Sometimes I wonder if I keep writing the same concert review every time I attend the Phoenix Theater. However, I am being one-hundred percent honest when I say that Saturday’s show was one of the most solid events put on by Sonoma County Metal and Hardcore. All six bands really delivered during their sets and even when conditions did not go exactly their way, I felt the musicians did their best to push on and keep the crowd hysterically shouting for more. With a line-up featuring Scrape the Earth, Water Into Blood, Cyborg Octopus, Trecelence, WRVTH and Aberration, you knew the audience was going to be headbanging and moshing until the very end.
Now, I want to begin by saying thanks to the promoter of the show for allowing me to sell some vinyls to help raise money for Ksun Radio. I have been involved with Ksun for the last four years of my college life and really appreciated the opportunity to help raise money for it. This show was the perfect place to sell those vinyls, because all six bands were able to draw out a decently sized crowd who seemed to feverishly enjoy metal music. I was stationed in the back of the venue with my vinyls at a table overlooking the floor in an area that at one time was an old piano lounge. Although I did not have the chance to be right up in front of the stage, I did have a great view of the whole venue.
Even before Scrape the Earth began their set I was having numerous people coming up to the table looking to obtain some of the vinyls I had out. I thank the members of Trecelence for being some of the first buyers and for giving me a shootout during their set. The looks on their faces when they found certain vinyls reminded me of my four year old nephew opening presents on Christmas morning. Once the vinyl buyers found their choices I turned my attention to the first band, Scrape the Earth. This would be my third time seeing the band and I must say they have come along in their songwriting and onstage performance. The drumming especially held down a solid rhythmic backbone the entire set and drummer Nick Pater was locked in behind the kit hitting each cymbal and snare with precision. Guitarist/singer Forrest Dang along with bassist Matt Lasserre were pounding away at some heavy sounding riffs while displaying tremendous enthusiasm. Scrape the Earth did their job as the opener and kicked the show off with a nuclear bang.
Second up was Water Into Blood, another band who I would be seeing for my third time. Unlike the last time when I saw them playing on the Phoenix side stage, the band looked more comfortable on the main stage and sounded really tight. The passion that comes from lead singer Michael McCubbin is astounding. The riffs were crushing and the heads in front of the stage were constantly banging along to the distorted rhythms. Again, the whole group sounded tight with each member hammering away on the same page. I still would like to see some more lead guitar playing, because the solo in the first song should be thrown in more often to add that element of excitement. Just my opinion though and overall they put on a strong set.
As Cyborg Octopus began setting up to go on third, I was given plenty of time to sell some vinyl and converse with the fellow metal maniacs. Eventually I started to wonder if the band was taking a bit too long to set up. Here is where I am going to say that the show did not go down south by any means, but compared to the other bands I felt the time it took them to set up could have been shortened. Upon finally getting all the members ready to go I was interested to hear how they would sound. Out of San Ramon, CA, the group is known to play "progressive metal" and let me say they are definitely progressive musical thinkers. They had a saxophone player who also played a keyboard guitar. Musically, they incorporated a lot of different time signatures while throwing in some funky jazz music to add a unique contrast. Personally, not my type of metal, but I do respect the musicianship and thought the two guitar players were quite talented. I would say they were the most experimental band who took to the stage.
Fourth up was no other than the vinyl fanatics and local die hard speed thrashers, Trecelence. After winning the Sonoma County Battle of the Bands I have found them to be at level that you do not hear to often from young up and coming acts. Their mix of technicality and old school sounding thrash is solid and their dedication to the scene is without question. Tonight though would test Trecelence’s ability to soldier on through a shortened set time and a guitar string snapping during the first song. Yes, as the band began tearing away at a vicious thrash riff guitarist Donnie Small happened to have the misfortune of having a guitar string snapping. Luckily one of his roadies ran to the stage and handed him another guitar to use, but in the mean time guitarist Chris Olney Burnett was left to handle the riffs by himself. Bassist Zane Covington and drummer Ilan Cabrera kept the rhythm going and I think they were able to manage and not let it affect them. As the band’s set progressed and no other strings snapped, they looked extremely conformable on stage playing their songs that always received a big pop from the audience. By the time they reached their final song, the venue was buzzing and I could feel the positive metal energy from where I stood in the back.
After Trecelence finished the fifth act WRVTH took to the stage. These guys had a very unique lighting set up that in a way complimented their style of metal that had some atmospheric touches. I personally found the dynamic sound and emotional vibe from their music to be very impressive. Every second of their set had me paying attention and focusing my ears to the massive sound that would come from their compositions. Also, they too had a solid singer who pierced the musical landscape with some fierce growls. People wanted another song from them, but unfortunately they were having to adhere to the shortened time limit just like Trecelence.
Well, after WRVTH walked off the stage the final act began to set up for their face smashing set. Aberration, who I have seen a few times before, sure knows how to get a place going unbelievably crazy. They were also filming a music video, so the band kept telling the fans to not hold back and let out their extreme inner souls. Watching all this from where I was definitely made me appreciate the hard work that goes into getting a crowd excited and moving around. Singer James Owen unleashed some wicked vocals while revving up the crowd. Aberration never showed signs of slowing down and kept the intense atmosphere going until the last note was struck.
I think after the show most fans were dog tired, with a few still able to run up to the vinyl table when I had the prices go down to one dollar per vinyl. Sonoma Metal and Hardcore did it once again with an enjoyable all out metal show at the Phoenix Theater. I think all the bands gave people their metal fix and hopefully we see more shows with some of these bands in the future. Keep coming out and keep supporting the scene. There is a reason heavy metal is still alive and kicking while disco is buried six feet under. I just hope metal bands don’t get too experimental and start mixing metal with disco...That would sound scary...please, do not attempt if you are a band.