When Bonded by Blood is the first band of the evening, each paying individual should be well aware of the night that is to follow. A perfect scene setter for everything that came after, Los Angeles’ Bonded by Blood is one of those rare acts who would have exactly the same amount of fun whether playing in front of 20 or 2,000. It is clear from the band’s raucous delivery that they enjoy playing their brand of thrash revival metal whether or not anyone is there to hear it. Vocalist Mauro Gonzales inescapably looks the part of the thrash from the late ‘80s, and every piece the band plays lives to that lofty standard. While each of the band’s selections was firmly entrenched in the thrash vein (and highlighted the top-flight talent of guitarist Juan Juarez,) their best achievement on the evening was the towering, blistering title track off their upcoming album, “the Aftermath.”
If you think you can hide in the corner and not be noticed at a Blackguard show, you will find yourself sorely mistaken. The highly energetic, frenetic, stage-prowling band refuses to allow any patron a lapse in attention, making it their personal mission to involve as many people as possible. Singer Paul “Ablaze” Zinay grabbed the tops of heads and coerced patrons to join in his joyful, screamed singing, Terry Deschenes was seen landing the head of his guitar on fans caught looking the wrong way and bassist Etienne Mailloux jabbed his instrument at those standing in the front rows. Blackguard never gives up; they own the stage, play at the front of it, and tirelessly endeavor to make every set of eyes in the building stay glued on them. It is rare to see a band that plays with this much intensity and enthusiasm for the duration of their entire set. Each successive song selection was better than the previous, the band seemingly rising to a new level on each occasion. It was speed out of the gate, exemplified with the selection of the obligatory title track of their newest album, "Firefight." Justine Ethier is just as much of a powerhouse drumming machine in person as she is on record, currying a fervor of intensity without the use of triggers or assistance. She plays with both power and grace, whether it was this piece or the punishing "The Sword" later on. Just when it seemed the set’s fever pitch could not be elevated any higher, the band finished with a destructive, neck-breaking “The Fear of All Flesh,” each member moving in orchestrated tandem, an intricate headbanging dance of both jaw-breaking attitude and revelatory celebration of metal bravado.
If Blackguard was the evening's unequivocal buzzsaw, then Kittie was the figurative hammer and anvil. Blackguard is a tough act to follow (and probably stole the show,) but Kittie distinguished themselves by playing a different type of music in a different direction. Speed was, in most places, put on the back burner in favor of powerful pummeling of the first order. The crowd was held in a hypnotic trance through the sing-along "Never Again," and was willing to jump into the fray whenever the band wished. New songs incited the audience just as well as old, including the furious "Empires," off of the band's newest album "I've Failed You." Whether it was "Brackish" or any other of the band's selections, Kittie played for the small but dedicated crowd with grace and groove. The latter quality was available in abundance, with rejoined bass player Trish Doan riding the low register from beginning to end and giving the crowd every ounce of power that they could handle. The roiling, thunderous depth of Kittie's sound echoed in the building and banged around in the corners of the venue, leaving no patron untouched. It was a solid hour of the heavy side of the heavy metal equation, and did not disappoint.
For those savvy enough to find the venue and make sure they were in attendance, the evening’s showcase bands provided a night of cathartic release as only heavy metal can. The first two thirds of the night alone are worth the price of admission, and it was not, and is not, to be missed.