“They would never do it. So, we felt like we had to. Tonight is the fifth and last show that we will ever play this album in its entirety.” The Skull‘s bassist (ex-Trouble and ex-Earthen Grave), Ron Holzner, commented about the band performing the legendary album Psalm 9 in its entirety on its 30th anniversary at London’s The Underworld while selling band merch and taking pictures with fans. After that statement and exchanging a few words with Ron, I was super glad I decided to attend this historical event. I was actually looking forward to this gig for a few weeks because after experiencing their live show in Chicago earlier this year in May, I already knew that The Skull is a band who are serious musicians producing quality music.
Consisting of two original Trouble members (Eric Wagner and Jeff Olson), the aforementioned Ron Holzner, Lothar Keller (Divinity Compromised, Sacred Dawn) and ex-Pentagram guitarist Matt Goldsborough, one can see straightaway that there’s talent there. Although the band consists of living legends, they should not be seen as just a Trouble cover band even if tonight they performed mostly the material by Trouble which gave them the legendary “status”. As drummer, Jeff, commented in an interview, they want to break away from Trouble, so it’s time we start recognising this band as The Skull and not as a band consisting of members of those and those bands. Because, trust me, if you like traditional heavy metal, doom, hard rock, groove, blues and everything in between, then don’t even think about doubting the potential of this (relatively) new band.
The night of Monday 13th October 2014 was spectacular. Although at first some of us were worried about the turn out, by the time The Skull went on stage our fears disappeared. First, however, OHHMS and Bad Guys warmed up the night and my comrade, Jack Fryer, had the following to say about the supporting acts:
The Skull were not the only band to play an album in full tonight as OHHMS were playing their latest release Bloom (reviewed here) in full, the two track wonder lasted thirty minutes which was the length of their set. The transitions were so smooth that if you didn’t know the release you’d think their set was one really long song. Singer Paul poured his heart to the audience, passionately singing about animal rights while the rest of the band was a well-oiled frantic machine. Despite the fact that there were only around thirty people in The Underworld, (if I’d known The Underworld was that empty I could have smuggled a phone charger in and used it), there were still grateful people who came out to see them and respond to their music. OHHMS have made lots of positive waves already, it’s just a shame more people couldn’t experience it.
The audience fattened up a lot more for Bad Guys but the crowd still should have been bigger. Their singer had an uncanny resemblance to Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V and had a menacing glare. The band were a four piece and had no bassist but two twin neck guitars – the rise of the bass-less band continues. The best way to describe Bad Guys would be Motörhead and Asomvel mixed with Sleep. At one point I thought they were going to launch into the classic Dopesmoker, but luckily their original material was strong enough to hold its own. It was a wild, chaotic but enjoyable set and it made me want to check out Bad Guys material more.
When it was time for the members of The Skull to prepare their equipment, you could feel the excitement in the air coming from the, not huge but satisfactory enough, crowd. The band’s performance consisted of two parts. The first part was Psalm 9 from start to finish (excluding reissue bonus track “Tales of Brave Ulysses” which was left for the very end) and the second one consisted of some other Trouble classics and a The Skull original from the upcoming debut, For Those Which Are Asleep. What can I say? They were on top form and everyone was having a blast. It was actually like a “blast from the past” in action – everyone was celebrating the monumental release which influenced (and still influences) many artists.
From the mysterious beginning of “The Tempter”, to the more sing-a-long “Assassin” through to “Victims of the Insane”, “Revelation (Life or Death)”, “Bastards Will Pay”, “The Fall of Lucifer”, the instrumental madness of “Endtime” and the finale of “Psalm 9”, all of these were played and everyone was singing along, headbanging and just admiring the unique voice and stage presence of Eric Wagner and the heavy and bluesy bass lines of Ron Holzner. Although less visible, Jeff ‘Oly’ Olson’s drumming is breathtaking, jaw-dropping, and phenomenal. It is crazy how much he can produce out of a small, simple drum set which resembles more of a jazz or blues drum set than a full-blown heavy metal one (think about all those cymbals which Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden has). The twin guitar attack from Matt Goldsborough and Lothar Keller was also breathtaking. If you’re playing in such a band, you have to produce heavy, bluesy, tasty riffs and melodic, earsplitting solos. The guitarists were in perfect shape and produced those headbanging sounds. The virtuoso of the two guitarists was proven with almost every other solo but especially impressive was the instrumental “Endtime”, which brought out the best of the two guitarists but also the bassist and drummer.
The show was beyond phenomenal. The band got the reception of a legend returning to its kingdom. Vocalist, Eric Wagner, was being treated to various kinds of liquor and drinks from the audience. One fan even went up to him and kissed his boots. Even if Jeff ‘Oly’ Olson was hiding behind his drum kit, the audience kept shouting out his nickname, ‘Oly’. Straight after they finished, everyone was running forward to thank the band for coming from the US or even just to shake their hands. The band received a very heartwarming London reception and rightfully so. Thankfully, Ron Holzner claimed off-stage, straight after the gig, that “this was just a rehearsal” and that they will be back in April. The reaction of everyone – including me – was: DESERTFEST?! Ron only responded: “We’re working on it”. Well, whether it is Desertfest or not, you better watch out for The Skull’s London comeback and for the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll experience.
For Those Which Are Asleep is out on 4th November via Tee Pee Records. Stream a new song “Till The Sun Turns Black” below: