(Live Review) HELL'S HEROES - Day 3 (Houston Texas, 3/25/23)
Review by: Mark McQueen
Day three of Hell's Heroes begins, and with 14 bands on the bill, The Beard will not get to everyone. Still, I shall bring you what I can. My initial priority today was to check out the vendors alley and see what was to be had. The Beard purchased two rings (from someone who remembered how to actually take cash, a dying trend it would seem). Don’t go gentle into that good night. But, anyway, on with the final day/night of the show.
Opening band (playing on the indoors second stage are ...
This band from Brooklyn plays just some straight ahead occult/metal. Decent openers, but I didn’t really take anything too much to heart. Solid. 70/100
First up on the main stage were ...
We already had Canadian speed metal legends Exciter yesterday, but the genre is represented here on day three as well, with a much younger band.
Initially, (the first number), the sound was bad in the mix, but this was quickly sorted out. This band has a full-throated screamer for a vocalist. Some of the highest notes of the fest so far (and that’s saying something). They also moved from lightning speed type riffs to quiet moving melodies within their songs. Impressively well-balanced attack for such a young band. Look at Canada churning out winners in the Texas heat. These guys will undoubtedly be moving up the bill in the very near future.
I am grading on three areas; One, vocally: fucking stellar. Can he still sing those songs in 40 years? Probably not but damn they were great today.
Two: musically; stellar. Those guys played awesomely.
Three: crowd reaction. This was the first band up, on the lawn, in the heat, and from song one to the end, their crowd size increased tenfold. It was like a pipe burst, but what flowed in were people. These guys drew everybody in to hear and see them.
This is the trifecta and thus Riot City gets a fest leading 96/100. I know. Surprised me too.
Back inside for band two at the small stage. Freeways is another melodic straight-ahead rocker. Good sound and a good fit for the second stage. Enjoyable hard crisp rock/metal. Unfortunately, I’m seeing them right after Riot City and slotting hurts their grade. I like them but only at the 82/100 level.
Next up at the main stage is ...
I have seen them before in Vegas. I was lukewarm on them then, but we shall see what a few years has done for their act.
Unto Others has a goth metal feel. It’s like The Cure hired an Yngwie clone on guitar (in look and stage moves, not guitar sound). This is not really my jam, but a good portion of the crowd seemed to like it, and (as a unique aside), there was an actual marriage proposal in-between songs by a friend of the band to his lady. I do have to say, THAT is a gutsy move. You had better be sure of a yes when you pull that because "No" is a long walk back off that stage in front of a crowd that is now thinking - LOSER! So, based on entertainment value, I will give Unto Others an 80/100.
Next up, inside, (because I am running back and forth today.) were ...
Tower were female fronted thrash. Good guitar, but overall, a bit messy for me. Plus, the small room is now getting stupid crowded already. I may have to stay largely main stage from now on as otherwise I will never have a good seat later. In the meantime, Tower gets a standard 75/100.
Next up on the mainstage is...
Speed metal with a singer that’s got wails straight from Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys release era.
This is a good, but not exemplary, band. Mid bill seems about right for them. They are professional and since I do like that wail, I stuck with them throughout their set.
In other news, finally a Little Johnny siting today. I saw his signature cap as he surfed through the lawn crowd during Skullfist. Little dude could make the Olympics if it were an event. Guess he’s not planning any work here on day three.
The Beard enjoyed Skullfist but ranks them 81 standard and an extra 3 points for the wailing. 84/100
A quick in and out (sounds dirty), allowed the Beard to catch a couple numbers by Night Cobra at the small room. This whole area was fully packed again, so listening was the best I could do. Night Cobra seem to be doing some sort of punk/metal. Not bad, but tough to throw a grade on just a couple songs. Night Cobra inc/100.
Next up on the main stage ...
We’ve had almost every style of metal represented at this festival. Finally, it’s time for some doom metal as Pagan Alter are a famous English doom band.
Well put together and good clean lyrics. After all the speed, thrash, black, and death, it’s good to catch a quaalude type band. They even had keyboards in a few prominent roles during their set. Nice pallet cleanser, but like their contemporaries Witchfinder General, they never really captured me.
As Pagan Alter also had some equipment malfunctions, I bailed early to get a viewing spot for ...
A NWOBHM band out of Washington. Female fronted and like several bands today, decent, but vocally she never pulled me in and again I think Riot City may have ruined the day for me by being so damn good out of the gate. I can only give Christian Mistress a 76/100 and I blame Canada.
As I roll on to band number ten today, it is time for the Beard to come face to face with:
An English band playing the NWOBHM. Style since forming in 1979. Satan is the Anvil of the English set. The band that should have been big, but somehow never was. I have long heard of them, but now it’s time to actually see them play.
Satan got a tough slot. Hard to be spooky and evil with the sun still blazing. You might have thought the Dark Lord of Evil could have done something more about that.
Okay, these guys are pretty fucking good. It also doesn’t hurt that a dude dressed as a banana is in the mosh pit. When even produce shows up to worship the Dark One you have to be impressed.
Crap! Oh well, on with the show.
Super melodic. Great guitar tone. Good vocals. Songs are put together to drive not just coast. Damn, this is a quality band playing here. On the other hand, vocalist Brian Ross did rag out about crowd surfers and moshers being prats and fucking up the show for others. Probably not a great position to have with a heavy metal festival crowd.
Afterwards Johnny told me “Man, Satan’s kind of a dick.” Maybe, but they played a powerful set of tunes.
Going with 92/100
Next up on the stage ...
Speed Metal from Canada. Great, here’s Canada to fuck with the curve for everybody again.
After a couple classics to open the set, Razor went to their new stuff. Now normally a forty-year-old band playing new stuff means “bathroom break”. The Beard must confess Razor's new stuff is solid and may well have been the best stuff in their set tonight.
To describe their style, Razor is speed metal crossed with Motörhead. A few technical gaffes, as well as a set that started late and ended early took the overall score down slightly, but still very good.
Final score 87/100.
Final act of the festival ...
Tom Warrior and Tryptycon doing an all-Celtic Frost set. This should be an epic ending.
Basically, they played every song from Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion. As it’s impossible to ever hear an actual Celtic Frost set due to founding member Martin Ain dying in 2017 this will have to do. To quote Bill or Ted, a most excellent ending to a very good festival. Although the number indicates a tie. Mr. Warrior wins best set of the festival with this one for reasons of iconic status. I will hear Riot City again, but I may not hear Celtic Frost again.
A Beard ranking of 96/100. Thank you, Tom Warrior. A wonderful experience.
I now must gather whatever is left of Little Johnny and return to the real world tomorrow.
As we get ready to hit April, we have now seen six shows, and forty bands so far. April is another busy month, and the reviews will keep rolling in here on The Mighty Decibel so from The Beard & Little Johnny, stay heavy and ...