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(Live Review) FIREWIND + SUPPORT - Joliet, Illinois (4/21/24)

By

The Beard & Little Johnny

   

Welcome friends, fans, and followers of your ever reviewing dynamic duo The Beard & Little Johnny. Today we attended show #24 and bands #78-80 of the 2024 Metal season as we travelled to The Forge in Joliet, Illinois for Greek power metal act Firewind, with support from Los Angeles industrial/symphonic band Edge of Paradise and Vegas prog/power group Immortal Guardian.


Very sparse crowd this Sunday evening. Less than a hundred people speckled the floor at the start of the show, and they were selling BOGO tickets at the door. Initially there was almost no movement at the merchandise counter, (allowing us to peruse the options at our leisure.) The Forge also only had the lower-level bar open. That is undoubtedly a tough Sunday night gig for the bands who often must work extra hard to drum up energy from such a small audience.



IMMORTAL GUARDIAN

Immortal Guardian came out with some lights and fog, (which is a bit unusual for an opening act). Nice sharing from the headliners which usually does not happen. They cranked out the fire with their first power metal number. Brazilian singer Carlos Zema sings into a skull with a microphone in it. That is a cute idea for an initial effect, but Zema is no King Diamond. They might do better to feature the skullaphone on the first song and then sort of let it vanish and have him use a traditional mic for the main part of the set.


    

The band comes across like a car that hits the gas hard right from go musically. They raced through that first number almost at a speed metal band pace. Vocally, Zema has a bit of Helloween-meets-Dragonforce growl with high notes sprinkled throughout. In something I do not ever see, guitarist Gabrial Guardiola also plays the keys (which were mounted and positioned on an angle allowing him to do both back and forth so that was a cool trick.)


Little Johnny enjoyed Immortal Guardian's hyper energy. Zema was a tall imposing frontman and knew how to mug for the camera and the staff photographer as well as the iPhone faithful. One credit for sure, these guys try hard for the whole thirty minutes.

   

On the one hand, earnest effort. On the other, they come across a bit manic in their approach. If you are a power metal band, it is fine to be majestic, but slow the prog frenzy now and then and create more of a story in your song. Their last number did just that and was better for it as it was layered not just a shot of nitrous from beginning to end. Finally, while Zema “can” hit the high note, honestly after getting a full dose last week of Geoff Tate and Robert Latorre with Queensryche, my bar is high on that style of singing.


I think Immortal Guardian are indeed committed to delivering a high energy set, but I can still only go 77/100.

 


EDGE OF PARADISE 

Next up were the five-piece symphonic industrial style band Edge of Paradise.

Singer Margarita Monet is no doubt an incredibly gorgeous woman and her electric dress of many flashing colors was the most eye-catching outfit since Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat, (that clever reference just sailed right over Little Johnny’s head…youngsters), but her voice at least this evening was in the good, but not great, range for symphonic. She is not threatening Tarja Turunen, Christina Scabbia, or Liv Kristine.

    

The rest of the band’s more industrial aspects were fine, but not my particular style, so I had to study the small crowd for their reaction, which again was accepting, but not raucous. Guitarist Dave Bates was good though and had one of the most amazing heads of hair I have seen this year. When I mentioned that to Johnny, he shook his head and said, “Dude, that hot chick is up there, and you noticed the guy’s hair? What the hell is wrong with you?” “Hey, he is a good guitarist John. We have to check out the whole band.” “Maybe you do Beard. I am checking out her.”

      

Although I did like the Edge of Paradise set, I also had to ask myself the question, how would I grade this if they did not have a pinup cover model singing lead? Monet can indeed garner points, but she cannot be the whole grade, therefore I am going 82/100 for Edge of Paradise. Little Johnny however is going to the merch table in hopes of meeting and charming miss Monet.



FIREWIND

This Greek band was new to me even though they have been around for twenty-five years and are touring behind their tenth and latest album Stand United (2024). Vocalist Herbie Langhans is the newest member (having joined in 2020 as Firewind's sixth lead vocalist in their careers) but he was the purest true power metal singer of the night. He doesn’t go for too much and his clarity is good. 

 

Founding member Gus G on lead guitar is the band’s star though ripping through Dragonforce type solos as Firewind powered through a good metal set. Early on, they really had me with songs like “Set the World on Fire” which was clear, full of hooks, told a story and defined power metal across all the spectrums. Considering the minimal audience, Firewind pulled a great crowd response from those in attendance as evidenced by people pressing forward despite having ample room on the floor. That is a kind of involuntary thing that shows the audience are feeding off the band’s energy. Chants and headbanging also ensued (although I witnessed no pits).

    

Also, Firewind gets points for a professional show. These guys were in synch, they knew how to appear and then slide out of frame when necessary to enhance the solos, but also all work as one unit on certain song parts to create a visual pop as well as an audio one. That is a practiced act and I have noticed how often foreign bands seem to do that better than American acts. Firewind also had different feels to their set. The slower and more dramatic "Longing to Know You" was a break from Gus G’s shredding and even though I didn’t really love it, it gave the kind of break without a break that then allowed the next song, "Mercenary Man", to speed right back up producing a more dramatic effect. Once again, this was a professional practiced band with a thought-out set list.

    

The one very odd moment was when Firewind did a cover of Flashdance’s "Maniac". The crowd was polite about it, but I do not think it was a viable choice for a metal show especially as the band’s initial closer. Little Johnny just looked kind of confused throughout the whole song. “Jennifer Beals isn’t here little dude. Nor for that matter is Marine Jahan who actually danced that number.)


Fortunately, Firewind returned to the stage for a far more metal encore with the dramatic "Ode to Leonidas" and the shredder "Falling to Pieces". In the end, Firewind was the best in show tonight and as much as the music itself. I appreciated aspects of their planning and thought processes on designing and performing a metal style set and show. I was on the edge of a crack a cold one grade, but as a few of the songs left me flat, I dropped them a couple points and then, of course, they had to eat two more for making me listen to metal Flashdance, therefore I am only awarding 86/100.



That wraps up Metal April. Twelve concerts and twenty-nine bands in thirty days. Stay tuned to The Mighty Decibel for all the Beard & Little Johnny reviews. Check out TikTok thebeard0728 for videos of all the acts, and friend, follow and become a fan of Mark McQueen on Facebook. We will return in May with several more shows including two mammoth festivals from Chicago, (Legions of Metal), and Milwaukee (Milwaukee Metalfest.)


The Reviews never stop, and the metal bus rolls ever onward, so count on us to bring you all the best show reviews and wrap ups. Until next time this is the Beard & Little Johnny saying ...

Stay Heavy & Horns Up!!!

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