Marching Into Fire At OmegaFest With FORBIDDEN, BIOHAZARD, EXCITER!

May 10, 2024, a month ago

By “Metal” Tim Henderson

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The first and last time this Canuck metalhead was in the Bay Area happen to be in the early '90s following a Foundations Forum conference where I was honored to represent and man a booth for M.E.A.T. Magazine. After the life-altering event, I drove the breathtaking triangle, from Los Angeles across to Las Vegas, through the mind-blowing Death Valley and up Tin Mountain, Last Chance Mountain and trekked Yosemite National Park towards San Francisco. Just a wide-eyed kid soaking in all the glory around Haight & Ashbury streets and beyond. Over 40 years later, I return to the thrash metal Mecca for the inaugural OmegaFest. Headliners Biohazard and Forbidden must’ve thought I was a weirdo groupie as I had crossed paths with both bands a week before at Summer Breeze Brasil in São Paulo!
So to visit the area where most of my musical listening has taken me for 40 years is beyond surreal. We are talking about the home to Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Defiance and of course Forbidden!

OmegaFest 2024 was held at The UC Theater / Taube Family Music Hall in Berkeley, right across from San Francisco Bay and about 30 minutes (in good traffic) from the San Francisco International Airport (SFO).  
Aside from headliners by Biohazard and Forbidden, support from iconic Canadian trio Exciter, Warbringer, Hatriot, Bewitcher, Deathgrave, Frolic and Hellbender. 
Peeking around, former members of Death Angel and Exodus were in the audience, with former legendary axe - and the other half of the H Team with Gary Holt - Rick Hunolt said the UC Theater had the best sound in the Bay Area. And he was correct. The venue is vast and the sightlines perfect, even if you are staring “through eyes of glass”! The venue was a sell-out, about 1,400 in attendance, which is one helluva a starting point. The kids are hungry. I’m hungry. And you could feel that energy in the audience. 

Following punishing sets by Warbringer, Hatriot, Bewitcher, Deathgrave, Frolic and Hellbender, Exciter laid waste with a parade of Canuck thrash classics like “Heavy Metal Maniac”, “Pounding Metal”, “Beyond The Gates Of Doom” and “Violence & Force” featuring local hero - now in Kerry King’s band - guitarist Phil Demmel as a surprise guest! Growing up with Exciter blasting through my headphones, I’m so happy for the lads. Still shocking to see a drummer as the frontman! Dan Beehler and bass guru Allan Johnson haven’t aged one bit, and guitar whiz kid and the man behind the scenes helping guide this ship, Daniel Dekay, is such an animated individual and gifted guitarist. He’s knows he won the speed metal lottery and the metal madman is owning it!
Original guitarist Craig Locicero and bassist Matt Camacho has “twisted into form” a tried n’ true supergroup of seasoned vets, including guitarist Steve Smyth, drummer Chris Kontos and singer Norman Skinner who they call “Little Russ”, the nickname hailing from original frontman Russ Anderson. So obviously some very big shoes to fill by this former Imagika voice. I witnessed this concert first at Summer Breeze Brasil and Norman asked me if I had seen the show yet and I said, “No, I didn't want to watch it on YouTube, I needed to see it first hand.” And Skinner responded, “I hope we don’t suck!” And I hit back jokingly, “If you do, I’m leaving!” We both laughed and the band kicked my ass and every classic Forbidden song he nailed with perfection. They all nailed it. 

The first Forbidden album, Forbidden Evil is absolutely historic. It ranks as one of the greatest debuts of all time. Right beside Bonded By Blood, Kill ‘Em All, Iron Maiden, Van Halen etc… It truly does. I used “Through Eyes Of Glass” as the intro to all my college radio shows at McMaster. And here is a bit of trivia; being in the “biz”, we are privileged to received promotional copies of albums so we can play them and write about them. After 30 years in music, you can imagine my pile. But my absolute first was this cassette below. When I told that to Craig and Matt I think they were taken aback. So we get a must-see greatest hits parade of “Twisted Into Form”, “March Into Fire”, “Forbidden Evil”, “Step By Step”, “Follow Me”, “Off The Edge”, “Chalice Of Blood” and “Through Eyes Of Glass”, which particularly hit my metal heart.

New York metallic hardcore titans Biohazard have found the fountain of youth as their image, stature and scathing attack has the same potency 30 years later.  Vocalist/bassist Evan Seinfeld, guitarist/co-vocalist Billy Graziadei and lead guitarist Bobby Hambel and the rest of his crew ran around frantic while drummer Danny Schuler pounded madly, working the crowd to insane levels as they plowed through socially conscious anthems like “Urban Discipline”, “Shades Of Grey”, “Wrong Side Of The Tracks”, “Five Blocks To The Subway” and “Down For Life”.

Click above to view more photos! Stay tuned for news on OmegaFest 2025 soon!
(Forbidden and Exciter photo credit: Raymond Ahner / Biohazard and Warbringer photo credit: Miikka Skaffari)

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