This was a tough one. There have been a number of prominent metal musicians pass away recently (and I plan to address each of those in future posts. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to properly address each just because everything in the world just seems so bleak and fucked up right now), but Riley’s death really shook me. I think it’s because he died so very young and with so much life left to live. Riley and his band, Power Trip, were just beginning to break into some relative mainstream success and it really felt like this band’s future was very bright. We only got two full length albums out of these guys and it really feels like a loss in that we’ll never get to see where these guys would have gone in the future. In addition to fronting a great band, Riley seemed like one of the good dudes on the metal scene. He championed the causes of the little guy and always spoke out in a uncompromising manner on the issues important to him. Metal needs more dudes like this.
For those of you that weren’t familiar with Power Trip or had a chance to see them in a live setting, I’m sorry to say that you really missed a chance to see a band and a frontman who knew how to properly put on a metal show. From the moment these guys would hit the stage, it would be as if a bomb went off. Power Trip was pure energy, aggression and catharsis personified. They had perfected that blend of old school 80s thrash metal with a bit of a hardcore punk attitude. Their shows were not for the weak of heart. If you ventured into one of their pits, you knew going in there was a real possibility of coming out bloodied and bruised. But it was glorious release and there aren’t many bands that I’ve ever seen live that just catapulted a routine metal show into something otherworldly. I was lucky enough to see Power Trip at the very beginning of their career and also during their stints opening up for some of the heavy hitters of the metal world. The first time I saw them was at the Scoot Inn in Austin during SXSW. They were the opening band during a free day show that also included Kadavar, Orange Goblin and Clutch. They hit the stage at 1pm and I had made a point to get their early to see them. Even though there weren’t many people at the venue yet, I was completely floored by their performance. Riley was one of those guys who just exuded confidence, charisma and enthusiasm that made it impossible not to get fully immersed in what the band was doing on stage. Riley was a headbanging whirling dervish jumping around the stage in his trademark ball cap and mustache. This band just held nothing back. They were there to go completely all out whether there were 20 people in the crowd or 500 people. They only played a 30 minute set, but they won me over in a big way that day. I was able to see them in numerous clubs over the course of the next few years and even got to see them open up for Lamb of God and Anthrax at the Moody Theater in Austin. It was so cool to see this hardcore bunch of kids playing at one of the classiest concert theaters around.
So, if you didn’t know Power Trip before reading this, go pull up a copy of Manifest Decimation or Nightmare Logic and blast ’em loud. Riley was a special dude and the metal world is a little less interesting without him.
Here’s some footage I shot the last time I saw Power Trip in 2018 at the Mohawk in Austin. Hopefully it will give you a sense of how intense being in the pit at one of their shows was like. Audience participation was always a big part of the show.