GIG REVIEW: Death Angel & Warbringer Live at Audio, Glasgow, UK
It’s hard to think of a venue in Glasgow better suited for a pure thrash gig than Audio – dark, intimate and no barrier. Bay Area titans Death Angel hit Audio last night for the first return to Glasgow in years in support of their killer new album, ‘The Evil Divide‘, and brought LA’s new-wave veterans Warbringer along for the ride. As Glasgow had no local support, both bands were able to extend their setlists with a couple of extra tracks, which was definitely a bonus.
Warbringer have always been one of the more interesting “retro” thrash bands since the scene erupted in the early 2000s. Perfectly mixing the visceral aggression of the German thrash scene with the melody and party atmosphere of America’s, their sound set them apart from the legion of Exodus clones and genuinely brought something refreshing to the table. Though a touch of bad luck led the band to a hiatus following their fourth record, ‘IV: Empires Collapse‘, Warbringer returned to the scene earlier this year with one of the best records of 2017 – the incredible ‘Woe to the Vanquished‘.
Despite the show having sold out, Audio was only about three quarters full for Warbringer’s set. Tonight felt pretty special for a Warbringer fan – due to the extended set time, the band played their fantastic new album in full. Though this is a bold move (remember Iron Maiden taking a fair share of criticism for playing ‘A Matter of Life & Death‘ in full back in 2007?), ‘Woe To The Vanquished‘ is some of the strongest material in Warbringer’s arsenal, and the pride and passion the band has for the new material radiated from the stage. It’s hard to not be energetic when faced with a frontman that embodies thrash as perfectly as John Kevill – even those in the crowd unfamiliar with Warbringer were banging their heads and raising their fists. Blasting through “Silhouettes” and the title track, new live favourite “Remain Violent” finally managed to conjure some pit action from the Scottish crowd. In a comically genius turn, Kevill mentioned that Warbringer had better pits south of the border – a statement met with (justified) fury and an increased intensity in the pit. The highlight of Wabringer’s set was absolutely getting to hear the closing epic of ‘Woe to the Vanquished‘, the 11-minute “When the Guns Fell Silent”. Again, it’s pretty bold for a thrash band to perform an 11-minute track live, especially as a support act, but the sheer massive scale of the track left me picking my jaw from the floor. Closing their set with ‘War without End‘ classic “Combat Shock” saw some final pit action for the Californians before Death Angel took the stage. Warbringer are without a doubt one of the most exciting bands in the thrash scene at the moment, and Death Angel had a tough set to follow.
Death Angel were a band that seemed to pass me by. I remember getting Relentless Retribution for Christmas the year it came out from a relative, and thinking it absolutely slayed, but I never dug into the band further. In the weeks building up to the show, I did my research and gave myself a solid kicking for my stupidity – how the hell did I gloss over such a killer band for so many years? Despite only being teenagers when the thrash scene was kicking off in the Bay Area, Death Angel released a trio of albums in the late ’80s that easily rival anything a bigger name released at the same time. Perhaps due to their age, perhaps due to coming to the game a few years late (their debut was released in ’87, by which point many of thrash’s forerunners were already deep into their careers), perhaps just bad luck, but Death Angel never enjoyed the same success as Megadeth or Slayer, or even Testament or Exodus. In the aftermath of a brutal bus crash in 1990, Death Angel called it quits – but thankfully returned to the scene in 2004 with the killer record ‘The Art of Dying‘, and have never been better.
Though there wasn’t quite as much energy as Warbringer deserved during their set, all hint of fatigued was brushed off the second Death Angel took to the stage. And that energy was matched and raised by the band themselves in a fashion that no men in their late forties/early fifties have any right to. Kicking off with an awesome mash-up of “The Ultraviolence” and “Evil Priest”, Death Angel made it clear from the off that they were not coasting – every iota of energy radiated from the crowd was mirrored by the band, at every point throughout their set. Shredding their way through an expertly crafted setlist showcasing material from 2016’s ‘The Evil Divide‘ alongside classic tracks like “Kill As One” and “Thrown To The Wolves”, Death Angel were met with a sea of banging heads and moshing, with a few crowd-surfers and stage divers thrown in to really confirm for any doubters that this was a pure balls-to-the-wall thrash show. Although no band is likely to come on stage and say “Hello Glasgow! It’s awful to be back in this city, we can’t wait to be back in England!”, frontman Mark Osegueda seemed genuinely excited to be back, making a point of praising the Glasgow crowd time and time again throughout the set. In “saving the best for last” fashion, Death Angel finished their 100 minute set with an eviscerating double punch of “Relentless Revolution” and lead single from ‘The Evil Divide‘, “The Moth” – pulverizing modern thrash at its finest.
While, of course, nothing is so perfect it can’t be improved upon, finding faults in either Warbringer or Death Angel’s performance feels nit-picky – the crowd could have been more active for Warbringer, the sound could have been a tad clearer for Death Angel, but these are out of the bands’ control. Looking specifically at how the bands performed, “flawless” feels like an appropriate way to describe them both.