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  When Overkill skinsman Jason Bittner played the intro to Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” as a warm-up exercise, I knew we were about to be pummeled into oblivion. Despite having seen this grizzled band of streetwise avengers numerous times over the years, a feeling of unpreparedness overcame me. It was as if I were a teenager once more, and this was my first gig ever. The sold-out crowd that filled The Rex Theater in Pittsburgh were...

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It’s funny how when I meet and speak with musicians, I end up discussing bands they’re not in more than the band they’re in currently, and the bands that come up in conversation are surprising sometimes until they themselves take the stage. That’s when it all comes together and makes sense. Smoke Wizzard began things with a short set of humorous, harmless stoner metal. Think Primus and Sleep getting together for munchies after a few...

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OK, so “tragedy” might be too strong of a word, but there was certainly some bad luck flowing. We’ve all been the butt of an April Fool’s joke here or there, but what happens when the joke isn’t a joke?  Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make things happen! On April 1st, the guitarist and bassist for the Wire Riots decided to quit the band over the phone. The next day, the drummer quit,...

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The metallic, burnt taste of the outer limits were in our mouths as extreme music permeated and pummeled our ears. For several hours, we were adrift in space, and yes, we could be heard screaming as we were hurtled towards suns and planets inhospitable.   Ulthar, an upstart Oakland, California act signed to recently transplanted label 20 Buck Spin, released what many believed to be one of 2018’s death metal masterpieces in Cosmovore .  And...

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Children of Bodom turned a Sunday night into a blackened power metal odyssey amidst the storms that howled outside in the sleepy, Old World borough of Millvale. A frail looking Alexi Laiho had no time for jokey pop covers, opening with the vampiric blitz of “Are You Dead Yet?” to the delight of the respectably-numbered crowd who clapped and shouted along to everything as if it were Wacken Open Air. From there on in, it...

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It was an evening of muscle shirts, testosterone, and motivation. An MMA card of a concert, the bodies flew, and the sweat dripped. Stage AE was well-attended enough for this show but was not sold out, giving the mostly male audience plenty room to knock each other around playfully. Being that this event leaned a bit towards the punk side of the spectrum, I almost didn’t bother going for fear I’d be a little out...

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To observe the blessed birth of a self-titled debut EP, Riparian, a lacerating new Pittsburgh death metal band featuring members of Wrought Iron, took the stage at Get Hip Records on a rainy Saturday night and showed a packed audience that they have plans to turn our scene upside down. Frontman Rob Grisly growled his intestines out on the floor, the stage being too small to contain his unholy, bloody rage, his teeth gnashing as...

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Immolation are a band I haven’t always been keen on, their perpetual blastbeat downpour being somewhat impenetrable to me as a man who prefers his death metal melodic, tricky, and with a sense of groove. Yet upon a revisitation of Immolation’s catalogue, particularly more recent albums such as Atonement, I found many connectable and intelligent moments to latch onto, more so than I had previously. Beginning to feel as if I were a fighter ducking...

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North Carolinians Corrosion of Conformity are seemingly in the midst of a revival since riff-dealing madman Pepper Keenan rejoined the band in 2014 and have arguably been making records that are even better than their 90’s classics, one of which, Deliverance, marks its 25th anniversary this year. And their set at Mr. Smalls on a slushy Thursday evening with a sludgeoning, stoning, doomstomping threesome in Crowbar, The Obsessed, and relative upstarts Mothership was amply representative...

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Thin Lizzy, despite only having one album go gold in the United States through the power of two enduring radio hits, continue to be a tremendously influential act decades after they disbanded and their seminal frontman, Phil Lynott, passed away. There’s been some controversy over the band reforming under the Thin Lizzy name in recent years and with a new one boasting original material in Black Star Riders. But none of that mattered this evening...

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More than two months ago, intensely morbid, violent, and technical Toronto death metallers Tomb Mold branded the psyches of those who were fortunate, sturdy, and brave enough to attend Migration 2 over the course of their set. On a misty Monday in November, they returned to a nearly full house at Bloomfield’s Howler’s Coyote Café, slamming skulls into gravestones with funereal aplomb. Percussively impressive was skinsman/larynx Max Klebanoff, who was able to growl and rumble...

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Robb Flynn is a warrior born. Early in the year — the team captain of a band with a very complicated trajectory that took them from groove metal to nu-metal to thrash to a place where they embrace their entire history–stopped a show 45 minutes into what was to be a 2 1/2 hour spectacular after a throat infection put up an insurmountable wall. A date was rescheduled. Tickets from the prior date were honored....

It was like a well-attended family reunion that was being held on a misty Saturday night close to Halloween in a decidedly industrial part of town. The venue, Get Hip Records, also doubles as a record label, shop, and warehouse and was highly apropos for such a historic event and a general showcase for Icarus Witch, one of Pittsburgh’s most exciting metal acts. Andrew D’Cagna, a multi-instrumentalist known for his work in Brimstone Coven and...

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Thirty years ago, my father, then a limousine driver, chauffeured Alice Cooper around Pittsburgh when he toured here. To this day, my dad can’t get over how “normal” and decent he was. Since then, I’ve had an affinity for the gruesome old devil and his violent vaudeville spectacle, which I’ve caught on numerous occasions since 2010. Alice Cooper, rock’s most macabre villain, made it to The Steel City yet again the other night at a...

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A Clutch concert is always a quasi-religious experience, and last night was ideal for such a church service. It’s become an annual tradition in Pittsburgh for Clutch to swing by for an evening of worship, a fall classic if you will. And you will. Rock that is, by the will of iconically bearded electric evangelist Neil Fallon and his murder of crows. This having been my seventh Clutch show, I found the set to be...

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  That Deceased aren’t as renowned as other thrash and death acts, be they mid-level or major league, is an injustice. They should be headlining festivals large and small and packing the denimed, leathery, mophead mobs in. Instead, they gave their all in front of a small Pittsburgh crowd on a patchy, concrete floor at an odd, appropriately disheveled new Oakland venue called Babyland, which serves as a workspace for struggling artists during the day....

If Metallica hadn’t released Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, an album I feel is their best in thirty years, I may not have bothered to shell out a small ransom to catch The James and Lars Show at PPG Paints Arena. The years have made me a cynical hessian. I let my expensive (over-priced?), upper-level ticket walk. Twice. Metallica began as underground heroes only to end up as metal’s mainstream, multi-platinum, mass-merchandised top heel stable. Changes in appearance...

The endurance trial of seismic shifts, dinosaur stampedes, and lightning storms continued in what is still an unassuming venue in Lawrenceville’s Cattivo. Who would be left standing come 1 a.m. was a question that was on the minds of performers, attendees, and observers such as myself. Day 2 saw a more eclectic lineup than Day 1. Pittsburgh’s Urns fired the opening shots of day 2 with a slow, atmospheric set of death-infused black doom. Intelligent,...