It’s been far too many years since Atheist had toured and now fans of the Technical Thrash Metal outfit have cause for celebration as the band returns to deliver their musical message as only they can. The Metal innovators would be supporting a live release entitled “Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken/Pieces Of Time (1988/1993)” and give NYC fans a rousing show that also featured Gnostic, Psyopus and The Faceless. The Agonist were also scheduled to appear on this bill tonight but ran into transportation issues that caused them to cancel. Despite the surprising change we were on point to bring the entire evening to the readers. Please click the logo below to be taken to our article on the main PiercingMetal.com site. We discussed and photographed all performers.
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: The Agonist, Gnostic, The Faceless,
Label: Relapse Records
Last night I took the Heavy Metal adventuring out to New Jersey to see the one and only Judas Priest and Whitesnake in concert and each of them would be celebrating a monumental recording from their careers. It was an incredible hike since it was the first time in a long while that I was not driving to this particular concert arena with friends but of course I was certainly not alone as many of the areas Metal faithful were also on point and seemed to be traveling alongside me. The rationale for hitting the Saturday evening show in New Jersey as opposed to the Sunday one in NY’s own Wantaugh, Long Island was very simply because Sunday was going to be the return of Atheist and believe it or not their very first NYC appearance as well. The educated fan knows the name full well based on their being Technical Thrash Metal experts from back in a time where there really was no such title being used for the bands yet. You were either a Metal band or you were not quite a Metal band. To miss this particular gig would have been unconscionable and considering it was bringing along a number of other talented acts like Gnostic, The Agonist, Psyopus and The Faceless how could I go wrong by not being in attendance.
Gnostic: These guys would come up first and the readers need to stay with me as we run down the lineup for a moment. They are fronted by Kevin Freeman on vocals while guitars are handled by Sonny Carson and Chris Baker. Bass is in the very capable fingers of Jonathan Thompson while on drums is the Technical Thrash master himself Mr. Steve Flynn. Yes, the original member of Atheist was in his own side band and playing first. What made this really interesting was the fact that both Chris Baker and Jonathan Thompson would be doing the guitar work when Atheist came up later on this evening. They were the first band up and delivered what I felt to be an interesting musical ride. There was a tremenous amount of technical expertise in the heavy riffs that they were offering up and the combination of drums and bass were relentless. Of course the guitar work was great but there were some who found the vocals to be the downside of the project and in Freeman’s defense he sounds like more of a Hardcore singer than a Metal one and is employing the abilities he has from that style and doing what he can to blend it into the Metal. It’s not uncommon and we see similar things being done in Metal core bands all the time. Their new CD comes via Season Of Mist Records and is called “Engineering The Rule”. Based on the set this evening this should be an interesting album. As the band came to the close of their set the singer announced that The Agonist would not be joining the tour this evening.
The Agonist: Alyssa White-Gluz and her merry Metal mates in The Agonist sure seemed to be keeping themselves busy as they supported their newest CD “Lullabies For A Dormant Mind” by hitting the road with a wide variety of bands in order to better deliver their latest release to a wider amount of people. When Kevin Freeman of Gnostic announced that they were not here based on the troubles with their transportation there were actually people who cheered this news. I must admit that this annoyed me as a fan of the live scene and how hard I see the bands working. So essentially to these people it was fantastic to be getting less bang for their buck and finding less of a show happening as opposed to more. I think such a demonstration takes away from the collective community we want to foster at these shows and feel that any musician in the audience would not like to find themselves in the same shoes. Remember that missing a show means not making any money on your merchandise or generally the gig. I am sure that no players in the crowd would like to learn that the audience cheered when told that they would not be on the bill and I stand by my statement about if you don’t like a band, don’t take away from those who do. Move to the back or go to smoke a cigarette if that’s what you do between the groups you like. I wish The Agonist the best and hope their return with Threat Signal in the coming months does not find them dealing with such dramas. They definitely always aim to entertain those who are willing to receive such action. Psyopus would come up very quickly after Gnostic and this would be my first time seeing them.
Psyopus: Metal Blade Records artists Psyopus were an interesting mystery to me and when they hit the stage it was really something different. They were not as thrashy as we had found Gnostic to be, but really upping the game on the technical side. There were a number of frenetic changes and syncopated grooves going on throughout every song and the style is not easy to define. If I had to pin it down to something I would say think of a little bit Mudvayne for the Math Metal vibe and some of the Dillinger Escape Plan for the frenzy and pace that they offer up. Of course the band was unique in and of itself and while some people were digging on it there were a number of folks who were left scratching their head. The singer was also doing more of a Hardcore thing and he was sporting a terrific tee shirt that advised us to “Mosh With Jesus”. The main man of the lineup is guitarist Christopher Arp or “Arpmandude” who is lighting fast on the axe. I mean it is almost superhuman when it comes down to it and one really needs to sit with the music a couple of times to get in sync with what they are trying to do. An interesting inclusion on the bill without question and their latest CD is entitled “Odd Senses”. Check it out if the technical stuff that is not easy to define at first is what you are all about. Everyone in the band did a great job in my opinion. The Faceless were up next and the room was rather crowded by this point.
The Faceless: I was very happy to be catching this band again after having missed 90% of their set when they opened up for Meshuggah back in February of this year. I had actually seen The Faceless when they were on last years “Summer Slaughter” tour and without any doubt this is one crushing Metal band. They blend technical delivery with crushing levels of heavy and their stuff just pummels you when it hits you. This is a pure dose of Progressive Death Metal and one thing that will immediately stand out to you when you catch them live is how young the members of the band look. I mean it is almost ridiculous to envision some of these dudes in a band that is delivering such a sound when many of them don’t even look old enough to be out of High School. Of course it should be said that their looks should not deceive you because young looking or not these guys are one of the best technical bands currently on the scene. Their latest album received a lot of interest and based on what they deliver from “Planetary Duality” one can see why. It is a relentless and driving type of Metal and each riff and breakdown are intense. They are fronted by Derek Rydquist who is also referred to as “Demon Carcass” and he growls as if the fires of Hell are burning inside him. His pain turned about for the audience pleasure and he sure knows how to get you into it during the set. The guitar work from Michael Keene is also fantastic and this kid could very well rise to become one of the best players in Metal if he plays his cards right. While this was an Atheist show I realized as I walked around the venue that many people were here for The Faceless exclusively and were showing their interest in the mosh pit and by crowd surfing. I didn’t see a set list on the stage but jotted one down from a previous night and it seemed to be running pretty close to that. I think that any fan of what is going on in Extreme Metal would do themselves a favor by listening to The Faceless. Clearly they will be one of the heavier hitters before long and not be an opening band much more. They are currently signed to Sumerian Records. Now at long last, Atheist was in NYC and ready to close out the night in true Technical Thrash Metal style.
Atheist: The band was headlining this run of about eight dates and it was great to be here supporting them as they finally made their way to NYC. The band is most acclaimed for the album “Unquestionable Presence” which is referred to as one of the most influential of the Technical Thrash Metal releases of all times and given its 1991 original release date, it is safe to view the band as practical founders of the genre. Its not the full original lineup at this point of course but does find singer Kelly Schaefer and drummer Steve Flynn on point with the amazing bassist that is Tony Choy. The guitarists for the group came via Chris Baker who we saw earlier in Gnostic and Jonathan Thompson who while also from Gnostic was playing bass when we last saw him about 1.5 hours previous to the Atheist set. In the early days Schaefer used to play the guitar but ran into a problem with carpal tunnel that prevented him from doing this in the manner that he felt necessary for the band. As the lead singer only now, I had to say that he looked like he was having a blast being here and getting in the face of all his fans. From the moment he came out on stage there were outstretched hands that begged for his attention and he complied with a smile at every chance he could. While many might have missed his guitar playing I had to say that the band was in very capable hands with Baker and Thompson doing their thing. These two guys were ripping up the strings and given their being in Gnostic together they were an even tighter pairing and each seemed to know how best to work off the other.
Atheist was not only celebrating the first time in NYC which Schaefer made sure to mention a number of times, but also the release of their live Wacken Open Air festival set CD which was coming out on Relapse Records in the coming days after this show. Fans of the band might remember that Relapse also re-issued the bands other two albums with some bonus tracks. The singer at one point pulled out a bottle of Jaeger and swigged from it from time to time and asked who in the audience smoked weed. He then mentioned how he had gotten high earlier in the day as he enjoyed his long overdue visit to the city. Lucky for him he didn’t do this in Washington Square Park where many might recall learning that David Lee Roth got nailed for doing something similar. For all I know he might have been down there but since he didn’t mention his location we have to leave that to speculation. Much of the set came from the acclaimed release and this would also be a little bit of the downside because the set was only left to ten songs. Yes some of the numbers were a little longer based on their complex goings on, but I think that the audience expected the group to play for a little while more. Given the absence of one full band set tonight they could have obliged the crowd with at least two more numbers if you asked me.
They played their hearts out and after asking the folks if they would be picking up the release promised to not take fifteen years to come back. Based on this show going over so well I am sure that we will see them again soon. They had some friend’s video recording their set and perhaps we shall see this footage somewhere if not on You Tube. After the gig the band took the time to meet with those who wanted to pose for photos and it clearly made everyone’s night. I would have to say that this was a very successful night at the end of it all and worth every penny that the audience members paid.
Faceless Set List:
1. Prison Born
2. Sons Of Belial
3. Legion Of The Serpent
4. Oracle of The Onslaught
6. Coldly Calculated Design
9. An Autopsy
10. The Ancient Covenant
Atheist Set List:
1. Unquestionable Presence
2. On The Slay
4. Unholy War
7. An Incarnation’s Dream
8. Mother Man
9. And The Psychic Saw
10. Piece Of Time
I didn’t remember to photograph the venue marquee this time around but oh well, how about a visual of Atheist’s Kelly Schaefer and Gnostic’s Kevin Freeman to make up for it? I thought you’d like that.
These two both pulled out all the stops in terms of Death Metal vocal power tonight. Nice work dudes.
We caught the bassist from Psyopus just returning from some quick Times Square shopping since he had the chance. This town has a way of making everyone so “touristy”. I love it.