Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Studio Seven, Seattle, WA, USA
August 22-23, 2003

Live review by Princess of Hell
All photos by Princess of Hell except Exhumed pics by Hellion
and Dragonlord pics by Chris Slack/gravemusic.com

Day Two - Saturday, August 22

Even more people showed up on Saturday than on Friday, which is surely due to pesky work schedules getting in the way during the week. I had no problem getting in to cover the show on Day Two, except that I was unable to get my ass out of the house in time to catch the first three bands. I didn't overhear anything about Seattle's PURE HATRED (purehatred.com). I heard good things about Portland, OR's STONECREEP (stonecreep.com), described as Slayer meets Pantera with some Swedish melodic death thrown in for good measure. I'm not a fan of groove-metal but Seattle's DROWN MARY (drownmary.com) got a good crowd response.



MTF play assaulting, crunching, commercial-friendly metal with "chug chug" guitars. Their guitarist Scott kicks ass and singer/guitarist Rob has a strikingly good voice. Bass player Bloody is a maniac string-pounder who seriously looks like he could be in the WWE. (mtfmusic.com)


"All the Iron Maiden with none of the stage presence" sums up this Bellingham, WA tribute band. Actually, let me amend that. The two guitarists and amazing bass player (Joe Hoyle, also of prog band Slavemason) were verging on charisma, but the singer - well, let's just say no Dickinson, Di'Anno or Bayley was he. He could do the job vocally but the lethargic shuffling across the stage just killed it for me. I want action, conviction and fervor running across the stage goddammit! Give the guy some coffee or blow or something! Anyhow, the standout covers were "Aces High" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and rumor has it this was the band's last show together for a while.



I was told this Vancouver, BC band would sound like Immortal, but unfortunately they did not. Cornucopia put forth a set of loud, angry, grind-y songs with hackneyed horror samples (Halloween, The Exorcist, etc.) that had no apparent relevance to the songs at hand. The vocals were unusual with some talking-ish parts, the guitarwork was fast and "crunchy" and almost cheerful at times and the bass player had his leg in some kind of cast.



These Seattle guys are SO much better than their lame name suggests. I expected generic jock-metal boredom but instead got quality headbanging songs, tight-as-fuck playing and an incredible energy level. Aggression Core were entertaining as if their lives depended on it. James King's voice is a quality Hetfield meets Anselmo hybrid, and several of the guitar parts were practically Iron Maiden caliber. Their performance of "Endless War Between Us," a new song with some Nevermore-ish undertones, was ironic because after 10-plus years together Aggression Core broke up a couple days after the Fest! (aggressioncore.net)



This Everett, WA band may be thrash/death-influenced but what I hear is mostly chest-thumping testosterone metal complete with bouncing and "yeah, motherfuckahs! " AOD are technically proficient and do the rage thing very well, and I'm happy for them that there's a huge market for this style of music.



I am thrilled to report that The Braindead, Seattle's veteran Kings of the Unknown, kicked my ass at SMF. This six-member medley of insanity must be seen live to be believed. The Braindead play extremely high-energy old-school metalcore (in the best sense of the word) with gang vocals and lots of punk and thrash influences. Kind of like Pro-Pain or Sick of it All meets the Mentors and GWAR - on crack! With lead singer J.G. in a clown costume and bassist Hodgy running around like a bastard son of Gene Simmons, the band frolicked with blowup dolls (and sheep, and wieners), blasted Silly String (during "Cum Shot") and generally worked the room up into a lather. As a finale, the band rocked it '81-style with a cover of Venom's "In League with Satan," complete with audience participation on the choruses. It was very faith-reaffirming, and it was also very cool to see Warrel and Jim from Nevermore right up in front of the stage, watching The Braindead and smiling in approval. 



This Edmonton, Alberta, Canada band was an eleventh-hour addition to the roster, replacing Forced Entry. They looked very indie-rock and delivered noisy hardcore-metal with death vocals, weird stop/starts and blastbeats from their sideways-facing drummer. Their bass player must have just finished 17 shots of espresso because he was totally freaking out, grinning and bouncing all over the place. The singer looked like Opie Taylor and was wearing a camouflage shirt that said "Bum rush the pit."



These Anchorage, AK boys play hardcore-turned-metal with interesting vocals that echo Mike Patton and a smidgen of Duran Duran. The songs were swaying, artsy and midtempo with dissonant chords and weird gloomy parts. One major distraction was that the singer's pants that kept falling, causing him to look like he was grabbing his own ass.




Like a hammer of nothingness, Skinlab took forever to set up then played a set of incessant, brutally boring nu-metal. I do not understand why they are so popular. The cool thing is - well, OK, I'm not even sure it's that cool - it was their 10-year anniversary so they didn't have a set list and were instead taking requests. Singer/bass player Steev Esquivel had his wife and two kids in tow, and they stood to the side of the stage shimmying and attempting devil horns during the set. 



The stars aligned in such a way that we got to see Death Angel - featuring 4 of the 5 original Death Angel members  - play for two fucking hours. Thirteen years after their ill-fated show at the Moore Theater, where a stage-diving fan leapt to his demise, this obscenely talented group of Bay Area cousins returned to Seattle and absolutely made up for lost time. They totally killed! This was probably the best metal performance I've seen in the last year. It's almost impossible to describe how much energy and passion they had, plus they were perfectly tight, well-oiled and "on" throughout the entire set. Witnessing their performance marked the ultimate culmination of a weekend of pure metal.

The guys all looked great, but of course they're all around 10 years younger than the other bands that have "come back" from the '80s (remember, drummer Andy Galeon was only 12 when they started!) Singer Mark Osegueda looked like Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean" crossed with L.A. Guns' wardrobe circa 1987 with his long dreads, bandanna, skull-and-crossbones scarf and tight leather pants. He sang his heart out and spent a lot of time kneeling on the monitors and interacting with the audience. Rob Cavestany also sported long dreadlocks and was playing a killer, pirate-inspired Jackson guitar with a scroll design. Hey, nothing wrong with pirates! His leads and solos were scorching, as were those of second guitarist Ted Aguilar, but they both have that amazing talent of making it all look effortless. Ted and bass player Dennis Pepa had short spiky hair going on, with Pepa sporting a Flogging Molly shirt (I later found out that's his other band). Andy tore it up on drums, of course.

They opened with "Seemingly Endless Time" from ACT III and then proceeded to play a good chunk of "The Ultra-Violence" including "Voracious Souls" and "Mistress of Pain." From Frolic Through the Park they played "I'm Bored," "The Third Floor," "Road Mutants" and "Devil's Metal," the latter in which Mark took a break to let Rob and Ted do trade-off vocals. From ACT II" they played "The Organization," "Disturbing the Peace" and "Stagnant." A cover of Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice" drove everyone into a frenzy, which was only intensified by the last song of the night, the anthemic "Kill As One."

Death Angel were having a blast playing together and that bodes well for the future. Mark talked about going into the studio and I've read that there are a couple dozen songs in the works for a new album due out in Spring 2004. Without a doubt the boys are back, and there's no question in my mind that their modern thrash attack will be just as brilliant as it was back in the day. 

Web: deathangel.com

Thankfully the Friday/Saturday scheduling left me free to rest on Sunday, because I was truly an exhausted wreck by the end of the two full days of metal. Thanks and congratulations to Franko for putting on such a killer show. I am already looking forward to next year's Fest, because the success of this Fest and its improvement over last year's modest affair can only mean bigger and better things to come. Hail METAL!!!

If you want to know more about Seattle Metal Fest and the Seattle metal scene, visit:

Seattle Metal Fest - seattlemetalfest.com
True Metal Seattle - truemetalseattle.com
Seattle Death Metal - seattledeathmetal.com
Seattle Metal Online - seattlemetal.com