LEGIONS OF METAL FESTIVAL 2017 – Final Day
All good things must eventually come to an end. If you’re going out, why not do it in style? That’s what took place on the final day at the inaugural Legions of Metal Festival. The longest day of the event, we got under way around 2 pm. There was a rooftop patio again and also a brunch buffet offered, but I failed to attend these this day. It really seems that festival organizers tried their very best to offer a unique and worthwhile experience for the concert goers of Legions of Metal.
The venue itself with the rooms, stages and record store. The VIP buffet. VIP meet and greets (none of which I chose to attend). The daily kick off rooftop patio with DJ spinning great tunes. The event just appeared to keep on giving. Kudos to organizers Bob Byrne and Shane Merrill and any others who I didn’t meet or haven’t seen their names on Facebook. Great job. Thank-you!
STEEL AGGRESSOR (Indianapolis, IN, USA)
Today Steel Aggressor from Indianapolis started us off with some German speed metal. Indianapolis style they said. The trio did not overly compel me during their first song which featured dual vocals from both bassist and guitarist. Perhaps it was the music stand and lyrics/sheet music the guitarist had set up that tainted me. I found song two more engaging and the next selection, an Iron Maiden cover, “Flash of the Blade” was played supremely. However, Bruce Dickinson, this guy is not. Well, to be fair, who is?
After a couple more songs Steel Aggressor ended their set early. They seemed a little unprepared by the amount of material and music stand. Perhaps they joined late in the game. I feel they may have fared better with a little more planning. I will still check out their recorded material should there be any.
WALPYRGUS (Raleigh, NC, USA)
Up next was Walpyrgus. As I said in my recent review of their debut full-length, try saying that 5 times fast! You can read my thoughts on the album here: Walpyrgus Nights Album Review.
They flooded the stage as the second act on the main side today. Opening with “Dead Girls”, “Cold Cold Ground” followed quickly. The latter being unfamiliar to me, not appearing on Walpyrgus Nights. The entire band were adorned with a decent sized “W” necklace, the symbol of Walpyrgus. The band’s infectious melodies that I found on the record were easily duplicated live. I found myself engrossed in their performance right away. From the same album, we received “Palmystry” next ahead of “We Are The Wolves” from the EP. EP? Who knew? I’d better get on that as well, especially after hearing the song!
“The Dead of Night” brought us to an absolutely ripping Mercyful Fate cover. The Walpyrgus guys completely owned “Doomed by the Living Dead”, so much so that it excited one of the vendors. From out in the alleyway, the song brought him further into the venue. I think it was the patch vendor. He moved quickly through the crowd and to the front, fist smashing the air above his head. He disappeared as fast as he had materialized, only to return again just as quickly. This time he paused, awaiting the perfect moment to toss some fabric to vocalist Jonny Aune. Upon opening it out revealed a Mercyful Fate shirt he’d most likely plucked from his own stand. The same as with the album, things ended with “Walpyrgus Nights”. What a great set, glad I discovered the band, glad I saw them live! Now to get ahold of that EP…..
Well, since the buffet is there…..
VANLADE (Kansas City, KS, USA)
Next up we were to witness Vanlade. I had some previous knowledge of the band, but not a lot of it musical. Ok, so I’d heard the name somewhere. Mostly some quick news posts on Decibel Geek. I’m not too sure quite what I expected visually, but their appearance seemed a bit eclectic to me. The drummer was a little heavyset and shirtless. One guitarist was bald wearing a leather vest, the other dressed as if he was a member Lynyrd Skynyrd. The vocalist and bassist looked straight out of the 80’s….none of these are bad things by any means, they just seem a little spread out appearance wise is all I’m saying.
Vanlade launched quickly into a hard rocking start with their opening track, “Ghost Dance”. “Jaws of Life” followed and then “Faster Than The Speed of Steel” trailing behind. The solid assault rampaged on with “Hail the Protector”, but I was bound and determined to see as many bands and as much music as possible today. That meant it was time to bounce over to stage 2 in the bar area. But I will definitely be scrutinizing Vanlade a little closer in the months to come.
SACRED LEATHER (Indianapolis, IN, USA)
Another unknown band, seems to be a theme for me throughout the weekend. These guys flew under the moniker of Sacred Leather. I should expect to see a lot of that fabric on stage with such a name. Ah, I was not wrong! Their first song rolled out an incredible thunder and it was easy to notice folks around snap out of their daydreaming etc as all eyes fixated on the stage. Tons of grueling and meaty riffs assaulting the rapt crowd.
Again, not being in the know, I cannot confirm the correctness of song titles. But let’s go with “Heavy Metal Patty”, “Lost Destructor” and “Prowling Sinner” as a few of them. They announced that they had recently signed to Cruz Del Sur Music and their debut record was slated to be ready in February 2018. I can tell you then, I’ll know the song titles as I will definitely be looking forward to that. And you should be too….wonder if they have any other recordings?
IRONFLAME (Martins Ferry, OH, USA)
Back over to stage one to catch Ironflame. Their progressive, powerish output didn’t grab me right away, but by song three I was totally drawn in. The song may have a title such as “Ready to Fight”, but I wouldn’t stake my life on it or anything. After “Heavy Metal Warriors” we were advised that this was only Ironflame’s second official show, the first being last night. They certainly seemed well rehearsed, playing tracks from their debut album, Lightning Strikes The Crown. “Eternal Night” and “Fallen Glory” were about the last that I caught of Ironflame as I once again returned to stage 2.
ICE SWORD (Flagstaff, AZ, USA)
Well with the bands today greatly appealing to me so far, things were bound to change. Hey not everybody likes the same things right? Although I’d heard some good anticipation from others regarding the Ice Sword set earlier, sadly they were not my cup of tea as the say. Once again, I impress that this did not mean they were bad. They played with vehemence and vigor and they had fans causing themselves neck pain from start to finish.
Singing to the tune of KISS’ “Cold Gin” in my head, it was buffet time again. Free food is good food, what a great feature!
DEVIL IN DISGUISE (Salem, OR/Chicago, IL, USA)
I was beginning to feel a bit out of the loop. A bit like the world was a wonder. I really didn’t know much of most of these bands, but it seemed that I may have been in the minority on that score. Devil In Disguise features someone known as “Glacier Mike”, who seems to be a bit of a big deal. I gather he belonged to a cult favorite band Glacier and some of today’s material would be just that.
They started off heavy with “Ready for Battle” and wow, what a good clear voice. This dude has some quality pipes! A couple of songs in, Mike informed that they were going to do an old Glacier tune. “Live for the Whip” was well received by the crowd and by me too. Everything they played sounded great and I better get researching yet again. The Devil In Disguise set was captivating and I caught most of it, but my quest to catch some of every band sent me back across to stage 2.
CARRIAGE (Portsmouth, VA,USA)
Carriage had brought some props for their set. When I got back over to side 2 they had set up a full-sized coffin on each end of the stage. There was also a large podium positioned in the center with a carriage lantern above it and skulls on the side. I was late getting over and so missed probably the first few minutes of their set.
Their vocalist was asking the crowd who wanted to drink the blood with him. Right before they went any further, however, the guitarist snapped a string. He rushed off stage and over to where I was standing, bending down to his case and furiously working to change it. Since it was fairly dark, I flipped on the flashlight on my phone to help him out. Precious seconds turned into minutes and slipped by as the procedure was taking enormously long. While working he joked, “My worst fear has just been realized”. Another fellow, I guess from another band, passed him his own guitar to use so he could get back on stage faster before the whole set disappeared on them.
Back on track, a few audience members elected to drink from the skull (cup) as the song got underway. During the performance the vocalist drank as well, spilling down the front of his crisp white button down shirt. Entertaining, very doomy with an air of Mercyful Fate/Sabbath to them, Carriage were a bit different than any other band here.
SYRUS (San Antonio, TX, USA)
Finally a band I’d heard of before! Not too many times this weekend I’ve said that I guess. Well, let’s be clear when I say heard of. I checked out a song or 2 of theirs before I got here! I have to be honest, they didn’t really excite me, but here, live, I was drawn in.
They were already on stage when I got in, but I couldn’t have missed much. “Midnight Chimes” and “Tales of War” were 2 titles I was able to catch. Why did I not take to this before? Maybe I searched the wrong band? Who knows but I really liked Syrus today. Before “City in the Sky” they announced that this one had been a radio hit back in ’86. Back in 86?? Damn! I’m really starting to feel lost here. Unprepared. But none the less, another band I must hear more of!
LEGENDRY (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
I’d heard some hype on these guys throughout yesterday and the day before. I think “Never Surrender” was the title of the leadoff song, but I wouldn’t hold me to that. Right off, I have to award massive points to the bassist on his wardrobe choice. An Army of Darkness t-shirt. They had some real punch in their second song as their set ramped up. The Legendry outputs were great but I zoned out a bit while watching the set. How? I guess a musical overload. In any case, my mind wandered a bit and I lost track. I do know they played the title track to their new album, Mists of Time. Off to purchase yet another album from a Legions of Metal band! This festival is breaking the pocket book…but I love it!
CEREBUS (Greensboro, NC, USA)
The crowd was rabid for Cerebus. That was apparent right off. Again, I was fairly unfamiliar with Cerebus before Legions of Metal. Probably I’d done my best research on them before arriving. I had purchased the Too Late to Pray album. Now had I listened to it would have been even better prep! “Too Late To Pray” and “Running Out Of Time” were first up. Then announcing that this was the first time in 25 years they’d been on stage as Cerebus, they were going to do the entire album.
After “Rock the House Down”, “Distant Eyes” was dedicated to the original guitar players. One who passed away and the other who was in the crowd tonight. Next up was the fabulous “Catch Me If You Can”. Man, this is a band that more people need to hear! I assume that the vocalist and bassist are original members based on the age difference to the guitarists. That and one guitarist was a member of Knightmare who played yesterday. Cerebus was sounding great and I really enjoyed their songs, but Helion Prime was also a big attraction for me.
HELION PRIME (Sacramento, CA, USA)
By the time I got over to the second stage it seemed that there had been a hold-up of some kind as they were late getting going. I wonder if things were pushed back allowing Carriage to finish their set after the unfortunate string incident. Helion Prime was due up for a very anticipated set for me. Their great debut album garnered a positive review on Decibel Geek. You can check that out here.
Vocalist for Helion, Kayla Dixon, walked by but did not look overly approachable. A few moments later I again noticed her, this time off to the side, appearing beyond nervous, holding her stomach. Some sound issues with the remote microphone were at least part of the reason for the late start. But things seem repaired and away we go.
Helion Prime launched into their opener but trouble loomed. There was a lot of static and Dixon could not be heard at all. Or was it just that her soft voice was overpowered by the guitars. I don’t think so. Several in the crowd call for the soundman to raise her mic volume. A little better but still bursts of drowning static. I’m not sure how many songs passed during this technical difficulty, but at least two. For a brief moment she grabbed the side mic and sounded awesome, but then continued with the remote. I screamed at her inside my brain, “You gotta dump the remote and use the side mic girl”.
What a disappointment for one of my most anticipated sets. Too bad too as it was more than obvious that the girl was singing her heart out. Finally abandoning the remote and getting on the side mic for “Remnants of the Stars” she sounded loud and clear. It was wonderful to hear her impressive voice finally.
Then Helion Prime did something beyond questionable to me. They brought up a special guest, Tommy from Avalon Steel, yesterday’s trio that I didn’t like too well. With Kayla Dixon having such a beautiful voice, why in God’s name would you do that! He was boomingly loud at first until turned down after his first 3 words. I still don’t enjoy his vocals but thankfully he was only up for one song. Now maybe I can get Helion Prime as they should be. And fantastic it was! I really look forward to catching them live again, minus the issues of course!
DIAMOND HEAD (Stourbridge, UK)
A truly fantastic band that is not the big name that they should be. I’ve seen Diamond Head a few times over the years at different events around the world. Toronto, Pittsburgh, Sweden Rock Festival and Rocklahoma next week to name a couple. The new vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen I think does a fantastic job at the old classics.
These NWOBHM pioneers blasted through a set containing new, old and rarely heard material. All the classics were there, “Lightning To The Nations”, “The Prince”, “Shoot Out The Lights”, “It’s Electric” and of course closing with “Am I Evil”. We received “Bones”, “Diamonds”, and “Set My Soul On Fire”, all compositions from the latest album offering, 2016’s Diamond Head. The perhaps lesser known “Wild On The Streets”, “Borrowed Time”, “Heat Of The Night”, and “Helpless” all found their way into the set as well.
The crowd was visibly pleased. They were in it for all it was worth as Brian Tatler churned out the famous riffs. A small mosh pit even broke out in the center of the audience.
I did lose a little track on Diamond Head‘s stage time, however, as I greeted my friend Marty. Met through worldwide festivals, Marty is from the UK and has beeing touring with Armored Saint for a week or so. Great to see you again Marty!
I was getting tired, very tired. I hate getting older! Popping out for some air quickly proved to rejuvenate me a little. But truth be told, I knew that the end was near. Returning inside, I purchased my last beer of the festival and met up again quickly with Marty for a fast photo op. Not being the largest Armored Saint fan and also having seen them twice on MORC and also at Hellfest, France, my minutes were numbered.
The speakers flooded Judas Priest through the air and at its conclusion Armored Saint exploded onto the stage with “Win Hands Down”. Unfortunately, I lost hands down. The battle with exhaustion that is. The inaugural Legions of Metal Festival was over for me. What a fantastic weekend! I look forward to listening to my CD purchases and discovering more about most of these awesome acts. Please tell me there’s another event planned for 2018!