Homegrown legends rekindle spark of scene that used to be

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Homegrown legends rekindle spark of scene that used to be

The Alamo City’s storied heavy metal scene, which once turned local and national bands’ careers on its collective heads resulting in the moniker Heavy Metal Capital, is so rich that rare is the night a bulk of it joins forces under one roof at the same time. But that’s what took place last Saturday when a contingent of San Antonio’s “Homegrown Heavy Metal Legends” descended on Fitzgerald’s for a collection of metal talent, knowledge, stories and history.

Some were on stage for roughly 7 1/2 hours of music, including the 30-year reunion show of Nutron, veteran classic Texas metallers Syrus, 32nd anniversary celebrators Byfist, 40th anniversary mainstays Seance, plus Zero The Hero and Baad Newz. And some of the oft-labeled royalty around these parts were on hand to sign classic autographs of themselves as unveiled in Juan Herrera’s book “As Viewed From the Pit: Photos of the South Texas Metal Scene 1978-89” including Fates Warning and Sebastian Bach drummer Bobby Jarzombek, Watchtower guitarist Ron Jarzombek, Militia vocalist Mike Soliz, Riot V bassist Don Van Stavern and vocalist Buster Grant (see 90-photo slideshow below).

The latest chapter that added to the San Antonio scene’s own voluminous book won’t soon be forgotten. Emilio Ledezma, who these days makes his mark in Ledezma Lethal Legends which will perform at 10 p.m. tonight at Fitzgerald’s, resurrected his former band Nutron with Danny Trejo of Trejo on vocals and the double-neck guitar. They were preceded by Syrus, whose revolving door of singers has currently landed on Alfred Pena. The group formed by guitarists John Castilleja and Al Berlanga unveiled forthcoming track “Last Warrior” (ATM footage below) among its Tales of War classics, although time constraints forced them to cut out a pair of other new tunes (setlist in slideshow).

Byfist, led by original rhythm guitarist Nacho Vara, had a telling set for a couple of reasons. First, it paid homage to another local outfit by playing Juggernaut’s “All Hallows Eve” before vocalist Raul Garcia called up Helstar veteran James Rivera to take his place and join Byfist’s instrumentalists on Helstar’s 1984 track “Burning Star” (ATM Facebook Live footage here).

Then an emotional Vara could barely get through his introduction of “Mary Celeste” given that it was the first song he wrote for Byfist with the late vocalist Vikk Real. Vara at one point turned away from the crowd and walked toward the drum set before he was comforted by bassist Stony Grantham. Vara, who also pulled double duty in Seance — giving him approximately 70 years of music between both artists — then summoned the strength not only to get through the song, but to put his foot down and play the entire tune front and center under the main spotlight, away from his usual dimly lit spot stage left, as Garcia wrapped his arm around him in smile and song. Watch the band culminate its set with “In the End” below.

With longtime local disc jockey Brian Kendall spinning tracks between bands, it was no rest for the weary as far as Vara was concerned as Seance preceded Byfist. “Woman,” “Should’ve Known” and “Heavy Metal” (below) highlighted the band’s set as vocalist Danny Fonseca, founder and lead guitarist Robert Perez, bassist Ruben Hernandez and young pup drummer Octavio de la Pena joined Vara in providing its usual fun and energetic set.

Zero The Hero and local trio Baad Newz got things warmed up prior to the bar filling at its peak. Watch Zero The Hero in action below on “You Bring Hate” and on “Valley of the Bones.”

Another book of the local metal scene could very well begin with what went down at Fitzgerald’s: the drinks were cold, the metal flowed, and the stories and history were told. All in a night’s work when it comes to San Antonio heavy metal. But even this evening was a bit more special than most.

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Static-X & friends' homage behind masked Xer0 rates No. 1 with fans

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Static-X & friends' homage behind masked Xer0 rates No. 1 with fans

The decision for bands to carry on, hang it up or split into various factions after their singer has passed on to the afterlife is a fragile one unique to each artist. Whatever the verdict, it’s often met with scorn, hesitation and critics volunteering their opinions to the nth degree.

There are the bands whose frontmen were so iconic that carrying on would have been sacrilegious. Think Nirvana and Motorhead. There are those who took several years to mourn, decide and eventually return as respectfully as possible such as Alice In Chains. Others enlisted guests vocalists to honor and memorialize their fallen leader such as Dio Disciples singers Tim “Ripper” Owens and Oni Logan, occasionally aided by Mark Boals and Toby Jepson, ensuring that the music of Ronnie James Dio lives on.

The most famous gamble of all also became the most historic, as AC/DC’s replacement of Brian Johnson for the late Bon Scott carried the band into another stratosphere of success it already enjoyed with Scott.

Then there’s the unprecedented method employed by Static-X. Honoring the legacy that ended in 2014 with the death of singer/guitarist Wayne Static, original members Tony Campos (bass), Koichi Fukuda (guitars) and Ken Jay (drums) resurrected the band this year to honor Static and celebrate 20 years of first album Wisconsin Death Trip. The catch is that not only has the touring vocalist remained unidentified, he is wearing a mask of Static’s facial likeness and patented spiked hair.

Static-X’s choice of how to proceed beyond Static has been much-maligned within the metal industry. But not on Sunday, June 23, at the Aztec Theatre. A nearly sold-out theatre jumped, pumped and rocked to the album’s complete performance plus songs from second effort Machine in welcoming the new masked vocalist/guitarist with open arms and loud crowd participation (see 107-photo slideshow and ATM video footage below). As Campos introduced the band, he labeled masked wonder Xer0 as hailing “from parts unknown.” What’s mainly a mystery, however, is whether the persistent rumors that Xer0 is Dope singer Edsel Dope are accurate.

It would make sense. Taking care to cover his likely tattooed arms with full-length sleeves, Xer0 could very well be Edsel Dope for a pair of reasons: both singers have similar tall, lanky frames. And Dope is already one of the four support acts on the bill, carefully placed in the middle of the program perhaps to allow DevilDriver’s 50-minute set after Dope and prior to Static-X ample time for Dope’s namesake to rest between double duty each night. And if those two reasons aren’t convincing enough, Edsel Dope cited multiple tours his band went on with Static-X, and how he considered Wayne Static a close friend, as Dope’s band celebrated 20 years too.

So while Xer0 and the rest of the original Static-X lineup partied like it was 1999 and 2001 to the Aztec’s content, Devildriver also hit hard as only frontman Dez Fafara can. Defending Static-X’s decision, Fafara shared that Back in Black is his favorite album front to back of all-time and that it wouldn’t have been possible if AC/DC had quit after Scott’s death. Fafara, whose band also includes one-time Static-X bassist Diego Ibarra, delivered hard-hitting tracks “I Could Care Less,” “Ruthless,” “Cry for Me Sky,” “Sail” and “Before the Hangman’s Noose” (ATM footage of the latter two below). The frontman then broke out a pair of tracks from his Coal Chamber days with “Loco” and “Fiend” (videos below).

Opening acts Wednesday 13 and Raven Black brought the theatrics to the Aztec in their own way. Wednesday 13 in particular had a variety of costume changes during a 30-minute set that featured “What the Night Brings” and closer “Keep Watching the Skies” (footage below). Watch ATM’s 2017 interview with frontman Joseph Poole and his San Antonio bandmates Roman Surman and Troy Doebbler here.

Static-X announced prior to the tour they’d have a new album this year called Project Regeneration that features the final recordings of Wayne Static. Fans can pre-order the album and get their name in the liner notes here. What’s unclear is whether Xer0 will carry on the legacy, whether he was merely a memorial touring replacement, or whether Static-X will enlist a completely new singer — masked with hair spiked from here to the gone or to be his own persona — to evil disco the group into a new era.

Either way, the band’s decision is sure to create a wave of controversy, bringing its share of critics, supporters and rockers. Which is to say Campos, Fukuda and Jay likely wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Nita Strauss, Kore Rozzik & locals deliver controlled chaos

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Nita Strauss, Kore Rozzik & locals deliver controlled chaos

Instrumental, theatrical and even some playful X-rated chaos were on the same stage Friday night as a guitar hurricane swept through the Rock Box. “Hurricane” Nita Strauss, one of Alice Cooper’s guitarists who also spent time in global all-female Iron Maiden tribute band The Iron Maidens and the all-female modern-day version of ‘80s rockers Femme Fatale, made her San Antonio solo-band all-instrumental debut in support of Controlled Chaos.

New York rocker Kore Rozzik and his band, who like Strauss released their debut full-length album in 2018, also played the Alamo City for the first time and arguably stole the show with their energy, delivery, ability to entertain, quality of originals and even choice and delivery of covers. And in the end, they got punked by Strauss and her bandmates for their efforts in an affectionate farewell between the two national acts on the final night of their tour as Kore Rozzik attempted to close with “Spellbound” (ATM footage below).

A trifecta of locals warmed things up led by the Pup Zenabi Instrumental Project along with The Steel Soldiers and openers Wulfholt (see 76-photo slideshow below).

Strauss’ quintet dazzled with their own energy, headbanging and hair-whipping. While Jennifer Lopez was shaking her booty at the AT&T Center, the blonde guitarist struck a few sultry poses of her own and shred many more electrical riffs. Offering up “Alegria,” “The Stillness at the End,” “Lion Among Wolves” and “Mariana Trench” from her solo effort (setlist in slideshow), Strauss brought Rozzik on stage to sing Cooper’s classic “Eighteen.” She then went into an instrumental version of “Aces High,” consenting to the crowd afterwards, “I’d be lying to you guys if I said I didn’t miss playing Iron Maiden songs every night.” From there, Strauss returned to her solo record with “The Quest” (ATM Facebook Live footage here).

Strauss stuck to her planned ending of solo tracks “The Show Must Go On” and “Our Most Desperate Hour,” but that wasn’t good enough to conclude the tour in Texas. By default. Strauss took to the mic and reminded all in attendance that the following day marked the 1-year anniversary of the death of Vinnie Paul, as her band broke into some heartfelt Pantera riffage on “Domination” (ATM footage below).

Rozzik, meanwhile, captivated the onlookers in a variety of ways. The self-proclaimed “Bastard child of New York City” unveiled concept album Vengeance Overdrive last summer, a record that speaks to those who put him and his dreams down, and how he responds in kind. The hard-hitting record ratcheted up on stage as Kore Rozzik blazed through the title track, immediately showcasing an energetic difference in intensity between what it takes to land a national tour versus the three local predecessors continuing to hone their skills, chase their dreams and/or be content with playing for their friends and family.

Kore Rozzik’s album contains all-original material, but there’s an interlude on there where the frontman says, “I’m not like everybody else.” He proved as much, along with guitarists Andrei, Lynxx and drummer Louie — and no bass player — by raising eyebrows not only with a second-song cover, but the choice of cover. Backed by a TV screen set up next to Louie’s drum kit, Kore Rozzik used his Cooper influence while touring with Cooper’s guitarist to shock and awe his own way by performing Rockwell’s 1984 pop smash “Somebody’s Watchin’ Me,” as the video for the song that featured Michael and Jermaine Jackson played.

While the venue was cool and mostly comfortable for the patrons, it was anything but on stage for those working the hardest. Each of the five acts made some sort of reference to the lack of cool air flowing in their direction, which also was devoid of fans on a typical muggy June night. While Strauss doused herself with water, Rozzik took a more humorous approach: “This is probably the only time you wouldn’t want to get in my pants,” Rozzik said. “Man, it’s sweaty down there. . . . We have this thing in New York. It’s called air conditioning. You guys should try it.”

Kore Rozzik also delivered the goods on arguably the album’s best tunes “Bitter Rat” and “Mistress” (ATM footage of the latter below), then played a more conventional cover. He dedicated “Hangar 18” to Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine’s announcement earlier this week that he’s battling throat cancer, and the band shined on its version as the video played. But Rozzik received his vengeance comeuppance on finale “Spellbound” as Strauss’ band took over the stage and ended both groups’ touring partnership in style before they each met with fans and posed for photos. Strauss will return to the area when Cooper headlines the H-E-B Center in Cedar Park on Monday, July 29, with Halestorm and Motionless In White (tickets here).

Pup Zenabi Instrumental Project fit right in to Strauss’ non-vocal theme on the local front. Guitarist and band leader Tony Astarita, as is his custom, took to the stage and joked, “If you know the words, sing along,” as he, bassist James Graham, guitarist Andrew Goodline and drummer Kris Ardolino performed tracks such as opener “Trip Wire” and finale “Slaying the Dragon.” They also debuted forthcoming track “Swept Away” (ATM Facebook Live clip here). The band gets tighter with every appearance, and Pup Zenabi will be returning to the Rock Box on Saturday, Sept. 14, opening for L.A. Guns in a show that should be officially announced in the coming days.

The Steel Soldiers, a more rock-oriented band, made a rare appearance at the Rock Box as the second artist on the program. Vocalist Supe Steele frequently made his way into the crowd to spice things up as the quintet played the likes of “You’re Not Foolin’ Anyone” and “Starburn” (ATM Facebook Live footage here) off their EP Starburn Chronicles; Vol. 1.

Wulfholt, which opened for Sacred Reich on the same stage May 25 when it debuted new bassist Elijah Raein, kicked things off with the likes of “Shattered Crown” and “Truth Shrouded” in a short but heavy-hitting set.

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Into the Pit: Upon A Burning Body shows a little Southern hostility

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Into the Pit: Upon A Burning Body shows a little Southern hostility

No matter the look, no matter the message, no matter the venue, a hometown show for Upon A Burning Body never gets old. For the band or its fans. The latest injection of metalcore infection came Saturday night at Paper Tiger when the boys who never bypass an opportunity to bleed San Antonio metal celebrated Friday’s release of Southern Hostility.

Upon A Burning Body’s fifth full-length album charges out of the gate with first single “King of Diamonds,” (watch ATM’s footage below), which ended up being the second song offered live after another new blistering track “All Pride No Pain.”

Prior to headlining the dingy, sweaty, storied venue formerly known as the White Rabbit, original vocalist Danny Leal and original guitarist Ruben Alvarez graciously went “Into the Pit” for an all-encompassing interview ranging from the new album, their collaboration with Ice-T, appearing on an episode of “Hardcore Pawn,” the much-maligned staged kidnapping of Leal to promote the release of 2014’s The World Is My Enemy Now, their groundbreaking 2014 Knotfest performance (coverage here) and other topics (watch below).

So after fellow local hardcore acts Ammo For My Arsenal, Coldcasket — fronted by Alvarez’s younger brother Thomas — Memories In Broken Glass, Donella Drive, and A Tragic Setback plus UABB labelmates Uncured warmed things up, UABB’s close friend Jose Mangin took to the mic to introduce the featured attraction. Prior to that, the host of Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal and Octane satellite radio programs spoke with ATM via Facebook Live about his second trip to the Alamo City (watch here). Mangin and Leal conceded to ATM that the radio host, who was a guest vocalist on “Till the Break of Dawn” on previous album Straight From the Barrio, would likely jam with the band in some capacity. Considering those facts and how far Mangin traveled, it was a stunner that no such collaboration materialized after all. Instead, Thomas Alvarez joined the group for a song.

But one expected aspect of a UABB concert didn’t disappoint. Following pit-stirring renditions of “The Champ is Coming,” “Already Broken,” “Remenissions” and “Sin City,” Leal, Alvarez, drummer Tito Felix and bassist Joe Antonellis ended with the mandatory “Texas Blood Money” (watch below). As the crowd sang “The stars at night are big and bright” in unison, members of UABB’s label and marketing company who also flew in for the show couldn’t help but get goose bumps to go with their sweat-infused foreheads in the sauna of the Paper Tiger.

Upon A Burning Body may have stopped wearing high-class suits on stage circa 2015 — a wise move considering the conditions of a typical humid June night in their hometown. But they still looked — and sounded — as sharp as a little Southern Hostility can come across when unifying a band and its dedicated fandom.

(Camera: Bonnie Archer)

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Return of Sacred Reich hits home for purveyors of S.A. Slayer

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Return of Sacred Reich hits home for purveyors of S.A. Slayer

When the discussion of thrash metal circulates at concerts, your local venue or maybe even around the barbecue pit, the usual suspects come to mind even beyond The BIg 4. Sacred Reich, however, often doesn’t even fall on the radar. Some of that may be due to its inactivity from 2000-06. But considering the band formed in the mid-’80s out of Arizona during arguably the peak of the metal scene, the biggest reason for Sacred Reich’s relative obscurity may remain the biggest mystery as well..

But it’s no time like the present for original vocalist/bassist Phil Rind to round up the gang again. And with a couple of twists. It was all on display last Saturday night at the Rock Box as Sacred Reich reminded an intimate crowd of maybe a couple hundred just how underrated it is. Get a taste by watching ATM’s footage of three songs below.

Even more relevant to many than the band’s return was who was playing the drums. Former S.A. Slayer — and, oh by the way, Machine Head — sticksman Dave McClain enjoyed a homecoming of sorts, returning to Sacred Reich last year for his second stint with the group. San Antonians, of course, remember McClain largely for his involvement with S.A. Slayer, which is widely known for the one “Slayer vs. Slayer” show in history it played on the same bill as The Big 4 version Nov. 30, 1984, at The Villa Fontana. McClain certainly didn’t forget, performing Saturday night in a Slayer — yes, his version — T-shirt. His former bassmate, Donnie Van Stavern of Riot V and S.A. Slayer, was on hand as well.

While McClain returned to Sacred Reich in 2018, rhythm guitarist Joey Radziwill is even newer — and much younger. Sacred Reich’s unique timeline as a band couldn’t have been put in much more perspective than when Rind announced the 22-year-old Radziwill hadn’t been born the last time they made an album — 1996’s Heal. But that’s about to change as Sacred Reich will release Awakening on Aug. 23. They unveiled the title track among other older favorites such as “Surf Nicaragua,” “Free” and “Ignorance” (watch ATM’s Facebook Live footage here; setlist in 45-photo slideshow below).

Sworn Enemy, out of New York, was the only other national act on the bill, and they hit hard. Touring in support of Gamechanger, released six weeks ago, Sworn Enemy can be seen in action here before ending its set with “We Hate” below.

Wulfholt and Beyond Black delivered the goods from a local standpoint. Wulfholt, which competed in March during the regional portion of the 2019 Wacken Metal Battle competition, will return to the Rock Box on Friday, June 21, opening for Nita Strauss and Kore Rozzik (tickets here). In the meantime, watch them perform “Truth Shrouded” here.

Beyond Black certainly didn’t mess around with easing into its set to kickstart the evening. Not when you only have 30 minutes to set the table for the featured acts. As an added bonus for Alamo True Metal, which was privileged to be the only publication on hand covering the show, Beyond Black performed in surprisingly bright lighting, mostly nixing the dreaded red display that virtually all opening acts — and even some recent headliners such as Hatebreed and Godsmack — utilize. Bassist Steve Pena acknowledged the group is working on new material, which they revealed here. You can also watch them close out with “Deviant Saint” below and check out their ReverbNation page here.

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Hatebreed's 25th anniversary package puts the heavy in hardcore

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Hatebreed's 25th anniversary package puts the heavy in hardcore

Hatebreed may only have been trying to celebrate its 25th anniversary when it destroyed everything Friday night at Vibes Event Center. But it ended up proving a couple of things in the process.

  • One: it only appears to be getting started as a band

  • Two: it doesn’t mess around when it comes to compiling a bill of no-nonsense, throw-it-down hardcore acts

Supported by Obituary, Agnostic Front, Prong and Skeletal Remains, the veterans from Connecticut returned to the Alamo City for yet another performance at a different San Antonio locale. Vocalist Jamey Jasta gave shout-outs to Sunset Station, Sunken Gardens and the White Rabbit — the latter once including a gig in which Hatebreed recruited a drummer the day of the show who learned the setlist during soundcheck — as Hatebreed tore through its career in as friendly of a volatile set as one can get.

Jasta could’ve also mentioned Vans Warped Tour and River City Rockfest visits at the AT&T Center (watch ATM’s 2016 chat from the latter with drummer Matt Byrne and bassist Chris Beattie here). But this initial performance at the Vibes hit hard as Hatebreed delivered the goods on “To the Threshold,” “A.D.,” “Looking Down the Barrel of Today,” “Doomsayer,” “Perseverance,” “Destroy Everything” and finale “I Will Be Heard,” among others (setlist in 55-photo slideshow below). Watch ATM Facebook Live footage of “Tear it Down” and “As Diehard As They Come” here (professional footage of Hatebreed was not allowed).

Jasta brought up the “eight or nine albums, covers album, 7-inches and all that shit” the group has put out during its array of Texas visits, which made one think of the fact Hatebreed has never put out a live record — 2008 DVD “Live Dominance” notwithstanding. That alone makes it all the more impactful upon metalheads and listeners in general to catch Hatebreed live whenever the chance presents itself.

Despite the celebratory mode of the occasion, arguably the biggest story of the night was one that purposely went under the radar. Obituary, direct support to Hatebreed, continued on without bassist Terry Butler — or any bass player — following the death of his daughter in a car accident on the first night of this leg of the tour. Butler’s two grandsons survived the accident, and he and his wife are reportedly taking care of them, forcing him to miss the tour. A GoFundMe page has raised just shy of its $30,000 goal. You can contribute here.

As for the show, the rest of Obituary carried on. It heavily succeeded, in more ways than one, in maintaining a business-as-usual mentality to the tune of “Slowly We Rot,” “I’m in Pain” (ATM footage below) and others.

Agnostic Front, the purveyors of hardcore and punk from New York since 1980, incited the biggest pits of the night despite mic issues plaguing vocalist Roger Miret for the first couple of songs. And that was before original rhythm guitarist Vinnie Stigma parked himself in the middle of the venue surrounded by a wave of South Texas maniacs (ATM footage below). MIret also shone the spotlight on 6-year-old Lucy, who was watching the bands from atop her father’s shoulders until they both were called up on stage. You can see the group, and Lucy, in action via ATM’s Facebook Live footage here.

Another longtime New York staple, Prong, brought its “Ultimate Authority” back to the area as frontman Tommy Victor, bassist Jason Christopher and relatively new drummer Aaron Rossi snapped a few fingers and necks along the way. Having most recently co-headlined with Helmet last year at Paper Tiger, Prong went on second out of the five bands in another example of just how strong this lineup was. See them play “Broken Peace” below.

Skeletal Remains, out of the Los Angeles area, kicked things off on the all-national-band program with a 6:30 p.m. start to its San Antonio death metal debut. Talk about getting your senses whacked into reality after a long work week segued into a metal concert. Watch ATM Facebook Live footage of them here.

Vibes Event Center, meanwhile, continues to evolve as it has added a third stage area within its spacious venue. Along with the regular Rock Box stage and the larger Vibes platform, Vibes Underground now has an intimate “smaller-show” corner along with two more bars and more than 10 private bathrooms. The basement portion has begun taking on acts that were originally scheduled for the recently shut down Jack’s Patio Bar — which, ironically, was where Agnostic Front’s previous San Antonio gig took place in 2015 — thanks to the tireless work of Micaela and Steve Rodriguez and their staff.

Jasta, meanwhile, promised a new Hatebreed album and return visit in the not-too-distant future. Sounds like an excellent occasion for Hatebreed to consider recording its first official live release in the Alamo City. Just a thought from a city that’s always persevered and treated them so well.