TVD Live Shots: Metal Allegiance, Exmortus, Weapons of Anew, and Trauma at the House of Blues, 1/16

ANAHEIM, CA | With so many musicians in town for NAMM, there seems to be an over-abundance of jam shows that fans can take part in on any given evening throughout convention week. Although many are solid in their own right, one stands out each year as the quintessential “must-attend” show. This year’s Metal Allegiance performance at the Anaheim House of Blues was nothing short of spectacular and once again demonstrated why it deserves to stand atop the mountain of all-things metal.

NAMM week can be overwhelming.  On any given day, tens of thousands of people flock to the Anaheim Convention Center for what is arguably the largest musical convention of its kind in the world today. Whether you are a musician, vendor or fan, there is something for everyone over the traditional 4-day event, and entertainment options become even greater when the event closes its doors for the evening. On Thursday, the buzz around the convention hall was Metal Allegiance’s sold-out show at the House of Blues that evening, and it was definitely a show I had circled on my calendar earlier in the year as a “must-see” during NAMM week.

Kicking off the evening were three bands that in their own unique way, lit the fuse on the Metal Allegiance powder keg on Thursday night.  First up was Trauma, a legendary bay area thrash metal band hailing from San Francisco.  One might think that an opener is simply filler for the main event, but these guys were legit. The concert erupted into bedlam from note one, and there was no turning back at that point. Next up was Weapons of Anew. I’d never heard of this band prior, but I’m definitely a fan after taking in their ridiculously entertaining set from the pit. Their energy was off the charts and were definitely a sign of things to come later that evening.

Exmortus has always been a band on my radar, but I have never had the chance to see one of their live performances here in Southern California.  Lucky for me they were on this bill and I’d finally get a chance to see the Whittier natives on-stage in their natural habitat. After eight songs in the pit, all I can say is WOW!  These guys were beyond amazing and then some. It was if their collective energy took the capacity crowd to an entirely different level on Thursday night and watching it unfold before my eyes was a sight to been seen.  I’m now hooked and am sure you will be too if you give Exmortus a spin.

Now on to the main attraction, Metal Allegiance.  This band was formed in 2014 by bassist and songwriter Mark Menghi and was destined to become one of the most incredible metal supergroups on the planet to date.  Although the band has a core group of members (including Mike Portnoy on drums, David Ellefson on bass, and Alex Skolnick on the guitar), there is no set vocalist per se, and live performances are a collaboration of the best and brightest across the ever-evolving metal scene.  Thursday evening’s show was a who’s who including Menghi, Portnoy, and Skolnick along with Chuck Billy (Testament), Bobby Blitz (Overkill), John Bush (Anthrax/Armored Saint), Phil Demmel (Machine Head), Jack Gibson (Exodus), Gary Holt (Exodus/Slayer), Andres Kisser (Sepultura), Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), and Troy Sanders (Mastodon). There were also countess others who also took the stage on Thursday night as part of Metal Allegiance’s NAMM performance and this one met and exceeded all of my expectations (and then some).

My favorite memories from the evening included covers of Metallica’s “Leper Messiah,” Saxon’s “Princess of The Night,” and one of my favorite songs of all-time, UFO’s “Light’s Out.” What was great about these songs was watching the flawless interchangeability of each musician as they came and went throughout the evening.  It was if they were all singing from the same hymnal, and you would have never guessed that much of what they were doing was truly unrehearsed. This was musical improvisation at its finest. I was also deeply touched by Metal Allegiance’s remembrance of Neil Peart during the final segment of their show. Their heart-felt cover of “Tom Sawyer” (led by Mike Portnoy) was simply unbelievable and literally brought tears to my eyes.

As I wandered out in a daze to my car in the now pouring rain, I thought back to the show I had just seen and wondered if it could be topped in 2020?  From the opening notes of Metal Allegiance’s “The Accuser,” through the star-studded encore featuring Moterhead’s “Overkill,” this show delivered on all cylinders and kicked some major ass. Fans were treated to some of the very best metal has to offer from a supergroup that truly understands what a live musical performance should be. All hail Metal Allegiance!

METAL ALLEGIANCE

EXMORTUS

WEAPONS OF ANEW

TRAUMA AT THE HOUSE

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