Kill Devil Hill Joins Adrenaline Mob for Star-Studded Jam on 2nd Anniversary of Dio's Death
Adrenaline Mob and Kill Devil Hill personified the song “Deep in the Heart of Texas” during their San Antonio performance. The stars were big and bright; the members comprising the night’s co-headlined acts are better known for playing with iconic artists such as Pantera, Down, Heaven And Hell, Dio, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, W.A.S.P, Pissing Razors and Symphony X.
This weekday show hosted by Backstage Live yielded a fraction of the ticket sales compared to the groups’ associated acts. Although both bands featured veterans in the field of heavy metal and progressive rock, they are both new artists. Kill Devil Hill doesn’t release its debut, self-titled CD until the 22nd of this month. New bands usually tour in support slots, but names such as Mike Portnoy, Rex Brown and Vinny Appice aren’t accustomed to that role. Those hip to the groups, mostly Dream Theater fans, expected a night of mind-blowing musicianship, which is what they got with a few added surprises.
Kill Devil Hill’s offered the crowd their first taste of its debut recording. The group would have cleaned up on album sales if their CDs were available. Kill Devil Hill is not Pantera. They’re not Dio or Black Sabbath, but one need not look too hard to find bits and pieces of these groups. Speaking of Dio, the day of the show, May 16th, was also the second anniversary of Ronnie James Dio’s death. Vinny Appice dedicated the opening track on their CD, “War Machine” to Dio. “War Machine” is one of the heavier tunes on the album, but one can’t fully realize just how heavy this track is without seeing the group live. Appice’s tumbling snare drum beat and a groovy beat made this song one of the best of their set.
Bragg’s singing voice closely resembles Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. Having fronted mosh-core, concrete crushers Pissing Razors, Bragg knows how to project angry throat emissions. His dual-sided vocal approach was in full effect tonight. “Voodoo Child” and “Hangman” were excellent sing-along numbers, which will elicit more crowd participation once the familiarity kicks in. His best singing came during “Up In Flames,” which he wrote about his house burning down. Bragg proudly exclaimed the emotive song as one of his favorites. Other numbers showcased his rounded voice, blending top-notch crooning with hawkish screams on “Rise From the Shadows” and set closer “Revenge.”
Rex Brown experienced a number of technical difficulties in the beginning of their set. He kept walking to the back of the stage to fix the problem. They eventually fixed the problem, but his bass sounded great regardless of chord or whatever issues he encountered. He was really in time with Vinny Appice. Metal Underground.com has a rule about publishing photos of musicians’ backsides, but that proved a hard one to overlook tonight due to Brown constantly turning towards Appice to synchronize the rhythm section. The two came together with guitarist Mark Zavon in amazing cohesion during an avalanche-sized build up on “Rise From the Shadows.” Bragg drew attention to Brown’s killer bass solo during the song by saying, “Rex Brown on bass.” He still had a child-like glee in his voice, as if he had not gotten over the fact that he’s playing with such a legend and (I assume) inspirational artist.
From the soulful vocal projections of Russell Allen to the stunning dexterity of Mike Portnoy—Adrenaline Mob’s talent is unparalleled. The musician who caught my eye first, though, was guitarist and band founder Mike Orlando. Although he’s a lesser known player, he’s played with TRED and Sonic Stomp, Orlando possesses all the skill to hang with the big boys. He played at a speed during solos that was simply phenomenal.
Adrenaline Mob features Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), so one expects progressive rock and many solos. This was the case, but Adrenaline Mob is very much a modern hard rock act. Short, chopping rhythms done to nu metal’s low guitar tunings result in comparisons to Disturbed. Coincidentally, bassist John Moyer plays in Disturbed and formerly played in Union Underground. The Disturbed comparison was most apparent during “Undaunted,” but keeping with the progressive motif, the group transitioned into Black Label Society and Soundgarden territories.
Seeing Allen assume a more aggressive, nu metal-like vocal tone was strange yet exhilarating. He was best during softer songs such as “All on the Line.” He dedicated the song to Dio. He said Dio was his mentor, and the song is about giving 100 percent, just like Dio.
The biggest Dio tribute didn’t come until the end of the concert. I wondered why no roadie had broken down Appice’s drum kit. He joined Portnoy on stage for an encore of “Mob Rules.” In addition to Appice’s earlier solo with his own band, he dueled Portnoy. Portnoy’s Toma StarClassic Mirage Crystal Ice drum kit made me think of Superman visiting the crystals on planet Krypton. His playing certainly helped form the Superman comparison. Appice is a legend, but his standard rock and doom playing couldn’t keep pace with Portnoy. Appice and Portnoy took a rhythm-lead approach with Appice creating simple beats to back up the flash of Portnoy’s sticks.
After the two-man drum solo, the members of Kill Devil Hill joined Adrenaline Mob for a massive jam session. Allen superbly sang Zepplin's "Communication Breakdown" before the two groups ended with “War Pigs.” Allen and Bragg alternated verses, Bragg switching from singing to screaming. Normally, this is the point in my review where I wrap up the article with a conclusion. I would rather leave you with the image of these eight artists coming together to kick out the jams!
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