When Hatebreed released the routing and lineup for their most recent leg of their 25th Anniversary Tour back in February of this year, it excited every part of me and my growing up in aggressive music spirit. I mean having death metal LEGENDS Obituary, NYHC LEGENDS Agnostic Front, thrash and groove metal LEGENDS Prong and death metal up and comers Skeletal Remains opening up a monumental tour is a hardcore or metal fan’s dream lineup.
Walking into the VIBES Event Center in San Antonio for the first time, I was somewhat shocked at how large of a space it was. The venue is actually split in two, with the initial room you walk in being The Rock Box and through a sliding door is the VIBES stage in a room that is comparable to a football field. While I know after all these years Hatebreed has reached this grand of a level of crowd attendance and have seen them on festival stages such as Ozzfest, Furnace Fest (RIP), Hellfest (RIP), and most recently the Warped Tour, I still remember them in the small stage of the old Emo’s in Austin that maybe fit a few hundred people.
Skeletal Remains kicked off the show as people were still filing into the venue with the blast beats of the title track of their latest album “Devouring Mortality,” taking much of the crowd who’d never heard them before by surprise and immediately causing everyone in the first few rows to head bang. With a style of death metal that is influenced by bands like Pestilence, Death and Asphyx, they take that and continue the legacy of the genre in their own way. After ripping through songs spanning their 3 full lengths, Skeletal Remains walked off the stage as the crowd watched confused as to the barrage of previously unheard riffs that hit them.
Let me just break here and comment on the time between sets. Unfortunately, with the way the venue is set up, between sets the venue security had to put up barricades between the VIBES room and the Rock Box room so the bands could unload from the stage and take all the gear straight out. Presumably it’s a measure taken as there’s not enough room backstage for 4 bands’ worth of gear. While a mild inconvenience at most since there’s bars and bathrooms on both sides, add in a large crowd of people who’ve been drinking at a heavy music concert and it may not be the best plan of action for future similar events.
Prong came up after the first set change with an energy you may not expect, especially from band leader Tommy Victor who has been the only constant over the band’s 33 year career. Prong barreled through “Unconditional” from their 1991 album “Prove You Wrong” and set the bar for energy they not only would produce themselves but that which they wanted and got from the audience. Keeping the set list mainly to their earlier albums and playing them as you would’ve expected to see in those years, Prong took much of the older audience back to their younger days.
With the interjection of Agnostic Front between the metal of the show, you could visibly see a shift in the crowd as more skinheads, punks and even hardcore fans flooded the room in support of the NYHC heavyweights who themselves are also celebrating 39 years of being a band and 36 years since the release of their seminal first EP “United Blood.” Founding member and guitar player Vinnie Stigma got the crowd riled up, walking onstage hands outstretched and guitar high in the air before the rest of the band joined and went into 1986’s “Cause for Alarm” banger “The Eliminator” and getting the first crowd surfers of the night. Lead singer Roger Miret kept the audience moving and even encouraged them to participate in circle pits while Vinnie Stigma ran off stage and played in the middle of the chaos. In the later half of the set, however, Roger saw a little girl, no older than 5, on the shoulders of her father in the front rocking out so hard the entire time that he wanted to bring them up on the stage to enjoy the set from their and later side stage while touting that she was the future of punk rock.
Due to heartbreaking circumstances, Obituary played as a 4 piece, missing bassist Terry Butler after the untimely death of his daughter in a car crash last month, leaving her 6 and 10 year old sons to be in the care of Terry and his wife. Even with the missing piece, Obituary kept the tightness that they’ve worked on over the past 35 years with core members the brothers Tardy, John on vocals and Donald on drums, and rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres, along with Kenny Andrews who joined as lead guitar only a few years ago in 2012. Starting with the heavy “Redneck Stomp” from 2005’s “Frozen in Time” the band pulled out all the crowd favorites including the title track from 1989’s “Slowly We Rot,” “Don’t Care” from 1994’s “World Demise” and a cover of the almighty Celtic Frost’s “Circle of the Tyrants.” If you had never heard the band and hadn’t known the band was missing a member, that in itself is a testament to how in tune everyone is with each other, being able to cover the low end with the remaining guitars and drums.
What really is there to say about Hatebreed that hasn’t been said before? They’ve gone from a local Connecticut hardcore band to signing with Victory Records, having videos on MTV2 (where years later, singer Jamey Jasta would host the revamped Headbanger’s Ball), touring the world many times over and playing in front of millions of fans worldwide, expanding their audience from just punk and hardcore to a more massive mainstream metal fanbase. If you attended any of the shows on this leg of their 25th Anniversary tour, you’d see how much the curation of the tour package is in appreciation for bands that have been a clear influence on Hatebreed as a whole. Starting with “To the Threshold” from 2006’s “Supremacy” and going into “A.D.” and “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” from 2016’s “The Concrete Confessional,” Hatebreed’s set list beat the crowd down spanning all 7 full length albums the band has put out over the past quarter of a century, including 2 songs from their breakthrough 1997 hardcore classic album “Satisfaction is the Death of Desire.” If I’m being completely honest about the set, I think it might be one of the fullest and best sounding sets I’ve heard from the band since seeing them for the first time close to 20 years ago.
For more info on the situation with Terry Butler, a GoFundMe has been set up to help alleviate costs at https://www.gofundme.com/JonaWright. Skeletal Remains will be on the road again this fall as support for Revocation, Voivod, Psycroptic and Conjurer doing a full U.S. run. If you’re in Europe, Prong, Agnostic Front and Hatebreed will all be touring there over the next few months, with Hatebreed returning back to the states this fall on an extremely wild run with Dropkick Murphys and Clutch.
Nathan is an Austin, TX-based photographer, who once kind of, vaguely from 100 feet away if you squinted a little, resembled Rufio from Hook when he was younger, that thoroughly enjoys pro wrestling, anime, murder mystery shows and hanging out with everyone’s pets.