DECIBEL METAL & BEER FEST 2023 - Pre-Party Uncorked, With SATAN, NIGHT DEMON & HAUNT

April 14, 2023, a year ago

By Mark Gromen

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Let's get this party started! The sponsoring mag has transported duplicate events to other locales, across the country, at different times, but with pandemic restrictions a thing of the past, the annual Philly confab returned to its scheduled spring dates. First time attending the (separate admission) pre-show, which is held in the Foundry, a small club above the massive Fillmore complex, which, for two days, houses all the beer vendors. Unlike the libations that would flow freely, the next couple of evenings, the musical choices were starkly cut & dry. Thursday was exclusively an old school, traditional metal vibe, accents on melody, musicianship and clean singing, while the weekend proffered a relentless bludgeoning of heavyweight aggression (fast and slow). Different flavors to savor, which is what this event is all about. However, this year, musical tastes were skewed towards those of a dark and heavy consistency.  

Actually, for the trio involved with the pre-show, this was the final night of a month long tour: all three also under the management stable of lead Demon, Jarvis Leatherby (bass/vocals). Satan, with a NWOBHM pedigree, is probably the most universally recognized name, but the others are not mere tag alongs. Haunt might be the most prolific band in the underground, seeming to release a new album every six months. Frontman/guitarist Trevor Church is a first rate producer and son of Montrose/Sammy Hagar bassist Bill Church. Celebrating a decade as a recording act, Night Demon shouldn't count, as a "new" band, but certainly have the biggest upside, moving forward. Gradually working their way up the billing ladder (especially at overseas festivals), the Ventura, Cali three-piece is just beginning to be noticed, outside the underground. Armed with their most ambitious album, to date, and new drummer, Brian Wilson (who can still walk through the crowd, unnoticed/unbothered), they are (re)energized, to spread the adrenalized Night Demon gospel anywhere and everywhere. Judging from the reaction, there's already a significant number of converts.

Given who he is and who he's worked with, Church could have an ego, but no, he's down-to-Earth and goes onstage in po-dunk towns and sells it like it's Wembley (or Wacken). Hats off to that mentality (or lack thereof). Despite Golden Arm being a few weeks from release (Trevor even offered a teaser, airing "Fight The Good Fight"), the backdrop featured the starry eyed Jawa from Mind Freeze. Splay legged, as he stands at the mic, in a cut-off Angel Witch tee, Trevor led his troops through a short, greatest hits set. The staccato pop of "Hearts On Fire" was an early favorite, while he works to the front of the stage, showcasing fleet fingered hammer-ons, during "Frozen In Time". What's with all the cold weather imagery, from a band out of Fresno, California? Especially on a day like today, the warmest Philly temps of the year! "Mind Freeze" (see!) is followed by the twin lead introduced "In Our Dreams". Come the aforementioned newbie, the bassist offered backing vocals on the titular chorus. Given his track record, sure Church is already writing the next album (even as Golden Arm awaits release), which means more live dates. So when they come your way, go see Haunt.

Bassist/singer Jarvis Leatherby claims that, over the last decade, Night Demon has performed in the neighborhood of 750 shows. Tonight, keeping with the weekend's theme, they offered a rad setlist: half old favorites, half brand new, Outsider material. While many came to see the UK veterans, the Demon were the ones to put on a show. Taking the stage to the pre-recorded prelude that opens the record, it's right into the Outsider title track. Doesn't take long to work up a sweat, as guitarist Armand John Anthony adds his voice to the chorus. A dynamic ride, during the temporary slowdown, both instrumentalists appear center stage, then return to respective microphones as the tempo enlivens once more. Armand, with foot up on the monitor, its's a seamless transition to "Obsidian". 

"Dawn Rider" blazes by and the crackling, pre-recorded intro to "Howling Man" gives the boys a chance to catch their breath. Green lit, the latest single, "Beyond The Grave" is greeted like an old friend. When it picks up speed, Armand and Jarvis headbang violently. It ends with a spurt of military drum cadence, as the pair are together, center stage. "The Wrath" offers dynamic changes, from almost acoustic/a cappella, to full-on, headbanging bedlam. The band's mascot, Rocky appears (in newly updated guise, with illuminated eyes, but missing the cudgel he sported early on the tour) during "The Chalice". After Leatherby publicly thanks all the participants of the tour, including the sponsors, it's the signature tune. The guitar and bass are at the lip of the stage, playing in unison. Even those that came to see/hear another band are caught up in the infectious riffing and sing along, headbang, throw the horns, or go for the Trifecta. Fitting end to a high octane assault. 

Missed a portion of the Satan set (which I'd seen at Hell's Heroes, a few weeks back), backstage, saying my goodbyes to the Night Demon guys. Might not look like it, in their understated, British demeanor, but Satan enjoyed themselves, even sometimes temperamental frontman Brian Ross. Interesting, but he took the stage minus his usual black leather gloves, although a pair of handcuffs dangled from his right back pocket. They know what the faithful came to see/hear and thus, offer just two choice cuts from their most recent, Earth Infernal ("Ascendency" and "Burning Portrait"). Ross moves from one side of the stage to the other, offering a penetrating stare and almost snarling, as he sings. "The Devil's Infantry" ends with Ross hitting a sustained high note. Proper set closer "Testimony" sees the Haunt mainman join the Brits for a last night of the tour send-off, but Satan returns for a couple more. To end the evening, Ross asked which Court In The Act track fans wanted to hear. A resounding response for "Blades Of Steel" surprised the singer. After looking at one another, apparently agreeing to try, Ross retorted, "If this fails, it's on you (crowd)". Surely they'll remember the end of this tour!

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