The lights were low, red and dimly glowing. The ever-friendly Kimber was working behind the bar. A Motorhead CD played in its entirety at a volume where talking could still be easily heard, and those who were entering through the doors of Skully's in Columbus, Ohio could look at the still-empty moshing floor and feel the calmness like a soldier feel the morning mist before the battle begins.

That is because the masters of mosh, Soulfly, were at Skullys on this final day of February 2023, who along with Deathbox, "from the trailer parks of Florida," and Skinflint, who came from much further – Gaborone Botswana, to be exact – that empty floor was about to become the most frenzied place in all of the Buckeye State, and the joyous tension was almost tangible.

Deathbox overcome

Being on a tour with someone as established and popular as Soulfly would certainly be an accomplishment that stands out in one's life.

To, then, imagine that not only did one's bassist have the leave what is only a three-piece band to fend for themselves due to a family emergency, but to have three different guitar malfunctions happen while opening the show as only a duo, seems almost unrecoverable; yet Deathbox kept going.

In doing so, via many references to being "in Ohio!" and by engaging the Columbus crowd in "trailer park" banter, Deathbox won over the crowd despite the mountainous problems which befell them.

Not only was the recovery in the glaring face of adversity accomplished, but so was this band's drummer!

The beats were quick, powerful, and on point during the band's performance. Considering that the situation meant no guitar solos (as the guitarist tuned down to "G" and ran a box that dropped his top note an octave to cover for the missing bass), the drummer's performance really, really mattered.

Musically, fans of breakdowns will be huge fans of Deathbox, and while some could argue that these brutal breakdowns could last longer, most of the band's whole songs are as short as punk rock songs.

Deathbox's merchandise consisted of images of Joe Dirt and shirts with promises of face stabbings with soldering irons, so when they say, "Death Metal," they are not kidding.

Vocally (even while covering for Fred Durst's vocal duties when Soulfly played "Bleed" later in the night), Deathbox are a bit like Lorna Shore on the lows, which are pretty much constant.

From the moment that growls for "Firsts up! Fists up!" were heard and they took the stage, it was an onslaught devoid of mercy from Deathbox.

Skinflint arrive from Africa to deliver a bit of doomy groove

From the new wave of Floridan Death Metal, the night took a moment to welcome a three-piece band named Skinflint from considerably farther away, Gaborone, Botswana.

Comprised of founding member, guitarist, and vocalist Giuseppe Sbrana, Kebonye Nkoloso on bass, and the more recently added Cosmos Modisaemang on drums, Skinflint's groovy doom-styled metal (somewhat reminiscent of Black Sabbath meets The Sword with slightly harsher vocals) was the perfect offset to the fury of Deathbox, and it led the way smoothly into the blast of Soulfly that was to come up next.

As with Deathbox, anyone attending the tour who wished to meet, greet, and photo/selfie the band was welcomed to do so as they spoke with great excitement about the whole affair at their merchandise tables. Skinflint's passion for the tour, the metal, and the whole experience was clear to see when they spoke and very obvious when heard, as well.

Their topics, while both ominous and "metal" in every way, is very unique. Skinflint writes about witchery and frightening lore from their home in Africa, thus bringing about a lot of stories that even the most learned fans of the macabre have not likely heard.

After all, singalongs to songs like "Flesh Potion" isn't an everyday thing, even in the world of story-rich metal.

Even their vampire story was a vast left turn from the expected and it all worked to prove that Skinflint has quite a future ahead of them.

It is also worth noting the total crispness delivered by Modisaemang, for while Pro-Tools and a decent producer can accomplish almost anything, live, nuances matter. Yet when Modisaemang hits two drums at one time - they hit at one time, they do not hit staggered or one after the other.

This precision was a hallmark of Skinflint's whole show.

Soulfly, Max, and the monster mosh

It was the mosh... it was the monster mosh.

The name Sepultura is to heavy metal what the name Lamborghini is to automobiles: there simply is none better.

So, while Max Cavalera has not been with that band for many, many moons, the footprint that he forged with those metal greats has become the prestigious and highly creative journey that arrives like a bomb explosion at Skully's in support Soulfly's newest release, "Totem."

One of the great things about seeing any of the bands that Max has been with over the years - The Cavalera Conspiracy, the "industrial" Nailbomb, or this night's master of mosh, Soulfly – fans always get to hear a bit of the past as well as ample time to relish the present.

As tribal drums boomed Cavalera's Brazilian heritage over the PA, as the incents were lit, Soulfly hit the stage comprised of, Havoc (one of the bands who helped save thrash) bassist Mike Leon (with some mighty screams and backing vocals of his own), Mike DeLeon on lead guitar, and 30-year young Zyon Cavalera on drums.

Yes, that would be the son of the mosh master himself, Max Cavalera, and he certainly brought the onslaught. Zyon's fills are busy, complex, and flawlessly delivered. Watching the energy between him and his father on stage was something that the crowd could feel in their chests as strongly as DeLeon's bass... which is saying something.

Vocally, Max Cavalera has all of the force and power for which he has become known for, and this became apparent on tracks like "Boom," about "people who talk s*** behind your back, but not to your face," as he told the seething crowd.

This energy was a feedback loop and the result was nothing short of the monster mosh; a friendly, yet uber-intense exhibition in utter fury and joy. The song, "Prophesy," saw enough inner fire that it needed to be measured in kelvins.

Many of Soulfly's lyrics have to do with faith, God, nature, and they have little to nothing to do with "evil," which is a refreshing twist in much of the genre which Max Cavalera helped to create. This was seen in the song, "Superstition," among others during the entire night of aggression.

The addition of DeLeon's vocals and howls was the perfect touch during "Superstition," adding the depth needed at the proper time, a skill often lost on many "scream" bands of similar intensity.

Prior to that, a Nailbomb song was played, which puts a lot of weight on the drummer when no electronics are to be found, yet the younger Cavalera executed some of the most awesome and thoughtful fills of the whole evening during "Wasting Away."

If every standout moment of the evening was to be addressed, the internet would likely need to expand, but moments when the crowd harkened back to the first Soulfly CD and screamed, "no M/F Hootie And The Blowfish!," when everyone from the top floor to the slammers barked "Eye for an eye, for an eye!" in unison with the band, and when the Suputura classic "Refuse/Resist" threatened to echo into the next county, it should be noted that not one fan was left feeling letdown.

Lastly, the guitar work in songs like "Fire," "No," and "Bleed" should not be overlooked. Such strong solo work is not only a boon to all thrash metal but Max Cavalera is famously a hook-writing, songwriting, four-string playing (on one guitar), non-soloing axe master. As such, the role of a lead guitarist is of particular importance in Soulfly and the goods DeLeon delivered were worthy of that ample role. To put it mildly, he absolutely shredded each time that he was called upon to unleash.

As Soulfly closed the night with "Jumpdaf***up," as the lights came up, as the sweat-drenched moshers recovered, it was to the tour bus and onto the next stop. Not many bands take a tour lasting months in 2023 any longer, and while there are many stops to go before the end, it will likely take Ohio at least that long to recover.