I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the announcement of the Battle of the Bays billing. Obituary, Exodus and Prong sharing stage in a fairly small venue? Almost too good to be true, but nonetheless; here they are, on a cold and rainy November evening in Aarhus, Denmark.
KING PARROT have been around for some time. I remember their name from magazines, but I never really checked them out. I reckon their name kept me away. I always assumed they were…I don’t know…a reggae hardcore band or something. They’re not, really. They are hardcore, yes, but not at all reggae. More like death metal, grindcore and punk in one intense cocktail.
The Australians have a lot going on, and a lot of good stuff, too. There are lots of wonderful breaks and mid tempo parts. The weak spot in my view is screamish vocal, which eventually gets on my proverbial tits. But, hey, that’s a matter of taste. I’m not sure if anyone else notices, but singer Matthew seems a little frustrated with the limited reactions from the crowd, and he is particularly provoked by one member of the audience whose attention he fails to capture. This is a particularly big guy, by the way, and it’s probably a good thing that he’s already turned around to go the bar as the singer raises his middle finger at him and mumbles something no one understands.
Tommy Victor is a demi-god in my eyes. When PRONG first emerged on European television screens around 1990, the ultra-tight, slightly industrial sounding thrash metal with NY hardcore influences added something new to my picture of what hard music could also be. His sound and style has been a huge inspiration for many musicians, but generally, the wee New Yorker is an underrated musician.
The same tonight. I expected more of the Aarhus audience when a first class band like this pays visit. There are a few enthusiasts like myself, but otherwise reactions are mostly polite, probably due to the fact that Prong’s songs aren’t known here.
And it’s not as if the band doesn’t make an effort. Victor is in high spirits, looking fit and happy, bassist Jason Christopher moving around stage in stoic fashion, focused and solid, drummer Art Cruz relentlessly hammering away.
Kicking off with Eternal Heat from 2012’s fabulous comeback album ‘Carved Into Stone’, Prong waltz us through a lesson in instrumental control and timing. Then classic tunes Lost and Found and Unconditional, then Ultimate Authority from this year’s ‘X (No Absolutes)’, Turnover from ‘Ruining Lives’, Cut and Dry also from ‘X’ and then the triumvirate of Another Worldly Device, Whose Fist Is This Anyway? and Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck, i.e. the first three songs from ‘Cleansing’ (1994). It’s moments like these where you realise just how much some songs are part of your blood. Well, these songs are part of my blood! Sense of Ease from ‘X’ ends the gig. I’m happy.
Ultimate authority – a guitarist in control (Tommy Victor)
And Tommy’s solid four-stringer sidekick, Matthew
Rhythm machine, face thrower, Art Cruz
I’ve only seen EXODUS twice before, and both times with Rob Dukes. Both times the atmosphere was kind of unpleasant. The last time, in this very same venue, there was a fight on stage, of course involving Dukes who was pounding a stagediver. It was not alright. Perhaps this is the reason that Zetro several times makes it clear that metal music is about good, friendly, violent fun and that we have to take care of each other.
As the concert progresses, you can tell how big a difference the singer makes. Dukes quite simply doesn’t compare to Zetro. Although age certainly has taken its toll on the man, he has the spark and energy to fire up the audience and encite pits and walls of death. I know there’s religion in this and that many claim that the only real singer for Exodus is Paul Baloff (may he rest in peace), but that was never where I came from. ‘Pleasures of the Flesh’, ‘Fabulous Disaster’ (in particular) and ‘Impact is Imminent’ were and still are my favourite albums by the Bay Area thrash godfathers. To me, Steve Souza is THE voice of Exodus.
Think about it; Tom Hunting is the only original member left in the band. Not even Gary Holt, who’s absent on this tour because of his commitment to Slayer, is an original member. Bassist Jack Gibson joined in 1997, Lee Altus in 2005 and live guitarist Kragen Lum only last year. But still, Holt or not, tonight’s gig is for the most part crushingly effective and the audience is near-ecstatic.
Newer songs like The Ballad of Leonard and Charles, Blood In Blood Out, Blacklist, Body Harvest and War Is My Shepherd go hand in hand with And Then There Were None, Deranged, Piranha, Bonded By Blood, my favourite Exodus tune Toxic Waltz and the classic Strike of the Beast. The latter ends the very convincing and truly enjoyable performance from one of thrash metal’s greatest combos.
There’s still madness in those eyes – Zetro
Toxic twin guitar attack – Lee & Kragen
Last surviving original member – Tom Hunting
The man with the ultimate cool – Jack Gibson
Wall of death? Yes, please – but don’t hurt each other, alright?
OBITUARY’s John Tardy ‘has grown old’, one of my mates notes after the concert. Well, yeah, this isn’t exactly Enya style of singing, is it? When you’re nearing 50 rather than 40, there are some things that become harder, alright. Obituary take their time. They have their breaks. I mean, how many bands actually put ‘Beer break – black stage’ on the setlist? There’s structure around this band, you’ve got to hand them that.
Where Exodus represented full-on thrash metal intensity, these sons of Tampa rely on three things: Heaviness, groove and heaviness. This gig is not so different from the two Obi-gigs I saw last year. And I don’t expect it to be.
Redneck Stomp has been replaced as set opener, which is fine. I mean, who wants to complain about Internal Bleeding? And Words of Evil? And Chopped in Half and Turned Inside Out? I’m not complaining! And then it’s time for the first beer break on stage, and, I suspect, a breather for John Tardy.
Not having a super expensive camera like my more professional comrades in the photo pit, I’m having huge difficulties getting at least one clear shot here. The lights are hopeless, Tardy moves CONSTANTLY with his mic stand and then there’s all that HAIR! Oh, well, you’ll have to live with it.
Before the next beer break, we get Intoxicated, Visions in my Head, Blood Soaked. Then the sound of rain, new song 10,000 Ways to Die (which works a lot better live than on CD), the mighty Dying and Find the Arise. New beer break.
Off we go with ‘Til Death and Don’t Care, which is just such a massively fine live song. Trevor, John, Donald, Terry and Kenny head back stage for another beer break before returning for encores.
And what a set of encores! Dethroned Emperor! Circle of the Tyrants! And then finally Slowly We Rot! Nothing less than crushing!
Afterwards, there’s talk about who the winner is on this evening. Well, I couldn’t point to one specific band. The three bands I came here to see all represent different qualities and styles. They all give me something different, and I’d rather not have been without any of it. Amazing bands, amazing mix, amazing evening.
Stop moving that hair, man! (John Tardy, Obituary)
Err, goes for you too, Trevor…
A death metal legend, I suppose (Terry Butler)