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“THIS NEXT ONE’S ABOUT SATAN”: KREATOR/EXODUS/BELPHEGOR/WARBRINGER/EPICUREAN AT THE “HORDES OF CHOAS” TOUR

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exodusThis past Friday, I decided to take a break from writing my latest book Savage Son to catch some old school, new school, and something-in-between-school metal. After spending a sweltering hot day at the San Antonio Zoo with my three-year-old daughter and witnessing a Gibbon monkey with an anal prolapse and a pair of crusty old horny humping turtles, I figured the Kreator-led Hordes of Chaos Tour at San Antonio’s Scout Bar might actually be a bit less mentally taxing.

It definitely was, but in a good way.

The doors opened at the very non-metal hour of 7:00 p.m., thus ensuring I would not catch Epicurean’s set. I walked in on literally the last song of their set. I have no idea what song they were playing, but they reminded me of Unearth in both sound and image – not a good thing.

No problem, as I was stoked to finally see New Kids on the Thrash Block, Warbringer. The Ventura, California-based retro-thrashers had already blazed through Satantonio a couple of times and I had missed each set. Not this time.

After seeing these really young looking guys tear up their tiny-allotted space, there is still hope that the recent Thrash Revival is the real deal. Along with Mantic Ritual, Gamma Bomb, Fueled by Fire, Bonded by Blood, and Evile, Warbringer pay homage to their obvious forefathers including Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, and Overkill while putting their own 21st-century spin on events.

Lead singer John Kevill brings energy and a solid stage presence to the crowd with enough Invisible Oranges and Woody Woodpecker headbangs to make any mosher happy. I’m not so sure, however, about that milky sputum he puked onto the heads of the unsuspecting front row headbangers, not to mention the biggest fucking snot rocket I’ve ever seen since Puck from Real World 2.

Approximately halfway through Warbringer’s set, Kevill announced that their drummer Nic Ritter had been out of commission for more than a month with a broken elbow. Ably filling in was Epicurean drummer John Gensmer. Unfortunately, the band only offered up five songs – whether it was due to set-time constraints imposed by the headliners or Gensmer’s stamina, I’m not sure – but the crowd definitely wanted more of these new Thrash titans in the making. I especially liked Kevill’s intro to “At the Crack of Doom” that gives this article its title – “This one’s about Satan!”

After hearing the likes of “Total War,” “Living in a Whirlwind,” from their forthcoming new album Waking Into Nightmares, and the brilliant, “Combat Shock,” Warbringer left the fans wanting much, much more.

Next up, and seemingly out of place on this bill, were Austrian black metallers Belphegor. Any doubts about their inclusion were immediately erased, however, as soon as the band marched onto stage and proceeded to tear the crowd a new one. Led by ferocious guitarist/lead howler Helmuth, Belphegor did not opt for corpsepaint and stage props, but instead, wicked guitar playing and unearthly growls from the bowels of Satan’s nutsack.

The incredibly fit Helmuth led the charge with his uncanny ability to rip leads, bellow from hell, and dole out the coolest fist-to-chest bump in metal I have ever witnessed. While certain elements of black metal can come across as relentlessly cheesy in a live setting, Belphegor appears heavy as fuck, and a little eerie at times – something missing from most metal today. Highlights of Belphegor’s set included “Soaked in Blood” and Helmuth’s donning of a bespiked bondage mask for the title track to their last album Bondage Goat Zombie.

The real reason I ventured out was to check out the latest incarnation of Bay Area thrash legends Exodus. It had been more than 22 years since I had last witnessed Exodus in Austin (with Celtic Frost), with Steve “Zetro” Souza on vox, touring behind The Pleasures of the Flesh album (yes, album). This time around, lead guitarist Gary Holt, a MetalSucks favorite around the mansion, brought new singer Rob Dukes in tow.

Had I been a contributor here in 2007, I would have eagerly listed Exodus’ The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A as one of my top 10 albums for the year. I love that album and I think Rob Dukes is a more-than-welcome addition to the band. Though Axl castigated the 2008 Bonded by Blood remake Let There Be Blood, it paid off in spades as the band launched into a post-Enya-inspired intro to unleash “Bonded by Blood” on the ecstatic audience. Dukes hit every note, commanded the stage with his wide girth, and blew away old skool fave Paul Baloff in the vocal department. The S.A. crowd went nuts and would continue to do so for the next hour.

A brilliant mix between the new and the familiar positioned classic cuts such as “A Lesson in Violence” and “Strike of the Beast” alongside such powerful newer tracks as “Children of a Worthless God” and “Iconoclasm.” Despite the twenty-plus years difference in release dates, they all sounded as if they could have come from one album.

Dukes has a knack for keeping the crowd entertained without being overbearing. His seemingly clichéd braggadocio about an after-gig blow job was self-deprecated with doubts as to the sex of the fellator, not to mention Holt’s dis that the giver had “long-hair and was clean shaven.” I’m sure they’ve told the story 100 times in the last year, but you could tell the band was thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Exodus highlights were many: Dukes messing with the crowd about whether or not they would play “Toxic Waltz” (of course, they did); the Wall of Death that preceded said song; the merch girl who jumped on the table to dance to said song; Dukes strumming Holt’s guitar while the latter fretted and drank from a plastic cup simultaneously; and the biggest circle pit I have ever seen inside a club.

Great set, great band, great to see the Old Farts back in rare form.

By the time Kreator hit the stage, this Old Fart had had enough. It had been more than 10 years since I last saw Kreator on tour with industrial metallers Skrew in Portland, Oregon. Back then, in the recent post-grunge world of the Northwest, a whopping 40 people were in the crowd. It was great to see at least 10 times that many show their love and support for the Teutonic titans of thrash this night. I caught four songs including the title track of their latest album Hordes of Chaos before calling it a night. Even though I have seen Kreator seven times prior, I have never been a huge fan, so this small sampler did the trick.

Besides, for me, Exodus were the true headliners — and they killed it.

-CM

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