It was a night of twin-harmonized leads and Sabbatherian love.
I last caught Chicago’s Bible of the Devil 4 years ago at 2014’s Alehorn of Power festival. Having been a fan of their NWOBHM, Thin Lizzy-ish stylings since hearing their 2006 masterpiece The Diabolic Procession, I can’t say I was disappointed then and will say that they exceeded my expectations the other night in a basement bar.
Lawrenceville’s unassuming Cattivo has become a sort of haven for underground metal in the wake of Altar’s demise in 2016, and the steamy, subterranean environs were the perfect fit for Bible of the Devil’s precise, technical old-school worship, key members and axemen Greg Spalding and mouthpiece Nate Perry sort of evoking a punk ethic with their who-gives-a-toss effortless virtuosity, trading riffs like master tennis players at a stalemate, their luminous chords setting the dim venue aglow with jolly twists on music metal from the seventies and early eighties, even whipping up a cover of Def Leppard’s “Lady Strange” and giving us “Lifeline,” a deft new song that is to appear on this earnest, fun band’s next album.
Pittsburgh’s own Argus, of course, took things in a similar, albeit doomy, Candlemass-ish (or should I have mentioned Witchfinder General?) direction. Typically grand and uniformly excellent and devout, Argus’ two veteran secret weapons, fabulous singer Brian Balich and arresting guitarist Dave Watson brought the goods throughout their short opening set. I’ve seen them a half-dozen times and have yet to tire of them. I could say the same about fellow local act and primary warm-up band Horehound, whose lead singer and area metal mogul (a label owner and promoter to boot!) Shy Kennedy can go from sounding like the progeny of Jinx Dawson and Eric Wagner to one of the best and most terrifying death metal throats you’ve never heard within the span of a single song. Smashing like Trouble and early Paradise Lost colliding with The Devil’s Blood, Horehound are a Steeltown group worth keeping your ears attuned to.
If Friday evening’s show proved anything, it was that tradition is necessary for innovation to follow, all three bands making novel sounds out of vintage ones while thriving in the live concert experience.