Triumph of Death: Vader makes successful return to Orange County

By Jason Williams
(photos by Karina Diane)

June 5th 2017, Malone’s, Santa Ana CA: As metalheads, we’ve all had our special moments and revelations, with the music that we hold dear to our hearts. Whether it was the first time you heard Megadeth, saw your first Slayer concert, these are pinpoint memories you will never forget. One of those in my life was in 2002. Downtown Chicago had an unforgettable metal record store, Dark Haven. Newly introduced to extreme music, I found an album from a band called Vader. ‘Revelations’ was just released, and putting the album on at random, ‘Wolftribe’ was the very first song I heard, and a fierce spark within me exploded. The sheer drumming precision and glowing power of this profound death metal sound, accompanying a commanding vocal attack that sent troops to fight mystic creatures, as well as a whammy bar solo style I thought only Slayer could perform, this took me by storm. 15 years later, and 12 times seeing Vader over that time span, this show at Malone’s in Santa Ana CA was a glorious return for the band, as this was part of their first North American tour in four years. The Polish death metal masters brought forth a diverse and strong touring package alongside, and even a summer Monday would not stop the rabid and eager fans from attending.

This event’s festivities featured the 5 touring bands as well as 5 local bands. Malone’s holds 2 stages, thus allowing each band to play while the other stage is set up. Normally, I would be against a 10-band show on a Monday, but, you can do it under proper circumstances. The venue was slowly packing in right at 5:30, with ADHD Entertainment promoting this show at their other shows and through social media, flyers, word of mouth, the right way to promote any show, and a show of this magnitude. Major props to Jason Tyler for conducting this event with true professionalism and passion.

On the side stage, Disciples of Death were greeted with eager cheers from the ones already in the building. Long Beach’s own, Disciples of Death (or DOD as they prefer) played the style of grooving and fast death metal you would normally hear, but it was nice to hear the bass guitar amped up to a fair degree. The blast beats present, it actually buried the guitar somewhat, creating a more buzzing sound, but not in the Bloodbath or Entombed way. However, their slower songs had a catchy groove, and the technicality of the riffs stood out more too. The audience also seemed to prefer their mid-paced moments as well. There isn’t a lot of information on the band just yet, through social media or other places, but it seems that they’re just starting out, so more chance for DOD to gain new followers, create more material, and find their sound.

The second band of the evening, as well as the first touring band playing, Micawber brought forth their Wisconsin death metal to the audience, and to simply say, they were the surprise of the night. Professional sounding, excellent musicianship, and a commanding presence immediately in sight, Micawber cleverly embedded the American death metal music we all know and love, but bringing out the European technicality along with it. Vocalist/guitarist Leighton Thompson’s fierce growling and twisted riff play alone had the fans standing still in awe and nodding their heads for the entirety of their 30 minute set. His axe mate Derek Debruin matched every bleak and memorable note, having a real chemistry on stage. ‘The Gods of Outer Hell’ and ‘Funeral March’ stood out the most, with the immense breakdowns in between their hellish solos, and the quality vocal work of Leighton could not be ignored. I had not heard a single thing about the band, and I absolutely do now. Micawber put forth an excellent performance, and truly were one of the best acts of the night.


Micawber set list:
1. The Gods of Outer Hell
2. King of Ash
3. Icon of Extinction
4. Funeral March
5. Beyond the Reach of Flame
6. Hellbender

Goreatorium were met with a very warm welcome from the crowd, as also Malone’s was slowly becoming more packed. They were the first and only gore metal band of the evening, and the vocalist Dr. Death was holding his mic stand complete with props, two detached arms, and some green filled needle shots. It worked for their lyrical content, songs like ‘In a Ditch Full of Piss’ and ‘Toy Box Killer’ notwithstanding. The slam riffs were chunky, the drumming quite stellar, and Dr. Death’s mud-slinging gutturals were all the audience needed to move around in delight, eager for each and every song played. As with DOD previously, their slower moments and grooving riffs, which is quite common in gore metal, enabled the gurgles to compliment nicely. The audience truly enjoyed Goreatorium, especially with Dr. Death “injecting” a fan, asking him to become a zombie, and it’s a metal show, of course the fan obliged. For fans of gore metal, Goreatorium played well and hope to see them on more touring packages soon.

Goreatorium set list:
1. Midnight Meat Train
2. In a Ditch Full of Piss
3. Toy Box Killer
4. Homicidal Ideation
5. Cannibal Cop
6. The Purity
7. The Rotting

By this time, the venue was heavily packed, the evening crowd making its way out of rush hour traffic, and glowing with excitement for the rest of the bands, including the one up on the main stage, local favorites Voices of Ruin. Seeing the crowd with shirts of the band, and stepping closer to the stage, it was clear to see this was one of the main attractions for this epic Vader night. As the band kicked off the set with ‘Scars (Of My Sanity)’ from their 2015 release ‘Born from the Dark’, the crowd went into a frenzy, salivating over their melodic death metal. Their mix on stage was outstanding, with every note and drum beat clearly audible anywhere in the venue, and it showed the strength of each Voices of Ruin show that I’ve attended of theirs. It was also the biggest show I’d seen them play, and they took advantage of every nook and cranny. Frontman Dave Barrett’s pulled off his job to get the audience going as well as belt out his range of screaming highs with effortless ease. ‘The Banger’ was a new song, and showed growth and progress through the guitar work of Dave’s brother Tom, and rhythm guitarist Steve Carlton. Attention to each note and harmony was fully realized. By being on this Vader tour and in particular their performance here, this band has proved they can be much more than just a local. Their set went by quickly, and they were met with so far the loudest reaction from the fans. Easily one of the “least brutal” bands on this tour, as well as tonight, Voices of Ruin captured the audience and played the best set I’ve seen from them so far.

Voices Of Ruin

Voices Of Ruin set list:
1. Scars (Of My Sanity)
2. The Awakening
3. The Banger
4. Death’s Design
5. Exiled into Darkness

A difficult act to follow, Deformity gladly took the challenge next on the side stage, wowing Malone’s immediately with an incredibly proficient drummer and wonderfully constructed riffage that would make the elite death metal bands proud. Their mix of brutal moshing moments and technicality were met with some mosh pits in the crowd, and some people even knew the words to the songs. Bassist/vocalist Aramis Arredondo loved every minute, smiling at the crowd while growling and proficiently moving around on the fret board. Intense start-stop death metal with the counterpoints and rapid pace, there was much to enjoy in their set, and hoping they’ll release an EP or an album in the near future. Deformity was the strongest band on the local package, and would be a great addition to many more support shows down the road.

At this time unfortunately, it was revealed that Vader and Sacrificial Slaughter had bus issues traveling from their last show in Mesa, Arizona. However, the delays caused no concern for the fans, the set times for the remaining bands were just moved up, and it only made the anticipation for the rest of the show that much higher. This was out of control for the venue, ADHD Entertainment, and the bands too. Just circumstances that do happen on the touring road, but it wouldn’t ruin the evening by any stretch.

Since Sacrifical Slaughter had still not arrived, the side stage was quickly broken down and set back up by Sicarius, the sole black metal act of the night. The crowd ate up vvocalist K. Karcass’s high gurgles and strong stage presence. However, the music didn’t stand out too much for me. Although proficient in their musicianship, their black metal sound wasn’t too memorable or particularly interesting. But the audience enjoyed it very much, and especially for many not knowing who this band was either. Sicarius made a lot of new fans tonight, and although they didn’t do too much for me, seeing them play on a more black metal tour would probably be a better fit.

The last of the side stage, Infirmity was up, and as an interesting intro, was playing a weird punk riff. I wasn’t sure if it was just a gag or part of their intro on an album, but as soon as it ended, they blasted the venue with some old-school death metal. They surely caught the audience off guard, but people were happy with the surprise. Head-banging riffs, a vocal attack from both guitarists Kevin Lowery and Daniel Shultz, and drummer Zach Ramirez kept each other intact with the music taking over the crowd. ‘Depths of Regression’ was anything but a regression, with a fantastic middle section of death metal melodies and technical moments, including bassist Brent Gore getting a mini-solo in between the harmonies. The chugging moments and octave chords presented in ‘Infatuated with Intoxication’, along with the memorable guitar solo, gave me more hope for the local death metal scene. Infirmity were impressive, and I’m looking forward to their progression.


Shortly after Infirmity played, the rest of the tour finally arrived, and as everyone was setting up the main stage in literally 5 minutes for Sacrificial Slaughter, Malone’s was packed to capacity and ready for the last three bands of the evening. Sacrificial Slaughter came out with blistering energy and profound purpose. Upset of course from the travel delay out of their control, they came out with no mercy, and the first real intense mosh pit of the evening took place. Vocalist and tour manager, who mainly helped get the tour up and running this evening despite the delays, Steve Worley was energized by this wonderful crowd, and his was one of the stronger vocal performances I’ve seen. Speaking of, I loved their new three-pronged vocal attack, with the backups coming from both guitar players, James Sorley and Necro Nick. They switched from a fast pace to a chanting one that had the crowd singing the lyrics to ‘Communion of Lies’. The fast paced action of the vocals were a blast, and showed a huge improvement of their sound and musicianship from when I saw them four years ago. ‘Reign of the Hammer’ had the crowd moving on Worley’s command, and the energy felt in the air could not be denied. Sacrficial Slaughter was on a 30 minute mission, and launched brilliantly with great execution. Easily the best set I have seen them play, and look forward to this new energy and drive I saw tonight.

Second to last, and in no ways inferior, legendary New York slam veterans Internal Bleeding were met with a roaring approval and horns all across Malone’s. With some lineup changes and difficult moments for the band in very recent memory, this only fabricated their performance to an even higher degree. Vocalist Joe Marchese was like a rabid animal waiting to be released into the wild, never stopping a moment while giving out a wonderful growling performance, something my death metal spirit truly enjoyed. He demanded the audience to “show New York what California Metal is all about”, and their dose of grand slam riffing and breakneck sound brought forth the aggression all through their set. A classic amongst the hardcore fans, ‘Inhuman Suffering’ was easily the highlight, with many in attendance screaming along and bringing forth the energy these legends fully deserve. Founder and guitarist Chris Pervelis runs the ship well, and with a mostly new lineup, is showing fantastic relevance to this day with a real signature slam death metal that Internal Bleeding was truly one of the pioneers of. Driven to conquer, Internal Bleeding slayed Malone’s.

Joe Marchese – Internal Bleeding

Internal Bleeding set list:
1. Aftermath
2. Languish in Despair
3. The Visitant
4. Final Justice
5. Anointed in Servitude
6. Fabricating Bliss
7. Falling Down
8. Inhuman Suffering

12:25 AM, despite the show running an hour-and-a-half behind due to the unforeseeable circumstances earlier in the day, Malone’s was still packed to the rafters, basically sold out on this Monday evening. If every single show had this level of attendance, passion and dedication even under these provisions, metal itself would be immensely greater. And not a moment later, there were chants of “Vader” (I feel the easiest and best chant for metal bands. Two syllables, short and sweet to the point) as the PA intro capped off. This was my 13th Vader show, and they were absolutely not messing around despite the late start time, as classic and fan favorite ‘Wings’ started off their shortened yet still unforgettable 60 minute set. Vader playing ‘Wings’ first is like Cannibal Corpse playing ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ early in their set (saw it happen in 2005, the crowd lost it completely). Anything played from the ‘Litany’ album brings much joy to fans, and ‘Silent Empire’ brought all the memories into a death metal delight personified. The song is 22 years old, but still a mainstay in death metal. The drumming of James Stewart, in the band now fo 6 years, was at an all time elite level, from the magical cymbal work displayed in the beginning of ‘Dark Age’ to the whirlwind level of speed on the other fan classic ‘Carnal’. Compared to when I saw Vader 4 years ago, there has been an unbelievable level reached by Stewart, and had the crowd bowing to him constantly.

With a legendary band, comes the magical ones responsible for said band. Frontman, leader, founder of Vader, vocalist and riffing extraordinaire Peter Wiwczarek, was in total command of every fan in attendance. Someone I truly admire for creating quality albums year after year, compelling tremolo riffing with a tasteful sense of morbid harmonies, having an astonishing vision and voice for an eclectic death metal and thrash combination. It gave me chilling goosebumps seeing the Vader tank continue forth under his reign and command. Even at his age, there is no decay or downside to his live performance. His clear growling/yelling is still steel-like strong and he is even using a higher vocal attack to add to his arsenal. As a guitarist he has an elite whammy bar technique he is known for, along with the tapping attack. It’s a breathtaking honor to witness Peter’s creation of Vader, and its continued growth through all the years.


Guitarist Spider was not one to be ignored by any means, and provided the more melodic and straightforward soloing, complementing Peter’s chaotic guitar-playing style. Also, the band moved around more than I’ve seen in past days, riling up the crowd to a mountain size degree. ‘Tempest’ and ‘Send Me Back to Hell’ were the highlights off their stellar new record, ‘The Empire’. Their sound and style changes very little on each album, but the ingredients vary enough that you can appreciate each record furthermore. The last song of the evening, something Vader is known for since I’ve first seen them in 2002, was their outstanding rendition of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’. Peter didn’t even have to sing the lyrics, as the crowd was happily singing with him. Sweat, tears, rage, emotion, and madness, all enraptured Malone’s and all those happy to be part of this monumental death metal event. Vader stealing the show with soaring colors and unforgettable carnage, four years was definitely too long to wait, and hoping we’ll get much more Vader sooner than ever possible.

Being a part of the metal scene gives me the most privileged moments of my well being, helping me grow to be the person I am today, and something that is embedded into my heart. Vader was one of the bands to help make that to what it is now, and for any possible chance any of you can see your favorite band, a band that helped see a part of you, that you never saw possible, join the empire.

Vader set list:
01. Wings
02. Triumph of Death
03. Silent Empire
04. Tempest
05. Prayer to the God of War
06. Dark Age
07. Vicious Circle
08. Sothis
09. Testimony
10. Carnal
11. One Step to Salvation
12. Parabellum
13. Cold Demons
14. Send Me Back to Hell
15. Raining Blood (Slayer cover)

If you like what you’ve read/seen, buy a shirt and help keep Metal Assault running full time!

If you live in LA, San Diego or Sacramento, come to one of our events!