Toxic Holocaust/Ramming Speed/In Defence at The Metro Gallery

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For all of the bands that I have seen perform live over the years, there are quite a few that come through the Baltimore/DC area on a regular basis that I never seem to catch. Both Toxic Holocaust and Ramming Speed are groups that I had yet to see, despite the fact that Toxic Holocaust seemed to come through on a regular basis a year or two ago and Ramming Speed has been through multiple times in the past year. When I saw that the two were playing together at The Metro Gallery in Baltimore as part of an ongoing tour I decided that it was time to change that, especially since I like the new albums from both groups.

I arrived to the venue a little late, so In Defence from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota was the first band that I got to see. In Defence was a group that I had never come across before so this live set was my first time checking them out and they definitely knew how to make a great first impression. These guys play crossover thrash that really fits the description of that style, as the songs seemed to hop between full on mosh pit spawning thrash riffs and punk riffs. You can tell that a lot of the material was not only written to have guitar work that grabs your attention, but also gets the crowd going and this worked quite well as some smaller pits formed several times throughout the band’s set. While the instrumental work sounded great and the songs actually seemed to stand out rather than blurring together, what really made the group so much fun to watch was vocalist Ben Crew. Crew spent the set right in the midst of the crowd rather than on-stage and had some great commentary in between songs. It’s clear that In Defence likes to have fun and is able to take a tongue in cheek approach to many topics while still having a serious political slant at times, and Crew went into everything from George Lucas ruining Star Wars to proclaiming tacos were the superior food to pizza. He even got some commentary about The Wire in there, which I’m pretty sure every band that comes to Baltimore does at some point. Sometimes vocalists go a little overboard when it comes to talking in between songs and you just want them to play more music, but this wasn’t the case here as he was able to really work the crowd and keep them entertained. Crew said that he was straight edge but Ramming Speed had convinced him to pound Apple Pucker the night before and he was still drunk (there’s a projectile vomit video on Facebook if you don’t believe me) so this may have added to the stage banter, but whether he was drunk or not his performance never wavered and the screams and shouts were just as intense as you’d expect from this type of music. I love the fact that In Defence can make their performances into a fun party atmosphere but have substance to their material to back it all up, and any group that has a song called “No War but Star Wars” is awesome in my book. I believe they said it was their first time playing in Baltimore, and I really hope that they decide to come back soon as the set was a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

In Defence had gotten the crowd warmed up, and Ramming Speed seemed like the perfect follow up to get even more people moving in the pit. I’ve been following the band for a few years now and thought that their newest album Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die was a major step up from their previous material. There was more happening on that album than just the standard crossover thrash they offered in the past, as there were bursts of straight grind and even heavy metal leads that made the songs more distinguishable and I found myself coming back to listen to it on a regular basis. As Ramming Speed took the stage, the first thing I noticed was that the volume had increased pretty significantly. These guys like to play loud and hit you with as much energy as they possibly can, and for a band that has a lot of fast paced songs this is definitely the way to go. But even with the sheer amount of volume, the sound was perfectly balanced so that it was still really easy to make out the individual riffs and vocalist Pete Gallagher’s intense growls and screams. Just like In Defence, you could really tell that the members of Ramming Speed were having fun on stage and every band member was full of energy and the instrumentalists had a bunch of moments where they were all playing side by side. The crowd seemed to respond favorably as the pit got a bit larger and everyone looked like they were having a good time. I was impressed by how tight and coherent everything was, as the instrumentalists never missed a beat and Gallagher was able to replicate his wide range of pitches I remembered from the recorded material. Ramming Speed is a group that I think has really come a long way with their songwriting as Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die really blew me away and I was happy to discover that their live performance had the same impact. A lot of bands out there sometimes look like they’re simply going through the motions on stage, but watching these guys you could tell they were able to pull off their material flawlessly and really enjoy themselves and have fun performing and interacting with the crowd in the process. I’m glad to have finally had the chance to catch them in person, and now that I’ve seen them the next time Ramming Speed’s name pops up on a tour flier I won’t miss out again.

The previous two sets had gotten the crowd amped up and Toxic Holocaust was able to capitalize on this momentum and really open the place up. As soon as they started what had been a somewhat contained mosh pit earlier in the night expanded out to the entire main area in front of the stage and it was clear just how many people had come specifically to rage alongside these guys. Joel Grind and the other two members of Toxic Holocaust certainly didn’t disappoint either, and they delivered a set that was definitely headliner worthy. Not only did they include a number of songs from this year’s Chemistry of Consciousness album, but the group also threw in plenty of old favorites that went back to 2003’s Evil Never Dies which really gave the audience a representation of all of the different full lengths they have in their discography. One thing I had been wondering prior to the show was whether I was going to be able to hear Joel Grind’s vocals that well, as they tend to be placed a little further back in the mix on the records and I’ve found that sometimes when this is the case vocals get drowned out during the live performance. But Grind’s harsher screams were one of the most prominent elements of the set and he is able to offer just as much aggression in his performance as on the studio efforts. His vocal work has always been one of the elements I’ve found myself drawn to Toxic Holocaust’s music, as I’ve always preferred the harsher side of thrash vocals over the cleaner style that is often so dominant. The instrumentals sounded great too, and it was clear that not only were the three members capable of playing their songs without missing a beat but the sound guy at The Metro Gallery knew how to make everything sound perfectly balanced. Just like with Ramming Speed, you could tell that the three members of Toxic Holocaust were having a lot of fun on-stage and were feeding off the energy of the audience to really keep them engaged in the set. I was blown away by the precision and energy of the band’s high intensity thrash and am glad to have finally caught them. If you’re like me and haven’t had a chance to see them just yet, take the opportunity if it comes up as Toxic Holocaust will definitely leave an impression and make you want to rage in the pit.





Toxic Holocaust-
Ramming Speed-
In Defence-


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