Camden Underworld… They have appeared! For the first night of their 2011 UK Tour, the most outrageous band in the world, in my humble opinion - Where Angels Suffer!!
No, it isn't 1987 and we're not at Long Beach Arena but MetalTalk.net is in the presence of Heavy Metal royalty. Stet Howland and Chris Holmes, formerly of W.A.S.P., are here to showcase their new supergroup, Where Angels Suffer. Fronted by the awesome Rich Lewis and backed by guitar virtuoso Ira Black and bassist Steve Unger, this is one powerful beast.
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W.A.S. are on a whirlwind European tour and have flown into London to showcase material from their debut album, 'Purgatory', released last October, plus a few classic numbers from the old days. The MetalTalk.net crew are out in force to ensure we give this fantastic Metal event the coverage it deserves.
'Purgatory' is very hard to track down and not yet released in the UK, but this is what the band have to say in their own words:
"We are going to blow people's minds with these new recordings, a little old, a little new and lots of ass-kickin' black and blue! Everybody is playing like they have something to prove and we're coming out swinging!"
They hit the stage at 9.15 sharp and fire off two 'Purgatory' numbers, 'Cardiac Arrest' and 'Crying Eagle'. It's classic Metal but with a fresh sound, and the band tear up the stage with surprising force. Ira Black is on fire and Chris Holmes looks…well…ecstatic! The venue's very low on numbers, but the atmosphere's electric because every single person here knows they're seeing the best show in London since Steven Adler rocked this very venue back in March.
The difference tonight is that W.A.S. are no tribute band. This is a seriously slick, talented, fire-breathing ensemble with material not many UK fans have heard yet easily sitting alongside the classics.
Rich Lewis is magnificent. Undaunted by the sparse crowd, he focuses on the front row who are lapping up every note, and he's clearly enjoying every moment. With a range that encompasses some Halford-esque squeals with Dio-style power and an attitude that rivals Blackie Lawless, he's spot-on as frontman. Bassist Steve Unger, meanwhile, stands boldly at the front to his right, helping Lewis with backing vocals and projecting a huge stage presence.
After the two opening tracks, the show hits its stride when the band launch into the blistering 'Wild Child'. Stet Howland may be on a smaller drumkit than usual and it's definitely not on fire, but he's playing with his usual panache. Sticks are flying, cymbals are crashing and at key moments he's on his feet urging the crowd on.
Chris Holmes, the man we've all come to see, is loving it. Head down, covered in tattoos and hair flying everywhere, his trademark sound is undiminished, guitar strings punished like there's no tomorrow. Three songs in, he straps on his trademark battered yellow guitar, and having already worked up a sweat, this is a sight that is the embodiment of the legend we've seen in countless Metal magazines.
It's a short set but blindingly effective. With a solo show-off stint from Ira Black, who could be Gus G in disguise, and a phenomenal drum workshop from Stet, in which he uses Budweiser bottles for drumsticks, it's heads down to the end with the classics. And THIS is what we came for! W.A.S. lovingly embrace the early days, starting with an unbelievably rocking 'Hellion', followed by my personal favourites, 'L.O.V.E Machine' and 'Blind In Texas', before finishing with a crowd-pleasing 'I Wanna Be Somebody' and new-ish track 'Lust', which sounds magnificent.
The only question now is: 'will they or won't they?' But if Blackie won't, W.A.S. certainly will! Closing track 'Animal' is a riot. Blackie's original shock lyrics are now so dated they're laughable, and it's just old-school fun. Rich's eyes are twinkling and Chris Holmes is grinning, so you know there's no ego, misogyny or political agenda to this. It's just a classic 80s track which brings the crowd to life. And, quite frankly, it's fun to spend an evening in the Underworld singing 'F*ck Like A Beast'. (As Chris Holmes later tells me, "HE won't play it, I don't know why. I was born a Mormon and I still play it.")
The band play as a united group, and it's clear they're having fun. There's great onstage chemistry, top-notch musicianship and material which fits the mood perfectly. My one complaint? I wish they'd played for twice as long! Chris Holmes has such a unique style of playing that one short session in his presence at the Underworld is not nearly enough.
But that's it. One of the best gigs of the year to an adoring, if sparse crowd.
To our delight, though, the encore comes in the form of a post-show meet 'n' greet. The band wander into the main part of the Underworld and take time to talk to the crowd, sign some bizarre W.A.S.P rarities, chat about the music and pose for photos (including this one below: myself, Chris Holmes and MetalTalk.net colleague Tina Saul.)
My favourite album of all time is 'The Headless Children' which I've owned on cassette, CD and now digital. The first-ever proper live Metal gig I went to was W.A.S.P. over nineteen years ago in Preston, where Stet Howland quite literally blew my mind. To meet them both and share in the evening was a very special moment indeed.
A huge thanks to W.A.S. for coming to London and being so much fun, so great onstage and so patient with us geeky fans! The challenge for the band is to get this album released in the UK somehow and do some promotion because this is a serious unit. There's little nostalgia or rose-tinted history here. This is simply the here and now and it's bloody brilliant.
Thank you, and let's hope we see you again in 2012. MetalTalk.net will be there.
Go to: www.whereangelssuffer.com
Jonathan Churchill. MetalTalk.net
Follow me on Twitter: MetalTalk_1976