After interviewing Ripper Owens a couple of weeks ago, I have been ridiculously excited about attending this show. What could be better than seeing one of the absolute vocal LEGENDS of metal at your favorite live venue surrounded by a horde of metalheads out for a good time. That’s right – nothing.
We arrived about halfway through Hale of Ashes’ set – and were a bit disappointed we missed the first half. I’ve never heard Hale of Ashes before, but they play a mean set for a bunch of pimply teenagers. A friend pointed out, rightly, that their frontman was channelling Eddie Vedder, and for a wee one, their guitarist pulled out some mean solos.
Next up were Forsaken Age, who were playing their second show ever of original music (they’re also a covers band known as Twisted Metal, who’ve been working on an album of originals for a few months now. Their first gig was the Wellington Ripper show). Frontwoman Chrissy and bassist Lee are good mates, but I am not in the least bit biased when I say they totally rocked. Their songs are heavy, head-banging riffs strung together with lyrics ripped straight from all of your favorite metal cliches. They are heavy, happy, classic metal and they love it. The song “Ten-Eighty” (about poisonous people and what to do with them) was definitely the highlight.
Sonic Altar were up next. This hard rock band have been gaining increasing attention from the NZ music scene, and listening to their powerful songs and tight musicianship, it’s hardly surprising. A cover of “Mr Crowley” sent the bogan crowd wild.
Finally, World War Four took the stage. It’s been about five years since I’ve seen these guys perform, and they haven’t really changed a bit. Seeing them makes me feel like a teen again, remembering my early. Frontman Paul Martin is also the voice of the Axe Attack, one of NZ’s most popular metal radio shows. I used to stay up late every Sunday night to listen to that show and hear his soft voice talk about the latest metal releases. It’s always strange seeing him live and trying to match that voice to his rather brutal physique. As always, they played a tight set, and their stoner/death delivering that much-needed “punch-in-the-face” before the main act came on.
The place had seriously packed out by the time Ripper took the stage. I think a lot of people had seen there were four opening bands and came later than normal. I bet they were all glad they did. The man does not disappoint, opening with “Painkiller” just to show us he knows what we want to hear. Johnowar made a game of counting the screams.
He played for nearly two hours, launching through song after song with a graceful ease. His backing band – the Australian Killrazer who’d played with Paul Di’Anno when he came and were by all accounts a bit shite – were on fire, with a guitarist who could shred like that guitar had simply grown from his fingers.
The setlist was a great mix of classics from Ripper’s past – “Rising Force”, “The Ripper” and “When the Eagle Cries”, and some of his original stuff like Beyond Fear’s “Scream Machine” and “Heart of a Killer” from his solo record. I admit I was waiting all night to hear some songs off Demolition, (which was the first Judas Priest album I owned and might even be my favorite if it weren’t sacrilegious to say so). He only played “One on One” but it was awesome, so that’s OK.
Highlights of the night I think were Ripper’s Dio tracks – “Stand Up and Shout” and “Heaven and Hell”. He performed these with such tenacious energy you swear he was channelling Dio’s ghost.
A great night, and a fucking great way to end a fantastic weekend. My neck still hurts from all the head-banging. Unfortunately, most of my photos are crap, but you get the idea. It was good – if you were there = awesome. If you missed it = that sucks. I hope to see you at Inquistion on Wednesday night!