confidence was running into the band’s veins. Oh yeah, “Fear” and “Memory’s Garden” hit us back-to-back with Eric exchanging some “how you doing” before laying down his trademark singing for the pounding “Plastic Green Head”. Aside from a couple of pauses, there were no long breaks between the songs, being another way for the band to prove that everything was back into business. Ron broke his talking silence before “The Tempter” by simply saying “It’s good seeing you all” in a most effective way to tell us everything was good. And you know damn well everything was, with “Assassin” and “Revelation (Life Or Death)” seeing some serious headbanging action in the front rows all the way to the back, and it did not matter that “we haven’t done this for a long time” as Eric said referring to the latter.
Behind the drum kit was Chad Walls and I have to say that his intense playing did contribute to the power this time THE SKULL had in their live performance. Especially his helicopter headbanging while torturing the skins was awesome to look and listen. After “Psalm 9”, the band said a brief goodnight and stepped off the stage but no one moved an inch as we wanted to get one for the road. The encore turned out to be a hearty one with “Psychotic Reaction” cut in two parts, having the amazing “For Those Which Are Asleep” sandwiched in the middle from the same titled THE SKULL debut.
Even though this show was shortened by one set, it turned out to be a real special one, with both the band and the fans pushing hard to recover from the curve ball thrown towards Ron. Fortunately, the bassist and the band bounced back and now they are on their way to Europe with their bags full of TROUBLE goodies. Would you be the one to miss this out?
THE SKULL setlist:
02. “At The End Of My Daze”
03. “Come Touch The Sky”
05. “Memory’s Garden”
06. “Plastic Green Head”
07. “All Is Forgiven”
08. “The Tempter”
10. “Revelation (Life Or Death)”
11. “Bastards Will Pay”
12. “Psalm 9”
13. “Psychotic Reaction” / “For Those Which Are Asleep” / “Psychotic Reaction” (reprise)
(click to enlarge)