Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles
Six-Pack Weekend II

June 4th and 5th , 2004

Review By: Night of the Realm
Photos by: Night of the Realm & Maureen McQueeney


Friday, June 4th, 2004

The past 30 days have been a flurry of activity for me, having spent a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, seeing the Classic Metalfest 4 in Chicago, In Flames/Killswitch Engage/As I Lay Dying in Toronto, and finally culminating with a trip to the Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles Six-Pack Weekend II in Cleveland. Unfortunately, now I am a poor bastard, so any charity that you wish to send me in exchange for stories of my metal adventures is welcome and appreciated.

Unfortunately, due to my rough work/school schedule at the hospital, I was unable to leave for Cleveland until late Friday afternoon. Thankfully, the only band that I recall wanting to see on Thursday was Destructor. Sorry I missed them. With barely a minute to spare, I hauled my ass home from downtown, made a quick change and pack, then went to pick up my friend Dick Ward (keyboardist – Cursed Eternity www.cursedeternity.com). The drive from Detroit to Cleveland was not bad, but by the time we left Detroit, we were already guaranteed to miss Shadowkeep and Seven Witches, much to my disappointment, I did not make a big effort to speed down there, planning to make it just in time to see Doro’s set. Thanks to some asshole teenager who rear-ended me while I was stopped completely at a light in Oregon, Ohio (rot in hell, bitch!) as we were going to McDonald’s for dinner, and thank you Mapquest for the awful directions that put us on the wrong side of the river, down by the project housing, in front of a concrete plant (apparently, from what I read online, we were not the only people who had Mapquest issues), we wound up getting there about halfway through Doro’s set.

Upon entering the club, Doro was already well into her set. The first lady of metal was in fine form, as expected. The Odeon was fairly packed with metalheads, and Doro really generated a large crowd response. I suppose coming into her set late had some advantages, as the last songs she played were old Warlock tunes: “Metal Tango,” “East Meets West, ” and the obligatory anthem, “All We Are.”

Following Doro’s set, there was a small birthday celebration to mark her 40th birthday that night, complete with birthday cake (where’s my piece, dammit?!) and the crowd singing “Happy Birthday.”

 

After Doro came the REAL reason why I attended the festival: the first US performance of the almighty German Power Metallers – GRAVE DIGGER!

When the lights went down and the intro to RHEINGOLD started playing, one could feel the energy that had built up in the crowd to slowly start to leak out. When the lights came back on and Grave Digger came out playing “Rheingold,” the place just exploded. Really, I could not be happier with the way things turned out (well, maybe if Grave Digger played for another whole hour). Grave Digger’s sound was excellent, and their stage presence full of energy. It was obvious that the band was loving every minute of the performance almost as much as I was. They played a solid setlist, full of new and old material, although I would have liked to hear more songs off RHEINGOLD (“Twilight of the Gods,” anyone?) and KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS (“Baphomet”). Dick became an instant Grave Digger fan once he learned that anyone can sing along with a Grave Digger song as long as one can repeat the title of the song four times at each chorus.

 

Here’s their setlist, which I believe is complete and in order ‘cause I was writing it down:

Grave Digger’s Setlist:
Rheingold
Dark of the Sun
Son of Evil
Valhalla
The Reaper
Circle of Witches
Scotland United
Lionheart
Witchhunter
Excalibur
The Grave Digger
Morgane Lefay
Knights of the Cross
Rebellion (The Clans are Marching)
Heavy Metal Breakdown

During Grave Digger’s performance, I noticed Heart of Steel from the Metalgospel.org BB standing behind me, but could not find him after the set to say hi. Unfortunately, I did not find Imaginessa or any other MR Boarders over the weekend.

If I did not find Katatonia almost as boring onstage as I do on album, I would almost have felt sorry for them having to follow Grave Digger’s amazing performance. As it was, the place practically cleared out after Grave Digger exited. While a death metal band may have seemed out of place on a festival with so many power/classic bands, Dismember certainly shattered that misconception, as you will soon read.

We ended up leaving after only a couple songs, as my neck was sore from headbanging through Grave Digger’s set, and that we lacked a place to spend the night. As we exited the venue, we ran into Brad Youngblood and Lynette DeBow of the Metal Music Foundation and mastermind behind the excellent Classic Metalfest (www.metal-music-foundation.com). While I admit that Brad is a hella-cool guy, he gave us some bad directions (or perhaps we just misheard him) to find a hotel, and we wound up on the seedy side of Lorain street. (Hahaha…just kidding, Brad). Thanks to further poor directions from a rather large woman at the liquor store, as well as confusing downtown Cleveland roads, we ended up right back where we started downtown. Tired and pissed, we wound up driving ten miles outside town to the Super 8 motel, and some late night Denny’s before resting up for the next big day.

 

Saturday, June 5th, 2004

Rested up after a night of Grave Digger, getting lost, and lots of beers, Dick and I turned ourselves loose on an unsuspecting Downtown Cleveland for several hours worth of sightseeing. I had no idea that Cleveland could be such a boring city. Foregoing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which would probably be quite interesting, were I not already in the throes of a metal weekend), we decided to get a tour of the city via our own two feet. Really the only two exciting events prior to the show was a good lunch at the New Yorker (excellent club sandwich and root beer – hell yeah!), and locking my keys in the car as soon as we returned to downtown, losing an hour of my time and $60 to the locksmith. (Special thanks to the nice Indian girl at the Marriott Hotel for helping us to find a locksmith downtown, even though I believe that she mistook us for patrons of her hotel. “Did you ask your valet for help?” Me: “Uhhh…yeah, we tried that already.”).

Heading back to the venue, Dick and I ran into Necromodeus (Chas) and Xaphan (Sean) of Summon, as well as Remorseless Wargrinder of Nocturnal Fear, representing the Lansing and Detroit scenes along with us. We arrived back at the Odeon just in time to catch Ion Vein kicking off the evening’s performance. They were fairly decent, from what little I recall of their set, somewhat prog-trad-power. I deferred much of Ion Vein’s set in favor of hitting up the vendor’s tables to blow the last of my cash.

Brainstorm was up next, their set being moved up a half-hour or so because of Dreams of Damnation’s little breakup the night before. If an award was given to the band who had the most fun onstage and most convincing performance, it would be these guys. It was obvious throughout their set that they loved every minute they were up there. Vocalist Andy Franck got into it most of all, interacting with the crowd, working them up, and feeding on their energy. I can’t remember a single song they played, but they were awesome!

Flotsam and Jetsam were up next, and they made a solid performance. The crowd was already fired up from Brainstorm, but Flotsam and Jetsam really kicked the fans into high gear with another energetic performance. I only stuck around for perhaps half of their set, first because I was never a huge F&J fan, and second, because I was getting hungry and wanted to be ready for Dismember, Primal Fear, and Metal Church. Next up was a pit-stop to Buffalo Wild Wings next door. I must say that this was a most convenient setup, having a good restaurant right next to the club. Kudos to whomever thought that up!

I knew I should have stuck around to have another beer, but unfortunately, we returned from dinner a little too soon and caught the last half of Shok Paris’ set. Now, I had thought Katatonia boring the previous night, but I would have greatly preferred to have them back because Shok Paris could not have sucked any more if they tried. Washed-up, tired, and pathetic, this band had no place on the bill.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, Dismember roared onto the stage, and damn if I was not blown away by the power of their set.

Dismember did not relent at all through their entire set, blazing through one song after another. It’s obvious why these guys are at the top of the death metal scene. The setlist, from what I recall, was a good mix of old songs as well as plenty of offerings from their latest, WHERE IRON CROSSES GROW. “Me-God,” “Let the Napalm Rain,” “Where Angels Fear to Tread,” and my favorite from the new album, “Tragedy of the Faithful” all appeared during the all-too-short performance.

 

After Dismember, it was time for Primal Fear. We waited what seemed like an inordinate amount of time as everything was set up for Primal Fear; you could feel the tension building up in the crowd. When the lights came back up and the opening lines for “Angel in Black” reached our ears, the place went nuts! While Grave Digger had aroused a most impressive response from the crowd the night before, it must have been twice as loud and crazy for Primal Fear. I had seen the band previously with the Metal Gods festival last year, and they were in even better shape than last time.

 

The whole performance was tight, and Ralf’s voice was dead-on for every song. The setlist, too, was very good, including most of the old favorites, as well as a couple tracks from the new album, DEVIL’S GROUND (the titles of which, I cannot recall). Basically, here’s what they had (not in order), with a couple others that I cannot remember:

Primal Fear’s Setlist:
Angel in Black
Chainbreaker
Battalions of Hate
Nuclear Fire
Silver and Gold
Fight the Fire
Running in the Dust
Living for Metal
Metal is Forever

Cheesy as it may be, I think various frontman antics and other non-sensical behavior make the live setting complete, such as Ralf leading the audience in an “I can scream higher, louder, and longer than you all” during “Metal is Forever.” C’mon people, it’s a metal show; you’re supposed to go over the top. Unfortunately, Primal Fear’s performance was not without flaw because their set was cut short by BW&BK about 30 seconds into their encore, supposedly to ensure time for Metal Church’s full set. While I agree with wanting as much Metal Church as possible, what difference does five minutes make? I thought that move was utter bullshit, and many people were seriously pissed about the whole incident.

 

 

Speaking of Metal Church, the clock was beginning to tick down as the most anticipated band of the fest, (for me as well as many others) took the stage. I was not certain what to expect since Vanderhoof and Arrington had essentially created an all-new lineup with vocalist Ronnie Munroe, guitarist Jay Reynolds, and bassist Steve Unger joining the camp. Opening up with the all-time Metal Church classic, “Ton of Bricks,” any trepidations, however small, were quickly dispelled. Standing there, front row and nearly dead-center, headbanging like a maniac, I was absorbing every minute of it. The band rolled through the classics with ease, playing “Watch the Children Pray,” “Start the Fire,” “Battalions,” and “The Dark.” I got sort of a “Damond Jiniya impression” from vocalist Ronny Munroe: this guy comes into the band having never recorded with Metal Church before, belts out songs from all eras of the band with surprising power and confidence, and carries a commanding stage presence fit for any true metal frontman.


In addition to the classics, the band also played several songs of the new album, THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD, including “Wings of Tomorrow” with a main galloping riff that really stood out among an already stacked setlist. Hearing the new songs live certainly whetted my appetite for the new album. My only complaint, however, was that there were no songs to be found from my favorite Metal Church album, BLESSING IN DISGUISE!! They didn’t even play “Fake Healer”! Seriously, how the hell can a band play a show of this magnitude at a festival, play 3 new songs, and completely neglect one of their finest albums? Other than that small flaw, I really cannot complain with what was otherwise an amazing performance.

 

Metal Church’s setlist (not in order):

Ton of Bricks
Start the Fire
Watch the Children Pray
The Dark
Wings of Tomorrow
Madman’s Overture
Date with Poverty
Battalions
Gods of Wrath
(Encore)
Beyond the Black
Metal Church

We cleared out of the Odeon sometime after 2am, tired and sore after some vicious headbanging up front, yet still high with the exhilaration of seeing Dismember, Primal Fear, and Metal Church right in a row. Ahead of us lay more than 3 hours of open road back home, and less than 8 hours before having to work on Sunday, but after having a great time, seeing some excellent bands, meeting all kinds of kickass metalheads down in Cleveland, and having a gigantic bag full of new tunes to crank, I couldn’t be happier.

Special thanks to Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles for organizing the festival and making it happen, the Cleveland Odeon for hosting the event, Buffalo Wild Wings for some great food and several cold Killian’s, all the bands (Except Shok Paris) for kicking so much ass, and to all you crazy metalheads that attended. Support metal! Support the Underground!