While the masses of big name metal musicians, retailers, musical tech geeks, and groupies all gathered in Anaheim for the annual NAAM show over the weekend, hundreds of fans flocked an industrial corner of Fullerton on Saturday night for the CD Release party of up and coming Ventura heavy metal trio, Night Demon.
By 8:45 p.m., the hidden rehearsal space known as the Riff Haus was packed with fans, at least 100 deep inside and another hundred outside. The only downer of the evening was the sound system of the venue. From Blade Killer, on through the headliners, the microphones, amps and speakers kept cutting out during the set, causing distractions and frustrations among the musicians and crowd, but the bands all managed to pull right through it, and never once stopped a song. However, there were a few things that fans in the crowd couldn't overlook, like the fact that in between bands there was no music playing, and hearing the silence and random conversations was a bit disorienting. To top it off, this place didn't sell beer.
But, despite all that, the night was a special one for Night Demon, who have took the underground heavy metal scene by stealth, slowly gathering a rabid fan base, by word of mouth and constantly being on the road. With a sound that is best described as a new school twist on an old school approach, Night Demon, one part of a younger generation of heavy metal musicians keeping alive the classic, retro New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Angel Witch, Saxon and even greats like Motorhead, Dio and Iron Maiden. With the killer guitar shredding, courtesy of Brent Woodward, Night Demon's sound is rounded out by bassist/vocalist Jarvis Leatherby and drummer Dusty Squiers. The band's epic sound is matched by songs about ancient mythology, the occult, and death.
Night Demon's set lasted just under an hour in that small room, but the walls of sound, passionate musical performances, flashing strobe lights, and thunderous vibe could have been from a stadium or arena. Since forming in 2012, the band has worked endless days and nights traveling the country, touring everywhere and with anyone who would take them out, most recently, with the '80s Canadian thrash metal band Raven.
Fans at the Riff Haus were treated to songs from Night Demon's album, Curse of the Damned, which has been getting rave reviews from the press and fans; the band even recently singed to Century Media Records and is heading to Europe to support the album. The band's set included several symphonic intros, including classical music, and the second to last song included a brief appearance by the band's unofficial mascot, the grim reaper. Fans in the front throw up the horns sang along and head banged with the band for the final tune.
LA metal band Blade Killer did a fantastic job of warming up the crowd, with a sound that mixed King Diamond, Sabaton and Judas Priest. Vocalist Carlos Gutierrez killed it with the high pitch heavy metal screams, while Jonathan Rubio and Jay Vazquez worked magic on guitars, and Kelsey Wilson held it down on bass. The energy and speed, mixed with mild aggression worked well to get the crowd amped up for the next three bands.
Elm Street, from Melbourne, Australia took the stage next, and again were plagued by technical issues, but refused to stop playing their set. As a whole the band definitely wear their influences on their sleeves. You can hear everything from bands like Exodus, Pantera, Dark Tranquility and Manowar, to produce a range of melodic death metal, power metal and speed metal. This was a concert, where for the first time ever, the lead singer/ guitarist put down his guitar, dove into the crowd, started slam dancing ran through a circle pit then jumped back onstage to finish the song, closing the set with even more energy than they began with.
Skull Fist, an extreme metal band from Canada, was up next and had the most densely packed crowd imagine a strange mix of thrash and 80s hard rock with minor hints of death and grind. Definitely fist pumping and pit worthy.
Skull Fist contained an insanely monstrous drummer, in size, speed and power, whose unrelenting smashing of the drums sent the intensity level over the top. Combine this with a slightly androgynous guitarist/singer, and imagine a speed metal version of Poison. Imagine the band Poison mixed with the band Toxic Holocaust. By the end of Skull Fists set, which lasted just under an hour, the pit was just getting warmed up and the band fans eating out of their fists, while chanting 'Get Fisted!'
The Riff Haus is lucky that the bands performed their best and brought their chops to the table, in spite of the difficulties with the sound. Even though the evening was a CD release party for Ventura's Night Demon, the show proved that international heavy metal acts could hang in Southern California's metal scene. Each band held its own weight, already has a dedicated fan base, and has the potential to explode onto the scene with a new resurgence of retro heavy metal music.