Friday, May 31, 2013

For Victory

Bolt Thrower / Autopsy / Benediction / Noothgrush
Oakland Metro, Oakland, California
May 26, 2013

This show was sold out 2 months in advance and that says everything about the magnitude of this night.  Bolt Thrower last visited the West Coast 20 years ago and for years they have been the #1 band on my bucket list since I didn't see them back in The Day.  I was as giddy as a little school girl as this show drew closer.  In the days leading up to it I mentally prepared myself for the combat conditions that would await us inside the hardcore warehouse confines of the Oakland Metro.  It was going to be medieval.  Staying hydrated would be the key to survival.

As H-Hour approached, Team Umlaut infiltrated the 510 early to fuel up at Pacific Coast Brewing before the battle that lay ahead of us.  Despite some spotty table service it was quality face time with good friends (Hail to Sensory Abuse, Rich and Pam Cathead, and Valowar!).  Then we few, we happy few, made our way over to the dark den of sweat that is the Oakland Metro.  However, upon entering the space I was confronted by something that almost harshed my Metal buzz:

A BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN BACK PATCH?!   My only guess is that it's meant to be an ironic tribute to the 80's because there was a Twisted Sister patch on front of the vest.  Kids, irony should be left to the professionals.  Anyway, there would be no "dancing in the dark" tonight.

The local sludge of Noothgrush was probably out of place for some but having them on the bill was a good appetizer since their Doom casually set the table for the old school Death that was to follow.  Benediction were making their first visit to The Bay Area from Birmingham, England even though they've been around almost as long as the headliners.  Having them on the bill gave it that extra historic vibe as it felt like a true English Death Metal invasion and if I'm not mistaken their bass player was in Napalm Death once upon a time. They were great. Autopsy have headlined the Metro before and since this was a hometown show for the veterans they really kicked the energy level up a notch.

Sorry, but if it seems like I was distracted during the support bands it's because I was... I can't properly articulate how important seeing Bolt Thrower was to me.  During Autopsy I stood against a wall watching them, digging their horrifying mayhem, saying "Hi" and shaking hands with friends and acquaintances who walked past, but my head was already in the Bolt Thrower trench sharpening my bayonet. 

The energy in the room was so 1985 East Bay I almost couldn't stand it; the ghosts from Murder In The Front Row were alive again at least for tonight.  Time travel does exist, man.  I can't remember the last time I was in a room where everyone was so excited to see a band.  Umlaut rarely goes down front for big shows anymore, but as Autopsy finished and the crowd thinned out to visit the restrooms, bars, or smoking area I posted up to await the triumphant return of Bolt Thrower.

This is one of those shows where mere words cannot fully express my thoughts and judging from the crowd's reaction I know that the 1,000 other souls in the room felt the same.  Bolt Thrower has an unholy groove to their mayhem that penetrates your skull like a screwdriver between the eyes.  All of the Bolt Thrower fans reading this know what I'm talking about; what makes the band special is as much about medieval brutality as it is the subtle unholy melodies that drives their sound.  The headbanging, pit action, and stage diving were medieval and fantastic all night from the minute the band walked onstage.

[Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse]

Seeing Bolt Thrower only a couple of days after attending Jeff Hanneman's memorial really centered my head again.  After saying goodbye to Hanneman I had the feeling that *my* Metal was eroding and sliding into the ocean of time at a much faster rate.  However, seeing a veteran band like Bolt Thrower being more powerful and compelling than any other band I've seen in recent years calmed me down.  As if he was reading my mind, Karl dedicated 'When Glory Beckons' to Hanneman. 

A lot of people focus on Jo because they still find it a novelty for a woman to be a key member of such a brutal band... but Bolt Thrower are A BAND.  Besides Jo and Martin holding down the fortifications, the withering tone of Gavin and Barry is singular and unrelenting... and Karl is that old school type of frontman... aggressive but also gracious like a proper Englishman.  I loved this band before tonight and I will follow them into battle for eternity now that I've finally witnessed them live.  Bolt Thrower validated the special energy in Oakland by coming back for an unscheduled 2nd encore and laid down some old school with 'In Battle There Is No Law' from their debut album.  HAIL!

[Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse]

As the dust and sweat settled Bolt Thrower had pumped a selection of 16 songs into the collective skulls of Oakland.  The last time I felt as inspired from seeing a Metal band was after the now legendary 2009 show by Amebix when they played San Francisco for the first time ever.  Bolt Thrower and Carcass are the bands who brought me back to Metal after some years of wandering the wilderness of Metal indifference.  I'm a sucker for Grindcore and Crust.  Dirty.  Gritty.  Not pretty.  Also, combine that with the influence fantasy war gaming and military history has in their music and aesthetic and Bolt Thrower are my soul band in many ways.

If you bought one of every Bolt Thrower merch item you would have paid a mere $80 for 7 tees.  Prices were kept old school at $10 to $15; Umlaut went all-in for the $15 tee.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Umlaut can be very jaded, so it was amazing to have a life-altering concert experience again here in the 21st Century... and I'm very thankful for that.  Ironically the day after the show was Memorial Day.

[Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse]

"No Guts!! No Glory!"