Death Angel & Armored Saint, HQ Adelaide, 13/03/09

For a killer thrash show, you couldn't have gone past this one. Death Angel and Armored Saint thrashed the pants of Adelaide's metalheads on Black Friday.


I often find myself excited about tours, but I have rarely gotten so out of my head with excitement as before the Death Angel / Armored Saint tour. While I'm not so much of an Armored Saint fan, I have been a big fan of Death Angel's for a long time: so long, in fact, that my first brush with Death Angel, many years ago, was on vinyl.


Rocking up to HQ on Friday night - early for a change, thanks to my clock still being on Victorian time from a recent visit over that way - I was hell surprised to see very few people lined up. My most immediate reaction was 'wtf'? Surely, with two of the most significant thrash bands in the world on the bill, nearly everybody in the scene worth his or her salt would turn up?


Alas, it was not to be. HQ was not empty, but it was far from even half full: just under 200 people turned up. Contrary to what it looks like at shows like this, there are so many more metalheads in Adelaide. To get on my high-horse for just a moment I have to say: For Christ's sake, Adelaide - no wonder bands are taking our city off their touring schedules! If you bought your tickets early, there'd be no reason to complain that two big shows in one weekend is too expensive!


The small crowd at the show resulted in sets from the first two bands that - intentionally or not - lacked the excitement and enthusiasm that one might get to expect. 


The first band up, locals Truth Corroded, played a set that was pretty metric: as in, paced, timed, static almost. These guys, who have, of late, played gigs that they obviously enjoyed, started out this show with a vibe that they really could be f-cked. 


I imagine that it would be difficult to get enthused, in a venue like HQ, when it looks rather empty, but I would have thought that such a seasoned act like Truth Corroded would do their best to liven things up. Unfortunately, it didn't. There was a small knot of people right at the front of the stage who were into these guys, but the remainder of the crowd was rather apathetic.


As the set went on, however, Truth Corroded warmed up into it - and the crowd started to get warmed up, and it ended on a positive note, so it wasn't all bad. While they were on stage, there was a small - though steady - stream of people turning up, and perhaps this went some way towards encouraging Truthies to ramp it up.


During the break, we headed outside for a smoke. Perhaps because of the small crowd, or perhaps for some other reason, the area out the back was closed off and we all had to stand around out the front of the venue. Although people were initially confused about why the back area wasn't open, it turned out that the fact we were able to go in and out of the venue was we pleased, as well as the fact that the area out the front of HQ is really rather small, seemed to bond the punters to some extent. Conversations were running a million miles an hour left and right as the anticipation for Armored Saint's set started to build; and as the final checks were going on, people started to dive inside.


Having said that, it wouldn't be going too far to say that the majority of the crowd could have seen Armored Saint or not and been perfectly happy: it was Death Angel that brought most of the crowd out to see this show. I have to admit that this also applied to myself.


When Armored Saint hit the stage, they looked tired - three shows in three nights just previously, with travelling in between, doesn't help - and John Bush seemed rather unimpressed with the small crowd. In what could have been a very oblique reference to losing money on this tour, Bush mentioned that after they've played Adelaide and Perth they're planning to go to Tasmania and commit hari kari.


And even though I'm not exactly a huge fan of Armored Saint, I really enjoyed their set. They put their all into this, especially once they saw that the crowd, small as it was, started to really enjoy itself. There were problems with Gonzo's kit: cymbal stands kept falling over and shit; but once they were sussed it went like a dream.


Armored Saint played shit from right across their discography: from March of the Saint, Raising Fear, Saints will Conquer, Symbol of Salvation and Revelation. Trying to do something different in every Aussie city they play in, Adelaide copped Raising Fear, the first time it's ever been played in Australia. The crowd, of course, went nuts. 


If I remember correctly, it was for this track that Mark Osegueda, vocalist for Death Angel, was pulled out of the crowd to join in on vocals. This happened much to the enormous surprise of the punters in the front row, most of whom didn't realise who they had in their ranks!


As they played on, Armored Saint started to look like they were really enjoying themselves, and the crowd was exhausted by the time they left the stage. Joey Vera, though, was the king of enthusiasm for Armored Saint: bounding around the stage like he'd just gotten out of bed full of beans, he did start to put the rest of the very-tired-looking band members to shame.


Again, a rather long hiatus in between bands. The anticipation was building, and building. At any sign of a live instrument kicking up, punters would dive back inside the venue to check and, curiosity satisfied, amble back out the front: only to repeat this action nearly every time it happened.


When Death Angel hit the stage, the crowd went bananas. They kicked off their set with Lord of Hate from their latest album Killing Season and played their way through that release, through Fall from Grace, the Art of Dying, the Ultra Violence, and Act III. To be totally honest, I had such a good time that I didn't bother writing down the setlist. I wish I had: it would make this review so much more complete. 


Death Angel were totally grateful to all the fans, so much so, that Osegueda kept talking about how beautiful Australia is, how beautiful the people and the fans are, and so on. About how much they've always wanted to get to Australia, since even before they were really a band they wanted to tour Australia. 


And with the panache that comes from being around for so long, Osegueda dealt with a couple of the fellas who'd had a fairly strident 'disagreement'. Asking who they were, and getting them to not be shy and actually admit it, Osegueda got right down the front, shared a group hug with them, and then drank his gin with them. That very act - something which caused security to get a bit anxious initially - bonded the crowd in such a way that you rarely see in Adelaide. It was after that point that everyone, regardless of where they were in the venue, really got into the set. They realised that this band - these thrashers from the Bay area, who have been around for a long time (despite their lengthy hiatus) actually gave a shit about them.


Death Angel's set went on, and on, and on. They were slated to play for roughly seventy minutes, but they played for something like one and a half to two hours. They left the stage, to return again and again. At one point, the house lights started to go up - causing Osegueda to make vague remarks about why they went up - so the lights went down and they played on.


I haven't seen a band thrash themselves - all puns intended! - like this since I saw Invocation many, many years ago. Death Angel played until they could almost literally not stand.


All in all, this show was the best I've seen in so long. Yes, I'm a huge thrash fan, and yes in Adelaide we never get to see thrash of this calibre - or at all, come to that! - but it was just incredible.


We rode the thrash high down to Enigma after the show and spent some quality hours with these guys just shooting the shit, so if you weren't at this show, you really f-cking missed out.


Let's hope that Death Angel and Armored Saint get back to our shores again very soon, because the quality of their performances are absolutely top of the line.