Dark Tranquillity, Warbringer, and Striker

 

As a photographer, I often get the esteemed privilege of getting just a little bit closer than everyone else to some of my favorite musicians, if for a little while.  Three songs and done per artist is often the rule of thumb, and then you’re likely to find us standing either stage right or left, watching the rest of the set from a profile view or with our noses down, whittling away all the blacked out and blurry shots we might have snapped.  But this time it was different: no photo pit, just a barricade, bands, and fans.  So when I planted myself center stage 20 minutes before the local acts began rumbling from the speakers, I knew that I wouldn’t be giving up that spot for the next four or more hours.  It had been so long since I’d been in the midst of things, the welcome embrace of a true concert-goer experience overwhelmed me at times, and provided me its own weight in photo benefits and challenges.  I’m happy that I was able to share it with so many others as we crammed close to the Fish Head Cantina stage on September 13 and witnessed one band after another deliver great performances.

Inoculum: Official Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

Inoculum was the first local Maryland opener, but one need simply listen to their EP Antigen to be blown away by not only the musical talent, but the production quality behind this act.  Quickly the view that I had captured became far more crowded with another row or two of intrigued listeners and dedicated fans.  It’s rare for me to see this sort of draw from a regional act, but the fact is that this group was truly impressive.

 

Sonic Creeps: Facebook | YouTube

The first act had been a rather straight-forward display of metal music in terms of appearance, but the Sonic Creeps took it to a gothic, 80s post-apocalyptic extreme.  Donning facepaint, gas masks, and other attire that would make the Misfits proud, the sextet unleashed songs such as “Return Of Ed Harley,”   their new single, “Angry Red Planet.” An even larger crowd had gathered around me at this point, many seemingly quite familiar with this second regional group, singing along themselves.

 

Striker: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
New self-titled album: iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby

The high-pitched wail sounding from one of Striker’s classic tunes pierced my ears, but rather than coming from vocalist, Dan Cleary, it was being emitted by an enthused fan standing to my left and his ecstatic girlfriend.  More than once, I had to stop taking photos to grab onto the barricade as tipsy fans pushed as far as they could to reach these five Canadians.  And understandably so, as each member of the group was so outgoing, flexing their biceps, flipping drumsticks, and bringing the microphone up close and personal so that fans could add their voice to the mix.  And honestly, for my musical tastes, Striker’s brand of traditional heavy metal (with just enough hair thrown in the mix) stood as one of the highlights of my evening, full of anthemic chants (backed up by bassist William Wallace), drum poses by Adam Brown, and crazy guitar solos by both Tim Brown and Chris Segger.

 

Warbringer: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

If I had to name one band that came to mind when I think of modern thrash music, Warbringer would certainly come to mind.  Touring in support of their latest album, Woe To The Vanquished, which was released earlier this year, the group have decided to play that album in their entirety.  And they certainly did, shredding through “Silhouettes,” “Shellfire,” and the 11 minute, 11 second closing track, “When The Guns Fell Silent.”  Throughout the performance, vocalist John Kevill carried an almost possessed demeanor, eyes twitching and hands floating through the air, seemingly casting spells upon the audience.  His shrill shrieks filled our ears, accompanied by the dual-guitar attack of Adam Carroll and Chase Becker.  They closed up with a request from the audience, ripping through our being once more with “Living Weapon” from Worlds Torn Asunder.  By the end of this, I had to purchase a patch for my upcoming battle vest.

 

Dark Tranquillity: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Touring in support of their late-2016 full-length album, Atoma, Dark Tranquillity took to a stage covered in the beautiful blue swirls of that album’s artwork, as well as a visual display, courtesy of an overhead projector.  This essentially turned drummer, Anders Jivarp, into a living work of art as the patterns cascaded over his face.  Being front and center meant that I benefit from plenty of great shots of vocalist Mikael Stanne, sometimes more than we bargained for, as his face contorted into sinister smiles mere inches from our own.  Pulling largely from their recent release, Atoma, with healthy samplings of the previous album, Construct, and Fiction, fans seemed overjoyed at everything thrown at them.  I, unfortunately, had to head out about four songs in due to an early morning, giving up my spot to a younger fan, much to his surprise and gratitude.  If you have a chance, I’d highly recommend catching this tour as it comes through your area (featuring DT, Warbringer, and Striker only).  Do yourself a favor: get that front-and-center spot.  You won’t regret it.

CD Review: “Woe To The Vanquished” by Warbringer

Warbringer return with a new album and line-up after a four year absence. Woe To The Vanquished is eight tracks of thrash with a slight progressive influence. The initial single “Silhouettes” is based on a pounding mid-tempo beat and swirling guitar riff that speeds up during the chorus. The song has several rhythm changes and some thrashing riffs, but it sounds juvenile and a bit forced. Things improve on the title track which sounds like vintage Warbringer. It is dynamic thrash metal with manic drumming and guitarists Adam Carroll and Chase Becker throwing out some solid leads. The song’s lyrics delve in to the savagery of war as civilians are abused and killed and nations are conquered. “Remain Violent” touches on police brutality which is a hot topic in America. The song maintains a mid-tempo beat focusing on the lyrics more so than the music. One should commend the band for tackling controversial subjects and not sugar coating them. “Descending Blade” has an intense build-up that bursts into a thrash-fest. This song wades towards Exodus worship with its composition and riffing. The grooving mid-section will incite a mosh pit during the band’s shows and the track concludes in heavy fashion. “Divinity Of Flesh” is a mash of blastbeats and choppy guitar riffs. Somehow, the band keeps it together. The ethereal guitar lead during the mid-section and intertwining riffs are the track’s highlight. The final track “When The Guns Fell Silent” is a morose and dowtrodden 11-minute affair broken up in to five parts. The lyrical themes are inspired by English poets Siegfried Sassoon and Gilbert Frankau, giving an aura of authenticity to the music. It is a fitting end to an album centered on war.

Woe To The Vanquished shows the band has matured with its lyrical content. John Kevill is a doctoral student in history and it is obvious that his love for history influenced this record. War is an extremely popular subject in heavy metal, but few bands have written songs on it that standout. While Warbringer have not written a “One” or “War Ensemble,” Woe To The Vanquished as a whole is a strong concept record about war. The band has improved musically as well, although Warbringer is no Heathen or Exodus. It is good for a band to expand its sound, although some bands can do it quicker than others. Warbringer stumbles when it attempts to play complex progressive metal. However, it sounds good in increments and integrated in to the band’s signature sound.

Warbringer does it right on Woe To The Vanquished. The album may grab listeners instantly or it may grow on you. Still, the quintet has matured as a band and with this record are sure to increase their stock in heavy metal. The band’s devil-may-care approach to metal is still present and it is not a bad thing. In fact, Warbringer’s may be on its way to crafting its masterpiece.

For news and tour dates, check out Warbringer’s official website:

https://www.warbringermusic.com/