On Easter Sunday, the 8th of April, I headed over to the U Street Music Hall in Washington DC to see Onslaught and M-Pire Of Evil play the final show of their 2012 North American tour. This tour was the first time either band had ever been to the US and this show was the first heavy metal show ever at the venue which has only been open for about two years. The U St Music Hall is usually home to techno DJs and dance music but recently the 9:30 Club, which is only a few blocks away, has started booking some shows for them on off nights. Normally the U Street Music Hall does not allow photography at their shows but apparently when the 9:30 Club books them those rules don’t apply, so even though they have no photos signs literally painted on the walls, it was ok this night. This was an early show, the venue wanted it to be over by 10pm for some reason, and when I arrived it was still daylight out. There were no local openers and the crowd was pretty thin, I’d figure due to that and a few other factors. For one it was not a venue metal heads generally know about, secondly it was a holiday and third neither of these UK based bands are particularly huge in the US.
The first band to play was the awfully named M-Pire Of Evil, formerly known as Prime Evil. You may remember that Prime Evil was the name of the legendary first wave black metal band Venom‘s 1989 album and this is no coincidence. Two members of M-Pire Of Evil were in Venom on that album, bass player/vocalist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and Venom’s original guitar player, Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn. The band was touring with a relative unknown behind the drum kit in Marc Jackson but he did fine. M-Pire Of Evil was actually pretty damn good live, their set list (photo of it here) was very heavy on Venom covers from the era that both Mantas and Demolition Man were in the band together, and they only played three songs from their band’s debut album, Hell To The Holy. That’s ok, I think most of the people who had gotten there in time to see them were just hoping to hear classic Venom covers and when they played the only non-Demoltion Man era Venom song of their set, Black Metal, the crowd was singing along with them. Their set was fun, though short, and they ended after playing for only about 45 minutes. I would definitely recommend seeing these guys again, especially if you’re into hearing some old Venom classics played live in much the same way Heaven And Hell played Black Sabbath classics.
The headliner of this tour was Onslaught, a British thrash metal band from the 80s that never really developed a big following in the US. They are most known for their classic 1986 thrash album The Force though after breaking up in 1991 they dropped off of most people’s radars. Well they reunited in 2005 and put out two albums of new material in 2007 and 2011. The only two members left from the old days are vocalist Sy Keeler and guitar player Nige Rockett, though Nige now only plays rhythm guitar despite having done all of the band’s leads before the split. The new material is pretty killer though, their latest album, Sounds Of Violence, fits right alongside bands like Slayer and Kreator and they sounded even better live. Thrash tends to do well in a live setting, playing thrash songs faster usually makes them more exciting and they tend to have tons of what I like to call, mosh friendly riffs. Sadly there couldn’t have been much more than 50 people at this show by the time Onslaught was playing though there were a few people trying to start up pits from time to time throughout their set. Maybe he was worn out from the tour but Sy Keeler didn’t really impress me much as a front man. He missed a lot of his high notes and sometimes would just walk off to the side of the stage to relax a little. That’s fine between songs but come on man, get people pumped even when you’re not singing! The bass player and drummer, Jeff Williams and Michael Hourihan, both were very charismatic up there however, and even Nige threw the horns a few times. Lead guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies looked like he was ready for the tour to be over and really wanted a nap, haha. Still, the material was very solid, a good mix of older classics and newer songs that made for a fun performance. The show ended right on time, just before 10pm, and Sy Keeler said they would have a new album out next year and would be back to tour in support of it. You can check out the video at the end of this post to see/hear the band’s final three songs that night. There was no encore performance.
It was cool to see a metal show at a new venue like this, it seemed like something Empire/Jaxx would have gotten normally but I enjoyed seeing some old school metal bands playing in the city. It would have been nice if they booked a local opener or two since it was just a two band bill, it probably would have helped with the turn out as well. Regardless it was a fun show, especially for a holiday night. If it had been up to me M-Pire Of Evil would have headlined as I enjoyed their show more than Onslaught’s, though they were both worth coming out for. Hopefully the U Street Music Hall will get some more metal shows, they have a great sound system there and the 400 capacity venue certainly was as nice as other area venues of comparable size (think Empire/Jaxx and the Rock & Roll Hotel). And while the bar selection wasn’t bad, be sure to eat ahead of time as all they had on the menu (photo here) to eat was various styles of hot dogs. Well, that’s it for this concert review, now I’ve got to get to work on the upcoming concerts calendar and be sure to come back and check out the new ticket contest that will be running all next week. Stay metal everyone and remember, support the scene you’re a part of!