(DemiGodRaven provides this review of the Testament-headlining show in Sacramento, CA, on Feb. 17. Except for a drag-ass job of posting by your humble editor, the interval between the show and the review would have only been one week.)
Two weekends ago kicked the everliving fuck out of me. I went to two shows over the span of two days and basically spent Sunday in a coma because of them. Saturday was a huge local band party at the lovely venue out here known as The Boardwalk, and while I would love to review that one, my weekend was so hectic and tired that to be honest with you, the whole experience feels like a fever dream.
I will admit that’s probably shortchanging the dudes in Bispora (whose first show it was), Journal, GBAA, and Slaughterbox, but I know that I will be presented with other chances to talk about those groups at length. All I can say for now is you should look them up, they’re all really good.
The picture that you see above is the reason why I found myself in such a state. Friday, February 17th, I flew solo to a show for the first time in a while and went and fucking saw Testament. If I had to sum up my position on Testament as a group, it would be that they have been one of the most consistent thrash bands out there to date. When rumors of a big thrash tour would begin circulating, I was the one asshole who was secretly hoping that Anthrax would drop off and Testament could take their slot, or that the promoters would at least put Exodus and Testament on the bill as a bigger Titans Of Thrash-style tour.
You can tell these guys are icons in their own right, so all I really would’ve been pushing for would be to pull out the fans who went to those Big Four shows because they thought Metallica’s Black Album and the ones that followed have been fucking masterpieces.
That said, there are advantages to Testament being a bit on the underrated side, and one of the big ones is that I got to see them up-close and fucking personal at Sacramento’s Ace Of Spades. That to me is fucking incredible, because even though the Testament crowd is now much, much older than it used to be, it still felt like I was part of the burgeoning Bay Area thrash movement . . . which I missed because a) I hadn’t been born yet, and b) by the time a lot of these bands were gaining steam or simplifying their stuff for radio, I was a whopping three.
I apologize if I just made a bunch of you crustier old fucks feel like dinosaurs. Now I’d be lying if I said that the fact that I’d also get to see Prong didn’t excite me just a little bit. Part of that was the novelty of Prong still being around and part of it was that I had the chance to basically look at the one group who spent the latter part of the 90’s being mercilessly ripped off by the nu-metal scene.
Of course, I should mention that I am familiar with quite a bit of their material, including two of the songs from Power Of The Damager that they put on the Rock Band video game. Believe it or not, my group actually held the high score on the song “Idealistic Types” for about five months, so I am deadly familiar with that one track.
One of the things that is also really consistent about Prong is that they change their fucking lineups about as often as the sun rises, and the current form includes Static-X bassist Tony Campo and drummer Alexei Rodriguez, who spent time in Catharsis, 3 Inches Of Blood, and Walls Of Jericho.
Local bands GBAA (Gary Busey Amber Alert, a name I fucking hate despite the music being good) and White Minorities were selected to open for this show. I actually wound up seeing GBAA twice that weekend because of the local band show the following night.
White Minorities have a big following out here, but to be honest, because of the way their logo looks and some of the shows they’ve been opening, I’ve usually avoided hearing them. The prospect produced a minor sense of dread, if you will, mostly because of the image of their music. Band with an exploding Gary Busey head? Perfectly fine. Group whose name looks like it was done by a tagger? Well, now we have issues. I truly am, if anything, a tragic creature of misaligned tastes.
Now a lot of you can probably take a look at that logo and guess how these guys sound and be within the ball park for sure. For those of you not in the know, they sound like (as I described them to a fellow concert goer) Black Dahlia Murder and current-era Job For A Cowboy got into a fight. This means the music is crushingly heavy and filled to the brim with all sorts of blast beats, but includes enough guitar pyrotechnics and melody to keep people interested. I actually think that despite the name (which I’m sure the guys get endless shit about), the music is actually pretty good. Granted, you already need to be in pretty deep with the two bands I mentioned above in order to get any idea of what the guys are really doing, but I think that they’re a good group out of the recent tech-death explosion that seems to have hit Sacramento.
GBAA wound up playing only four songs since they’re in the midst of some lineup shifts as well. They presented a new bassist and new drummer for everyone to see, and those two learned fast enough to keep up with the material. Apparently this was the group’s first show with the new lineup, so you had both guitarists and the frontman rocking out pretty hard and the other two trying to get into the flow of things. It was interesting to watch, and the songs were heavy enough to get me to headbang. I actually would’ve approved of them going longer.
I’m not quite sure who their drummer is at the moment, but I remember the band mentioning that it was the guy from fellow Sacramento tech-death group The Kennedy Veil. Of course I’ve also seen reports that it was the guy from Jack Ketch. Either way, look into those two as well.
Boy howdy, they can’t all be zingers huh? Such was the case with White Minorities, whose music is a combo of radio buttrock/modern day metalcore/tad bit of thrash/ and some nu-metal elements, which help create a jarringly schizophrenic sound for a band. As I’ve already said, these guys are definitely not up my alley, so it was very much a case of me just keeping still and trying to remain as neutral as possible. They have a woman who does sign language; she stands stage right. I guess that is an art in its own right, because it looks like it is part interpretive dance/part actual sign language. I guess if I ever get my ears blown out mid-show sometime I’ll be able to understand some of the poetry from the band.
The video is actually from the show that night, and I was front row. You can’t see me since I’m pretty much dead center, so I’m obscured by a bunch of other people. These guys played for a what seemed like an eternity though, bouncing between really heavy (for them anyway) songs and really light stuff. It appears they have a minor hit in a song called 8th Floor, which I thought was hilarious for all the wrong reasons. As I said above, exploding Gary Busey head? Fine. Rapping over a guitar delay about how you got arrested and sent to Sac County Jail? Enh. You guys should give it a listen though. I imagine I’ll probably want to wear body armor throughout the day to avoid getting shot by the band or punched through the internet.
Guys, Tommy Victor looks ancient. That said, he is still as spry as ever when it comes to stage presence. I know I’m seeing this band late-career, but you can tell that he has a very tongue-in-cheek approach to both the music and rocking out on stage. I don’t know how the hell he managed to do those air kicks with the shoes he had on, but more power to him.
The band played a setlist that spanned a huge part of Prong’s career, and all of the songs seemed to go over well with the crowd. They even played a new one that I think (though I don’t think I heard it correctly) was called “Eternal Heat”, and it was fucking heavy. That thing hit like a fucking bulldozer on drums, and even though I had Tony Campo in my face (heyooo!!) for much of the night, that one song had me glued to watching Alexei play.
I am going really heavy on the Capital Chaos videos in this post, so shout out to them. The guys in Capital Chaos are some of the hardest working dudes (and dudettes) in the Sacramento scene at the moment. They fucking capture everything, so don’t be afraid to look them up on YouTube and check out their live stuff. Of course, they captured “Whose Fist Is This Anyway?” and “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck”, so if you haven’t heard those songs live, the video above is great for that. This was really, really fun to see live, and I can now check Prong off my list of bands that I felt I needed to witness.
I was up front for about four songs of this performance and then I had to fall back and go take a leak. Let me just say this now, the shit was absolute insanity. Even up front it was ridiculous. People were trying to bumrush the stage, dudes were crowdsurfing. If it wasn’t so fucking annoying I would’ve said it was really fun to be a part of. I literally had to punch a dude to get him to move out of my way so I could leave the front, only to watch it fill right back in with three people fighting for that spot.
I was headbanging like hell throughout this whole show, and Testament decided that they were going to play for an hour and a half or so just to make sure I attended the following night’s extravaganza with the worst bangover known to man. These guys are incredibly authentic live and seemed excited as hell to play that night. They also seemed excited as hell to have Gene Hoglan and Alex in the fold because, man, Chuck must have introduced those two at least seventeen times.
With the addition of an incredibly long-ass encore,Testament played a huge retrospective setlist as well as a couple of my favorite songs from The Formation of Damnation. I was in a variety of spots throughout the night. Up front for four, on the bar to the right for quite a bit, and then my stupidest idea of the night . . . jumping into the pit during “Into The Pit”. I had my watch get fucking destroyed by an errant fist during the song, but I have never seen a pit grow like that before. I initially wasn’t going to go in, but the whole thing just absorbed everyone so I figured, fuck it.
Ace Of Spades made Testament sound great, which was awesome. I had heard reports from a friend who saw them in Boston and said they sounded a little muddy there, so I was initially worried.
It is amazing that Testament have remained as heavy as they have over so many years, and they’ve gained a seriously dedicated following because of it. You know how Metallica like to flaunt the fact that they have generation upon generation of people coming to their shows? Well I got to witness that, too, and the novelty of it is pretty fucking cool.
I don’t feel like I really need to tell you this, but I will anyway: Testament absolutely fucking crush it live, and you need to see them if you get the chance. This band is the whole reason why my weekend seemed to blow by me like it did.
Also, I fucking parked in front of the venue again. How fucking fantastic is that shit? I love this place!