Vile Records Open Air Fest III
August 19, 2017
Review and photos by InfamousButcher
Some cities just have a great pedigree for metal. Tampa. NYC. LA. San Fran. Stockholm. Birmingham. And don’t fucking forget Buffalo! The city has a tradition of great bands like Malevolent Creation, Cannibal Corpse, and Baphomet. The scene lives people! Today I am in the Buffalo area to see the 3rd Vile Records Open Air Fest (VROAF) featuring local bands Resthaven, Hellcannon, and Cain. And we also get some killer death thrash from other parts of the US, plus the legendary Morbid Saint as the headliner! All this for $18! How fucking awesome is that?!? Head west from PA to Niagara Falls and listen for the mayhem to find the fest!
VROAF is organized and run by Jim Nickles (Hellcannon, Resthaven, owner of Vile Records and Shredly Guitars) and Ryan Fiorita (Hellcannon, Vile Records A&R). It is one helluva an operation! The festival is held right in Ryan’s spacious backyard. Under a large tent there was a good sized stage with big speakers at the slides. The musicians never looked crowded on the stage and had some freedom to move around. Sound quality was excellent, loud and distortion free, professionally done. Lighting was also top notch with multi-colors. At different points many bands used a smoke machine for a visual effect. About 150 people turned out, more than the 2 previous VROAF’s. In addition to seeing 8 fucking bands, admission also included a great meal from the Death Mobile Kitchen – pulled pork, ziti, mac and cheese, grilled vegetables, etc. Also there was a smaller tent for band merchandise and a few picnic tables and chairs further back behind the main tent if you wanted to sit while taking in the killer music and atmosphere. BYOB so people brought their own coolers. Everything worked like clockwork, first band was on at 3, Morbid Saint finished at 11 on the dot. The mood was great all day, metal brothers and sisters just hanging out having a good time.
ORDER OF THE DEAD
Unfortunately I arrived after 3 during a rainstorm and only caught the last 2 songs of Order of the Dead’s set. That’s a shame, because these Rochester death thrashers could really throw down! The guitars were blazing and vocalist Bill Lander (formerly of Paths of Possession) was vicious! I really dug “Pit of Snakes” and the closer “A Grand Design”. Definitely check these guys out if you are in the NY area. Good aggressive old school death thrash played by veteran musicians.
New song (no title yet that was the first played)
Pit of Snakes
A Grand Design
How about some straight up thrash? Today we get a one-two punch of the South’s best, Nemesis (NC) and Sadistic Ritual (GA)! Touring with Sadistic Ritual in support of their debut album ATROCITY UNLEASHED, I was lucky enough to catch this exciting new band. Songs like “Blades of Death” and “Toxic Plague” had these killer chugging rhythms like vintage Megadeth, great headbanging music that put you right in the fucking zone! Vocals were clean, guitar was deadly, drumming and bass were solid. Song titles were fun, they closed with “Terminator”. Nemesis is a must see, catch these guys when they are in town and pick up ATROCITY UNLEASHED for a great thrash fix!
Blades of Death
Sadistic Ritual headlined VROAF II and toured the US with Hellcannon last year, so I was pumped to see them again. These guys play vicious, jugular servering death thrash. The set was short but great, like a killer EP. Tone and subject matter was more dead serious than Nemesis was. Sadistic Ritual gave us razor sharp riffs, galloping rhythms, and harsh vocals. Drummer Matthew Morris did not make the trip so Nemesis’ drummer Viken Tashijan filled in capably on the first 3 songs. Then Hellcannon’s Marcus London got behind the kit for the crushing closer, “Merciless Retribution” and fucking barnstormed us, quite impressive! Sadistic Ritual is sick, surgical precision tight death thrash. Check ‘em out!
Edge of the Knife
Next up was local band Cain whose brand of death thrash featured black metal style vocals. I recognized drummer Bryant Morrison from his time in Hellcannon a few years back. Promoting their second full length album INTO ABYSS, the 3 piece tore into their set with “The Necromancer” and never let up! Both guitarist Eareckson Murray and Bryant provided the vocals. Blistering, savage set, just wish it was longer. Good stuff, check these guys out.
Ok now you’re really in for something special, a gift to metalheads. For those that haven’t seen Resthaven, basically they are a death metal supergroup playing the classic early ‘80s metal they grew up on. In the mid 80’s Resthaven was the forerunner to Malevolent Creation, so the band features Brett Hoffman on vocals (Malevolent Creation), Jim Nickles on guitar (Malevolent Creation, Hellwitch, Hellcannon), Rob Barrett on guitar (Malevolent Creation, Cannibal Corpse), Mike Valenti on drums, Bob Hall on guitar, and Kevin Peace on bass (Hellcannon, Vile Vindiction). Starting with Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules” the vibe was loose and fun. Before long the entire crowd was singing along with the beloved classics, creating an electric buzz like you’d get at a large venue for a huge act like Maiden! Brett commanded the stage, gesturing to the crowd and delivering clean (!) vocals and elongated high notes with those killer lungs of his. His death metal intensity is there but the vocals are clean, amazing! The musicianship of the 3 guitarists was stellar, each one bringing their own distinct style to the songs. Jim’s fluid style was on display during “The Hellion” and “Electric Eye”, first being smooth and then fucking shredding! Rob’s speed and precision was evident on Maiden material like “The Trooper” and “Killers”. Bob shined on “Over the Mountain”, respectfully nailing the Randy Rhoads material. Later in the set we got a killer rendition of Priest’s “Hot Rockin” with old school metalhead / one of the coolest guys in Buffalo Brian Butch Hulin providing guest vocals on the chorus (I WANNA GO! I WANNA GO!). It was awesome and the crowd loved it. Other highlights included “I Wanna Be Somebody” (LOUD crowd singing and Brett was holding the mic out to us!), “The Trooper” (sensational guitar work all around, wow!), and “Electric Eye” (Brett fucking nailed that one!). Closer was “Hellbent for Leather”, always cool. Resthaven is a ton of fun! They sometimes play in Florida as South of Resthaven with a different lineup, catch them if you can, you’ll have a blast!
The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath)
Heading Out to the Highway (Judas Priest)
I Wanna Be Somebody (W.A.S.P.)
Over the Mountain (Ozzy Osbourne)
The Trooper (Iron Maiden)
The Hellion / Electric Eye (Judas Priest)
Hot Rockin’ (Judas Priest)
Killers (Iron Maiden)
Ides of March / Wrathchild (Iron Maiden)
Hellbent for Leather (Judas Priest)
WAKE THE FUCK UP, IT’S MOSH TIME MOTHERFUCKER! Hellcannon just gets people fired up man. Playing mostly material from their recent album RETURN TO THE WASTELAND, Hellcannon was a machine of destruction up there, an all out assault on the Buffalo crowd. The band is equal parts brutal and technical. Jim and Ryan’s guitar work in the two opening instrumentals “Arrival” and “Wasteland Remains” was intricate and flowing until we got to the shred fest that is “Warhaze”. Ryan’s vocals were piercing and powerful through ass kickers “Day of Demise” and “Disarmed and Deceased”. Marcus’ drumming was thunderous with blast beats and also skillful with fills and backbeats. Joe’s rumbling bass held everything together as chaos reigned onstage. After I took some pics, I started to thump and bump with a few willing combatants and we had a ball! My endurance ain’t what it used to be but I can still throwdown with the best of them in spurts! I remember the foreboding “Blood Moon Rising” while I was out there. Rocker “Road Warriors” changed things up a bit with a throwback early 80s sound. “For Those Who Have Betrayed Us” scorched the crowd and finished Hellcannon’s inspired set. Pick up a copy of RETURN TO THE WASTELAND if you haven’t already and catch these guys live, they’re a big part of why the Buffalo scene is still great.
Day Of Demise
Disarmed and Deceased
Blood Moon Rising
Gate Between Realms
For Those Who Have Betrayed Us
New Jersey’s Condition Critical was making their second appearance at VROAF having been the headliner 3 years ago. Since then the lineup’s changed a bit. Ryan Taylor has replaced Alonso Maguino on guitar and vocals and Tony Barhoum has taken over for Sam Agnew on guitar. These guys get down to business quickly and do not fuck around. Set was intense, skull smashing thrash with clean vocals. My faves of their set were “Fatal Incision”, “Parasitic Torment”, and “Intravenous Mutilation”. Encore “Random Acts of Killing” was great too.
Time Wave Zero
Encore: Random Acts of Killing
Ok, time to close this fest out with an underground legend! Morbid Saint is mostly known for their debut album SPECTRUM OF DEATH and for being a regular opening act for Death back in the day. Morbid Saint is back and has been touring and hitting festivals the last few years. The only original member is guitarist Jay Visser, but the band was very tight, together, and sick onstage tonight. The twin guitar attack of Jay and Russell (Gesch) was deadly, especially on classic material “Lock Up Your Children” and “Burned at the Stake”. Vocalist Cliff Wagner delivered corrosive screeches and raspy growls with good range. We got lots of new material in the hour long set (see below), all of which was killer. I really dug “I of Fire” and “Conjure the Hate”. Also, the band gave us 3 songs back to back rapid fire style, “Crying for Death”, “Destruction System” and “Beyond the Gates of Hell”. Closer was the crowd pleaser “Damien” which featured Ryan from Hellcannon on guest vocals. It was fucking amazing! It was a perfect way to finish the set.
Flesh of the Disease (new song)
Lock up your Children
17 (new song)
Death Before Dawn
DAKU (new song)
Burned at the Stake
I of Fire (new song)
Crying for Death
Beyond the Gates of Hell
Conjure the Hate (new song)
And that’s a wrap for VROAF III. It had great bands and a fun, welcoming atmosphere. Every year it gets bigger. Can’t wait until next year to see who they get and where they will have it! Bring on VROAF IV!