FLOTSAM & JETSAM, HELSTAR, HATCHET, REIGN & TESTIMONY @ Reggies, Chicago (USA) – 15th November 2016

Heavy metal is a lot of things. It can be a source of inspiration or a means of aggression but more often than not it’s a means of escape. Last Tuesday I needed that escape.

I wish I could tell you I got off work early, ate a nice dinner and got drunk with the band but ‘Terrible Tuesday’ follows me like a plague. My boss bitched me out and I got off work an hour later than I anticipated. I drove home like a bat out of hell and slammed a beer in the shower while mumbling a prayer to the metal gods not to fuck up my evening.


Fortunately, my good friend JD Peterson arrived on time and we made it to Reggies about a half hour after the event began. Not too bad for a guy who started the night more than an hour behind. The restaurant portion of Reggies was closed for a private party so we found ourselves upstairs in Reggies ‘sky bar’ – a rooftop bar fully equipped with mounted heaters and lighting. The weather was favorable and you could smoke! Just prior to this I ran into MetalRecusants cameraman Roger Schultz and we reaffirmed our plans to contact Flotsam and Jetsam. I sent a text, slammed a beer and crossed my fingers knowing full well it was almost an hour past my scheduled interview slot. I got a response right away saying come out to the tour bus. Thank you Jason! I headed downstairs confident my night was turning for the better.

After the interview with Flotsam and Jetsam we decided to head inside the venue and catch the bands. Unfortunately, we missed the opener Testimony but we did catch a couple of tunes by another local act called Reign. These guys held a lot of promise, with a menacing look and vicious rendition of filthy street thrash tinged death. I ran out of money so I couldn’t grab a CD but I am definitely keeping an eye out for Reign.

The next group up was California’s Hatchet. I’ve been a fan of Hatchet for a few years now and I’m glad vocalist/guitarist Julz Ramos has been keeping the band on the road. Hatchet appear poised to take things to the next level. They have a solid stage presence and a delivery that works on all levels. The added performance of guitarist Clayton Cagle thrashing out in the crowd while performing was definitely cool. The next time Hatchet rolls through I’d be surprised if they weren’t headliners.

Hatchet was followed by the heavy metal act Helstar. I must admit I was intrigued to see this band after meeting guitarist Andrew Atwood in the record store prior to the event. I grew up listening to Helstar and vividly remember jamming cassette tapes of A Distant Thunder and Nosferatu in my parent’s basement. It’s been years since I heard the name and I wanted to see what this legendary moniker had left in the tank. Helstar hit the stage and I was blown away. Imagine Ronnie James Dio with a cape and vampire fangs and you have an idea of what vocalist James Rivera brings to the table. Helstar sounded amazing, they played all of the tracks I know and mixed them with their new material, Vampiro. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Helstar, this revamped line-up might be their best yet.

The final act of the evening was Flotsam and Jetsam and there is no doubt they are ‘criminally’ underrated. This was my first time seeing Flotsam live. I grew up listing to classic albums like Cuatro, Doomsday for the Deceiver and No Place for Disgrace and after meeting the guys who created their current self-titled masterpiece (Flotsam & Jetsam – 2016) I was stoked to see them live. Flotsam delivered in spades! First and foremost, Eric “A.K.” Kunston sounded just like he does the albums! Flotsam has always stood out for me because they effortlessly infuse melody and thrash. Guitarist Michael Gilbert has always given the band an identifiable distinction. You can always identify a Flotsam riff or vocal when you hear it. The drum work of Jason Bittner left me speechless. I’ve seen plenty of drummers bash the skins at Reggies but none have done it so effortlessly.

The new album is awesome and the material went over well with the crowd. It seemed like more than a few people knew the words, reaffirming the idea that Flotsam is more than a nostalgia act going through the motions. This new line-up might be the best yet, Flotsam is far from finished!

I left Reggies that night thankful for the escape. Metal inhabits the underground, a place you can find if you need it and know where to look.


David Halbe
About David Halbe (285 Articles)
I live in the USA and I'm a fan of all types of metal: Black, Death, Hair, Thrash, Nu, Core, Sleeze, Stoner, Groove, etc... I have a huge collection of heavy metal CDs and I have been attending shows since 1986. Nothing is too extreme or poserish for me, if it rocks it rocks. Metal is the music we all have in common, it is our lifeblood. \m/

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