With the pressures of daily life and responsibilities of adulting piling up heavily, I wasn’t totally sure I’d be making the event. But Metal prevailed overall and off to The Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago I went.
Legions of Metal is a traditional metal festival born out of the ashes of the Ragnarokkr Festival. OK, confession time….I have no idea what that is, but they tell me it’s where Legions of Metal was born. Hey, I’m only one guy and there are so many festivals worldwide to attend! The event took place Thursday, May 18 (Pre-Party), Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20, 2017, at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago.
Arriving earlier than expected, I dropped my t-shirt and skivvies (hey, I pack light) at the hotel and headed over to Reggie’s Rock Club. This place was a really cool venue basically encompassing everything under one roof. There was the bar area with some tables for diners and a smaller stage. Heading up to the roof revealed a fairly large open air patio complete with bar. Sandwiched in between these levels was a full on record store! Next door (adjoining really) was the larger concert area with a bigger stage and of course a bar. The festival was hosting a rooftop party prior to each day’s procedures. DJ’ing up some great metal was one of the festival organizers. The weather was beautiful, actually pretty friggin’ hot as the beers started to flow and a lone road warrior Canadian (that’s me) began to make friends.
LEGIONS OF METAL FESTIVAL PRE-PARTY
Joining a table of gents by way of one of them requesting me to snap a photo, I quickly learned that three of these guys were members of one of the bands on tonight’s Pre-Party schedule, Amulance. We regaled each other with stories and concerts past amidst some fine Reggie’s cuisine and adult beverages. Our conversations, naturally surrounded music and some iconic figures including Graham Bonnett and Ronnie James Dio. There was even discussion on the Mike Myers film Wayne’s World being as Amulance hail from Aurora, Illinois. The Amulance guys, Marty, Rick, and Bob, were fantastic guys and really welcomed the Crazy Canuck. We even got a quick snapshot to commemorate the occasion.
The Amulance guys eventually made their way downstairs after awhile to prep for their stage time later on. As I lingered, chatting with another patron, David, an unfortunate incident occurred. The heat of the day got to a young lady patron and she collapsed from dehydration. Thankfully there was a table of young nurses nearby who rushed to aid. Calling an ambulance saw an incredibly fast response time from Chicago Fire Department. My thoughts go out in hopes that the young lady made a full recovery and I commend the actions of the nurses, everyone there who was ready to assist and the rapid response of CFD.
Shortly before I made my way downstairs for the start of the show, Raven‘s Gallagher brothers walked onto the rooftop. They unassumingly took a place sharing one of the large picnic tables with other patrons. No one seems to have noticed them or maybe don’t know who they are given that the rooftop was consumed with patrons other than Legions of Metal festival goers.
BEAST WARRIOR (Chicago, IL, USA)
The music got underway at 8 pm sharp as Beast Warrior took to the main stage. Formed in Chicago, this would be my first experience with the band. Something that is a recurring theme for me throughout the weekend. Riffs, riffs and more riffs and vocals with a high register were the first things I noted down. Then I picked up on the comedy aspect. Things like “this song is about enjoying adult beverages while having an orgy”. The between song banter elicited a chuckle from me from time to time, but I admit I got a bit lost with the instrumentals and intricacy of the music. Perhaps I need to digest their recorded material, we’ll search that out later.
After the Beast Warrior set, I noticed a gentleman sporting a Mythra shirt. Turns out that Kit is a writer for the True Metal Lives website! Having just recently witnessed Mythra live at Brofest in Newcastle, UK and personally chatted at length with vocalist Vince High I thought it fitting we send Vince a photo. Especially seeing as I had my own Mythra shirt packed in my bag back at the hotel. Unfortunately, the pic turned out too dark and is hard to see, but it was fantastic meeting you folks and hopefully, our paths will cross again at another music event.
LETHAL SHOCK (Chicago, IL, USA)
While I would never discount another person’s craft, everyone does have their own likes and dislikes and unfortunately, I did not take to Lethal Shock at all. This does not mean that the Chicago-based speed/thrash metal outfit didn’t have their following. Quite a few concert goers that I witnessed surely experienced chronic neck pain the following day. For me, the highlight of their set was the cover of Accept‘s “Fast as a Shark”. The band released their debut full-length, Evil Aggressor, last summer to positive reviews. So, again perhaps I need to digest their recorded material, more searching to do later.
Looking around, I was more than a little surprised and disappointed at the level of patronage. It seemed that I could probably draw a better crowd in Toronto if I was doing karaoke (I’m tone deaf too!). Meeting Justin from the website Glistening Metal at the front of the stage for Amulance, he assured me that the place would fill up soon. And he was right!
AMULANCE (Aurora, IL, USA)
After meeting the guys and enjoying their company earlier I was a mixture of excited and curious to see what Amulance was all about. Thunder and riffs and a charging assault! That’s what Amulance is about. I thoroughly enjoyed the set, although I took no notes during and my beer-soaked memory has some blank spots. Rushing right over to the merch stand to pick up the CD there on sale, Unleash The Beast. I praised the boys for the set and got them all to sign a copy of the setlist that drummer Marty had saved for me.
I would later learn that the bulk of the set consisted of older tunes from the band’s 1989 debut full-length, Feel The Pain. In asking vocalist Rik where I could get a copy, much to my sadness, he replied that even he does not have it. A searching we go again but methinks this may be too costly for my liking.
Raven are NWOBHM stalwarts and pioneers. They have been around since 1974. I have had multiple opportunities to catch them live throughout the years. Somehow they have been extremely elusive as I’ve always missed them for this reason or that. A day or two prior to the Legions of Metal Festival, Raven announced that drummer Joe “The Baron” Hasselvander had been stricken with a sudden health issue. And I feared that again I would evade the live Raven experience. But they conscripted Jimmy Mess as a fill-in drummer to complete the date and a couple others. Finally, my chance had arrived to witness Raven on stage. I had placed 2015’s ExtermiNation album in my top ten picks of the year, so I was extra excited for this.
RAVEN (Newcastle, UK)
Unfortunately, after the stresses of life I was hoping to escape, the day’s travel and imbibing many adult beverages in the heat of the day, my notes are non-existent by this point of the night. So, I must rely on my beer-soaked memory….which on a normal day resembles the memory of a fish.
Raven led off with “Destroy All Monsters” from that ExterminNation album, so right away I was a pretty happy guy. From there I seem to recall hearing classics “All For One”, “Stay Hard”, “Rock Until You Drop”, and “Crash Bang Wallop”. I also recall the thought that whoever it was recently that told me Raven was boring live has perhaps not seen them? The statement came from my expressing excitement over the looming event. I was told, “you’re not missing much, they’re quite boring live”. I don’t think that could be further from the truth based on what I witnessed. The Gallagher brothers were solid and could not have been more animated in their stage performance.
It would seem that although I did get some Raven live, that I would still not be able to complete a full set. The exhaustion, fueled by beer, swarmed over me in waves and I elected to skip out a bit early. I must have caught most of Raven‘s set based on the time I returned to the hotel and information received the following day from others who outlasted me. Next Raven attempt will be at Frost & Fire III in October. Failing that they are also aboard the next Monsters of Rock Cruise. I shall prevail!