Testament / Exodus / Death Angel – Vienna Arena, February 20th 2020
The Bay Strikes Back!
Vienna – it conjures up certain images. Romantic walks through the city centre with a loved one, marvelling at the imposing buildings and beautiful architecture. Perhaps an evening at the opera. Midge Ure crooning about how it means nothing to him; except the fact that he was kept off the UK number 1 spot by Joe Dolce’s “Shaddapa You Face”…. which probably meant he was pissed off!
One image it doesn’t conjure up is two hapless drunken buffoons stumbling about the city, utterly shit-faced – waxing lyrical about all sorts of random stuff (and getting it wrong) – eagerly anticipating a glorious triple thrash treat featuring 3 of the big players from the 1980’s San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal scene! And yet, that’s where Worship Metal found itself on a beautiful winter’s day in February in Vienna. February 20th, to be exact. We spent much of the day trying to remain relatively sober and failing miserably – there are a lot of excellent bars in Vienna before heading off to the Arena Wien to see the show. Upon entering, it was quite clear that ‘Arena’ was quite a grand name for this venue. It’s definitely more club. In fact, it reminds us of the SWG3 Galvanisers in Glasgow, if you’ve ever been there. Anyway, once in, we grabbed a couple of beers, jumped the queue for the merch stall and got ourselves settled in for the show with Death Angel due to come on at 19:00 and, with Austrian efficiency, they burst on to the stage at 19:00 sharp!
Death Angel (9) opened up with “Humanicide’ and it was clear from the off that they meant business with Mark Osegueda stirring up the crowd and encouraging all sorts of circle pit malarkey and Rob Cavestany looking every bit the rock god that he is! After an awkward first few seconds where the sound guys forget to turn Mark’s mic on, it was crystal clear that Death Angel’s 30+ years of experience was in full effect. “Voracious Souls” sounded as fresh as anything being released today but it was the newer material that formed the bulk of the set with “Claws In So Deep” (taken from Relentless Retribution), “Aggressor” (taken from Humanicide), “The Dream Calls For Blood” (taken from the album of the same title) and “The Moth” (taken from The Evil Divide) so firing up the Vienna crowd that at least 3 circle pits were in operation in this relatively small venue. A nod to 1990’s sublime Act III came in the form of “Seemingly Endless Time”- which still sounds fantastic 30 years on – while the opening bit of “The Ultraviolence” segueing beautifully into “Thrown To The Wolves” ended Death Angel’s set on a considerable high!
It’s fair to say that plenty of good chat from Mark between songs and a crushing performance left us wondering how Exodus were going to follow that.
We didn’t have to wait long to find out (just enough time for a pee and a beer incidentally) before Exodus (8) hit the stage. This is Exodus with Gary Holt mind, now that Slayer have called it a day, and it’s great to see him back with his own band, leading the charge! Surprisingly, it quickly became evident that their sound was not as good as Death Angel’s – neither as clear or as crisp. No one seemed to care, though, as Exodus opened up with an explosive “Body Harvest”, followed up by the belligerent “Blood In, Blood Out”. Next up was an oldie, “Deliver Us To Evil”, and then a stone-cold classic in the shape of “Fabulous Disaster” with Zetro doing his best to keep the crowd rocking and Gary Holt being a total metal god! “Deathamphetamine” and “Blacklist” were ferocious and while the band took a couple of minutes for a wee rest, or something, they bounced back on to the stage and unleashed the classic triumvirate of “Bonded By Blood”, “The Toxic Waltz” and “Strike Of The Beast”. Another great performance from a very experienced band enjoying the wave of adulation they’re currently riding.
Time for a pee and a beer before the main event as it wasn’t long before the mighty Testament (7) took to the stage, opening up with 80’s thrash classics, “Eerie Inhabitants” and “The New Order”; with both sounding great. The remaining original band members, Chuck Billy, Eric Pieterson and Alex Skolnik looked in rude health and seemed to be really enjoying the show, as were the crowd. Testament in 2020 are somewhat of a supergroup, what with Steve Di Giorgio and Gene Hoglan filling out the ranks and it should be no surprise that they tear through “The Persecuted Won’t Forget”, old school track “The Haunting” and “Greenhouse Effect” before a Dark Roots Of Earth medley in the shape of the title track, “Last Stand For Independence” and “Throne Of Thorns” bringing a modern sheen to proceedings. “Brotherhood Of The Snake”, “The Pale King” and “The Fall Of Sipledome” take us to the end of the show before the encore follows, kicking off with new track, “Night Of The Witch” from forthcoming album, Titans Of Creation. It sounds excellent too and bodes very well for the album! Then, it’s back to the classic stuff with a frenzied “Into The Pit”, “Practice What You Preach”, “Over The Wall” and “Disciples Of The Watch” closing this Bay Strikes Bank tour off with a golden-era thrash deluge.
Quite the show.
So, what did we learn from this experience. Well, first up, Vienna is a cracking city and well worth a visit, whether for a gig or not. There’s so much to see and do and the locals are very friendly. Next, metal crowds are the same, wherever you go. There’s the same passion, energy and noise. For a lot of the night, we could have been at a venue in Glasgow, or Manchester, or Birmingham, etc etc etc. The one main difference is that the beer on sale was much higher quality to the mass produced piss that most venues sell in the UK. It was Wieselburger Gold, in case you’re interested.
Surprisingly, having 3 headliners playing the one show can be a tad tiring and towards the end of Testament’s set, we found ourselves watching the clock, eagerly anticipating a sit down in a bar somewhere. Maybe the bands felt like that too as it did feel like Testament were going through the motions by the end. Still, overall it was a great night and mostly lived up to the hype. Roll on the next stellar line up show!
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