Warbringer @ The Forge, Joliet (US)

WARBRINGER / ENFORCER / AFTERMATH

Date: 22nd September, 2019
Venue: The Forge
Ticket: $18 (€16)
Promoter: n/a


On paper, this billing may seem like a mix and match between WARBRINGER’s Bay Area Thrash and ENFORCER’s New Wave of Heavy Metal, but comparing those two in terms of studio albums, does not tell the entire story. You see, the odd one out (ie the Swedes of ENFORCER) puts a lot of energy in the shows and add another layer in the music that is enough to add the term Speed Metal in the description. Now, if you are questioning whether Speed Metal is a good match to Thrash, then you need to do some serious studying.

Having so many shows in the surrounding Chicago area makes it challenging (physically and economically) for metalheads to keep track, and in the end of the day one just has to pick his battles. So, it was not a big surprise to see a sparse crowd occupying The Forge while AFTERMATH were setting up their gear. On top of this, having a show on a Sunday is always tricky business. However, I knew that things change the closer we got to the main acts, but let’s take first things first, right?

Like I said, there were not many people inside the venue and those present had chosen to not be right in front of the stage. That was a shame because AFTERMATH is not a young band, having been formed in 1985… Ok, they had a huge time-out but they knew their stuff and by that I mean the rather bizarre mix of Crossover and Thrash with some technical elements in the guitars. The thing with this type of Metal is that the audience has an important role and that is feeding the band with energy. Sure, this applies to all live shows but specifically in Crossover, you cannot enjoy a show without the right amount of crowd action. This means that AFTERMATH had to overcome this glitch and create their own energy by feeding off themselves. And that’s exactly how things went down with “Meltdown” kicking off the set with the Punk-infused Thrash of “Meltdown”. This is a neck-breaker and it was a shame that the band did not have the support it should from the audience, although there were some fans raising fists in the front rows. The band’s frontman spat the opening lyric lines of vein popping “Smash Reset Control” before letting the Hardcore guitar chords to set the tempo for this Crossover blast. Slowly but steadily more people were coming closer to the stage lured by AFTERMATH’s energy while hitting us with the oldie “When Will You Die” (feel free to think of D.R.I. or M.O.D.), “Gaslight” from the band’s latest album titled “There Is Something Wrong” and the moshing galore of “Chaos”. The harder it is to appreciate this type of music in your comfort of your home, the easier it is to get your headbanging needs met in concert. Yes, AFTERMATH managed to get the blood flowing and in the end to get rid off Sunday’s blues dropping the Crossover curtain with the super-awesome “Diethanasia”.  A job well done!

AFTERMATH setlist:

01. “Meltdown”
02. “Smash Reset Control”
03. “When Will You Die?”
04. “Gaslight”
05. “Chaos”
06. “Words That Echo Fear”
07. “Temptation Overthrown”
08. Diethanasia

AFTERMATH

Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Aftermath @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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As expected, more people had come during the next stage preparations, and to be honest I was happily surprised to see people with ENFORCER t-shirts. Sometimes this kind of revival Metal is not as appealing as it is in the other side of the Atlantic, and being this band’s follower from day one, I was even more excited to see the Swedes. A few minutes after 9:30pm, the lights went out and JUDAS PRIEST’s cover on “Diamonds And Rust” started blasting off the PAs. Yep, the atmosphere inside The Forge had significantly changed and it was obvious that ENFORCER had a solid following present. And then, boom... the band showed up without further ado with “Destroyer” starting things off. But really, it did not feel like the start of a set but rather like the middle because the onstage energy resembled a band that has gone way past the warming-up period. Oh yeah, it was pedal to the metal from the beginning with Olof Wikstrand being the tip of the Swedish spear but this does not mean the rest of the lineup was far behind. Quite the contrary I should say because bassist Chase Becker (from WARBRINGER) and the guitarist Johnny Nesta were roaming the stage while wearing the widest of smiles. Watching Olof performing reminded me of young Blackie Lawless and especially in the way he looked like he was running on the stage. It is tough to put this in words and unfortunately you have to have seen Blackie live back in the day to really understand what I am saying.

“Good evening, Joliet - we are ENFORCER from Sweden and tonight we are searching for you” said Olof to greet the audience, which had significantly closed its ranks, and make the perfect pass to “Searching For You”. It was awesome seeing fists pumping in the air and metalheads singing along during “Undying Evil” and particularly “From Beyond”. Oh my, the chorus of the latter one is the perfect storm for singing-along in concert. After all, it was pretty easy to do this just like Olof said a few seconds before kicking it off. The riff-driven break is just perfect to clap-along, so I think this was one of the highlights of the night and – trust me – there were more from where that came from. It was time to bring some dramatics on the show with ENFORCER having their backs turned to us before hitting us with the fast “Death Rides The Night” followed by “Zenith Of The Black Sun” making me feel a bit bad for not having spent enough time listening to the band’s latest album. Mark me, I will definitely redeem myself.

What I was talking about in the intro contemplating whether ENFORCER was a good match for WARBRINGER’s Thrash reached a conclusion with the nice circle-pit that was formed during “Live For The Night” from my favorite “Diamonds”. “You guys are fucking wild”, said Olof recognizing how energetic the audience was on a Sunday before going back in action with “Mesmerized By Fire”. “Give it up for the beast from Canada”, said Olof passing the baton to Johnny Nesta for some guitar solo action. Things started “normally” by doing some licks but then Johnny rushed backstage and soon enough appeared inside the photo pit soloing at – literally – spitting distance, giving that extra flavor most of the times is missing from solos. The up-tempo “Take Me Out Of This Nightmare” was the last one before the first ENFORCER “goodnight”. It does not require mantic abilities to say if the band did an encore; of course they did by popular demand getting back with the amazing and sticky as hot tar “Katana”... How fun it is to sing about Shiroyama... The super-charged set ended with a bang titled “Midnight Vice” and I found myself already thinking when we’ll see ENFORCER again onstage...

ENFORCER setlist:

01. “Destroyer”
02. “Searching For You”
03. “Undying Evil”
04. “From Beyond”
05. “Bells Of Hades”
06. “Death Rides This Night”
07. “Zenith Of The Black Sun”
08. “Live For The Night”
09. “Mesmerized By Fire”
10. “Take Me Out Of This Nightmare”
11. “Katana”
12. “Midnight Vice”

ENFORCER

Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Enforcer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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The backdrop was changed and two “w” bearing banners set at stage right and left cleared any possible doubts what band was next. That’s right; California’s WARBRINGER were about to keep the ball rolling and pick things where ENFORCER left off. Although it’s been a while since the last time I had seen WARBRINGER live, I already knew that they do deliver the Thrash goods. Would this be different? Fat chance of that happening because the moment the “(We Are) The Road Crew” had ended, WARBRINGER entered the stage with “Remain Violent” seeing the first circle pit of the night. The almost mid-tempo rhythm was perfect to keep headbanging while enjoying the constantly moving around lineup. The Thrash trademark snare-drum action of “Severed Reality” turned the intensity level up a notch and, as it happened with ENFORCER, this felt like it was in the middle of the set. I love how John Kevill is working the audience and how relatable looks as he is grunting the lyrics. I mean, it is awesome to share the same level of energy with the frontman and produce pretty much equal gallons of sweat. But he was not the only one doing the “Thrash labor” that night because the entire lineup was in the zone, hitting us relentlessly with the high bpms.

Guitarist Chase Baker was doing double duty because he did handle the bass for ENFORCER but this did not hold him back as he was headbanging as hard as the rest of the band. This is an amazing feat if you considered what John said about the band doing 54 shows back to back without off days... This meant that Chase was doing double the number of shows tormenting his fingertips while working on that neck of steel from the constant headbanging. Moments like these you have to take a moment and appreciate the bands getting on the road throughout the country, facing different weather conditions and keep working as hard as possible to leave no one dissatisfied.

“It’s been a while since our last record, isn’t it? We’ve finished recording our sixth album”, said John after the early KREATOR-esque “Demonic Ectasy”. The special treat for us was to hear a song from the upcoming album titled “Firepower Kills” that would be released the following Wednesday. To untrained ears Thrash tends to “sounds all the same”, but to the primed ears, this applies only to mediocre Thrash. In this case, the song was full-on assault with fast rhythm (god bless the snare drum), Teutonic Thrash riffs (think of DESTRUCTION) and a neck-snapping mid-tempo break. In fewer words, a powerful thrasher that did not go unnoticed from the still-going strong audience. Kudos is in order for those who kept the mosh festivities going like it was the beginning of the night. Remember that ENFORCER did challenge our energy levels... I should also credit John for his singing articulation because for Thrash it is quite of rare for the listener to understand the lyrics without prior knowledge. “Remember when you are looking at you smartphone, the smartphone looks back at you”, said the frontman as a short but most effective introduction to “Hunter-Seeker” that featured my beloved hi-hat action.

“We have a couple ones left for you”, said John before sounding the charge for the entire lineup to melt our faces with the fast tempo of “Living In A Whirlwind”. This song carries one of those rhythm breaks that is impossible to resist from headbanging like there’s no tomorrow. And that’s exactly what we did, but we did not stop as “Combat Shock” followed. This one took me all the way back to ‘08 when I first saw this band live and bought their debut immediately after their set… You never let good Thrash slip through the cracks and those are my words of wisdom to you. The band left the stage but did not wait for long to return because with Thrash is best to strike while the iron is hot. A short taped intro gave its place to the drum intro of “Silhouettes” and everyone assumed moshin’ positions being in the most appropriate behavior for the WARBRINGER encore.

With the sound of “Living Weapon” fading away, I almost reprimanded myself for letting this band slip off my radar but later is better than never as they say, and now, I will keep my eyes and ears peeled for the new album and the next WARBRINGER show that will see us being at the front rows.

“This band will never go soft on you” - John Kevill (Joliet, IL - September 22nd, 2019)

WARBRINGER setlist:

01. “Remain Violent”
02. “Severed Reality”
03. “Descending Blade”
04. “Demonic Ecstasy”
05. “Firepower Kills”
06. “Hunter-Seeker”
07. “Prey For Death”
08. “Living In A Whirlwind”
09. “Combat Shock”
10. “Silhouettes”
11. “Woe To The Vanquished”
12. “Living Weapon”

WARBRINGER

Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Warbringer @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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