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Empire State Bastard Headlines Saint Vitus

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

September 23rd, 2023 - Empire State Bastard made their headlining debut at the legendary Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, NY. The show was in celebration of their debut album Rivers of Heresy which was released on 9/1 via Roadrunner Records with support coming from Thoughtcrimes and Beinn.

Kicking off the night was the band Beinn. Not much is out there about them yet, but they are a 3 - piece band with an interesting sound which mixes together jazz, rock and a bit of shoe-gazing. The vocalist didn't speak much but he did take the time to thank everyone for coming out early to see them followed by introducing his band. The vocalist had a catchy raspy tonality to his performance and the bassist had an engaging, funky bassline. Towards the end of the set the vocalist/guitarist played a crazy solo, grasping everyone's attention for a final time while the rest of the band was jamming along. The crowd's reaction to them was welcoming and it was a nice way to ease listeners into what was coming later.

Things started to pick up with Thoughtcrimes. Thoughtcrimes is a Long Island-based hardcore band featuring Billy Rymer (Dillinger Escape Plan; drums), Rick Pepa (vocals), Russ Savarese (guitar), Brian Sullivan (guitar), and Cody Hosza (bass). They are singed to Pure Noise Records and have one EP, Tap Night, and one full-length, Altered Pasts.

Thoughtcrimes was the complete polar opposite of Beinn, performance-wise. From the get-go, the band was full of raw speed and energy. Pepa could not stand in one place for too long and was moving from left to right on stage with precise speed, all while still keeping the stamina needed for pulling off those harsh vocals AND switching to cleans. During the third song, "Soapbox", which is a new, unreleased song, Pepa made a joke in response to the lack of movement from the crowd by saying " This is a stand-still energy song! No one moving around!" and a small mosh pit broke out after he said that. Angry, distorted guitar tones from Sullivan and Savarese mixed with Rymer's loud, hard-hitting drums created a sound that's so aggressive, its enough to get anyone amped up. As an avid hardcore fan myself, I loved the overall energy and was hyped the entire time. You can tell Rymer has not missed a step one bit since the dissolution of Dillinger Escape Plan back in 2017.

By the second half of the set, fog was dispersed throughout the small space to set more of the previously established atmosphere. Pepa went into the crowd to instigate the pit even more. He was even screaming while he was doing it.

The last song they played was "Deathbed Confession" off their full-length, Altered Pasts. This was their 'give it all' song. They did just about everything, Pepa continued going from harsh vocals to high scream and even going as low as doing a guttural. Rymer kept the aggressive drumming going while Savares, Sullivan and Hosza kept up with their rhythm section. As the song was coming to a close, Pepa gave the typical "This is your last chance!" mosh call and the demand was met. Matching with the bands energy, the pit broke out bigger than it had the whole performance and everyone gave it all they got.


Finally, the main event of the evening; Empire State Bastard takes the stage. Empire State Bastard is a duo extreme metal/grindcore infused project created by members of Biffy Clyro; Simon Neil (vocals) and Mike Vennart (guitars) with Naomi Macleod (bass) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Mr. Bungle, Suicidal Tendencies; drums) taking up touring duties.

Right off the bat, they didn't waste any time. During the first song "Harvest", Neil was all over the place switching from high, feral screams to cleans and laying on the floor. He was clearly high on the adrenaline rush. He even started to sweat and the night just got started. The whole band as well was going at it so hard that you could say they were performing as if this was their last show ever. They switched the vibe up a bit in the third song, "Moi?". Macleod kept the rhythm going while Lombardo played a subtle drum beat to accompany it. Neil was mainly singing with Macleod providing backup vocals keeping it nice and warm. Vennart took over in certain parts of the song, amping it up with his distorted guitar tone then playing soft melodies over the slower parts.

What stood out to me the most was Dave Lombardo. Being a drummer and Slayer fan myself I was always a fan of Lombardo's work. Being nicknamed the "Godfather of Double Bass", he is known for his aggressive, but innovative drumming and it was shown here. In keeping to the songs structures he was not afraid to put his own twists on them to make them stand out. He went from playing crazy fills to the simple drum beat effortlessly. I don't think there was a better choice for a drummer than Lombardo.

From going on the heavy side to switching to slow, groovy moments, Empire State Bastard's performance was definitely all over the place. Neil's constant going back and forth, laying on the floor or crawling into a fetal-like position while producing high screams, harsh feral growling, and even gutturals and transitioning to soft clean singing made him the center of attention the entire night. This was further backed by the talent he was with; from Vennart's fast, pounding guitar playing to Macleod's groovy bass rhythm to Lombardo's insane and unorthodox drumming, Empire State Bastard's performance at Saint Vitus was definitely one to remember. I'm definitely looking forward to see what's in store for them in the future.

Stream Rivers Of Heresy here



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