Death Angel

support Flotsam & Jetsam
author AP date 26/07/15 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

For a venue primarily renowned for hosting the shows that larger and more mainstream places shun, it is something of a scoop for KB18 to have secured two artists of such high calibre as Flotsam & Jetsam and Death Angel. Both acts date back to the early-to-mid-80’s heyday of thrash, and as such, it is no surprise the venue’s dingy confines are already brimming with denim-vested people shortly after the doors have been opened. Tonight is an unique opportunity to experience two bands that — while not exactly genre heavyweights in league with Slayer et al. — usually play on much larger stages to much larger audiences, up close and personal. The stage is thus set for a potentially triumphant duo of performances, of which you can read more in the following paragraphs.

All photos courtesy of Jacob Dinesen

Flotsam & Jetsam

The first thing that strikes me, walking straight into Flotsam & Jetsam’s already ongoing performance when I arrive, is that the sound quality is leagues ahead of the echoing racket I’m used to at this venue. Both guitars, bass and drums are stacked into a thick and massive, yet crisp mix which only leaves Eric A.K.’s vocals slightly too low, and as it should be in this genre, the volume is humbling. Next, it hits me that even without the privilege of familiarity with these cult legends’ repertoire, their experience and skill of song writing pervades every aspect of the performance. Whether it is the almost rap-like breaks and magnetic groove of “Smoked Out”, the infusions of power metal in “Swatting at Flies”, or the uncompromising onslaught of “I Live You Die”, Flotsam & Jetsam school us in how to write and play thrash metal.

A.K. is perhaps a little too resigned to anonymity (bar his magnificent voice, a fusion of high pitch singing and raspy snarling), but he nonetheless manages to draw from the audience a raucous reaction. During the banging “Me”, its mix of intense double pedal and sections of gallop have virtually all of the 200-strong crowd headbanging in euphoria, while the eponymous gang roars in the aforementioned “I Live You Die” are dutifully reciprocated in thunderous unison. Combine then the ability of Flotsam & Jetsam’s music to allure and engage the listener with the seasoned charisma of A.K. and his compatriots, guitarists Michael Gilbert & Steve Conley, bassist Michael Spencer and drummer Jason Bittner, and it’s hard not to be convinced. With all five musicians bristling with the same sort of passion they no doubt carried in the 80’s as well, one’s attention remains firmly fixed from the sound of the start pistol until the towering “No Place for Disgrace” concludes the proceedings - this even though arguably, Flotsam & Jetsam’s concert never reaches a climax. It is nonetheless an extremely solid showing delivered with zeal, and good exercise for the neck muscles which are to be tested by the evening’s headliners.

Death Angel

If Flotsam & Jetsam delivered a schooling in thrash, then what Death Angel musters up this evening must be more akin to an advanced university lecture. Seldom does one witness a band as geared and psyched up as these Bay Area icons, nor thrash metal delivered with such unadulterated ferocity. When it comes to live performances, truly no other representative of the genre can measure up to the amount of energy charged into this band, yet it seems that tonight, even those with prior experience with Death Angel’s customary intensity live, are blown off their feet. Once the initial hammer has fallen in the form of “Left for Dead” and “Son of the Morning”, vocalist Mark Osegueda stares at his audience in bewilderment for a few moments before exclaiming: ”Holy shit! Holy fuck! Right off the bat, ‘Skål!’ you motherfuckers! We’re two songs in to a looong set, and already I don’t want this night to end!” The man looks genuinely stupefied by the reaction he and his colleagues — guitarists Rob Cavestany & Ted Aguilar, bassist Damien Sisson and drummer Will Carroll — are witnessing, and already at this point it seems likely that Death Angel’s first visit to Denmark in almost five years is to go down in history.

Indeed, both audience and band are in tremendous spirits. Not one moment passes without a frenetic moshpit operating between the two pillars up front, and that mayhem is in turn enveloped by layer upon layer of wildly headbanging older metal aficionados — and in unison the two types of concert goer reciprocate every one of Death Angel’s numerous gang shouts, applaud each passing track with a mixture of encouragement and euphoria. The five musicians, in turn, are each a constant whirlwind of movement, striking poses, guitar gunning, headbanging and windmilling, surging toward us, kneeling for a particularly savage growl or poignant solo, and roaring or riffing in people’s faces. The members regularly switch positions to address different segments of the audience (divided so regrettably by the hellish amount of pillars holding up the venue’s ceiling) and ensuring those wide grins everyone has been sporting since kickoff remain on their faces.

What this all feels like is what those intimate basement gigs of the early days of thrash must have felt like. Raw energy lingers in the air so dense it’s tangible, the walls are splattered with condensation, sweat pours in torrents off people’s faces, and countless cans of beer litter the venue floor. “I’m dumbfounded! Your energy is absolutely incredible — I just want to shoot it into my balls every night!”, exclaims Osegueda as he bears witness to the madness, before he and his colleagues express their gratitude by airing the classic “Kill as One” for the first time on this tour, the chorus of which is of course delivered in deafening roars of ”Kill! As! One!” by the enraptured audience. Having also aired “Evil Priest” — played instead of “Mistress of Pain” on select occasions, we are told — the concert feels genuinely special, like we’re all contributing to a show that will haunt Death Angel and the rest of us for time immemorial. Concluding the unforgettable night with “Thrown to the Wolves” medleyed with the intro to “The Ultra-Violence”, Death Angel finish the evening off with no relent in the intensity, and establish once and for all that when it comes to live shows in the genre, these Bay Area thrashers are untouchable — yes, even by Slayer.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Left for Dead
  • 02. Son of the Morning
  • 03. Claws in So Deep
  • 04. Fallen
  • 05. Buried Alive
  • 06. Evil Priest
  • 07. Succubus
  • 08. Execution - Don’t Save Me
  • 09. Truce
  • 10. 3rd Floor
  • 11. Seemingly Endless Time
  • 12. The Dream Calls for Blood
  • 13. Caster of Shame
  • 14. Bored
  • 15. Kill as One
  • 16. The Ultra Violence Intro / Thrown to the Wolves

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