EXCITER / TOWER – Déjà vu, All Over Again…
October 25, 2023, a month ago
On this night, 35 years ago, across town, the Ultimate Revenge II took place. Seems fitting that all those years later, one of the bands instrumental in the eruption of that sound, Exciter, would be in Philly, celebrating 40 years of Heavy Metal Maniac, playing the majority of the debut. Can barely remember seeing them at the Pop Shop, in Cleveland, Ohio, for that album. No, the memory isn't hazy, fact was, an overzealous fog machine caked the whole basement facility with a UK "pea soup" layer of thickness that not only obliterated the trio from sight, but necessitated a mid-concert reprieve, to air out the venue! Ah, the "good old days!" Actually, tonight's Kung Fu Necktie is undoubtedly the smallest room I've witnessed Exciter play (not so Beehler, the man, as his short-lived solo outfit, which also included bassist Allan Johnson, performed in a "broom closet," aka, the Lauschbar, in Itzehoe, Germany, after the 2011 incarnation of Headbangers' Open Air.
This tour, some deep cuts are trotted out, but still nothing from Kill After Kill. Beforehand, when asked about the disc, drummer/singer Dan Beehler explained, "I won't play anything from that record until I get a royalties statement. The album was just sold again. Perhaps they'll do a proper (sales) accounting." Still, most of those squished into the tiny space, in front of the stage, were here to hear the Maniac stuff. As on said platter, the band appeared to "The Holocaust" intro, right into the fierce "Stand Up And Fight". Almost instantly, a pit broke out. Johnson stalked the ground between stage left and the center, while frenetic guitarist Daniel Dekay took the other half, While he's not as fond of wild divebomb runs as his predecessor, Dekay more than fills the sonic void, with fleet fingered attacks.
The opener was just a prelude to the title track, those that weren't bashing into one another, singing the "I'm a heavy metal maniac" chorus along with the drummer. Strobe fired almost in time with the speed metal classic. Continuing the dive into yesteryear, "Iron Dogs" makes it three in a row, from the debut In the same succession as in the studio. It gives Dekay a chance to go off, playing inches from ther punters' faces, as he toes the lip of the stage. Highlighted by strobes, as it finishes.
"Time for some old school Canadian heavy metal," Beehler shouts, in introducing "Die In The Night", moving on to the oft overlooked Unveiling The Wicked. Although at the forefront of the Eighties metal movement, by '86 (at least in North America), Exciter had been supplanted by the rising thrash tide. Didn't help, taking a stab at MTV success with "(I Hate) School Rules", but I digress. Back to present day (or are we reliving the past?). The slower grind of green lit, "Evil Sinner" is the first of a trio from the sophomore effort. The guitar and bass switch sides, as Dekay gets another showcase. Beehler really belts out the scraggly finale, again with flashing strobes.
Biggest surprise inclusion, the rare (don't believe I've ever witnessed it live), the punky, high octane '85/Long Live The Loud era non-album "single": "Feel The Knife". Beehler explained, "Back in '85, the label asked, 'Where's your extra track?' We said we didn't have one, but since our gear was still set up, we wrote the extra track and it became an Ep." Wow!
"Every single night is Saturday Night," opines the fun-loving guitarist, as they jump into "Blackwitch", with loads of histrionics and those patented divebomb guitar runs. Dekay is alone, on a blue stage, eventually re-joined by Johnson. "Rising Of The Dead" sees the two switch places once again, lots of action, in such a minuscule room. More strobes for the "Pounding Metal" sing along. Amazing that with all the pounding Beehler does, he doesn't have unusually large/thick drum sticks.
An extended Dekay solo (showing off all the lead guitar tricks: squelches, feedback, etc.) ventures into "Beyond The Gates Of Doom". The bass/guitar square off, face-to-face on green tinted "Violence & Force" (another rocket ride sing-along). Dekay does the band introduction, prior to a crimson bathed "Long Live The Loud", with its repeated strobe flickers. As Dekay jumps around, this one closes the proper set. But they're not done. Another dose of cranking guitar highlights leads to the now customary cover of Motorhead's "Iron Fist". This fashion never goes out of style: Long Live The Loud!
Opening the show (and on tour, with the Canucks) was NYC based Tower. Have seen the band a handful of times (Houston, Chicago, 3x in Philly), who are led by the boundless energy of vocalist Sarabeth Linden. Began a little subdued tonight. Sort of odd, given they were opening for a speed metal icon. The screaming "Running Out Of Time" sees thrashing bassist Philippe Arman shake his Bootsie Collins styled star sunglasses off his head. Linden contorts about the stage and interacts with her bandmates, while delivering adrenalized anthems like "Lay Down The Lay" and "Prince of Darkness", which begins gently, then gets harder.
Already a staple of national metal fests, this high profile step up in class is just what the band needs, playing to new/bigger audiences. One to watch. Now how about a new album in '24?