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(Live Review) TOP 40 LIVE ACTS OF 2023 (Little Johnny) - Part 3 (#s 20-11)


Little Johnny


Alright metal fans, today we are going to be getting intense as we look at part three of my favorite live sets of 2023. You guys all know I love to have a good time at shows. I want to dance, crowd surf and circle pit. I like bands that know how to get the crowds moving and today’s list has a lot of that going on. Pop yourself an IPA and let’s get to it.

#20:     Obliteration (4-14-23 at Metal Threat Fest Night #1 in Lombard, Illinois)

Metal Threat fest was three full days and nights of bands too brutal for Beard's taste, but there were a lot that I really dug including these Norwegian guys who played metal that had traces of black, speed & death.

Man, THAT should be a bands name, “The Black Speed of Death.” That would be cool, and I would go see that band. This band though was killer. Lots of pits and circles.

#19:     Havok (8-9-23 in Chicago, Illinois)

I mentioned three shows that were contenders for most intense, and these guys headlined one of them.

Havok brought tons of extra lights and effects, and this was just one of those sets where something was happening every second. I like it when there’s no slowing down and these guys brought that. Blew away the crowd.

#18:     Sacramentum (4-15-23 at Metal Threat Fest Night #2 in Lombard, Illinois)  

Yep, we’re right back at that intense three-day festival of brutal bands. These dudes had a singer that was a giant. Dude looked huge up there with his armor. He had these bracelets from wrist to elbow that were all covered with nails, and about mid set he started dumping blood all over himself and like rubbing it all over his body.

The band behind him was scorching it up and by the end of that set the front stage area looked like a murder scene. Now that’s a killer forty-five minutes of music.

#17:     Dust Prophets (6-24-23 Maryland Doomfest Night #3 in Frederick Maryland)

Now, I didn’t pick too many bands from this fest because it’s more Beard's style of music. Bands play a lot slower stuff at this one, but we always have a good time between shows checking out breweries and distilleries and good places to eat. I remember this day because Beard let me choose where we ate, and I got to have a cheeseburger with fried peanut butter and pickles. Beard asked me if I was pregnant. Just remember Beard you never caught “me” drinking a pink beer.

Now, I didn’t know nothing about this band and so I just expected another slow stoner doom kind of thing. Well, instead this singer, I think his name was Otto something, (Otto Kinzel), he starts screaming and howling and jumping around on and off the stage into the crowd. That immediately grabbed my attention and I thought awesome, this band knows how to party. Their songs were about serial killers and stuff, and they were my favorite band at the whole fest.


Afterwards, I saw Beard getting a picture with the girl bassist, (Sarah Wappler). As I remember, she just kind of stood there playing and didn’t do anything like the singer guy but Beard said she played awesome, and he wanted to meet her. Sometimes I really don’t get what makes him excited.

#16:     Possessed (3-24-23 Hells Hero’s Night #2 in Houston Texas)

This fest was our first trip to Houston. The set up was good. There was a big outdoor stage with a hill and lots of places to run around in. There was also a VIP area about 1000 feet away from the stage where Beard could sit and drink his frou-frou beers with his pinkie curled. Anyway, the night two headliners were these west coast guys that Beard said had the reputation of starting death metal back in the 1980’s so I was stoked to see them.


They came out to about a three-minute intro of spooky music and red lights and then to my total surprise the lead singer was in a wheelchair. I guess he had an accident a long time ago, but he still was amazing. Strong voice, commanding stage presence. Their songs were brutally fast and heavy. Beard always talks about the godfathers like Zeppelin and Sabbath and Purple. This band was one of “my” godfathers because death metal rules and they were at the start of it. (Ed: Amen to that Johnny!)

#15:     Cryptal (4-19-23 in Joliet, Illinois)

As you already know, a lot of the time I like opening bands better than the later ones. They are the ones who have to set the tone and the mood for the event. A good opening band can make the whole show better and this was one of my favorites.

For starters, it was a bunch of hot chicks and that’s never a bad thing. The lead singer though was not only majorly hot, but she also had a brutal death metal voice. At one point she had a growl that went like 20+ seconds. Beard said she used to sing in that band Nervosa.(Fernanda Lira). I remember seeing Nervosa last year. I think I lost a sock at that show, but that was after this chick had already left the band. Anyway, she was great on the mic. That really set the tone for the whole night, and she may have been one of my favorite opening acts all year.

#14:     Exciter (3-24-23 at Hells Hero’s in Houston Texas & 9-30-23 at Blades of Steel in Madison Wisconsin)

This Canadian band was killer both times we saw them. Their set up at the first show was bigger. Bigger stage and bigger crowd, but it was also during the daytime, so they didn’t have lights or effects or nothing.

Beard thought their second show at Blades was better, but I kind of dug the daytime one. It was shorter, but I thought they were more intense for that one. Either way, both sets were really good.

#13:     Razor (3-25-23 Hells Hero’s Night #3 in Houston Texas)  

As you can see, I really liked this festival. Beard says we are going again in 2024 and that the line-up is even more stacked. That is going to rule. Razor was another Canadian band from back in the 1980’s. Now this set had some technical mess ups and that made them go on late, and since they were on right before the headliner they had to be off the stage on time and so ultimately they didn’t get their whole set in.


Beard takes off points in that crazy calculus computation thing he does when stuff like that happens. I don’t. Razor killed it man. Old songs & some of the best new stuff of the fest. This band has been around forty years and is STILL producing killer new songs. They might not have made Beard's list, but they made mine.

#12:     Riot City (3-25-23 Hells Hero’s Night #3 Houston Texas)   

Ha-Ha, yep one more from the same fest. This band played really early in the day and at first there was like nobody watching them except me and maybe thirty other people. By song two though people were running over from concessions and merch to see the rest of the set.

Another Canadian band, but this time really young guys (like me). Apparently Canada just grows metal bands out in the wilderness, and then sends them to the U.S. to kick ass. Their singer was nailing full throated screams that were higher than anybody at that festival, and man the whole band ran all over that stage from start to finish. Everybody appreciated their amazing energy and it set the bar for what was one of my favorite days of metal all year long.

#11:     Ghost (8-15-23 in Chicago, Illinois)

Now this band was visually one of my top three all year. The singer looked like some sort of Evil Pope and the band members were all in these outfits with helmets that looked like the ones people used to wear to go deep sea diving, or maybe like in a bad space movie. Anyway, the background was like a giant church and people in the crowd were all dressed up like Nuns and Priests and monsters and stuff.


The songs were all catchy (but a little soft for my tastes.) There were a lot of songs about the Devil and stuff and the crowd was really into these guys. Like I said, a ton to look at with all the lights and costumes and effects and stuff. Beard seemed to really be getting into it and they were absolutely cool no doubt, but they just missed making my final top ten.



So, there you go, thirty down and the top ten are left. You can read all my lists, (and Beards too if you want to), on our bosses’ site The Mighty Decibel. Then check out the videos to all these acts on our TIKTOK site by searching thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny. Until we meet again, have an IPA on me and remember.

Stay Heavy


Horns Up!!!


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