LIVE: Testament / Exodus / Death Angel @ Empire Live, 09/27/2022
ALBANY – Tuesday was just another September night for most of Nippertown. But Empire Live in Albany was the site of a Bay Area thrash takeover, when Testament, Exodus and Death Angel invaded the capital city for a siege of the heaviest order. The Bay Strikes Back tour came and destroyed the Empire.
For metal fans like myself, this tour was an early present from the red suit. Like Ralphie on Christmas morning being handed his trusty ole Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock – this won’t shoot your eye out, but it might leave a mark.
It was no vague story when The Ultra Violence began and Death Angel hit the stage. Death Angel charged straight out the gates and swung for keeps through their seemingly endless catalog . Originally formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1982, singer Mark Osegueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany are the only original members. The quintet would become known as one of the leaders of the second wave of Bay Area Thrash. Fertile ground for some of the heaviest and fastest music the States have laid claim to. The Dream Calls for Blood and Osegueda prompted the crowd to get their horns up, raise their voices and to release the Caster of Shame.
Death Angel are Osegueda, Cavestany, guitarist Ted Aguilar, bassist Damien Sisson, and drummer Will Carroll. With the introduction of “The Moth”, Oseugueda reminded us of the anniversary of the tragic death of Metallica’s original bassist, Cliff Burton. Burton was killed while the band was on their Master of Puppets tour in Europe. Oseugueda exclaimed how much Burton was a supporter and fan of the band. He used that time also to say how grateful they were to be doing what they loved and that the fans continue to allow them to do. Playing real music and connecting to the energy. Death Angel’s set closed with “Thrown to the Wolves” from the 2004 album the Art of Dying, leaving the highly testosterone driven crowd ready for the Humanicide.
Exodus entered into the fray and the beatings continued. Exodus are credited with being one of the pioneers of the Bay Area thrash scene along with Metallica. Kirk Hammett left Exodus to join Metallica in 1983, leaving guitarist Gary Holt to lead the 44 magnum opus. Gary Holt eventually would fill the hole in Slayer for his friend Jeff Hanneman, following Hanneman’s passing in 2013, and would remain the yin to Kerry King’s yang until Slayer called it quits. Vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, guitarist Lee Altus, drummer Tom Hunting and bassist Jack Gibson carry out Holt’s metal command.
Exodus rolled their shovel headed killing machine through four decades of the lunatic parade and exemplified why being bonded by blood doesn’t mean you have to be related. Tearing through an hour of good friendly violent fun, Souza called for “Blood In, Blood Out”. Souza was originally in a band named Legacy. Legacy would go on to become Testament. Are you seeing the connections? Oh the history, boys and girls.
Exodus raged through thrash classics like “Piranha” and “Lesson in Violence” from their debut Bonded By Blood, an album I purchased on my final day of seventh grade. Luckily Troy’s Music Shack was the place for thrash music and everything metal. “Death Amphetamine” and the thrash anthem “Toxic Waltz” pulverized the pit and set the tempo of the damned for the headliners, Testament.
Testament took the stage to “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, Jim Croce’s classic, and was a battering ram for the sweaty, fist pumping crowd. Looking larger than life, singer Chuck Billy led us out of the Catacombs making us Rise Up and commandeered “The New Order” here. Guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Petersen fired a barrage of lightning fast riffs and crushing power chords. Skolnick is known in many circles as an incredible jazz musician as well. But, thrash was on the menu of the Pale King tonight.
The ferocious five from the Bay have one of the most feared and revered rhythm sections in all of metal. Bassist Steve Di Giorgio fingers his four strings with the precision of a samurai. His metal pedigree and fretless playing have provided him quite the career. Double bass blasts and keeping the visceral attack on time was none other than Dave Lombardo. Yes, that Dave Lombardo. Lombardo needs no introduction to thrashers ,but is best known as the original drummer for Slayer and probably the best thrash drummer of all time.
The band was so tight you couldn’t fit a whisker in between. “Children of the Next Level”, “Practice What You Preach” and “Formation of Damnation” took us through their history. “DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)” from their album The Gathering allowed Billy to introduce Lombardo and shared the story of how the song and the album The Gathering came together. Sharing is caring after all.
“Native Blood” from 2012’s Dark Roots of Earth provided Billy the perfect place to voice the plight of indigenous people and blister his soul. As the “Night of the Witch” approached and the “Formation of Damnation” was released, we learned by old school measures that the “First Strike is Deadly” and no one escapes the power and the fury of the strike of the Bay. The Bay Strikes Back tour finishes its run October 15th in San Jose, California.