Geordie: A Retrospective

 

 

Some groups in the history of Rock music tend to go overshadowed especially when a member becomes part of a much larger and established act. An absolute perfect example of this the band out of Newcastle, England known as Geordie. Forming around 1972, the group would release a string of albums throughout the 1970’s beginning with “Hope You Like It” and ending with “No Sweat” in 1983. However the bands most notable work was the four albums performed with Brian Johnson as their lead vocalist. Johnson of course is known as being the vocalist of my personal favorite band of all time ACDC from 1980 until 2016. However, I have always been surprised that it had taken me so long to listen to his previous groups work as (spoiler alert) it is very quality blues driven hard rock from the seventies with every albums having some characteristics that are unique to each which makes for very refreshing listens throughout. So as this article is titled, I am going to take you through a short and sweet retrospective of one of Englands most underrated Hard Rock acts that deserve more credit than they are given.

 

Hope You Like It (1973)

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When I first heard Goerdie’s debut album, I didn’t think it was their debut as it has the sound of a well oiled seasoned machine. The band crafted a sound right from the get go that would essentially be their establish go to sound for future releases. Right from the start with the groovy “Keep On Rockin'” does the band go for throat with their blues driven sound with Johnson even using his signature higher pitched snarl throughout that he’s become famous for years later. The band then rolls right into”Give You Till Monday” with the main focus of straight ahead power chord riffing mixing with some subtle melody proving simplicity can be best when done right. The title track is a more sing along tune with the vocals being presented more in a softer and slick way. it is also one of the first songs where we see a lot of bridging vocal and guitar melodies that really drive the song. Songs like “Don’t Do That” and “All Because Of You” continue that bluesy pub Rock sound that personally doesn’t get old as the band plays it really tight and with a lot of enthusiasm. One of the best tunes on the album is”Old Time Rocker” which is actually more rockabilly oriented and it works really damn well and is a major highlight on the album. The album does mix softer songs in like “Oh Lord” that is a nice short change of pace before going back into the final stretch of the album. The final track which is a traditional song that the band worked in called “Geordies’s Lost His Liggie” is a funny and quirky way to end an extremely solid debut album. The reissued version actually includes six additional tracks including a personal favorite “Can You Do It” and “Geordie Stomp” among others making it the definitive version of this album. Geordie definitely set the bar high with their debut and a sophomore release was sure to follow as well.

Don’t Be Fooled By The Name (1974)

 

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Following their debut, Geordie quickly recorded and released their follow up album which has alot of the same character and strength the first album had with the main focus being blues based riffing through out. From the heavy and singable “Goin’ Down” to “Mercenary Man” with its rock solid riffing that also hides melodic undertones within Johnsons softer vocal deliveries. One of my favorites presented here is “Ten Feet Tall” which has a very heavy rock presence but an almost psychedelic midsection that really works only for the song to have a very explosive end. There are riffs galore here and show how underrated Vic Malcolm is as a guitar player. He plays with such ferocity yet can dial it back for some nice cleaner more melodic tones as well.  However the subtle variation is very welcome with the presence of keyboards in songs like the mellow yet welcoming ballad “Little Boy” and “Got To Know” which is personally my favorite song on the album with how upbeat and bouncy the rhythm is it just grooves through in and through out. Now of course the album is possibly most well known for the bands cover of “House Of The Rising Sun” and it is probably my favorite version of the song with the low droning humming throughout and Brians vocals going from clean to his signature snarl works so well. Overall, this album is a true unsung rock masterpiece and it is a shame more people don’t know of it as it has a lot of staying power and memorable moments throughout.

Save The World (1976)

 

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As Geordie went into creating their third album, the band had progressed their sound a bit more to a more pop rock oriented sound. I feel like out of all their albums up to this point, this one has the tag “Glam Rock” tied to it mostly. While a lot of the songs still retain their catchy Blues driven Hard Rock sound, they have a bit more upbeat feeling to them which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The band still sound as lively as ever right from the beginning notes of the very catchy and bouncy “Mama’s Gonna Take You Home” into one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded “She’s a Teaser” which is complete with a horn section adding a lot to the song. There are even some hints of disco in the song “Goodbye Love” which at first I was taken back from as it goes for a less heavy sound to it. But after multiple listens it is a great bouncy rock tune that really sticks in your head and is one of the highlights on the album. Another highlight is the song “She’s A Lady” which is a straight Glam Rock number that is put together oh so well. Now obviously with this slightly tweaked sound, the album has a bit more of a commercial feel than the previous two but it still rocks with a bit of a pop flare and it works. The heavy moments are still present especially in songs like the grooving, guitar phaser driven “Save The World” and the incredibly heavy “Fire Queen” which is possibly the best song on the album. Although the album has a bit of a softer edge in spots, it still rocks hard when it wants to and the band has a lot of charisma as this would be possibly the last album with a stable line up as the next would feature more revolving musicians.

No Good Woman (1978)

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This album features brand new vocalist Dave Ditchburn with Johnson having only recorded a few key tracks before leaving the band and soon enough landing at the doorstep for AC/DC and the rest would be history…But anyway, back to the album. While the opener and title track has a good groove to it with some nice keyboard presence, the production feels a bit too heavy on the bass side as it makes the whole band feel a bit too laid back. It’s catchy but lacks that shot of charisma every album before had. However “Going To The City” quickly picks up the pace with Johnson back on vocals. You can definitely see the difference between both line ups as this track has so much more energy. Now “Wonder Song” does have a heavier tone to it akin to later Deep Purple and it really works well but the vocals just feel a bit underdeveloped. Ditchburn just sounds like he doesn’t have the range or the character in his voice or at least not enough of it. Honestly, the inconsistency I think is was kills this album a bit. With the focus shifting between both vocalists, it goes from powerful to laid back to up beat and in your face and then swings back to the bass heavy almost lounge rock sound the current line up had. If this was a whole album recorded with Ditchburn I feel I would accept it as is more but with it switching back and forth, it makes you wish Johnson was on the whole record. Now there are some good songs they recorded with Dave at the vocals including the groovy “Give It All You Got” and the bouncy “Show Business” which is another that gets stuck in my head. Overall, the album is good but not great like the rest of the bands discography to me anyways. It felt like the band lost their signature voice and were trying to find sort of a new sound. However I will mention the No Sweat album only briefly as the band definitely seemed to take a bit of a hint from NWOBHM group Saxon as they has a slicker heavier sound than they ever had before. Unfortunately the album failed to generate a buzz for Geordie who had been around for ten years at this point and they slowly faded into the halls of relative obscurity besides the minds of hardcore fans and/or ACDC completionists.

However, as we get further down the years, Geordie are a band that deserves to be remembered as having an arsenal of rock anthems that deserves to be dug out of the basement and heard by the masses. With enough swagger to push around the hardest rocking bands at the time but the accessibility of any songs on the radio at the time, Geordie’s music  is a great time all around and will always be. If you can find these albums I highly recommend it, they deserve to be cranked and rocked til the sun comes up.

 

Top 20 albums of 2017

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2017 was a fantastic year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music. Albums were released left and right this year and as much as I wanted to include every album I heard this year as they mostly had a good level of quality to them, I narrowed it down to twenty. At the bottom I give my short list of honorable mentions of albums you should still check out but here is my top twenty of 2017.

 

                                               1. Night Demon- Darkness Remains

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-What can I say that I haven’t already said about this album. This to me is as good as a traditional Heavy Metal album can be in 2017. The chemistry between Jarvis, Armand and Dusty cannot be understated and are a trio to be reckoned with.

                                                     2. Mythra- Still Burning

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An album nearly forty years in the making and it delivers on all fronts. With Vince Highs rough rock n roll vocals still in tact and the instrumentation being very tight and memorable, this is a modern day NWOBHM classic.

                                         3. Night Flight Orchestra- Amber Galactic

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This album was my biggest surprise of the year. This album takes the sound of 80’s FM radio AOR and makes a modern classic out of that sound. This was my ideal summertime album and doesn’t have one bad song on it.

                                                               4.Venom Inc- Ave

-For many the return of the real Venom. This album boasts two thirds of the original line up with Tony Dolan of the underrated “Prime Evil” line up. The album balances more modern heaviness with the more raw sound the band was known for at the start. An album that doesn’t disappoint on getting your old school Black Metal mix

                                                      5. Stallion- From The Dead

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Another modern day Traditional Heavy Metal album that has power and guts. Stallion took the sound from their first album and made it even better somehow. With more speed, progression and just an overall fun atmosphere, this is another album that should be in your stereo!

                                             6.Crystal Viper- Queen Of The Witches

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Another excellent Traditional Metal release this year with solid writing with heavy songs and more somber emotional takes as well. Also look for some very cool guest appearances as well!

                                                         7.Tytan- Justice Served!

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Another long awaited NWOBHM release is the sophomore effort by Tytan. A great fun album with a lot of high points that will leave fans of the band satisfied.

 

                                                                    8.Shokker-III

shokker-3Chicago’s own Shokkers first debut and its still a very hot release. The albums has a bit of old school and new school thrown in for a good fun experience. Fans of Y&T and that older Hard Rock style will appreciate this album.

 

                                                      9.Hexx- Wrath Of The Reaper

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Hexx’s long awaited reunion album sort to speak. Alot of great songs are presented here and a very raw and lively production make this a must listen metal album.

 

                                      10.Jack Starr’s Burning Starr-Stand Your Ground

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Jack Starrs Bunring Starr have returned with another fine release to add to their catalog of old school Power Metal. Featuring some nice surprises even with an old outtake of the legendary Rhett Forrester included in one of the songs.

 

TOP 11

11. DUEL- Witchbanger

12. Air Raid- Across The Line

13. Savage Master-Creature of the Flames

14. Tbunderstick- Something Wicked This Way Comes

15. Ignitor- Haunted By Rock N Roll

16. Road Rash- Thunder In Paradise

17. EVO- Warfare

18. Vulture- The Guillotine

19. Resistance- Metal Machine

20. Gravedigger- Healed By Metal

 

And finally, here are just some of my albums I couldnt fit on the list but definitely deserve to heard and recognized.

Satans Hallow- S/T

Sleazer- Fall Into Disgrace

Hellwell- Behind The Demon’s Eyes

Mothership- High Strangeness

 

And there are my top albums of the past year. It really was a great year for new artists and fresh releases from the old guard as well. Here’s to a just as good 2018!

Album Review- Ignitor: Haunted By Rock N Roll

 

 

Ignitor, a band I have not been all too familiar with until recent years with first hearing their 2004 E.P and going on forward. Simply put, they are a band that plays classic Heavy Metal in vein of Manowar or even closer to early 80’s Judas Priest. Now, with a new album and probably one of my favorite album covers of the year, lets see what they bring to the table that perhaps stands apart from the other releases we have seen throughout the year.

From the first second, the album starts off with the crunchy “To Brave The War” which damn as a first impression is really a good song to start the album off with. It has some faster paced segments that really caught me off guard on first listen and are border line speed metal. It definitely is a song meant to be played live. The title track just screams classic metal a la Priest around 83-84 with some heavy palm muting in there as well. The band play very tight on this album and have a good set groove throughout especially on songs like “Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown” with some more almost subtle power metal segments and one of my favorites the heavy grooving “Leather Forever”. The album does keep it relatively fresh balancing the mid tempo songs along with the more speed metal segments throughout rather well. T=However, the band really  kick into overdrive within the last two songs “Throw Them from a Cliff” and “Hung Drawn and Quartered”. They give more of that epic fist pumping metal tone through these two songs and it ends the album on a very high note.

Overall, this album gets a solid 8 out of 10. Besides a few quirks in the production that seem to drown out the vocals, the album does what it means to do relatively well. It delivers the structure of classic Heavy Metal in its more straightforward primal form however it captures a bit more of a modern sound that I think fans of more modern sounding metal acts could appreciate as well. It is definitely an album that is meant to be played driving at 90 miles an hour. Like many others, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way, but it reminds us that Heavy Metal is suppose to be high energy fun music and these guys do it well in the modern day.

Album Review: OZ- Transition State

 

I don’t think any album title this year pertains to a band quite like Finnish Heavy Metal act OZ’s new full length album “Transition State”. With the band essentially rising from the ashes after a reunion slowly fading away, Original drummer Mark Ruffneck brought together a whole brand new lineup for this album. Now as I’ve seen in the past, sometimes new blood can really ignite an older band with energy and possible more original ideas. We’ve seen this with bands like Diamond Head and Tygers of Pan Tang and damn good results come from them. So how about OZ?

With opening track “Bonecrusher”, The band hits hard with a very upbeat fist pounding track. The guitars have that same vintage-esque distortion that was present on early OZ albums with a higher production of course showing the band still has some of their original sound in tact. New vocalist Vince Kojvula definitely shows his worth on this track alone with a ferocious hard rock feel and some impressive high notes. The second track “Restless” continues the more traditional and catchy feel on the album. The chorus of this song is one of my favorites as well. “Heart of a Beast” definitely has a more Power Metal feel and is a bit of a different pace compared to the first two songs but is well written along with “Drag You To Hell” having a similar style. One of my favorite tracks on the album “The Witch” definitely has some of the most energetic segments on the album and some of the more infectious riffs present as well. The only issue I have with parts of the album is that it seems a bit inconsistent. It isn’t a major album ruiner but with Melodic more hard rocking songs mixed with full out heavy metal songs makes it unfortunately lose a bit of identity with the abundance of many ideas coming out on each song. Also, I found it strange how there was a bonus track inserted in the middle of the album I didn’t understand why it was exactly there instead of with the extra tracks on the tail end of the album. However, the tail end of the album does have it’s standouts like “In a Shadow of a Shotgun” and the more emotionally toned “The Mountain”. It is songs like these that show the album although a bit at a cross roads at what it exactly wants to be, is still a fun time to be had.

Overall, I give this album a solid 7.5 out of 10. Although it is nice to see OZ return in an energetic and fresh way, this album shows the band still gelling with new ideas balanced with the core sound that makes OZ still stand a part from the rest. As this is the bands first album with original songs since 1991, it is understandable that the album isn’t as solid as some had hope with some more generic songs unfortunately being toward the middle. However, with a few bumps the road becomes smooth again with some high energy and more monumental songs toward the end of the album that still show even though most are new faces, they are keeping the band alive and hopefully continue to do so.

Frost and Fire III day 3 and final thoughts

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And we finally come to the final day of Frost and Fire three on October 8th. This day was a bit more relaxing considering there were really only two bands on the roster for the night and it was cult epic Hard Rock group Ashbury and the classy metal group Bitch. In between both however was the Rivera-Sunnarborg Duo playing essentially classical versions of well known Heavy Metal songs which was definitely something interesting.

After catching up on some well needed rest, I went to check out Ashbury and was blown away by their performance. They were another band that I had missed a few times so this was another performance I just had to see just so I could finally say I saw them live. The band played their whole “Endless Skies” album which was nice and a few new songs which were very up to par with their early material epic guitar solo’s and all. The only thing that wained a bit was the amount of covers sprinkled through the set. Although it was great to see them do classic Black Sabbath and even some Jethro Tull and The Who, it felt a bit too much like the set was padded out. However, the band n ever lost anyones interest throughout the show and I would watch out for their new music on the future it is definitely something I am excited for.

Finally after chilling out around town for a bit longer, I came back to Bombay fir the final act on the bill for the night Bitch. I honestly had no idea what to expect from this band as I had never really saw a lot of live footage but I was very familiar with their material so I was hoping they would deliver a solid performance after such a long weekend. Well they were honestly my biggest surprise in terms of live acts in how damn good they were live. Betsy’s voice is still just as good as it is on record and she has a lot of charisma on stage with a lot of banter in between songs with their backing band. The band I have to note as well they really gave it their all in terms of performers with a lot of crowd interaction as well. The setlist was just as solid as it could be as well with a lot of material from the “Betsy” album and some early cuts from “Be My Slave” and “Damnation Alley”. My personal favorite was actually opener “The Bitch is Back” it was a perfect song for the band to represent themselves onstage. Overall they were just a great act and I cannot wait to catch them again at Legions of Metal II this year. Afterwards, it was time for the goodbyes and I headed back to my room for the few hours of sleep before my flight home the next day.

Overall, Frost and Fire III, what can I say that I haven’t already? This was easily the best weekend I had ever had bar none with memorable performance after memorable performance all weekend. The choice of Ventura was so great and Bombays Bar and Grill as small of a venue it was had a great vibe to everyone and I wouldn’t mind it being the venue next year as well. We don’t have many festivals like this here in the US and to see such a good one like Frost and even Legions essentially resurrecting the Ragnarokkr festival makes me hope they stick around. If and when the next line up is announced, don’t hesitate. This is a fest you don’t want to miss. The music you hear and the friends you meet make it all the worth while.

 

Album Review: Air Raid- Across The Line

 

Air Riad are a band I have to admit I have not been all to familiar with. I always saw their name come up when people would mention New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal bands so I figured when they dropped their third album “Across The Line” I thought it was a perfect time to give the band a listen. I was hoping the band although having multiple line up changes would still sound great and overall I think they hit a good mark with this album as it stands.

The album opens with “Hold The Flame” quickly showing that Air Raid are a band that hearken back to traditional metal acts specifically like Dio, mid eighties Scorpions and even a touch of bands like Dokken with a lot of that flashy fast as a blade guitar soloing. However the biggest aspect about the album that stands out is new vocalist Fredrik Werner’s not over the top vocal style. His vocals are very much like early eighties Rainbow with a Joe Lynn Turner like grit to them or even a bit of Graham Bonnet at times especially in tracks like “Line of Danger” which has one of the most memorable choruses of every song here. “Hell and Back” is another great song with some heavy catchy riffing and a strong chorus that almost reminds me of Europe at times as well. Air Raid succeed I think the most at having that classic metal sound down to a staple but having that hard rock type melody mix very well which is also notable in “Northern Light” balancing the intense melody and heaviness perfectly. Perhaps the biggest pay off this album has is the final track “Black Dawn” which has some of the best mid tempo fist pounding riffing on the album. The production i really admire as well as this is possibly one of the best produced albums I have heard this year with a very full sound with every instrument coming in very clear and the vocals although more laid back still punch just as hard as the instrumentals.

Overall, this album receives an 8.5 out of 10. While the album has some moments like “Entering the Zone Zero” which is sort of dull and basic, the majority is well done catchy melodic 80’s heavy metal. It is also like I mentioned before, one of the best sounding albums I have heard this year as well and deserves at least a full listen with the album clocking in just under a comfortable forty minutes. Whether you are a die hard heavy metal fan or a casual listener, I feel there is something here for all as it is just a fun album altogether which is, in the end, what Heavy Metal music is all about.

 

Frost and Fire III: Day Two Review

 

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Day two of Frost And Fire kicked off very nicely and at a very reasonable time in the day too. I like that the bands didn’t start until almost 4 every day mainly so I could have some time to do a bit of relaxing beforehand. So after eating for the day and checking out the …child abuse and neglect thrift store(basically a goodwill but with a strange name), It was time to indulge on another batch of bands new and old for the day.

First up on the main stage was California’s Hellfire. Hot off the release of their new album “Free Again” they were one of the highest bands on my list to see this year and they did not disappoint. For being the openers for the day, they definitely could have played higher on the bill playing mostly from their new album with a few of my favorite cuts from “Metal Masses” as well. Their style of classic speed metal definitely won a lot of early goers over for the day as well. Next up on the front bar stage was OVVL who were probably the most unique band on the bill for the weekend overall. At face value they had a very progressive 70’s hard rock sound but coupled with their lead guitarists cowboy mixed with Charles Manson look, they were anything but straightforward. They were not a bad live band, actually quite entertaining as they were very into the groove of their songs. As the shift was back onto more traditional metal, Skelator were up next and were damn amazing live. The vocals were what impressed me the most and just how commanding of a live act they were. Some highlights from their set included “Samurai” and their cover of Judas Priests “Jawbreaker” was definitely very fun to hear as well.

After grabbing some water as the bar was filling up with people and getting way up in temperature, it was time to see Venomous Maximus for the second time. The band has a more straightforward doom/stoner metal grooving sound which I am into a lot however I always appreciated them more as a studio act. Live they don’t cut it as much for me at least not this time. Perhaps it was the technical difficulties peppered throughout but they just weren’t as commanding as when I saw them back home a year or so before. In the middle of their set, I felt it was time to get some air and socialize a bit before possibly the most gimmick and slapstick performance I have ever seen was to occur.

Iron Thor who are a cover band of the cult metal act Thor were up next and were as cheesy and epic as the real thing. From bending steel to a literal wrestling brawl breaking out on stage, they had it all and were one of the most fun bands of the weekend. their set was all classic Thor songs done very faithfully as well so bravo to them. Twisted Tower Dire, a band that needs to introduction. With albums such as “The Isle of Hydra” and even their most recent from 2011 “Make It Dark”, the band has established themselves as one of the most consistent power metal acts today and this performance was no exception. The band played a fair mix of both older and newer songs with one of their covers as well because cmon they do really pull out some amazing covers. The song was Mercyful Fates “A Dangerous Meeting ” and was done very well and was really the cherry on the top of a very solid performance.

Finally it was time for the band I was looking most forward to all weekend (besides Cirith Ungol) Mythra. Another of my favorite NWOBHM bands and one that are hot on a comeback with their album “Still Burning” being released earlier this year. Finally after nearly forty years, they have braced the United States for their first ever show here and based on their performance, it would be easy to think that they were a regular touring band. The reason being they were so incredibly tight and were very energized with interacting with the audience. The setlist was mainly oldschool fair with the band opening with “The Best Is Yet To Come” and classics like “U.F.O” and one of my favorites, the energied “Killer”. Vince Highs vocals I have to praise for barely aging and still having that classic rock n roll grit as well. The band also peppered in some newer songs such as :Silence In Sirens”, “Battlecry” and a few others that I felt worked perfectly in with the old songs. Overall, I felt they had the best set of the weekend personally and if it is the only time they play the US, then by god they made a great impression. New classic metal act Amulet were next on the front room stage and were in a tight spot between two higher profile bands. Also, coming from the UK, the band sounds both live and in studio like they are straight from 1981. I really admire their vintage guitar sound and are a band to really watch out for in the future. Even though they were stacked between Mythra and the double bill of Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road, I felt they maintained a decent sized crowd with a lot of energy on stage.

Cirith Ungol were up next as the final band on the main stage for the night. Now after literally picking apart every album in the past month. Hearing them live was kind of the final piece of the puzzle for me. I missed them last year unfortunately so it was a real treat that they hopped on when Fist unfortunately had to cancel. The band opened with “War Eternal” off of their “One Foot In Hell” album and were in amazing form. I was quite surprised how well they sounded live especially today. Tim Baker is another vocalist I would say has a voice that has stood the test of time for sure with him still being able to belt those long heavy growls that are a staple of the band. The biggest shock was when the band played their cover of Arthur Brown’s “Fire”, a song I thought I’d never hear them do again. The crowd especially within the first five rows were absolutely nuts for them and rightfully so. Other highlights included the band doing nearly the whole “King Of The Dead” album toward the end of the set but keeping the set overall fairly evened out between every album. They definitely had the biggest reaction I had seen all weekend and being it was their hometown show I had expected that. After melting away nearly completely in the hotbox where the mainstage was, I decided to catch some air right before Manilla Road began.

Manilla Road have been one of those bands that no matter how many times they hit my town, I always miss them somehow. Well this night I was finally able to see them and what good timing to see them for a first time. The band pulled out a lot of stops with a very special setlist composed mainly of older songs from albums “Mystification”, “Open The Gates” and of course “Crystal Logic” as well as a few new songs that I can’t name off the top of my head at the moment. The weirdest thing was that the band was on the small front room stage which gave for a more personal experience for at least a lot of fans up front. Unfortunately, the band didn’t have a lot of elbow room to work with and weren’t able to move around much. They really just stuck to playing their songs with vocalist Bryan Patrick talking a bit in between songs. Songs like “Divine Victim” and “Masque Of The Red Death” were perhaps my biggest highlights. I would have liked some songs from “Out of the Abyss” which is my favorite Manilla Road album but hey they definitely didn’t skimp out on fan favorites ending the night with a heavy dose of the “Crystal Logic” album.

I was pretty cashed toward the end of the bands set and had to head back to my room to recover for the night. Overall, day two was just as good as the first however with Mythra and Cirith Ungol, this was definitely the peak of the weekend personally. This also ended the bulk of the weekend with Sunday having the last two heavy hitters Ashbury and Bitch.