Tim "Ripper" Owens
HiFi Bar, Moore Park (Sydney)
May 26, 2012
Supports: Crimzon Lake, Hazmat, Norse
Reviewed by Paul Southwell
Pix by Andrew Pittman
Early birds trundling into the venue caught the Southern Highlands band Norse powering through a death metal set. It was Flying Vs, guttural vocals, blast beats and tremolo guitar rhythms. The four piece put in some solid carnage with impressive drumming. Confident in their delivery of songs such as ‘Spewing Forth Arachnids’, requests to bang your head didn't quite move the crowd but the blast beats kept coming. The second last song ‘I Stand Before Gods and Conquer’ worked despite the title. Scraped chords, triggered drums, a full on barrage and twenty minutes of power metallers looking confused.
Sydney thrashers Hazmat were up next, doing it old school style. Frontman Jason Callaby with Jackson guitar and standing at the mic with legs apart was static compared to lead guitarist Andrew Howard, running around energetically with a camouflaged Flying V. Overall though, Hazmat was a bit less frantic and more focused than the prior band but that is probably a matter of taste. Clearly influenced by the Big Four of thrash, the set ripped along at a great pace, even with the odd guitar string snap mishap. Time changes, solos, tight drumming and some well rehearsed thrash metal. The odd quieter breakdown added some power to the heavier parts. New single ‘Life’ was introduced with an attempt at humour about the CD price. Still, the song kicked along with backing vocals and a strong chorus. The band finished with ‘Repressed’, ending a well done set.
Now, Crimzon Lake were the band on before Ripper and it was a unique performance given veteran singer, Paul Mario Day, relished in his abundance of 'tasteful' attire that trumpeted his heritage. Good on them, but at one point during ‘Guilty’ he sat down on the front of stage and appeared to land on his back, resulting in him popping down to the barrier and then wandering back onstage wearing a shirt with a shiny pattern that would scare small animals. To his credit, he was loud and capable of wailing falsetto combined with between-song banter of varying comical quality - about the lead in his pencil, being poor and flogging the EP before launching into the power ballad ‘Hell Freezes Over’. He admitted to being altered by drugs in the 80s for the following apt-sounding AC/DC style song. ‘Hold On’ had a great riff and a ripping blues rock guitar solo from guitarist John McFadyen, complementing the screaming vocals. Finishing with ‘Midnight Train’, it was shuffling bluesy hard rock as you'd expect. They managed thirty-odd minutes of decent driving pub rock with their tongue firmly in their cheek.
With a half hour changeover, several thirsty punters looking for beer on tap took the sneaky nearby pub pass out option into the Arctic winds before returning to the venue. Vocalist Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens was in town and didn't the merch table spell that out, with pre-signed CDs from Yngwie, Priest and others up for grabs. The crowd was also a combination of the curious metaller mates and the die hard, denim-and-patches clad variety of old school rockers. Energy drink banners were about whilst the stage backdrop reminded us that we were here to listen to the man on albums such as Play My Game, as opposed to actually playing a game. Still, sponsors help make the tour happen so few could begrudge Tim sporting a Monster Energy Drink cap for most of the show.
Opening with the Judas Priest classic ‘Painkiller’, Tim's vocals were unbelievably piercing from the start. Rob Halford stylings were done to a tee whilst Doug Dalton and Jimmy Lardner-Brown from Killrazer matched guitar shredding wits on different sounding guitars from either side of the stage. The soloing on display had heaps of great technique and virtuoso skill. Some of the fretboard wizardry was so fast and furious that it almost was as impressive as Tim's soaring vocals and towering stage presence. The bass playing and drumming from Darker Half members Vo and Dominic Simpson respectively was also pretty impressive with the double kick rattling the venue walls. Cover band criticisms are to be expected, but look at Tim's resume. Amazing.
'Burn in Hell' from Priest's Jugulator sat well alongside the old classics like 'The Ripper' and the epic 'Victim of Changes' plus Tim cracked some self referential jokes about the Rock Star movie when a fan let out an imitation shriek. Sabbath's Dio era 'Mob Rules' got an impromptu airing to huge applause. Ripper delivered it with respect and power. His own band Beyond Fear's 'Scream Machine' then took the heaviness up a level and reminded a lot of Germany’s Primal Fear in terms of relentless vocal delivery. Ripper must have some circular breathing skills as his long sustained falsetto has to be heard live. Acoustic guitars heralded Iced Earth's 'When the Eagle Cries' followed by another Priest classic in 'Diamonds and Rust'.
Soon enough, the early nineties era Winter's Bane song 'Heart of a Killer' gave us a trip down Ripper’s heavy metal memory lane as did another heartfelt Dio cover, 'Stand Up and Shout'. The latter segued well into an airing of his recent solo material with the driving rock of 'Starting Over'. More Priest material naturally appeared, including a breakneck version of 'Breaking the Law' with Ripper quipping that he couldn't keep up. By contrast, Priest’s 'Bloodstained' was a brutal song, mercilessly unleashed. 'One on One' had a similar vibe as a set closer whilst elsewhere in the set, 'Grinder' was pretty tight with crowd sing-along. It was also great to hear a snippet of Yngwie's 'I Am a Viking' introducing 'Rising Force', the latter of which simply flew past. Beyond Fear's 'The Human Race' had vocals that took the listener's ear canal to resonance limits.
The encore was a one-two punch of 'Living After Midnight' and a brilliantly sung version of another Dio fronted Sabbath classic we all know as the mighty 'Heaven and Hell'. Not many vocalists could hope to do Dio justice but Ripper has the nuance, attack and projection of that hugely missed voice almost mastered. Throughout the night, Ripper shone with his versatility, personable aura and ability to adopt the vocals skills of some massive bands’ vocalists. He possesses a mammoth vocal talent worth catching live. This evening we heard a paint stripping voice that few can match in clarity and intensity. A monster gig, so to speak.
Burn in Hell
Victim of Changes
When the Eagle Cries
Diamonds and Rust
Heart of a Killer
Stand Up and Shout
Breaking the Law
I Am a Viking/Rising Force
The Human Race
One on One
Living After Midnight
Heaven and Hell