Tour Diary: Living In A Whirlwind – Part 1

By Andrew Bansal

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After spending the best part of the last 15 months on the road with Ventura CA traditional heavy metal trio Night Demon as their all-in-one road crew (merchandiser, tour manager, lighting operator, on-stage mascot), I began the year of 2016 with a new chapter in a new environment, touring with young yet longstanding Los Angeles thrash tyrants Warbringer and selling merch for them as well as for Los Angeles neo-classical thrash kings Exmortus for two months across the USA. Warbringer and Exmortus embarked on this epic heavy metal journey, sharing stages with Swedish heavy metal warriors Enforcer and Canadian old-school metal perpetrators Cauldron, altogether forming a lineup that had all the makings of the absolute best heavy metal show of 2016, despite it coming through the States at the very beginning of the year. Purely as a fan, I would be in the front row at a Warbringer + Enforcer + Cauldron + Exmortus show, banging my head, raising my fist, singing the words and losing my mind from start to finish, but to get to see four of my favorite bands every night for an extensive run of dates and be a part of the operation is nothing short of surreal, a predicament I never ever imagined even in my wildest dreams. This tour diary comes as heavily delayed and much later than I would have ideally wanted to present it to you lovely readers, for several reasons including the sheer workload of working merch for two successful bands, and the mental and physical turmoil I suffered at the US/Canada border. Regardless, here is Part 1 of ‘Living In A Whirlwind': Continue reading

The Sloppy Seven: Worst Live Performances Of 2015

By Andrew Bansal

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Good music and live performances deserve credit for all the right reasons, and that’s what we here at Metal Assault primarily focus on with our coverage, but mediocre, half-hearted, sloppy performances also need to be recognized to the same degree, and in keeping with our yearly tradition, we present you this year’s Sloppy Seven. For starters, Mastodon would have certainly been in this list for their horrendous headline show at the Palladium, but they redeemed themselves with a surprisingly great set as opening act to Judas Priest and get away with just an honorable mention. I purposely avoided the bands that made it onto past Sloppy Seven lists because I knew there would be others around that were capable of putting on a show just as bad. Without further ado, here are the Sloppy Seven for 2015: Continue reading

The Lemmy Interview Revisited

By Andrew Bansal

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In honor and memory of the late great Lemmy Kilmister who was officially reported deceased due to illness on December 28th 2015, I decided to dig up the one and only interview I got to do with him, at the House Of Blues Anaheim on January 25th 2011. It was the first show of Motörhead’s North American headline tour in support of their 20th and then latest studio album ‘The World Is Yours’, with support acts Clutch and Valient Thorr. The Lemmy biopic had also been released around the same time. A few hours before the show, just after the band was done with their soundcheck, I was escorted into the Motörhead dressing room along with my photographer by the tour manager. Lemmy greeted us and offered us a drink, and then we sat down for the interview. Nearly five years and 1000+ interviews later, this still remains as my favorite interview till date. On a sad day in rock ‘n roll history, let’s laugh in Lemmy’s honor by revisiting this candid, hilarious conversation [original story]: Continue reading

Best Shows Of 2015

By Andrew Bansal

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Being a Los Angeles resident has its struggles, but they are outweighed by the perks, specially for metalheads, as we get the opportunity to attend concerts big and small featuring bands local, national, international, mainstream and underground, on a nightly basis. Till date I’ve attended 320 shows in 2015 alone, and coming up with a list of the best among them was a daunting task, but I tried my best. By ‘best shows’, I mean shows that were great from top to bottom, including the headline act and the openers, except for the odd case where the headliner alone deemed the show worthy of inclusion. Without further ado, here are my picks for the top 20 shows of the year. Continue reading

Show-Stealers Of 2015: 10 Support Acts That Outperformed Their Headliners

By Andrew Bansal

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If you turn up for a concert early enough to see all the bands on the lineup, you often walk away from the show feeling that one of the support acts blew the headliner off the stage and put on a more memorable performance. This happened to me often enough through the year of 2015 that it warranted its own list. These support acts left their respective headliners with insurmountable tasks of following them, and left me in no doubt that they stole the show. Without further ado, here are my picks for ten support acts that outperformed their headliners in 2015, in chronological order:

Cannibal Corpse (co-headlining with Behemoth) @ The Observatory 02/07: Devastating death metal legends Cannibal Corpse do not carry a reputation as a support/co-headline act, and unless it’s a festival-type setting, they hardly ever play anywhere but last. It was a bit of surprise to see them co-headline a US tour with Behemoth this year wherein they would rotate the headline spot every night, and an even bigger surprise that Cannibal Corpse got the second-to-last slot in in one of their strongest markets at the Observatory in Santa Ana, California, a place they can easily sell out on their own. After a quintessentially brutal set of no-frills death metal from them, the Behemoth set was as mundane as a funeral procession. Cannibal Corpse won this one hands down.

Cannibal Corpse

Cannibal Corpse

Striker (supporting Artillery) @ Five Star Bar 04/10: Canadian classic power/speed metal band Striker made a long-awaited appearance in the Los Angeles area at the Five Star Bar, as main support to Artillery, and played an incredible set that was not only worth the years of waiting, but left no one in doubt that they were the best band of the show. Soaring lead vocals and guitar harmonies to go with delightful galloping rhythms, and powerful vocal choruses
made this Striker set one to remember. Four microphone stands at the front of the stage is a rare sight in metal these days, and Striker pull it off with great success, proving to be a treat for old-school metalheads and a menace for bands that have to follow their act on stage.

Striker

Striker

Clutch (supporting Mastodon) @ Hollywood Palladium 04/29: Maryland hard rock veterans Clutch supported Mastodon on a full tour this year and put in a performance that did not leave Mastodon any chance whatsoever to claim their worth as headliners, specially with Mastodon’s own inconsistencies as a live band. It is heartening to note that Clutch’s fan base has grown exponentially in recent years after periods of obscurity. They certainly brought their fans in good numbers to help fill out a venue as big as the Palladium. With an assortment of tunes new, old and unreleased, and frontman Neil Fallon in his absolute element, they showed that their recent success is no coincidence or stroke of luck.

Clutch

Clutch

Saxon (supporting Motörhead) @ Riverside Live 08/19: The old guard of British old-school metal stood strong in 2015, as Saxon conquered stages all over North America as support act to fellow Britishers only a few years senior to them, Motörhead. Keeping their creativity intact and producing new material at a prolific rate while maintaining the performance standards when it comes to doing justice to the classics and deep cuts on stage, Saxon can really do no wrong at present, and they undoubtedly outdid Motörhead on the first show of this tour at Riverside Live.

Saxon

Saxon

Against The Grain (supporting The Atomic Bitchwax & Mos Generator) @ Loaded 09/05: Even as the third band on this bill, Detroit, Michigan speed rockers Against The Grain dominated the stage at Loaded Hollywood and left the audience, comprising majorly of first-timers, visibly stunned. Foot-stomping and neck-breaking to the maximum, Against The Grain are throwing down the gauntlet for bands bigger than them and are invariably coming out on top. Any band that considers themselves a great live act should play after Against The Grain and re-evaluate, because at this point in time there is no challenge tougher than following this band.

Against The Grain

Against The Grain

Queensrÿche (supporting Scorpions) @ The Forum 10/03: Metal legends Queensrÿche expanded their fan base quite enormously this year as touring support act to the mighty Scorpions. The demographic in attendance for the show at the Forum in Los Angeles clearly indicated that nearly everyone had bought their tickets for the Scorpions alone. But when it came down to sheer performance and musicianship, Queensrÿche proved to be a well-oiled machine led by the exemplary singing of Todd La Torre that succeeded in filling such a massive room, and even though the Scorpions brought the stage production, Queensrÿche was the better band.

Queensrÿche

Queensrÿche

Fireball Ministry (supporting Zakk Sabbath) @ The Viper Room 10/10: Fresh off a successful appearance on Motörhead’s Motörboat for the second year in a row, longstanding Los Angeles stoner rock group Fireball Ministry played two nights at the Viper Room supporting Zakk Wylde’s Black Sabbath tribute band Zakk Sabbath. I was in attendance for night #2, and the event unfolded exactly as I had expected and imagined, with the awesome foursome of Jim Rota, Scott Reeder, Emily Burton and John Oreshnick stamping their class and authority all over that Viper Room stage and leaving a longlasting impression on the most stubborn and diehard BLS vest-clad Zakk Wylde fanboys. The much hyped star-studded Sabbath tribute did not come anywhere near close to matching the soul-soothing set of original heavy tunes by Fireball Ministry that have stood and will stand the test of time.

Fireball Ministry

Fireball Ministry

Danava (supporting Windhand) @ The Roxy 11/01: Following the past few years of inactivity, Portland, Oregon heshers Danava announced their comeback with a tour supporting Uncle Acid in 2014, and took it several notches higher on the follow-up tour with Windhand this year. Discarding the usage of live synth and resorting to a classic four-piece, two-guitar setup, Danava are more in-your-face with their brand of stoner rock than they ever have been, and they exhibited it in plenty at the Roxy, scorching the stage and putting forth one of the most memorable performances ever seen. Boasting of a hefty dosage of their stellar 2011 release ‘Hemisphere Of Shadows’ along with new material, it was the kind of Danava set that equated to love at first sight and listen for those unfamiliar with them, and as soon as they stepped off the stage, there was no doubt that the best band of the night had already played.

Danava

Danava

Black Cobra (supporting Yob) @ The Echo 11/20: San Francisco sludge duo Black Cobra have played destructive sets in the Los Angeles area for several years now, but none more so than their performance at the Echo as support act to Yob. Having experienced a horrendous van accident earlier on the tour, Black Cobra came in with that extra ounce of angst and firepower and stepped on that stage with a sense of purpose, zoning out in their own world of unrelenting sludge and orchestrating a violent awakening upon the audience. Continually defying the norm by bringing unmatched levels of heaviness as a mere two-piece, Black Cobra sounded cleaner and stronger at the Echo than they ever did at an LA show, and no band on the planet could have followed this set, not even Yob.

Black Cobra

Black Cobra

Enslaved (supporting Between The Buried And Me) @ The Mayan 11/29: Norwegian progressive extreme metal mainstays Enslaved showcased their mastery and expertise all over the Mayan stage with a mind-blowingly contrasting onslaught of proggy passages and black metal outbursts, alternating between the most powerful guttural vocals and the most captivating clean singing. They presented tunes from their latest work of genius ‘In Times’ as well as selections from the rest of their 25-year career, combining unparalleled musicianship with exemplary lighting patterns and crystal clear front-of-house mix. This Enslaved set was nothing short of godly, and left Between The Buried And Me, an undeniably great band in their own right, with a truly impossible task. Enslaved are at the peak of their powers, a peak that heightens with every creative endeavor and every subsequent touring cycle, and it’s hard to imagine a bigger band outclassing them any time soon.

Enslaved

Enslaved

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