(Live Review) BLADES OF STEEL METALFEST (NIGHT ONE) - Wisconsin, 9/28/23
The Beard & Little Johnny
This evening marks show #55 and bands #243-248 on The Reviews Never Stop Tour 2023.
Tonight, will be the first of the three-night Blades of Steel Metal Festival, taking place at The Crucible in Madison, Wisconsin. This event is put on by RK Metal promotions and headed by Metal Maestro Randy “No Fun” Kastner. Randy has a penchant for bringing together thrash/speed and death bands from the 80’s and 90’s that escaped mainstream notice but were nevertheless solid performers. He also mixes in “up and coming” new talent to form a festival where almost any band in the lineup could be its sleeper success story.
Twenty-Four Bands, across one stage in three days, is a feat only accomplished through hard work & dedication from Kastner, and all his crew. The Beard offers applause that at no time over the three-day period did the fest fall out of time by more than about ten minutes. That is a monumental feat of scheduling and teamwork.
On night one, we got to experience: Desolus, Idol Throne, Misfire, Bray Road, Midnight, & Riot V. The Crucible is a small venue without much in the way of seating, (which matters naught to Little Johnny, but matters much to the elder statesman The Beard who does dearly love a chair), so we have arrived prior to the 5:00pm doors in hopes of securing one seat with a sight line. I was able to do so and except for very quick bathroom breaks or beer refilling’s, (Hmmm…might be a correlation between those two activities), The Beard remained planted.
First on the stage are DC Thrash up and comers ...
Desolus, who started in 2022 and cite as their influences Sodom, Kreator and Dark Angel, are a three-piece band, and they came out blazing. Initially the vocals seemed buried underneath the guitar. By the third song it had balanced somewhat, but overall, it was still too much assault for me.
Johnny, however, thought it was good, intense, and he liked it. As thrash the Beard can only go 76/100.
Second up was ...
The Beard had already watched these Indiana guys last week in Chicago. (Reference last weeks Mighty Decibel Review.) This time, I also got an opportunity to talk to singer Jake Quintanillas' parents (which is always a unique perspective). They were supportive and friendly so, hey, if you support your kid no matter what, kudos to you.
Idol Throne is decent-to-good power metal. The vocals do not dominate, but the band worked the crowd well and they do have a very impressive bass player. Trevor Kuta’s enthusiastic playing truly is stand out material, and The Beard has seen a LOT of bass players already this year.
Johnny said, “They’re kind of like they were last week” “I don’t disagree little dude.” Let’s call them 79/100.
Third up tonight was Chicago’s own ...
Citing as influences power trios like Venom, Motorhead and Raven, this thrash act set out to dominate the Wisconsin stage. Misfire is actually a four-piece band with a nice sound. Thrash with good guitar tone and energetic drumming. Vocals are mostly clear and don’t rely on histrionics. Just a straight up metal attack.
It seemed there were some aspects of timing that they still needed to work on, but overall, a good band. While not extraordinary, they were my first solid 80+ of today. Misfire was an 82/100
Fourth up was Wisconsin’s own ...
This band has been performing for the last decade. They deliver solid thrash metal, but have never quite gained headliner status. As a three-piece, Bray Road presents a solid act, but nothing about them screams top tier. It’s like watching a double A ballplayer hustle hard all game but still know he’s not going to be called up to the “show”.
I think Bray Road could play any fest in the 1-4 slot, but they are just not going to be THE act. They are solid but never rise to the next level. 83/100
Fifth up was ...
Midnight were emergency replacements for Flotsam and Jetsam, (who pulled a last second cancellation). That was an act the Beard wanted to see live, and it sucked they dropped out. It is a credit to how quickly Kastner can pull a black clad rabbit out of his ringmaster’s top hat in landing Midnight to replace them in such a short amount of time. That’s not just getting the band to say yes, it’s also working out all the travel, lodging, transportation, and meals in a blink of an eye. Once again RK Metal making chicken salad out of chicken shit. Applause.
Midnight is a hard-working punk/speed Metal band that gives a great set in any situation. Whether they were best in show (Vegas 2019) or just damn good (every other time the Beard has reviewed them), Midnight brings the Punk aesthetic with rampant Metal chaos. A Midnight set is always a fun peek behind the looking glass and Little Johnny really lets loose when they play.
Midnight hit the stage with their normal frenzy. These guys never stop moving and the music just runs you, (like a sadistic high school gym coach that loves to make you sweat). Midnight brings it every time.
Easily best of night one so far. At one point, the guitar player climbed up to the lighting truss and swung from it pulling chin ups.
“No! Johnny that’s NOT an invitation. Especially without pants.”
Another great Midnight performance that ended with a “Holy Shit” crowd chant. The Beard says 90/100. Little Johnny says nothing as he’s just trying to catch his breath after that set.
The headliners were ...
Riot V are New Yorkers formed back in 1975. Sporting 16 albums in their career, and still led by bassist Don Van Staven, these guys thread the needle between traditional metal and power metal. Vocalist Todd Hall has only been around these past ten years, (joining in 2013), but has the kind of Metal Church soaring vocals necessary for power metal. Guitarist Mike Flyntz has been around since the late 1980’s and is still flying around like he’s a young Turk. With four plus decades of material to draw from, the Beard did not know a lot of their music, but it is always interesting to watch a band that goes on this long (almost 50 years since inception).
These guys had no shortage of energy style and ripping guitar and drums. An enjoyable hour-long headlining set brought night one to an enthusiastic close.
Riot V had by far the most compelling and complex set of the evening. The Beard is cracking a cold one (for a 90+) and giving them set of the night at 93/100.
Although there was a lack of pits, there was not a lack of power. Solidly booked lineup by RK Metal and although Riot V was the act of night one, Midnight filled the void left by the Flotsam and Jetsam cancellation, so thank you Randy Kastner.
It was now time to gather Little Johnny, who everyone can be proud of as ultimately, he did leave his pants on tonight. We shall trudge back to our hotel and get some sleep before tomorrow and night two featuring seven more bands.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed hearing about Blades of Steel (Night One) and are eager to see how nights Two & Three turned out as well. These will be coming out over the next two Wednesday Live Review releases. In the meantime, you can always check out the video footage (of not just this fest, but every one of the 250+ bands we’ve covered so far on our TIKTOK site by searching.
Until Next Time