Bay Strike Back w/Testament, Death Angel, and Exodus
Ace of Spades, Sacramento
May 26, 2022
Photos by Paul Piazza
Memorial Day weekend got off to a raging midweek start in Sacramento with a blistering thrash show by three of the all-time greatest Bay Area legends. It was the final date on the recent leg of the Bay Strikes Back Tour featuring Testament, Exodus and Death Angel.
The bands had recently completed a triple-headed trek across the U.S. and this was the final show before a short break. Next, all three of them are heading off to Europe for a summer of metal festivals. A few these dates will have all of the bands on the same festival lineup, while on others they will go their own separate ways.
Death Angel kicked things off on this night with a ferocious set on this rather warm evening. Temperatures had exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit by showtime. Guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar were in spectacular form, shredding and trading solos with scorching heat. In fact, by mid-set the whole room seemed to be perspiring. This was propelled of course by vocalist Mark Osegueda exorting the audience to new heights every chance he got. Will Carroll and Damien Sisson were a formidable rhythm section all the way through the too-short set. Check out their recent release of deep live cuts The Bastard Tracks, for a taste of how good they sound live.
Next up was Exodus and by the time they hit the stage, things seemed to heat up even more in the room. Guitarist Gary Holt and vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza immediately incited the crowd to new heights and the temperature in the room seemed to settle on a scalding, hellish roast by the time they arrived at the new tune, “The years of Death and Dying.” It was one of three tunes the band played off of their excellent recent record Persona Non Grata. Guitarist Lee Altus menaced the crowd from all over the stage while bassist Jack Gibson stalked back near the drums.
Of course, in the Exodus camp, one of the most heroic stories the rock world has ever seen is the rebound of Exodus drummer Tom Hunting from a devastating bout of cancer. The metal community worldwide exhaled a sigh of relief when Hunting, one of the greatest drumming innovators in thrash metal, prevailed after an extremely challenging bout with stomach cancer (squamas cell carcinoma). This took him down the difficult roads of chemotherapy and a gastrectomy. Fans around the world rallied for Hunting as he hunkered down and fought and healed. If you even pause to think about it, it’s remarkable that he has been back touring. Currently, Hunting is doing immunotheraphy and it feels like a blessing to see one of the all time double bass beasts behind the drums at these Exodus shows. It must be said, Hunting is one tough fucking guy.
In fact, it seems insane when one ponders that it was only in the spring of 2020 when the same three bands were returning from a successful tour of European leg of this tour when members of band and crews starting showing symptoms and posting positive Covid tests in the earliest stages of the pandemic. Death Angel drummer Will Carroll ended up fighting for his life on a ventilator and spent 12 days in a coma before starting to recover. Carroll is back and better than ever now. Kudos to Carroll for being a beast as well.
And speaking of drummers, the final focus of this gloriously roasting evening in Sacramento was on who was sitting upon the throne for Testament, who were the final band to the stage. Earlier this year the phenomenal Gene Hoglan, announced he would be leaving the band to pursue other projects. What followed, was one of the most astounding announcements in recent metal history- the band announced a reunification with Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Fantomas) who had played on the band’s exceptional 1999 album “The Gathering,” but had never toured with the band. Naturally, this was welcome news to the thrash world, because while Hoglan is stellar and extremely talented, Lombardo is widely considered the greatest thrash metal drummer of all time. Naturally, anticipation was high.
So there was a bit of focus on that as the band hit the stage with all eyes on Lombardo, but Testament quickly established why they have long been considered such a major force on the metal scene. Vocalist Chuck Billy strode center stage and instantly took command, while the insane guitar attack of Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick exploded and dueled on either side of him. It’s always exciting exciting to witness the blend of Peterson’s fierce style and Skolnick’s finesse. An incredible duo.
Meanwhile rangy bassist Steve Giorgio prowled the stage. And of course, Lombardo persevered with devastation upon the drum kit. There was one early song flub in the set, where a song was stopped and quckly restarted and remedied. But after that…pure raging fun!
Most of the songs were delivered traditionally, but the setlist did grow with songs from The Gathering and Lombardo was appropriately spotlighted on the opus “Eyes of Wrath,” with its nuanced beginning. All of the songs from the band’s 2020 record Titans of Creation sounded amazing as well. Near the end of the set, there was a subtle, but noticeable shift on the rhythmic approach at the beginning of the debut album’s classic “Over the Wall,” and perhaps it was a hint at the versatility and skill that Lombardo brings to the table and how a simple change implemented can complement an arrangement. It will be interesting to see where they take it from this point on. Hopefully he continues his tenure in the band for the long term.
So much to ponder as these fantastic bands go forward, but all in all, it was a beautiful experience to see them all together on a sweltering evening in Sacramento. All were incredible and it was a rare chance to see these all-time greats share a stage in one night. It also gave one the feeling there is a bit of a metal renaissance happening in the U.S. Hopefully that momentum will continue.
When the bands return from Europe, all three will pick up where they left off in the US and tour together for a little over a month starting in September, with a final show concluding in San Jose on October 15. The tour seems have to gone very, very well thus far with many shows selling out including this night in Sacramento. It’s notable that Altus and his band Heathen will play on some of the European festival dates, where they are on the bill with the other Bay bands. That is something to celebrate as well.