And here we go for the official first day of the inaugural Legions of Metal Festival at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago. Last night’s pre-party got things going but today promised more face melting metal. Overall a fantastic day, but here and now I express my apologies for the crappy cell phone pics.
Legions of Metal Festival Day 1, (Friday, May 19, 2017)
Perhaps learning my lesson from yesterday’s pre-party, there would be no rooftop beers today. That and it was raining and misty and quite a bit colder. Ok, let’s go check it out up there anyway. Attendance was not at the peak of yesterday with the turn in temperature, but I lingered for a beer, enjoying DJ Shane‘s tunes. After heading downstairs and finding the doors to the concert venue side a bit late to open I partook in the buffet. For those Legions of Metal goers with a VIP ticket, included was a hot buffet. Selections found there included chicken wings, cheese quesadillas, fries, slider burgers, mac and cheese pasta and corn on the cob. What a great deal buying the VIP just on the food alone!
Realizing that it was past due time for the first band, it was back over to the concert venue side.
With the doors already open, Seax could be heard laying waste to an empty room as the Legions of Metal-ers lined up outside. While waiting my turn to show my VIP ticket and gain entry, Andy Ramage (Lady Beast guitarist) passed by. He greeted me warmly, saying that they had not been here long after encountering some weather on the long drive. Lady Beast was the main catalyst in my attendance at Legions of Metal, being one of my favorite bands. Thanks, Andy for stopping to chat briefly.
SEAX (Worchester, MA, USA)
Once inside, or back at the scene of the crime from last night as the case may be, I only missed about 9 minutes of Seax. Admittedly I’m not well versed in the Seax discography so I’m not sure what the initial songs were. But, once gaining entry to the room, “Fall To The Hammer” was the first full number I heard. While watching the stage, Lady Beast vocalist Deborah Levine caught me by surprise with a big hug of greeting. I hadn’t seen her approaching! From there the next song’s moniker eluded me, but then it was a cover of Kreator‘s “Tormentor”. During the Seax version of the German titan’s number, vocalist Carmine Blades jumped off stage for a little moshing about in the audience. Things wrapped up with “Speed Forever”.
By all accounts, Seax was a good band, tight, fast and hard. Certainly an outfit that bears further investigation and album purchases.
Today there was a kind of alleyway between the concert venue side and the restaurant/bar side of thing for easy passage. This alleyway also played host to a row of beautiful merchandise. Another part of our “culture” is merch and band support. In about the middle of the length of products and items offered, I spied the familiar Lady Beast products. Greeting Hollie as she presided over the Lady Beast offerings, all of which I already own. Guitarist Christopher “Twiz” Tritschler passed by, smiling as he gave me a quick greeting on his way to prepare for their set. Vocalist Deborah Levine told me that she had recently assisted setting up a show in Pittsburgh for Knightmare (who were due on the second stage any minute) and that I should be sure to catch them.
KNIGHTMARE (Raleigh, NC, USA)
Being able to undergo a little research prior to arriving in Chicago, I had already sampled the Knightmare creations. Not knowing any of the songs, but loving the style, they were an original target before noticing their confliction with Lady Beast on the schedule. After Deborah‘s praise, I figured I’d better check them out for at least a couple of songs. These guys from Raleigh, North Carolina, I believe, began to deliver what I knew would be a fantastic set. I missed the title of the opening composition but it was a fine slab of power metal. Asking if there were any Lord of The Rings fans in attendance, they blasted into “Days of the King”. Prior to the song’s launch, they announced it was selected from the second release. I shall be searching out internet ordering options and keeping an eye on Knightmare!
Unfortunately, however, time to bail as Lady Beast time is near.
LADY BEAST (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
The excitement that courses through your veins in anticipation of witnessing your favorite band take stage is something unmatched. I always feel so very sorry for folks who aren’t music lovers. How do you live like that? I positioned myself stage front, a little to the right side.
The Pittsburgh band consisting of guitarists Andy Ramage and Twiz, bassist Greg Colaizzi and vocalist Deborah Levine flooded the stage. Due to an unfortunate health concern, drummer Adam Ramage was not with the band for this show. I’m pleased to say that all reports indicate Ramage is on the road to recovery and should be pounding the skins again shortly. The substitute drummer, Michael, however, would turn in a fine performance. Opening with “Forest of the Impaled”, Lady Beast laid down an incredible set once again. This band is the reason I discovered Legions of Metal and the main reason I’m here. There were no disappointments from me at the conclusion of their way to short for my liking stage time.
We heard “Devil’s Due” and “Lady of the Battle” off the recent Metal Immortal EP, perhaps the band’s best recording to date. Check out my Decibel Geek EP Review. Deborah has really come into her own fronting this band. She doesn’t just sing the lyrics, but actually feels the song. You can see it spread all over her face in performance. Bassist Colaizzi‘s deliverance of intensity rocks a total punk attitude, right down the shaved sides of his head. He is a joy to watch. The Ramage/Tritschler twin guitar attack rips and shreds through the material with vigor.
“Bind the Runes” was dedicated to the healing drummer Adam Ramage before a totally new track. My God! That semi-untitled new song serves only to increase my hunger for the band’s forthcoming full-length. Back to Metal Immortal for “Not This Time” ahead of the self-titled set closer “Lady Beast”. I was surprised and thoroughly delighted as Deborah presented the microphone for me to shout (I can’t sing) “..I am Lady Beast..” during a later chorus of the song.
Thank you Lady Beast, you made the trials and tribulations of making this trip worthwhile and helped me relieve my overwhelming stress. At least until I return home and back to bankers, mortgages, lawyers, moving, caring for an elderly parent, working 2 jobs and running this website.
SUBSTRATUM (Seattle, WA, USA)
Yet again Deborah Levine steers me in the right direction. While seeing her at the Lady Beast store in the alleyway she introduced me to her friend Amy from Substratum. Included was another “don’t miss them live” decree. And again, I was mildly familiar with Substratum after brief research before departing Toronto. And also again I need this album pronto! This time I was smart enough to pick it up at the show later in the day. The second stage erupted again already so early in this first official day as Substratum launched into “Last Voyage”. A stage issue caused a short delay while vocalist Amy accused Eric of rocking too hard and breaking shit. All things righted again, we were served a track from the first Substratum album (I shall be needing this also!), the title of which escaped me.
They were appearing today with a replacement bassist, Amy let us know. Kudos to the fine gent for learning the Substratum set in a week. I think it was “Rough Rider” that followed ahead of “Permission to Rock”. During the latter, a weirdo drunk guy jumped up onto the front of the stage. Well, he must have done more than that with the reaction from Amy as she pushed him back saying “…get him the fuck outta here….”. That guy does not have permission!
With what may have been called “Grave Robber”, Substratum continued as the guy moved further back, closer to my real estate. Shortly, he once again drifted back to the stage and reportedly made a grab at Amy. A large scuffle ensued as security forcibly removed him. The band soldiered on and closed their set with one final song. What a hard set for Substratum with the sound issues and then the scuffles and disruptions, but they persevered for one of the most impressive acts of the event.
Slauter Xstroyes was up next on the larger stage. They were very progressive to my ears with decent musicianship, but not a preferred flavor for me. Another beer and a pass by the buffet killed a few minutes while awaiting the next overlapping band on stage 2.
AVALON STEEL (Charlotte, NC, USA)
Another unfamiliar group, seems to be my theme of the weekend, Avalon Steel took to the second stage. With a 70’s taste along the Manilla Road lines with interesting vocals and great riffs, they delivered “Daggers in the Night” (I think).
While not unenjoyable, there is something missing here for me with this 3-piece outfit. The sound is maybe a little flat? I think it’s the vocals that bug me. Again, it may just be something that my ears need to digest in a recording first. Or it may be that the complete awesomeness of what I’ve already witnessed today is hard to compare to for me. Maybe it’s because the guy is wearing his pajamas on stage!Just because I personally didn’t catch their buzz doesn’t mean that they weren’t talented. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t have their own fans filling the floor area. And it by no means indicates they played a bad set, it just means it wasn’t much of a grabber for me.
Just because I personally didn’t catch their buzz doesn’t mean that they weren’t talented. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t have their own fans filling the floor area. And it by no means indicates they played a bad set, it just means it wasn’t much of a grabber for me.
During Avalon Steel I spotted Substratum‘s Amy, we chatted briefly praising her for the set even with the distractions. We headed over to the Substratum merch section where I happily acquired their CD. Stepping back into Slauter Xstroyes didn’t last long and once again the buffet called to me. What a great feature…..how could you not go VIP for this event with only a minuscule price difference. I chatted with a bloke who was here from Australia that I had met the previous evening. He had done some research for me on locating the first Amulance CD from a conversation yesterday. I reteamed with Justin from Glistening Metal and we made way to Brocas Helm.
BROCAS HELM (San Francisco, CA, USA)
Brocas Helm was something of a big deal among the Legions of Metal concert attendees. I admit that I was pretty unfamiliar. I did some research again before the adventure but didn’t really take to what I heard. Perhaps the live show will enlighten me and draw me in? I already knew that I wouldn’t make the whole thing as Brocas Helm conflicted with second stage headliner Hessler, but more on that in a second. The 3 piece making up Brocas Helm were quite entertaining, the bassist especially displaying to be quite a character.
Right at the start, Justin headed to the stage front and my mind wandered as I hung near the back. I tuned out a bit but snapped back in to catch “Drink and Drive” followed by “Ghost Story”. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t overly doing it for me and after “Defender of the Crown” I took my leave.
Back in the restaurant/bar side, I spotted the Hessler merchandise table to the side of the stage. Hessler is a band that I’ve been following for quite some time now. I’ve never been able to take in a live show until now, so this was exciting for me. After purchasing the newest CD, Skeleton Crew, a patch and a sticker, I chatted quickly with Igz Kincaid and Erik Michael. I think the boys were a bit shocked to learn I was from Toronto. I surprised them right back again after talking about my disappointments in missing them when they were up here at a weird venue. It was a sushi house or something, I recall, but work kept me from attendance. They quickly recollected the show, saying it was one of their best shows ever. Thanks for rubbing it in that I wasn’t there guys…lol.
HESSLER (Chicago, IL, USA)
Hessler was a late addition to the Legions of Metal bill. Literally jumping in to fill a vacated spot the day before! I for one am so glad they did as I finally got to see them live. As the band took the stage I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself noticing the drummer perched on his stool. He was the rooftop patio bartender yesterday! I wish I’d know then who he was…lol.
Leading out with “Bad Blood” from the 2011 release of the same name which featured then vocalist Lariyah Daniels. From there it was into new territory with “Intruder” from Skeleton Crew and onto “Ghost Dance”. The latter surfaced on their 2014 EP of the same name which featured then vocalist Jessikill. I found it a bit odd hearing tunes that I was extremely familiar with in a different voice. A male voice, as Igz Kincaid himself has stepped in the role. Not bad, just different.
The whole band was loud, forceful and intense in their performance, completely selling the gender change at the vocal spot. Delivered next were new compositions again in “From Dead” and “King of Sting”. Prior to “King of Sting” guitarist, founder and now vocalist Igz Kincaid called out to the crowd requesting a sweat band for his wrist. Upon delivery from a crowd member he proclaimed “Thanks, you just earned yourself a free CD!”
Up next, “every music lover should know this next song, it’s a cover of a band from The Netherlands,” was the only hint Kincaid would supply. Often mistakenly called “Bullet Hits The Bone”, Hessler ripped into a great rendition of Golden Earring‘s “Twilight Zone”. I don’t actually recall hearing it at the show, but “Never Lost My Way” appears next in the photo of the setlist I snapped before the show. Up next came “Windy City Wild Child” including a call out to the guy from Canada and some talk about Chicago’s mayor by way of intro. From there we closed up with “Killing Machine”. Great set…still wish I’d been at that damn sushi house!
KILLER (Antwerp, Belgium)
This is one of those bands that you kick yourself for not being familiar with. Everyone is shocked that you’re not and once you are you feel so ashamed. Especially since Killer was formed in 1980 with their international breakthrough and second album Wall of Sound in 1982. Reportedly Killer were the first Belgian band to surface influenced by the NWOBHM movement. A style that rates extremely high on my list, again eliciting surprise at my lack of awareness. They also apparently were often likened to Motorhead with the trio formula, the rough voices, speedy up tempos, and double bass drums.
Not ever hearing any of their outputs before this, I was greatly impressed and would later learn that the band played almost the entire Wall of Sound album. Guess what I’m searching out for purchase! I managed to catch that they also included “Shock Waves” from their third release and “Steel Meets Steel” off the fourth. While I was thoroughly enjoying Killer‘s set and looking forward to diving into their catalog, waves of exhaustion were crashing over me. I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.
After Killer‘s stage time I popped outside the doors to get some air in hopes of reviving my energy level. That didn’t work too well, but the waiting taxi sure did and it was back to the hotel for this old man, missing headliner Ross the Boss.
Live to fight another day Meister, even more bands on schedule tomorrow!