Thrashfest

support Kreator + Exodus + Death Angel + Suicidal Angels
author AP date 06/12/10 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

What better way to celebrate 93 years of independence from Russia, than to spend the evening swinging to some thrash metal? These were the sentiments with which I arrived at Amager Bio on this special day for the fatherland, albeit that the scheduled round table interview with the featured bands had been canceled without notice. The evening was nonetheless a successful one, testified by the attendance of a large chunk of the Copenhagen area metal crowd as well as a huge turnout of domestic press (witnessed as I sat waiting in vein for the interview that never took place). With both European and North American bands on the bill, the night was set to showcase talent old and new from two continents, beginning with the Greek Suicidal Angels.

Suicidal Angels

What strikes me about Suicidal Angels is that it seems like their music stems from idolatry rather than a genuine passion for thrash metal; that their music sounds like it was thrown together because the members agreed that old school thrash sounds cool, and not because they understood its essence and wanted to carve out their own niche within its confines. What I'm trying to say is that the influences behind Suicidal Angels are so blatant that the only difference one can draw between them and Slayer is that Slayer sounds remarkably better. The music is fast and the songs are short, vocals are delivered in brief spits between fret changes, and solos typical to the genre come in at every opportunity. It is, in essence, like watching an inexperienced band pay tribute to the bay area scene with half the confidence and half the conviction. Even less impressive is that the songs seem assembled in haste and with little regard for dynamics; indeed, the vocal style just mentioned leads me to believe that lyrics are more of an afterthought for Suicidal Angels - an inconvenience at best, which interferes with frontman Nick Melissourgos' otherwise quite impressive guitar playing.

Death Angel

Death Angel, on the other hand, ooze of experience, confidence and passion. Forget whatever preconceptions you might have about static performances in this scene: Death Angel are the very antithesis of the serious, image-conscious elite reigning over the thrash metal genre. The repeated exclamations by vocalist Mark Osegueda that the crowd, moshing madly from the get go, is beyond description - one of the best that's ever stood before him. The enthusiasm of the band is justly in direct proportion with that of the crowd and as such, the performance is a sight to behold. For one, the vocalist - without a guitar in his hands - is far more versatile than his Greek counterpart, utilizing a range of techniques stretching from thrashy barking to power metal style howling, and even clean vocals on occasion. He is not afraid to swing his lengthy dreadlocks and use every inch of space available to be as energetic as he can be, and combined with similar antics from the remaining members, Death Angel immediately assert the kind of authority only seasoned bands can.

And with material that is more diverse and contains a genuine old school vibe, the band is instantly more interesting than their Greek colleagues. Death Angel play fast when they need to, but are not afraid of tapping into their punk influences or slowing the tempo either, resulting in dynamic and technically impressive songs that easily outshadow those of Suicidal Angels. Complex rhythm and structure makes Death Angel's sound organic, as does the incorporation of solos at the most opportune moments instead of using them out of necessity. As such, Death Angel sound like the real deal, making Suicidal Angels sound like try-too-hards. This is easily the best thrash metal show I have borne witness to, well aware of the fact that bands as legendary as Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer have tried their trade before me in the past. The ultra-professional, bullshit-free and often pompous stage presence that plagues those bands shrivels in contrast with the sheer joy of performing that Death Angel radiates.

Exodus

Exodus, on the other hand, stick to the common preconception about thrash. Their sound is one shared by many a bay area band, not least Slayer. Relentlessly fast songs, low end riffs and a vocalist who sounds remarkably similar to Tom Araya makes Exodus remarkably less surprising and out of the ordinary than Death Angel. Although the performance reflects an equally experienced band, the songs do not differentiate themselves enough from the signature bay area sound to leave a strong impression for a non-fan such as myself. Furthermore, experience does not always equal a captivating show as Exodus prove, being more concerned with looking seriously bad-ass than daring to be as shamelessly energetic as Death Angel. This might be a matter of preference of course, as excessive acrobatics might compromise the true, old school image the band is trying to project. But it makes the show definitely less engaging. Watching a legendary band perform tighter than virgin snatch always has its charm, but the impact is not as immediately enticing as it could be. Then again, Exodus are of a much more extreme disposition than their northern Californian partners in crime, coming across as a more experienced, more convincing rendition of Suicidal Angels, and provide the appropriate moments of grandeur midway with darker pieces like "Blacklist" and "Bonded by Blood", making this a worthwhile, if not completely enthralling performance.

7

Kreator

Kreator suffer from similar issues, marking their performance as uneventful from the earliest songs on. Again, music-side all is well as the band's repertoire unfolds itself before us, but their showmanship lags behind: the songs are executed with admirable precision, but the band is not exactly something to behold on stage - perhaps owing to their age and the maturity and resistance to shameless fun accompanying. For a band of such legend, Kreator do little to differentiate themselves from the run-of-the-mill - performance-wise, that is. The only remotely interesting visual feature is the use of projected backdrop animations and, to some extent, the lighting, which is a colorful 80s style production and one very befitting the music of Kreator. But if the Kreator discography is what you came to hear, then the show might be considered a huge success. Alas, the non-enthusiasts are left a little cold.

All that changes, however, as the band ventures further into their back catalog. The moshing grows more intense as does the immediacy of the band's demeanor, and suddenly, a revelation strikes me. It takes some getting used to, but the band conveys so much through music and the frontman's enigmatic persona, that soon the static postures become less distracting. This is also because the songs become better: "Betrayer" and "Voices of the Dead", in particular, strike a chord with me with their epic, Megadeth style soundscape, as does the subsequent "Enemy of God", which exposes Kreator at their best, playing fast, angry and heavy songs. As such, the nature of the show is that it picks up the pace after a drowsy start, but as the speed increases, so does the level of approval and, consequently, the degree of the band's stage presence.

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