The show had sold out with just days to go.
It was a clear message that Ireland’s metal community would give the Easter evening mass a miss, and swap out their chocolate eggs for pints, to the soundtrack of one of the best metal line ups to hit this year.
Vader open, bringing their classic Polish death metal sound. They’re easily the demonic and aggressive sounding (and looking) band in Vicar St tonight, with the their music filled with fast, dissonant tremolo picking, hyper double kick work, and the band dressed like a more gothic Hell’s Angels.
Vader’s set is split between their more recent material, and a celebration of their debut album, ‘The Ultimate Incarnation’.
It’s interesting to hear how their sound has developed over the years as they have been exposed to how extreme metal developed, and how fresh blood such as drummer, James Stewart, has pushed the band to faster speeds or a more relentless sound, while some new songs like ‘Triumph of Death’ do still let their early influence bleed through with that sizable Slayer influence.
The stamina from the band is also remarkable, with the guitarists’ and bassists’ right hands seemingly never getting a break from the high speed, and the double kick sounds equally consistent through the night.
Vader are the band of the night for any fans of death metal’s evil, Slayer styled approach, and the busy crowd below is a good sign of things to come for the night.
Next to take to the stage is Annihilator, the Canadian thrash masters led by guitar wizard Jeff Waters.
After a brief intro tape to grab the attention of any punters still at the bar, the band launches into crowd favourite, ‘King Of The Kill’.
What immediately strikes me is how energetic the band is; running all over and exploring what little stage space they could fit on. Especially Jeff who seems very keen to get into as many fan’s faces as possible.
Jeff plays up his guitar slinger reputation by becoming very flashy in his playing, moving as much as he can and pulling plenty of full on guitar expressions.
His voice isn’t in quite the same shape, as he now uses the crowd to sing some of the higher vocal parts in ‘Set The World On Fire’ and ‘Alice In Hell’. He has no shame about it though and crowd doesn’t seem to mind, and it shouldn’t be held against him as some parts are just too high for his own voice or too difficult for him to sing along with the other lyrics.
Annihilator’s more recent material played tonight shows that the modern metal world has at least had a small influence on them, with the inclusion of some super fast blast beats from the drummer.
They’re not the type of band to write the same song over and over again, they can inject a unique hook and approach into each song which gives it its own unique flavour.
There’s a certain irony to spending Easter Sunday watching a band called Testament – a band who’ve risen from the dead before.
As the sounds of a chaotic whammy bar heavy guitar swells over the venue, a hellish red lighting reveals the stage design filled with pentagrams and snakes.
They soon launch into the title track of their latest album ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ and a collection of plenty more tracks from their latest offering.
Testament have embraced how metal has evolved into moved in the decades since they formed. When death metal became more popular, Chuck’s high screams turned into low roars and blast beats were introduced, which only became more relentless as Gene Hoglan was brought to the band.
Their recent material shows off how they blended together the aggression of death metal with those signature guitar harmonies and Eric Peterson’s killer song writing.
While all of Testament are seasoned performing professionals and are comfortable interacting with a crowd and getting the best they can out of them, guitarist Alex Skolnick is killing it and is the most excited to play a show I’ve ever personally seen him.
Tonight he’s jumping off the risers up front, raising his guitar proudly in the air during his solos, and really connecting with the approving crowd.
It made perfect sense for Alex to take the first solo of the night. Its high energy, with few gaps to let silence breathe through the venue. It also pays tribute to some of the guitar legends before Alex, such as Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and Ireland’s own Gary Moore.
They continue on with their set with cuts from all over their long discography, including their 90’s albums which started their journey into a death metal influence.
Nearing the end of their set, they go into a pattern of guitar, drum or bass solo, a song, then another solo.
While Skolnick, Hoglan and DiGiorgio can get away with doing a quick solo themselves given the reputation they have as legendary players in the metal genre, giving all of them a separate solo and giving one to Peterson (Who is an amazing rhythm guitar player, and competent lead player, but wasn’t able to bring anything interesting to his solo besides his usual Testament shredding) seemed a bit overkill, or just trying to fill up the set.
Overall their set is killer, and songs like ‘The New Order’, ‘Disciples Of The Watch’, and of course ‘Into The Pit’ start huge mosh pits in the crowd, with plenty of crowd surfers in the air.
They even played some deep cuts in the set too, such as ‘Souls Of Black’ and ‘First Strike Is Deadly’, which the crowd very much approved of.
After 35 years of recording and touring, it is good to see Testament finally play a full headline set in Ireland, and I’m sure the crowd is not only thankful they got to witness it.
But also that tomorrow is a bank holiday and they can rest their hangovers and moshing induced bruises.
– Cormac Jordan ::: 08/04/18
– With thanks to Liam Quigley and Graham Keogh for pics