top of page

Our Recent Posts



(Live Review) MILWAUKEE METALFEST 2024 - Night One (5/17/24)


The Beard & Little Johnny


Greetings friend’s fans and followers, it is your reviewing hosts, (the Beard & Little Johnny), and we are prepared for a ginormous day of metal here on day one of the Milwaukee Metalfest. This will be show #30 and bands #100-109 (for 2024) as the Metal Bus rolls on. With twenty-six bands (across three stages on different floors), on today’s docket, the lad and I debated long and hard about who to cover.

The Beard voted for big names we had not seen before, while Johnny voted for bands with the best pits. After several ballots, we mostly agreed on the following list. So, today we will be checking out: Blind Guardian, Autopsy, Kamelot, Doro, Symphony X, Hammerfall, Overkill, Backlash, Night Demon, Bewitcher, UADA.


(Note, Little Johnny refused to concede on Doro Pesch and ultimately said, “Whatever Beard, go see your old man fantasy crush chick, I’m going to Havok.”) Still, it was a mostly agreeable compromise for our first day. Five of these acts will be brand new for both of us, and there are adequate pit bands for him to circle in like a dog chasing its tail.



First up for us from Portland Oregon, the masked purveyors of black metal UADA already on their fourth full release in just eight years (2023’s Crepuscule Natura).


Beginning the fest with fog and the howling of wolves, UADA made their dark and masked entrance, and the festival was on. Black metal mixed with nature music, UADA are a sub-genre I enjoy. Ethereal, while still being fast and heavy, the masked ministers of darkness took us through twenty-five intense minutes.

Dual fog machines and white footlights kept the four members (of course clad entirely in black and hooded) from any sort of individual detail, which was of course the point. UADA are a unit that functions better that way. A force that emits their audio vision to the fans. UADA are not for everyone, but Johnny and I agreed it was a solid opener and their quick magician-like vanish from the stage after the set gave a fine stamp to the mystique. 82/100 and we are off to the races.



Second up today, fellow Portland act Bewitcher brought their Satanic speed metal act to Milwaukee.

With no outfits, more distinguishable lyrics and a speed metal base for their evil, Bewitcher gave us twenty-five unrelenting minutes of foot on the gas metal. Of course, the lad loved it. Bewitcher played with no frills or effects, just a power trio blazing away with little wasted time. A different take on black/evil music than UADA, but I am giving the fellow Portlanders the same grade 82/100.



Third up, and my first trip to the big stage on the upper floor in the Eagles ballroom, was California power trio Night Demon.

Due to rain and a tight schedule, we had missed seeing Night Demon in Houston, so this was finally a chance to see and review this power trio that creates NWOBHM Angelwitch-meets-Enforcer type music.



Here is where the first crack in the Milwaukee Metalfest armor appeared, only the third band on and already Night Demon was running about 15-minutes late. This could easily create a domino effect and screw up our schedule throughout the rest of the day. Audibles may be in our future.


Night Demon had a different sound than what I remember from years ago (with Brian Wilson replacing Dusty Squires behind the drum kit). Additionally, in the massive Eagles Club ballroom, they did not present intimately as I had always seen them in a smaller venue. The step up in venue size did not, in my opinion, enhance them (although no doubt they enjoyed the big room benefits.)

They were still a good sounding metal band, but I was less impressed than I had hoped. The Eagles Club, (with its spacious size), was a giant oval with nothing but hard surfaces and the sound was muddy. Despite being a good band, on this day Night Demon were closer to Angelwitch than Enforcer (in that their sound was poor.)


While I would award them an eight on pomp and circumstance, I would only go a six and a half on how it sounded. I am therefore calling them a surprisingly lower than expected 77/100.



Next up, the Beard had a plan, and it was time to execute it. In the downstairs basement of the Rave, there was a spot set up for band meet and greets. Up next was my 1984 metal pinup girl the vivacious Doro Pesch. This was finally the chance for which I had waited. The Beard stood in line and finally stood face to face with one of Metal music’s original vixens. As Doro signed her tour poster for me, I told her I had been a fan for 40-years and that I was fulfilling a promise I had made when I was eighteen that if I ever met her, I would propose. So, then I did.



Doro stopped signing for a second and looked up at me with a bit of surprise then replied, “I am married to my music.” At that point one of her bandmates offered to have her divorced by showtime for five hundred bucks. As we all shared a laugh, Miss Pesch did take my hand, asked my name and said, “Thank you for the offer.” She also posed in a lovely picture with me, so hey, I can always say I have that. Bite me Little Johnny, I proposed to Doro Pesch. How many people can say that? (Ed: Typical for you Beard. You're shot down in flames and you still find something positive out of it!)


Next, I headed to the small stage to catch the end of hometown boys from Joliet, Illinois Backlash and their set.

I was only able to catch about 15 minutes of this act which was basic metal. Backlash was a good pallet cleanser before the onslaught of the big dog acts coming up. I will award them a 75/100 for a solid second stage act.



Beginning the plethora of heavy hitters, fifth up tonight were the New Jersey thrash metal warhorses Overkill.



Now THIS band belonged on the big stage. Overkill hit with thunder as Bobby Blitz and the boys showed Milwaukee what thrash metal ought to sound like. Every part of the lights and setup was right on for this set. Awesome, (except for that still muddy overall sound.) You can tell at 64 years old that Bobby Blitz gets a little winded now and had to lean or sit a bit throughout the set, but it was still my first “crack a cold one” grade for this old school set from Overkill 90/100.



Next up in the sixth position tonight we got our first international act of the weekend as Sweden’s power metal band Hammerfall hit the stage.

At this point, I finally found Little Johnny. “Johnny, how do you already have an Overkill shirt on? Shit, where is my credit card?”


Gothic Swedish power metal, Hammerfall had the cleanest singing so far today. Head shaking and hair whipping music. Good guitar and clearly a practiced band with good stage presence. While I was not familiar with their songs, I did enjoy the set. Good power metal and as long-time vocalist Joacim Cans said, “No fucking ballads!” I could swear from the balcony I heard Johnnys response of “Fuck Yeah!”


On a sad note, with both stages now running late in the dreaded domino effect caused earlier, Hammerfall pushed past their time limit and still started what was to be their closer. Sound shut the mix down on them right in the middle. The band played on resulting in an odd sort of a-cappella crowd singalong with raw drum accompaniment.

Even with that craziness, I am still calling it 88/100 because I enjoyed what they did overall.


By this time, as both stages were running about twenty minutes late, the Beard called his first audible. I remained in my balcony seat and skipped running back upstairs for Symphony X. I was not about to surrender my prime viewing spot as next up on this stage, and in the seventh overall position tonight, was my metal Goddess Doro Pesch.

Little Johnny and I again parted ways as he was off to the small room to see thrash metal act Havok while the Beard swooned over his beautiful Doro. I had shown Little Johnny the picture of Doro and I together, to which the little $&#%head laughingly replied, “That’s cool, but why does she look like she’s a hostage Beard?” “Johnny, you suck so hard right now.”



The techs are trying to perform quick changeovers and make up time, but it is actually further limiting the sound and stressing the crew to boot. I think Jasta overbooked, and his changeover windows are just too tight. You do not ever see this at a Randy Kastner festival.


Well, whatever, time to worship at the feet of the Goddess, the amazing Doro Pesch. “I Rule the World,” kicked off a hit filled (even if too short) set. Doro’s band complimented her well. Play well and let the star shine. As always I will happily crack a cold one for Doro. This was not her best day, but she always puts in maximum effort. 90/100



For our number eight band tonight, the reviewing duo have reunited, and we are checking out Florida’s power metal act Kamelot.


Our first time viewing these guys. Kamelot paid great attention to stage set up and put a huge focus on lighting coordination. They must have brought their own guy because that was the most accurate light show of the day. Usually, mainstage is just an overall wash with effects and about four spot positions and bands need to hit their marks. Kamelot had each lighting scene sequence set to cover exactly the parts of the stage they wanted with great color combinations.


They also had the best backdrop art and use of smoke. If only the room's sound had equaled their efforts this might have been the set of the festival. With Kamelot, keys are a big part of the sound and too often it got lost in the quick mire of the bass and low-end thunder.


Visually, they were the best in show today, their audio though just suffered from a bad mix/room whatever. I absolutely loved watching this set with the commitment to the theatrics. Maximum effort, but I still struggled with hearing it clearly. Cracking another cold one and awarding the highest score of the day at 91/100 because it was so easy to see this was not in any way the bands’ fault and the crowd was hot for them. Kamelot was really, really good.



In a bid to give Little Johnny what he wanted, we hustled back downstairs, and our ninth act tonight would be west coast death metal with Autopsy.

Although we did see Autopsy already in Houston at Hell's Heroes, Johnny reminded me that set was rain shortened and this time they could cut loose properly. Point taken little dude, let’s see what happens.



This room was packed. Autopsy had the fans even if once again the sound was sketchy. I have no idea where Johnny was in that sea of people on the floor, but the Beard, (like a bird), took to the sky and hid myself in the balcony. Even up here, all the seats were gone, and I was standing in the far back corner where I could at least get some degree of pictures and videos.


As befits death metal, Autopsy were harsh vocals, blast beats and screaming quick guitars with some slower moments to allow for structure. I thought Autopsy had a sloppy set really, but then again it is death metal so that is somewhat overlook-able. Compared to the effort I just saw from Kamelot though, at best I can only go 84/100. Likely Johnny will grade them much higher.



Finally, we stood at the tenth and headlining act for night one, renowned German power metal act Blind Guardian.

After having witnessed a great thrash set from German band Sodom headlining Hell's Heroes a couple of months ago, we were both stoked to hear this German band live for the first time.


Blind Guardian were practiced, good musicians. The songs were dramatic and structured, and the people were definitely ready to receive them. “Nightfall” got a huge pop and crowd singalong. Maybe this time it’s me, but when Sodom hit in Houston, I remember going “WOW!” With Blind Guardian, I was just going “okay…”


They clearly had all the pieces; the guitarists were very accomplished, the vocalist had a clear and strong voice, (although fans seemed to indicate he was not as strong as normal for this set.) I do not know as it was my first time seeing them live. Their lighting was big and spectacular. But… they just were not landing for me. “Into the Forest” was mostly sung by the crowd who clearly knew every word of it, and I have got to admit that is pretty cool. When a festival crowd knows all the words to your song and they are that loud, I must pay that respect.


Ultimately I am giving 87/100 on musicianship and responsive crowd. I do not want any Blind Guardian music and I do not think I care if I ever see them again, but the crowd sang their songs loud and enthusiastically, so respect to the audience.


Wow, what a crazy day and night one. Some pluses; fun bands, new experiences and of course the Beard met and proposed to Doro Pesch. Negatives included muddy main room mix, and both stages falling behind on scheduled start times which cost us seeing one planned band.


Night one winners: Overkill (great retro set in a muddy room) Kamelot: (fantastic stage show and too bad about the tough sound). Doro Pesch: Because she is freaking Doro Pesch.


Night one: better luck next time. Night Demon, (spacious room bad sound.) Hammerfall: (Good set ran long and you had to play your closer with the sound turned off.) Beer prices: At thirteen dollars for a beer (plus tip) the tip is just drink one beer. (Ed: Impossible!)


This wrapped up the first night and the first ten bands of Milwaukee Metalfest, and now it was back to our rooms so we could do it all over again tomorrow.

Remember to follow us every week on The Mighty Decibel for reviews like this one. Check out our TikTok page at thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny for all the video footage, and friend us on Facebook at Mark McQueen.

Until next time, this is the Beard and Little Johnny saying ...

Stay Heavy and Horns Up!!!


bottom of page