Southern California's Tribute To Metallica, Damage Inc, took to I-15 and made the drive up to Las Vegas once again. Fairly regular visitors of Sin City they were here not 6 months ago for a pre-Metallica concert warm-up party.
Always a huge draw they never fail to pack the house, and for good reason...they are outstanding! This night was no exception as it was standing room only, with bodies crammed elbow-to-elbow in front of the stage. As the house music cuts out an audio track of the instrumental "The Ecstasy Of Gold" off of the S&M album begins to play. As it draws to its end the curtain is pulled back and the band members take to the stage accompanied by loud cheers from the vocal audience. The band begins with the intro to "Phantom Lord" off of Metallica's debut album, Kill Em All. There is a brief pause where the slower intro ends and the song takes off into the fast and heavy thrash metal pace that Metallica pioneered, and lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Christopher Knight (who strongly resembles James Hetfield) takes this moment to shout out, "Las Vegas! Let's Kill Em All!"
Right away these guys let you know that this is not some run-of-the-mill cover band that only plays the well-known tracks from the band's most popular albums. Damage Inc digs deep and goes back to Metallica's roots, taking you on a journey through the evolution of one of the "big four" bands of thrash-metal. Phantom Lord soon jumps 33 years into the future and becomes "Spit Out The Bone" from Metallica's 2016 release, Hardwired...To Self-Destruct, without so much as a pause. The songs are blended perfectly and the band absolutely nails the modern Metallica sound. Following those 2 songs they jump back to another song from Kill Em All (a cover of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?") and without slowing down transition into the title track from Metallica's second album, Ride The Lightning.
Chris Brightwell handles the lead guitar and his tones are a perfect replica of Kirk Hammett's. He shreds through the solos like he's the one who wrote them, nailing every chord. Chris Knight's younger brother, Kevin handles the bass duties and, while he looks more like his brother than Cliff Burton, Jason Newsted, or Robert Trujillo, he most definitely keeps that low-end in line with all three of them. Back on the throne behind the epic Yamaha drum kit sits Tone DeCorte, an absolute beast smashing the skins and setting the pace with his rapid kicks. This guy is fun to watch! Meanwhile, Christopher Knight keeps the Hetfield image up with his guitars, switching off between a Snow white ESP Iron Cross and a Snow White ESP Snakebite (both James Hetfield Signature Models), as well as sporting Het's traditional black, extra long wristbands. He works the facial expressions perfectly, having obviously done his studies well, and with more than 10 years worth of practice showing through.
More than two and a half hours later, having completed 23 of Metallica's greatest hits (even adding a couple that weren't on the original set list), they finish out the set with the song that gave them their name, Damage Inc. As tribute bands go, this one is one of the best I have ever seen. They have been repeatedly acknowledged by AXS TV as one of "The World's Greatest Tribute Bands" and I am inclined to agree. This is one of those rare situations where the sequel in many ways supersedes the original. I mean, how else can you get that live Metallica sound without spending a fortune for a ticket (admission was free!), and get to see them up-close and personal? Granted, they don't have the production that Metallica has but, if you close your eyes for a minute...well, it's pretty damn good! If you get a chance to see them I highly recommend them. If you're a Metallica fan like myself you will not be disappointed!
Damage Inc. Photos from Randy Udell / R U Rockin' Photos