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(Live Review) HELL'S HEROES 2024 - Day 1 (Autopsy, Candlemass, Girlschool and more)


The Beard & Little Johnny


Greetings from Houston Texas, it is your Metal reviewing duo, (the Beard & Little Johnny) and we are here for the Southern Mecca of Metal Festivals, the mighty Hell's Heroes. A three-day forty-two band event across two stages that brings some of the best metal acts from around the world and across all genres.


As Day One draws neigh here in Houston, Texas, Mother Nature has challenged us with an all-day rain event. With storms not expected to end until after this evening’s festivities have concluded, it will be a wet and muddy day here at White Oak Hall. While the inside venue should be relatively undisturbed (unless we lose power), the main lawn stage will at best be a muddy mess and at worst a disaster area by midnight tonight. Nevertheless, your intrepid reviewing duo shall chronicle the goings on here at Day/Night one. Much to Little Johnny's delight, given the intensity of the rain today and the knowledge that umbrellas are not allowed inside, the Beard relented and agreed to driving to the venue today and not taking the otherwise perfectly reasonable two-mile walk. Arriving just early enough to pull an Austin Powers type park job about two hundred feet from the venue entrance, we sat in the car and people watched until almost door time.


While many had ponchos or other rain gear, others just came in their battle vests and normal Metal ensembles. The metal crowd is not deterred by something like simple rain. A metal crowd would likely not be deterred if Godzilla were rampaging through Houston. They would just start a Blue Oyster Cult chant and keep right on going. About 15-minutes before doors, we prepped up our phone tickets, The Beard set up his VIP credentials, and we made our way into the maelstrom of metal-maniacs. While the Beard made his way to the venue’s VIP area on the balcony, Little Johnny headed right towards the lawn and the front of the Main Stage.


First up (on the inside stage) was Adamantis, a Massachusetts power metal act that The Beard first saw last year at the Bob Byrne-run Chicago Legions of Metal festival. We shall see what they have been up to in the last year.

Adamantis is power metal. They have a fair sound. Vocalist Jeff Stark had an okay voice with adequate power and fair range. The music is typical structured power metal riffs. Adamantis was a solid opening band, but not an exceptional one in any area. The Beard begins the festival with a grade of 70/100.


First up on the main stage, (in the rain), were Acero Letal, a Chilean speed metal band.

The wet weather and wind were making sound sketchy with cuts and dropouts, but the boys from Chili definitely brought the speed and I do not want to downgrade too much for what was absolutely no one’s fault under these conditions. The guitar was great, motivated, and flashy with a solid rhythm section and frankly in a set of adverse conditions these guys made the best of it. Beard grade 80/100.

First field report from Johnny, “Beard this grass up here is fake! And slippery as shit.” Be careful little dude.


Next up on stage two was power act Savage Oath.

These guys were very reminiscent of the Queensryche sound. Vocals were clear and clean. The band were promoting their latest CD (Divine Battle 2024), and they played a good tight set of metal. Drumming by Austin Wheeler set the tone and Brenden Radigan’s vocals were good. This is already the first new surprise band for The Beard. Grade is 85/100.


Fourth up and second on the main stage were the 1970’s first era act Girlschool.

Still looking great for a band of post 60-year-old ladies. Girlschool took us through an old school set of classic Metal. Original vocalist Kim McAuliffe still sings with vigor, Jackie Chambers still cuts a nice figure on guitar and drummer Denise Dufort holds that trad metal beat. That was a nice set.

Report from Johnny. “The chicks rock Beard. Hey, Beard, bring me a beer would ya.” Not a chance little dude. Girlschool grade was 84/100.


Fifth act of the day were Cleveland doom act Ancient Vvisdom. (Spelled that way on purpose largely to avoid trademark infringement with other bands).

As soon as they hit the stage, the guy next to me screamed out “All right! Let’s get evil motherfuckers.” You never hear that at a Taylor Swift concert. This is a definite occult rock band in the vein of Brimstone Coven meets Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Ancient Vvisdom has clean lyrics mostly about Satan and the left-hand path. Unlike most black metal type bands, these guys were quietly effective in their slow deliberate plodding,

Ancient Vvisdom definitely present an act that belongs at a fest called Hells Heroes. Although they were not to Johnnys taste at all, the Beard had just heard his first “Crack a cold one,” and I will be looking for a CD from these guys. No frills. No over the top act. Just red lights, cowled robes, and evil music. 91/100.


Sixth up were local Houston favorites Helstar. 

Featuring singer James Rivera who from a distance could visually be Ozzy’s doppelgänger, but with significantly more vocal range, Rivera led Helstar through a set of metal that coincided with the sun finally peeking out for a fleeting period. Apparently Houston would not dare rain on their local metal heroes.

This was a solid set with great crowd support, and I must award them an 85/100.


Seventh up were Canada's black thrash act Occult Burial.

In my opinion, this was not Canada's greatest entry. While Canada bands owned this fest last year with groups like Riot City, Exciter & Razor, this one didn’t land with me.

Occult Burial did not require re-interning, but, in as much as the thrash portion helped them, the black metal screeching by Joel Thomas hindered it. Additionally, Thomas looked a lot like what I suspect a Canadian porn star does, so not an appealing voice or appearance. I am afraid the Beard must only allot them 75/100.

To be fair though, Little Johnny graded them much higher and just felt I was perhaps too eager to depart stage two so I could set up to see one of what he referred to as “my old chick Beard spank fantasy acts”. Johnny is really getting mouthy lately. I think he has a separate private deal with our boss and feels he can get away with more shit. My column. (Ed: Tell it like it is, Johnny!)

My review little dude. Still going 75/100 for Occult Burial.


Eighth on the bill was a blast from the past as Doro Pesch, the 1980’s metal pinup Queen made an appearance.

From the stage front, Little Johnny just texted me to monitor my blood pressure. Little toolsack. He then said he was already heading back to stage two to get a spot up front for Destructor. (Ed: At least Johnny has his head on straight.) Your loss Johnny. More Doro for the Beard then.


In the 1980’s when a sexy Lita Ford ruled the female US scene for metal, German Doro Pesch ruled Europe. Now at 59 years old, Doro remains as sexy as any blonde walking and as soon as she launched into “I Rule the World” The Beard was in heaven. “Burning Witches” sounded like no time had passed since she wrote it in the 1980’s with her band Warlock. Doro killed it all set, and The Beard was thrilled to see her again.

After the set, I headed to merch to get my future wife’s face on a shirt, and an Ancient Vvisdom CD and maybe a Candlemass shirt. Chris Tighe, I need a better contract. Please cut Johnny’s beer budget and move it to merch. Lol. (Ed: Sorry Beard, budgets are for the real metal heads. Go Johnny, go!)

Doro Pesch 92/100.


Ninth up was Destructor.

A four-piece older thrash band formed in the mid 1980’s. They broke out, but never huge. Now 40-years later they are enjoying a resurgence thanks to crowds like the ones here at Hells Heroes that remember great old school acts like this.

Singer Dave Overkill still sounded good, and the band performed well. Good thrash from back in the Iron Maiden era with a similar sound and a good set.

Destructor gets an 83/100.


Tenth up was the most intense band of day one as we watched a set by California DEATH metal act Autopsy.

Unfortunately, the severe weather predicted for tonight had finally arrived and the last couple outside bands got delayed. About 7:00PM, we all got shagged inside. At 7:30 we got the all clear. More rain was forecast but they were letting us loose for Autopsy.


Johnny will either call this his favorite band of the night, or potentially call 911 because the pit area is indeed a slippery, muddy circle of death and the lad had his metal surfboard out. When the band hit the stage with the declaration. “We are Autopsy, and we play Death Metal.” Mud flew, circling started, and I quickly lost sight of Little Johnny.

Autopsy played a quick and intense set, and the Beard got a contact high from all the weed aflame up here in VIP land. Oddly in Texas weed is still illegal but guns? No problem. Got to say, given a choice I would rather deal with an angry guy packing Mary Jane than Smith & Wesson. Anyway, by end of set as I am now feeling rather good, I am giving death metal act Autopsy a surprising 84/100. Respectable job boys.


Well, with the scheduling snafus caused by the rain, I am missing Night Demon in order to hold my prime viewing spot for the night one headliner, the reason that the Beard went doom in the late 1980’s, winners of the Beard's 2022 set of the year. The orators of the occult. The masters of the macabre. The incontrovertible doom gods, Candlemass.



Right from go, I knew the sound was off. Vocalist Johan Langquist also was not as solid as in Chicago. Bassist and band leader, Lief Edling was still good, but it was a shade less than great. The rain, the heavy wind, and the large outdoor venue all played into it. Although the crowd was rocking, this was nowhere near the set of the year Candlemass produced in 2022. A Bad PA from the rigors of the day greatly lessened this set. You could tell the Candlemass guys were not happy. They powered through like the pros they were, but knew this was not the kind of set they wanted to do here tonight.


They did go for the entire Nightfall album, so points for that although some of those songs are best with Messiah Marcolin's particular vocal stylings Langquist is not right for the feeling of those songs, most notably "Samaritan" and "Bewitched". (Although to be fair the crowd so loved shouting “you are Bewitched” that I could have sung that portion). Then again WWE fans love to sing Cody Rhodes song every week too. Doesn’t make it great. In the end Candlemass went up against the ghost of whom they were just two years ago and were found wanting. I honestly cannot give them more than 87/100 and believe me that hurts.


This wrapped up day/night one of Hell's Heroes. I gathered up Little Muddy and scraped him off as best I could, (after he refused to ride home on the luggage rack), and we headed home. Tomorrow we will start all over with another dozen bands.

Remember to read the Beard and Little Johnny reviews live every Wednesday and Thursday on The Mighty Decibel. Check out the videos on TikTok at Thebeard0728 and follow our nonmetal reviews on Facebook by friending and following Mark McQueen.

Until next time, this is the Beard and Little Johnny from Hells Hero’s in Houston Texas saying...

 Stay Heavy and Horns Up!!!


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