By Mark Gromen
Not the first time they've toured together, in fact Blitz & DD introduced the then Bay Area teens to life on the road. All these decades later, the billing has been flipped, but both acts remain not only viable, but lethal onstage! Bald heads and grey bears aplenty, but unlike DORO, earlier in the week, at least there was a sizable under 30 presence in the crowd, which bodes well for the future. FLOTSAM & JETSAM offered a short set that included a pair of newbies off the forthcoming album (sluggish, mid-tempo opener 'Ugly Noise' and countrified 'Gitty Up'). The disc IS available for purchase at live shows. There really is a night and day difference between the sounds, so much so that a 30 year old photographer, basically unfamiliar with the band/its history, could discern the oldies right away. 'Iron Tears' proved a blast from the past, as well as the Ed Carlson (guitar) begun ' Escape From Within'. A rather static performance, with only the air-guitar playing singer and second guitarist Michael Gilbert, showing any real signs of life. 'Hammerhead' got the sharks circling in a frenzy, ultimately concluding with the title track from the sophomore record, 'No Place For Disgrace'.
Can't deny Chuck Billy is an imposing figure, yet few singers attack like the sinewy Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth (apparently suffering a cold) virtually launching himself into the crowd as he delivers the lyrics. Poetry slam, my ass. How about a full course, knock-down, drag-out vocals? He sprints onstage, the band already into 'Come And Get It' and lovingly flips the bird to the crowd. A warm Philly welcome if there ever was one. 'Rotten To The Core' follows, the waft of cannabis stirred by the materializing mosh pit. However, the Troc staff quickly put the kibosh on both activities. During the false ending, Blitz smiles, licks his lips and lets the crowd sing the final chorus. In yellow and orange lights, 'Wrecking Crew' sees Dave Linsk wailing away on guitar. By 'Bring Me The Night', the singer still had his black work shirt unbuttoned to the midriff. The hockey loving Ellsworth said, "Devils and Flyers this weekend. We'll put our differences aside tonight," not the usual intro to 'Electric Rattlesnake', lit in OVERKILL green. On the floor, the sea of humanity churns once more, until the song ends in a flurry of strobes. 'Iron Bound' reprised the strobes, albeit from behind, leaving the band in silhouette. At that juncture, Ellsworth proclaimed, "We don't have a lot of time here. We've got to make it count!" Perched on the front monitor, the stage bathed in blue, it was 'Elimination'. The lights turned to red on the requisite 'Fuck You' set ender. They came to shred and did!
This was the third time witnessing TESTAMENT since last August and apart from a few old school additions/deletions, it's basically the same set, with minor changes in order. 'Rise Up' sees the boys on a two tier stage, a ramp on each end leads up to the drum riser (which appears to be constructed atop a pile of stones). That's where Chuck Billy and his half-sized mic stand survey everything. Below, the guitar tandem of Eric Peterson and especially Alex Skolnick are afforded the spotlight. So to speak. The stage is shrouded in fog and unfriendly lighting. Whoever is advising them on stage presence, especially as it refers to the first three songs (for press photography) needs to be re-examined. Seen the guys close up and it's not necessary to obscure/obliterate their faces with smoke, red lights, etc. Did they same thing on last fall's tour. Perhaps that's the payoff for having Skolnick stay around, he gets to stay up front, in favorable light, while the other lag towards the back.
'More Than Meets The Eye' and 'Burnt Offerings' are the lone oldies in the initial half dozen. Billy plays air guitar on his portable mic stand, the shaft seemingly reflecting fluorescent green as they run through 'Native Blood' and 'True American Hate', the red lights seemingly suck all but Skolnick into the shadows. The current title track, a mid-tempo number kicked off with fog and purple haze. Afterwards, Billy said, "This is a special part of the set. We sell VIP packages and two get to come out and sing backup with us." In teal/aqua, 'Into The Pit' created the namesake floor eruption. Came the titular chorus, Chuck sings to the lucky fans onstage. Under pink/yellow lights, Dormant stage divers breach the barricade as Eric begins 'Practice What You Preach', which kicks off a historic three-song arc, backed with 'The Haunting' and 'The New Order'. Behind the band, a trio of jarring headlights burst into strobe mode. After deflowering his friend's mic stand, Chuck flips Eric's guitar picks into the crowd. Like the bands before them, TESTAMENT opts to mix 80s era material with the strongest stuff from the more recent catalog, especially off Damnation Of Formation and nearly-death metal growlers like 'D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)'.
During 'Eyes Of Wrath', when not air guitaring next to Peterson, the bellowing frontman dropped to his knees at the front of the stage, to be nearer the crowd. 'Trial By Fire' was introduced with a copy of the local newspaper, reporting about the manhunt and ultimately fiery shoot-out with a rogue LA cop, as orange/flame colored lights gave way to a full scale musical assault, which included yet another showcase moment for Skolnick. They end with a slamming barrage of '3 Days In Darkness'. Despite the snowfall and less than ideal driving conditions found outside the Trocadero, seems like everyone went away happy.