Mpire of Evil Plays Venom Classics in San Antonio Supporting Onslaught's First American Tour
All hell broke loose on March 26th, 2012. Hell didn’t exactly break loose considering Korova club in San Antonio ushered a guestimated fifty people through their doors. Shows held at the beginning of the work week may produce dismal ticket sales, but south Texas must not have gotten the memo: Mpire of Evil contains ex-Venom members, who play Venom classic Venom numbers.
Mpire of Evil isn’t exactly Venom and without a blurb explaining their lineup, the name Mpire of Evil may elicit a “never heard ‘em before” type response. The night’s headliners, Mpire of Evil and fellow Brits Onslaught were both American tour circuit noobs. Onslaught took nearly thirty years to make an American appearance, which has hindered them from gaining the fame they so badly deserve. One can’t fault the level of devotion possessed by Onslaught’s small cult of American followers. Some of the fans at Korova’s had waited three decades, figuring to never see the thrashers. For most of us, this was the closest we had ever been to witnessing Venom, so this was a night not to be missed.
The crowd obviously wanted to hear classic Venom numbers, which Mpire of Evil obliged, but the group doesn’t go by the poisonous moniker, so they had plenty of original material on display. It’s assumable that much of the crowd had not heard Mpire’s full-length debut “Hell to the Holy,” which dropped the day of the show (read EdgeoftheWorld's review). Single-worthy tracks such as “Hellspawn,” and “Metal Messiah” meshed various metal styles and modernized the familiar British metal sound. Heads nodded in approval as the group made new fans, while those in the know went away with an appreciation that couldn’t be replicated from a mere home or car stereo system. The guitar added fluidity to the stomping fury of the tight bass and drums on anthemic numbers “Metal Messiah” and “Hell to the Holy.”
Even though “Hell to the Holy” gained a positive response; unsurprisingly, their rendition of vintage Venom tunes came with greater enthusiasm. With the exception of their newest edition—drummer Marc Jackson, Mpire of Evil members Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan (bass, vocals), Mantis (guitar) played on the premise of being ex-Venom members, Mantis being the original guitarist, so they obliged the crowd right from the beginning with “Countess Bathory.” Dolan wore a headset microphone, a non-typical instrument for a metal singer that allowed him to freely move about the stage. He assumed various old school metal poses with Mantas. Hearing Dolan’s sandy vocal tones and bass style put into perspective his brief stay as Cronos’s replacement. The group represented the Demolition Man era with “Blackened Are the Priests” and “Carnivorous.”
Venom coined the term “Black Metal,” and this sinister vibe lives on in the growling, blast-beating extreme sounds of today. Venom wasn’t without humor, though. Some of that humor was on display tonight. Dolan struck a bass note and then began an introduction to “Black Metal,” which Mantis kept interrupting by picking the song’s opening chords. Dolan told him to stop, so he could give the song its proper due, but every time he started his spiel, Mantis interrupted. It was like a Abbott and Costello comedy bit. Eventually, the two got on the same page and assailed the crowd with “Black Metal” and ended their set with the timeless thrasher “Witching Hour.”
The ear-splitting wails of warning sirens lent a theatrical feel to Onslaught’s stage entrance. Rumbling guitar tones abruptly stopped as Sy Keeler announced “Spitting blood in the face of god,” to set the oncoming slaughter of “Killing Peace.” The Bristol quintet immediately launched another classic “Born For War.” “Godhead,” another new track from the “Sound of Violence” album, loosened the crowd’s tongue with its infectious chorus lines:
Children of god they hear no evil
Children of god they see no evil
Children of god they speak no evil
Children of god pure fucking evil
These tracks possessed solid dynamics propelled through break-neck speed. One could even argue these tracks are better than the bands ‘80s output. However, there was a bit of a letdown after Mpire of Evil’s phenomenal performance. Onslaught’s presentation of moldy-oldie thrash classics “Power From Hell,” “Demoniac,” “Let There Be Death” and “Metal Force” was the accelerant the group needed to catch the place of fire.
Once the crowd felt loosened up, Keeler playfully roused the crowd, mentioning one of the Lonestar State’s slogans, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” He pointed at members of the crowd, including a shirtless, mosh-ready Hellbound Jeff from openers Emperial Massacre, and said, “That’s a Texas-sized belly!”
After performing a balanced set of old and new, the group left the stage expecting an encore. Keeler had to lead the crowd in chanting “Onslaught” before playing two of the band’s best tracks as an encore. “Power From Hell” sent hair flying in every direction, while the hardcore vehemence of “Thermal Nuclear Devastation” got the pit moving.
Onslaught and Mpire of Evil brought the metal in explosive doses. Both bands were on their game. Even though both have played speed metal for thirty years or more, neither have shown signs of slowing down. Nige Rockett (Onslaught) and Mantis possess picking hands as steady as Old West gun slingers, while Sy Keeler’s voice is still capable of reaching the heavens. Although they played to a diminutive crowd, both bands were able to get the lead out of the crowd’s ass and put it into their fists!
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