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(Live Review) BLADES OF STEEL FESTIVAL - Day 3 (Exciter + Massacre + Destructor + more)

The Beard & Little Johnny

Today marks the third and final day of the Blades of Steel Metal Festival. This will be show #57 and will cover bands #256-266. That’s right, eleven bands are taking the stage in just twelve hours. Super Saturday is a marathon of metal.

On today’s schedule: Lost Tribes of The Moon, Olathia, Kurnugia, Vermillion, Harbringer, Agresor, Morbid Saint, Cardiac Arrest, Destructor, Massacre, and Canadian headliners Exciter . This will likely be one of the longest days/nights of metal we have experienced all year.

Fortunately, upon entering the venue, I was lucky enough to run into Chris E (vocalist from Cleveland band Olathia), who as luck would have it saved my regular seat for me. After I thanked her with a beer, she was kind enough to pose for pictures and gave me a copy of their newest CD. That is certainly an effective way to start your band’s review off favorably.

But before Olathia hit the stage, first up today, (from Milwaukee) were the odd amalgamation of black and doom known as ...


A female led five-piece band that has been around since 2017 and has opened for a few name bands such as Trouble. Honestly, the music initially seemed messy. I felt like they were going for atmospheric occult rock, but muddled was a more appropriate adjective. This sort of musical style can at times be purposely discordant, so I knew I needed to allow space for the piece to develop. Some of the guitar work by Jon Liedtke was good, but even as time passed, I just was not appreciative of Julie Brandenberg’s voice.

The Beard loves Occult Rock, and if I had to compare this to something, I think it would be fellow Wisconsin Occult act Jex Thoth. A kind of “witchy” thing where the music is slower paced and has movements rather than normal structured verses.

The movements between the atmosphere sections had some structure, but I felt they needed more work in making it blossom. As the set went on, it grew on me a bit because of my natural appreciation for the occult rock sound, but in my opinion, they need polishing. I would like to compare their studio cuts to what I heard live.

Based just on that set, and their being the opening band of the day, I will go 78/100.

Second up was a mix of thrash and power metal from Cleveland Ohio ...


Touring behind a 2022 EP Madness Reigns, this band does tread between power and thrash metal, not fully immersing in either. Good guitar and drumming by Dylan Andras and Brian Donahue. Vocalist Chris E’s voice is plenty strong, but I felt it could use a bit more clarity as I struggled to really follow the songs lyrically.

Olathia did generate the days very first pit and Little Johnny happily pranced around in circles with a few of his brethren, like kids at a Metal Maypole.

By the third number, I was beginning to tune into Chris E’s voice better and thereafter (for me) the songs improved. I will need to check out some studio stuff where she is mixed better to compare the live vs Memorex.

The between songs rap was traditional rah-rah stuff, but Chris E does rock a black dress and boots and if you are going to be a metal lead singer that certainly does not hurt. Normally, I am not big on the “covers” thing, but if your EP is called Madness Reigns then closing with "Hall of the Mountain King" by Savatage seems almost required and their version of it was done well.

Today, being the second band up on super Saturday, I am content going 82/100. They were both entertaining and knew what they were trying to do up there.

Third up were Ohio death metal act ...


Another early chance for Johnny to get wild. Kurnugia were quite melodic for death metal; no over the top guttural Cookie Monster gargling broken glass on vocals and not insanely fast at everything else.

Kurnugia is a sports car going ninety. They can push it faster when it’s called for, but mostly, they stay at that pace and just rock. Kurnugia impressed me far more than I might have thought and as the Beard has long known, every fest has that one “sleeper band” that blows you away out of nowhere.

The large sized pits they are spawning are keeping Johnny active. He’s found some other attendees looking to cut loose on a Saturday and I have to think more beers and eventually shots are not far behind for the lad. “Pace it Little Dude. There are eight more bands after this one.”

Kurnugia was so inspirational they even generated a mosh pit with a Nun in it. I can’t “not” give somebody a good ranking when they can do that. 89/100

Fourth up today was more death metal from ...


This was the more guttural version of death metal. That displaced Demon type vocals from Kurt Manthe with the high squealing guitars of David Veroff and thunder drumming by Scott Chazen. I’ve learned to be okay with that style, but during the slower portions of their songs Johnny said it was like Zombie mosh.

They were playing behind their 2022 EP Tales of the Dead. Of the first four bands, I have got to say this was my least favorite. 75/100

Fifth up tonight was California speed metal act ...

HARBINGER (Not to be confused with the UK metal band)

This Harbinger is speed metal, but it seems to be lacking in every aspect of it. Vocally, it seemed unclear and scratchy. Guitars are a hundred miles an hour but never seem focused. To my ears, they are just playing as fast as possible. It is like a crash course in noise. The songs are like the musical equivalent of a skier taking off and then tumbling down the hill like that guy who epitomized the agony of defeat on Wild World of Sports.

Even when they take a second to slow to a few miles below rocket ship speed, the vocals are still just not good, and the music never grabs hold. Watching this set, I feel like I just got sprayed by a musical garden hose. I have to say even after Vermilion, this band is battling for the low festival score.

Harbinger did redeem themselves a bit the last few songs by finally settling into a steady pace, and their final number sounded something like what Enforcer does, but overall, I am still just going 75/100

Sixth up tonight were Columbian death metal from the 1980’s ...


Okay, fortunately these guys are talented. I admit I do not have any idea what they are singing about, but the singer Lina Penagos has a good voice, both regular and falsetto screams. Guitar and drums are solid on timing and have purpose in the song structure. The bass is outstanding. Tono Guerrero is best of the day on bass. Johnny is hopping around like a rabbit after a meal of crack dusted carrots, so, clearly, he approves.

Now, as I said, The Beard is glad to have a legitimate favorable opinion of Agresor as I had nightmares of having to slag this band and then ending up in a duffel bag along the highway somewhere after the concert. Do not fuck with Columbians. However, there is no need as these guys are one of the better death acts this weekend. 85/100

Seventh up tonight are local death metal act ...


Morbid Saint of course are known in the death metal community as being a regular opening act for Florida genre originators Death. (Apologies to any Possessed fans reading this as they also have fair claim on starting death metal and the Beard does not want an East Coast West Coast war here.)

Although Morbid Saint has not released anything in about a decade, there are rumors of a 2023 release of original material. We are likely to hear some of that this evening, and with the local community tie in, the crowd should be hot for this one.

Morbid Saint was a straight-ahead intense death metal band, and they had the largest crowd tonight. Johnny is going to come out bruised from this one. “Watch out for that Nun Little Dude.”

Vocals from Pat Lind were typical death metal style, (fast and largely indecipherable). They did fill about half of the set with songs from their forthcoming new album, but the highly supportive crowd cheered loudest when they played their old stuff.

Reminding me some of Dark Angel, along with Possessed, and a healthy dose of Exhorder, Morbid Saint delivered a crowd friendly set full of big crowds, big pits, and big cheers. The Beard must respect a hot crowd and thus awards Morbid Saint 87/100.

Eighth up tonight is another old-time act from Chicago ...


Cardiac Arrest are death bordering on goregrind. These guys may be older, but they have not lost their intensity. Promoter Randy Kastner has definitely stacked the lineup tonight with his personal favorite brands of metal. During Morbid Saint’s set, I saw Little Johnny crowd surf by so I am hoping he can make it four more bands.

Cardiac Arrest came out to not only a heavy riff, but a doomy one, before exploding into their death metal. Intense guitar work by Tom Kinizner pounding drums by Nick Gallichio and good crowd rap from vocalist Adam Scott both in describing the songs and just keeping the crowd energy up considering Morbid Saint had just tired them out.

With three more acts, this marathon of metal is taxing the mosh crowd as Cardiac had only about two-thirds the crowd Morbid Saint drew. (Although some of that could have been having an Illinois band going on right after a Wisconsin band).

For the Beard personally though, Cardiac Arrest’s sometimes doom paced sections in between the speed death portions was a nice touch. It made the music more interesting and enjoyable than just going a hundred miles an hour for 45 minutes. I am giving points for that. And it is certainly not to say once they did step on the accelerator that it was not fast. It absolutely was, but I just enjoyed the Yin/Yang thing they were doing. 86/100

Ninth up tonight were Cleveland’s own ...


Although starting in the 1980’s, Destructor has had a resurgence releasing three albums since 2016, including Blood Bone and Fire this year. Power metal in the vein of Hallows Eve or Iron Angel, Destructor visually look like they have lived a hard life, but their power metal tracks are still good and performed in that mid to late 80’s style. Newest member and guitar player Matt Hellhound (2022) may look a bit like retired wrestler Brett "the Hitman" Hart needed a second career, but he plays well.

Destructor did have a little trouble getting their sound balanced out so a few deductions, but they also came in at the last second to replace Blind Illusion who did a virtual 11th hour drop out of the festival, so our appreciation at coming through at the last minute gets those few points back. Singer Dave Overkill has a pretty clear voice still and I generally knew what the songs were about even if I did not understand one-third of it.

Basically, for a last second fill in, Destructor acquitted themselves well this evening and the crowd support was warm. 87/100

We now stand at ten. The tenth band of Super Saturday here at Blades of Steel were the Tampa legends ...


For almost forty years vocalist Kam Lee has kept Massacre going and tonight he brought his latest collection of bandmates still touring behind 2021’s Resurgence. Florida, long one of the two claimed homes of original death metal, is putting their stamp on this fest as the Beard and Little Johnny get their first live Massacre.

Massacre is pretty brutal death metal. Cookie Monster vocals, harsh quick double bass drums and guitar breaking the land speed record. Exactly what people who like that kind of thing like. Johnny was enjoying the never-ending pits that tonight has generated but Massacre's horror movie death metal was wearing on me after so many bands. They did play a nice medley of Slayer, Metallica, and Iron Maiden, which brought the crowd alive singing lyrically in unison the entire first verse of "The Trooper". Got to throw up a few points for knowing how to pull in your audience.

Ending with a song from the band Mantis circa 1981 was an unexpected treat and I will award a few more points for that. Total them up and I am giving Massacre an 83/100 even with vocals and a style I do not love. They earned it by performing a “show” not just a set.

Finally, after ten hours of metal, we stand on the cusp of the festival night three headliners. Super Saturday and Blades of Steel will conclude with Canadian speed metal legends for over four decades ...


With almost a dozen albums and two original members still playing, Exciter presents a must -see for every metal fan. Super clear vocals by drummer Dan Beehler. This was indeed a notable set of music and a worthy headliner for such a long day.

Staples such as "Stand Up & Fight", "Violence and Force", "Long Live the Loud", and, of course, festival closer and Motorhead tribute "Iron Fist".

Exciter had the crowd (young and veteran alike) yelling for more. As song after song rolled off their hour-long set, they presented metal as it should be, without labels. Just an hour of good fun. Cracking a cold one with 91/100 for Exciter.

All year Canadian metal has been killing it at festivals ... Riot City, Razor, and now Exciter. I lost track of Little Johnny while I was saying goodnight to semi-retired promoter Mercyful Mike Smith and family, but I guess as long as he is not with that mosh pit Nun.

The Beard wants to say thank you and express appreciation to RK Metal, promoter Randy Kastner, and Blades of Steel 2023. Somehow, they brought this off (and on time) despite three last second band cancellations. RK Metal staff is one of the best I have seen all year. And now, exhausted from 11+ hours today, and 14 more on the previous two nights, we head back to the hotel and bid adieu to The Crucible and Madison until next time.

This ends stop #57 and bands #256-266 on The Reviews Never Stop Tour 2023.

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Until next time this is The Beard and Little Johnny saying

Stay Heavy


Horns Up!!!


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