Obsession & Graven Image
@ La Respuesta, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Produced by K&K Entertainment
Review by Titus Isaac
Photos by Fran Jaume
Although double bill concerts are not uncommon in Puerto Rico, it is not often that two bands hailing from the same place get a chance to play on the island: on August 17 Puerto Rico got a taste of the Connecticut Heavy Metal scene, via the Obsession/ Graven Image concert held at La Respuesta, Santurce.
Interestingly enough, one band, Obsession, has been around for thirty-plus years, while Graven Image are relatively newcomers on the scene, so the audience got a chance to get a taste of both the old school and new school of Connecticut Metal. It was also one of those rare instances where all of the bands, including the opening local bands, more or less play variations of the same style of music: classic Heavy Metal. The opening bands were Iternia and Aura Azul, who have also been around for some time as well.
Just before La Respuesta opened its doors, the afternoon began to turn cloudy and then it began to rain.
The doors were opened early and everybody rushed inside, which prompted the concert to start earlier than expected.
Even though some were experiencing difficulties due to the rain, slowly but surely more and more people arrived. The production team began to signal their crew to start the concert early, since everybody was now inside the venue, entertaining themselves with the merchandise booths that the bands had set up.
At around 8pm, the first band, Iternia, began preparing to hit the stage.
Iternia play Power Metal, integrating keyboards into their sound and using some Progressive Rock elements in their songs.
Since there is only one guitar player in the band, double leads are played by him and the keyboardist.
The bass plays around these arrangements, even adding some slap bass work here and there. Songs include sections where singer steps aside and lets the band play off one another.
These sections definitely grabbed the attention of the audience, who were amazed at the abilities of the musicians. Some examples of this are songs like “Killing the Dream” and “Iternia”, which were highlights during the band’s set.
I believe that some people had not heard Iternia’s brand of Power Metal, but it seems they left a very good impression on the audience. The band is composed of Chriz on drums, Motts on bass and backing vocals, Sebasthian on lead vocals, Juanjo on guitar, and keyboardist Rodolfo.
3. Warriors of Metal
5. Killing the Dream
7. Land of Enchanted Castles
Next up were Aura Azul, who play a Heavy Metal style very much inspired by bands like Iron Maiden.
They played a long set that night, and there were new band members who were making their debut that night.
The band members were also promoting their latest record “Beyond the Doors of Time”, from which they played a couple of songs that evening.
The band has a dual guitar attack, using a lot of double lead guitar melodies in their songs.
The tempo of the music is quite fast, with a lot of double kick drum work which reminded me of bands like Savage Grace and Helloween.
The band’s stage presence is very energetic and there was not a single moment when the band stood still.
Many in the audience were already familiar with most of the songs, evidenced by how they sang along with the band.
“Gladiadores” and “La Sombra del Faraón” were examples of this, both from their 2009 self titled record. Aura Azul’s current lineup includes vocalist Edgar Lopez, guitarists Hommy Torres and Moe Rodriguez, Xavier Ocasio on bass and Wampa Zayas on drums.
Aura Azul Setlist:
1. Intro: Anvil of Crom
3. Dying shelter
4. Maestro de la Oscuridad
7. Isle of Medusa
8. Beyond the doors of time
9. The Penitent man
10. La sombra del Faraón
When Graven Image hit the stage, they came out all guns blazing, giving a great performance.
Their set list was composed mostly of songs from their self released record “The Future Started Yesterday”, along with newer numbers not included on the album. The band had a new drummer, Harry Blackwell, who is the son of New Orleans jazz musician Ed Blackwell and that meant that the songs have been updated from their recorded versions thanks to Blackwell’s input. Also, singer Martin O’Brien is one heck of a frontman, and a great live singer.
The band members are: Paul Coleman – Guitars, Harry Blackwell – Drums, Andrew Purchia – Bass, Martin O’Brien – Vocals and Scott Williams- Guitars.
The band started off with “One Mistake”, the number that kicks off their record. Right away, guitar players Coleman and Williams got down to business, sharing leads and providing some great dual guitar parts. During the middle of the set, both guitarists engaged in a sort of guitar duel, trading guitar solos and runs.
As mentioned earlier, Blackwell’s drumming style adds something to the songs live, and “One Mistake” is a great example: while the studio version is more straightforward, the live version of the song includes many drum fills that add an almost Middle Eastern flavor to the song.
Another song that got a makeover for the live setting was “The Other Side”, which is one of the acoustic numbers on the record; live, the band either plays a completely acoustic version, or a heavier version than the one on the record. That evening, they played the heavier version.
Although the band played a short set that night, it was enough to leave a very good impression on the members of the audience who were not familiar with the band’s music.
The audience was asking for more, but the band members mentioned that this would not be possible due to time restraints; however, they did promise to come back to Puerto Rico in the near future since they had such a good time on the island.
Graven Image Setlist:
1. One Mistake
3. World of Decay
4. Silent Wings
5. The Other side
6. 1600 Deception Avenue
7. No Atheist in a Foxhole
8. Twisted and Broken
Everybody was eager to hear how Obsession are sounding live nowadays; specifically, many were wondering how Mike Vescera’s voice sounds today.
Well, the simple answer to that question is that the man sounds just as awesome today as he did back when he was part of Obsession’s original lineup, or when he sang for Loudness and Yngwie Malmsteen.
Vescera is both a great singer and a great front man. Even though the sound people were experiencing slight technical problems, the band soldiered on through their set despite this, demonstrating that they were unquestionably veterans.
Most of the band members have already been around for more than ten years, playing with other bands. The band members are guitarists Scott Boland and Jophn Bruno, drummer Bj Zampa, Jay Rigney on bass, and of course, Michael Vescera on vocals.
Obsession’s set that night consisted of material that spans their entire career. They were even kind enough to include a cover of Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock & Roll” as an encore, with the aid of Dantesco vocalist Erico La Bestia.
Material from their classic records like Methods of Madness, Scarred for Life and the Marshall Law EP was played alongside newer stuff from their Carnival of Lies and Order of Chaos records.
The crowd really got into it from the get go, as they headbanged and sang along to the songs while the band played many of their classic hits. One female member of the audience even got onstage and gave Vescera a kiss, to which he replied “Well, that was very nice, thank you!”.
Songs like “Marshall Law”, “For the Love of Money”, “Bang ’em Till They Bleed“ and opener “Methods of Madness” were definitely highlights, and those who had not been able to listen to Obsession’s recent material got a chance to hear some of the more killer songs like “Twist of the Knife” and “Smokin’ Gun” .
1 – Methods of Madness
2 – High Treason
3 – Smokin’ Gun
4 – Twist of the Knife
5 – Losing my Mind
6 – Killer Elite/Hard to Core/Taking Chances (medley)
7 – Marshall Law
8 – For the Love of Money
9 – Pure Evil
10 – Carnival of Lies
11 – MAI LAI (Instrumental)
12 – Scarred for Life
13 – Order of Chaos
14 – Bang ‘Em till they Bleed
15 – (Encore) Long Live Rock & Roll
By the end of the concert, the audience was definitely satisfied with what they had just experienced.
All four bands gave their all that night, and despite some small issues that the sound crew were experiencing, each band managed to play a killer set.
Both Obsession and Graven Image expressed their gratitude and mentioned that they would definitely like to come back to Puerto Rico in the future, probably as a triple bill with Vescera’s other band, Animetal.