Two reunited metal legends played together in Chicago.
Date: Sunday, May 22, 2022
Place: Reggies (2105 South State Street; Chicago, Illinois 60616)
Ticket Price: $35 ($42.94 after fees)
Seeing Vio-Lence on this night was actually a long time coming. I was supposed to see them back in March 2020 at Reggies literally like the week of or before the Covid lockdowns started that month. The show got postponed indefinitely. Nobody knew what this Covid thing was at the time. They came back to Reggies last November but I missed that show too. Eternal Nightmare is one of my favorite albums of all time. I love everything about it, from the awesome album cover by Ed Repka to the sick guitar playing to the killer drumming to the crazy vocals. I thought I would never get to see them play live since they broke up in the early ’90s, were only briefly together in the early 2000s and just started doing shows here and there in the last few years. I wasn’t even born yet when their debut album came out in 1988. I bought the 2005 reissue of that album around that time it released while in high school and constantly listened to it.
Sean Killian is one of my favorite vocalists. I love his “singing” on Eternal Nightmare and 1990’s Oppressing the Masses (a fantastic album that also has a really cool cover). I’ve been listening to them since high school and to this day I still don’t know half the words he’s saying on these songs. His vocals were always either loved or hated. I think he’s one of the best thrash vocalists. The word “unique” definitely applies to him. His style perfectly fits the band’s music. I think both of their first two albums are out of print again and pretty expensive to buy now. I wish I still had my copies. Eternal Nightmare is one of the best metal albums ever.
The band reunited in 2019 with Killian, original lead guitarist Phil Demmel and original drummer Perry Strickland. The band now also has a new bassist in Christian Olde Wolbers from Fear Factory and guitarist Bobby Gustafson who played on all those early, legendary Overkill albums. Gustafson is another guy I never thought I would see play live. Robb Flynn, who played guitar in Vio-Lence and went on to form Machine Head after leaving the band in the early ’90s, isn’t part of this reunion. He has played Vio-Lence songs on stage with members of the band in the past several years for a benefit show for Killian. Vio-Lence released a new, five song EP earlier this year on March 4 called Let the World Burn on Metal Blade Records. Let the World Burn is their first original new material in 29 years, which is kind of crazy. Killian had stage four liver cirrhosis at one point just a few years ago but survived it after a liver transplant.
It was Vio-Lence’s second show at Reggies on this tour. They played there the night before on May 21. The Saturday night show actually sold out way in advance so I had to get tickets for the Sunday gig. This “A World of Screams Tour 2022” had seven dates in six different cities. Exciter and Lich King were actually on this small tour too with Vio-Lence and Coroner in three other cities. They all played together in Boston, Philadelphia and New York. That would have been even more amazing. I didn’t know Exciter were even still around. Vio-Lence also played a few shows in June and have a couple lined up for this August. Back in the day, Vio-Lence and Coroner on the same bill would have been a legendary show.
I was also pretty excited to see Coroner. For some reason I always thought they were part of that German group of thrash bands along with Kreator and those types but they’re actually from Switzerland. I listened to them here and there as a teenager and even owned their 1988 album Punishment for Decadence at one point. The only thing I remembered about that album before this show was that it had a “Purple Haze” cover on it, which always oddly stood out to me compared to the band’s music. After reading their Wikipedia page and a comment about their sound, Coroner did actually remind me of Rush or the metal band Watchtower when I listened to them again before seeing them live. Coroner were broken up for a long time as well. They reunited in 2010 after disbanding in the mid ’90s. What a great name for a metal band too. Coroner!
At the show I bought a Vio-Lence shirt for $30 that had Eternal Nightmare on the front and the tour dates on the back. They had a lot of shirts for sale. They also had patches and stuff. I briefly talked to Phil Demmel before the show, who was selling the band’s merch. It’s always cool when the actual band members are doing that. He probably thought I was a huge dork but it was really cool meeting him. It’s kind of surreal seeing these guys in real life after listening to them for so long and seeing all their pictures in the albums or watching old videos online. He asked if I had the new album and I was like, uh, no. Ha ha. I got put on the spot. I’m going to have to buy it though. I haven’t bought much new music lately since I stream everything. He said they own Eternal Nightmare and got paid by Metal Blade to put the album on streaming platforms. I asked Demmel if they had any of their albums on CD or vinyl for sale but he said they didn’t bring any with them. He’s a really cool guy. Coroner had a lot of t-shirts too. The poster for the show sold out, which is what I really wanted to pick up.
Gigan from Chicago opened the show at 7:59pm. They were okay. They play what you would probably call technical death metal or something similar, from the guitar playing to the vocal delivery. How they specifically played wasn’t my style or something I’m that interested in. Gigan has released at least four full length albums and have been around at least 15 years. They didn’t play that long and ended their set at 8:27pm. I would have to listen to their albums more to get a feel for them. The songs blended together a lot and it was hard to tell how many they actually played. I think they did three or four songs. It was hard to get into it. The drummer and guitarist were pretty good though. The singer was this really tall, big bald dude with a beard that looked like he could be a pro wrestler. He got really into the songs, which made for a better performance. Nothing from them really stood out for me.
The place got pretty packed around 8:30pm but there was still enough room to walk around and be comfortable. I was in the front the whole time. There was only one row in front of me but I was pretty much right by the stage. Reggies probably holds a few hundred people so it’s a smaller place.
Coroner was one of the best performances I have ever seen. Like, they blew me away with how awesome they played. They were amazing live. I wasn’t expecting them to sound so great. They did a long set at just over an hour long with 11 songs total. The crowd was really into them too and had a lot of moshing going on the entire time. The lights went off at 9pm and the band came on stage a minute later. They opened with “Golden Cashmere Sleeper, Part 1.” The second song they did was “Internal Conflicts” from their 1993 album Grin. The guitar solo on this song just ripped. Tommy Vetterli is a great player and was on fire the whole night. They’re a really technical band. The singer Ron Broder/Royce also plays bass with his fingers, which is always impressive. They had a fourth member with Daniel Stoessel on a keyboard/laptop-type thing and doing backing vocals.
The third song they did was “Divine Step (Conspectu Mortis)” from 1991’s Mental Vortex. After the song, Broder said it was good to be back in Chicago after 30 years. Most of the people there weren’t even alive then. It’s crazy they haven’t played in Chicago in so long. “Son of Lilith” from Mental Vortex was next. During this song a tall guy standing in front of me with long hair and glasses climbed over the little barricade they had. He struggled, but after a few tries got on stage and quickly jumped off into the crowd. It looked like he splattered on the floor but I don’t know if people caught him. He never came back to the same spot. You aren’t supposed to stage dive at Reggies but nobody tried to stop him. The fifth song they did was “D.O.A.” from 1989’s No More Color. Broder dedicated the sixth song “Status: Still Thinking” from Grin to the band Syndrome (I’m not sure of the exact band or correct spelling). It’s weird because the lyrics are mostly about hating someone. The drummer was great on this song. It’s not the band’s original drummer Marky Edelmann but Diego Rapacchietti who joined Coroner in 2014. He was awesome all night too.
The next song was “Metamorphosis” from Mental Vortex. There was some extended bass playing and a guitar solo with no vocals during the song that was really great. They had very good guitar effects. That song was pretty incredible live. The next song was “Masked Jackal” from Punishment For Decadence. Broder said they made a music video for it back then. The pit got going hard for this one. The last song they did was “Grin (Nails Hurt)” from that album. The pit went super hard for this one too. The drummer towards the end of the song was going crazy. They ended at 10:01pm and it seemed like an encore was coming, which they did come back on stage for. They finished with “Reborn Through Hate” from their 1987 debut album R.I.P. and “Die By My Hand” from No More Color. The guitar solo in the last song was amazing. They ended for good at 10:11pm.
The whole band’s playing was incredibly tight. It was so awesome. For older guys probably in their mid to late 50s, Coroner ripped hard. It felt like a once in a lifetime experience. I assume they mostly do shows in Europe. I’ll probably never get to see Coroner again. All the songs sounded fresh hearing them live. Nothing they played sounded dated. The songs actually sounded better live. I could watch them play for two or three hours. I’m really glad I got to see Coroner perform. I hope they put out a new album after all this time and come back to the U.S. again.
It seemed like a lot of people left after Coroner and didn’t come back for Vio-Lence. I think people left and went outside but Vio-Lence came back on stage pretty quickly after Coroner were done. Many of the people there weren’t even born yet when Vio-Lence were still an active band either. The lights went out at 10:27pm and “Chicago” by Frank Sinatra started playing in the room. It just reminded me of the music you would hear when walking into a Portillo’s Hot Dogs restaurant. Half the crowd from Coroner was gone so the pit area in the center was wide open for people to get into. The band came on stage as the song played.
Vio-Lence were heavy as hell. Their style is much different than Coroner’s. Coroner were the better musicians but Vio-Lence were more chaotic. Most of the songs they did were from Eternal Nightmare and Oppressing the Masses. They did 10 songs. About half were from the first album and the other half from the second. They opened with “I Profit,” which is one of my favorite songs from them. It’s such a great opener too, especially live. This ripped to start off and set the right tempo for the night. They then did “Calling In the Coroner” and “Kill on Command.” Strickland on drums apparently messed up at the start of “Kill on Command” so they had to stop and start it over. They played “Office Nice” next and the same thing happened at the beginning so they restarted the song. The song still sounded killer though, especially the bass playing and the main riff. They did “Eternal Nightmare” after that. The sixth song they played was “Upon Their Cross” from the new EP. It’s a slower tempo and hearing it live sounded a lot like their second album. I liked the song.
There was a huge, wide open pit area the whole set that people were slamming around in. One guy was moshing around like nonstop in a circle while holding his drink up in the air with one arm. He never spilled it, which was hilarious watching. They did “T.D.S. (Take It As You Will)” as the seventh song. Killian said it was about pumping needles into your veins, which is straight forward way to put it. He’s still a great frontman and charismatic too. He would make comments and some jokes between the songs. He did a lot of interactions with the audience too. He seemed to be having a great time. The intro got messed up again to “T.D.S.” though. Demmel looked kind of pissed. They had to stop the song again and restart it. I don’t know if it was a timing or miscommunication issue with these few songs. It’s weird because Strickland is a great drummer who was a beast on those old albums. He was really good on this show too except for briefly messing up these few intros. Everything Vio-Lence played was so loud. Some parts didn’t stand out because everything was so heavy. For a lot of the show everything sounded really good. I don’t know if they had sound issues or not but at certain points the guitar parts didn’t stand out and the guitar solos were sometimes muddied. It also could be because I was so close to the stage. Killian sounded great the whole night though.
“Mentally Afflicted” was the next one they did. I like this song a lot. It sounded great live. Demmel played the whole night on a sick black flying V with white polka dots, like the one Randy Rhoads used to play. The next was “Phobophobia,” which is another one of my favorite songs. It’s a great example of Killian’s wild vocals. The last song they did was “World In a World.” Killian said they always save this song for last and that it doesn’t take a whole bunch of people to tear down the place. It sounded awesome live. They ended their set at 11:32pm. I got to fist bump Killian afterwards as they were saying goodbye on stage, which was pretty cool. Vio-Lence pretty much killed with their set.
When I walked out of Reggies, my hearing was still pretty effected even though I had earbuds in. A lot of that was due to Vio-Lence. The band had a ton of energy. Killian was great. It definitely was unforgettable seeing the band live. Vio-Lence can definitely make a comeback if they’re consistent. Maybe they can get to the level of where some of the other older thrash band are at today. If they ever do a new full length album it’ll be interesting to see what Gustafson brings to it given his history with Overkill. Considering all the major health issues that Killian has had over the years, it’s great to see him performing live with such energy and his vocals still going strong.