Slaughter live at the Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg, Virginia, USA Concert Review


Date: Sunday, July 3, 2022
Venue: Tally Ho Theater
Location: Leesburg, Virginia, USA
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato (Nuclear Deathcount) and Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography (Slaughter)

With Slaughter having released their successful debut album Stick It To Ya in 1990, right on the doorsteps of an impending upheaval in the world of hard rock, one has to wonder how the band’s history might have unfolded had they released that debut album just five years sooner. Would their mass commercial appeal have had a longer shelf life? Despite scoring coveted opening slots touring with the likes of KISS, Alice Cooper and Poison, perhaps the band would have gone on to headline arenas on their own. That same speculation could be pondered on surrounding several successful bands that landed on the scene in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. Of course, an earlier arrival for Slaughter just wouldn’t have been possible with key members Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana Strum still involved in Vinnie Vincent Invasion right up until 1989.

In the nine years that followed their debut, the band went on to release four more studio albums and two live albums. Stick It To Ya enjoyed double platinum success, with its follow up, The Wild Life attaining gold status. Slaughter’s subsequent releases Fear No Evil, Revolution and Back To Reality sold just a fraction of that despite the quality of material that the band produced for the efforts. Had those albums been released in the 80’s (or even earlier in the 90’s), sales figures would have potentially been drastically different. Enthusiasts of the band’s music appear to share in that sentiment, with the recent vinyl release of 1995’s Fear No Evil a huge success for Slaughter and Kiss My Wax Records. The deluxe box set version completely sold out of its limited pressing. Following that win, the band recently touched down on the east coast for a weekend of shows that included the Dundalk Heritage Fair outside of Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday, July 2nd and the Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg, Virginia on July 3rd. I travelled to Virginia to see the band perform at the Tally Ho Theater on the cusp of two celebratory occasions – Independence Day and frontman Mark Slaughter’s birthday.

Nuclear Deathcount

At several concerts that I’ve recently attended, there were local opening bands on the bills that were largely mismatched with the headliner that I was there to see. It’s become something of standard practice at this point and not really an anomaly. In fairness, I can’t imagine that it’s easy for promoters to find new, local talent that is patterned on the sound and image of legacy rock bands from the late 80’s/early 90’s. They’re few and far between, particularly in the vicinity that I travel within to attend rock shows. Which brings us to Nuclear Deathcount, a fledgling thrash metal band hailing from Virginia that play with an intensity, passion and focus that I don’t often see in upstarts at their level, and particularly at the young age that I’d estimate the band members average around. With each of the guys presumably in their late teens/early twenties, it’s astounding to see Nuclear Deathcount play with such fire, hunger and reverence for music that was penned long before they were even born.

The comradery within the group was apparent as the four bandmates convened to share a fist-bump before drummer Gavin Casey rampaged across his kit with the rapid-fire snare lick that opened their show. Seeing such ardour and enthusiasm for the genre of metal gives me some small glimmer of hope that there is a future for this style of music. As the focal point of the group, vocalist/guitarist Charlie Cook sings in a snarling/punky style that struck me as a hybrid of Dave Mustaine and Mike Muir in their formative years. Sneering, full of disdain, and bordering on harsh spoken word at times. He splits guitar duties with Mat Arnold who, at this early stage of his career, is equally formidable on the fretboard.

Callouts from the set included their original song “Walkabout”, which has a colossal, heavy groove. In a tongue in cheek move, “Riptide” was falsely advertised as “the love song” by Cook before the band decimated any hopes of a breather in the momentum of their ear-splitting performance. Playing along to the bait and switch, the song does begin with a clean but intricate guitar passage before gaining full momentum in what is really a full-on metal track heavy enough to incite a mosh pit anywhere but here. Nuclear Deathcount’s take on the KISS classic “Parasite” was another gem, torn directly from the book of Anthrax with an adrenalized update to the tempo that put a fresh spin on this classic rock standard.

Paying a stylistic and sonic homage to speed metal giants such as Metallica, Megadeth, and Suicidal Tendencies in their prime, Nuclear Deathcount are cut from the same cloth as several of the “Big Four” in their infancy. That isn’t to say that they’re destined to become the next Machine Head, Nuclear Assault or Vio-Lence, but simply that the DNA of those titans has been spliced into the fabric of what Nuclear Deathcount do quite well. They’re old-school, Bay area influenced thrash for a new generation – fast, heavy, and raw. Their classic metal onslaught has little to no commonality with Slaughter’s melodic hard rock sound, but they were so much fun to listen to and watch that I found myself not caring. It will be interesting to see the band’s progression over the next few years as they gain momentum and tap into their full potential. Nuclear Deathcount’s new album The Next Metal Attack is available now on all streaming platforms.


With a setlist built solely upon blocks of music derived from their first two discs (with one Led Zeppelin cover added into the mix), Slaughter’s show took the expected course and mirrored the modus operandi of many of their contemporaries still pounding the pavement on today’s concert trail. That is, they performed their greatest hits from their best-selling albums. From a pragmatic standpoint, that does make sense and doing so is sure to appease the majority of ticketholders if not necessarily the more hardcore fans that want to hear the deep cuts. Many of the songs found on Stick It To Ya and The Wild Life are well formulated to the live treatment with razor sharp guitar licks, intrinsic bass grooves and Mark Slaughter’s exuberant lead vocals. And frankly, they’re just good tunes that have stood the test of time.

Following a quick tear down of the opening band’s gear, the dire sound of police sirens blared across the P.A. warning of what was to come. The band members took position onstage while the bubbling sounds percolating from their intro tape boiled over to launch “Mad About You” as the feedback from Jeff Blando’s guitar revved up to cymbals crashing in punctuation of Slaughter’s arrival. In keeping with the video for the song, I wondered if Mark Slaughter might come swinging down on a vine from the Tally Ho balcony to land onstage, but it didn’t happen. It would have made for a grand introduction to the opening number, which really exemplifies this band at their best with its unwavering rhythm, piercing vocals and scorching guitar solo. “Burnin’ Bridges” trailed behind, and hearing it is always a highlight of any Slaughter concert for me. Not only is it my favorite track from Stick It To Ya, but the song has an anthemic intro, snide lyrical content and is just plain infectious. I’ve often thought that this song demonstrates the true classic rock influences within the band, more so than other tracks from that first record with the sound of the guitars, the drums rhythms, Mark’s sinister vocal style – everything.

Throwing one of his trademark Carlino guitars over his shoulder, Mark Slaughter demonstrated his underrated skills on the instrument with a quick solo before the band tore into Stick It To Ya’s third single, “Spend My Life.” For better or worse, it just wouldn’t be a Slaughter show without a Led Zeppelin cover or two. Thankfully, it was just the one this time around. It’s nothing against Led Zeppelin or Slaughter covering them. They do so brilliantly and I’m all for the band getting some artistic fulfillment out of what they’re playing. It’s just that, as I’ve mentioned in the past, when I go to see a band, I prefer to hear their original music. Particularly when the clock is ticking, and precious stage time is fleeting. Dig into the catalog a bit. Slaughter has a plethora of buried treasures that they could dig up that would sound phenomenal and fit right in alongside the hits. Pull “All Fired Up” or “Heat of The Moment” out of the hat. Doing so brings an awareness to other works of the band’s career and fans are then inclined to check out those albums that they may not have heard before. Guns N’ Roses play three to four cover songs at any given show, but they’re also playing for over three hours – not one. With Fear No Evil once again on the radar, the band could have thrown in “Get Used To It” or “Unknown Destination” to spark some interest but didn’t. As a fan, that’s always a question mark for me.

After the band members got the Led out of their systems, Slaughter’s tour manager brought a cake onstage in early celebration of Mark Slaughter’s birthday which was the following day (on July 4th). The crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, though I’m not sure whatever became of that cake. It was carted offstage quicker than a crazed fan. The singer then picked up a 12-string acoustic guitar to deliver a mostly solo, stripped-down version of “Days Gone By” with the extra strings on his guitar adding greater dimension and sheen to the sound. Towards the final bars of the ballad, Mark was joined centerstage by bassist Dana Strum, which added some movement and melancholy to the song as a result of the frowning bassline which then duetted the live reworking of the original, which first appeared on 1992’s The Wild Life. I liked this alternate rendition, which was enhanced by the career retrospective that the band played on the stage monitor behind them as the song was performed. I’ve noticed bands doing this more and more lately, with Tesla and FireHouse immediately springing to mind on the list of artists that have displayed those visual time capsules to play up the emotion in their songs. It’s an effective tool that stirs in some nostalgia, feeling and history, so I get a kick out of seeing these clips and have no complaints.

Throughout their performance, Mark Slaughter and guitarist Jeff Blando were repeatedly tossing guitar picks out into the crowd with amusing results that brought to mind an NFL quarterback launching a pigskin into the endzone. As soon as one would hit the air, a mass wave of interception would ensue as fans scrambled to catch it. Fortunately, I didn’t see any linebackers get tackled for one, as the turnout to see the band’s show was significant. Much like the FireHouse concert that I attended at the Tally Ho just a month prior, the place was packed. These two events garnered some of the highest attendance levels that I’ve seen at this particular venue to date. In keeping with the status quo, Slaughter topped off their show with an obligatory pair of chart-toppers in “Fly To The Angels” and “Up All Night.” And how could they not? Both of these familiars were colossal hits for the band during the glory days of MTV, when it was still a haven for hard rock – talk about “days gone by”! Just when we thought the show was over, the band kicked into a short rendition of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” which gave a gleaming display of drummer Will Hunt’s skills behind the kit as he perfectly executed those eccentric, unpredictable beats originally laid down by the extraordinary Keith Moon back in the early 70’s.

As always, I greatly enjoyed Slaughter’s show but found the setlist choices to be stagnant and in something of standby mode. In playing devil’s advocate, these are the hits and those are what sell tickets, folks. However, this run closely mirrored the band’s concert that I attended last July at the York Fair, right down to the order that the songs were played in. Save for the inclusion of “Desperately” in place of Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love”, the rundown on what they played was a carbon copy. But we did lose a cover in favor of an original song, so there’s a positive development. Amounting to just eleven songs and wrapping up before 11:00, stage time was also on the brief side of the barometer. But I guess the mere fact that I wanted to hear more speaks volumes in and of itself. With the concert being held on a Sunday night and taking place in the historic district of Leesburg, sound ordinances and curfews may have dealt a hand in what amount to an abbreviated but satisfying performance, nonetheless. And regardless of that footnote, what a way to ring in the fourth of July! I usually spend it burning marshmallows by the campfire and seeing lackluster fireworks, so catching a Slaughter concert leading into the summer holiday was a momentous way to kick off the festivities and celebrate the birth of our great nation.

Slaughter’s setlist:
01. Mad About You
02. Burnin’ Bridges
03. Spend My Life
04. Immigrant Song
05. Eye To Eye
06. Desperately
07. The Wild Life
08. Days Gone By
09. Real Love
10. Fly To The Angels
11. Up All Night (with snippets of Won’t Get Fooled Again)

Trivia Question: When Stick It To Ya was originally released, the CD version contained a track not on the cassette version. Without cheating, can you name the song?