The aptly named Hellyeah bludgeoned an audience of about 500 with brawny heavy metal at the Midland theater on Tuesday. With a catalog of material that glorifies intoxication and mayhem, Hellyeah provided an extreme soundtrack for a raucous Fat Tuesday party.
Rather than the parades associated with New Orleans, however, Tuesday’s communal chaos took the form of crowd-surfing and moshing. Stalwarts of Texas’ tradition of muscular heavy metal bands, Hellyeah performs the sort of blunt music associated with biker bars.
Drummer Vinnie Paul is the best-known member of the burly super-group. He and his brother Darrell — the legendary guitarist better known as Dimebag Darrell — co-founded the revered band Pantera in 1981.
During a performance in 2004, a gunman killed Dimebag. For a generation of head-bangers, the death of Dimebag is as consequential as the murder of John Lennon.
Along with members of bands including Mudvayne, Paul formed Hellyeah in 2006.
As he and his bandmates played Hellyeah favorites like the unapologetically decadent “Drink Drank Drunk,” Paul peered menacingly over his enormous drum set as if he had commandeered a tank loaded with deadly ammunition.
Vocalist Chad Gray acknowledged the surprisingly meager size of the audience.
“It’s not packed,” he said. “But I’m going to play as hard as I can.”
He was true to his word. Three opening bands — the promising Memphis-based metal ensemble Devour the Day, Like a Storm, a Nickelback-informed act from New Zealand, and the California stoner/thrash band Archer — seemed like mere pikers when contrasted with Hellyeah.
The excruciating volume during Hellyeah’s 80-minute set made several selections almost indistinguishable from one another. The mercilessly frenetic assault ebbed only during the mid-tempo “Moth.” The sole special effect — a spattering of red liquid that covered Gray’s face as he shrieked the lyrics of “Sangre por Sangre” into a megaphone — was a diverting but unnecessary touch.
The implied violence of Hellyeah’s music was readily apparent. The hardcore punk brutality of “Say When,” for instance, caused a few dozen people to seek refuge in the lobby.
Like an expensive steak served extra-rare, Hellyeah’s music is akin to a bloody delicacy. Not intended to appeal to people with delicate constitutions, the metal band left fans with hearty appetites for savage sounds entirely sated.