Live Review – M-PIRE Of EVIL and Onslaught – U St Music Hall, Washington DC, 3/8/12

Full admission up front: I am not the ‘thrasher’ in the NovaMetalReview household. That honor belongs firmly to Mrs. NovaMetalReview and it was due to her sharp eyes that she spotted the legendary Onslaught and M-PIRE of EVIL were making a last-night of their tour stop in D.C. Basically once things get on the heavier side of Megadeth I’m like a fish out of water… so this review will be a little different, since I am certainly not qualified to relate what I saw live to this or that album, or much more than read up the Wikipedia history of both acts on the bill. However, I remember Onslaught from the 80’s and was totally intrigued to find out what they had become some 30 years on. And the same comment applies in the case of M-PIRE of EVIL, who comprise Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn (guitar) and Tony ‘The Demolition Man’ Dolan (vocals/bass), plus relative newbie Marc Jackson on drums, the former two representing a snap-shot of the almighty Venom.

So, not being the die-hard thrasher I bought the latest two Onslaught albums to catch-up and, wow, great stuff. Both Killing Peace and Sounds Of Violence are how I remember thrash metal from the good old days in the 80’s. Brutal, heavy and aggressive, but still melodic and incredibly tight. Reminds me of early Metallica/Slayer with tighter edge. Anyway this is not an album review so moving on.

The gig was at the U Street Music Hall in D.C. and I think a bit of an experiment since this was the first ‘metal’ gig the venue had hosted, and hence the first time we had been there. So, down a darkish stairway we headed to the basement level. Actually I liked the place. One day I plan to write a review of the various local venues, so I save the details for then, but the stage was certainly not large, but the PA was loud and the overall vibe good.

The turn out was not large by any stretch; I counted about fifty people, but they were the hard-core fans judging by the reaction to the show. I can’t mention the audience without acknowledging the presence of John Gallagher from Raven, who happens to live not far from DC (a few miles from the NovaMetalReview residence in fact). So we were overdosing in a very nice way on British rock star legends. That was pretty awesome.

So, first up and without as much as a local support act to warm our eardrums, WHAM! Here were M-PIRE of EVIL, with Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn sporting a sharp looking Epiphone SG and Tony immediately tearing it up on the bass through a near-antique Kustom amp and cabinet, but sounding  brutal and sharp at the same time. About half-a-number in they were firing on all cylinders and despite the thin crowd, appeared to be going for it on ‘11’.  Tony has a unique bass style and seems to make a whole array of different tones and sounds – really interesting and I’m sure integral to M-PIRE’s overall impact. Jeff is a much better guitar player than most that is written about him – underrated by a magnitude or two I’d say. Very entertaining indeed!

They ripped through a mix of old Venom numbers and newer material, and, if anything, got better and better the more they played. I think Motothead-on-speed came to mind about 6 songs into their set, which is no mean feat. For me at least, this was speed-rock’n’roll. It seems there was some kind of time limit imposed by the venue or may be because it was Easter Sunday, but the set was over much too soon for my liking, running about 40-45-odd minutes. Excellent, and certainly leaving a “want-to-see-more” impression firmly stamped on my mind. Since seeing them I have ordered their last release and pre-ordered their new album due for release around April 24th. Watch this space for a review.

So, now it was Onslaught’s turn. Without any messing around, they hit the ‘go’ button and power thrash filled the room. Mixing a good selection from The Force and the more recent material, the band sounded very tight and incredibly powerful. Sy Keeler sounded great on vocals, while Mike Hourihan on drums, who is the most recent addition to the band, powered the whole set from beginning to end. In particular Mike seemed to be having fun. Now, I must say that Andy Rosser-Davies on lead guitar was flawless musically, but as performer I think I’ve seen more animated amplifiers… it really wouldn’t be out of place to at least appear to be into it, but may be that is just a style thing, or just the result of 21 dates along an 8000 mile trek around North America – without a single day off. Nige Rockett on rhythm guitar is a total thrashing machine – exceptional.  Sy did manage to incite a bit of a mosh pit which is not necessarily an easy thing to do with 50 people in attendance, and I would say everyone was totally in awe of with how tight the band were. I didn’t time the set, but my estimate was about an hour start-to-end.

So, I’ve saved the best for last; after the show both bands, M-PIRE of EVIL and Onslaught hung out in the bar and you could not meet a nicer bunch of guys. Every one of them found time to sign all the LP and CD covers people brought with them, t-shirts, drum sticks, take pictures, you name it. But more than just that, they were happy just to chat. And let’s not forget John from Raven was still there… wow, pinch me someone! Check out the classic pic with Tony ‘The Demolition Man, John Gallagher Raven and Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn – very, very, metal! And it would be rude of me not to mention that Tony Dolan from M-PIRE of EVIL was very generous with merch donating a couple of shirts to Mrs. NovaMetalReview – what a great stand-up guy he is (and one that knows how to win a couple of fans-for-life).

So to close, I will simply say if you ever get the chance to see either band, and I believe M-PIRE of EVIL will be back in the USA toward the end of the year for a headline tour, while Onslaught were talking about 2013; GO SEE THEM. Both are exceptional, and even for this lightweight, non-thrasher, there is a lot to commend in both bands.

Normally I’d score what I’d seen based on some knowledge and background, but here I’m shooting from the hip (and remember Mrs. NovaMetalReview probably doesn’t agree with these…): M-PIRE of EVIL 8/10 and Onslaught 7.5/10

Tony "The Demolition Man", John from Raven and Jeff "Mantas"
(Pic credit: Tony "Dio" Leonard)

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