Spann Report: Death Angel at Central Station
So, it’s Wednesday, the rockingest day of the week, as I’m sure you’re aware. It’s 7pm, and once again I find myself, notepad in hand, ready for a night of hair, headbanging and heaviness – This time, in the company of three local bands and a legendary Californian Thrash group.
First on stage were Dyinise, opening to a cold, quiet and depressingly small crowd. Did this bother them? Did it hell? They burst onto stage in a hail of noise, before launching into some super technical metal that deserved a better reaction than they got from those on the other side of the barrier. They’re only a three piece (They’re currently searching for a second guitarist, although I’m not convinced they need one) and as such their sound has a certain compact energy to it – they don’t move around much, but the visual impact of three guys beating the hell out of their instruments in such a violent but harmonic way is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, on a couple of occasions bassist Bruce took to the mike, and, well… he sounded a little bit like a giant trying to shift a particularly difficult bowel movement. You might like that, but unfortunately, it ain’t my kinda thing. Overall though, Dyinise are a young band with a lot of potential, and when the stars aligned and the wind blew the right way, they were absolutely storming.
Next up were a bunch of chaps known collectively as Mental Block. This is their first gig, but you wouldn’t think it as they launched their opening salvo: Thick chunks of Crossover thrash with a delightfully unhinged centre in the shape of singer Henry (Who is virtually unrecognisable from as electro/folk/noise wizard Field Commander Short Shorts), breathlessly barking invective like he’d been given one phonecall and decided to use it to ring someone he doesn’t like very much. The crowd warmed to the band quickly, and cheered loudly at the end of each… I feel ‘song’ is the wrong word to use here. It doesn’t accurately describe the sound coming from the speakers, so I’m going to go with ‘punch on the nose’ instead. So yeah, every time Mental Block punched the crowd in the face, they responded with a cheer that had no business coming from a crowd so small. Yeah, the band would have a little more presence if Henry would face the crowd, and those long vocal lines left him looking out of breath and in pain a couple of times, if I didn’t know that last night was their first show, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Savage Messiah took to the stage next, and within seconds of the first note blowing my eardrums inside out, I’m immediately concerned. See, recently I called Evile the kings of UK Thrash metal, and upon hearing Savage Messiah, I’m worried that I might be wrong. Signed to underground metal hotbed Candlelight Records, SM (Can I call you SM, boys?) have the swagger of a band with nothing to prove. If Mental Block are a terrier incessantly scratching and biting at your kneecaps, SM are the Rottweiler behind the fence – Well aware that all they need to do is bare their teeth to make you aware that they could tear you in half if they wanted. The sound is taut and muscular; a great big beast that writhes and pulses in a fantastically organic, yet deviously metallic way. Who do they sound like? They sound like Metallica being interfered with violently by Pantera. Or Testament hammering Exodus into a wall. Or… Look. They sound great. I bought a CD, and I never do that at a gig.
Savage Messiah would have been a good end to the night – they’re more than capable of headlining shows like Central Station – but instead, what we’re about to get is a masterclass in Thrash from a band that one excited punter informed me he’d been waiting 19 years to see. It takes a little bit less than a second to understand why. Remember Savage Messiah’s swagger? Well, Death Angel turned it up to eleven, then snapped the knob off and turned it up to 25 with a pair of pliers. Mark, their singer, leaps about the stage like Tim Minchin had he been posessed by something dark and ‘orrible, swinging a mic stand round like an extension of himself and flinging his long dreadlocks around the place while taking swigs from a bottle of Gin that would have killed small livestock.
They’re loud too. Very loud. But, they’re also technically perfect, knowing exactly when to slow things down a touch in order to hit you in the chest with a chorus. Seriously, at times it was like someone firing paving slabs at you from a belt fed mortar, and never has the feeling of my fillings rattling in my teeth been quite so exciting. They’ve got groove, they’ve got riffs, and they’ve got solos – the people in the crowd who aren’t banging their heads must be dead, is all I can think. It’s also nice to see a band who genuinely seem happy to be playing to a crowd that small, and they certainly didn’t give anything less than about a hundred and eighty-five percent – Anybody who witnessed their encore will tell you that if you weren’t there, you missed something damned special.
The fact that Death Angel aren’t headlining festivals is a crime. The fact that at best Central Station was only half full is a crime. This is a band who look good, sound better, and smash heads like nobody in the business – they’re hungry like bands half their age, and I’m in no doubt that that mainstream break they’ve never quite got is more than a few years overdue.