Concert Review – Testament/Flotsam and Jetsam
I find it interesting that the days before and immediately after this Testament show was/is snowy and miserable. A cancellation would not have surprised me, but on Monday the 25th, the sun was shining and the Interstate highway nice and clean…as if a gift from the Metal Gods telling me I must attend the show. So, after a full day of work and a 103 mile drive to Denver with my GPS voiced by America’s best Dad Homer Simpson, I made my way to the Summit Music Hall in downtown Denver, CO. My goal was to get there before Flotsam and Jetsam, but as luck would have it I arrived in time to see all the bands…which was a super bonus.
First let’s talk venue because that‘s something important. A venue can make or break a show either with poor acoustics or inadequate viewing. This was my first time there, in fact, my first show in America in nearly five years. It was adequately spaced for maximum mosh pit exuberance with ample standing and seating areas for people like me who no longer partake in good friendly violet fun. My perch was on a staircase landing leading up to the small balcony area. From there, I could see the entire stage from a point slightly higher than the band about 25 feet back. I had full view of the moshers which is always interesting to watch. The only downside to this real estate was having to stand there for the duration. If I left for any reason, my space would have been taken. So, there I stood for all four bands. Good thing I hit the bathroom as soon as I walked in the door and picked up my Testament attire from the merch stand straight away.
With everyone’s equipment pre-staged, there wasn’t much room for Havok to move around. Not that it matters, the music is what this is all about. They are from Denver and got to play to their hometown crowd. Apparently, they are making a name for themselves; the crowd knew who they were and donned their shirts. They had a cool one that said “no karate in the pit” in big letters on the back. I regret not buying that. I am a Havok music virgin, but after listening to their ball-busting old-school thrash things are about to change. These guys have that raw appeal I find lacking with many new bands. They reminded me of a few bands old and new…Exodus, Evile, and Destruction perhaps with a pinch of Slayer. I like every song they played even though I couldn’t tell you what they were except for one they announced was called D.O.A. During their set they mentioned going in the studio next week for a summer 2013 release of new material…I will be looking out for that one!
4Arm was up next and they are from the land down under. They’ve come a long way to open for two other bands. They are another outfit I never heard until show time. They have the same-ish appeal as Havok, but with a bit more of a melodic touch with some of their songs. Their riff-heavy music and thrash cadence was well-received by the crowd who started the pit at Havok and never stopped. The Australian quartet rocked it; continuing on with good old uncompromising thrash. I am not familiar with their discography, but that will soon change as well. They played a great set and so far, the sound was great and I know it gets better as the evening progresses.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
Old-school thrashers Flotsam and Jetsam got to play a bit longer due to Overkill leaving the tour early. I was especially excited to see them since it was my first time. I have been largely and on/off again fan of their music from the old stuff to the very newest. Their latest album, Ugly Noise, will be released in April 2013 and I look forward to that. Flotsam played at least two songs from their new album, Ugly Noise and Gitty Up, both very promising. Then they went right to the older material and treated the pit-ready audience to Hammerhead, No Place For Disgrace, and Swatting at Flies to name a few. There were a few others in there I can’t remember or I am not familiar with, but overall it was a great set. The only downside was that vocalist Eric A.K. had obvious vocal troubles as I am sure the winding down of a tour takes its toll on vocal cords. He wasn’t shy about telling us, but then again it was obvious. However, he soldiered on and that was very metal of him.
Testament hit the stage and kicked things into gear with Rise Up off their new album Dark Roots of Earth. It truly got the crowd pumped up chanting “Waaar” when Chuck said “when I say rise up, you say war.” It’s really a great opening song. Of course, more lights and better sound just got the blood pumping as the pit widened and engulfed innocent bystanders. I was a huge fan of Testament back in the late 80s and consider myself a loyal fan for life. I always thought of Alex Skolnik as being the strongest part of the band (and still do), but God damn that Gene Hoglan is a beast behind the kit. He’s drumming a million miles an hour and just looking at the crowd like he’s thinking of what bills to pay next. Not that he looks bored, but just focused and killing it. He played with lightning speed at relative ease. Skolnik’s guitar solos were precise as you would expect and everything fell into place for a great set. There is some excellent talent in Testament.
Testament knocked out most of the newer material fairly early with More Than Meets The Eye, True American Hate, Dark Roots Of Earth, and Native Blood. They took a trip down memory lane with classic Burnt Offerings, The Haunting, Trial By Fire, and Into The Pit. Practice What You Preach was a crowd pleaser and also D.N.R and Riding The Snake, the latter which I must have missed from The Gathering. I am going to have to revisit that because it was a killer song live. As far as I can tell, without looking at a setlist, Testament skipped over Demonic, Low, The Ritual, and Souls of Black. Essentially, this was a ball-busting setlist featuring some of Testament’s heaviest new and old tracks.
If my memory serves me, this is the 6th time in the presence of Testament; my third time seeing them as headliners. They played great and everything was on time. It was a bonus to see 4Arm and Havok because now I have some new bands to look into in the near future. The venue gets high marks for me due to viewing ability, sound, roominess, access from the Interstate, and parking. Most importantly, the evening was a night of pure thrash!
Below is an older clip of The Haunting, but good quality.