Vio-lence, Coroner played Middle East Downstairs – 5/24

It was a night of firsts and firsts-in-a-very-long-time as a thrash metal bill comprised of Vio-lence, Coroner, Exciter and Lich King descended on Cambridge.

Four horsemen of the thrash-pocalypse, you might call them.

A quartet of bands all belonging loosely to the same heavy subgenre rode into the Mid East last month, each offering up a distinct twist that illustrated the universe of possibilities within the confines of thrash.

Leading things off were Lich King, the Western Mass ragers whose songs fixate primarily and straightforwardly on sci-fi, moshing and shit-talking stuff that takes itself too seriously. They served as our party ambassadors, and performed their duties well.

Next up were Canadian vets Exciter, adherents to the style of meta-metal that basks in the glory of the riff. Still led by original drummer/vocalist Dan Beehler and bassist Allan Johnson, joined by newish guitarist Daniel Dekay, the trio ripped through their devotionals to volume and heavy metal mania with appropriate exuberance. It was – somehow – the first Boston-area show in the band’s ~40-year history, and they played it like a much younger band making that debut.

Co-headliners Coroner and Vio-lence trailed close behind infinity in the days-since-last appearance count, each having not graced our local stages for something like three decades. Coroner struck first, the most cerebral and, in some sense, subtle band of the night. The quartet’s progressive, technical thrash style, which verged into hypnotic industrial-groove territory on cuts from their final studio release (1993’s Grin, a recent discovery and favorite of mine), might have partied less hard, but took the evening to some of its darkest and heaviest corners.

Vio-lence wrapped things up with perhaps the purest thrash ideology of all: a stack of insanely fast and heavy songs helmed by a guy who comes across as though he might be as unhinged as the killers and tyrants he’s barking lyrics about. That’d be frontman Sean Killian, whose wild-eyed energy propelled the final set of the night into overdrive and stirred up a crowd looking to enact some vio-lence of their own.

To pull back the focus a bit, a pretty remarkable night for any fan of classic thrash that skews a bit more obscure than the Big Four. Touring is a tough business these days, particularly for long-running bands without arena resources (even moreso when they hail from as far afield as Zürich, as was Coroner’s case). Point being, you don’t see a bill like this one every day. Sometimes you’ve gotta feel grateful.

Scroll down for photos of all the madness below.