It’s appropriate for Chaos in Tejas to end with metal on metal action, and that’s what we got for many hours at Sunday’s Red 7 blowout.
A Lone Star kicked things off, Eternal Champion combining members of Houston’s Venomous Maximus and Austin’s Iron Age for a fantasy-filled take on the kind of epic metal accompanied by denim vests and sweeping gestures. Iron Age singer Jason Tarpey dedicated one song to headliner Manilla Road, his favorite band, but with only three tunes performed, it’s difficult to access the quintet’s strengths past guitarist Doug Morrison’s ace shredding.
As with Eternal Champion, the name of Denver’s Speedwolf gives a hint for what you’ll get when the amps kick on: in this case fast, feral, punk-metal that’s like a filthier, more evil Motörhead. Brimming with outlaw energy, “Out On Bail,” “I Am the Demon,” and “I Can’t Die” (how’s that for defiance?) demanded the audience grab a couple of riffs and hang on for dear life. Not even the political commentary of “The One-Percenter” or the NWOBHM riff on speed in “Up All Night” offered any relief.
Virginia power trio Satan’s Satyrs kept the energy level vibrating on “amphetamized,” but its vision of psychedelic power punk never quite coalesced. Easy to blame a muddy mix and guitar so sludgy it drowned the guitarist’s fingerings, but in truth the band just doesn’t know how to put a tune together yet. Once it figures that out, Satan’s Satyrs will be as dangerous as it aims to be.
A taste of Abigail’s highly anticipated set cleared the palette the way a flood cleans the road, the Japanese black metal trio eschewing corpse paint (though some of its audience indulged) in favor of speed/thrash metal moves that invoked, as did many musicians Sunday, the spirit of Motörhead.
Ultimately, and appropriately, the night belonged to Manilla Road.
Though originally one of Middle America’s answers to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the Kansas epic metal combo was one of the first acts to clutch thrash to its bosom. While the quartet never caused Metallica to lose any sleep, its propensity for lightning speed and still keeping the tunes intact put the band horned-head and winged-shoulders above its contemporaries. The quartet dug deep in its two-hour, 22-song set, promoting its strong new album Mysterium and celebrating the 30th anniversary of breakthrough LP Crystal Logic.
“Masque of the Red Death” burst out of the gate in a hail of thrashing riffs, powered by the charismatic vocals of Bryan Patrick and memorable melodies and skillful guitar work of founder Mark “the Shark” Shelton. Audience thus installed in palm, the band gleefully plundered its Eighties catalog, giving the hardcore fans in front reassurance as to why Manilla Road has lasted for nearly 35 years.
Brawny blasters “The Ram,” “Crystal Logic,” and “Queen of the Black Coast” alternated gracefully with more melodic fare like “Witches Brew,” “Divine Victim,” and Mysterium tune “The Grey God Passes.” The band saluted its roots in progressive rock with the proto-prog epics “Cage of Mirrors,” “Mystification,” and “The Ninth Wave,” but really worked the crowd up with the ripping “Necropolis” and anthemic “Flaming Metal System,” a pair of Crystal Logic standouts that are close as Manilla Road comes to signature songs.
After a marathon trip through its past and present, the group whiplashed through “Up From the Crypt” and ended with “Heavy Metal to the World,” its rewrite of Motörhead’s “Overkill,” which mosh-pitted its way past cheese into statement of purpose.
Discovering new bands is a great way to spend a festival, but witnessing a classic metal act still in its prime over three decades on is what makes an event like Chaos in Tejas distinctly special.
“Masque of the Red Death” (from Mystification)
“Death By the Hammer” (from Mystification)
“Hammer of the Witches” (from The Deluge)
“Witches Brew” (from Open the Gates)
“The Grey God Passes” (from Mysterium)
“Stand Your Ground” (from Mysterium)
“Open the Gates” (from Open the Gates)
“Divine Victim” (from The Deluge)
“Road of Kings” (from Open the Gates)
“Only the Brave” (from Mysterium)
“Mystification” (from Mystification)
“Haunted Palace” (from Mystification)
“The Ninth Wave” (from Open the Gates)
“Cage of Mirrors” (from Metal)
“Queen of the Black Coast” (from Metal)
“The Ram” (from Crystal Logic)
“The Riddle Master” (from Crystal Logic)
“Crystal Logic” (from Crystal Logic)
“Necropolis” (from Crystal Logic)
“Flaming Metal System” (comp track/single, added to Crystal Logic)
“Up From the Crypt” (from Mystification)
“Heavy Metal to the World” (from Open the Gates)
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