VENOM INC / NECROPHAGIA / CRUSADER / SPARE CHANCE
Date: 11th January, 2016
Venue: Reggies Rock Club
Ticket: $30 (€27.50) in advance - $35 (€32) day of show
All the ‘keyboard-warriors’ have already discussed in length the entire VENOM issue and I am sure most of them have already decided what version is the best. And the funny thing is that most of them have never watched live either band but still have solid opinions and in occasions harsh things to say about this or that. I won’t reveal my VENOM allegiance just to keep interested as you wait for the big revelation in my closing remarks...
Anyways, the truth was that this billing was extremely tempting, simply because Demolition Man, Mantas and Abaddon had decided to dig deep into VENOM’s discography and play all those gems that have not been played live in the US for a ridiculously long period of time. Of course, the Chicago weather had a different opinion and was determined to make our life really tough by making us live those SAXON lyrics from “Denim And Leather”: “Did you queue for your ticket through the ice and snow”. Ok, we didn’t stand in line for our tickets but we had to endure the evening commute under snowy and icy conditions, so to my mind this was equivalent to say the least.
Upon entering Reggies I was disheartened by the weak attendance, even though the weather conditions would have been a very logical reason, especially for all those old-school metalheads who are almost-old or way past this age. Yeah, under normal conditions the average age in a show like this one should be way above 30, and I am saying this feeling rather bad about it. Onstage was the Hardcore local band SPARE CHANCE doing their thing without really caring about the number of faces looking at them. Even though their music is not something ultra-original, the hard hitting rhythms, the TANKARD-like shouting/singing and the pounding drums were enough to restore the blood circulation on our extremities.
Contrary to my initial fears, people kept coming, so when CRUSADER took over the stage, there were almost 100 people inside Reggies. If my memory serves me well, I have seen the US band once before and I liked their traditional Heavy Metal with the strong IRON MAIDEN references. This time CRUSADER did even better kicking in their set with “Wartorn And Bleeding”. The sound was surprisingly clear for a supporting act so the guitar riffs and on top of everything the vocals came out great and it didn’t take much time to see some headbanging and fist-pumping action from the metalheads who looked to have forgotten the brutal temperatures outside. You see, some good Heavy Metal can cut through ice like a hot knife in butter and songs like “Dead Kings” and “Asgard's Fire” did exactly this. Strangely, CRUSADER occupied Reggies’ stage for just five songs and without further ado, gave their spot to NECROPHAGIA.
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The first rows got quite packed some minutes before the Death metallers’ set and honestly, it felt nice because this builds up the expectation and gets one in the mood for some Metal fun faster. And yes, everyone looked super-excited the moment the lights were dimmed and the intro for “Blood Freak” stormed the venues PA system. Last to show his face was Killjoy who was carrying some gory stage props consisting of decayed human parts. Yeah, these little things help the most to get the unaware listener of what is about to follow; and that was straightforward Death Metal with tons of headbanging breaks and killer guitar leads. Without stopping, NECROPHAGIA stormed with the snare-drum driven “Dead Skin Slave” and I think Killjoy had already won everyone inside the venue by moving up and down the stage and interacting with the people in the front rows. The band’s fans made really hard the task of taking some photos but really that was perfectly fine as long as no mindless pushing was involved. As it happened during the CRUSADER set, the sound was loud, heavy and clear, so nothing was lost from the heavy distorted and down-tuned guitar. “It was 1983 when I first listened to VENOM and it was like boom” said Killjoy before making it clear that listening to the Black Metal and Thrash pioneers from the UK was a mind-blowing experience. The horror inspired Death Metal kept like without much talking building upon the moment gained from the first neck-snapping tune. “Embalmed Yet I Breathe” sounded fantastic as did the headbanger “Hexen Nacht” from the latest NECROPHAGIA LP. Sure, there were some pre-recorded excerpts but in this case worked great simply because they added on the horror movie aesthetics this band has embraced decades ago.
There is absolutely nothing to complain about this tight set and I think it was great seeing a couple of fans getting the mic from Killjoy and assume the singer’s position for some lyric lines. Yeah, the stage was set for VENOM INC who were about to fight for the fans’ vote regarding the best VENOM version...
03. “Dead Skin Slave”
04. “Upon Frayed Lips Of Silence”
05. “Whiteworm Cathedral”
06. “Embalmed Yet I Breathe”
07. “Hexen Nacht”
08. “And You Will Live In Terror”
09. “Dead Among Us”
10. “Cannibal Holocaust”
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Tony Dolan’s bass amp refused to direct the sound to the PAs, so there was some delay, making me feel less confident about getting up on time the next morning to go to work before starting questioning myself “Am I getting old for this?”. But all these thoughts became ancient history the moment the lights went out and the VENOM INC logo appeared on the back under the sounds of the “Prime Evil” intro. All the fatigue and the snow-driving stress went down the drain as Tony was grunting the first lines of this underrated VENOM LP; “Prime, the first evolutionary plan, that spawned the first ever superstition of man”. To my surprise, everyone reacted to this killer track and having Mantas right in my face delivering the guitar goods like it was the ‘80s again was also responsible for this. Last time I saw the two gentlemen was with M-PIRE OF EVIL and back then, Mantas was not in the right mood or even energy level for a live show. This time it was an entire different story and it’s not too much to say that there were times he busted some moves which were trademark during the first two VENOM shows, even though his hair had a way different color (check Youtube if you fail to see my point).
Tony was pretty much as I was expecting him to be; full-frontal bass assault while growling like there would be no tomorrow after this show. Also it felt great listening to him as he was delivering the vocals for “Die Hard” as close to the original by reproducing some of Cronos’ vocalisms. Careful now, because I am by no means comparing the two frontmen, because in my book they have both served VENOM at full capacity, writing their own pages in the band’s history. The sound was louder than the previous sets and hence had some added distortion because of that, something that felt absolutely fantastic because there is no proper VENOM show without some noise.
“There are some things in life you can do and some things you cannot; this is one of the things you cannot do” said Tony and let Mantas send shivers down my spine with the intro of “Don’t Burn The Witch”. Damn, this sounded heavy, fast and dirty as it should, and watching the two gentlemen playing as close as possible to the front rows added more to this already amazing experience. After almost every song, Abaddon was standing up wearing the biggest of smiles, proving the high spirits of this lineup. And when the band feels great, then the show gets ten times better especially with songs like “Live Like An Angel (Die Like A Devil)”.
“This one is for you” said Mantas pointing at a fan in the front row and then he kneeled down and started playing the echoed intro of “Buried Alive”. I know that this may sound cheesy or even out of place but the truth is that this intro almost brought tears to my eyes. And then Tony joined in delivering once again the vocals as close as to the original, giving us the goosebumps before inviting us to scream “summon the dead, Baphomet calls” - just amazing! Following the VENOM tradition, “Raise The Dead” came back-to-back and it was moshing time in a blink of an eye.
“I brought a gift for you”, Tony said and then pointed towards the drum kit shouting “Abaddoooooon” who started pounding the intro for “Warhead”. Mantas took the lead in terms of working the audience, provoking them to sing-along the chorus, something that everyone did, shouting on top of their lungs. And this is the great thing when having gigs in small clubs: the energy bounces on and off the audience gaining momentum from a hard-working lineup. Contrary to the M-PIRE OF EVIL set, both Tony and Mantas made the stage look tiny by moving around and looking like hungry teenagers who had the time of their life, playing live for the first time. You see, this is what Metal is all about and this is how it was born decades ago when there was no distinction between the band and the fans. “I know that some of you did a good deed today, like helping an old lady with her shopping and everyone said ‘what a nice guy’, but when the lights went out, you came here and you got fuckin’ crazy. And there is a name for this; you’re fuckin’ schizos”, said Tony introducing the infamous “Schizo” track with a voice like he had been gargling stainless steel nails all night long... This Punk-based VENOM tune was welcomed with lots of pushing around and a couple of decent attempts for crowd-surfing.
Abaddon was clearly having tons of fun and kept smashing the drums to the point that one of the hi-hats fell off needing some help during the break. But there was no waiting because Mantas went on with the intro and “Seven Gates Of Hell” which was followed without stopping by “In Nomine Satanas”. Do I need to tell you how things went with the snare-drum Thrashing “Bloodlust”? Headbanding, moshing and then some more headbanging as it was most appropriate.
Ok, I didn’t quite understand Tony’s saying about how smashing a pack of beer bottles was connected to being sons of Satan but nobody really cared, since “Sons Of Satan” kept the Metal festivities going uninterrupted, although the end of it saw Mantas saying “goodnight” but for sure no one thought of moving an inch because there were a couple of more VENOM songs which just had to be played... Like “Welcome To Hell” and “Black Metal” of course. Before the latter, Mantas said some words that lots of bands should have imprinted in their DNA; “you are the most important thing and don't forget that, you, the fans are the ones who keep us going” giving me goosebumps because - sadly - I can think lots of “bands” who have achieved the so-called star-status, putting their wants first and acting like spoiled rich kids...
“Do you want to sing with us? Chicago, make us proud and be louder than the places we have played before” asked Mantas before the crowd-pleaser and VENOM classic “Countess Bathory”. It was really fun watching all the metalheads gathered as close as possible to the stage and sing the chorus with Tony, pushing the show's ‘hair-rising’ scale to 11. Unfortunately, the time to end this show had come and since it was a couple of minutes past midnight, it sounded absolutely fitting to end this brilliant show with “Witching Hour” which is another Thrash anthem from the past (the main riff is simply crushing).
I promised to give you the winner of the online battle of what band is better; VENOM or VENOM INC and here it goes... drum roll… of course, the winner is every VENOM fan out there who now has the chance to hear all the classics by 2/3 of the classic lineup and then enjoy the new songs by Cronos and Co. The deal will most probably become sweeter because VENOM INC are going to write new songs, so more VENOM for me. Don’t waste your time with online troll but enjoy music and remember that especially in Metal, there are times where music becomes larger than any musician.
“All hell breaks loose,
Hell's breaking loose,
VENOM INC setlist:
01. “Prime Evil”
02. “Die Hard”
03. “Don’t Burn The Witch”
04. “Live Like An Angel (Die Like A Devil)”
05. “Buried Alive”
06. “Raise The Dead”
07. “One Thousand Days In Sodom”
10. “Seven Gates Of Hell”
11. “In Nomine Satanas”
13. “Sons Of Satan”
14. “Welcome To Hell”
15. “Black Metal”
16. “Countess Bathory”
17. “Witching Hour”
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