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DEATH ANGEL'S Retribution Tour Fascinates Anaheim With 80s Thrash Throwback

By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal

My rating:

Related: Lazarus A.D. interview | Death Angel setlist | Lazarus A.D. setlist

February 20th 2011, Chain Reaction, Anaheim CA: Even though I had been to the Chain Reaction only thrice before tonight, I felt a special connection with the place and always looked for reasons to go back there. Tonight was one such reason, the occasion being Death Angel making a stop on their North American Retribution tour along with a killer line-up of support acts featuring young Wisconsin metallers Lazarus A.D. and hometown heroes Bonded By Blood.

Local Opener 1: By the time I got in, the first local opener was already playing. I didn't quite catch their name because they never announced it and none of the people in my proximity seemed to know. But the youngsters brought with them some great exuberance, playing a short but intense set. Kids in the crowd were stage diving and moshing quite a lot during their set, which is always a good sign for the band on stage, meaning the crowd is digging them.

Local Opener 2: The second band was called Schizoids, a hardcore punk act. They really didn't fit this thrash bill and very few people in the crowd responded to them at all. Hence I would reserve my judgement until I see them open up a hardcore punk show.

Mutants Of War: Then came Mutants Of War, a thrash band from Chino CA featuring current Bonded By Blood vocalist Mauro Gonzalez on vocals. They were sounding absolutely killer, but their set was plagued by some weird problems. I can't quite place the exact medical term at this moment, but their drummer wasn't able to handle any kind of light. So they played in almost complete darkness. The crowd still showed their support by keeping the mosh going. Due to delays and problems they had to cut the set short to only about 20 minutes. But Mutants Of War really brought it tonight with their sound. It's great to know that such bands are keeping the local scene going strong.

Bonded By Blood: Mauro was back on stage to pull double duty laying down vocals for Bonded By Blood. They seemed to pull quite a huge section of their own fans to the place tonight, as the atmosphere during their set was simply electric. Barring some technical problems with Juan's guitar, they sounded better than I've ever seen them, and I've seen them a lot of times. The highlights of their set were "Mind Pollution" and "Prototype Death Machine". Mauro is a turning out to be a great frontman for BBB, and I couldn't think of anyone better to replace the mighty Jose "Aladdin" Barrales.

Lazarus A.D.: It's been a while since this band has been on tour, mainly because they were busy writing a new album. The last time they played the LA area was opening for Kreator in March 2010. They're one of my favorite young bands and to say that I was looking forward to this, would be the understatement of 2011 so far. Their new songs blended together with the older material brilliantly, and to me those tunes didn't even feel like new. They made perfect use of their alloted 30 minutes, which by the way was much too short for a direct support band in my opinion. Their new album "Black Rivers Flow" has further raised the level of respect I've had for them as musicians, and to top that, they pull off tunes like "The Ultimate Sacrifice" and "American Dreams" excellently in a live setting. They were very well received by the crowd tonight. They not only fit this bill, but also succeed in being one band that gives you something extra. In addition to the thrash element, their guitar harmonies and grooves are like bonus features.

Death Angel: All of that was said and done, and it was time for the Bay Area thrash quintet everyone was waiting to see. Straightaway, they opened with new material and nailed it to such an extent that it was sounding even better than on the album. Even though the latest album "Relentless Retribution" was heavily featured in the set, they mixed it perfectly with some great older tunes, and the fact that they waited to do this tour now, five months after the album's release, has turned out to be an excellent strategy because it has given a fair chance to fans to get themselves acquainted with the new songs.

In addition, the debut album "The Ultra-Violence" was pretty well represented with three killer tunes, and as expected, these drew the best response from a highly charged up crowd. In fact, the band did justice to their entire six-album catalog by putting together some brilliant selections from them. And as if that wasn't enough, they paid their tributes to those who deserve it, by playing two cover tunes even though the first of these was done without vocals and was played only till the end of the first verse. Mark was sounding absolutely amazing on the second cover, and had the whole crowd singing each and every word with him. I also thought that the order of songs on the set list had its impact as well. When bands decide to play one of their albums in entirety, I almost feel like they're taking a bit of a shortcut, and the art of arranging a good set is lost in that case. Death Angel weren't about to have any of that, and the transition from song to song was solid, specially from the first encore tune to the next.

Mark was repeatedly thanking the crowd for making them feel part of an old school 80s thrash show, and even said they prefer this venue much more than Galaxy Theatre, the other popular Orange County venue. It really felt like the band and crowd were feeding off of each other's energy, and there was absolutely nothing that separated the two from mingling with each other. Stage divers were getting up on stage every other minute, and the mosh pits were pretty much non-stop for the entire 90 minutes of Death Angel's stay on stage. If ever there was a pair of venue and band made for each other, it's Chain Reaction and Death Angel, a match made in thrash heaven.

Mark's band mates handled the small size of the stage really well and made best use of it. Even with the enormous number of stage dives going on, not a single piece of equipment was damaged. Their interaction with the crowd is also worth mentioning, as they made sure every person inside the venue felt like a part of the show. As for the crowd itself, I'm convinced that out of all venues I go to, Chain Reaction brings the best crowds, the main reason being it's all ages and the majority of the crowd is in the 15-18 age group, some of them may be even younger. I strongly feel that more venues should look at following a similar policy. Cheap tickets, free parking, no age restriction, and no under-age cover charges. Could this venue be any more awesome?

Tonight, for the first time ever I felt like I was part of an early 80s thrash metal show rather than a show taking place on February 24 2011. The vibe was just fantastic and all the bands brought their A game. On a side note, I got stranded after the show ended, walked for close to an hour to the nearest bus stop, got stopped on the way by cops for no reason at all, and eventually got home at 6 AM. Three words: totally worth it.

A memorable night of unbounded insanity.

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