LIVE REVIEW: Skull Fist, Night Demon, Elm St. with Locals Holocaustic and Suspended - 01/18/15 THE BLU PHOENIX ABQ

Skull Fist, Night Demon, Elm St. with Locals Holocaustic and Suspended
01/18/15 THE BLU PHOENIX ABQ

I've long been back and forth to many Canadian Venues in my time: bars, basements, etc - all very easy to find and known by the majority of the public. However, Albuquerque, NM seems to hold a wealth of temporary and almost secretive venues for a person to check out bands from all over the world. There doesn't really seem to be much discrimination from labels or bands as to if they play at these places - which I love.  The idea of venues made strictly for music appeal to me, I've never honestly experienced something like this - until I arrived at The Blu Phoenix.
Strange to say but there is a level of mysticism when it comes to finding a building in the middle of a industrial area that is only marked with a Blue Phoenix. It all feels like something out of a mystery -or horror- novel. But, upon entering you soon discover the space is fantastic for live music - obviously set up by people who know what they are doing.

Albuquerque band Holocaustic
The first band that played, sadly to a very small crowd, was Holocaustic - one of two local bands. These guys were clearly still feeling out their sound - jumping all over the place when it came to song structure and musical influences. They played loud and fast but they were overall stiff when it came to stage presence (though, no worries on that as its something that comes over time). However, when it came to vocals they really nailed the Thrash/Death mix of the late 80s and 90s. Honestly, if the songs were kept more focused - Holocaustic could be great. A band with enormous potential. And ouch, was it just me or did the guitar player hurt his hand out there? That is some dedication to keep on playing like that.

Amanda Castillo of Suspended
One of my favorite parts of the night was definitely when Suspended got on stage. Its always great to see Death Metal live, even better that it was a trio (blame my love of bands like Celtic Frost when it comes to trios). For added effect, my wife and sister tagged along - not too experienced with the genre, they didn't expect such a powerful sound from a all-female group. My main gripe with metal is the misconception that women can't do anything beyond Metalcore, Symphonic, or Power sub-genres. Needless to say, my wife and sister were completely blown away - as was I, by the amazing guitar work of Amanda Castillo. Of course, her bright green ESP LTD made it hard to not pay attention to her playing. Though that isn't to say the show was completely stolen by her, the bassist Jessica Armstrong seemed to effortlessly play her parts. Sadly, the drummer Channing Concho was thoroughly stuffed in the back so it was difficult to see much - a flaw I found persistent with The Blu Phoenix's setup. No doubt, I hope I hear a lot more from Suspended in the future.

Jarvis Leatherby of Night Demon
Brent and Jarvis of Night Demon
Of course, the main point of attending this show was to catch the spectacle that was Night Demon. This band, making their way from Venture, CA, knew how to put on a live performance. Even after catching a peak at their upcoming material - there is no preparing you for what this band is capable of. I've caught a lot of computer wizardry being used in my time when it comes to bands of this caliber performing live - even catching singers singing backup to their own recorded voices. But Night Demon is pure. Clearly there is a strong emphasis on emulating bands like Sabbath and Danzig - some songs and themes making me extremely nostalgic of the days when I'd listen to both. I can only imagine they put a lot of time and energy into doing the absolute best they could live - instantly making fans out of my guests and I. Better yet, Night Demon included a added theatrical element to the whole performance (one that I wish I'd been able to catch properly on camera). While playing 'The Chalice', Night Demon had a man dressed as death (akin to the cover of their self-titled release) and beckon the audience to drink from his chalice. I've never seen anything like this and it was a huge touch that made the whole show twice as good. If you've decided to own their upcoming album 'Curse Of The Damned' - I don't see why your not making a effort to see one of their live performances.

Aaron Adie and Ben Batres of Elm St.
My condolences honestly go out to Elm St, the entire performance was fantastic but for the life of me, I couldn't hear Ben Batres vocals. Which is a freakin' shame as the band came all the way from Melbourne, Australia and I know for a fact that their hard-hitting Metal Anthems aren't as good without his equally powerful lyrics present. Still, I felt that what I heard was great. Aaron Aide practically made love to his guitar on stage, almost as if he expected to be considered some sort of guitar god in the future - which he probably could considering how he pretty much stole the show for me. It seemed like there were a lot of great Guitar players playing. Again, however, the drummer was situated where you could barely see the guys performance. You could hear everything was being played great but any sort of flair these drummers tried to put into their playing went completely unnoticed.

Jonny Nesta/Skull Fist
Zach Slaughter/Skull Fist
For some odd reason, the reasonably small crowd present at The Blu Phoenix mostly disappeared by the time Skull Fist started playing. I have no idea why because Skull Fist's classic Heavy Metal sound, look, and occasional humor made them one of my favorite performances of the night - even with the small crowd they put all of their all into the show. I can imagine these guys spend their time completely enthralled in Hair and Heavy Metal since Skull Fist even has the look completely nailed. Their music, for better or worse, is completely stuffed with solos. At some point Singer/Guitar Player Zach Slaughter and Guitarist Jonny Nesta just starting flinging individual guitar parts at each other. It finally all culminated in Nesta hopping on Slaughter's shoulders during the final song. Of course, the band's long and spectacular performance included a tonne of other great moments including a cover of Angelwitch's 'Angelwitch' and a drum solo by drummer JJ Tartaglia.

So, in retrospect Night Demon and Skull Fist really stole the show when it came to the touring bands. Elm St really needed to have their vocals pushed up in the mix - Batres attitude and lyrics would've made them unbelievable. I think the bands were also so different from each other that its impossible to say any were better - just different. The whole night was full of amazing performances and I would go back to see any of these bands again in a heart beat - including Holocaustic and Suspended.

Though playing Guitar while someone is playing Guitar on your shoulders - Skeletons offering me Chalices and Eternal Life? That is going to be a hard couple of moments for any future bands to top.