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In the annals of underground metal, one of the most important and sacred releases to come out of the classic Eighties era was actually a VHS home video from 1985. Combat Tour Live: The Ultimate Revenge was a live snapshot of Venom, Slayer and Exodus during a tour stop in New York City as the thrash trifecta waged mayhem across the U.S.
Less than four years later, Combat Records attempted to recapture the historic glory of The Ultimate Revenge by filming a sequel, appropriately titled Ultimate Revenge 2. The one-off show took place at the storied Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia on October 23, 1988, and featured a quintuplet of Combat thrashers: Forbidden, Faith or Fear, Death, Dark Angel and headliners Raven.
Released on VHS in 1989, Ultimate Revenge 2 might not have achieved the legendary status of its predecessor, but it is still a worthy account of where underground metal was heading as the Eighties drew to a close. Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan remembers the show well — here, the big man weighs in on five things you might not know about Ultimate Revenge 2.
1. The bands unleashed some Zeppelin-worthy hotel shenanigans
Eighties thrash-metal bands were never really known for hotel hijinks — really, is it even worth trashing a Motel 6 in Tulsa or an Econo Lodge in Toledo when you're just happy to have a shower for a night? But that didn't stop some of the Ultimate Revenge 2 participants from causing a ruckus the night before the show.
"We were staying in a hotel just up the street from the Trocadero, and things got a little out of control," says Hoglan. "It's possible that a TV went out the window, but you didn't hear that from me." He laughs. "It was always our 'thing' to throw urine bombs out of hotel windows, and on this particular night our buddies in Forbidden tried to one-up us by doing a dump-in-a-cup and throwing that out the window. We were all just young and stupid back then."
2. A botched soundcheck caused a rift between Dark Angel and Raven
With so many brash, young hotheads spearheading the underground metal scene around the time of Ultimate Revenge 2, it was not uncommon for tempers to occasionally flare between bands. (As thrash historians will attest, Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner was at war with just about every musician and metal writer at one time or another during his career.) As Hoglan explains, his hotheadedness got the better of him during soundcheck time at the UR2 show.
"All the other bands were just sitting around waiting to soundcheck, and Raven's gear was up on the stage but the band members were nowhere to be found — we were all just, like, 'What's going on?' By the time the band got there and did their soundcheck, the doors were about to open and we were all pissed. So afterward I went and blasted Raven in the press for being rock stars and making us wait and all that. But that wasn't the case at all — I just totally misread the situation. And Raven are my heroes! I love that band — I just didn't know much about diplomacy back then.
"So I hacked on them in some magazine, and [Raven vocalist-bassist] John Gallagher responded by writing an open letter to me explaining what had happened and how it wasn't their fault, and it made me feel about one-inch tall. He explained in the nicest way that it had everything to do with their sound guy having to rewire every aspect of the sound system because there had been problems with the board all day long, and I understood. Years later I got to talk to John about it and he was super cool about everything and I apologized for acting like such an asshole."
3. Dark Angel's performance gave fans their first taste of the band's upcoming Leave Scars album and new singer Ron Rinehart
While the Trocadero show didn't draw quite the same crowd as Combat's original 1985 Ultimate Revenge filming of Venom/Slayer/Exodus in New York ("There were some folks there, but it wasn't full to the brim," Hoglan recalls), the metalheads that did make it to the Ultimate Revenge 2 show experienced a few firsts during Dark Angel's performance. For most, this was their initial exposure to new Dark Angel singer Ron Rinehart, who had replaced original vocalist Don Doty the year before.
"Ron had a real strong voice and he looked cool and he could fight, which was always helpful," says Hoglan. "He was the only guy I knew who had sleeves of tattoos, which wasn't very common among thrash metal singers back then. … Ron looked the part and sounded great … [and] had a great attitude too — he wanted to work and he dove right into the deep end with us, he didn't just stick a toe into the water."
In addition to hearing Rinehart's voice for the first time, fans in attendance at the Trocadero that night were treated to a preview of three songs that the rest of the world wouldn't know until the release of Dark Angel's Leave Scars record in January 1989. Of the nine songs the band played during its set, three were from the upcoming album: "The Death of Innocence," "No One Answers" and "The Promise of Agony."
4. Dark Angel — a.k.a. the "L.A. Caffeine Machine" — tried to slow down, with little success
Dark Angel earned the nickname "the L.A. Caffeine Machine" by being one of the fastest bands around — but playing at such heart-racing tempos was never ideal in a live setting, particularly in small clubs with poor sound. In an effort to make their performance more aurally pleasing to the Ultimate Revenge 2 audience, Dark Angel attempted to slow their pace on this night, but as Hoglan explains, the idea was better in theory than in execution.
"We had always played so fast at our shows — mostly because I always played drums as fast as I could — and after a while I started to realize that what the audience was hearing was just, like, mud. Before the Ultimate Revenge 2 show, we made this conscious decision to slow down a bit so that the audience would actually know which song we were playing — but it still didn't work." He laughs. "We just never sounded good live back then. Jim [Durkin, Dark Angel guitarist] wrote some amazing riffs back then, but how well we could play our instruments was a whole other story."
5. Gene Hoglan snagged the drum kit everyone played that night
As Ultimate Revenge 2 was a one-off show on the East Coast, it made sense for all the bands to share as much of the gear as possible to cut down on travel and shipping expenses. Each of the five drummers that night played on the same Pearl drum kit — and in the end, it was Hoglan who wound up owning it.
"I liked it so much that after I signed a deal with Pearl, I asked them for the same type of kit from that night," says the drummer, "and I have a feeling that they sent me the actual kit because it looked and sounded exactly like the one we all played on. I still know where that kit is, too."