SHOW REVIEW: HK Thrash Metal Band Charm Charm Chu Review Japan’s Thrash Domination

When we heard the boys of the phenomenal Hong Kong based thrash metal act Charm Charm Chu were heading to Tokyo to check out a massive thrash metal event featuring the likes of Exodus, Testament and Warbringer – we knew we just HAD to get a show review. We knew these diehard thrash maniacs were definitely going to have a good time, but we also knew that they were the kinda peeps who would turn in nothing but an honest review of the event. 

If you haven’t heard Charm Charm Chu yet then go do yourself a favor and blast their jams which you can find under the show review below.

HK Thrash Metal Band Charm Charm Chu Review Japan’s Thrash Domination
AUTHORS | Bob Wan & Grenade Kwong
BAND | Charm Charm Chu

Being the biggest heavy metal nation in Asia, not only is Japan chalk full of clubs/livehouses/venues, but they also host a stellar amount of rock concerts throughout the year. We metalheads of Hong Kong just can’t help the envy that bubbles inside us.

Thrash Domination is a mid-sized festival with over a decade’s worth of history. Though we’ve been to Japan numerous times to attend shows/concerts, this was our first experience at Thrash Domination. This year’s lineup included Exodus, Testament and Warbringer. Exodus and Testament have both been part of Thrash Domination lineups in the past, but it was Warbringer’s first becoming sole representatives of the new generation of thrash metal.

Opening act was of course Warbringer. The band performed two completely different sets both nights. The first night they played their latest album Woe to the Vanquished in its entirety, and the second night they played tracks from their previous releases. Playing through an entire album is certainly not a novel idea in the music industry nowadays, however, Woe to the Vanquished is one of the best thrash metal records released last year (and actually one of the best thrash revival masterpieces of all time), and both of us have already watched Warbringer play this exact set in USA and Germany last year. Both those sets we witnessed far exceeded all our expectations. We could easily watched a Woe to the Vanquished set over and over again.

Although Warbringer hadn’t played in Japan in over 7 years, Japanese metal maniacs still dug their set and lost their minds. The crowd certainly weren’t just saving their energy for Exodus and Testament because they unleashed a gigantic circle pit when Warbringer ripped through Living in a Whirlwind. This particular circle pit turned out to be the biggest circle pit of the entire event.

Testament, on the other hand, were a disappointment.

Grenade first watched Testament in Loud Park a couple years ago and remembers it really not being a great experience at all so he didn’t have any hopes that this was going to go well right from the get go. Bob witnessed Testament opening for Slayer on their 2016 North American Tour. On that tour Testament were actually highly energetic rocking through a packed setlist without any lame stage banter, guitar solos or odd storytelling in between the songs. It made that particular performance feel very organic.

However, this was not the case at Thrash Domination.

Let’s get right to some of the issues:

  • In between songs, each musician had a solo. The total time of all these solos combined were almost 10 minutes and really didn’t fit within the set – AT ALL.
  • There were a few awkward moments as well – drummer Gene Hoglan played a drum solo featuring a medley of X-Japan’s instrumental track Xclamation while guitarist Alex Skolnick jammed on a Sakura Sakura guitar solo.
  • We all know they are world renowned musicians, but the consecutive barrage of solos made the overall set feel incredibly odd.
  • There was no thought in the transitions between these solos and actual songs. As a result, these awkward moments destroyed the high in the audience.

We certainly understand the band trying to make the show feel more intimate for the audience, but their set was so poorly executed that it was a total let down. Thrash metal is a high octane and aggressive affair, so for the band to intersperse their set with these long winded solos was completely unnecessary.

Moreover, the band’s production turned the show into a fully scripted affair. The lead singer Chuck Billy repeated the exact script both nights making him sound like a soulless android. Every stage move was predictable and we guessed every word that was going to come out of his mouth because he was just repeating himself. To make matters worse, they played the exact same set both nights. We get it. The dudes are old, but this just felt insincere especially since they played the exact same songs, in the exact same order on both nights (even the solos!), with the exact same stage moves, and the exact same script in between. Exodus and Warbringer on the other hand, did a much better job in terms of song variation rearranging their set rundown for the crowd to be entertained both nights. We are certainly not against the initial idea of what it seemed Testament were probably intending to do having seen bands like Metallica and Slayer rip through scripted sets due to their massive production on such tours as Big 4. Bands like Metallica and Slayer’s execution was well planned and properly done that it still made the experience highly enjoyable.

We were so disappointed that we actually left their set midway to go rest outside. Our band Charm Charm Chu actually covers Testament’s Into the Pit often but after this dismal experience we probably won’t be doing that again in the future.

Finally, the main dish…Exodus.

Man did they live up to the hype! Exodus were easily the MVP for both nights. Their sets were a full 90 minutes of metal madness. It was clear as day that even though the audience were having a good time during Warbringer, they really WERE saving all their energy for Exodus. The pit absolutely went fucking mental with sweaty bodies flailing around in absolutely beautiful chaos. There wasn’t a single moment in their 90 minute set that you could even stop and tie your shoelaces. They also had ZERO musician solos! KUDOS! Following their classic tracks Piranha, Bonded by Blood, and The Toxic Waltz, they closed with Strike of the Beast complete with a wall of death done in their traditional way.

On the second day Exodus even decided to change the opening track of their set and by playing Bonded by Blood! We were shocked! When we heard the intro of BBB we immediately looked at each other and said “What the fuck? Are you serious?!” Needless to say, the crowd knew what was up and went completely crazy instantly going from zero to 110 in a matter of seconds. That pit was insane.

Being one of the most important thrash metal icons outside the Big 4, Gary fucking Holt brought extra flavour to their game. We all know that even though Exodus is Gary’s baby, he has been filling in for Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman. While away from Exodus he has help from friends like Kragen Lum (Heathen) filling in. This time however, Gary Holt was able to make it to Japan. We were fortunate enough to be there to witness Exodus’ first show with Gary.

Some of the highlights from the Exodus’ set was the little Slayer Raining Blood intro cover and definitely watching the vocalist of Warbringer, John Kevill, stagedive into the crowd during Toxic Waltz. The band ended their set with the Godzilla theme song ringing out.

This trip was a one of a kind experience and it certainly meant so much to those of us who’ve been playing this type of music for decades.

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