Of all the horrible things that happened in 2020, right near the top if you’re a metal fan, was the death of Power Trip vocalist Riley Gale. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, they vaulted to the echelons of the next generation of thrash, and underground heavy in general, and were knocking on the door for much bigger things on the strength of their first two, absolutely ferocious, albums; 2013s Manifest Decimation and 2017s breakthrough Nightmare Logic.
Both albums, in addition to their 2018 compilation Opening Fire: 2008-2014, demonstrated Power Trip’s uncanny ability to seemingly effortlessly conjure up the nastiest of vibes of the first wave of thrash and crossover, complete with untouchable riffs and vicious energy, but presented in a modern context. Gale was at the epicenter of the band’s energy, a sweatpants-wearing, modern throwback to the late ‘80s crossover thrash scene, but brimming with Texas attitude, all the while possessing a savage thrash bark, wherein he completely commanded the stage with his voice and presence. His death, especially right at a very pivotal point for Power Trip, annihilated any momentum they had accumulated professionally, to say nothing of the personal devastation of losing a close friend and bandmate that they had shared so much with.
It is under these circumstances that the remaining member of Power Trip, lead guitarist Blake Ibanez, rhythm guitarist Nick Stewart, bassist Chris Whetzel and drummer Chris Ulsh dipped into the vault for the first release since Gale’s untimely passing, one might guess there will be more. Recorded at Neumo’s (a place I know well) on the 28th May 2018, Live In Seattle puts on vivid display Power Trip’s merciless live show, and showcases Gale’s stage presence and ruthless thrash bark. Featuring a career-spanning setlist with songs being almost evenly split between Manifest Decimation and Nightmare Logic, with a few old-school, deep cuts thrown in to appease the longtime fans, namely Suffer No Fool and Divine Apprehension, both are absolutely smoking in a live setting and first appeared alongside each other on their 2011 self-titled EP.
The main riff from Soul Sacrifice is already full of crawling malevolence, but on this live recording, it’s positively crushing. Ibanez and Stewart’s riffs can be felt through the speakers, and when Ibanez unleashes some of his blazing lead work, the audience is laid to waste. Power Trip’s biggest ‘hit’ Executioner’s Tax is a massive, chugging, thrash monster, all the while Gale does his best to get the Seattle crowd absolutely crazed, as well as admonishing those in for being on their phones. Staring at one’s phone is not something that goes unnoticed at a Power Trip show as the crowd is either in full headbang mode or caught up in a circle pit. Gale’s feelings towards organized religion are pounded home with Crucifixation sounding equally punishing, the frontman again shows his personality and command viciously barking at the crowd ‘bang your fucking heads’, as if they need more motivation to do so.
Live In Seattle puts on vivid display Power Trip’s merciless live show…
We get back-to-back rippers from Manifest Decimation with Heretic’s Fork, which is absolutely blazing, the palm-muted, chugging riffage sounding as crisp and menacing as any metal fan could want, followed the pounding bass drum intro of Conditioned To Death in which Gale again is instructing the crowd to get the circle pits going, as Power Trip put on a clinic in aggressive thrash riffing, to say nothing of the blazing shred. Firing Squad is a total face-melt giving way to the frenzied riffing of the penultimate Manifest Decimation, in which one can literally feel the menace and aggression from the riffing and rhythm assault along with the vocal threat pouring from the speakers. Fucking crushing stuff. The set closes with more ire towards organized religion with the intimidating riffage and ‘80s thrash chug of Crossbreaker in which the bass is literally felt in the listener’s chest backed up by the vicious yet catchy riffing.
Live In Seattle is an uncompromising testament to the sheer ferocity and talent that is Power Trip’s take on heavy thrash. The setlist is killer, the execution and tone of the songs practically peerless, as well as the songwriting itself, which are all things that helped separate them from the glut of mid-aughts thrash revivalist bands. This live recording is also a wicked, posthumous, example of Gale’s powers as a thrash metal frontman.
He didn’t possess a mega-wailing metal voice, but his bark and delivery are so convincing and full of menace that he had quickly ascended to the point of being one of the best underground frontmen on earth. His on-stage high kicks whilst rocking Obituary sweatpants at the perfect downbeat or solo are the stuff of legends in the 2010s. I also found the album to be a slightly depressing listen as all the potential Power Trip wielded is on bright display, and one can’t help but wonder what might have been had Gale lived. Nonetheless, this is an excellent document of the sheer power, ferocity and skill they possessed.
A melancholic reminder of a band that I most certainly miss – RIP Riley Gale.
Scribed by: Martin Williams