I’ve been going to metal and rock shows for nearly a quarter of a century now. In that span of time, I’ve attended as everything from the fan in the crowd, to the musician on stage (and for a brief time, I’ve even been the security behind the barricades). For over a decade now though, my role at shows has largely been that of a music journalist (and when my wife is unavailable, the occasional photographer, too), reporting everything I see and hear in great detail.
But at my age (and with having a bum leg), I tend to experience most shows on the sidelines these days (it makes it a lot easier for jotting down notes, anyhow!). But last Saturday, October 12 at The Haven Lounge in Orlando (or is it Winter Park?), I broke my own rules, and exerted myself right in the middle of all of the action for the first time in I can’t even remember how long…and have zero regrets.
Perhaps it had something to do with the initial opening act, Orlando’s own Darkness by Design, whose immediate intensity, reminiscent of old school Slayer, caught the attention of the entire room, and demanded one to listen up instantly. Guitarist Marcos Mercado’s massive riffs were a definite highlight, making them a force to be reckoned with on stage.
Destructonomicon were next on the bill. I’ve caught them a time or two over the years, and judging by their performance this past weekend, they haven’t matured all that much since then (but go figure, with a name like that). Although they did initiate a decent response from the audience, their “tough guy” brand of crossover doesn’t quite do much for me these days.
Another local outfit I’ve seen a time or two over the years, Thicket, were up next. I’m not entirely sure how to place them; part traditional thrash and part progressive metal, their lack of cohesion is somewhat of a strange mixture. Still, there was no denying they had the club amped up and ready for a night of more headbanging by the end of their set.
The band that got me through the door that night, Enforcer, were next to play. I’ve been a fan of theirs since another magazine I’ve often freelanced for, New Noise, asked me to review their 2015 album, From Beyond. With their ability to skillfully mimic the sounds of such beloved ’80s thrash/extreme metal bands such as Megadeth or Venom (though without ripping anyone off), I was instantly hooked on these Swedish metalheads from the start, and have sought their entire catalog out ever since. Prior to last Saturday’s show I had heard that some of the members would not be present for this tour, but had no idea only lead vocalist/guitarist/overall mastermind Olof Wilkstrand would be present from the band’s core lineup, along with touring musicians that included Skull Fist guitarist Jonny Nesta. Warbringer guitarist Chase Becker also filled in on bass, while Hellwitch drummer Brian Wilson rounded things out behind the drumset.
Still, I knew from the moment they hit the stage with “Destroyer” that this particular night would be different, and found myself quickly making my way to the front of the stage to scream along with every lyric (that I could remember anyway). More crushing anthems like “Die For the Devil,” Searching For You,” “Undying Evil,” “From Beyond,” “Belles of Hades/Death Rides the Night,” ‘Zenith of the Black Sun,” and “Mesmerized by Fire,” followed with total fury.
What came as an even bigger shock (other than how hard they played) was the fact they managed to represent every album of their career, including one of my personal favorites from the Diamonds album, “Live For the Night,” as well as “Scream of the Savage” from their lesser known 2008 debut album, Into the Night. After an epic rendition of “Take Me Out of This Nightmare,” the band came back for two more Diamonds-era tracks, “Katina” and Midnight Vice,” before finally calling it a night.
By the time they finished their set, there was no doubt that my wife/photographer and I were both in need of a reprieve before Warbringer hit the stage, and by the time we got back from grabbing some fresh air, the club was already packed again. I have to admit I don’t know Warbringer’s (who were technically the headliner of the night) material as well as Enforcer’s, but I did familiarize myself with some of their music beforehand, and recognized some of the tracks in their set, such as “Remain Violent,” “Firepower Kills,” and “Severed Reality.” Their music is honestly a bit hit or miss for me, at times on the interesting side, while at other times extremely generic sounding. One thing’s for sure, their intensity might have come close to matching Enforcer’s (who no doubt stole the show that night), but were far less superior in comparison.
And the end of the night, we even had the pleasure of meeting some of the members of Enforcer, including said front man Wikstrand, and fill-in guitarist Nesta, who each embodied the living “rock star” image without tarnishing it one bit, both being as down to Earth as possible, and helping to make it one memorably epic night indeed.