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Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2016 Review, Chicago, IL, May 6 & 7, 2016

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My 3rd Ragnarokkr attendance in a row came to a close Saturday night in Chicago.  It was a great time as always.  I got into Chicago Wednesday night after spending some days in Virginia with my Mom and my brother.  Upon arrival and getting my bag and rental car situated, I headed over to the newly reopened Metal Haven Grill for a pre-pre-party.  Cool little place that has some insane original artwork on its walls like the original painting for Savatage’s Hall of the Mountain King, Def Leppard’s On Through the Night, BOC’s Fire of Unknown Original original concept drawing, original KISS embossing plates for Dressed to Kill and a lot of other cool stuff.  Go check them out if you’re ever in Chicago.  From there I met up with Mendoza, Simon, Bob and a couple of other festival pals for a few drinks before heading to Mendoza’s Sugar Shack to sleep.

Upon waking up on Thursday I went to my hotel near the concert venue around 930AM to see if they had a room available and they got me right in. Sweet!  I didn’t sleep well the night before and needed to catch a nap to have some energy for the pre-party at The Mutiny later that evening.  I didn’t get much sleep but it was enough.  I did a late lunch with a friend in town then back to the hotel again.  I caught another quick nap then Rodney and I headed off to the pre-party dinner.  That was pretty tame this year.  From there we went to The Mutiny.  I love this bar.  True dive bar with one of the coolest owners ever.  Ed.  Ed is the man but sadly he told me he’s got cancer and apparently it’s pretty advanced.  He’d lost 85lbs since the last time I saw him but he’s in good spirits.  I spent a lot of time hanging out with him and he remembered me the moment I walked in the door from the previous 2 years.  He said they gave him up to 5 years which is a pretty good prognosis for someone with advanced prostate cancer.  He’s 65ish and that age is a better for having that type of cancer than being younger.  But whatever, he’s a great guy and I’m glad I got some time with him.  As I was leaving the party I gave him a hug and told him I’d see him next year.  Unfortunately none of the festival bands except for Ashbury made it to the party at The Mutiny this year, but it was still fun.  I love those Ashbury guys.  Great band and great people.  More on that later.  I was pretty tired by around 1230AM so Judd and Jennifer (new pals from Houston) and I drove back to the hotel.  I fell asleep pretty quickly.

Friday.  Fest day!  I picked Kelz up from the airport around 1130 and we went back to the hotel.  We went to the famed Ricobene’s for their breaded steak sandwich.  We ordered the small one which easily weighed a pound or more.  I ended up just leaving the bread behind.  Quite tasty though.  Back to the hotel.  Another nap ensued.  Damien Thorne was opening the fest on the main stage at 530 and we got to the venue around 5.  I’ll go through the bands one by one below…good, bad or indifferent.

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Damien Thorne – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with having only one original member (technically 2, as I didn’t know until meeting them after that the bassist player was on the original demos).  I thought they sounded great.  New singer, Warren Halverson, did a fine job.  They mixed their set up with older and newer stuff and it worked just fine.  Warren gave away a bunch of new CDs and some other merch from the stage and Rock Browz (b) handed me a nice Damien Thorne steel pin.  Great set and really nice guys.  I caught them out back and had Ken and Rob sign The Book.  They bailed quickly though and never came out to meet with fans after their set.  Not sure what was up with that.

Gatekeeper – I missed the first part of their set as I was finishing the Damien Thorne set.  They were finishing North Wolves and then went into a cover of Omen’s Death Rider.  Brilliant.  Jean-Pierre Abboud (ex-Borrowd Time, Funeral Circle) is handling vox for Gatekeeper these days and did a wonderful job as a whole.  It was great to finally see them play.

Killen – I caught maybe 2 songs and got bored out of my skull.  It really seemed like were just going through the motions.

Riot City – Probably the biggest surprise band of the weekend.  These guys from Calgary kicked total ass.  Great vocals, leads, everything.  Good American power metal.  Check out some of their stuff here.  Can’t wait to hear a full length.  Super nice guys as well.

Ignitor – I left during Riot City’s last song to catch my Austin pals do their thing.  The band was in fine form and Jason McMaster was working the crowd like he always does.  They had a lot of fans there and had a special Ragnarokkr only EP available.  Always a pleasure seeing them and good to see them outside of Austin.

Salvacion – I’d seen them before a couple of years ago in Richmond opening for Satan.  While I like the singer’s voice, they don’t do anything for me.  I also can’t watch their drummer.  Dude can’t keep his tongue in his mouth.  The band also seems lyrically challenged.  Having songs like Epic Beer Run isn’t going to win me over…ever.  The did two covers, UFO’s Doctor Doctor and Riot’s Swords and Tequila.  The Riot cover wasn’t good.

War Cry – Chicago natives War Cry played their first show in 25 years on Friday.  I wasn’t that familiar with them but thought they sounded pretty good.  I give nothing but high respect to their singer, though.  Rich Rozek has Parkinson’s Disease and it’s obvious that it’s pretty advanced.  But he rocked the set and came out to meet everyone afterwards.  I got him to sign The Book as well.  He thought it was cool and asked for information on how to get a copy.  He also gave me a copy of their CD.  Sweet guy.

Chalice – This was another band that I wasn’t too familiar with going in…and I left their set not wanting to get more familiar with them.

Ambush – Everybody has been all abuzz about these Swedes and I had only checked out a song or two on YouTube prior to the festival.  Add them to the list of newer Swedish power metal bands that I can’t care about.  zzzzzzz

Ashbury – I love Ashbury, both as a band and as people.  Rob and Randy Davis are 2 of the nicest guys you’d ever meet and I’m glad to see them getting success 30+ years after the release of their debut album, Endless Skies.  Ashbury isn’t a metal band but fit perfectly on the metal festivals that they have been playing the last few years.  When I first saw them in Ventura last year, it was amazing to see the metal crowd singing every word to the Endless Skies album.  Same thing happened in Chicago.  They were tight and added a third guitarist which sounded great for their live show.  Their cover of BOC’s Don’t Fear the Reaper was killer.  The whole band is just awesome and I can’t tout the brilliance of Endless Skies enough.  They also debuted a new song, He Played a Good Guitar, which was really good but from what I understand from Rob Davis, they will be changing the name of the song. ;)

Jag Panzer – I don’t dislike Jag Panzer but I never got too into them.  They were the closer for the night.  I owned an original copy of Ample Destruction and Thane to the Throne on CD, but just never explored deeper into them.  Let me tell you this, they hit the stage and leveled Reggie’s that night.  I was completely floored by Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin’s vocal performance.  That guy was hitting notes that just blew my mind.  They crowd was very into it as well.  It was a pleasure to see and meet them afterwards.  When I met Harry after the show to have him sign The Book, I mentioned that I had Chris Cronk’s signature on the Jag Panzer page as well. He said, “Sad that he passed away.” I laughed and said, “Chris will be disappointed to know he’s dead!” Harry apologized and said, “damn, I guess I meant someone else. Tell him hello!”  It was pretty funny.

 

After the quick goodbyes outside, we walked back to the hotel.  After sitting there for a bit, Kelz and I decided that we needed some snacks and water so we hopped in the car and found a 7-11, loaded up on trash food and waters and went back to the hotel.  Around 5AM the fire alarm went off.  That sucked.  We got up, went outside and 5 minutes later the fire crew waved us back in.  The alarm went off several more times for the next hour in short spurts.

After waking up Saturday, we walked over to a Chinese place and got some great food and went back to the hotel.  Nap time again.  Fuck, I’m getting old.  haha.

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Earlier start time for bands on Saturday and we were sort of rushed to get there on time but made it.

Midnight Chaser – What a way to open the main stage!  This Pittsburgh 4-piece laid down a great set of metal.  I had already checked them out prior to the fest and really liked what I had heard.  They were great all the way around.  I picked up their CD and a shirt.  Can’t wait to hear more material and to see them live again.

White Magician – Boring.  Sloppy.  Trash talked Ashbury’s BOC cover while playing a shitty version of Transmaniacon MC.  Fuck em.

Impaler – I always liked If We Had Brains We’d Be Dangerous and It Won’t Die and looked forward to seeing them live.  They still have originals Bill Lindsay and Court Hawley and I got to meet both of them before they went on.  Solid dudes and signed The Book.  They are a true shock rock metal band and everyone was in full makeup.  It was awesome.  Bill worked the crowd and the crowd was very into their set.  There was some fake blood, a beautiful girl getting her intestines ripped out and then taking a hard knee from Bill.  She’s one tough girl because she didn’t really flinch much.  They were so much fun to see live and I was smiling ear to ear through their whole set.

Wulfhook – I listened to a couple of songs but nothing really caught my ear at all.  They were solid, though.

Lethal – After leaving Wulhook I went downstairs to meet Lethal before their set to get them to sign The Book.  Only Tom Mallicoat and bassist Glen Cook were down with newer guitarist Chris Brown (great guy!).  For whatever reason, Mallicoat was acting like a total choad to me.  Chris was cool and Glen was super nice, but Mallicoat was giving me the third degree about printing press history (?), Mark Twain and some other random nonsense.  He just seemed out of his head.  He started busting my balls about the book and I said, “Hey, if you don’t want to sign it, no worries.  I’m a Lethal fan but whatever.”  He proceeds to call me a liar and then asks how much I was going to sell the book for.  hahaha.  Whut?  I calmly explained the labor of love I have with that book and how it’ll never be for sale.  He then signed it, offered a handshake that lasted for a good minute before letting go.  It was a completely surreal experience and one that I’d just as soon not have with him again.  I met the other guys later in the evening and they were all total nice guys and apologized for his behavior.  No worries.  Everyone’s got their thing and I don’t think there was any malicious intent on his part.  When they hit the stage, they were GREAT.  Vocals and everything were on point but Tom’s behavior was just outlandish to say the least.  Flipping off the crowd, talking shit to them, etc.  Oh well.  Was good to see them live finally.

Old Wolf – Holy shit.  This power metal quintet from Kentucky totally kicked my ass.  Plain and simple.  They’ve got a demo out and I recommend it.  Their singer has a great voice and range, but when he speaks, you can totally tell he’s from Kentucky.  haha.  Great guys all around.

Spellcaster – I caught their last couple of songs.  I’ve got their 2014 S/T CD but it didn’t do much for me.  They were solid, though.  I should probably give their latest a listen.

Winterhawk – They’re a band that I feel that I should love, but I don’t.  I don’t hate them either but their stuff leaves me a little flat.  Their main guitarist is a beast though.  I only caught their last 2.5 songs.

Ordained Fate – I didn’t listen to them prior to the fest but I enjoyed the 4 songs I heard from this reunited band.  Only the two female guitarists are original.  Vocals, riffs, leads all sounded good.

Satan’s Host – I bought the reissue CD of Metal From Hell a few years back and thought it was good, but not great.  Seeing it live was quite different.  Harry Conklin put on another vocal performance that made me just shake my head in awe of his range.  Patrick Evil was the only other original member in the band on guitar.  Nice dude and solid player.  It was an enjoyable set.

Hexenhammer – Missed it completely waiting for Leather to come on.

Leather – I love Chastain’s albums with Leather on vocals and I love Leather as a person.  We first connected 2 years ago when my old band played Ragnarokkr and she was an emcee of the fest.  She’s a kind soul and I couldn’t wait to see her live finally after all these years.  I saw her when we were eating dinner prior to her set and got a huge hug.  As Satan’s Host finished, Kelz and I made our way to the front and secured our spots dead center.  Game on.  They played a short but killer set and Leather sounded great playing a mix of Chastain and Leather songs.  Her backing band consisted of Jim Dofka (Screamer), David Harbour (Chastain, King Diamond) and Brian Harris.  Brian’s brother Michael Harris was originally announced as the guitarist but I guess that didn’t pan out.  Leather’s voice sounded great and she’s very engaging on stage.  I just loved it but wanted more.  MORE!

Medieval Steel – Never really go into them and only listened to a couple of songs.  Very solid and the crowd was certainly on board.

Tygers of Pan Tang – Tygers was the fest headliner.  I’ve only owned Crazy Nights and Spellbound but can’t really consider myself a fan.  While they’re an integral part of the NWOBHM, I prefer the more aggressive and melodic stuff.  That being said, they were really damn good for the brief time I watched them.  My knees and back were shot and I spent much of their set in the other room giving them a rest.  Getting to hang out and have drinks with Robb Weir and the band the night before was pretty sweet.

Also great getting to see my good friends in Night Demon and Visigoth.

So some quick goodbyes on the sidewalk and back to the hotel we went.  Kelz had a 7AM flight which he almost missed because his alarm never went off.  Luckily I snored myself awake and saw light coming through the window and yelled at him.  He made it.

I had a late afternoon flight so Brett Bretterson (not his real name) and I hit Portillo’s before heading to the airport.  Always delicious.

It was a great fest and great seeing friends from fests past, meeting new folks and just the overall vibe of the event.  If all works out, I’ll be playing ti again next year.  I’ll definitely be in attendance again.  See you there!

To see all of the setlists, click here.

Click pics to enlarge.

Damien Thorne – Sign of the Jackal – CD Review

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Damien Thorne hit the scene in 1986 with their debut release Sign of the Jackal on Roadrunner Records.  At that time thorneRoadrunner had decent distribution and their tapes and records were in most stores.  I am pretty sure a former friend from high school and I were out and about when this one got discovered.  Sometimes it gets hard to remember.  Doesn’t matter.  This was a good discovery.

Damien Thorne fit the category for what I considered speed metal with a hint of NWOBHM in them.  Justin Fates vocals were definitely the high point for me with these guys.  He reminded me a lot of Glen May from Tyrant (LA)…good normal singing voice and great high notes heavily laden with reverb/delay/chorus.  Good times!

Since I was listening to this on cassette for many years, side 2 would be considered my favorite side.  Hell’s Reign, Escape or Die, Siren’s Call and Damien’s Procession (March of the Undead).  Side 1 wasn’t shabby by any means, but the album got better as it went along.

DT had pretty decent riffs and good drumming with some good straightforward double bass stuff in it.  Most of the songs are good mid-paced US metal.

While Damien Thorne weren’t any sort of groundbreaking act, the debut is certainly worth tracking down.  The  CD version was available for a few years but seems to be out of print now.

Tonight was the first time I have spun this in a few years and it really brought back good memories of my high school years (there weren’t many) of hanging out in Churchland with the old crew…

Man, looking back it’s a wonder that some of us are still alive.  Well, sadly, some of us aren’t.  It’s interesting to see who ended up where doing what.

Going back and listening to some of these old albums really sets off some stuff in the brain.  It’s a good stroll down memory lane with some music that always takes me back.  I definitely wore out a few cassette copies of Sign of the Jackal.  Riding around in my 66 Nova II 4dr.  While I generally don’t miss those days, there were enough good times intertwined with friends and music that will never be forgotten.  Luckily I talk to friends that remind me of an album or I listen to an album that reminds me of some old friends.

Download it here. Buy it if you can find it.

Written by The Metal Files

September 22, 2009 at 9:06 pm

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