METAL WEEK OF THE GODS – PART 2
Part 1 is here
RAGNARÖKKR METAL APOCALYPSE FESTIVAL (DAY 2)
Saturday, April 5th 2014 – Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL
After a night of extreme metal in Joliet it was off to Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse festival! This yearly metal festival, now in its 4th year, is held in Chicago, IL at my favorite Chicago metal venue, Reggies Rock Club and Music Joint located at 2105 South State Street. This event featured Grim Reaper, a legendary group that hasn’t put on a live show in America in more than 25 years! Tonight’s concert would reunite vocalist Steve Grimmet and famed Reaper guitarist Nick Bowcott. It was a historic event in the making!
I’m not going to lie to you; I was hungover for the start of this concert. We didn’t arrive home from the Broken Hope show till after 2:30am and I had to be up early for some family obligations. I hadn’t seen shows back to back since the late 80s when I attended Anthrax, Exodus and Celtic Frost at the Aragon Ballroom and followed it up with Lizzy Borden at the Cabaret Metro. I could do that shit back then but not this time around, I was downing aspirin like candy and washing it down with as much caffeine as I could find. By 3 pm I was back to my old head-banging self. Roger was back on board for the Reaper show and we headed down to Reggie’s early with the intention of meeting Dom there. The drive to Reggie’s was carefree and I was beginning to think the metal gods were going to smile on me for this one. I was right.
Plenty of things set Reggie’s apart from the other Chicago venues but the main reason is the overall atmosphere. Going to Reggie’s is like stepping back in time, this is the closest thing to the 80s metal experience you will ever find. When I arrived for the Ragnarökkr fest the place was in top form.
The Rock Club and Music Joint were rocking simultaneously, the middle t-shirt shop that connects these two venues was opened allowing headbangers to walk in-between. You could bring drinks with you! The upper level of the Rock Club was transformed into merchandise booths selling t-shirts, patches, CDs, vinyl and other collectables. It was fucking awesome! This kind of atmosphere generated multiple discussions about metal. We talked about live shows and collecting, but more importantly, we forged relationships.
With so much going on I only managed to catch a few of the acts. The ones that caught my attention aside from the main attraction were: Argus, Black Death Resurrected and Possessor.
Possessor is a speed/thrash act from Suffolk, Virginia and I really dug them. They’ve got a throwback style and look that is no-holds-barred metal. I’m talking bullet belts, long hair and even a huge guy with a mohawk. The group has been around since 2009 and is currently unsigned. Possessor self-released their debut City Built with Skulls, back in 2012. Possessor’s music is reminiscent of old school thrash acts like: Agent Steel, Heretic, or Toxik. Vocalist Robbie Rainey has a delivery slightly reminiscent of James Rivera of Hellstar, he can hit those high notes with ease and really accommodates the group’s throwback style of thrash. Check out Possessor if you can, these guys really know how to put on a show!
Black Death Resurrected is a heavy metal act from Cleveland, Ohio. The group was originally known as Black Death and is noted to be the first ‘all-African-American heavy metal band’. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these guys, especially playing the main stage of what would prove to be an historic event, but they surprised me beyond words. Black Death Resurrected understands the formula of heavy metal and they know how to work a crowd.
My friends kept coming up to me during their performance saying things like “These guys jam” or “I like this band and I don’t know why”. The music of Black Death Resurrected is traditional heavy metal in the vein of Ozzy Osbourne, Quite Riot or Raven. It’s the stripped down old school metal a lot of us grew up with and it was awesome seeing that kind of execution in a live setting. Since the music was relatively easy to follow, I believe I was able to accurately catch some track titles – highlight offerings for me were: “Night of the Living Death”, “The Hunger” and “Streetwalker”.
Argus is a heavy metal/doom metal outfit from Franklin, Pennsylvania. The group has been active since 2005. I wouldn’t exactly call Argus a doom metal band but they definitely hold some of those qualities, imagine Black Sabbath meets Metal Church (early) and you are close to the sound this group offers. They were far and away the most pleasant surprise of the evening. Dom actually bought their CD at the show and I listened to it a couple of times before he left, the music stays with you. I’ve been on Ebay tracking down a physical copy. This might be the best heavy metal band to come out in a long time and I urge you to check them out.
The vocals of Butch Balich are what sold me on the band, the guy sounds like a mix of David Wayne (Metal Church) and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) with a little bit of King Diamond thrown in. The music is accommodating to Balich’s vocal style but this band stands on its own. The lead riffs are a driving force in the music and the accompanying drum work completes an ensemble that is rich in classic metal influences. Argus is a band I’d like to experience again, even more so now that I am familiar with their music.
The final act of the evening was the legendary Grim Reaper. As I stated in my previous blast about Grim Reaper, seeing this band play in the US at a venue as throwback as Reggie’s was metal history in the making. It was a magic moment from start to finish.
From the first verse of “Rock You to Hell”, I knew Steve Grimmet still had his voice, belting out Reaper classic after Reaper classic, feeding off the crowd. I think he was surprised by the numerous fans in Chicago. The addition of Nick Bowcott into the classic Reaper songs really brought the Grim Reaper of old back to life. He really seemed to complete the sound of the band. Grim Reaper played it all: “Final Scream”, “Rock You to Hell”, “Fear No Evil”, “See You in Hell”, “Night of the Vampire”, even a tear-jerking homage to Ronnie James Dio in the form of “Don’t Talk to Strangers”.
This was a fantastic evening of metal on all levels. The coordinator of the event, Odin, really pulled off something special and deserves all the accolades he received. I can’t wait to see what he does next year!
In a later conversation, Dom likened this experience to attending a mini-Wacken, the open air-festival held yearly in Germany which he has attended 5 times! I’m flattered by this comparison and I think it reinforces my feeling that metal is making a comeback here in the US. The crowd for this show was an ‘older’ crowd when compared to the metal heads I ran into the night before at Broken Hope but they were every bit as fanatical. I saw back patches and shirts from all metal genera which reinforced the thought that even though metal has splintered into various styles, those who follow it are still flying under one flag. \m/
Keep up with all the latest Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse at their official website or Facebook. Warlord, Attacker, Afermath, Vatican, Walpyrgus and Hessian are the first confirmed bands for the 2015 edition.