Heavy rock fans gather every October in Sacramento at Discovery Park for a late season festival that, for many fans, marks the end of the festival year. This year’s lineup had the usual big draws like Tool, Slipknot, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson, and interesting bands you don’t see all the time like The Hu and Babymetal. For me though, the band I most wanted to see was Deadland Ritual.
Deadland Ritual has been flying under the radar for the year or two it has been in existence and is known primarily for its bass player, the heavy metal icon Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath. The band’s singer is Franky Perez (Apocalyptica), Steve Stevens (long time Billy Idol collaborator) is on guitar, and the drummer is Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver). They do not play live very often, especially in the US, and so it was a significant event when they showed up in Sacramento for the Aftershock festival. The band played on the third stage at Aftershock, which was set up in the far corner of Discovery Park. There was less room around the third stage (naturally) than the two main stages, and when the crowd filed in they ended up tightly packed together. Nobody seemed to mind the crush and, judging by the chatter, most people seemed to be there to see Geezer.
Their live set was a barrage of familiarity and innovation. It started off with a Black Sabbath cover, “Symptom of the Universe.” That was a smart move, picking a song to draw the fans in, and it really worked because the crowd fell immediately in line singing and nodding along. They move on to alternate between Deadland Ritual tunes and covers of Black Sabbath songs, with the occasional Billy Idol (“Rebel Yell”) or Velvet Revolver (“Slither”) title included as well. There are only two officially released Deadland Ritual songs, “Down In Flames” and “Broken and Bruised,” which they played, and they also included a couple of new songs I had never heard before.
Steve Stevens put on a blistering performance and was perfectly at home with the classic Black Sabbath material. I had never seen Franky Perez live before and I was blown over by his voice and stage presence – he injected a high level of energy into the performance. His sound is ideal for this kind of music as it both powerful and melodic. Geezer Butler and Matt Sorum were comfortable and methodical, very much being themselves and letting the music flow in heavy metal perfection.
Deadland Ritual performed at a few dates in Europe this summer and at Aftershock, but that was about it. According to their website, the do not have any upcoming dates scheduled, but they do plan to be out on some dates next year. If you see them pop up anywhere near you, jump on the chance to see them because there is no telling when they might be back.