AUSTIN — It didn’t matter what order they were playing in, how many people they played in front of or what time they went on stage.
Friday night at Dirty Dog Bar, a quintet of Texas bands showed what Lone Star metal is all about in support of Denver thrashing headliners Havok.
Highlighted by Evil United — which features Watchtower, Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth, and Ignitor vocalist Jason McMaster and San Antonio’s Donnie Van Stavern of Riot on bass and Jason “Shakes” West on drums — the five groups were warm-up acts in role only.
With Austin’s Southern Front, Legion (Houston) and fellow Austinites Widower and Black Thorn Halo setting the tone (click on slideshow at top), a five-hour night of heavy metal and thrash had the pits circling like a tornado in somewhat confined space.
Evil United, a mainstay on the South Texas scene and frequent performers at the Dirty Dog, gave a taste not only of what’s to come this Saturday at Zombies in San Antonio (4202 Thousand Oaks Dr.) but also of some new music. Opening with forthcoming tune Dead Can See and showcasing Viking Funeral among self-titled debut favorites Dawn of Armageddon, Speak, and Rise and Fall of Earth and Man, McMaster sang like a man possessed.
If you missed last Friday’s gig and can’t make the Zombies show either, Evil United will return to Austin at the Red Eyed Fly on Aug. 10 — the site of where McMaster and Dangerous Toys recorded their 20th anniversary live CD.
Southern Front had a tough act to follow, and precede, plus had a song cut from its original setlist of seven tunes in order to keep things moving on schedule. But the Austin group more than held its own and will return to the Dirty Dog Bar, also on Aug. 10.
Houston thrashers Legion may have been the surprise band of the night as far as impressing those seeing them for the first time. Rumblings in the crowd commented on how the “drummer looks like he’s 14.” Well, turns out Brian Orta is 17, graduated from high school last month — and can bash the skins like no tomorrow. Guitarist John Fernandez thrashed about while playing some mean licks and didn’t stop thrashing after his band’s set — he joined the mosh pit for the groups that followed and jumped on stage to headbang with other fans during Havok’s finale (click on the “Suggested” links in blue at the bottom to see the San Antonio Metal Music Examiner’s review with video footage).
Legion will be in San Antonio on Fri. Aug. 23 at The Korova as one of the Texas bands opening for M.O.D. Yes, that M.O.D. — fronted by Billy Milano (click here for info).
Widower’s brand of black metal and Black Thorn Halo’s double-bass drum pounding metal provided a contrast in styles but similarity in intensity.
Black Thorn Halo went on at 8:30 before only a small handful of arrivals. But if you were walking up and down 6th Street and heard the fury being wrought from within, you would’ve thought there was a major heavy metal party going on. And there was, of sorts. Guitarist Craig Leach was celebrating his birthday.
Meanwhile, vocalist Ralph Lopez refused to let a cast on his right foot caused by a motorcycle accident prevent him from singing his heart out. Eric Mulero had the distinction of being the first drummer ever seen by these eyes to appear as if he’d just hit the gym since he was wearing an Under Armour muscle shirt. It turned out to be apropos given that he gave his kit — and himself — a major 30-minute workout. Mulero approached the SAMME and friends afterwards, commending us for rocking out and saying he drew energy from our enthusiasm. The feeling was mutual.
Sure, metal bands these days need more support than ever to survive. But if these five artists’ dedication to the genre and inspiring support of one another’s musical paths are any indication, Texas metal is alive and well — and not going away.
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