The Skull @ Reggies, Chicago (US)

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THE SKULL / YAKUZA / INEBRIUM / NUMERICAL CONTROL SOCIETY

Date: 17th April, 2019
Venue: Reggies Rock Club
Ticket:
$15/€12
Promoter: n/a


There is no better way to start a tour with a gig in your hometown, and that’s exactly what THE SKULL did right in the middle of the week. The ‘middle of the week’ can be a hard pill to swallow for some, making it difficult to get on a show, but that did not apply at all in this case. Yes, Reggie’s was nicely filled with familiar faces already gathering up inside, but also new ones, proving that THE SKULL are still building their case. It has been an amazing experience watching this band evolving year-after-year and quickly discarding the ‘cover band’ that could have stayed with them if they hadn’t the urge to enter the studio. Which they did twice, with the result being extremely well-documented.

That Wednesday show started for us with YAKUZA who were already onstage when we entered the venue. This band is the definition of Avant-garde Metal with the Progressive elements dominating the song-structures. Careful though since YAKUZA is not the typical Progressive band with the run of the mill showing-off playing mind-boggling complicated riffs just to be complicated... We are talking about a band that has been pushing the Metal envelope farther than anyone else, practically fusing Jazz in their music, incorporating cello, saxophone and clarinet in their musical instruments arsenal. What you may be missing in the above theoretical description is the experience of seeing YAKUZA live where the performance really gives the music the power that is not visible on the record. “Just Say No” was the first song for me and really it was a slap on the face and a perfect way to get into the Metal show mood. Bruce Lamont puts so much passion in his performance that makes it easy to understand how he is getting lost into the music. Yeah, he practically zones out being fully emerged into these multi-layered and multi-character music that definitely needs more time than usual to sink in. This one is an aggressive one with a repetitive guitar riff that gets under your skin luring you to join YAKUZA in their bizarre trip. That trip started with the thick arrangement of “Be That As It May” that brought Helen Money (a.k.a. Alison Chesley) and her cello onstage to support the definition of Avant-garde / Progressive song. After the slow start, the amazing hammer-on / pull-off bass riff floored the gas pedal transforming the song into a chaotic almost Black Metal composition. As you understand, using labels in the case of YAKUZA’s music is an attempt to describe all that things that go on. Again, watching Bruce’s passion painting his performance took the whole experience one step farther along with the impressive musicianship of the rest of the lineup. By the way, it is extremely difficult to be a ‘live band’ with such complicated songs – and I’m saying this because I am sure everyone has seen musicians staying practically stationary being laser-focused on super-complicating playing. The YAKUZA setlist ended after the eight minutes of “Deluge”, which was also from “Of Seismic Consequence”, with the highlight being when Bruce used two mics (one had some effects on it) to boost his singing in another dimension... just awesome! Although musically there was no straight connecting line with THE SKULL, it was a powerful performance by YAKUZA to the point that piqued my interest to recheck their discography.

YAKUZA setlist:

01. “Testing The Waters”
02. “Stones And Bones”
03. “Meat Curtains”
04. “Perception Management”
05. “Just Say Know”
06. “Be That As It May”
07. “Deluge”

YAKUZA

Yakuza @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Yakuza @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Yakuza @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Yakuza @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Yakuza @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


Like I said, I have been lucky to witness firsthand how THE SKULL grew up to be a solid band steering away from being in the shadow of TROUBLE. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing to hear those songs on a live setting from the original voice, but considering TROUBLE are alive and kicking, it would have been strange to say the least to have another lineup playing similar sets. In the case of THE SKULL, things have gone farther than just putting some original music just to spice up the show setlist. The Chicago-based lineup (ok, Rob Wrong comes from a different state) has already released two amazing albums that frankly deserve more air-time. With that in mind, I got really excited starting things off with “Trapped Inside My Mind”. After a short intro delivered by the smiling guitar duo, Eric showed up onstage, and after his classic gesture to greet the people in the front rows, shifted into a high gear with this Doom Metal monolith. The frequent shows / tours, along with the two studio albums, have transformed the performance of this lineup with the word ‘solid’ being not enough to describe how these musicians behave onstage. Yes, Lothar and Rob have become a powerful guitar duo, exchanging riffs like they have been in this lineup since the beginning. Also, it looks great watching them moving around and leaving their usual real estate busting some moves in the process. Especially Rob has some powerful moves that may be revealing his old-school guitar-playing education. Anyway, you have to watch him performing and see what I am trying to lay down with words. Oh my goodness, it sounds like each time I hear “Till The Sun Turns Black” live, it gets heavier and heavier. “It is good to be home. Before we go on, I have to ask; how are you doin’?”, asked this impossible-not-to-love singer who used his characteristic accent for the second part of his sentence... If you have seen THE SKULL at least one time, you should be able to understand what I am talking about here.

To my delight, THE SKULL songs kept coming and it really feels like all the songs from both albums deserve a fair chance to get into a setlist. Yes, the dramatics of “Breathing Underwater” make this one a strong candidate to become a must-have on (every) setlist. It is interesting that the band has chosen the happier “The Longing” as a follow-up but in hindsight I think it creates an interesting antithesis and kind of gets you off the dark mood... But not for long... That’s right; you will be back on the right path (pun fully intended) with my personal favorite “The Endless Road Turns Dark”. Damn, if you listen closely to the main riff, you will understand how Stoner was spawned from Doom Metal… The opening riff and the way it gains momentum is a golden recipe to get some headbanging action going. The “we are gathered here today” line gives me the goosebumps each and every time coming from Eric’s trademark singing-timbre.

The minimum breaks drew the focus on the music and, considering the band’s killer performance, I am sure no one complained about getting “Send Judas Down” and “For Those Which Are Asleep” in a back-to-back fashion. The first of the two got stretched a bit with the band without Eric jamming along showcasing how comfortable this lineup has become with everyone knowing exactly where to be without stepping on anyone’s foot. The way they moved from “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to “My Woman From Tokyo” jams and back to “Send Judas Down” was extremely entertaining and smooth as a baby’s butt – one more sign of how solid this lineup has become. THE SKULL suite ended with the bone-crushin’ “For Those Which Are Asleep” with Eric back on stage teaching how Classic Doom Metal should be sung. But that wasn’t all; the band’s live drummer (at least to this side of Atlantic) dropped the curtain with a bang (not literally), since he stepped on his stage monitor and jumped off in perfect timing to hit that snare-drum for the last time. Damn, this guy has beefed up his playing, and in concert, having a drummer giving the drum-skins a run for their money, is a huge plus.

THE SKULL left the stage only for a while, but long enough to give the sense that it was time to hit another chapter... “Thanks for letting us being THE SKULL for the whole set”, Ron Holzner said, but it should have been us thanking them for this treat. As I said, getting more THE SKULL songs on the set, makes absolutely sense as this band has put together some killer Doom Metal tunes, powerful enough to be played live in any given chance. On the other hand, no one can refuse the energy surge a handful of TROUBLE songs deliver, especially in the encore part of the show. Yes, the singing-along got some serious balls during “At The Of My Daze”, “The Tempter” and last but not least “Psychotic Reaction” that marked the second encore of the night. It was kind of funny seeing THE SKULL asking us if we wanted one more... Well, duh! If it was up to us, we would request five more. I am sure that the band was equally happy with everyone who came to Reggie’s to give THE SKULL the proper send-off for their upcoming touring schedule. It was beyond obvious that the band has put some serious nitro on the engine and has all cylinders primed and ready to fire in both sides of the Atlantic. Be sure to catch some of THE SKULL action for your own Doom Metal sake.

THE SKULL setlist:

01. “Trapped Inside My Mind”
02. “Till The Sun Turns Black”
03.  “Ravenswood”
04. “As The Sun Draws Near”
05. “Breathing Underwater”
06. “The Longing”
07. “A New Generation”
08. “The Endless Road Turns Dark”
09. “Send Judas Down”
10. “For Those Which Are Asleep”
11. “R.I.P.”
12. “Fear”
13. “At The End Of My Daze”
14. “The Tempter”
15. “Assassin”
16. “Psychotic Reaction”

THE SKULL

The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The Skull @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)