With support from Marty Friedman and Trauma, Queensryche marked the penultimate stop on their Digital Noise Alliance tour with a headlining visit to The Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday night. Established in 1989, The Masquerade offers up a bit of a unique venue experience, with three different indoor rooms handling a wide variety of capacities, individually named Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. The largest space, Heaven, played host to the evening’s events, with general admission fans lining up early in the unseasonably warm afternoon hours before the doors even opened.
Hailing from the San Francisco Bay area, thrash metal band Trauma blasted onto the stage at 7:30pm. For those unaware, Trauma’s history dates back to 1981, when it was originally founded by bassist Cliff Burton of future Metallica fame. Now anchored by longtime drummer Kris Gustofson, the band kicked off the night with the punch-you-in-your-face tune “From Here to Hell” off their 2019 release, As the World Dies. Now out on tour supporting their latest release Awakening (2022), the band was rounded out by Brian Allen (vocals), Steve Robello (guitar), Michael Spencer (bass), and Casey Trask (guitar).
While thrash has not been my go-to metal choice since I was an angry teenager looking to let off steam in the mosh pit, I really enjoy bands like Trauma that can deliver memorable vocal melodies accentuated by raunchy and rough guitar riffs. Allen, who recently replaced original singer Donny Hillier due to his unexpected passing, had a commanding vocal range which was only complimented by the stellar musicianship of Robello, Spencer and Trask. Joined by Friedman guitarist Naoki Morioka, Trauma’s 6-song set culminated with the high-energy banger “Death of the Angel,” which to me had a bit of a King Diamond vibe to it. I also want to give a quick shout-out to Allen and Robello, who came out after their performance to greet a group of disabled veterans sitting near the side of the stage. Classy.
1.) From Here to Hell
3.) The River Red
4.) End of Everything
5.) Walk Away
6.) Death of the Angel
Next up was iconic guitarist Marty Friedman, whom I haven’t seen perform live since his participation in the Clash of the Titans tour back in 1991. Arguably best well-known for his decade stint in Megadeth (1990-2000) during that period, the 60-year-old Friedman is also an impressive solo artist with a deep catalog all of his own. Backed by charismatic Japanese musicians Chargeeeeee (drums), Naoki Morioka (guitar), and Wakazaemon (bass), Friedman mesmerized the capacity crowd with his magical fingers, kicking off his set with “Stigmata Addiction,” a track off his sixth studio album, Loudspeaker.
What immediately stood out as I witnessed Friedman and his band live was just how much fun they were all having. They were each playing up to the crowd, and in fact it was hard to tell who was getting the louder audience chants between “Marty, Marty, Marty!” and “Chargeeeee, Chargeeeee, Chargeeeee!” Chargeeeeee was literally the living embodiment of Animal from the Muppets, pounding the skins like he was trying to punch a hole through them. When not playing, Chargeeeeee would stand up on his kit barefoot, egging the crowd on in support of Friedman’s guitar mastery. The band wrapped up their enthusiastic set with “Kaze ga Fuiteiru,” a track off Friedman’s 2021 album, Tokyo Jukebox 3. Hopefully Friedman and team circle back through the States on a club tour of their own, as I could be entertained by them for hours.
As the clock gently pushed past 9:30pm, the house lights dimmed and the familiar chords of Pantera‘s “Walk” signaled to the capacity crowd that Queensryche was close to taking the stage. With fans shouting out for the band, drummer Casey Grillo took his seat behind Eddie Jackson (bass), Mike Stone (guitar) and Michael Wilton (guitar), who were then quickly followed by Todd La Torre (vocals) to kick off the night with “Behind the Walls” from the band’s latest release, Digital Noise Alliance.
In full disclosure, I have been a Rycher (aka dedicated Queensryche fan) for decades and Saturday night was the third time I have seen the band perform in the past 13 months. I caught them opening for Judas Priest last spring, as well as closing out night two of the Monsters on the Mountain festival last August in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. What made this headlining show so special was that Queensryche fans got to experience a “complete package” of old and new, as La Torre put it.
As musically tight as ever, Queensryche delivered a balanced set of deep cuts and crowd favorites, along with a healthy dose of Digital Noise Alliance beyond just “Behind the Walls,” including “In Extremis,” “Sicdeth,” and the emotionally-charged ballad “Forest,” which is about dealing with the loss of a loved one. I will admit I haven’t spent enough time with the newer material, but the band only continues to impress with its thought-provoking lyrics and creative musical arrangements, all seemingly anchored in the longevity driven by “the OGs” (as La Torre tagged them) of Jackson and Wilton.
While La Torre did thank the adoring crowd for their appreciation and support of new material, the energy in the venue was kicked up a notch during the back-third of the setlist which began with Jackson dropping the familiar bass line introduction to “Jet City Woman.” The Masquerade then turned into a sing-along with the band as they ripped through fan-favorites “Empire” and “Eyes of a Stranger,” with “My Empty Room” dropped in between, before leaving the stage.
Following a brief pause, the band returned and gave the long-time fans a real treat, launching their encore set off with “Deliverance” from their first studio album, The Warning (1984). I am pretty sure I have never heard that live before, and while I love the anthem “Take Hold of the Flame” off the same album, this was a great alternative. Following “Deliverance,” Queensryche rolled into the fist-flying, face-melting definitive track “Queen of the Reich,” and then returned to The Warning to close out the energetic evening with the nearly 10-minute long “Roads to Madness.”
This current leg of the Digital Noise Alliance tour wraps up tonight at the Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with Queenryche taking a short break before setting sail on the Monsters of Rock Cruise on Saturday, April 29.
1.) Behind the Walls
2.) Don’t Look Back
3.) Child of Fire
4.) En Force
5.) Spreading the Disease
6.) In Extremis
10.) Jet City Woman
12.) My Empty Room
13.) Eyes of a Stranger
15.) Queen of the Reich
16.) Roads to Madness
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Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in Atlanta, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early ’90s, when he sold Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and then purchased a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.