Saturday Night: deadhorse at the Engine Room

deadhorse, Blunt Force Trauma, Demon Driver, etc. The Engine Room November 1, 2012

There's life in that old deadhorse, yet.

That's the message sounding loud and clear from the Houston metal icons' camp these days. At the Engine Room on Saturday, the band celebrated the release of its first-ever live release, the Making a deadhorse LIVE! DVD, with the promise that new music could be on the way soon, too.

A crowd of grizzled thrash-metal lifers showed up to party with their heroes. Many of them wore brand-new deadhorse T-shirts, a testament to the band's beloved status among true believers as well as evidence of its recent flurry of activity.

It was a tough crowd, but it had to be to survive an hours-long bill featuring no fewer than eight regional metal acts. Highlighting the undercard was Austin's Blunt Force Trauma, which deployed a jagged, crossover-period thrash sound that whipped the eager audience into an energetic circle pit.

Blunt Force Trauma sounded best on the songs taken from its new album, Let Them Eat Lead, including "C.S.R." and the title track. They also impressed with a nice cover of the Cro-Mags chestnut "Street Justice," but the band didn't have much of a chance to bask in the crowd's appreciation. As soon as they struck their last note, the anticipation for the headliners began to grow nearly unbearable.

If fact, more than a few audience members appeared downright surly by the time the horse took the stage. Many of them had been hanging out and drinking for hours when the headliners appeared shortly after midnight. It didn't help that deadhorse suffered (as did most of the bands) from highly annoying sound problems, from glitchy microphones to uncooperative monitors to poor mixing.

Frankly, the Engine Room and its rinky-dink sound system didn't look or sound prepared to handle such a dense night of metal, and crowd's body language betrayed that they were all but fed up with the hassle toward the end. Still, this was deadhorse playing, and most of the loyal audience stuck around 'til the bitter end.

While guitarist Greg Martin's leads sometimes got lost in the club's muddy mix, vocalist Mike Argo's voice rang out strong and true. A bit of resentment toward Argo has been apparent from some old-timers who tuned out (or pretended to) when Michael Haaga departed the band.

While there's certainly no going back to 1991, Argo is more than capable of performing deadhorse songs, as is Scott Sevall, the guitarist who replaced Haaga more than 15 years ago.

As bassist Allen "Alpo" Price discussed with us last week, Argo's presence allows the other band members to focus on their instruments, and it showed on Saturday. The group sounded tight and powerful on local classics like "World War Whatever," "Turn" and "Bewah."

Although the sound at the Engine Room gig fell woefully short of the excellent mix on the new DVD, the set list was just as good, pulling together cuts from throughout the band's '90s recording career. A hard-hitting mosh pit kept the blood pumping from the first note to the last, despite getting a tad testy at times.

There was a modicum of scuffling, which clearly bummed the band out a bit. Nobody wants to see pushing and shoving at their own party. A particularly wicked girl fight was broken up before it got nasty. More than once, Argo and the other horsemen had to remind the audience to simmer down and enjoy themselves.

"If you knock a motherfucker down, pick him up," Argo said. "It's just basic pit etiquette!"

Despite a few near-misses, however, the crowd mostly kept their banging heads cool. Much-loved cuts like "Subhumanity" and "Mindless Zombies" were well received by longtime fans, and the room was filled with smiles when the band lit into its punishing cover of the B-52s "Rock Lobster."

After wrapping up the show with "Peaceful Death," the band and crowd stuck around after 2 a.m. to smoke and chat. Hopefully, a lot of those fans purchased a copy of the new DVD before they left. If they did, they took home a superior show to Saturday's -- mainly due to the Engine Room's sound issues.

Still, deadhorse proved once again that they may be old, but they ain't rusty. There was still great enthusiasm for the music both onstage and in the crowd. Best of all, the next time deadhorse holds a release party, it should be for brand-new music, the band's first since the Clinton Administration.

Now, that will be cause for celebration, indeed... especially if we can all steer clear of the Engine Room next time.

Personal Bias: Pro-metal.

The Crowd: Graying metal veterans and their children. Nice to see the next generation of headbangers being forcibly exposed to deadhorse!

Overheard In the Crowd: "Everybody better get in the pit for the MAIN BAND! I mean, why the fuck did we all come here tonight, anyway?"

Random Notebook Dump: It had been about ten years since I'd seen a heavy metal show at the Engine Room. Wouldn't mind anther decade apart.

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