(Concert Review) LEGIONS OF METAL 2019
Review by: Mark McQueen
Okay readers, here were my rankings from a LONG weekend of Legions of Metal 2019. I made it to 22/23 of the bands that weekend. My apologies to Traveler, but traffic prevented me from getting there in time for their set. (Clearly the irony is noted). I also only caught the back half of Paladin on Friday night. Still, considering I did a 5K in between two 8 plus hour metal fests, I am figuring I’ll call the weekend a win.
Under the Good, the Bad and the Odd this weekend:
The Good - I got to see a lot of good music and talk to some interesting people. Top of that list was Randy “No Fun” Kastner. Great metal encyclopedia of knowledge. Thank you for sharing some time this weekend. (P.S. if anyone wants to see great video footage of many of the bands that played this weekend, check out Randy’s Facebook page. Some awesome footage on there. Randy Kastner RKMetal.)
The Good - with a 3-Floyds tap takeover at the fest this year, I got to try several 3-Floyds Beers I would normally never see. I enjoyed both styles of Berliner Weiss and their take on a Dark Fruity Belgian. The Bock and the Milk Stout were just so-so.
The Bad - Nothing really…just tired. Long weekend.
The Odd - About 10:30 the first evening, a guy came up to me and asked, “How old you?” (That was not a grammatical error. That was how he asked it.). When I replied 52, he shook my hand, said “Much respect my friend.” And walked away. Come on…I know my beard is white and long but it’s not like I was at Legions of Metal Civil War edition sharing a scotch with Lincoln.
Okay: on to the rankings. Usual disclaimers in effect. Slotting, set not the band,..blah, blah, blah. You all know the drill.
1. Paladin 73/100
I got there a little late from Fridays lovely Chicago rush hour traffic, so I only caught 3 songs from this set, and one was a Maiden cover. Hard to judge much and it was the first act, so I assume sound was still getting fully dialed in. Over-all they seemed like a bar-band-power-metal act.
2. Tzimani 73/100
California thrash band. Most interesting aspect of them was their name. Otherwise they really didn’t do anything for me.
3. Smolder 74/100
Female led sort-of-doom act, (which made them a minority genre at this fest). Singer was a long-haired blonde who apparently went to the “Jex Thoth” school of doomy stage moves. She must have only gotten a B+ though because they were less “doomy” and more kind of like she was stretching for yoga. Her voice also lacked clarity, but the music was okay.
4. Fatal Curse 76/100
Somewhere between thrash and speed. Truthfully, they had pretty clear vocals, but in this case the music just seemed average at best.
5. Hammered 77/100
Similar in style to Fatal Curse, in that they were between speed & thrash. There was nothing to dislike, but also nothing to write home about either. A nice little middle of the pack band.
6. Anguish 77/100
Speed/punk metal 3-piece reminiscent of Motorhead style of music. Not bad at all, but when you see and hear that style, you can’t help but long for Lemmy.
7. Knights of the Forge 78/100
Epic name so I was interested. Unfortunately, just some guys looking rather ordinary, so no cool image or anything. They played power metal in the vein of Dragonforce with the screams and the shreds. Unfortunately, with no visual to help, it was like seeing a comedian at Zanies vs. seeing George Carlin at the Forum. I laugh and have a pleasant set but it’s not like that guys going anywhere any time soon. Kind of the impression I get here. I enjoyed the 30 minutes, but then I already forgot much of what they played.
8. Demon Bitch 78/100
Same sort of thing here. Cool Name. CD’s had cool images on them. I wanted to like these guys. Maybe with some time they would grow on me, so I did get a CD to give them another shot. Live though I just wasn’t into the singer’s voice. It was clear, but something just seemed disjointed about their set. Since my ranking just looks at the set I heard, this is where they land.
9. Lightning Wolf 80/100
New band just doing their 1st release apparently, so they only had about 20 minutes of original material. Kind of a speed and NWOBHM fusion. They would have landed lower on the list, but they finished with a cover of Priest's "Turbo Lover" and the singer came really close to completely nailing the high parts. I figured that gave them potential and I jacked the grade up a couple for a good version of a tough to cover song.
10. Rammit 81/100
This was an odd review as the singer had a broken jaw and was unable to perform. Instead, he got the woman who sings for Siren Hex to step in. Songs were anthemic speed metal kind of stuff. Like KISS sped up from 33 1/3 to 45. I thought she did a nice job thrown in like that although… apparently to her… a sentence without the word “Fuck” in some variation…was NOT a real sentence.
11. Solicitor 82/100
First full act I saw Friday night and for a kick-off it was good. The singer is a large girl who screams METAL with the multi-colored hair, jewelry, large amounts of tattoos, sex kitten nylons, and big hit cleavage. Pretty much just hit all the buttons. (Hit ALL the buttons Bob, one of them MUST mean go).” Still, great energy and as a kick-off to the second stage, she did exactly what she was there to do. Warmed up the crowd for a day of Metal.
12. Children of the Reptile 83/100
Kind of power metal with some doom sprinkles thrown in for flavor. Pretty clear vocals, but I would have liked a little more power and range in them. Still, another impressive second stage band.
13. Overlord 83/100
These guys hit the stage with an intro tape and wearing leather and spikes like metal knights. I was initially psyched at the commitment to image, but the sound was less than I had hoped for. I thought during the 1st half of the set the drums and bass overwhelmed the vocalist and when you present an image like that, I think, as the vocalist, you need to really command the stage in a big way. I didn’t see that until near the end of their set. I did feel they got better, (thus the decent ranking). They just didn’t ever live up to the hype when they came out with that big entrance.
14. October 31 84/100
Now these guys I have seen before, although it has been several years. Lead singer King Fowley now has grey in his beard, a bald spot the size of a Friar Tuck character in the back of his head and seems to be up to XXXXL size shirts, however he is still a commanding performer. He jokes, sings, screeches and owns the stage in the way I wanted Overlord to do. I do enjoy an October 31 set, although it does always seem kind of like a loose collection of songs rather than a set. Like this is happening at my buddy’s summer-pool-bash-kind-of-thing, rather than on a festival stage.
15. Salvicion 85/100
Pretty traditional metal, but the singer had this Robert Plant quality. Not in sound, like Gretta Von Fleet, or anything like that, rather just in his natural moves and shakes and head bobs. They were enjoyable for me, but fell just short of me going to the merch table. I bumped them a point for a good cover of “Doctor. Doctor” by UFO.
16. Icarus Witch 85/100
Unusual looking band. The bass player looked like he belonged in Skynyrd, the guitarist in Black Label Society, the drummer in The Backstreet Boys and the singer teaching me 10th grade history. (Note: apparently the singer also does vocals for Brimstone Coven…thank you Mr. Kastner…the Stephen Hawkings of metal knowledge). Despite the odd look, the set was good, the voice was clear, solid and the music was enjoyable. My eyes may have been confused, but my ears were happy. Oh, and my mouth was happy too, but that was probably the beer.
17. Twisted Tower 87/100
My 1st trip to the merch table was for these guys. Good clean, strong singer and better than average power metal act. Looking forward to hearing them again. First awesome job of night #1.
18. Open Burn 87/100
Same thing here on Night #2. Singer had a Bruce Dickenson Iron Maiden quality to him, although the band did not have the dual guitar attack (which I think would have made their material stronger). Still, I enjoyed this set and headed to the table for them, as well.
19. Liege Lord 87/100
The night #1 headliners were a mix of power, speed and traditional metal. They missed out on the 90+ by virtue of a rather ordinary dress and stage appearance for a headliner. I would have liked to see more of a “show”. The singer had the vocal power to pull it off, but I think he was only 85% of what he could have been. I suspect these guys are 30+ years past their prime, so I am still calling them a worthy headliner for the night and I left the fest feeling like I got way more than my money’s worth for night #1.
20. Culprit 88/100
Although billed as the co-headliner for night #1, I felt Culprit presented a bit better. They came off as a “touring” band. That feel you get that makes them a little more professional and polished. It’s generally in their dress, actions, and stage mannerisms. These guys presented a “Show” and only the fact I thought their singer was a little weaker than a couple I had heard that day, kept them from hitting the 90+ level. A very good set, and with them, (plus Liege Lord), to end an already good day of music was some nice booking.
21. Eternal Champion 89/100
Power Metal in the style of Sabbaton, just not as good. Epic and heavy with a very commanding stage presence and story-telling songs. These guys were the perfect choice to go before the Fest headliner because they weren’t overwhelmed by it. They came out and hit hard and heavy, and gave a very strong performance. Very confidant band.
22. Cirith Ungol 90/100
No surprise here that the fest headliners Cirith Ungol (in their Chicago debut) would be best in show. With 40+ years of experience, these guys already know they are the shit. The important thing about this ranking is that they are ‘Icon Status” which means I know what they can do and thus they have to live up to my expectations to keep their number/grade high. Ungol did that tonight, hitting the stage hard as Hell and seldom letting up.
Their slower paced songs drip with heaviness and that iconic voice just powers through you leaving chills as they hammered out old and new hits. “Black Machine”, “Finger of Scorn”, “Fallen Idol”, “Master of the Pit” were all powerhouse numbers, but of course that scream on “King of the Dead” is an amazing vocal achievement similar to Bruce Dickenson’s scream on “Number of the Beast”. This combination of loud, long, and so damn powerful had the guy two rows ahead of me just shaking his head and exclaiming “THAT’S METAL!!” All my fancy words and that guy says it all in two. Cirith Ungol…THAT’S METAL! Perfect.
Okay, as always thanks for following along. Comments and corrections are always welcome since that’s how I learn and grow in this hobby.