Live Gig Review and All Photos by Zenae D. Zukowski
On Friday, June 16th, Vader concluded their Strike of the Empire tour in New York City. The Polish death metallers brought 2016’s The Empire to life along with returning to North America after four years. The initial tour kicked off on May 26th at Maryland Deathfest, however, the rest of the acts; Internal Bleeding, Sacrificial Slaughter, Voices of Ruin, and Micawber, joined the following day in Spartanburg, S.C. We were there on their final night at Webster Hall’s The Marlin Room. It was a bittersweet evening since a few months before the tour, Internal Bleeding drummer William Tolley passed away from a tragic accident after taking a call via the FDNY. He was moving between a roof and a ladder and ended up falling to his death in Queens, New York. At that time, many assumed the group would cancel the tour. However, they didn’t and took Tolley’s drum kit he had since he was sixteen years old for one last journey.
Everyone knew this was a special night for both acts Vader and Internal Bleeding, however, it was a Friday night at Webster Hall. Therefore, it kicked off super early due to a strict 10 pm curfew and everyone knew to play as many brutal tunes as they could within their 20-30min set. Wisconsin death metallers Micawber kicked off the night bright and early at 6 PM sharp. For those who arrived early enough to see them, ended up blown away. Fans gathered around, forming circle pits while others were engaged since the first note.
After a short break, California melodic death metallers Voices of Ruin were ready to conquer the stage, and they did. They released callous riffs and had a consistent fortitude during songs such as “Scars (Of My Sanity)” and “The Awakening” from 2015’s Born From the Dark. At this time, the room began to fill, ready to see California extreme death thrashers, Sacrificial Slaughter. Clean feet didn’t matter, especially for vocalist Steve Worley, who arrived barefoot. Perhaps it helped with his ferocious vocals, grabbing everyone’s attention. It was the perfect band to perform before Internal Bleeding.
We were in New York City and despite many who were there for Vader, some would say, it was Internal Bleeding’s night. The place was packed with die-hard fans and to some extent, it felt as though the late Tolley’s spirit was within the crowd. It was an emotional evening and the group gave it their all, as though they were performing specifically for him. The crowd went completely nuts during their set, including one who held his cell phone out capturing live video and simultaneously headbanging throughout each tune.
Guitarist Chris Pervelis shared a special speech for the late Tolley stating, “Wanted to say a few things. Bill was a shy guy, he loved everyone. Internal Bleeding fans have the BEST fans in the world. Bill was a great human. Spent his life making others happy. Not many people do that every day. He was a great human being.” Pervelis asked everyone to think about Bill and continued, “We all miss him horribly. His drum set on the stage was his since he was 16 years old. It has been on every album and tour. He would buy other sets but, kept this one. We decided to take it on one more tour to do it hoping his soul would be there.” The guitarist pointed at the new drummer, Kyle Eddy (Foaming at the Mouth), mentioning he had only two weeks to learn the set. Shortly after, the group went into one of the final songs Tolley wrote, “Final Justice.” These New York death metallers were Eager to see stage diving during this tune in honor of Tolley as though he was in the room watching with tears of joy. For the last song, the band asked for everyone to join them on the stage. It was an epic finale and perfect tour closer.
Despite the chaos that Internal Bleeding brought, Vader performed right on time at 9 PM. It was surprising to see the continuous crowd surfing and circle pits after the prior set. However, Vader dominated the show, reminding all about the force. They gave blistering riffs, energy and it was remarkable seeing their return. The leader of the pack and founding/only original member, Peter Wiwczarek commanded the platform. Eyes were glued to him as he controlled the tunes such as “Triumph of Death” and “Prayer to the God of War.” The set was only sixty minutes long, however, it was an hour of endless brutality. The sweat and energy within the crowd were contagious as everyone was affected by their invincible performance. Fans embraced the dark side and hopefully, these death metal masters will return in less than four years.
It was a memorable evening for the New York crowd, especially remembering the late Bill Tolley. It only proves how supportive and loving the metal family can be. To top it off even further, fans managed to be part of the stage, had the freedom to crowd surf and mosh as much as they pleased. The chaotic evening ended early, however, the memory of this night and Tolley remains.