Skeletonwitch and Havok - Whisky A Go Go - 10/30/2012
Skeletonwitch and Havok
Whisky A Go Go
Better Than: Drinking alone
At the Whisky A Go Go last night the average patron was barely old enough to be out on a school night, let alone imbibing. The kids (and not a few aging heavy metal casualties) showed up for headliners -- Havok (of Denver) and Skeletonwitch (of Athens, OH). Touring partners Mutilation Rites and a gaggle of young local bands rounded out the night. The result? Face-melting thrash with a progressive, technical edge that would keep a Berklee-trained jazz musician on his toes.
With so many opening bands, getting any crowd to stick around until the end is a minor miracle. By the time the headliners took the stage the crowd was not only present, they were anxious, energetic and eagerly awaiting the thrash brutality only double bass drums and high gain pickups can provide.
Before Havok ended their sound check the Junior Heshers Legion chanted the band's name, leather-clad fists pumping in the air. When the opener "Covering Fire" -- from their 2011 release Time Is Up -- blared out of the amps, potential energy became kinetic. A circle pit the envy of any punk show erupted. Heads banged hard in unison as a furious cyclone of hair and Hirax back patches swirled before the stage.
Everyone in Havok can play their ass off, but the rhythm section stands out. Bassist Jessie De Los Santos furiously strummed his bass sans pick, beating the strings as if trying to teach them a lesson. Drummer Scotti Fuller plays a gargantuan six drums and 12 cymbals kit with a surgical precision.
"I don't listen to a lot of new thrash," Fuller said, commenting on the band's technical style. "I like other bands doing technical stuff, things I haven't seen before." One would be hard pressed to find a repetitive part of a Havok track, with time signatures shifting several times in a single song while maintaining an unrelentingly furious pace.
By the time the band played "D.O.A.," a track about the dangers of drinking and driving, the energy reached a fever pitch. Young bodies hurled themselves at one another, climbing on each others' backs to scream the chorus ("Dead... on arrival!") at frontman David Sanchez. The brief but powerful set left the sweaty crowd craving more.
Havok created a high bar for Skeletonwitch, but they didn't disappoint. A mish mash of various metal subgenres including black metal, thrash, death metal and doom, the band shifted seamlessly from brain-damaging riffage to mournful, minor-key soloing. Vocalist Chance Garnette resembled a heavy metal barbarian with his long, flowing hair, chest-length beard and spiked leather gauntlet. A versatile extreme metal vocalist, Garnette displayed equal comfort with grunting guttural death growls and the screechy, scratchy vocals that characterize black metal.