A tremor of shock and sadness reverberated throughout metal and hardcore communities around the world last week when Power Trip’s lead vocalist, Riley Gale was announced dead at the tender age of 34.
Gale was a galvanising force of nature, open-spirited and vehement in his expression. Intellectually stimulated by literature and philosophy, he was fascinated by Tolstoy, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and others, with equal interest in current affairs. Powerful reflections on the chaos of modern America can be found throughout his songwriting.
In 2017 Revel Rousers had the honour of experiencing the exhilarating ferocity of Power Trip’s live performance at Glasgow’s Classic Grand, as they toured with Napalm Death and Brujeria.
As a photographer, it was an honour to capture Reily’s ferocity in my frame. He had one of the most magnetic energies I’ve witnessed on stage, connecting with the crowd in a magnificently passionate, unified way.
Glasgow thrash / hardcore metallers King Pin were also on the bill that night, a band who built up a superb rapport with Power Trip after heading out on tour with them a few times. We caught up with Lev, lead protagonist of King Pin, as well as Neevo, the guitarist, to recall the night and their memories of Riley Gale.
“I don’t think any amount of words can do justice to anyone’s life, never mind someone who lived SO MUCH in a tragically short amount of time,” says Lev. “That show at the Classic Grand was one of my favourites! I believe my hamster had been severely sick for a while (and died not long after) and I was in a weird reflective moo… I spent some real time talking shit with Riley about life and death and all that.”
Lev underlines Gale’s openness: “I don’t want to overstate or exaggerate how close I was to him or anything, but he was definitely a very easy person for anyone to get on with and I think because we had very similar personality types in a lot of ways and in a similar age bracket it made it quite easy for us to connect and shoot the shit on any old subject when we saw each other… But that was a particularly cool night and good memory.”
Gale was an advocate for social justice. His astute awareness continuously demonstrated his urgent hunger for positive change. He was a motivational force, someone who sought to unify through his intelligent and humane outlook.
Gales songwriting addressed social inequality and activism. He described Power Trip’s 2017 album Nightmare Logic as “dealing with this waking nightmare, [where] things seem so surreal that they’re unbelievable.” His aim was “to find optimism and a motivating force… realising that the 99% of us have more in common than we think.”
That night In the Classic Grand, the unity was fully manifested. As a photographer, a savage amount of ducking and diving was required to move through the rampant crowd, surfacing occasionally to push through the manic crush at the front of the stage.
From the outset Reily was down there, in the heart of the matter, feeding the microphone to loyal fans who passionately relayed his lyrics back to him. Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) was a real standout, with a passionate lyrical response that echoed throughout the venue.
The mosh pit was ferocious. It was apparent how utterly blown away everyone was by the band’s raw power and sheer technical ability. Delivered at breakneck speed, their face-melting riffage and heavy, unrelenting grooves became a sonic powerhouse. If you didn’t know much about the band beforehand, you were sure to be an avid follower after. The atmosphere in the room was wild and remorseless; the wild moshing and celebratory crowd-surfing left not much room to stand safely without getting a boot to the head.
Neevo of King Pin expresses his sense of deep loss: “This one hurts. Watching Power Trip for the first time in 2013 was not only one of the best gigs for me, but one of the main reasons why I got back into a band and started up King Pin with the boys.”
Gale’s character proved inspiring: “I got to meet Reily properly in Dublin in 2016, when we were supporting them in Belfast and Glasgow the following nights. He really started my weekender off with a kick (literally) to the face. And for that black eye I’m very grateful. It acted as a bond and in the years to come, we’d meet at a couple of gigs in Glasgow and have a laugh about it.”
Like his bandmate, Neevo is sad that someone as influential and beloved as Gale was taken so young. “Little did I know that those 3 nights would be some of my greatest memories ever with him,” says Neevo. “I’ve never met someone so kind, intelligent and down to earth as he was. He had the time of day for anyone and everyone he’d meet, and I’m humbled to be one of them.”
King Pin’s members continued to follow Gale’s band: “My last time meeting Reilly was on their tour with Trivium in 2018,” says Neevo. “He reached out the week before the show to say if myself and a few others needed a guestlist for the show, to let him know. I already had a ticket mind you but sure enough he stuck to his word. Watching them play in a venue like the o2 Academy… it was the biggest stage I’d seen them on. But even though there were thousands in the room, he still managed to pick us out in the crowd and let us scream some lyrics down the mic.”
This was the last time Neevo would meet Gale. “I met him very briefly after the show on my way into Glasgow from the venue,” he says. “He apologised for not being able to hang out much that night and said we’d catch up next time they were in town. Sadly, that never happened… but for him to think of me and reach out like that makes you feel more like family than just a fan.”
Neevo sums up the scale of the loss: “Reilly was just an all-round amazing guy. And you can see how much he meant to both the hardcore and metal scenes respectively with all the tributes pouring in for him. I only met Riley a handful of times, but when we spoke it’s like we’d been friends forever. That’s how it always felt. It was always such a good, fun, positive energy around him.”
Power Trip formed in Dallas, Texas in 2008, gaining inspiration from the more metal-leaning 1980s New York hardcore bands, as well as classic Bay Area thrash metal. They combined the technical mastery of thrash metal with the terminal velocity of hardcore, and a political stance that emphasised solicitude and forbearance.
Power Trip’s 2017 album Nightmare Logic was one of the defining underground metal albums of the past decade. In the wake of Gale’s passing, the album proudly sits at #1 slot in two of Apple Music’s charts, for metal and rock.
Power Trip bassist Chris Whetzel also shared a message of his own: “Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, still feels like a dream that I’m gonna wake up from. We love you Riley Gale. We’ll share stories and carry your name as the rock star you were. RIPower.”
For Gale, the power and energy of metal was not for macho posturing, but a means for honest release. As a writer and photographer who admired Gale’s politics as much as his music, I’ll leave it to him to define his legacy. In a 2017 interview, he said: “We’re political in a sort of morally relativistic way where if someone is wearing a Power Trip shirt, you can probably assume that that person isn’t like some weird, racist, meathead piece of shit – hopefully … We try to make it pretty clear that we might all be white males, but this is not a band for white males to enjoy and be dumb rednecks.”
Rest in peace Riley Gale. Our love and thoughts are with his friends and family.
– Miff Morris, Editor-in-chief, Revel Rousers