REVIEW: Dark Angel, Prong, Whiplash, Ready For Death at Irving Plaza | 06.03.2023

Dark Angel suffered a huge loss earlier this year when founding guitarist Jim Durkin passed away. Prior to his passing, Durkin requested that his guitar duties be “[kept] in the family” and raised up Laura Christine, who had been filling in for him during live performances since 2020, as his replacement. Durkin also requested that Dark Angel “continue to perform and record in [his] memory and [to] preserve his legacy.”

In the spirit of Durkin’s desires, Dark Angel announced a string of shows in Los Angeles to occur in April and one show in New York City in June where the band would perform the 1986 classic “Darkness Descends” in its entirety as a tribute to the memory of Jim Durkin. Prong, Whiplash, and Ready For Death were on hand as support for the stop in NYC last week, treating fans at Irving Plaza to a celebration of thrash metal and the memory of one of its founding fathers.

The Show

Chicago-based Ready For Death kicked off the evening. Frontman Artie White sported a cheap Halloween pope costume and an accompanying sense of humor as he blessed the crowd before the band tore into their first song. Despite his lighthearted nature, White and the rest of the band were all business musically. They knew they had a set amount of time to perform and were determined to cram as much hard-hitting heavy metal into that time slot as they possibly could.

Ready For Death’s set showcased the depth of quality of the self-titled debut album that they released at the end of last year. The pit was in full force throughout the performance; Ready For Death fed off of the crowd’s energy and gave it back to them tenfold. “Whiplash is coming out next and they’re gonna fuck you up!” exclaimed Artie White prior to playing “Worldwide Blackout,” their last song of the night. He wasn’t lying.

Whiplash put the pedal to the metal from the very start of their set and didn’t stop until they walked off the stage. The band, fronted by founder Tony Portaro, packed a serious punch as a trio; Portaro’s guitar talents proving he needed no assistance to deliver maximum shreddage.

“Are you having fun?” Portaro asked the crowd who confirmed with great enthusiasm. “There’s no time for fun!” He followed up with a smile. “It’s time to get serious!” The band then launched into “Spit On Your Grave” from the 1985 classic, “Power and Pain.” Whiplash finished their set with “Power Thrashing Death” before turning things over to Prong to deliver another hard-hitting set.

Prong put on a hell of a show. Frontman Tommy Victor was all smiles, hyping up the crowd and demanding circle pit formations to accompany the band’s high-octane anthems. The crowd need not to be asked as the pit was in full swing, launching a frequent tide of crowd surfers in their wake.

Prong’s setlist favored their 1994 classic, “Cleansing,” while touching upon a number of other albums in their impressive discography. They were a blast to watch and impossible to experience while standing still.

The energy in the room at Irving Plaza was off the charts when the lights went down and Dark Angel took the stage and kicked off their set with “We Have Arrived.” It was the perfect song for the band to introduce their next chapter, making it clear from the start that they are as heavy as ever.

While it’s clear that Dark Angel has plenty left in the tank for the future, they haven’t lost focus on the importance of their past. Each member donned a t-shirt with a photo of and tribute to Jim Durkin underneath the band’s iconic logo, and they took multiple opportunities to acknowledge and pay respects.

After playing a short set of career-spanning material, Dark Angel treated fans to a performance of “Darkness Descends” in its entirety. The album sounded amazing live and it was a fitting and moving way to celebrate the life of Jim Durkin.

The Shoot

For all the times I’ve talked about the challenges of lighting at metal shows, there’s the occasional show that provide the opposite experience; plenty of light, and clean light at that. This was one of those shows.

Lighting was a mostly a non-issue for the entire evening. Sure I still had to pay attention to the shots I was taking and time them relative to the light patterns, but the key difference is that I knew the good light was coming. There are many shows where you’re sitting in complete darkness just hoping for some light on which to rely. You can’t be sure when or if it will improve. For a show like this one, even the worst lighting is still manageable to an extent, so the stress is a lot less.

Ready For Death frontman Artie White‘s reflective aviators caught my attention immediately. I knew with the right angle I could catch the crowd’s reflection in his sunglasses and that became the shot for which I hunted. Eventually, everything aligned to a point where I was able to grab this shot:

It’s not a great shot by any means and doesn’t inherently achieve the impact I was going for, but with some cropping and a little work I’ll still be able to make something of it. Either way, I love having opportunities to play with reflection in my photographs and enjoyed chasing the concept of the shot.

I felt like luck was on my side during Whiplash as frontman Tony Portaro found his way to my camera on a couple occasions before he launched into a solo, which allowed me to stay put and grab shot after shot of Portaro doing what he does best.

Prong frontman Tommy Victor kept jumping during this set and I really wanted to get a shot of it. My lens wasn’t wide enough (nor was I quick enough) to do it effectively in the photo pit, but by sheer luck as I was shooting from the crowd toward the end of the set, I snapped this shot just in time.

The obstruction caused by the crowd prevents the jump from being overly obvious but given the spontaneity of Victor’s jumps, I was happy to have even gotten this shot.

Dark Angel was a fun shoot. Right at the very beginning of the set, frontman Ron Rinehart got in front of my lens and I did my best to get the shot. The autofocus was struggling but I managed to get a couple of shots, including this one:

A fun night and a successful shoot through and through. Next up: Kreator and Sepultura in a co-headlining show with Death Angel and Spiritworld. See you there!

Whiplash Setlist Irving Plaza, New York, NY, USA 2023
Prong Setlist Irving Plaza, New York, NY, USA 2023