Metal Church deliver epic sermon in Pittsburgh

There is a concert hall in Pittsburgh called the Rex Theater that is a true theater in every way. It’s an old movie theater with the seats removed but the slight slope of the floor remains, as do the wall lamps and stereo speakers. The refreshment stands still remain as well, but they have all become bars and merch booths. The nostalgia of seeing a show there remains intact and on Friday March 7 metal masters Metal Church put on one hell of a show as did opening acts Fatality Risen, Xander Demos Band, Vermithrax and Martyrd, with each band upping the ante for who was to follow. The whole evening growing in intensity and slowly building to the epic climax of Metal Church. Pittsburgh’s own Fatality Risen was charged with the monumental task of getting things underway and did a fantastic job living up to the challenge. They pounded out a short, but sweet set of old school heavy metal with unapologetic conviction and garnered a strong reaction from the crowd. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Metal Church North America 2014/Fatality Risen/\”] Up next, also from Pittsburgh was the Xander Demos Band who managed to work the crowd into a frenzy before ever playing a single note, having them pose for a few pictures. They proceeded to hammer out a devastating set of guitar based metal in the vein of Vai, Satriani, Malmsteen and Hoey, complete with the progressive song structures of Iron Maiden, Rush and Dream Theater. Xander is a Greek guitar god and vocalist Mario Brescia has exceptional, dynamic range which is complemented perfectly by the massive bottom end of drummer Jeff Anzelone and bassist Dan Bozym who are as solid as they come. They made the best of their time and only stopped once for Xander to thank everyone for coming and jokingly say “All our songs are really long, so we only play five.” Pittsburgh had one more offering, in the form of old school thrash monoliths Vermithrax who delivered a brutal hardcore set of vicious, non-stop, old school thrash, reminiscent of Testament or Exodus and caused the first mosh pits of the evening. Frontman Croy has incredible stage presence and a vocal cadence similar to Chuck Billy and demanded respect, telling the crowd “Show me your fucking horns.” He went on to ask “Do you like your thrash in Pittsburgh?” and answered “Of course you do. It’s meaty and delicious,” which nearly incited a riot. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Metal Church North America 2014/Vermithrax/\”] The rabid fans heard his war cries and took full advantage of their last opportunity to mosh and lost their collective minds as the pit spiraled out of control. It even saw one guy carrying his girlfriend in his arms as he stomped around the circle. Expect big things for the future of Vermithrax. Taking things to the next level would fall to New York heavyweights Martyrd, who quietly took the stage and after a few minor technical difficulties, vocalist Aaron Pollard grabbed the mic and said “I know right, fucking get on with it. We need to hear your voices on this one” before ripping into “Burn.” Pollard had tons of charisma and owned the stage like a seasoned pro. One couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Ray Adler from Fates Warning. The rest of the band played with unparalleled technical proficiency, blasting out lethal doses of double kick drum and visceral amounts of shredding riffage and scorching solos. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Metal Church North America 2014/Martyrd/\”] Closer “Never Wake” was prefaced by the charming frontman exclaiming, “Alright mother fuckers let’s do this shit.” Then added “We will be at the merch table after the show, so let’s get drunk together and watch Metal Church.” Keep a close eye on them as they are headed for big things in the near future. At the jolly old hour of midnight, Metal Church finally took the stage to calm the now restless natives, sooth the savage beasts and appease the gathering metal hordes. An announcement, right before they hit the stage informed the ravenous crowd that they would be filming the first two songs “Ton Of Bricks” and “Start The Fire” for an upcoming video/DVD. During which time, the band hammed it up big time for the cameras, photographers and fans alike. “Fake Healer” was an obvious fan favorite that triggered a massive, floor sized pit and was so loud, that it could be physically felt through your entire body. At its conclusion, vocalist Ronnie Munroe took to the mic to say “Thanks for coming out and staying so late. Now clap your hands and stomp your feet” which was the cue for “Badlands” to begin. Vocalist and frontman Ronnie Munroe oozes charm from every pore and had an absolute command over the fixated crowd. Former Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra drummer Jeff Plate is an absolute beast and the twin guitar attack of Kurt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt is razor sharp and cuts at every turn. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Metal Church North America 2014/Metal Church/\”] Ronnie Munroe did an impressive job of filling the shoes of the late great David Wayne and his piercing falsetto helped tracks like “Gods Of Wrath” and “Watch The Children Pray,” nearly bring the house down. The crowd hung on the every word and action of the band throughout the whole show and during their encore of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” the crowd went completely bezerk, moshed their asses off, held their horns high and sang at the top of their lungs. Even though the show wasn’t over until almost 2 a.m., not a single fan regretted staying a little late and a good time was had by all who attended. -Eric Hunker