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: Shokker-III

Shokker

“III” is the debut album by Chicago traditional Heavy Metal group Shokker and was released on May 9th, 2017. Now Shokker have been on a list of newer Chicago bands such as Spillage, Scars Of Armageddon and others that are definitely have chops when it comes to their original sound retrospectively. Finally Shokker have released their full length and it’s time to delve into hopefully a great start for these Chicago mainstays.

Track Rundown

1.III-Opening with some really raw sounding chugging guitars into a more old school Heavy Metal beat with some more hard rock feeling , this tune has a really cool groove with Rachl Quinn’s vocals punching through super hard. She is definitely a powerhouse of a vocalist and it shows with this tune. Overall, this is a good opener with a good groove to it all around.

2.Hammerhead- This song has a very Y&T feel to it and is definitely one that I imagine works very well live. This tune also sports one of my favorite choruses on the album as well it really hits you hard and has a good hook to it. Casey Tremont really lets loose on his solo on this song and is a very solid guitarist, I just wish his solo’s were a tad higher in the mix. One of the heaviest tunes on the album.

3.Snake Eyes- This is another good tune in the vein of that early 80’s american metal vibe. It has a good simple straight forward beat to it that almost has a Dio-esque feel to it. The evil sounding background vocals are definitely a nice touch and the chorus is pretty strong as well and retains a more hard rock feel to it. A very straight forward but very fun song.

4.Life & Despair-The vocals on this song are some of my favorite on the album as they really seem very up front and with the infectious and simple hard driving riff it makes for a good song with a timeless sound. The chorus is one of my favorites as well with the shouting backup vocals. However, I do wish they were a bit higher in the mix so they could pop more. Overall, it is a good oldschool heavy metal tune done faithfully.

5.Adrenaline-This tune is probably the fastest on the album and is definitely my favorite for the power it packs. From the very strong vocal deliveries to the very on point guitar soloing, this is a tune that I would show everyone when being introduced to this band. This is definitely a prime example of a song that is made to be played live.

6.Blessed Be-This tune opens with some very shimmery flanged guitars and even though it is a more somber opening than the last few songs, it still has a catch to it that sets it apart from being a ballad. It soon enough kicks into a more Priest-esque riff and is done quite well. Shokker I think would have faired well in the 80’s with the very big hooks that their songs I could just see them turning up on MTV in 82-83. The chorus for this tune is possibly the strongest on the album for me and really hits hard. Overall, this is another song that has a solid structure to it that doesn’t feel monotonous especially this far into the album.

7.Turn Around And Run-That fucking scream that opens this song always gets me going even on my eighth listen, it still catches me by surprise. The song is yet another offering of that Heavy Metal/Hard Rock feel and at this point in the album I’d like to see these guys get to the size of Halestorm or bands like that because I honestly think they pack as much power for that size of an audience, possibly even better. Especially with how solid of an album this is seven songs in, this band is definitely one of the most solid I’ve heard from the Chicago area in recent times.

8.Midnight Sun-This tune has a major Thin Lizzy “Thunder and Lightning” era feel to it from the Sykes feeling riff to the very melodic backup vocals in the chorus that are a very nice touch as well. This is one of those songs that you play over and over just to hear the chorus again and again the band just hits the nail on the head really well with this one.

9.Hello-This song is definitely the most ballad-like track on the album and has a lot more of a melodic tone to it than any other song and is definitely the highlight of the the album vocally as Quinn really gives it all she has. It isn’t a bad tune at all as it does break up the pace a bit and the more raw production does tend to help this song as the guitars seem to pop a bit more during the clean parts. Overall, not a bad tune but it is kind of short for my liking

10.Justified-This is a decent closer as it is one of the more straightforward tunes on the album but does feel a bit lacking as every time I hear it, it just kind of ends. I feel like a bit more time would have made this song just be an epic raging closer. It does end on a weaker note compared to the quality of songs earlier on the album.

Overall, I give the album a good 7.5 out of 10. Shokker definitely managed to create a raw good heavy metal record with some hard rock ideas mix about and it shows in the songs. While the production can be a bit muddy and the band are definitely not reinventing the wheel, the charisma in how these songs are performed on record are more than enough to show that this band has good things to come. Hopefully this record gets around enough for them to branch out further and get people interested. Definitely if you are into that Y&T/Krokus sound or early American metal kind of sound, Pick this one up for sure it is a good time.

The New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal

The New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal:  The underground sensation today

When most people in 2017 hear the words heavy metal, they usually think of either Metallica, the bands in the mid 1980’s that wore way too much make up or the bands of this generation such as Disturbed, Lamb of God or Five Finger Death Punch. Some even say that the original sounds from heavy metal that really helped it become a genre are gone. I mean the styles that the early speed metal, thrash metal and of course traditional heavy metal bands played. The denim and leather “true” heavy metal style seems to be absent in the world to at least most heavy metal fans today. However, in the past roughly ten to fifteen years, the underground has been literally exploding with bands that play this style and very faithfully as well. This scene has been known as “The New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal”.Now what exactly did this movement consist of? Well exactly what it sounds like. It is essentially a bunch of bands that play a style of heavy metal that was originally popular in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Within this article I hope to show everyone that the underground is very much alive showing some of the bands that essentially were here when it began to kick back off as well as groups emerging today that I will spotlight.

       One of the first NWOTHM bands I had ever heard of was Canada’s Cauldron. Their 2009 debut album “Chained to the Nite” really showed the 80’s power trio sound similar to groups like Raven and the nasally vocal works akin to groups such as legends Angel Witch. This album was released in the early development of the movement but was a good debut for the Canadian group who have been on an upswing and released “In Ruin” in 2016.

 

Another group that came out around the same time was Swedish speed metallers Enforcer who released their debut “Into The Night” in 2008. Enforcers style belongs more along the lines of Judas Priest or even the brash style of Exciter. Their most recent studio album “From Beyond” was released in 2015 and could be considered one of their best albums since forming

 

Possibly one of the most prominent NWOTHM groups that have surfaced in more recent years is California’s Night Demon. Their sound really sits at the core of the New Wave of British Heavy with bands like Jaguar and Diamond Head. Specifically their lead singer and bass player Jarvis Leatherby has made himself a prominent figure in this movement as a big promoter of traditional heavy metal bands new and old. He has also played bass with Cirith Ungol and provided vocals for Jaguar in some circumstances as well. Night Demon’s debut album “Curse of The Damned” released in 2015 I consider to be one of the finest albums and possibly most popular out of this underground movement and has seen them on tour with some high profile groups such as Raven and even opening for Anvil this spring as well. The band is also set to release their second album entitled “Darkness Remains” in April 2017.

 

 

Another one that popped onto my radar was Chicago’s very own Shokker. Although they never personally identified with the NWOTHM label, I can’t nail their sound to anything other than fist pumping heavy metal. They could have easily come out in 1984 and would have been a hit. Led by powerful vocalist Rachl Quinn, The band plays a mix of NWOBHM based heavy metal and a very powerful hard rock sound popularized by groups such as Y&T and Krokus. They released their self titled EP back in 2015 and a debut album is soon to follow, keep em on your radar they kick ass. The group is also currently working on a full length album as well.

Another group that popped up on my radar this year is Carriage out of Portsmouth, Virginia. Carriage have a mix of Horror film themes and early cult speed metal sounds from the likes of King Diamond/Mercyful Fate and Exciter.Their vocalist Robbie Rainey told Glistening Metal  “There is something about it that speaks to me at the core of who I am and I enjoy writing this kind of music more because it feels just like it sounds, like there are no boundaries and it’s somehow more honest. It’s not a genre that feels restricting yet it’s still distinct enough to stand apart.” The band are currently out on the Divebomb records “Masters of Metal Vol. 2” compilation and are working toward some bigger plans later this year. They are definitely one to watch out for. You can hear their music in the link below.

https://carriagemetal.bandcamp.com/track/drink-the-blood

 

 

So overall we have only a slight incite of this massive movement known as the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal and is only going to grow from here. Other groups that I would like to recommend include Detroit’s Demon Bitch, Seven Sisters from the UK and even another Chicago group entitled High Spirits. These groups are the real future to Heavy Metal and even though they are shy of the public eye, they prove that the underground will never die and will thrive on. So go out and support the NWOTHM!