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(Live Review) LEGIONS OF METAL FESTIVAL - Chicago, Day One (5/3/24)


The Beard & Little Johnny


Greetings friends, fans, and followers. It is your dynamic duo, (the Beard & Little Johnny), here for show #27 and bands #84-89 as we attended the Bob Byrne-run annual classic Legions of Metal Festival.

Spanning two days & nights, on two stages, and featuring twenty-three bands, Legions of Metal is a Chicago staple bringing some of the best underground acts of metal together. Tonight, we caught sets from: Unleash the Archers, Striker, Greyhawk, Tower Hill, Owl Bear, & Lycanthro. As always, the Beard sought the elevated view while Little Johnny hovered stage front allowing us to witness all the mainstage action from two vantagepoints.




First up today, Canadian power metal rockers Lycanthro. Hailing from Ontario and touring behind 2021’s Mark of the Wolf, Lycanthro kicked off the fest with dramatic entrance music before crashing right into the metal.


The vocals were clear but not especially powerful. Clad in sunglasses and hoodie, James Delbridge both sang and played guitar. The music was power metal, but a stripped-down version without dramatic solos or screeching high notes until near the very end. Songs like “In Metal We Trust” had more in common with Anvil than Manowar. Delbridge’s voice had touches of Anthrax and Megadeth in his sound and by the third number this was starting to warm me up some. Little Johnny was fist pumping, and the crowd appreciated the effort, knowing it was their first US appearance.


 “Mark of the Wolf” had a nice bass sound, as well as good guitar solos for the first band of the festival. I did think the weakest spot was vocals. I personally thought they needed more volume and power (although some of that could have been attributed to first band levels in a not entirely full yet room). Bringing up Laura Mordian from Shield of Wings to co vocal “The Great Masquerade” was a delightful surprise and they even generated the fests first pit with “Crucible” their closer. The audience wasn’t fully “there” yet, (which is an occupational hazard for the first band out of the gate at an all-day festival.)

Factoring in everything I listed above, I can go 82/100 for Lycanthro. A better than average spirited effort with legitimate passion.


Second up were Boston’s D&D influenced act Owlbear touring behind 2023’s Chaos to the Realm.

Owlbear was fronted by Katy Scary who had a great voice with plenty of range for power and clarity (reminding me of Madeline Smith of Bloodstar). Strong guitar from the giant dreadlocked Jeff Taft, (former Adamantis) and a tight rhythm section completed this self-expressed “bunch of D&D nerds”. The Beard remembers playing D&D back in the day, but can guarandamntee you that no one at our table EVER looked as good as Katy Scary.


Jeff Taft’s solos were cool both in sound and look (with those dreads flying everywhere.) & Owlbear was an act I dug right from go. Little Johnny was taken with the guitarist. “No little dude you cannot start growing dreadlocks.”

My only detriment was that there was a bit of looseness between songs. Transitions were stumbling and the audience rapport was a little stilted. That does fit the awkward nerd theme they espoused though and once they started playing it was back to great, and I enjoyed all the numbers (even though I did not know a single one.)


The Beard can totally get why Bob Byrne would book this kind of band, and I am right there with you brother. The Beard, the crowd, and Little Johnny all had a huge response to these guys. Owlbear killed it and already it was time to head to merch for their CD. Cracking my first cold one with a big 91/100.



Third up, it was a trip back to Canada with Edmonton’s Tower Hill running behind their 2023 release Deathstalker.

Despite only being together three years, Tower Hill hit with supreme confidence. Singer R.F. Traynor started things off with a Queensryche style scream as the band launched into a power/heavy metal mix. Although Traynor is a large man, (think King Fowley from October 31, or maybe Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds if you are not a metal fan), but he moved around the stage nimbly and had a good falsetto. The rest of the band was a bit nondescript visually, but they played quite well for a group with just three years and one release under them. I felt like they were going for an Iron Maiden style and sound musically.


Tower Hill could have been a bit more structured as to when and where they hit the dramatics to emphasize the songs more fully, but I suspect that will come with more time and touring. Right now, they were a little like a new driver, (fast and wild) so of course Little Johnny liked them for exactly that reason. They had good energy and, when speaking not singing, Traynor had a definite northern accent. I swear at one point we almost heard a “Ya hey dere.” Still, this was another fun band and another suitable selection by promoter Bob Byrne. He is off to a strong start this year. The Beard is calling Tower Hill an 83/100 with a lot of upside potential.



Fourth up were from the west coast as the power metal sounds of Seattle’s Greyhawk hit the stage behind their brand-new release 2024’s Thunderheart.

Interesting entrance with vocalist Rev. Taylor, clad in monk hood and holding a glowing orb (circa 1981’s “Heavy Metal” movie). Despite the long falsetto, I was not fond of the vocals on the first track. Either they had some sound issues or Taylor was finishing his lunch while singing that one.


By the second number they were dialed in better, and you could tell Greyhawk were trending towards that early Judas Priest sound with the dual guitars and the Halford style vocals. As the set went on I will admit they were doing a more than passable job of sounding like a difficult-to-emulate band. The Rev could definitely crank up the high note when he wanted to, and he was clean and clear on the rest.

Greyhawk tried the in-synch band moves, (where everyone stands side by side and they swing the guitars and swivel in unison). Always a good visual when done right, Greyhawk though seemed a little stilted when doing it. That just spoke to visuals, musically the dual guitar leads were good. This set was nicely chosen as it contained rockers, power ballads, and both a drum and guitar solo portion, so again it was a full-fledged set for fans of the Judas Priest song style and set structure while still maintaining their own originality. 86/100


Fifth up tonight it was once more into the great white north as Edmonton’s own Striker took the stage behind 2024’s Ultrapower release, (their seventh.)

Striker wasted little time presenting a flamboyant set of in-your-face metal starting with "Circle of Evil". Striker is the party band every metalhead wants on Spring Break. A lot of posturing and jumping around (but in the Van Halen way), that invites and involves the audience who eagerly jumped full force into the party, (including Little Johnny who tried valiantly to surf to "Ready for Anything".) 


Striker does not know what slow down means. This might well be Johnnys favorite band this year as the circle pit has also arrived and the little dude is right in there throwing bony elbows and delightedly crashing about. Nice bass solo by Pete Klassen. Normally I am not too enamored of bass solos, but this one was inventive and particularly good. During the song “Two Men Enter One-Man Leaves” Little Johnny successfully surfed his way to the stage, shot the horns and vanished right back into the crowd with a smile and his ever-present cap still in place. (Man, that damn thing just never comes off.)

It is my practice to grade the set that is in front of me. Musically, vocally, and energy wise Striker just gave a great one. Cracking a cold one and going 93/100.



Finally, we reached the headliners, Canadian power/death act Unleash the Archers featuring Brittney Slays on vocals.

With six full releases including 2024’s Phantoma, this will be the Beard's first look at this band. Right from go you realize Brittney Slays is an operatic singer. She is as much symphonic as power with her voice. The band is practiced and tight as they thundered through the opening song.


As number after number rolled off, Brittney showed no signs of either slowing down or not hitting high note after high note whenever she damn well felt like it. This act was polished and was the most professional set of a very impressive day. The styles of music are different, but watching Slays do her thing was like seeing prime era Nightwish or Lacuna Coil vocally as she easily demonstrated a firm command and stratospheric notes. This was one of the best original sets I have seen in 2024.

I kept waiting for the letdown set all day and it simply never arrived. I have no idea how promoter Bob Byrnes even equals today, let alone tries to top it tomorrow. This day had no bad sets and three of six acts reached my not easily given “crack a cold one status.” Today, on night one of Legions of Metal, it was “Legions of successes.” Unleash the Archers gets a 94/100.

This wraps up a top-notch day of metal. Hail to Canada, and respect to all the bands on main stage today. I did not think a small fest could knock out a day rivaling day three of 2024’s Hells Heroes, but hey, it just happened.


This is the Beard and Little Johnny saying we will see everyone tomorrow for day two. Until then, keep reading The Mighty Decibel, following TikTok at thebeard0728 and friend or follow Mark McQueen on Facebook. Until tomorrow this is the Beard & Little Johnny saying ...

Stay Heavy and Horns Up!!!


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