Show Review: Judas Priest at Grossinger Motor Arena, Bloomington IL 04/08/18

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Heavy Metal in Illinois was alive and proud and a bit grey on the Night of April 8th, 2018 in the heart of Bloomington. I had taken a near two hour car ride to stay down there for the weekend hoping the trip was worth it for the show.  Considering I had never heard of the venue I was curious because I’ve been to some I’d never been to and they were absolutely terrible. However, space wise they didn’t even use the whole arena and almost smacked the stage right in the middle. Either way it was a good call considering no matter where you sat or stood it was a fantastic view of the stage. Besides the halls becoming a little crammed it wasn’t too bad of a venue.

Black Star Riders

First band up for the night was Black Star Riders who are essentially Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy fame’s solo band. Their sound meshes that classic whole vibe of classic Thin Lizzy all the way to their vocalist having a similar style to Phil Lynott’s. While I am not a gigantic BSR fan, They are an enjoyable band enough live and their songs definitely are more lively and heavier in a live atmosphere. Mostly, I am happy to see Gorham still up there doing it and seeing them pull out “Jailbreak” was a nice little throwback. Besides the shoddy feedback that seemed to resonate from time to time, I’d say they were a reasonable and energetic opener.

Saxon

How many times can I talk about Saxon this year? Seriously especially since this was my second time seeing them this week. However, for this show I was in the seats even though I really wanted to be back down in front like the week before. However, I found the most enjoyable part just seeing the band play on such a large stage in America, and the crowd turn up for them wasn’t bad either! However, after their set I was still pleased to have seen them do an intimate show on this tour considering this set was mainly an abridged version of the week before. Nearly same songs(take away a few) and some numbers cut in half like”Denim And Leather”. However, seeing them get a relatively healthy reaction from the crowd at the closing notes of “Heavy Metal Thunder” made me happy to witness these British metal legends. Seriously seeing Saxon live will never get old, even after four times I feel they almost always outperform the show previous.

 

Judas Priest

Finally, as the current fell over the stage, it was time for the almighty Judas Priest to take the reigns much more. This was my second time seeing the band since 2015 and I have to say holy hell they sounded a lot better this time around. Now don’t get me wrong, the band was very hot on the Redeemer of Souls tour and pulled an impressive setlist that time around. But the band overall sounded very alive and were mixed better here than when I saw them at Rosemont. The biggest drawback obviously was not seeing Glenn Tipton on stage. To me he is the real icon of Priest and it was weird just not seeing him up there but I have to commend Ritchie Faulkner for really taking the reigns. He has proven himself to be one of the most vital members in Judas Priest history. He essentially saves the band and Im sure if he wanted to, he could take over all solo guitar duties. However Andy Sneap I feel did a stand up job and felt really tight and gelled well with Ritchie on stage. While richie took some of the most well known solo’s such as the middle segement in “Sinner” and all the part on “Painkiller”, He did duel with Sneap on songs like “The Green Manalishi” and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”. He even pulled off the solo’s in “Electric Eye” and “Hell Bent For Leather” very well. The stage set even felt super 80’s and even looked like something out of the “Turbo” tour which I really dug as well instead of just big screens. Halford holy hell, he sounded way more lively than the last tour as well even pulling deep cuts like “Saints In Hell” show just how well is voice has still aged. And finally, the setlist was about as solid as can be. While I would have liked to see some more cuts from Defenders on this tour or even Turbo or Ram It Down considering they are celebrating anniversaries, it was very solid with cuts like “Grinder”, “Bloodstone”, “Running Wild”,”Sinner” and plenty of others including three cuts off the new amazing album “Firepower”.

In short, go see this tour if you havent bought tickets for future dates. the band is still as hot as ever and still dish out these songs with faith and plenty of fury live. With new blood brings new life and Judas Priest in 2018 have entered a new era that keeps them running strong and this show proved just that.

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

Saxon 2018

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.

Album Review- Saxon: Thunderbolt

 

Saxon are back with their twenty second studio effort entitled “Thunderbolt” and once again have brought another solid offering of Heavy Metal numbers that will please old school fans as well as newer fans of this generation. Now obviously its no spoiler as Saxon have been on a steady run of quality work for the past few years. However, I feel this album sticks out a bit more than say “Battering Ram” or even the very quality output “Sacrifice”. Opening with the very atmospheric instrumental “Olympus Rising” we see the band head into the title track which at first didn’t grab me as hard but after repeated listens it just amazes me that the band still sounds so visceral and tight. Biffs vocals are still just as powerful with his older age adding a bit more grit throughout the years. The band then heads into another high energetic number with “The Secret Of Flight” keeping up the epic pace with almost borderline Power Metal influences.

The track “Nosferatu(The Vampire’s Waltz)” has this awesome Gothic undertone with a haunting chorus throughout and works for Saxon I think it is something different that keeps your attention throughout. Probably the most emotional track on the album is “They Played Rock N Roll” in the sense of being dedicated to Motorhead and played in the true Motorhead Punk/Speed fashion. It is a great testament to the band considering no members of the classic line up are with us anymore. With the next few songs the ban really focus on keeping the consistency on Heavy grooving traditional driven cuts with the mid paced but catchy “Predator” with some death metal vocals that actually work quite well for the tempo and overall character of the song. “Sons Of Odin” has this old school epic metal sing along feel to it I really like that we once got from the likes of acts like Dio. the latter part of the album keeps up with more galloping riffs in songs like “Sniper”, “A Wizard’s Tale” and the almost throwback to “Motorcycle Man”: Speed Merchants. this song is just as lethal and is one of my favorites presented and shows Saxons roots at its full extent. Finally, we have “Roadie’s Song” which is a good closing mid paced classic sounding track that caps of a very consistent album.

Saxon are like bands Accept and a few others in that they can release many albums this late in their career with a sound that honestly doesn’t change much. For some bands has become a death knell in the sense of my interest of their new releases becoming less and less each time. However Saxon accomplishes to keep this album more fresh with a good amount of creativity put into alot of these songs with the classic sounds, more experimental moments and some welcomed surprises. I’d say this is a strong output and will be able to please just about any Saxon fan out there.

Headbanging Highlight of the week: Thunderstick- Something Wicked This Way Comes

Characters or persona’s in bands have been around for nearly forever. From Alice Cooper to Lizzy Borden and everyone in between, musicians creating a sort of different character on stage has always been present. One of the most recognizable ones (in the underground at least) however comes from cult Hard Rock/Heavy Metal group Samson. Thunderstick was that musician. Replacing drummer Clive Burr to play on all of the classic Samson albums such as “Head On”, “Shock Tactics” etc., he developed this character who wore a mask playing his kit in a cage which became an image that really helped Samson stand out live. He also was an early drummer for Iron Maiden and has a lot of connections with them but that’s for another time…Recently, he has reappeared on the scene with his solo band after years of being dormant. Entitled “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, we see his style almost come full circle with an extreme throwback to the Samson sound of old. But is it listenable or is it just a cheap throwback of tired ideas?

The album right from the start gives off a strong bouncy classic rock vibe more or less what Samson in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Opening track “Dark Night Black Light” is such a fun and very bumping song that has that catchy 70s hard rock vibe with a production that I really like. It definitely has a stripped down production with every instrument being mixed fairly well. Tunes like “Don’t Touch I’ll Scream” and “Fly N’ Mighty” have a very mid 70’s melodic rock feel which work well and are catchy fun rock tunes that get stuck in my head whenever I hear them. Vocalist Lucie V. handles herself great with a very dirty and bluesy rock voice that is one of the biggest highlights on the album. But what about Thunderstick himself? Well he definitely carries the drums wonderfully across the album with that unmistakable very tight style he has always had. My personal favorite on the album is “Thunder, Thunder” as it is probably the most fist pumping song on the album and the most reminiscent of that NWOBHM style. However, the album definitely isn’t perfect as there are a few songs that I tend to just pass over such as “The Shining” which feels just repetitive or even closer “I Close My Eyes” which just feels like a boring ballad and sort of a weaker way to end the album. However, there are enough tracks that redeem the album for the few boring moments it can have.

Overall, The album is a simple fun nod of the old Hard Rock style of the late 70’s with a great musician making a return to making music. It isn’t game changing or anything like that but it has some fun charm to it. It is a good driving album and one that any fan of classic rock and old school heavy metal will enjoy. There’s the great songs, the good songs and a few songs that could have been reworked or left off.  However, if you are expecting straight up heavy metal you will be disappointing. While the album has some harder edge in sections, it is still a rock album but an enjoyable one that is nice to see pop up on the radar that you’ll enjoy from time to time.

Headbanging Highlight of The Week: Jaguar- Power Games

 

Welcome back for another Headbanging Highlight of the Week! Well Frost and Fire in Ventura California is only a month and a half away and i’m gearing up big time to see some of the best of the best from today and yesterday. One band in particular is Jaguar from England. This will be their first outing in the US making for a very rare and special performance. Their 1983 ferocious debut “Power Games” has been on repeat a lot this week for me and definitely should be on your playlist too!

One of my favorite albums of the early 80’s, the reason is mainly the bands no nonsense break neck speed and fluid songwriting. With almost punk like songwriting, the band manage to take it into more heavy metal territory with frenzied soloing that is structured just enough to fit the songs melody and catchy lyrics belted from Paul Merrell. There are some softer more ballad-like moments from songs like “Master Game” which still keep the raw heavy metal feel in tact all the way through. The band you can tell have a lot charisma from their performance especially from how tight their playing is. The band also excel at creating memorable hooks through their songs having the vocals simple and ferocious yet adding a touch of melody to keep them being memorable like songs such as “No Lies” and my all time favorite “Prisoner”. This album carries that early 80’s traditional/speed metal tradition which is one of the main reasons they have such a cult following today. I also highly recommend their early singles leading up to this album such as possibly their most famous “Axe Crazy” and “Back Street Woman”

Overall, this album is simply an early  masterpiece showing the future of heavy metal becoming faster and more aggressive but still being true to that NWOBHM sound. This album has so many highlights like “Dutch Connection”, “Prisoner”, “Raw Deal” and just about every other track. It keeps a very consistent pace and is one you need to hear or own if you haven’t heard it before. For lovers of NWOBHM and pure unabashed heavy metal, check this one out. Also, if you have a chance, check them out at Frost and Fire this year along a lot of great other acts, it surely won’t be a performance to forget.

“British Steel- The Rising Force of British Heavy Metal” compilation to be released in September

 

As a heavy metal fan, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal will always be one of the most important movements in the genre’s history. However in the modern day we see yet another legion of young and hungry bands coming from Britain and that is exactly what this compilation is all about. Featuring some of the best up and coming acts such as Seven Sisters, Amulet, Wytch Hazel and many many more, this album will be an amazing representation of the return of British Traditional Heavy Metal in all it’s glory. I am excited for this release personally as the NWOBHM gave me some of my favorite artists of all time and this feels like my generations answer to that. The album will be released September 22nd, 2017 through Dissonance Productions and Back On Black records.

Track listing

01. Amulet – Highwayman

02. Aggressive Perfector – Harlot’s Spell

03. Eliminator – Lost To The Void

04. Dungeon – Queen Of Sin

05. Dark Forest – Where The Arrow Falls

06. Toledo Steel – Rock Nights

07. Vuil – Iron Witch

08. Seven Sisters – The Witch’s Eye

09. Insurgency – Destined For Death

10. Neuronspoiler – Slay The Beast

11. Wytch Hazel – Freedom Battle

 

E.P Review: Rock Goddess- It’s More Than Rock N Roll

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“It’s More Than Rock N Roll” is the brand new E.P by classic Heavy Metal trio Rock Goddess and was released May 19th, 2017. This marks a long comeback for the band since it is their first time releasing new music since their 1987 album “Young and Free”. So after all this time, is the e.p worth the wait? Or do we see a band unfortunately fall flat on the pavement all these years later?

 

Track Rundown

1.It’s More Than Rock N Roll-Opening with some heavy slow drumming with a suspended guitar riff with Jody Turners heavy hitting vocals which are my favorite thing about this ep and the band in general. The vocal work has always been quite strong. Unfortunately this song seems stale to me. It just lacks a lot of creativity mainly in the verses it just lacks a lot of power. The production feels really flat too with he drums sounding too hmm up front I suppose? They sound too shimmery to me. Overall the song has a good chorus and fun solo, but unfortunately it drags too much and lacks a lot of power that you hear on those early records.

2.Back Off- this song has more of a simplistic NWOBHM feel to it mainly in the riffing and I feel the production works a bit more in this songs favor. I do feel the bass could be a bit higher in the mix but this is definitely an improvement over the first song. It isn’t anything mind blowing, but its an alright tune.

3.We’re All Metal- Now this song has those lyrics that I am always a sucker for, no matter how cheesy they are. Those “Metal lives forever” kind of lyrics are always great but the song unfortunately suffers from the same shortcomings as the title track. Although I like where the band were heading with this song, I feel it again lacks a bit of power which mainly is because of the production. It’s another track that is okay but feels somewhat uninspired.

Overall, I give this e.p a 2.5 out of 5. Rock Goddess’s return to the metal world is one that leaves a bit to be desired. The songs although not terrible, lack a lot of staying power and are hindered by a production that seems way too shimmery sounding on the drums and just doesn’t sound as organic as they could. I still hope that the band puts out a full length again at some point but for right now, I feel this e.p is mainly if you are looking to complete a collection or something to put on once in a great while.