(Live Review) HELL'S HEROES - Day 2 (Houston Texas, 3/24/23)
Today, as we approach day number two of Hell’s Heroes, it marks show number five and bands number 21-28 in The Beard & Little Johnny’s 2023 Reviews tour.
There is a little rain in the forecast, so the Beard will be on the VIP balcony while I dispatch Little Johnny out to the lawn to do a more “man of the people” type of coverage.
On the bill today:
Ross the Boss
Plus, a late night after-fest set from Helstar.
A long day of Metal.
First up today on the big stage ...
Chicago based rockers (go figure, the Beard travels 1500 miles to hear a local act, lol). Female lead, smallish band for the enormous outdoors stage, but hey they got to open the main stage on day two of the fest, so that’s still an honor.
Midnight Dice sound like other similar style female led rock such as early Shokker or a lighter Ruby the Hatchet maybe. Her voice is clean and strong with range. There was some dialing in going on by the sound techs, and the band played without lights or other frills due to it being early afternoon. This whole thing definitely screamed warm up act, but I still thought they were nice and solid in this role. I must mention that the guitar chorus in their final song could have been exactly Nugent’s” Dog Eat Dog”: I actually thought they were ending with that as a “cover” when they started it. It was that similar.
The Beard is going 75/100.
Five-piece band. Typical power metal stylings featuring strong clean vocals, dual guitars and epic songs about swords sorcery battle and glory. I enjoyed their set, as did the growing crowd, and hereby award their power metal hymns a raised fist and an 81/100
So, back-to-back power metal bands. This means slotting matters. Vocally, Brocas Helm had a cleaner, (but less epic sound) than Visigoth, but man, as a guitarist that guy is the shit. I loved just watching him jam. This makes me think, if Lynyrd Skynyrd went power metal it might sound like this. The uniqueness kept my attention. I dig clear lyrics. I like the guitar, and with the rain clouds passing the sun is now out in full, so frankly I just feel better.
I’m stymied on the grade. Vocally I preferred Visigoth, but musically it was Brocas Helm. I called my tiebreaker Little Johnny (reporting from the lawn). His view: The Visigoth pits were more metal with fist shaking and headbanging. The Brocas Helm pits seemed more like Hippies dancing in a circle.
Okay thanks Johnny. You do always zero in on what matters. I will just give Brocas Helm an 81/100 also.
Exciter have been around a long time, but you wouldn’t know it listening and watching them play. They hit the stage with huge energy. Johnny just texted from the crowd on the lawn. “These old guys RULE!” After finally spotting his trademark cap in the crowd, he was shirtless and about to start circle pitting. Well, at least his pants are still on. By the time Possessed hits the stage tonight he might be in just a cap and shoes.
Exciter vocally and guitar wise bring the perfect 80’s era speed metal. The Beard has often mentioned he loves Time Machine bands. Take me back to my youth and I’m in your camp. Exciter brought it.
To be fair, some technical foibles (like a cranky amp, and popping cords) did take the set down a touch, in a way though, it also made it more authentic to what live thrash in the 80’s actually sounded like. In the end, I’m going to inch them into 90/100 because their final number was a cover of "Iron Fist" and you can’t go wrong with Motorhead.
ROSS THE BOSS
Ross Friedman was the founding member and guitarist of power metal giants Manowar and was a part of that band’s formative years on top. His amazing solo “Black Arrow” off the Hail to England release was a favorite of a young Beard back in the day. I am certainly curious how he sounds at almost 70 now.
Answer - he sounds damn fine. Add a big voiced singer and a set featuring all Manowar classics and this is going to rule.
The Beard knew every song on the set because they were all pulled from the Manowar catalog between 1982-88. The only detraction was that, although the singer could indeed hit the high notes, he couldn’t match Eric Adams who was , in his heyday, heavy metal's Barry Gibb. Nevertheless, this was a great set of classics, and the Beard is therefore going to award them 90/100 for taking me back.
The Beard remembers seeing these guys back in 2019 at the Legions of Metal Fest. They have improved a lot since then. Very professional. They know it’s a show and what you see is as important as what you hear.
The interplay between guitarists Tony Trugilo and Danny Wacker call to mind Tipton/Downing in style if not actual sound. This is just a well-oiled touring style band. Everything is done with precision and purpose and that purpose is to present a great metal set. Mission accomplished boys. So far, set of the day and tied for set of the fest with an impressive grade of 94/100.
Headliners Possessed have as much claim to inventing what we call death metal as anyone. I told Johnny these guys are the Iggy Pop of the sub-genre. He asked who Iggy Pop was. I said the guy from The Stooges. Oh yeah, was he the bald one or the guy with the bozo hair?
Never mind little dude, just go jam out, these guys should tear it up.
Possessed have accomplished musicians. Jeff Becerra may operate from a wheelchair, but his voice is still powerful and piercing in its trademark death sound. Both guitarists can shred, and the drummer beat that kit like it owed him money and was several weeks late on payment. The songs were fast, death and even punk in their aggressive attitude.
All that said, although I found Possessed good, certainly better than average, I think my expectations might have been too high. I got a good set, but I wanted iconic. That’s on me though. I must also take in the crowd’s reaction. Johnny reported almost nonstop pits, moshing and surfing throughout. So, though they were a mere 86 to the Beard, I shall respect the Metal fans at the venue and make them the 4th straight band to crack the top tier with a 90/100.
That’s quite a day of Metal.
Post show concert with ...
With over eighteen albums released, Helstar was still a virtual unknown to me before this festival. Their singer looks like Ozzy, with full-on vampire tendencies, and with a much better vocal range. Musically they are pretty NWOBHM, having clean vocals (with some multi octave histrionics throughout). The guitars are driving, and the set (consisting of material from the first four albums), was easy to enjoy even though I had experienced a lot of good music already.
Helstar scores an 88/100 to end a great full day of Metal.
Back to the Hotel Johnny. We have one more big day yet to come.