Malevolent Force Slams Into Fitz Saturday Night

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Malevolent Force, Legion, Annihilist, Thraxis Fitzgerald's January 3, 2015

For some folks, cold and rainy weather is just another convenient excuse to skip out on a local show -- even a free local show. For true heavy-metal disciples, though, the cold and the wet of a Saturday night in January is merely an opportunity to dig more and more leather out of the closet and cinch it tight with an ammo belt or two.

It was the latter sort of people who took over the upstairs portion of Fitzgerald's two nights ago when local power-thrash maniacs Malevolent Force assembled a sturdy lineup of like-minded longhairs to help celebrate the release of their debut full-length, Descent Into the Abyss. A great many beers were consumed, and a few thrown, as Houston's lively crop of thrash-meisters convened to get gnarly together.

After a whipping opening set by local four-piece Thraxis, the young metalheads in Annihilist took charge of the circle pit next. Drummer Matthew Hernandez was a beast behind the kit, hammering out furiously fast rhythms on his large collections of skins and cymbals. Vocalist Danny Carroll showed off some nice range in his guttural screaming on the likes of "Desensitized," and when the moshing wasn't to his liking, he hopped down off the stage and led the charge himself.

Coupled with the shred-tastic assault of guitarist John Fernandez, it was a performance to which it was difficult not to bang your head in appreciation. A rare onstage appearance by the mighty Godzilla certainly didn't hurt.

Downstairs, a show by H-town decibel-rating champs Omotai and pals made running the steps all night a tempting proposition. I think it was DSGNS who were pummeling people with hard-rocking fury when I hustled down there between sets, and the sound mix down there made them sound huge.

There were no kaiju guest-stars up next during Legion's set back upstairs, but they sounded big, too. With precise, syncopated fury, the band methodically whipped their fans into a high-speed pit with rippers like "State of Decay" and "Imitations of Life" from their debut LP. They even unveiled a morbid new tune, "Awake In the Grave," that the band promised would appear on a new EP in the spring.

That EP just won't be by Legion.

Yes, in a surprising-but-not-so-surprising announcement, Legion singer Drew Habryl told the crowd that Saturday night's show would be the band's last -- as Legion. Presumably, there are simply too many damn bands out there with the same name. They'll be back soon with a new moniker, we were promised.

Story continues on the next page.

As Co-Pilot dominated the downstairs eardrums at Fitz, Malevolent Force finally began soundchecking upstairs. As they plugged in, they were given a hale and hearty introduction by War Master vocalist Rahi Geramifar, who warmed the crowd up for another thorough auditory ass-kicking.

The circle pit blew up almost immediately as Malevolent Force cranked up. The band plays a fierce and desiccated version of thrash heavily informed by the likes of Venom and Kreator, and they totally dressed like it. Bassist/vocalist Joshua Ross-Ho'opi'i wore a spiked cuff on his wrist that looked like it could have supplied an entire ophthalmologist office's worth of injuries.

The group's fast, evil thrash kept their fingers flying onstage and hair flying off of it. Fretboards were tapped furiously, and drumsticks were twirled. It was just so incredibly metal. The thrash freaks in the crowd were enjoying themselves thoroughly, some even inexplicably "raising the roof" between songs. That was odd, but fun.

More than one of those folks probably went home with a copy of Descent into the Abyss. The material certainly sounded strong. For Houston's thrash-metal diehards, it's good to know that the style seems to be making a strong comeback around these parts. It may be time to start thinking about growing that mullet into something a little more majestic.

Personal Bias: Cassette collector.

The Crowd: Young, metallic and leathery.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Metaaaaal!"

Random Notebook Dump: Good to see that thrashers still favor the pointiest guitars yet devised by mankind.

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