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(Live Review) HELL'S HEROES 2024 - Day 3 (Sodom, Tank, Cirith Ungol and more!)


The Beard & Little Johnny

Greetings metal fans, friends, and followers. It is one hour to doors here at the amazing Hell's Heroes metal festival. As the final day three start looms close, we once again have perfect weather in the mid 70’s (although the Beard has learned after dark it does get cold fast in the wind.) Walking home last night with Little Johnny after the Queensryche set, the lad bitched incessantly about why we could not just get an Uber. The terms cheap &^%$%^& and stubborn donkey were tossed around. Today, I made him walk the two miles to the venue once again ducking pinecones that occasionally whizzed past my head on the way.


With fifteen bands on the bill today, we will try to get to as many as we can, but with the expected Saturday crowd that will undoubtedly prove increasingly difficult as the day turns into night. Before the acts start, there was time for a walk down vendor alley to see if anything catches the Beard's eye. Indeed, a line of shirts where all the Disney Princesses were tattooed and metaled up was pretty cool and I did purchase one for a friend of mine, while the lad picked up a shirt that read “Denny’s is just a Waffle House for people who don’t know how to Fight.” Sadly, nowadays that’s kind of true. I remember when Dennys was new and kind of a cool place to go eat at 2:00am. Now when you walk in, the marquee reads “Denny’s…there’s still time for you to make ONE more sketchy decision today.”


There was also a chance to visit with some friends we only see at the shows including the self-proclaimed promoter of the year Randy “No Fun” Kastner, and Chicago’s own Elivia Mistress of the Dark Miss Carrie Goff. I also got to share space at the VIP section with my new friend of the weekend Dave from Indiana. Whenever one of us went to the other stage we held on to the seat for each other. This of course prompted the inevitable “Is anyone sitting there? Yep Dave. Really? Where is he then? Hey Man Dave’s, not here. But he’ll be back.” Fans of Cheech & Chong know that of which I reference.


Opening the main stage here on super Saturday was Canadian act Traveler. Unlike last year, (when the bands of the Great White North all owned this fest), I have been underwhelmed with this year’s Canadian bands. Perhaps Traveler will be able to change that today. I will already say, for an opener, they pulled a nice starting crowd, as there were easily a few hundred already standing stage front.


Looks like Canada finally showed up. These guys are good. Kind of speed metal, but some good traditional stuff too. Strong voice by Jean-Pierre Abboud (and come on…HOW much more Canadian could THAT name be.) This was the perfect set to fire up super Saturday here at Hell's Heroes. A very nice bass solo by Jake Wendt (which was WAY less of a Canadian sounding name). This was finally another Canadian winner and an 89/100 out of the gate.


Second up today, and first on the second stage, was an impressive doom act Early Moods.

These guys seem to make all the festivals but are always slotted too early. Early Moods brings a great Candlemass meets Black Sabbath sound and I wish they were given a better position on the bill. That said, it is always great to see them even for just a short opener style set.

Early Moods continue to be a homage to Black Sabbath, but they have created their own distinct 21st century version of Sabbath. Vocalist Albert, (with his massive afro hair and stage mannerisms), is today’s Ozzy and even though they need two guitarists to become Tony Iommi, in the Beard's opinion, this is what today’s Sabbath would sound like. Early Moods is a killer act and as usual, I am cracking an early cold one with a 91/100.


Third up were Philadelphia rockers Summerlands and they hit the main stage still touring behind 2022’s Dream Killer release.

Clean singing guitar driven metal. A tight act, but slotting hurts them by virtue of following those last two acts. Plus a few technical snafus also hurt the set. Overall, a good thirty minutes but just not a great one for me 84/100.


Fourth up today were Utah’s Blood Star performing their first full length release First Sighting.

Blood Star were kind of a Ruby the Hatchet-meets-Lucifer kind of occult rock act with a female lead. Good guitar, good transitions, energy, range and very tight for the small amount of time they have been together. Making a mental note to try and grab a CD from merch before I leave today. (Ed: Excellent album - definately worth checking out!) 86/100.


Fifth up today were the mighty west coast act that was doing American doom back before it was a thing. Cirith Ungol is that Godzilla band that just keeps lumbering on, (although ironically this is rumored to be their last tour after fifty-three years).

Well-worn songs with Tim Bakers iconic voice thrilled the lawn crowd, (most who were not even born when they were written). Although I like a bunch of their material, King of the Dead remains Cirith Ungol's showstopper every time. When Baker howls “King of all the Deaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadddddd!!!” It is amazing he still nails that so perfectly.

You followers know the golden metal rule with me. Take the Beard back to old school, (a time when Little Johnny was just the strongest swimmer in his tadpole class and happened to get to the egg first), and you know I will respond. Solid 90/100 and super Saturday rolls on.


Sixth up was a band the Beard had never seen before.1980’s English metal band Tank.

Forming in the early 1980’s as a formative NWOBHM band, Tank killed it with their first release Fifth Hounds of Hades (which still sounds cool.) After a few less stellar releases though, they disbanded in 1989 and only popped up now and again until about 2010 when they reformed and have been pretty steady since. Usually touring with other genre timeline bands like Girlschool or Raven, this was the Beard's first chance to see them live and they did not disappoint. (Ed: Tank's 4th album Honour & Blood is another release worth checking out IMO.)

The run of good bands continues as Tank took us through the battlefield with firepower and thunder. Clean lyrics, good double guitar and some NWOBHM for the fest. Including a song that would later make Bruce Willis famous “Walking Barefoot Over Glass.” A few songs might have benefited from better titles, for example “Blood, Pus & Beer.” (Ed: Your ears must have been going after 3 consecutive days of metal mayhem - it's actually "Blood, Guts & Beer"!) Good song, unsavory title. Calling Tank fun and like Girlschool, a welcome blast from the past. 88/100.


Coming up seventh was one Little Johnny was excited about and another the Beard had never seen. New York Thrash act Demolition Hammer.

Another good band. No one has been poor today. Demolition Hammer was east coast thrash and Johnny has been circling since they began. Poor guy won’t have anything left by Sodom tonight.

These guys bring a nice traditional 80-90 era thrash. Growling voice, but still semi clear. Double bass drum attack and screaming guitar leads. All that thrash is, Demolition Hammer brings. This was the wildest crowd so far in the entire festival (including the Autopsy set.) Additionally, Steve Reynolds (the singer) is like the 2024 embodiment of the dude on the famous Woodstock tape that said, “Don’t eat the brown acid.” Well, he would be the embodiment of that guy if that guy used Mother&$%er like Ozzy on a bad day. Reynolds used two words in absolutely every sentence, “Man…& Fuck” Truth told, it actually sold him and the band as true New Yorkers.

I am with Johnny on this one and the day of non-stop good acts rolls on. Demolition Hammer is crack a cold one for a 93/100.


Eighth up today were thrashers from the other side of the country, as West Coast gets their turn with San Francisco Bay area thrashers Forbidden.

At this rate Little Johnny and half the crowd will be asleep or passed out from exhaustion by the end of today. Glad I am wayyyyy in the back. Honestly, Forbidden is technically a better band than Demolition Hammer, which actually makes them less popular in following them. Hammer was so raw and aggressive that the more polished Forbidden does not seem quite as cool by comparison. Imagine Jack Nicholson doing a monologue, and then following it up with Sir Anthony Hopkins doing a similar one. Hopkins is the better more polished actor, but Jack would Mother F’er his way to your heart. That is what happened with Demolition Hammer and Forbidden. They did, however, inspire pits and more moshing, and with the sun finally setting behind them looked amazing. Some folks will hopefully get their energy back in the next hour.



Forbidden music follows the Exodus/Testament west coast thrash song structure and again there is nothing wrong with it and I absolutely enjoyed the set, just a bit less than I did Demolition Hammer. 87/100.


Ninth up was English retro-metal band Witch-Hazel. Four-piece act that sort of brings an Iron Maiden lite meets Thin Lizzy kind of vibe.

Ridiculously stupid crowded in the stage two area, so the Beard had to give up on pictures and video since every attempt ended up being somebody’s hands, back or phone. I most assuredly would enjoy another shot at these guys when I am not playing the part of a bearded sardine in a cave. “Not a #%€£ing word Johnny. Keep it to yourself.”

I can only grade clearly what I heard, as visually it was difficult to see over everyone from the back of the balcony, however this was yet another cool sounding band on a day when no band has ranked below 80 and that is not changing here. 84/100 mostly because this room sucks to move in. Time to head back to VIP safety on the lawn stage. (Ed: Check out Wytch Hazel's III : Pentecost album ... one of the best trad metal albums of the 2020s!)


Tenth up tonight were the Greek black metal act Rotting Christ.

After seeing them two years in a row, I am familiar with their not so black black metal. Rotting Christ are just long-time talented musicians as the brothers Themis & Sakis Trolis combine for thrashy/black metal. Songs tonight were largely drawn from the early albums and the crowd was appreciative of hits they knew. Good pits, good rapport between the Trolis boys and the Hell's Heroes faithful. They did play short by about ten minutes; I am not sure why. I thought the crowd was into them, but maybe they were feeling the 1980’s Slayer effect where nobody wanted to see the band “before” Slayer.

Still, to me, Rotting Christ gets a solid 86/100 as the steady night rolls to its concluding band, the Saturday headliners and band eleven on the day, the German thrash band Sodom.


The Beard had never seen Sodom, but had long heard they were a top name in the first wave of the 1980’s thrash world taking elements of Venom and merging thrash/black/and death into Sodom music. Even though Tom Angelripper is the only constant in the band, it is still Sodom.



Holy Shit. That is some major league heavy metal. Lights, sound, and intensity befit the fest headliner as Sodom brought a bigger show than Candlemass or Queensryche from the nights before. Sodom’s first time in Texas in 42-years and these guys certainly did not leave anything back in Germany. This was as good a set of metal on all fronts as I have seen this year.


Johnny was so awestruck; it took him until the second song to start pitting. Sodom did a great cover of Venom's “Leave me in Hell.” I did not know too many of their numbers, but with a nineteen-song set, they did not sell us short. My personal favorite was “Agent Orange” Great lights and look to that one. Calling them a day high score of 94/100 and a no misses festival day. Really solid top to bottom today.


So, after 3 days and nights, we have covered thirty-three bands and 33 hours of metal music. It is time to head back to the hotel, stick johnny in a shower and call it an event. This brings our first 2024 Metalfest to an end. We now stand at 12 shows and forty-nine bands at the quarter turn of the season.

We have a busy April planned so remember to check out The Mighty Decibel for Beard and Little Johnny reviews every Wednesday and Thursday. Check out thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny on TikTok for hundreds of band videos and previews, and finally friend and follow Mark McQueen on Facebook for all the non-metal reviews.

 From Hells Heroes in Houston Texas, this is the Beard and Little Johnny saying ...

Stay Heavy and Horns Up!!!


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