Concert review: Exodus, Malevolent Creation, Holy Grail and Bonded By Blood, Louisville 9/2

The concert planner at Louisville’s Phoenix Hill Tavern seemed to have things backwards.

For the Sept. 2 Exodus show, the promoter had booked two stages of music. Exodus, Malevolent Creation and the other national acts, Holy Grail and Bonded By Blood, would play the main stage. Meanwhile, a second stage of regional metal bands – headlined by Owensboro’s Factory Damage, was booked as well. More metal bang for your $15. Not a bad deal.

However, the club stuck Exodus and the other national acts in a bar, with a tiny, enclosed mosh pit, while the regional, unsigned bands were put in a spacious, spacious, park-a-semi-in-here-and-still-have-lots-of-room upstairs patio. No one apparently anticipated there would actually be moshing at the show – or else they just wanted to control it by forcing the moshers into the enclosed “free to mosh” zone. So naturally, people crammed the tiny pit for Exodus while maybe 10 people were spread out in a room the size of a football field for the local bands. Poor planning, Phoenix Hill Tavern.

I was late driving to Louisville, but arrived in time to catch the second half of Bonded By Blood’s set. “Bonded By Blood,” of course, is the name of one of Exodus’ signature songs, so I guess the boys in BBB were either excited as hell to be on the tour with one of their idols, or a little bit sheepish about sharing a stage with the band whose song title they “borrowed” for their name. I knew absolutely nothing about BBB – and while their set was well-performed and energetic, I wasn’t inspired to increase my familiarity with them. It was pretty standard retro-thrash, pleasant but hardly groundbreaking. So there.

After the BBB set, I wandered upstairs to the second stage, where a band from Columbus Indiana was taking the stage. I can’t remember their name (yes, I could look it up on the show flier, but I’m not going to, so sue me); all I remember for sure is the first song was called “Green River,” but it didn’t sound anything like CCR.

There were some things I liked about Name Forgotten Band From Columbus Indiana. The music was pretty ok, and the guitar player made the best metal faces of anyone I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d had a camera to document those metal faces for posterity; we could’ve sent the pics into deep space to discourage any aliens foolish enough to want to mess with us. That’s how scary those metal faces were. Wow, I’ll have nightmares just thinking about them.

But, like way too many local and regional bands, NFBFCI had a “death metal” vocalist, who sounded like either a Satanic pig or the farmer on the day the stump-broke calf gets its revenge. Look, I like a lot of death metal … but what I don’t like are bands that go grab a buddy to grunt into a microphone because they think it’s metal. Hellllo! It’s actually OK to sing once in a while. You don’t have to gurgle like Cookie Monster. Next time, bands, actually hold singer auditions and don’t just pick your friend to “sing.” That is all.

I fled the nameless band soon enough and found my way back to the main stage in time for Holy Grail – wh0 absolutely, positively blew me away. They were fantastic – with great solos, heavy yet melodic songs and a strong singer who can go for the high notes. Three members of the Holy Grail used to be in White Wizzard, another neo-thrash outfit. Most neo-retro thrash bands haven’t impressed me much, but Holy Grail really put on one hell of a good show. I was so impressed, I bought a T-shirt. Check these guys out.

Holy Grail split and Malevolent Creation began toting their crap on stage. I went upstairs again to hear Factory Damage … but what I witnessed instead was so horrifyingly terrible I still can’t shake the memory.

Factory Damage was still waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, on stage, an acoustic duo was putting out the some of the worst music I’ve ever heard outside a karaoke bar.

Let me just say the words again: Acoustic-frikkin-duo.

Oh, it was bad. Imagine Tenacious D, except without anything entertaining or humorous about it, and that’s the duo. The singer was croaking “treat queens like whores and whores like queens,” which he probably thought was pithy and original, but is actually a long wore-out and rather misogynist cliché. Also, it’s terrible dating advice, but I digress. Anyway, Tenacious F totally killed the vibe and sucked all the fun out of the room like a dead relative at a child’s birthday party. How was Factory Damage expected to go on after that? I listened as long as I could, told Ed from FD I’d come back and got the hell out of there.

Malevolent Creation was about to start their first song. While Malevolent C’s studio albums are not my cup of tea, the band really tears it up live. They were not as good as Holy Grail, but still, it was a good performance. Perhaps my ears were just relieved to get away from the acoustic duo, but I was very impressed by MC’s set.

Every once in a while I’d run upstairs to see if Factory Damage was on … but the guys were apparently having one hell of a tough time. Maybe they just had to wait for the undynamic duo to shut up and go away, but they were very delayed getting on stage. By the time FD started into their first song, it was less than 10 minutes before Exodus was scheduled to begin their set.

I only caught three of FD’s songs, but they were far and away the best band I’d seen on the regional band stage all night. Their songs are well-crafted and performed … but what really sets Factory Damage apart is their vocalist – who (you guessed it) can actually sing. Attention local bands, hear me: Having a strong singer who can do more than pig-grunt is the thing that can really set your band apart.

Poor Factory Damage really got screwed by being slated to play behind the undynamic acoustic duo. By the third song, two-thirds of the crowd ran downstairs to wait for Exodus. Ed from FD said later the band was in a rush to play and get off stage in time to catch Exodus’ set, too, so I don’t feel too bad about running back downstairs to the main stage.

Exodus. What can I say about Exodus? First, it’s a pretty giddy experience for an old-school thrasher like myself to walk into a bar and see Gary Holt warming up and chatting beside the stage. The man is one of the founders of thrash metal and his band has only gotten better over time. Holt and guitarist Lee Altus make playing ridiculously intricate riffs on songs like “Children of a Worthless God” look so damn easy. I spent the first part of the show in the pit staring at Holt’s and Altus’ fingers during the solos.

Frontman Rob Dukes has family in Kentucky who came to the show – but the club wouldn’t let Dukes’ 13 year-old nephew in to see the show. The kid had to watch the show through a window. Dukes told the crowd and the crowd responded by booing the club owner … which probably means the band won’t be playing PHT again.

The band played three songs from the new “Exhibit B” – “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles,” “Beyond The Pale” and “Good Riddance.” The rest of the set included the above mentioned “Worthless God,” “Iconoclasm,” “Pirana,” “Deathamphtemamine,” “Blacklist,” “Toxic Waltz” and “Bonded By Blood.” Every song was flawless, the band sounded great and the crowd went nuts. The band treated the show like they were playing to 40,000 people at Wacken instead of just 250 people in Louisville. That’s class.


1 Comment

  1. Beyond pissed that I missed this show! I couldn’t find anyone willing to take off work the next day to go with me. SUCK

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