The hallowed grounds of The Slade Rooms once again opens its doors for an evening of intense metal from one of the genre’s most revered names, namely US heavyweights Biohazard, but before the hardcore onslaught there are three choice support acts to enjoy.
First up are Black Country metalcore band Rogue Reflection, who arrive onstage to about 20 people watching from the floor. Their sound is heavy and bouncy, drawing from the likes of Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God for influences, and by the time they finish their set with a cover of Killswitch‘s ‘Life To Lifeless’ they’ve managed to pull in a few more punters from the bar.
Next to arrive are local boys Husk, a band who have graced these (web) pages before as they supported Soulfly in this very venue two days short of a year ago. Tonight they show how much they’ve grown as a live band as their “Plague of Man” EP highlights of ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Unearthing the Rapture’ are delivered by a band whose confidence levels are visibly through the roof. The unique thing about Husk is that frontman Bob Taylor plays funky slap bass over the rest of the band’s metallic assault and it works brilliantly, that quirky edge to their sound separating them out from both support bands that play either side of them tonight. Guitarist/vocalist Lawrence Elcock‘s melodic vocals work better in the live environment, sounding less forced and providing the necessary contrast to Taylor‘s deathly growl that doesn’t always come across on the EP, and his guitar harmonies with Jak Shinner are perfectly executed. Always a pleasure to catch live, Husk are on the ascent and as long as they keep landing gigs like this then it’s only going to get better for them.
Hostile are a Black Country metal most notable for having their debut album “Eve of Destruction” produced by former Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing, and that Rogue Reflection singer Jay Mills and guitarist Anthony Wall are also in the line-up and playing their second set of the night. Hostile‘s brand of no-nonsense heavy thrash goes down well with the increasingly busy crowd, and although songs like the cheerful ‘I Don’t Give a Fuck’ get an enthusiastic response it is when they launch into a medley of Slayer‘s ‘Angel of Death’ and Pantera‘s ‘Walk’ that gives the audience the push they need to go mental, playing one more original before exiting the stage having done what they needed to do.
And so to the four brick shithouses from New York known collectively as Biohazard. It’s easy to forget these days just how important and influential this Brooklyn mob were back in the early 1990s, bringing heavy music to the mainstream in a post-thrash metal world alongside contemporaries such as Sepultura and Pantera. Although they would probably kick your head in for even suggesting it, it isn’t that difficult to trace a line from their early adoption of hip hop into their streetwise punk/metal hybrid to what happened to the metal scene later in the decade with the likes of Korn and the rest of the nu metal hordes following suit. But Biohazard always had an edge – they weren’t posers, there were no gimmicks and they could back up their tough words with incendiary live shows that were more like riots, and tonight these four bruisers tell us how it is(!) with a show of strength and integrity like they were a young punk band just starting out.
Kicking off with ‘Wrong Side of the Tracks’, it hits you immediately that this is a streamlined, more direct attack from the band. This is mainly down former bassist/co-frontman Evan Seinfeld having been replaced by Scott Roberts, which is actually something of a mixed blessing for the band. Whilst Roberts looks the part, plays a mean bass and sounds not too dissimilar to his predecessor vocally – providing the gritty growl to counteract guitarist/co-frontman Billy Graziadei‘s punkier vocals – he doesn’t interact with the crowd, which is where the bullish Seinfeld is missed. However, with Roberts being more low-key that means that Billy Graziadei is now THE frontman for Biohazard and it is a role he seems to relish. It is Graziadei who addresses the crowd, Graziadei who gets the most high fives from the front row, Graziadei who stops the band several times mid-song to gee up the crowd and Graziadei who gets the audience to sing his son ‘Happy Birthday’ while guitarist Bobby Hambel tries to sort out his sound issues, and he loves every second of it as he feeds off the rabid crowd, with Roberts and Hambel whirring and spinning either side of him like two bouncers with Saint Vitus Dance. But as well as Graziadei‘s charisma and Hambel‘s intense crowd-baiting, it is unsung hero Danny Schuler who locks everything down from the back of the stage with a flawless performance on the drums, his ability to shift from intricate hip hop grooves to Slayer-esque thrash metal pacing as astounding as it is satisfying.
With a set drawn heavily from their first three albums – the only exception being a very heavy ‘Resist’ from 1999’s underrated “New World Disorder” – Biohazard can do no wrong as their demands for circle pits are met and crowd surfers are thrown over the barriers to invade the stage. Graziadei stops proceedings at one point to check that one unfortunate punter who landed on his head is okay before bringing the noise back, telling the security that the stage invaders are fine and it’s not a problem. It’s this level of grounding and fan service that makes Biohazard so beloved by heavy music fans, and as the set draws to a close with an insane ‘Punishment’ and a victorious ‘Hold My Own’ it really is a case of job done for these New York veterans. As Billy Graziadei reminds us, Biohazard have been going for 25 years and with a new album scheduled for next year – which should hopefully see Scott Roberts step up and out from Evan Seinfeld‘s shadow – it seems they show no sign of slowing down any time soon. Get ready for more insanity in 2016.
Wrong Side of the Tracks, Shades of Grey, Urban Discipline, Chamber Spins Three, Tales From the Hardside, Down For Life, How It Is, Resist, Love Denied, Howard Beach, We’re Only Gonna Die (From Our Own Arrogance), Victory, Punishment, Hold My Own