Lamb of God, Anthrax, Deafheaven, Power Trip
Revention Music Center
February 4, 2016
The deep rumblings, screams and thrashing bass beats emanating from Revention Music Center Thursday night came from a lineup of bands that delivered Houston’s best metal show in 2016 so far. Anyone in earshot of any band in this mighty foursome was treated to metal glory. Opener to headliner, this show was simply incredible.
Dallas-based Power Trip opened the evening with a set sonically reminiscent of Pantera but better, calling themselves “crossover.” Really, their music was a blend of old-style thrash metal with elements of speed. Unfortunately, they played to a mostly empty room; Houston's metal scene missed out on a sizzling band who deserved a warmer welcome from their fellow Texans.
He's an unassuming figure onstage, yet lead guitarist Chris Ulsh’s solos were absolutely phenomenal. Lead singer Riley Gale moved around the stage like an animal stalking its prey, screaming into the mike. The band easily won over what crowd was there, pretty rare for an early opener. Not only did the crowd respond favorably, but they started a pit — the clearest sign of metalhead approval.
(Oh, and if you need to understand just how important this band is to metal, you should check out all the awards they’ve won on their Facebook page. Obviously, serious-minded talent capable of securing the genre's finest accolades.)
Next up was Deafheaven, the Bay Area black-metal quintet clearly added to the bill because of their enviable position as Charlie Benante’s favorite band. After their live set, it wasn’t at all hard to understand Benante’s admiration. Having just released their latest record, New Bermuda, last fall, Deafheaven are rapidly growing in popularity with a raw and aggressive sound that’s nevertheless complex and intelligent. Vocalist George Clark may have one of metal's most recognizable and interesting voices, not that easy when you're screaming for a 40-minute set.
When Anthrax finally took the stage, Revention swelled to the fire exits with seemingly every black-clad, pierced and tattooed metalhead within a 100-mile radius, filling the room to shoulder-to-shoulder capacity. Anthrax ripped through their hits and even played a tribute to the late metal greats Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell, thankfully and carefully ignoring the latest Phil Anselmo fallout.
Guitarist Scott Ian onstage is a force, shouting at the audience to demand their participation. It’s a little hard to tell who the front man is, because every one of these men is such a vibrant personality to begin with. To think that we’ve all grown up with the same bands and the same music is incredibly unifying. It’s no wonder metalheads are supposedly the most loyal fan base in music.
There is no other band like Anthrax and nobody does New Jersey-style thrash with the same appeal as they do. True, this wasn’t technically all of Anthrax, with Charlie Benante missing the show because of carpal tunnel and numbness problems. Yet Jon Dette is an amazing drummer in his own right, and while we may have missed Benante, Houston fans were hardly disappointed.
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I’m tempted here to explain how ironic it was that as I was crossing Revention’s cavernous open-floor area, I was literally caught in a mosh. Bruises aside, bodies in contact, and a brush with a big dude’s sweaty back I didn’t need or ask for, was my moment of the night where had a brush with poetic justice. If you never have to live an Anthrax lyric, consider yourself lucky. I would rather have had a state of euphoria.
Lamb of God took the stage and transformed the audience into something meaner and more aggressive. What pit had formed for Anthrax now churned far and wide as people pressed forward. Randy Blythe’s vocal work seems to bring that out in people. With their elaborate light show in full effect, Lamb of God tore through their hits and played the highlights from last year’s release, Sturm und Drang. The entire house roared back lyrics at Blythe’s request.
There was no doubt the audience was in full reciprocation with this one man onstage. To hear him sing the lyric "My hands are painted red” from "512" is extremely moving. It’s no wonder the song has been nominated for a Grammy. Blythe’s time in a Czech prison may have been terrible for him, but the resulting energy has been a real shot in the arm for metal fans.