Alcatraz Line up: 2019
It’s not as if we’d ever let our festival-goers forget but it’s no secret that the impressive Prison stage is an emphatic nod to the small island just off the coast of San Francisco, and the name Alcatraz was mainly the result of our predilection for Bay Area thrash bands. This illustrious genre first came to the fore in the 80s and meanwhile most of its defining bands have graced the Alcatraz stage at some time or other: Death Angel, Exodus, Forbidden, Testament, Vicious Rumors, ... we’ve had the good fortune over the years of hosting each of them at least once. Still, there’s one band that had always escaped our grasp and that topped our bucket list... until now. VIO-LENCE is formed in 1985 and immediately makes an impact on the exploding thrash scene. Backed by a growing live reputation the first demos sell out in no time. In fact, Forbidden Evil’s Rob Flynn is so impressed that he jumps ship to join Vio-Lence as of 1987, just in time to contribute to the recording (already written) of their full-length debut ‘Eternal Nightmare’. The result is an absolute gem crammed with finger- licking riffs but it’s mainly Sean Killian’s unique vocal style that steals the limelight. His acrimonious, repetitive vocals ooze punk attitude, a style that also characterises the band’s live gigs which are... highly memorable, to say the least. In the late 80s in the San Francisco area, Vio-Lence are in a league of their own in terms of on- stage aggression. Killian is a master whip who knows just how to rile up the Demmel-Flynn guitar tandem and get the most out of the Dell-Strickland rhythm section. The band’s stage antics soon become the stuff of legend and on a number of occasions gigs are cut short because the action in front of the stage is threatening to get out of hand. In those days there’s no doubt whatsoever: no other Bay Area band epitomises the word mosh pit like Vio-Lence. In 1990 Vio-Lence release ‘Oppressing the Masses’, a slightly more balanced album with superior production. The tracks still cut like a knife through butter but the songwriting is more mature; the vocals still carry that innate rage but the delivery is more rhythmic. The live dynamics haven’t changed but for some reason the fire just won’t spread beyond the Bay Area. Meanwhile problems are rife... problems with the label, with tour organisers, with management. Vio-Lence aren’t able to really kick-start their career. In fact, they never make it into Europe and a series of personnel changes halt the band’s momentum. When their third full-length ‘Nothing to Gain’ comes out in 1993 it is nothing more than the band’s swansong. Meanwhile Flynn establishes a new band called Machine Head and the quartet Hernandez/Demmel/Vegas/Dell (with the exception of singer Sean Killian just about the last Vio-Lence line-up) tries to make a go of it under the moniker Torque. Years of radio silence ensue until the band makes a one-off appearance at Thrash of the Titans on 11 August 2001, a concert whose proceeds are donated to cancer-stricken Chuck Billy and Chuck Schuldiner. All the big thrash bands are there and Vio-Lence pitch in as well. As a matter of fact, their performance is singled out as the best of the evening. Fast forward to January 2018 when members of Exodus, Testament, Vio-Lence and Forbidden play a benefit concert for Sean Killian. The unfortunate vocalist is seriously ill (cirrhosis of the liver) and the funds come in handy for a much-needed liver transplant. Killian undergoes surgery in March 2018 and following his successful recovery he turns his attention to the future. We all know blood is thicker than water and metal is in Killian’s blood... so in January of 2019 he decides to resurrect Vio-Lence with Demmel, who had just quit a 16 year stint with Machine Head and a brief stint in Slayer, Bassist Dean Dell and drummer Perry Strickland also rejoin. Flynn isn’t an option as rhythm guitarist Ray Vegas reclaims side-right duties. This biography is slightly longer than usual but sometimes a handful of sentences just aren’t enough to express your appreciation for a band. We are extremely proud that Vio-Lence decided to travel to Europe for just one gig (!!) and that Alcatraz is their chosen destination. By the way, their appearance at Alcatraz will be their first ever on European soil! Unless mosh pits and soul-eviscerating thrash make your stomach heave we cannot think of a single excuse not to be there on Friday 9 August.