Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Trivium-The Sin and the Sentence (2017)

Post #384

Trivium are always one of my top favorite bands. They have continually challenged themselves with each album they've recorded, and keep shifting gears between aggression and toned down melodies. 2017's The Sin and the Sentence is no different. While their last album, Silence in the Snow, was the most melodic one they ever recorded, being practically devoid of the hardcore screams, this latest album brings them back, at least for a good percentage of the songs. The result is a truly balanced Trivium album that shows every strength the band has to offer. It is their most diverse release since 2011's In Waves (previously reviewed here).

The Sin and The Sentence opens with the title track, and it is a furious metalcore classic- it fades in only to launch into a driving riff with overlayed lead guitar, and Matt Heafy begins with his melodic vocals, but they are complemented by his furious screams at the bridges and choruses. Different passages of the song shift from hardcore screams to melodic singing, while the instruments teeter back and forth in the same fashion. Lastly I must compliment the lyrics. Matt Heafy is a brilliant lyricist in my opinion, and this song is packed with thought provoking lyrics such as: “I know the true monsters lie between the light and the shade.”

From there each song brings a new formula, or a new combination of their bag of tricks, so that each track is unique in its own right. By this stage of their career, Trivium have become such craftsmen of metal music that nearly every song is a work of metal mastery.

Their first single from the release was The Heart From Your Hate. This song was an instant favorite of mine when I first heard it, and it remains so today. It’s the kind of song I can’t hear without upping the volume a bit. I always like to think this song carries an anti-racism theme, and picture the lyrics as  challenge to anyone who hates, “What would it take to rip the heart from your hate?” Truly, in today’s times, there is no room for hate.

I cannot really find a song on this album I would not recommend. So bear this in mind with my following recommendations. By no means should you stop with these, but rather use them as a starting block with which to delve into the entire album. These may be my personal favorites, and the best of the best, but that is not to say the rest of the tracks are not great as well!

Recommended tracks:
-The Sin and the Sentence
-Beyond Oblivion
-The Heart from Your Hate (see official music video below)
-Sever the Hand
-Beauty in the Sorrow
-Thrown Into the Fire

Friday, December 6, 2019

Diamoth-Exhibition of Reality (2019)

Post #383

Diamoth are a Christian Black Metal band form Arica, Chile. This may seem an oxymoron of sorts, as the term 'Black Metal' originated to describe bands with anti-Christian views. Therefor a more accurate description for Diamoth (or other bands in this situation) would be 'Unblack Metal'. By virtue of the genre's definitive vocal style consisting of screams and shrieks, to the casual listener the majority of lyrics seem unintelligible. For listeners who go for the overall feel of their music, and put less concern on the specifics of lyrics, they may appreciate black metal and 'unblack' metal equally.

Nonetheless, Diamoth identify as 'Christian Black Metal', and deliver their heavy and demonic-sounding metal with the best of them. What I particularly like about their sound is that they hang onto many stylistic elements from the early days of death metal: riffs that build, progress and move the music. Tempos that show variation- they have several slower-tempo grinders in addition to the faster-paced thrashers. Many of their songs remind me of early-80's Sepultura.

Exhibition of Reality, their newest release, is a 'Black Metal' style album with its claws dug into the thrash-influenced origins of the genre. My aforementioned similarity to Sepultura is highly present throughout Exhibition of Reality. A true benefit to getting the physical CD copy would be the fact that they include scriptural inspiration for each song in the liner notes.

Recommended tracks:
-Awakening (This song is the first on the album and kicks you in the teeth with speed-driven riffs!)
-Pride and Powerless (This one is one of the slower grinding songs. It has a lot of riff changes that give it an almost progressive vibe)
-Preacher of Lower Passions (This one starts with a slow intro, but soon kicks into high gear and is a great, riff-fest of a thrasher!)
-Baal (The album's closer- this is a mid-tempo grinder with chugging riffs. They do have a lyric video for it on youtube. See the link below!)

(review copy of Exhibition of Reality provided by Peter Smith of Frozen Tundra Records.)

Monday, November 25, 2019

King Diamond-Dreams of Horror (2014)

Post #382

With a new album on the horizon for 2020, it seems a good time to review this 'Best of' collection from King Diamond...

King Diamond (the singer/songwriter/front-man for this band of the same name) is a master of his own unique style of heavy metal music. This is the band he started after the break-up of his previous band, Mercyful Fate (also a key influence within the genre). The heavy guitars, numerous guitar solos, and fast-paced rhythm may be the trademark for the musical formula, best described as traditional, power, or classic heavy metal, but there is also so much more... King Diamond (the singer) is best known, in heavy metal culture, for his incredible vocal range: he possesses an incomparable falsetto that he blends with his middle and lower-registers within songs, often changing his singing style to match various characters' parts within the deeply thematic songs. This brings me to the next point that must be made about this music: King Diamond (the band) are equally famous for their ability to write cohesive concept albums. Practically every King Diamond album is a heavy metal rock-opera, telling a complete story with intriguing, and often demented, plots. Lyrically their music deals with concepts ranging from corruption, mental illness, demonic possession, exorcisms, and other themes of the occult. of Horror is further recommended for anyone with even a passing appreciation of, or curiosity for, the music of King Diamond for the following reasons.
-First, this collection was hand-picked by the band themselves. Each and every track is re-mastered to create a perfect listening experience. From the performers' own opinions, these are the essential songs that best represent a cross-section of the entire King Diamond catalog.

-Second, as a career retrospective this collection bridges the two labels (Roadrunner Records, and Metal Blade Records respectively) that have released the King Diamond albums over the past 30 years. Specifically, Disc One is subtitled 'The Roadrunner Years' and features songs from each of that label's 5 early releases from 1986-1990, while Disc Two is subtitled 'The Metal Blade Years' and thus features songs from each of that label's 7 releases, spanning 1995-2007.

-Third, with King Diamond (the band) now actively touring again, it is their intent to heavily feature these tracks in their set-lists on current and near-future tours.

So, whether you are a die-hard or casual fan, a newcomer to the music of this band, or a loyal long-time follower, THIS IS THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION of King Diamond music.

Recommended tracks:
Roadrunner Disc:
-Dressed in White
-The Family Ghost
-Black Horsemen
-The Invisible Guests
-The Eye of the Witch

Metal Blade Disc:
-Black Devil 
-The Puppet Master

Sunday, November 24, 2019

2019 Independent Band of the Year: Dear Deadly!

Post #381

Congratulations to Dear Deadly, the 2019 Independent Band of the Year! This year's reader's poll was competitive, and had several lead-changes during the polling period. It is also notable that it was the first time all 7 bands' vote totals reached double-digits. Dear Deadly took the lead about halfway through, and while other bands closed the gap, Dear Deadly managed to hang on to enough of a lead to finish in 1st place with 140 votes. Watch for a review of their music, promos for their live shows, and other content for the 2020 calendar year.

Thank you as well to all the other bands that made 2019 a memorable contest:
So Called Saints
Sons of Ra
and Toxic Ruin

Happy Headbanging!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Motley Crue-The Final Tour (with Alice Cooper) 8.8.14

Post #380

(Concert date: August 8th, 2014)
Motley Crue were one of the best known metal bands of the 1980's to come out of LA and were a dominant force in the hair/glam metal scene for over a decade. They set some notorious standards for the decadent lifestyle clich├ęs of heavy metal, rock and roll culture during this era. With this tour, they we giving all their fans from over the years a chance to see the original line-up one final time. To make the 'Farewell Tour' even more convincing, the band signed a cessation of touring contract! Whether that holds true or not, time will tell, but for this night I was treating it as my last opportunity to see the Crue in concert!

Their opening act was the shock-rock veteran, Alice Cooper! Alice opened the show in style as he delivered a great set of songs ranging from classics like 'No More Mr. Nice Guy', 'I'm 18', and 'Billion Dollar Babies' to some later-era selections like 'Dirty Diamonds' and 'Feed My Frankenstein'. The best was his closing number, 'School's out', where he seamlessly incorporated a verse from Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part II'. (this version of the song has a studio-recorded version on Alice's all-star collaboration with Johnny Depp: Hollywood Vampires!)

Then it was time for Motley Crue! Their set opened with the autobiographical 'Saints of Los Angeles', and from the start they were off and running. While I truly enjoyed everything they played, I did have a couple favorites that stood out above and beyond the rest of the show. ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ is an undeniably great song. Their early number ‘On With the Show’ was memorable and not necessarily expected. Then when they played a portion of Sirius’ arena rock staple ‘Rock n Roll part 2’ as an intro to ‘Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room’ I felt I had truly heard something special.

They finished off a great set, compiled of all their greatest hits, heavily focused on their late-80's heyday. Truly, when it comes to farewell tours, I don't think you can expect a deep set list to go beyond the major hits and fan-favorites. The only thing is I wish they had toured more consistently, but between break-ups and reunions, revolving doors of members, and health issues, they really didn't have a chance to be consistent. At least they gave the fans this farewell tour. For that I'll always be grateful.

Thank you to Vince, Nikki, Mick, and Tommy, for creating the music you did, performing it for us one last time, and best wishes for you all.

-(The Underture)
-Hello, Hooray
-No More Mr. Nice Guy
-Under My Wheels
-I'm 18
-Billion Dollar Babies
-Dirty Diamonds
-(Drum Solo)
-Welcome to My Nightmare
-Feed My Frankenstein
-Ballad of Dwight Fry
-I Love the Dead
-School's Out (w/ verse from Another Brick In The Wall-Pink Floyd)

-Saints of Los Angeles
-Wild Side
-Primal Scream
-Same Ol' Situation
-Looks That Kill
-On With the Show
-Too Fast for Love
-Rock N' Roll Pt.2/Smokin' in the Boys Room
-Without You
-MF of the Year
-Anarchy in the UK
-Dr. Feelgood
-In the Begining/Shout at the Devil
-Don't Go Away Mad
-Drum Solo/Guitar Solo
-Live Wire
-Too Young to Fall in Love
-Girls Girls Girls
-Kickstart My Heart
-Home Sweet Home

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Iron Maiden - Legacy of the Beast Tour (8-22-19)

Post #379

When it comes to heavy metal concerts, there are few artists that can be compared to Iron Maiden in terms of stage shows. With their Legacy of the Beast Tour they prove once again that they have an incomparable stage show, while also delivering a career spanning set list that left few Maiden fans wanting for anything else.

Their opening number was “Aces High”, and with this song they spared no expense. Mere seconds after the intro of Winston Churchill's speech, there was an enormous cloud from fog machines out of which emerged a life size WWII Spitfire fighter plane! Complete with a functional propeller and suspended like a marionette above the stage, the plane soared, or dove, or banked and turned throughout the entire song. I spent the whole 5 minutes with my jaw agape at the amazing spectacle. And this was just the first song!

They went on to bombard us with great hits, classic concert staples, nostalgic nuggets they've not played live in years, and quite a few surprises- both in song selection and special effects! "Flight of Icarus" included a gigantic winged figure with lines of fire that destroyed the wings, giant canvas back-drops that told the story behind many of the songs. It was a full experience both visually and audibly.

Although there were no tracks performed from either of their 2 most recent albums, that was probably by design- this was after all the Legacy of the Beast tour, so those songs that Maiden’s legacy is built upon deserved their moment in the spotlight, flames, and glory. Their set featured songs off of 10 different albums, and still they found time to include some deep-tracks in addition to the expected classics.

One personal favorite among those 'deep-tracks' was "For the Greater Good of God" from the A Matter of Life And Death album. (See my thoughts on that specific album in this post) Another welcomed surprise was the fact they included songs from both albums from the Blaze Bayley-era; "The Sign of the Cross" from The X-Factor, and "The Clansman" from Virtual XI!

With pyrotechnics and stage props that literally brought the songs to life in some cases I can honestly say that I’ve never been as impressed with a concert as I have with the Legacy of the Beast! This show was one for the ages, and I can’t imagine where they’ll go from here. But I certainly hope I’ll be able to see Maiden again on a future tour.

Iron Maiden's setlist follows:
-Aces High
-Where Eagles Dare
-2 Minutes to Midnight
-The Clansman
-The Trooper
-For the Greater Good of God
-The Wicker Man
-Sign of the Cross
-Flight of Icarus
-Fear of the Dark
-The Number of the Beast
-Iron Maiden
-The Evil That Men Do
-Hallowed be thy Name
-Run to the Hills

Happy Headbanging!
#Legacyofthebeast #Ironmaiden

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Hu - The Gereg Tour (Milwaukee, WI 9/13/19)

Post # 378

The Hu are a Mongolian 'folk-metal' band that have gained much attention since they had 2 music videos go viral in late 2018. They describe their genre as 'Hunnu Rock', and really stick to their roots, using traditional Mongolian instruments like the Morin Khuur (aka “Horse-Head Fiddle") and the Shudraga (a Mongolian 3-string guitar). They incorporate just enough drums, bass, and backing guitars to cross-over into the rock or metal genres. Not to be overlooked, they employ the native Mongolian throat-singing vocal style. It truly must be heard to be fully appreciated. A very cool sound, and it lends itself well to the rock and metal style. I can’t wait to hear more from this band!

I was very fortunate to see them on their first tour through the US in support of their debut album ‘The Gereg’. It was Friday the 13th of September this year, the very day their album “The Gereg” was released! A friend and I made the short trek from the northern suburbs of Chicago up to Milwaukee, made our way to the Rave and prepared to hear this new band exhibit their music for our enjoyment.

Even while entering the venue there was a unique vibe to this show. Their was a guy outside dressed in what I presumed was a traditional Mongolian warriors uniform. He was open to posing for photos so we did. I’m still not sure if he was with the band, their road crew, or just a local guy dressing all-out to support the show and Mongolian culture, but it sure was cool! Inside, we found the merch booth and each collect an autographed copy of “The Gereg”!

After a short opening set by a DJ that played some digital music, they set up the stage for The Hu. Moments before it seemed they were schedule to come out the restless crowd took up the chant of  “HU! HU! HU!...”

The Hu took the stage with their Morin Khuurs, Shudraga, drums and a couple backing musicians with guitar and bass. A brief  “Hello. Milwaukee!” brought a welcoming cheer from the crowd and they began their opening number, “The Same”. It was a slower mellow number but with pleasant melodies and a nice groove. Next they played the title track from their debut album “The Gereg”. It was a little more upbeat and you could feel the crowd getting more into the music with each measure.

Another song from their album they played really got the crowd rocking out. That song was “Shoog Shoog”. They’ve since released a lyric video for it. Another very catchy tune was “Uchirtai Gurav”- this one I managed to film a long segment of, and I still enjoy listening to the clip I have: it has a great throat-singing solo by Gala in it. Check out the link!

During the majority of the show the singer would speak to the crowd in Mongolian. The crowd responded enthusiastically, as a fair percentage of those in attendance appeared to be Mongolian as well. My friend and I cheered along anyway. It was the spirit of the moment! It wasn’t long until they played their 2 songs from their viral music videos: “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem”. If you have not seen either of these music videos you’re missing out. Here is a link for Wolf Totem.
Their closing number was a really heavy, rocking tune! They actually announced this song’s title in English, “This is the Mongol”. It proved to be one of my favorite songs of the evening. Many of these songs are surfacing on YouTube as fan-filmed concert footage, but I sincerely hope they record some of these other songs on their next album.

The concert seemed to be over, but after about 5 minutes they came out on stage again! The crowd cheered for an encore. They proceeded to play their video hits, “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem” a second time, closing with raucous cheers by the crowd and a humble, appreciative bow from the band.

Soon after the concert I created a set list on, and added the tracks I knew from their album, in roughly the order I could recall them. Not understanding any of the Mongolian lyrics didn’t help, but thankfully my friend and I had taken several video clips during the show and we matched titles to the melodies we recognized. Several tracks seemed to not even be on their album, but since creating the set list other users have filled in most of the gaps. If you attended the Milwaukee show for this tour, here is the set list link:

Set list for The Hu
-The Same
-The Gereg
-The Song of Women
-The Legend of Mother Swan
-Uchirtai Gurav
-Shireg Shireg
-Bii Biyley
-Yuve Yuve Yu (linked to my video from this show!)
-Wolf Totem
-The Great Chinggis Khaan
-Black Thunder
-This is the Mongol
-Yuve Yuve Yu
-Wolf Totem

Feel free to login and edit if you have a better recollection of the song sequence!

Happy Headbanging everyone!
And thank you to The Hu, for touring the USA! I hope it has been a wonderful experience for you, and I look forward to seeing you in concert again someday.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Independent Band of the Year Reader's Poll 2019

Post #377

Welcome to the 2019 Independent Band of the Year readers poll! This year marks the 11th annual contest for I want to thank all the bands participating this year for agreeing to be part of this contest. Please, after previewing music from the bands that interest you, click the link above (or at the end of this post) to cast your votes! Without further delay, let me introduce this year's contestants and give you a brief description and some song suggestions for each of them...

So Called Saints (Rockford, IL)
(Hardcore Metal)
So Called Saints are a hardcore metal band form Rockford, IL. They fuse heavy riffs, rich bass tones, electronic elements, and a show-no-mercy hardcore scream into a powerful, bone crushing sound sure to make metal heads mosh. Serving up brutality with a full-spectrum sonic production quality rarely heard of, this band will get your head banging and your ears bleeding!
Check out their songs:
-Seven Deadly (youtube)
-Monsters N Madmen (youtube-lyric)

Dismalimerance (Chicago, IL)
(Black Metal)

Dismalimerence are a black metal band form Chicago, IL. They give you the expected black metal shrieked vocals, yes. They deliver blistering tempos that would challenge any drumsticks’ integrity, true. However they also give you melodic breakdowns with acoustic guitars and clean melodic transitions. They build back up to their expected intensity, seamlessly blending progressive elements into their dark and haunting sound.
Check out their song:
-Sequestered Hearts (youtube)
-Sequestered Hearts (bandcamp audio)

Sons of Ra (Chicago, IL)

Sons of Ra are a progressive rock/jazz fusion metal band from Chicago, IL. They embrace the free and open jazz structure and blend the guitar soloing, heavy riffs and jazz beats into instrumental jams that satiate the cerebral music lover, and give the emotional outlet that metal heads crave. To get a taste of their esoteric formula there’s just one thing you need to do...
Check out their songs:
-AntiFragile (youtube)
-Persona Non Grata (bandcamp audio)

Molder (Joliet, IL)
(Death Metal)

Molder are a death metal band form Joliet, IL. They actually describe their genre as “pus-riddled death metal” to be accurate, and the description holds up to their sound! If you like your death metal filled with picturesque visions of gore and horror, then Molder is the band for you! They have harsh, mid-range guttural vocals, heavily distorted guitars (of course), but do utilize a variety of tempos to grind your guts out quickly or slowly.
Check out their songs:
-Necrobiome (bandcamp audio)

Foredoomed (Joensuu, Finland)
(Melodic Death Metal)

Foredoomed are a melodic death metal band from Joensuu, Finland. They really pack a versatile formula into a 3-piece act. Deep, dark, disturbing death metal vocals- check. Heavy guitars- check. Soaring symphonic keyboards, and melodic vocals to match- check. Clean guitar riffs, full fret-board guitar solos- check. To hear how they blend all these elements together you should probably...
Check out their songs:
-Blood Red Sun (youtube)
-Dead Candles (bandcamp audio)

Toxic Ruin (Sheboygan, WI)

Toxic Ruin are a thrash metal band form Sheboygan, WI. They don’t kid around, keeping the riffs heavy, the pace break-neck, the vocals screamed out with fervor. Very technical riffing and blast beat drumming galore. If you utilize metal music for emotional venting, or workout pacing, or just glorious head banging, then Toxic Ruin is your band of choice.
Check out their songs:
-Mental Atrophy (bandcamp audio)
-Insolent Obsession (youtube)

Dear Deadly (Willowbrook, IL)
(Alternative Metal)

Dear Deadly are an alternative metal band form the Chicago suburb of Willowbrook. Fast and catchy riffs permeate their formula. Guitar solos showcase their talent and a scratchy melodic voice delivers their edgy yet beautiful metal music. This band has a fast and heavy sound with hooks around every corner. To hear their grit and grace in harmonious action...
Check out their songs:
-Deviant (youtube)
-Very Wicked Things (bandcamp audio)

Please click this link to cast your vote:
(previewing songs or videos DO NOT COUNT AS VOTES!)
The poll closes at midnight on Sunday, November 17th, 2019!

Happy headbanging!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Act of Destruction-Beyond Eternity (2019)

Post #376

Act Of Destruction have returned with their 2nd independent release, Beyond Eternity. Roughly 4 years have passed since their debut Extinction, which I reviewed previously. In that time the band has seen some changes. One change was the addition of David Kraus on guitars and backing vocals. Kraus is also guitarist and lead vocalist from Scars of Armageddon (another former winner of my Independent Band of the Year poll), so if you're familiar with their sound, then the backing vocals should sound familiar!

Beyond Eternity starts off with Eternal Combustion. This song is sure to be a crowd pleaser to their established following. It has their classic formula of rapid-fire drumming, melodic-death/hardcore vocals by John Bravo III, intricate guitar riffs and unarguable talent with guitar soling. The production seems even crisper than their debut, which was already great! It's like a perfect hybrid between metalcore and melodic death metal.

Ascending Into Glory has an initial guitar riff that fades in. They slow the tempo down slightly, but otherwise is another great song, complete with a great guitar solo. This one seems to have some power metal influences outside of the vocals.

Spiritual Infinity is where Act of Destruction up the ante, and give us all a new twist to their formula. When the chorus comes around, Kraus' soaring melodic vocals blend in with John Bravo's harsher, death-metal growls. The resulting sound surprised me at first with its contrast in style, but it works! It will simultaneously quench your rage and pierce your eardrums. There is again fantastic riff work, and substantial guitar soloing- a true winner of a song!

The Source is a different combination again. With another display of slower-tempo riffs, Act of Destruction showcase their whole package here. The vocals are primarily John Bravo's hardcore growls, but the backing vocal formula includes both Kraus' melodic screams and Nigel Bravo's deeper, guttural death metal vocals are present as well. Then, we also get some spoken word passages by Nigel. The lyrics throughout this EP have been orbiting themes of philosophy, conservation and more esoteric concepts like religion and science fiction. This song is again like that, and has one of my favorite lyrics: "Your tears are the rain upon the blinding dust of the Earth."

Starkblast is a crowning jewel on this recording effort. Clocking in at over 7 minutes, it is the band's longest recording yet. It brings progressive metal elements into the fold more than they've done before. Again the vocal style is a 3-fold revolving door with the Bravo brothers providing the hardcore and death-metal growls, and Kraus the melodic elements. They also have guest vocals by Pindy of Armored Assault! Closing it off are more esoteric spoken word passages by Nigel Bravo, backed my Kraus' fading melodic screams.

Visit Act of Destruction's Bandcamp page for downloads, or find them in iTunes or on Spotify!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Midwest Springfest 2019 at Penny Road Pub

Post #375

On Saturday, April 20th, 2019, Penny Road Pub in Barrington, IL hosted a festival of rock and metal music known as Midwest Springfest. Starting mid-afternoon and running non-stop all through the afternoon and evening, no less than 14 bands got their turn to inundate our auditory senses and show off their variety of talent.

I unfortunately arrived too late to catch Mary Vaughn, Mudfish, and 20 Spot. I did arrive just in time to catch most of The Kringe's set, and then saw every band after that. The venue utilized both the main floor and basement stages, and set times were scheduled so that roughly as one band finished up their set, the next band was about to go on. So it was relatively easy to see every band.

The Kringe

The Kringe were a hard rock band- not aggressive enough to be called metal, but this fest was a broad spectrum 'rock' format, so it was a bit of 'anything goes'. The Kringe were an old-school rock band, and if I had to name their genre then and there I'd say they were 'sleazy blues-rock'. I could detect some influence from the likes of Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Zeppelin.


Then it was upstairs to catch Greywall. Greywall were a hardcore, alt-rock band. Their vocals were harsh screams offset by scratchy melodic singing. They could be compared to Seether or Three Days Grace. Blend that with Nine Inch Nails and you may not be far off. They definitely had a gritty and raw sound. I was about to be lulled into their ambient dark mood when they hit overdrive and the guitars screamed heavy and distorted along with the vocals. The headbanging was quite enjoyable, and I knew this fest was going to have much variety in store.

Greywall's Set:
-Red Dahlia
-Idle Wrist
-The Withering

Toxic Ruin

Toxic Ruin from Sheboygan, WI brought the intensity up a few notches. These guys are old-school thrash, and good at it! Fast and complex riffs, technical drumming and raspy growled vocals. They had the crazies headbanging in an instant and didn’t let up for their whole set. They even included a cover of 'Crystal Mountain' from Death’s iconic Symbolic album. My neck now thoroughly loosened up, I headed back upstairs to catch the next act.

Rachels Bully

Back up to the main floor and Rachel’s Bulky were set to go on. These guys were more old-school rock n roll. They were so intense the shorted out a part of the sound system on their 2nd song. After a short delay to repair the sound system, they were back at it, rocking out to the core. A few more songs into their set they switched it up with a ballad, but then returned to their comfort zone of hard rock with a sleazy edge. I'd recommend them to fans of Buckcherry or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Prison City Brigade

Prison city brigade, from Joliet, brought something new again, showing us a taste of hardcore punk! They had some crowd participation in their name sake song, as they had us chanting “We are! We are the brigade!!” The guitarist came into the audience and jammed one of their songs right there among the crowd. This band gave it their all and poured their hearts (and sweat) out on the stage.

Blacken the Day

Blacken the Day were fortunate to be able to play, as one of their guitarist was just released from the hospital the day before. They didn’t disappoint. Self-described ‘Jazz-metal’, they are the product of a jazz singer who joined a metal band, so both influences were apparent in their sound. Their riffs were heavy with an alt-metal vibe, their singer's vocals melodic and clean. This brought a nice contrast to their sound and delivery


Monroe's sound was a welcomed mix of hard rock and alternative metal. They delivered a heavy, rocking set while keeping the crowd engaged. Their bassist was sporting a Genotype t-shirt, a hint that they also were representing the Rockford scene. Track for track, Monroe delivered a loud rocking performance and songs with catchy grooves.

No Clear Way

This band again brought something new to the mix. Heavy guitars, and a deep toned-bass groove set the foundation for their singer's post-grunge inspired vocal style. There was evident of the influences of Scott Weiland, Eddie Vedder and the like, but backed by a more metal style. Theirs was another engaging performance with more bands yet to come!


With only a few bands left to perform, it was finally time to catch Genotype, the winner of my independent band poll last fall, in concert! I first reviewed them after they played Dame Nation back in 2013. Since then I had followed their social media, but never had another chance to see them live. Once they started playing it was obvious they were worth the wait! They opened with 'The Dream' from their latest album- Genotype III, and their intensity was at 11! They play a style of metalcore, mixed with electronic elements. Vocalist Kadie Kirby delivers both melodic and screamed vocal styles, with equal mastery of each style. Charles Esposito and Shaun Combee keep assaulting the audience with heavy riffs and killer solos. All the while drummer Remington Roberts keeps an intensely tight beat with rapid blast-beat drumming. I was especially blown away by the vocal range displayed in their track 'Drifting to the End'. They are an amazing band to see live. I'd try to catch their next show if I were you!
-The Dream
-Temple of Saturn
-Drifting to the End

Dear Deadly

The Penultimate band was Dear Deadly, and they performed a more traditional style of metal. Sharp guitar tones, frequent solos and a scratchy but clean vocal style had me pegging them as power metal. Their vocal style was clean singing, but with a power and edge that it hovered at the bring of a scream for the majority of their set. For a comparison I might look to the early works of Bullet for My Valentine, or In Flames. Their songs had great hooks! At one point I thought I heard a guitar solo that mirrored the melody of  'La Vida Loca'. Check out their song 'Deviant' and see if you hear the same!

-Face to Face
-Bad Habits
-Very Wicked Things
-The Devil You Know
-The Hopeless
-Papercut (Linkin Park cover)

By this point of the show there had been so many great performances that I found it hard to believe the show organizers could have possibly saved the best for last, but then Alethia took the stage, and I was soon proven wrong. Alethia were a true metalcore band. Fast, technical, complex riffs, and a hardcore screamed vocal style, they pushed the adrenaline through the roof! Still, more than just the intense and heavy sound, they incorporated segments of melodic phrases and clean backing vocals the give their sound a sophisticated and professional delivery. I was banging my head as intensely as I had all night, and their musics power reminded me of the likes of Killswitch Engage, or August Burns Red.

At the end of this truly rewarding metal music fest I had definitely added many bands to my list for must-hear music. I have downloaded, or bought their CDs online, and highly recommend you do the same! Check your iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, Reverbnation, facebook, and Youtube for these bands, their catalog of albums or EPs, their most highly played songs, add them to your own playlists and spread the word to your own metalhead friends!

Thanks you for reading, and as always, Happy Headbanging!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Genotype: 2 upcoming shows for May, 2019

Post #374

Don't miss your next chances to see Genotype live in concert! Genotype have 2 upcoming shows in May.

First, the are Opening for Stitched Up Heart on Friday May 17th! This Friday night show is at the Apollo Theater in Belvidere, IL. Show goes on at 7pm! Tickets are $10.49 in advance, $20 at the door.

And on May 26th they are performing in McChesney Park, IL as part of A Family Fun Night of Metal. This Fun Night starts at 5pm.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Interview with Genotype on April 20th, 2019

Post #373

While attending Midwest Springfest 2019 at Penny Road Pub I managed to catch a few members of Genotype for a quick interview. Click the audio below and hear my discussion with Kadie, Shaun, and Remington about their inspiration, creative process within Genotype, and plans for the near future. (oh and there is a brief appearance of Justin, their bassist, at about minute 7:23 when he arrives and asks us for tips on where to park...)

After the interview, the band got back to preparing for their set, while I went back to listening to as many of the other performing bands as I could. Please follow this blog and I'll have a full review of Midwest Springfest 2019 up soon!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Catch Genotype at Midwest Springfest at Penny Road Pub on April 20th!

Post #372

2019 Independent Band of the Year, Genotype, will be performing this coming weekend on April 20th at Penny Road Pub's Midwest Springfest 2019!

Tickets are $10 in advance if purchased from the performing bands, $12 at the door. Doors open at 2:00pm, show starts at 2:30pm. 15 confirmed bands! 2 stages with alternating set-times so you'll be able to catch every single act! All-ages show until 8:00pm!!

Don't miss Happyheadbanger's reigning Independent Band of the Year, GENOTYPE, performing songs from their latest release, Genotype III and others.

For more information, click the image below to be directed to the facebook event page:

Happy Headbanging!!!

Monday, March 11, 2019

KISS-End of the Road Tour (3/2/19-Chicago, IL)

Post #371

KISS are a legendary rock-n-roll band that have influenced multiple generations of rock and metal musicians over a career that has spanned nearly 5 decades. They boast the largest discography within Mercury records, hold the record for most Gold albums by an American recording artist, rewrote the rules for the rock-n-roll concert stage show with pioneering theatrics, and have secured a place in the official Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. However, the members of the band are not as young as they once were and this time around they have called the tour "The End of the Road Tour: The Last Tour Ever". However, some critics claim that they have done a "Farewell Tour" once before, so why should we believe them now? That question can be debated as much as you like, but in the end, time will tell. As it always has.

These questions aside, I did approach this concert as if it will be the last chance I'll ever have to see this band in concert. I've long held to the statement that KISS are my all-time favorite band. I am constantly discovering new metal bands, both on the national and local levels, so on any given day there could be a different band that I hold in the highest regard. However, when I look over the course of my music-listening life, the timing, scope, and longevity of KISS all play a role in keeping them high on my ever-growing list of favorites.
(myself in Eric Carr's 'Fox' makeup)

So for this show I was all-in. I put on my 'ultimate fan' hat, outfitted myself in KISS swag from my head to my toes, and yes, even painted my face like a member of the band (this time I chose the late Eric Carr). I left my pipe-dream hopes and expectations of any reunion with past members at the door, as I had heard enough interviews that consistently ruled that scenario out. I simply went with the hopes to see this current KISS lineup of Gene, Paul, Eric and Tommy deliver a selection of songs and performance of music that would exhibit a diverse representation of the band's long and storied career. With this as my frame of mind, I was not disappointed. By the end of the night, I was grateful to have witnessed the KISS live show for quite possibly the last time.

From the moment the lights went out KISS were on a mission to give us a final performance that fulfilled a fan's expectations no matter what year they may have begun to follow this band. They opened with their classic hit, 'Detroit Rock City', descending from the rafters on stage-lifts, with laser-lights and fire balls erupting from the stage. There was no looking back from there. KISS kept the show rolling as best they could. They gave us a good mix of anthems, ballads, and heavier tunes.
(photo by Amanda Dean Morell)

Early in the show, Paul Stanley said they were going to represent every era of the band. By the end of the show I can say they did a fairly good job of that. True, it is difficult to represent every era when a band has 20 studio albums (24 if you count the 4 solo albums). If I looked at their set list under a magnifying glass I could say they skipped a few albums (no 'Hot In The Shade', no 'Revenge', no 'Monster', or 'Elder', or 'Carnival of Souls'... no 'Unmasked'). But I was looking on the bright side. They covered all of their biggest hits, and best-known anthems, and with the first 'Alive' album being their most successful and possibly their best-known release, it's no surprise they still play many songs from that era. But they did perform 'I Was Made for Lovin' You' from the 1979 'Dynasty' album, 'War Machine' and 'Heaven's On Fire' from the 1980's, and 'Say Yeah' from 'Sonic Boom' (one of only 2 albums recorded by their current line-up). So in the end they did represent the spectrum of KISS quite well!
(photo by Brian Batt)

Their classic theatrics were all there: pyrotechnics, elevating drum riser, laser light show, fireworks shooting from the guitar, and of course Gene Simmons breathed fire and spit blood at different points of the concert. Paul Stanley rode a zip-line out to a small platform stage in the back area of the main floor to sing a couple songs- a stunt he has done for several recent tours. Gene Simmons was lifted to the rafters to sing 'God of Thunder'.
(photo by Mary Ionetz Brodnick)

With all of this in mind, I must say that my favorite part was when they played 'Lick It Up'. Ever since they incorporated a segment of The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again' into the breakdown segment of this song it has become a concert experience to behold. They did not disappoint, as they performed this song again with the extended breakdown.

They closed their main set with 'Black Diamond', a classic song from their first album, and Alive! From the clean intro, the crowd participation elements, and slow closing segment of the song, the crowd went crazy right to the end. Then the lights when dim to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.
(photo by Jerry Downing)

A few minutes later it became clear that they had saved the best for last. The first song of the encore was 'Beth', sung by Eric Singer. The cool thing about this song was that for the first time in all the years I've seen KISS in concert, Eric actually played the song live on the piano, instead of singing along to the recorded instrumentation like he usually does. I only recall one other tour where they played the song live instead of singing along to the recorded music, but even then it was on acoustic guitars. This was on the piano, as the song is meant to be played. Thank you Eric Singer for making this a memorable performance!

After that they played 'Do You Love Me?' and of course 'Rock and Roll All Nite'! They dropped balloons from the rafters, blew confetti into the air, lifted Gene and Tommy on cranes out over the crown on either side of the arena, and ignited a lot of pyro in the ultimate concert finale. The crowd went crazy as they finished their show with this classic anthem. It was a night I'll never forget.

Thank you again to KISS for all the music and memories through the years. You let us drive you wild; we let you drive us crazy!

KISS-End of the Road setlist:
-Detroit Rock City
-Shout it Out Loud
-Say Yeah
-Heaven's On Fire
-War Machine
-Lick It Up (with medley of 'Won't Get Fooled Again' by The Who)
-Calling Dr. Love
-100,000 Years
-Cold Gin
-God of Thunder
-Psycho Circus
-I Love it Loud
-Let Me Go, Rock N' Roll
-Love Gun
-I Was Made for Lovin' You
-Black Diamond
-Do You Love Me?
-Rock and Roll All Nite

For more pics and videos from this concert on March 2nd, 2019, please visit this Facebook event link, posted by KISS, and filled with comments from the KISS Army of Chicagoland! Lastly, I wish to give a sincere thanks to those who gave permission for me to use your photos in this review. You guys rock! Happy Headbanging to all of the Kiss Army!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2013 Interview from Orion Music and More with Tony Asta from Battlecross

Post #370

Here is another audio file I recently rediscovered, and never shared before on this blog. Granted, the transcript of this interview was posted back in 2013 and you can still read that post here. However, I do want to provide the audio form of the interview, and will hope to include audio files promptly after any future interviews I may conduct. Thank you for your patience!

My interview with Tony Asta- lead guitarist from Battlecross:

2013 Interview from Orion Music and More: Cauldron's Ian Chains and Myles Deck

Post #369

After several years I uncovered the audio files from 2 interviews I did at Metallica's Orion Music and More in Detroit 2013. I realize this is an opportunity to put these discussions online where they belong. I apologize for not including the audio back in my initial reviews of that music festival. The conversations were transcribed in those old posts, but there is much to be enjoyed by hearing the audio itself. Hopefully this is an oversight I will not make again in the future!

My interview with Ian Chains and Myles Deck from Cauldron:

2018 Independent Band of the Year-Final Results

Post #368

Although the responses to the recent Independent Band of the Year readers poll are always viewable at the google form link:

I did also want to post a graph of the final responses within this blog itself. I apologize for the delay.
Here are the final poll results:

Thank you again to all the bands for participating, all of the readers of this blog and fans of each individual band, past winners for you nominations, and anyone else who may have voted for any band in this contest. Congratulations to Genotype for their well-deserved victory.


Happy Headbanging!!! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Genotype-Genotype III (2017)

Post #367

Genotype recently won our Independent Band of the Year reader's poll in late 2018. You can visit their main website by clicking their link in the sidebar. Today I'll be reviewing their latest independent recording, their 3rd full-length album: Genotype III.

Genotype are a melodic, hardcore metal band who incorporate some electronic elements into their sound. It gives their music a futuristic, post-apocalyptic ambiance. They've been promoting their music at various local venues between Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI since 2012.

Genotype III holds true to their established elements and shines as cohesive, consistent hardcore metal listening experience, with a top-notch production quality. It showcases the vocal range of Kadie Kirby as well as, if not better than, their previous release, Design Intent, reviewed here. Her aggressive screams are on par with those of Alexis Brown from Straight Line Stitch, but at times she also shows off her melodic side, giving Genotype's music even more dynamic qualities. Here are some thoughts on each track of Genotype III.

Antiquity-The album-opener wastes no time getting into the fast riffs, aggressive vocals and technical prowess this band has to offer. The moderately fast verses are broken up by double-time choruses, and melodic breakdowns alike!

Defiance-Another winner, this track switches the formula around slightly, opening with a melodic verse that gives way to hardcore choruses. Lead guitar solo is reminiscent of the late Oli Herbert from All That Remains. Well done!

Cyberfi-This track is a bit slower on the tempo, but maintains the band's heavy edge. Segments of the song are driven by the rhythm section as guitars cut in and out.

Silence-Perhaps my favorite track, and certainly the one I've heard most frequently- this song has a music video they filmed to promote it. It was also one of their featured tracks in the recent Independent Band competition. Very tight production, very heavy song, and as always, tremendous skill on display with every instrument and the vocal performance! Check it out for yourself:

Light Worker-Here is the true boundary-pusher for this album, but in the lighter direction. This one is entirely melodic in tone, slow and soft in delivery, but still a very enjoyable number. A track like this to break away from the band's typical formula may be taking a risk, but it's well worth it, and makes the album as a whole a better product.

The Dream- This song slowly fades in with some electronic elements, but then they hit you with the heavy, hardcore vocals again. A melodic chorus and elegant lead guitars layered on top the hook-laden riffs deliver us back around to another hardcore verse. A song that meanders through their repertoire in a good way!

Synastry- Another winner that opens with clean vocals over  heavy, pounding riffs, broken up by ambient melodic breaks, then a transition to powerful hardcore vocals, blast beats and killer riffs. Smooth transitions and a mood that flirts equally with uplifting and dark tones.

Darkstar (Afterglow, featuring Michelle Esposito)- Starts off with slower, heavy riffs with middle-range vocals. Nothing over the top tempo-wise but the guest vocals on this one bring a new dimension to the music. For the most part this song stays true to the melodic side of vocals, while the instruments ebb and flow between clean and heavy.

Lo_Drift-A steady heavy riff is perpetual in this song, while the vocal style switches things up between the screams and the melody.

Temple of Saturn- One of the darker, more aggressive songs on this album. This one will give metalheads a fulfilling headbanging experience.

Praeteritus- In a similar way to their previous Design Intent album, Genotype close the album with a more experimental, electronic-focused number. Segments of spoken phrases by Kadie send a take home message to the listener- live without regrets.

Don't forget to check out Genotype's Spotify page!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Breaking Down the Numbers-2018 Independent Band Poll

Post #366

While initially I was not pleased to have to use a different format to conduct my most recent poll for Independent Band of the Year, I did discover that the Google Form approach allowed me to customize the poll a little further. For those of you who voted, you probably noticed that I added an extra question this year, asking you to check the songs you previewed prior to casting your vote. That is, after all, the goal of this contest: to get more people to actually hear the music from these unsigned bands that deserve to be heard. I was very curious to see how many respondents actually were listening to the songs.

The point of the poll, as always, was to determine the most popular band, so the 'Favorite Band' question was required for the poll. The 'Songs Previewed' question was optional. Still, the majority opted to respond- less than 10% did not respond to the 'Songs Previewed' question. The results were interesting, following a slightly skewed Gaussian curve:

There were 125 total responses to this year's Independent Band of the Year poll. Nearly half of those responding (44%) previewed only tracks by the band they voted for. This was expected to a certain degree- I did encourage all contestants to share the contest among their fans and campaign for votes in any way they saw fit. I was encouraged to see that so many respondents took the time to listen to at least one other band, and a fair amount of respondents (almost 22%, more than 1 in 5) listened to at least 1 track from every contestant, if not every single recommended track. (each band except Mediums had 2 tracks featured in the contest.)

Here is a graph depicting how many plays each song received:
(Note: The bands Genotype and Guardsman requested one of their tracks to be changed after the contest was already underway. Hence you see 3 tracks for those bands, but they only had 2 tracks recommended at any given time.)

Clearly the top 2 vote-getting bands, Genotype and Ditchwater, received slightly more song-plays. However, I was quite pleased to see that every band received a good balance of song-plays. 

I look forward to trying this approach again next year. Whether it will again be through Google Forms or some other format I can't say for sure.

Thank you to all who voted for any band in this year's contest. Watch this blog for a review of Genotype's album Genotype III coming very soon!

Happy Headbanging!