Gillan: The best post Deep Purple project

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Ian Gillan has been one of my favorite vocalists from his performances with Deep Purple and his short stint with Black Sabbath alone. However, after leaving Purple he went through the motions eventually forming the Ian Gillan band playing jazz/fusion in the mid to late seventies and finally forming a super group of sorts simply titled “Gillan” in 1978. Gillan’s classic lineup consisted of underrated guitar player Bernie Torme, Bass juggernaut John McCoy, Colin Towns on keys and Mick Underwood on drums. The band with a slightly different lineup recorded an album that was not widely available simply known as “The Japanese Album” in 1979 before a slight lineup shift and songs being reworked finally ending up on the first classic album “Mr. Universe”

 

Image result for gillan mr universe“Mr. Universe” was NWOBHM before it even exploded. This album took what was good about about the sound Gillan had in Purple and gave it more balls than ever. While the album isn’t quite “metal” per say, it is great British Hard Rock. Opening with the brooding and epic keyboard instrumental “Second Sight”, the album launches into its proper first track with the neck breaking “Secret of the Dance” which is incredibly fast and tight and shows how gritty Ians vocals can be but also how melodic they are especially in the chorus. The album continues with the catchy mid paced “She Tears Me Down” and then another fast tune titled “Roller” which is another go for the throat tune. The title track is incredibly epic and builds quite well with some impressive soloing from Torme. :Vengeance” is a good almost boogie rock tune with a lot more blues influence to it as well as “Puget Sound” and “Dead Of Night”. Up next is possibly my all time favorite Gillan track “Message In A Bottle” which is another breakneck tune but the real highlights are the ways Ian Gillan spit out his lyrics and Mccoys commanding bass really shines here and shows how underrated his thick tight playing is. Ending the album is the ballad like “Street Fighting Man” which an equally epic song and another favorite of mine. Overall this album could just be called Gillans greatest hits because it is that good definitely a great start for the band and personally my favorite album by them.

 

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Perhaps Gillan hit their peak was their second record “Glory Road”. After gaining a huge following in the growing hard rock revival in the turn of 1980, the band quickly released this album which also included a “for Gillan fans only” mini album featuring some jam tracks which was a cool inclusion. However, this album like its predecessor is pure grade A British Hard Rock but definitely shows a bit more of a metal side to the band. This is definitely apparent with opener “Unchain Your Brain” which is a no nonsense fast rocker. Torme’s guitar feels a bit sharper on this record and the production is slightly slicker and my favorite track on the album “Are You Sure” features some awesome guitar and keyboard riffs blending its definitely very well written. There are so many great tracks like the epic “On The Rocks”, the classic “No Easy Way” and even the super Bluesy “If You Believe Me” which solidify this album being another classic. The album thrived in the more underground but unfortunately didn’t break in America (shocker) but that didn’t stop the Gillan train from rolling on.

 

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While the album cover is a bit  aliening, the album is anything but. This could very well be the most visceral album Gillan did. The title track opens up being a great fist pumping hard rocker that is equal heavy and catchy. “Night Ride Out of Phoenix” is a badass mid paced bluesy rocker as well. “(The Ballad Of) The Lucitania Express” is such a fast tune that almost sounds impossible to play the riff is just so unbelievably fast and really makes this tune because its crazy fast but still very precise at being what it wants to be. “New Orleans” is a great cover that feels equal parts Hard Rock and 50’s rock n roll. There are other great tunes like “Bite The Bullet” and “Sacre Bleu” but the best song has to be the dryly comedic “No Laughing In Heaven” with such entertaining lyrics and a great bumpy rhythm that makes it such a blast to listen to. Unfortunately this would be the last album Torme would be a part of but equal talent in the for of former White Spirit guitarist Janick Gers would join for the bands final recordings.

 

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Gillans fifth album would be an interesting one as it would be a double album splitting studio tracks and the other being a collection of well recorded live tracks which is a real treat. The studio tracks include the terrific melodic yet rocking “Reckless” as well as the grooving “I’ll Rip Your Spine Out” and the terrific foot stomping “Hadely Bop Bop”. The band is definitely in top form here and the studio side definitely feels the most polished the band has sounded yet with more melodic touches on the songs as well. However, it still feels incredibly Gillan and Gers more than holds his own. He isn’t as much as a gung ho player as much as Bernie but he is solid and his solo’s are very precise. The live side shows recordings from the 81 reading festival and one track with Torme performing from the Rainbow theater. Definitely a well worth it package for Gillan fans.

 

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Magic was released in 1982 and ended Gillan’s discography pretty much perfectly. The band sounds the best on record than they ever have. Now while Magic is not my favorite it is still a damn good and should have launched the band higher than they achieved. Opening with the gritty and fast “Whats The Matter” right into the groovy “Bluesy Blue Sea” which both alone make the album worth a purchase, the album stays consistent with mid paced and fast rockers all the way through. “Caught In A Trap” and “Your So Right” are perfect pop rock songs and are the closest the band goes to that kind of sound and they pull it off perfectly. However the main event is the epic progressive ripper “Demon Driver” which has a lot of twists and turns and always keeps your attention and Ian’s almost creepy like vocals sell the song especially the intro amazingly. The album ends with a badass cover of “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder and a short reprise of “Demon Driver” as Gillan set off into the sun.

Ian Gillan had to get nodes removed from his vocal chords shortly after the end of the tour and dissolved the band at this point from inner tensions due to money as well as other difficulties. Gillan himself shortly joined Black Sabbath and then came back to the reformation of the Mk II lineup of Purple while some members such as McCoy and Torme stuck to doing projects here and there while Gers became part of Iron Maiden nearly ten years afterwards. While we will most likely never see a Gillan reunion especially after Torme’s passing, these albums represent a band full of excellent musicians that need to be rediscovered for their sheer staying power and “magic” that each release holds still. Gillan for me will always be the one band when everyone talks about Rainbow or Whitesnake, as the best Post Purple project by any member of that band.

Album Review- Diamond Head: The Coffin Train

 

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When Diamond Head released their self titled comeback in 2016, it was a major success. Not only was the album received with praise, partially bringing the band back to their roots, but it also brought them back into relevance in the metal world. As soon as it hit, the band went on a massive touring spree where I was lucky to see them twice on. However, I was really curious about where they would go from here as their self titled really was homing in on the classic DH sound with some touches of progression here and there. “How could this sound eventually mature?” I really wondered. Well their next album entitled The Coffin Train is finally here to show exactly where they ended up.

The album opens thunderously with the furious banger “Belly Of The Beast” which is a logical continuation of the 2016 album. This song is a total callback to their NWOBHM heydays or at least Tatlers since he is the sole original member. Rasmus’ voice sounds honestly even better on this album overall and this song shows how much more comfortable he has gotten being the new and my personal favorite voice of the band. It is almost too strong of an opener with the band giving it all they’ve got. Up next is another heavy number entitled “The Messenger” with a nice build into a heavy main riff that really sets a good groove. The chorus on this song is also really catchy. The title track definitely shows the proggier elements the band hinted to on songs in the past with a build to an epic end that I really like. The next two tracks “Shades Of Black” and “The Sleeper” are structured in a similar way showing this more dark and almost grungier sound the band is going for akin to a band like Soundgarden. It almost is a 180 turnaround from the last release which may put some hardcore fans off. However it works in the bands favor as it doesn’t show them do the same album twice and keeps things fresh. Speaking of the track “The Sleeper”, it is definitely one of the highlights in the middle part of the album with a very nice structure containing this orchestral backing that really beefs up the sound. It eventually ends in an explosion of fiery fretwork by Mr. Tatler which never gets old. Up next is another callback tune entitled “Death By Design” and is another absolute banger with that catchy chorus as well as simpler yet always solid riffing. “Serrated Love” is next and gives us a little bit of more foot stomping hard rock that has a bit more of a modern sound to it but still works pretty well. Up next is “The Phoenix” which definitely is another hard hitter with some nice acoustics opening the song. I really like how this song chugs along with Rasmus having this almost distortion to his voice it really works for this heavy grooving tune. Finally we end with “Until We Burn” which is a softer tune but still definitely fits in with the overall more modernized darker sound on the album. It is a fitting end to the album and definitely has a good feel to it.

Overall, This album while not being a typical Diamond Head album, is still pretty damn good. The band adds a darker and more complex rhythm based formula here that I feel works for what they were going for. It has it’s moments that may remind fans of the classic “Lightning Of The Nations” sound but definitely an overall package you have to go into with more of an open mind. It is definitely heavy and shows a solid core of musicians writing a solid collection of songs that won’t leave my stereo anytime soon, but don’t expect a nostalgia ride, this is definitely Diamond Head on a different level and I really enjoy it. Highly recommended.

Album Review- Leathurbitch: Into The Night

Leathurbitch

Back when I saw these guys at Legions of Metal in Chicago in 2018, I knew they had something special and unique. Their E.P combined some really catchy speed metal with hard driving late 80’s sleaze metal to create a killer release showing how hungry these guys are. Finally now we have a full length release coming out May 31st and I have to say it really is a sleazy metal masterpiece.

Opening with a very 80’s synth piece, the album goes into full blast with “L.U.S.T” showcasing some tight instrumentals led by Joel Stair’s unique vocals. This tune has a very catchy chorus as well and shows virtually the same band I remember seeing live with a slightly polished production working in their favor. Next up is “I Want What You Got” which shows the sleazier hard rocking side of the band but still works with the sound they are going for with some moments that stray into speed metal as well. “Sleaze City” is next up and is another catchy tune that doesn’t let up and features one of my favorite solo’s on the album. “Killing The Silence” goes for more straight forward speed with Joel’s soaring vocals really making this one of the major highlights. I also really love the groove going on with “I’m Insane” and it feels like if early Queensryche stepped off the sunset strip and I really dig it. The final tune “Killer Instinct” may just be my favorite song on the album with how razor sharp the band is.

Overall, Leathurbitch are really coming out swinging with this debut. If you are into Sleazy metal dripping with speed and major attitude then this album is for you. The band essentially take the formula they established on their E.P and refined it time ten. Grab this album May 31st from High Roller Records, its worth it and definitely will be on repeat for my summer playlist.

Black Sabbath: Every album ranked

 

 

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Black Sabbath will always be known for being the “first ever Heavy Metal band”. Now whether that is true or not, it is certain that Sabbath are incredibly influential and their status cannot be ignored. For having a staggering 19 albums, I was always interested to see what differed between all of them and see if there was any that perhaps didn’t receive the respect I feel they deserved. This is pretty much when I decided to rank every Sabbath release based on my thoughts. Not popularity, sales charts or any of that. This is based on how I have felt about these albums when I listen to them and whether the content on each really hits me. So without further ado, here is every Black Sabbath album ranked in my opinion from last to first!

19.Never Say Die!

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Never Say Die! is the final Sabbath album of the 70’s and the last featuring the original lineup for a long long time. After listening to it again after awhile I see why I never really came back to this album. It feels like a very cloudy album that has a few good riffs and a good title track but the majority of the album is filler material that never really hits home.

18.13

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We fast forward to 2013 for (mostly) an original lineup reunion for the extremely anticipated 13. At first when I heard this album, I loved it and thought it was a terrific return to form but after a long period of not listening to this album, those thoughts have steered very much so. This album is pretty much as paint by numbers as possible especially with tracks like “End Of The Beginning” and “Loner”. The track “Damaged Soul” was pretty much the only song I felt was worth going back to mainly for the solo.

17.Technical Ecstasy

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Technical Ecstasy is definitely when Sabbath showed their more classic rock sound and spawned a few good tracks like “Rock N Roll Doctor” and “Dirty Women” but is bogged down by the potentially good but weak “Back Street Kids” and the Beatles sounding “It’s Alright”.

16.Cross Purposes

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Cross Purposes is one of the Darkest slabs of material in their whole discography. One of the last albums featuring Tony Martin, this album opens with a real ripper “I Witness” and other highlights include “Virtual Death” as well as others. Unfortunately the production is a bit stale compared to a few albums before.

15.Forbidden

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Ahh Forbidden, the album Sabbath fans love to hate. Honestly this album I could never understand why people hated it so much. While the material isn’t exactly as powerful sounding mostly throughout, there are some great cuts here like “Guilty as Hell”, “Get A Trip” and the insanely epic “Kiss Of Death”.

14.Paranoid

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Honestly who doesn’t know Paranoid? The album and the title track are so undeniably recognizable they have become etched in rock and metal history. However, this album for me is a classic case of being burned out. While I get a kick out of hearing live versions of “War Pigs” and “Fairies Wear Boots”, I am just utterly tired of the studio versions of these songs. I know some may call it utterly blasphemous to have this album lower than some others but after going through the next thirteen albums, I found things in those that I found really enjoyable more than “Paranoid” has become to me.

13.Seventh Star

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Even though this album is suppose to be Iommi’s solo output, it has the Sabbath name on it thus it is etched in the bands history. While the sound of this album steers way harder toward melodic 80’s Hard Rock, it has a lot of really catchy tunes and features none other than the man Glenn Hughes! Opening with the high energy “In For The Kill”, this album goes right for the throat and is a great time all around. From killer tunes like “Turn To Stone” and “Danger Zone”, this album is one of the definitions of misunderstood!

 

12.Black Sabbath

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The album that started it all truly. It was really a triumph in the small amount of the time the band had to record this album in how well it turned out for them. However, while songs “N.I.B” the title track and “The Wizard” are terrific songs, this album always felt a bit disjointed to me for some reason. Compared to other records at the time it also doesn’t hit me as hard considering I heard most of this album via greatest hits albums so when I first heard the full release when I was younger, I never got that wow feeling I feel a lot of others got.

11.TYR

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TYR was the third album to feature Tony Martin on vocals and was a great addition to the more epic style the band had achieved on Eternal Idol and Headless Cross. The album definitely has more of a concept record feel to it which I believe Iommi was going for at the time as well. The opening track “Anno Mundi” is an epic six minute opener with keyboard riffs and vocal harmonies galore. “The Law Maker” is a glorious ripper of a song as well.. Other key tracks include “The Sabbath Stones” and “Valhalla” but unfortunately some tracks feel very filler as well.

10.Eternal Idol

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This album marked a new era for the band with Martin taking over vocal duties after lineup changes shifted once again. This was a perfect introduction to his inclusion with terrific cuts such as “The Shining”, “Born To Lose” and the epic “Glory Ride” which is one of my top Sabbath tunes of all time. The only songs that feel filler are “Ancient Warrior” and the title track.

9.VOL.4

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Sabbath go from weed induced to cocaine induced for Vol. 4. One of their most popular records, Vol. 4 takes the heaviness of Master of Reality and adds a bit more of a prog feel to it. The result is partially mixed with classics like “SnowBlind” “Tomorrows Dreams” and the crushing “Under The Sun”, there are still certainly a lot of fillers such as the needless “FX” and “St. Vitus Dance” which always felt undeveloped as well. This album certainly has always been a tad mixed personally but the good songs are REALLY good when they want to be.

8.Sabotage

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Ozzy has never sounded so damn angry than this album. The band really go for an aggressive approach here and for what I felt was the last terrific Ozzy era album. From the terrific opener “Hole In The Sky” to the proto speed metal feel of “Symptom Of The Universe” to the epic “Megalomaniac”, this album is terrifically written. The only song that felt totally out of place for me was “Am I Going Insane?” which kind of derails the album near the end before “The Writ” picks things back up.

7.Headless Cross

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Easily the Martin era’s crowning achievement, Headless Cross I feel has always deserved so much more credit than it has ever received. From the title track that could rival the epicness of “Heaven and Hell” to songs like “When Death Calls” which features Brian May of Queen, to the epic fist pumping “Devil And Daughter” to the really catchy “Kill In The Spirit World” and pretty much every song on. The band truly were on a fantastic streak with this undiscovered classic.

6.Dehumanizer

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Dehumanizer is one of the more interesting Black Sabbath albums as it reunited the “Mob Rules” lineup with Dio back at the helm and pretty much revitalized Sabbaths popularity overnight. It didn’t last long as after this album we received more Martin sung material but holy hell the album we received here was magnificent. While definitely more doom oriented than the first two more NWOBHM inspired Dio albums, this album still has the riffs and magic in spades. With crushing opener “Computer God” to “After All/ The Dead” to my favorite “TV Crimes” and even tracks later in the album such as “I” and “Buried Alive, this was a terrific reunion album.

5.Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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This is where 70’s Sabbath really came into the more creative songwriting and what a monolith of an album this is. Some of my favorites include the eternal ground shaking title track to the heavy and dark “National Acrobat” to the swaggering “Sabra Cadabra” and the almost hypnotizing “Who Are You”. However, the whole album is a great listening experience.

4.Heaven And Hell

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The first album Dio recorded with Black Sabbath and showed a shift in sound to straight forward Heavy Metal. This is the part in this list where every album here is pretty much flawless so I will keep it short by saying this album is one of the greatest comebacks for any band period.

3.Mob Rules

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Sabbath go for round two in the early eighties and come out with an album arguably heavier than the last. The style is similar to the first album but the production feels a bit more crisp and the bass oh the bass on this album is devilishly good. Top notch!

2.Master Of Reality

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This is the essential Ozzy era album as it pretty much defined the sound for what would become “Stoner Metal”. This was the most solid collection of songs the band had and was in my opinion miles ahead from the first two albums in terms of what the band was capable of in such a short amount of time. Plus we got “Into The Void” one of the heaviest songs to ever grace the earth and for that alone this album deserves to be this high.

1.Born Again

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And number one goes to Born Again! A controversial pick for sure but for me this is the heaviest yet catchiest Sabbath ever got. Featuring the one time gig for my all time favorite vocalist Ian Gillan, he lets out some of his most ear shattering and impressive vocal performances here more than anywhere else. Opening with the classic “Trashed” going into the very dark “Disturbing The Priest” paired with the epic “Zero The Hero” and into the last half of the album featuring some prime cuts like “Digital Bitch” and “Hot Line”, this album hits you in the face and never lets go. The production also never really bothered me in fact it always enhanced it for me for how just different it sounds I suppose. Especially when the solo’s hit it feels like such an assault with the guitars being super distorted it sounds like Iommi going straight for the throat. All this combined has made this my favorite Sabbath release in recent times to go back to over and over and I always have a good time doing it!

Album Review: Redd Barron- The Barron’s Here To Rock

 

 

So many bands over the past decades have been lost to the sands of time with their numerous demo’s and unreleased songs being forever lost and unknown to would be fans. Redd Barron are a perfect case as their early 1990 demo’s could be found with a search on the internet but never given a proper release. For a long time I suppose they were just another Chicago band lost in time. I had heard of these guys roughly around a year ago after a long night researching long time Chicago acts and found their brand of melodic Hard Rock very enjoyable and catchy. Minus the rough production, these guys could well Rock! However, we finally see with their announcement of a reunion at this years Legions Of Metal, a proper release of all their material compiled into one album via the terrific Heaven & Hell Records.

 

Opening with the title track, right away you can get the exact sound these guys were going for. That melodic Hard Rock sound that, in 1984, could’ve catapulted these guys to an actual album deal.  The album overall is very consistent sticking with the same style throughout and many catchy songs. Songs like “Living Our Life For Rock” I could have seen on MTV in the early 80’s easily. Another favorite early on is “Dow Jones” which has some very heavy guitar melodies that carry the song through and make for a nice gem of a tune. “Blind Date” also has some nice aggressive yet simplistic guitar playing as well. Vocalist Brian Lee really completes the band and his vocals coupled with the simplistic mid paced Hard Rocking instrumentation almost give off like a working man version of Dokken. Essentially without all the flash, that is what these guys remind me of which isn’t uncommon as a lot of the bands from that time sounded similar. “Burning Cities” is where the band go more into a straight Heavy Metal mode and play it off well. This is another song that again if it were ever given a chance with a more sleek production, it would be massive sounding.  This is also the track where the album is in it’s other batch of demo’s but besides production being a bit more rough, these tracks work well enough with the original six tracks. Tracks like “Shadows” and “Search For Love” definitely show the band really had chops and rightfully deserved a spot in the scene. Finally we see the finale of “Kill Or Be Killed” which is one of the most anthemic songs on the album and one I can’t wait to hear live as well.

Overall, while the music isn’t completely original nor complex, this is a fantastic collection of catchy written melodic Hard Rock that I guarantee a lot of Heavy Metal/Hard Rock fans haven’t heard. It is also a great album to have for anyone interested in the Chicago metal scene as well. Redd Barron have taken flight once more and it is great to see their music properly see the light of day!

Heavy Load have released a teaser of new song “Walhalla Warriors”

 

After Heavy Load announced their return to the music scene, many wondered if they would ever produce new music. Well the wait is over as the band have released a demo of the first half of the track “Walhalla Warriors” off of an upcoming album due in 2019. It definitely has a good heavy mid pace and feels like the production for the demo anyway is similar to their albums way back when. However, it is just nice to see such a cult band come back to life. Check out the new song above!

Show Review: Saxon live at Reggies, Chicago IL 04/01/18

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Banging drums, soaring guitars and…..Candy? That’s exactly what we got at the Saxon show on Easter Sunday in Chicago! First of all this goes with saying, this show was already going to be killer from the start. Considering two of my favorite Chicago bands were included along with one of my all time favorite bands of all time, this was an easy show to say yes to.

Shokker

Opening the show was Chicago’s own Shokker. They were definitely a good band to open up the show with their powerhouse sound that recalls the classic era of Heavy Metal. Casey Tremont’s hard hitting guitar playing was terrific along with vocalist Rachl Quinn’s soaring vocals. Easily one of the best female vocalists I’ve seen live in terms of range and charisma. The whole band overall was very tight and energetic pulling songs from their terrific debut “III” and even a blistering faithful cover of “Bark At The Moon”. I honestly would have loved to see them higher on the bill and hope to see them many more times.

Pipe

Pipe were up next and definitely had the most “interesting” stage setup with bong props and marijuana flags draped over their equipment which I felt was a bit overkill. The overall sound of the band was very simplistic hard rock akin to 90’s groups like Godsmack. However, I feel like they didn’t fit with this bill much and personally, I feel they played way too long. They just had a somewhat dull sound to me it just didn’t have the energy every other band clearly had in spades. Just not a good fit to the bill in my opinion.

Scars of Armageddon

This was my third time seeing these guys rip it up on stage and they never disappoint. their brand of epic progressive metal is done so well in the sense that it doesn’t get too repetitive or dull live and they know how to keep the energy up. However, the only thing that sucked about this performance was that they were only able to play three songs but I feel they made their point perfectly as much as they could in that short time slot.

Saxon

And finally, it was time for the Brits to invade Chicago once again. I have seen Saxon twice before in a large venue and small venue and I have to say this was the best they’ve sounded and played thus far. The sound even up front was super crisp with Nigel Glocklers tight drumming blending perfectly with both guitarists as well as Biff who was in top form singing every high and low note with ease. The only casualty was Paul Quinn bleeding almost the whole set all over hist strings but he played it off all night quite well even if he was more focused on playing than anything. Nibbs Carter I will always consider Saxon’s second front man as he is just as energetic as Biff perhaps more. The band played a wide range of songs with the new album being a large focus with I believe at least half of it being played. Where with some bands this can be way over doing it, Saxon are not afraid to let new songs shine and every song sounded as classic as the classics themselves. One of the biggest highlights was the band doing “Predator” with Nibbs handling the death metal growling vocals it was great to see them bring that one to stage. The band of course played all the classics (Power and The Glory, Dallas 1PM, Wheels of Steel” etc.”) and played an impressive two hour set that only they could match. The best moment personally was watching Biff wear my vest during Denim and Leather. It was just one of those moments as a fan that I’ll personally never forget.

Overall, this was a no brainer show for me personally and easily the best show i’ve seen them put on as well as the bands mentioned above(well mostly). Saxon always put on the great live show and even if you aren’t a huge Heavy Metal fan, they are just a great band musically to see live. The energy, the history and the whole vibe that carries on through their performance spanning forty years of hard hitting music really is worth it. Even when the band throws candy into the crowd at the end as a little easter joke, it is just a funny memory that adds to a great evening of music.