by Robert Williams
For years upon years metalheads made the pilgrimage to Chicago, Illinois for the Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse festival. I’m not exactly sure how many years in a row Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse had been going strong but it was a bunch, OK? Anyway, the bill for this year’s festival was super-stacked and then things went pear shaped and the festival was cancelled. Guess what? A few mighty warriors kept the dream alive, rebranded the festival as Legions of Metal and retained virtually every act set to appear at Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse. All of this cool stuff you see below happened last weekend at the inaugural Legions of Metal festival!
I needed a vacation. Who doesn’t? An escape from all of the allergies, panhandlers, liberals and my day/night jobs back home in Austin, Texas was longggg overdue. So I boarded a flight for Chicago and snored my ass off until we landed in the Windy City. I took a train to whatever-whatever street and my old pal Eric Gosselin (Fierce Atmospheres) picked me up in his party van and drove us down to Reggies Live (the venue for Legions of Metal, duh!) I missed Seax’s performance and that was a bummer but when I walked in the first band I saw was Substratum from Seattle on the Music Joint stage.
I’m pretty sure a fight broke out during Substratum because there was a lot of commotion in the audience. I didn’t get involved and kick anyone’s ass because I had just got there and didn’t want to get kicked out.
Next I checked out Slauter Xstroyes on the main stage and they were fucking great. You probably won’t ever get a chance to see them live where you live so maybe you should go to the fest next year for more once in a lifetime opportunities.
So I was bouncing back and forth between the Music Joint stage and the Main stage because I didn’t want to miss a single fucking thing. The next band I caught was Avalon Steel and they were kind of different as pictured below so I made lemons out of lemonade or however the saying goes and pigged out at the VIP buffet.
Brocas Helm were next and holy fuck were they awesome!! Definitely a festival highlight seeing these guys deliver some classic American heavy metal live in concert. I would pay money to see these guys play again!
So I got the VIP wristband which means you can pig out all weekend at the VIP buffet while everyone else starves AND you get to meet the bands at these meet and greets in the record store upstairs. So I wandered upstairs to meet Killer (from Belgium). No one else was there to meet Killer. Probably because there was so much awesome metal constantly happening. Anyway, I had bought a Killer CD from the Swords and Chains booth and I asked the guys to sign it. They seemed pretty stoked to meet an American metal fan and I handed them the disc. They passed it back in forth and then handed it back to me and said “That’s not us. That is Killer from Switzerland.” I felt kind of embarassed but it was still pretty funny to me that the guy from Swords And Chains Records sold it to me with a straight face. He was cool and let me swap it out for an Omen CD when I explained what happened. How Spinal Tap. Haha. Anyway, Killer was… killer!
Ross The Boss was up next delivering the most intense, jaw dropping, ass kicking performance of the weekend headlining the main stage. It was a set comprised of Manowar classics featuring his all-star band that is Mike Lepond (Symphony X) on bass, Rhino (Jack Starr, ex-Manowar) on drums and Marc Lopes (ex-Meliah Rage) on vocals. The entire crowd must have sang every lyric to every song it was truly something to behold as we banged heads and pumped fists in unison to the greatest heavy metal songs ever written.
Everyone left Reggie’s Friday with a huge fucking smile on their face. I was staying at my friend Eric’s house out in Homewood, Illinois. The drive feels like an hour outside of Chicago. Eric said he had more beer at the house so I could keep celebrating all of the awesomeness we just witnessed but he only had IPA’s which I hate so I just drank one and went to bed. I had horrible nightmares that I overslept and missed Walpyrgus and Sacred Leather but when I woke up it was only 11:30 am and I had plenty of time to get my shit together. Eric decided that he would not go to the festival until around 8:00 pm so he dropped me off at the train station and told me to ask around where to get off. I told him that I was extremely bad with directions and he was basically murdering me but he didn’t care and he drove away. I got on the first train and made sure to tell everyone that I was from Austin, Texas I’ve never been on a train before (LIES!) and that I needed help finding my way to Reggie’s. Everyone was super friendly and was happy to help me out with directions (except this stuck up jogger who kept running when I asked for help, Fuck her!) I ended up having to transfer trains and the second train smelled like fish really bad. It was pretty disgusting if you’re not hungry for fish.
I made it to Reggie’s in time to see Walpyrgus! Had my first beers of the day checking out this exciting new band featuring members of Twisted Tower Dire, Salvacion and others. They sounded great and played some stuff off their soon to be released debut full-length.
Next up on the Music Joint stage was Sacred Leather. I was so unbelievably stoked to see these guys live because I watch the music video for their song “Prowling Sinner” at least once a week. They were fucking kick ass! Definitely keep an eye on Sacred Leather.
I can’t forget about Vanlade. I was really excited to see them too and they scorched the Main Stage with power metal fury! I bought their CD because I knew I would regret not buying it and ended up in a beer chugging contest with their drummer. He won and I almost threw up. Haha, good times!
Devil In Disguise fresh off their appearance at Keep It True paid tribute to the eighties metal of Glacier faithfully and kicked some major ass! It will be interesting to see what happens next. Will they write and record some new Glacier inspired metal?
Carriage brought a full stage show with a Satanic pulpit, blood, fog probably other stuff. They were really cool. Fun band at a fun fest.
My buddies Syrus from San Antonio showed up Saturday and everyone was glad they made it. It was good to have some other Texans drinking and sharing the glory of Legions of Metal with me!
Diamond Head were great. Maybe it was all of the Pabst, or all of the Jack and Cokes or just the sheer awesomeness of NWOBHM but something convinced my 37 year old ass that it would be a good idea to crowd surf and I did, haha! Still came home with all of my teeth in my head! Diamond Head was amazing!
After Diamond Head is when things get a little blurry. Pretty sure I had several more go’s at the VIP buffet and stood in line buying merch for friends back home, made sure to snap pics with everyone that needed to be snapped and somehow missed Cerebus’ triumphant performance, wait… WHAT??? Still bummed about that.
Armored Saint were the final band of the debut Legions of Metal festival. It was so tough to leave behind friends new and old in the Windy City. It’s times like these where you realize that you could probably drink, smoke, headbang and bro down with other metalheads into infinity but I guess all good things must come to an end and damn it I’m already back in Austin and I have to go back to work tomorrow.
Take it from a Robert, you do NOT want to miss Legions of Metal festival! Save your pennies, friends.