Sonoma County is full of extremely talented metal and hardcore bands, with new bands debuting at almost every other show it seems. Such was the case for Saturday night’s show at the Phoenix Theater with a list of solid up and coming talent looking to make their presence known.
Besides Scrape the Earth who I have seen before live, the rest of the bill featured acts who I would be seeing for my first time. Correction, I actually saw Ashes Ashes last year, but they went by another name. Another interesting point to bring up about this show is that besides ONI, the rest of the bands who played were from the local area. I do believe this made for a strong local gathering and the turnout definitely reflected that in the end.
Starting the show off was locals Ashes Ashes who should not be confused with the David Bowie cover band, “Ashes to Ashes.” I saw this group about a year ago at the Phoenix and they were going by a different name. Anyway, there set was decent for a young up and coming band. They seemed more comfortable onstage this time so maybe the name change helped. Their drummer really pounded the crap out of his kit and the overall drum sounded good during their set. The riffs are not horrible by any means, but I would like to see more dynamics in the riffs and maybe add another guitarist to fill out the sound. The band’s singer did a decent job and will grow into a stronger performer with more live shows. For an opener they did the job you could say and I am sure will improve as they get more live practice under their belt.
Next up was Nebulous, who would be playing live for the first time. Well, I do think they picked an optimal night to play live for the first time in front of an audience such as this one. Their sound is definitely more my cup of tea with a very raw old school nineties death metal vibe that at times attempts to break into the progressive death metal world. I could hear influences like Death, Nocturnus and Obituary along with some thrash at times. At first you could tell the band was trying to find their comfort zone onstage with the first song, but once they were locked in the young musicians delivered without fear. The band’s singer had a strong old school style death growl that really impressed me when unleashing the band’s brutal lyrics. I swear you cannot find too many good death metal singers these days who can truly capture that old school nature, so I think that is something going for them. Also, the guitar section of the band had quite a few very traditional sinister style riffs along with moments of top notch guitar shredding. Drumming was also quite solid, especially for this style of music and I feel that in time the drummer has the potential to really convey that technical presence behind the kit. Overall, for a young band playing their first show, you could not ask for anything more. Welcome to community guys and keep cranking out those riffs of cyclopean terror from realms of beyond.
After Nebulous finished, the next band started getting ready for their set. Infex is a group of older rock and metal dudes who have that true passion for metal. They actually sent me a CD when I was doing my radio show and I even think I put one of their stickers up on the Ksun door. Speaking of their set, the band delivered a crushing performance that featured some wicked riffs and even started a few pits. Singer and guitarist Jack Childs was really performing with great levels of ferocity and knew how to interact with the ravenous headbangers. My favorite song during their set was without question, “Killing For Jesus.” It has that mean sounding classic thrash vibe that reminds me of bands like Slayer, Exodus, Sacred Reich and EvilDead. Infex did not disappoint and I hope to see them more often live.
Fourth up was Nuclear Tempest who from what I gathered was reuniting after taking a break. Well, they seemed to be shaking off the cobwebs and their set was fairly decent. I was not digging the sound at times and the cliché breakdown riffs just sounded dual and uncreative. Plus, when I see people trying to do the karate in the pit type stuff I just cover my head in disappointment. I will say the band could jam out some strong riff sections at times and the guitarist and vocalist who did the clean vocals had an impressive clean vocal delivery. I commend them for getting back together and returning to the stage, but it was just not my type of music.
Out of all the bands, ONI, happened to be the only group not from around the Sonoma County. They were from the Cayman Islands and decided to make the long journey out. Also, I hear they are playing Knotfest this year and will be opening for Children of Bodom, Exmortus and Abbath on an upcoming tour. I was intrigued to hear how they would sound, especially if they would be opening up for one of my favorite metal musicians...the mighty Abbath...who I actually saw perform in April of this year. Well, ONI right away had me scratching my head when I saw the band bring out a xylophone. From what I read they played “progressive metal” and having a xylophone was without question something I have yet to come across in the metal world. To be honest, the riffs were not band, but nothing I haven’t heard before. I think the vocals would have been better if they did not keep changing from growl vocals to clean vocals. The clean vocals sounded whinny at times and just did not fit in my opinion. They are a decent band that can definitely appeal to a certain type of metal fan, however, I was not really digging it.
Exiting the stage faster than a millionaire moving to the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes, ONI dispersed and Scrape the Earth started their set of metal mayhem. I think this is the fourth time I have seen Scrape the Earth and I always find myself saying that the band keeps raising the bar. Drummer Nick Pater is the member who seriously plays his heart out behind the kit and is one of the areas top drummers. Also, bassist Matt Lasserre and guitarist Forrest Dang play with great passion and have good stage presence. The songs sounded very tight during their set and I can hear improvement as they keep playing. I still want to hear more leads thrown into the mix, but the riffs are without question unleashing brutal punch after brutal punch.
The final act of the night would be, Eye for I, who happened to be releasing their demo that night. To my surprise people were not just sticking around for this local act, but you had people showing up right before their set to support them. Damn! I have been to shows where the headliner unfortunately lost part of the crowd due to the bill being too long, or the people left after seeing their friends play. Good thing to know that there are people in the community who display such loyalty and are not like those opinionated black metal elitists. Speaking of music style, Eye for I was quite a pleasant surprise and really the wild card band that night. The entire band was full of highly talented musicians who knew how to play their instruments. Plus, this is what I call true progressive hard rock/metal and not that metalcore rubbish that masquerades itself around claiming to be progressive. The band’s singer/guitarist I must point out has an amazing vocal delivery and could really inject emotion into the music. It was nice to hear a band that had some thought out arrangements and creative songwriting skills. I was impressed and some of the people around me were also giving their nods of approval, so we can all agree Eye for I did a good job closing out the night.
I think this show was good for two reasons: 1. Some of the young local talent was able to showcase what they have to offer, 2. There was a decent amount of people who came out in support of their friends. I like seeing shows like this and believe giving the young bands more opportunities to play is needed to keep the scene growing. Also, diversity is important to have on a bill. For example, Nebulous and Eye for I are different in style, but both have promising futures and are young passionate acts looking to spread their music to more potential listeners. Seeing bands like them on a bill is something that I hope to see more of in the future. There you have it folks, another night of metal recapped at the Phoenix Theater...and to think, no black metal elitists will be complaining after I publish this review...You have to appreciate those little things in life I tell you...