Technical progressive act ONI opened up the night at Gas Monkey Live in Dallas, and in spite of the insanely low temperatures even inside the venue, they warmed the crowd up nicely for the following bands to come with their high energy and thrashing about. Only a few short weeks following the release of their debut album, Ironshore, ONI showcased an insane amount of talent and a plethora of notes behind the intricacy of the progressive rhythm and the filth of the vocals. Featuring standout moments from every instrument, the clang and thump of the bass rang through just as powerfully as the guitars, and the xylo-synth matched the shredding guitars almost note for note in harmony, moving as a blur of mallets. We were able to catch them on tour with a short Q&A, found HERE, and I was very impressed and excited to see where they end up.
Next up was thrash metal powerhouse Exmortus, wielding V shaped guitars and a rumbling and powerful bass; a very old school sound. Playing up their live show, they interacted with the crowd quite well, getting circle pits going almost instantly. Weaving between heavy, upbeat power metal, thrashy and classical sounds, they slew a heaping helping of songs including Immortality Made Flesh, Death to Tyrants, For the Horde, and a metal rendition of the classical classic (haha!) Moonlight Sonata. Leading into their final song, Metal is King, they played through the intro of a classic rock song by Boston, as the guys are all huge fans of Boston. Fitting reason if you ask me! After Exmortus’ high energy, upbeat and fun set reminding me once again of WHY I love metal so much, they went out with a bang of well-known songs and at least one new fan.
As the lights dimmed down dramatically, so did the atmosphere, and the venue was engulfed in total darkness as ABBATH, formerly of IMMORTAL, set up for the oncoming storm of their performance. As the light returned, the demonic face of ABBATH himself took the entirety of the back of the stage, and moments later a demon masked drummer entered and sat upon his throne. A horn sounding like that to herald the apocalypse, Abbath and the rest of the band took the stage theatrically, sporting leather armor and metal spikes like the black metal warriors they are. The lightning fast blast beats and blackened riffing brought forth instant smiles from me – the unsuspecting, as I’d never really listened to much of their music, Sporting what I deem the perfect balance of catchy, fast, and heavy moments, their music flows exactly as you’d expect from a seasoned black metal master. Playing a mix of both Immortal songs and originals, they trudged their war engine of a band through “To War!”, Nebular Ravens Winter, Warriors, Ashes of the Damned, Tyrants, and Winterbane. Between songs, he stopped and struck poses similar to that from the old black metal photo shoots that inspired so many to come, all with a seemingly good attitude as the randomness had me laughing a bit. In his own words, “I’m back, motherfuckers”. What a way to return, too. Abbath very well may have stolen the show for me.
By this point in the evening, everyone was smelly and soaked in the copious amount of alcohol thrown across the room as well as the petri dish of sweat that the pit area had become. Anticipating seeing a headlining tour since early high school, my excitement was practically tangible. As the trademark reaper graced the illuminated backdrop, Children of Bodom jumped right in to the opener for my personal favorite album Hate Crew Death Roll, Needled 24/7. Nailing note after note, the melodic death legends led next into the title track of Follow the Reaper, all while whipping their hair back and forth like they’ve done for so many years. The lead guitar and keyboards played off each other, almost as if dueling yet weaving together to build a cacophony of shred. Informing the crowd they seldom perform this one live, fan favorite Trashed, Lost, and Strung out made waves as the mosh pit seemed to lose no momentum. The keyboardist still moving like a machine, one of the lights shining from behind (while unintentionally) hit his active hand and illuminated it in red, almost appearing as if his fingers moved so fast they were catching fire. As Christmas nears, and as it remained ice cold inside, COB led into “Silent Night, Bodom Night”, named after a play on the Christmas classic. “You wanna hear something faster? You wanna hear something heavier?” Alexi Laiho, lead guitarist and vocalist asked, as they swapped guitars, tuned down, and slammed into the title track of the new album, “I Worship Chaos” in which the tour found its namesake. Keeping it going, Alexi displays a true rockstar persona, thrashing to and fro all while balancing varying vocal patterns and crazy shreddy guitar solos. As he addressed the crowd at the end of the song, they took a breather as a sound clip played through the PA for my all-time favorite song of theirs, Angels Don’t Kill. They moved through a few more, including Lake Bodom and Children of Decadence before wrapping up their set, only to return for Hate Me! And Downfall I as their encore songs.
The night was an interesting mix of metal from all different angles, and with no competition to outdo one another, there was a seemingly fresh take as each band took the stage. I was pleased to be exposed to bands that may not have entered my field of vision without this mixed bill, and they honestly all won a new fan as it was a captivating and fun experience. This type of tour can have mixed results, as some fans may enjoy just one and dislike the rest, but the talent spoke for itself and brought a lot to the table, whether it be thrash, melody, progressive rhythm, or all-encompassing darkness.