It’s the night of the General Election, a remarkable night even in the times we are living in, an age of uncertainty and fear where all the things you held to be true are being stress tested to breaking point. There is then, some comfort to be had inside Chinnerys tonight where we are gonna party like it’s 1985. Of course if you look closely at those times then there are some similarities, not least a sitting U.S. president who is largely considered to be a clown and a despotic female Tory Prime Minister with all the warmth of a Dalek.
Anyway, for those of us for whom the mid-80’s were the heady days of our youth, the thrash metal Wonder Years, there is great comfort to be had in these sounds. It may have been noisy, fast and angry, but ultimately most of it felt like party music….though not Slayer, obviously.
And so here come Dust Bolt, four Bavarian bangers who weren’t even born at the time, but totally in the thrall of classic mid-80’s Bay Area sound. These guys have been making quite a name for themselves in Germany, winning Wacken Metal Battle 2011 and being nominated in a couple of categories for Metal Hammer awards. With an average age of 23 they are already veteran road warriors and have toured with the likes of Obituary and Six Feet Under. It shows when they hit the stage in a riot of hair and riffs, singer Lenny doing his best to cajole the small crowd to the front of the stage. He doesn’t let up all night, and despite the crowd clearly being unfamiliar with their set he musters a pretty noisy reaction and a ton of goodwill. Dust Bolt are a high energy celebration of metal and on their first two albums they mix the grit and aggression Exodus with the youthful vigour of Death Angel. With forthcoming third Mass Confusion the band seem to be trying to bring in a more street tough attitude with Lenny adopting a more crossover style of vocals, the clear role model being Suicidal Tendencies, although tonight it’s more a game of thrash metal bingo as you tick off the influences.
Whilst technically brilliant, with special mention to the Mustaine-esque quicksilver soloing of guitarist Florian, the band suffer from a lack of great songs. Bearing in mind the sort of tunes Exodus had in the set by album number three Dust Bolt make you nod along and grin in the midst of the chugging riffs but the songs just don’t have the power to stick in your memory. The only nicely jarring moment in the set comes late on when Lenny briefly switches to death metal style vocals over a particularly nasty riff and I find myself suddenly stirred, odd as I’m not even really a death metal fan!
And so to the headliners, back, believe it or not, for their second show in Southend in just over a year. Last time out was their first time in my home town and they were so well received that they knew they had to come back (Note to bands and promoters – Southend welcomes rock of all kinds). Last time out Blood In, Blood Out was freshly spawned and the set leaned heavily on newer material, but this time Steve Souza asks us if we mind if we keep it ‘old school‘ tonight, and unsurprisingly no one seems to have a problem with that.
Ripping through early classics like ‘Bonded By Blood’, ‘Exodus’ and ‘And Then There None’ it’s clear they have lost none of their power or charm and although this set is clearly partly designed a warm-up for their Download performance it does not diminish the night’s entertainment value one bit. The band, grins on faces, give it their all, and no matter which album they dip into the quality of the songs is excellent. Perhaps surprisingly two of the best tracks, both received with circle pits and moshing aplenty, are ‘Fabulous Disaster’ and ‘Children of a Worthless God’, neither is perhaps seen as peak-period product but both incredibly strong pieces of work. The few tracks they do air from Blood In, Blood Out back up my contention that it is a truly great record, with ‘Body Harvest’ in particular being an absolute raging beast.
As the band rumble and rip through ‘Black List’, another superb ball of punky, bouncy aggression it occurs to me that no one currently does this stuff better. Torch bearers for Bay Area thrash for over thirty years, Exodus are still at the forefront of the genre. This isn’t a heritage act for misty-eyed old rockers, Exodus is still very much the real deal.