JUDAS PRIEST & SABATON Bring Metal To Minnesota [Review & Photo Gallery]

The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota welcomed the heavy metal iconic band Judas Priest. Fans packed the venue to see a band with more than five decades of history that laid the foundation for a genre that refuses to die. The metal brigade from Sweden, Sabaton, once again opened up the show for the metal legends. 

Sabaton has been touring with Priest across the United States on the past few tours. The band is working hard to break through on American soil and based on the number of Sabaton shirts and people singing along to every song, that hard work has paid off. Lead vocalist Joakim Broden took control of the stage the moment he held the mic as he led a barrage of metal music that fans soaked up. Guitarists Thobbe Englund, who just returned to the band after leaving the in 2016, and Chris Rorland worked off each either in perfect unison while the rhythm section of bassist Par Sundstrom and drummer Hannes Van Dahl, who was once again perched on top of a tank, provided the thunder that is required for their music. Opening with “Ghost Division” the band ripped through an impressive twelve-song set that also included “The Last Stand,” “Stormtroopers,” “Resist and Bite” and “The Red Baron.” The lyrical themes are all based on historical battles and stories of heroism. The band dressed is in fatigues with microphone stands that have rifles and infantry helmets on them. I’ve seen these guys numerous times and they deliver a great show every time.  

The one and only Judas Priest took to the stage with the song ‘Panic Attack.’ It comes off the bands 19th album ‘Invincible Shield’ which was released a few months ago.  Rob Halford is the definition of a heavy metal singer and it is always an honor to see him on stage performing. It’s hard to believe he is 72 years old based on how strong his vocals were. He crushed though an eighteen-song set that stuck to the metal trademarks that they have encompassed for decades. His voice was great and he continued to hit the notes that have made him one of best singers in metal. The most obvious thing about a Judas Priest concert is the devotion the fans have towards them and the bond the band has created with the metal community. The second song of the set, the all-time great metal anthem, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” showcased that intensity of that connection as band and fans became one. That vibe, with every person at that venue singing every single word and the music pouring off the stage, was a moment in time where the genre of heavy metal is defined. The same could be said during “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.”

I became a massive fan of the band with the release of ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ back in 1982 and then the follow-up ‘Defenders of the Faith’ in 1984. Along with Halfords vocals, it was the guitar duo of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing that harnessed that metal power that got my attention. Sadly, neither one was on stage but just because the faces have changed, it doesn’t mean the music has. Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap handled the guitar duties and both kept the sound true to form. Ian Hill on bass is the sole continuous member of the band and has appeared on every studio album. He is unassuming as he stands behind the guitarists but always lays down that low end so those dueling guitars can shine. Drummer Scott Travis has been a member of the band since 1989. He debuted on the album ‘Painkiller’ in 1990 and continues to be the powerhouse that keeps the band tight. Highlights for me included “Love Bites” and “Devil’s Child” while “Electric Eye” remains my all-time favorite Judas Priest song. I couldn’t ask for much more from another great show from Judas Priest. They played the classics, hit on some deeper cuts and then some of the newer material that shines right along side the vintage songs. Another great night of music and hopefully they come back in the very near future.

Tesla Keeps It Real In Ashland, Kentucky

Some things are made to last. Lovingly labored over by skilled and dedicated artisans, constructed from the sturdiest materials via techniques passed down through the generations, designed to function for lifetimes. In an ever-increasingly inauthentic and disposable world, it’s a sad truth that these monuments get rarer by the day. Fortunately some still stand and shine brightly, and people come from miles around to bask in the familiar, perpetual glow, the warmth of a known and trusted tradition.

This was doubly the case on March 1, as a crowd of over 1,400 filled the seats of Ashland, Kentucky’s historic Paramount Arts Center to veteran road warriors Tesla. For nearly forty years,  the Sacramento outfit have offered a distinctly heartier, more classic flavor of hard rock than many of their more elaborately coiffed and attired peers to the south on Sunset. No hiding behind gimmicks or controversy, no media-manufactured image or backstage backing tape sorcery. Just five hard working musicians, locked in tight and cranking out their brand of heavy-duty, zero-bullshit rock and roll for a legion of loyal fans and true believers.

Cincinnati native/self-professed “crazy motherfucker” Kurt Deimer handled opening duties, bringing the room to its collective feet with his radio-ready brand of bombast. The horror actor and his crisp, whip-tight backing band tore through songs like the anthemic “Hero” and “Dance” (which sounded like a nu metal run through an imaginary outtake from KISS‘s Revenge), throwing in a cover of the Pink Floyd classic “Have A Cigar” for good measure. Deimer and his four-man unit did an admirable job winning over the audience; when his forthcoming debut double album is released, a return trip to the area may be in order.

As “Crazy Train” faded from the speakers and the house lights dimmed, Tesla bounded onto the boards with a vengeance, kicking off with “Lady Luck” and then landing the one-two punch of “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Hang Tough.” The fifteen-song setlist progressed through fan favorites like “Love Me,” “Changes,” and “Gettin’ Better,” newer works “Miles Away” and “Time To Rock,” and the majority of their biggest hits, era classics like “Edison’s Medicine,” “Call It What You Want,” “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” and the inevitable roof raising sing-along “Love Song.” By the time the evening ended and the crowd was sent home happy with “Signs” (what else?), most everyone appeared well and truly spent, their throats a little sorer but their hearts a little fuller.

Vocalist Jeff Keith positively beams the whole night, an unending smile underlying the fact that he remains one of the genre’s singular voices. That sandpapered rasp remains intact, a bit weathered by the years but no less potent. Frank Hannon is every bit the old school guitar god, stalking the stage and throwing shapes in the spotlight. Between the theremin and the talk box (seriously, more bands should use the talk box) and the endless array of vintage guitars, he came off like a more casual Jimmy Page, with cargo pants and sensible shoes instead of a black silk Dragon Suit. His co-shredder Dave Rude was a solid, heavy presence, and their dual lead work brought to mind the finest of Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest. And the only person in the venue with a smile bigger than Keith’s may be the newest member of the Tesla family, drummer Steve Brown. Brown and his rhythm section cohort, bassist/co-founder Brian Wheat, provided a firm foundation and a mile-thick backbeat all night long, well-trained craftsmen masterfully plying their trade for a rapt and adoring public.

Tesla has always been and very much remains a band out of time. In a day and age where some of the biggest acts in music are simply and sadly incapable of performing without varying forms of technological assistance, for a band to boldly emblazon NO MACHINES across their merch is damn near a revolutionary statement. This tour is called “Keeping It Real;” Tesla has been doing just that since 1986, and they show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

GOJIRA, MASTODON & LORNA SHORE Bring The Mega-Monsters Tour To Minnesota [Review & Gallery]

It was just a matter time before I would make the drive, about seventy miles from Minneapolis, to one of newest outdoor venues to take in a show. The Ledge Amphitheater in Waite Park, Minnesota opened in 2021 and is nestled between two quarries which was a perfect environment to host one of the heaviest tours pounding North America. The Ledge was sold out for The Mega-Monsters Tour 2023 featuring Gojira and Mastodon as co-headliners with Lorna Shore opening.

I had only heard the name Lorna Shore but had never heard the music. Experience told me that if I couldn’t decipher the name by looking at the band logo, it would be a set of knock-out blows that left little confusion of what the band was about. When vocalist Will Ramos hit the stage and the band launched into their deathcore sound, it was on. The five-piece unit blitzed through a thirty-five-minute set and never wavered on their intense onslaught. The band released an album in 2022 called ‘Pain Remains’ and played “Sun/Eater,” “Cursed to Die,” “Into Earth” and three-part series of the title track. 

Mastodon was born twenty-three years ago in Atlanta Georgia. The bands line-up has been unchanged since 2001 with Troy Sanders on bass and lead and backing vocals, Brent Hinds on lead guitar, lead and backing vocals, Bill Kelliher on rhythm guitar and backing vocals and behind the kit sat Brann Dailor who also provided lead and backing vocals. They are band that does not adhere to the saying “one size fits all’ musical genre. They encompass multiple styles that include progressive, alternative, stoner and sludge metal. Opening up with “The Wolf is Loose” and then into “Crystal Skull” got people on their feet and it was very clear how much of following Mastodon has. Behind the band, the screen behind them helped bring the music alive with trippy images in various colors that seemed to carry the music into the crowd. They have released eight studio albums along with various other compilation and live releases so there was plenty of music to choose from. Some of my favorites were “Andromeda,” “Sultan’s Curse,” “Fallen Torches,” “Mother Puncher” and the unforgettable closing crusher “Blood and Thunder.” They sounded fantastic through the entire seventeen song set. This was my first time catching these guys, hard to believe, but the wait was worth it as they surpassed my expectations and really showcased why they have been so successful for so long. I won’t wait another twenty-three years to see them again.

Godzilla was formed in Ondres, France in 1996 but in 2001 the name Gojira was adopted and has now become one of the biggest names in the metal genre. The line-up, the same since 1998, consists of Joe Duplantier on vocals and rhythm guitar, Mario Duplantier on drums, lead guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie.  Opening with “Ocean Planet” there was no denying the amount of musical muscle they can unleash. Like the band that played before them, Gojira cannot be stuck into one box. Technical death metal, progressive, groove and heavy metal all can be heard in their sound that they uniquely blend into a sound that is truly all their own. Songs like “Backbone,” “Flying Whales,” “Silvera” served-up a thunderous sound that the crowd that packed The Ledge was waiting to hear. The lights from the screens danced and weaved through the extreme thickness of the smoke and created a dark and ominous setting that gave the perfect visual effect to play off the music. The smoke cannons at the front of stage along with the confetti canons on the floor in front of the stage offered some really striking visual moments throughout the night.  

The band released ‘Fortitude’ in 2021 and it became a bit of a breakthrough record. Still maintaining the traditional approach of past works, this album also contained more classic rock elements and hooks that caught the ear of people that had not listened to the band before. The album was well represented in the set as they hit on “Another Word,” “Grind,” “The Chant” and one my highlights of the night “Amazonia.”  The band itself was as crisp and on-point as ever and continues to evolve as a must-see band. The catalog they have amassed is fantastic but to truly understand this band, to fully absorb the music and the emotion and strength embodied within the lyrics and guitar chords, it must be heard live. That is where this band and their music truly takes on its Godzilla persona as it is unleashed on you. No matter what genre of metal you want to be in, it’s the live setting where you earn your keep and build equity among metal fans and Gojira has proven to be one of the best. This show at The Ledge was further proof that this upward trend they have been on will keep on building with every show.

EXTREME & LIVING COLOUR Shred Minnesota [Review & Photo Gallery]

The “Thicker Than Blood” tour rolled into Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Skyway Theatre was treated to an unforgettable night of music. Headliners Extreme were in high spirts off the success of their latest release ‘Six.’ It’s their first offering in fifteen years and has earned high praise amongst longtime fans of the band. Opening the night was Living Colour. Like Extreme, they broke into the scene in the 80’s and offered much more than the template of music that was being mass produced by record labels at the time. It was a perfect pairing and people packed the venue to rock out with these bands.

Living Colour broke through with their album ‘Vivid’ which was released in 1988. Led by the powerful vocal strength of Corey Glover and guitar shedder Vernon Reid, they created their own special niche of music that cut through radio and MTV. Decades later the duo is still delivering the goods on stage and celebrating a brilliant catalog of music. Drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Doug Wimbish complete an equation of the band that plays with a skill and technique few bands could ever reach. Opening up with “Leave It Alone” it was clear how excited the crowed was to see them. Glover was right on point as he nailed each song with his power, songs like “Middle Man,” “Ignorance Is Bliss,” and “Type” sounded brilliant. It’s hard to ignore the tremendous crunch coming from Reid’s guitar. Whether entrenched in an addictive riff or ripping through a solo, it was difficult to take your eyes of him. There are so many guitar hero’s that have graced successful hard rock and metal bands and Reid should be in every conversation about who the best players are. The rhythm section laid down such a foundation that you couldn’t help but feel the groove go through your body. It was a really good set which wound down with the song that broke them, “Cult of Personality,” with Glover standing on the barricade between the stage and crowd singing the song together. Before saying good-bye, they covered “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash

From the minute Extreme kicked into the new cut “#Rebel,” they had the crowd completely locked into the show. The Band hailing from Boston, Massachusetts struck gold back in 1990 with the album ‘Pornograffitti’ and by accounts, has done it again with their latest album ‘Six.’ The catalyst has always been the brilliance of their guitar shredding genius, Nuno Bettencourt. He was as exciting to watch as he was decades ago and there were so many moments where I was almost frozen in time watching some of his solos. Ripping through hard chargers like “Decadence Dance,” “It (‘s a Monster),” and “Banshee” kept the Skyway Theatre rocking. Despite Nuno being the face of the band, he is far from the only driving aspect of the unit. Vocalist Gary Cherone has always provided a strong voice to play off the soaring guitar. He was once again in fine form vocally while enticing the crowd to continue to give everything they had back to the band. The unsung hero may be bassist Pat Badger as he brings so much to the band. Not only does he provide that bottom end of the sound, he also provides a brilliant vocal ability and it’s such a part of the bands signature sound. It is truly magical when Nuno, Gary and Pat come together vocally and let loose those three-part harmonies. It has always been a critical element of Extreme and one of the factors that ties the band back to Queen. Kevin Figueiredo took over drum duties from Paul Geary back in 2007 and brings a sense of intensity behind the kit. The band has not skipped a beat since his arrival and the quartet sounded as good as they ever have as they blasted through a twenty-song set. 

You can’t have a set without the massive hits “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted” and as usual they were some of the biggest sing-along songs of the set. My highlights included the medley of the first record with “Teachers Pet,” “Flesh ‘n’ Blood,” “Wind Me Up” and “Kid Ego” being touched on and then the full song of “Play with Me” with that unbelievable solo. The song I was most excited to hear and see was “Am I Ever Gonna Change,” that song contains everything Extreme is about, heavy, melodic, delicate and aggressive. Everything is thrown into that song and it was amazing to hear. When Nuno kicked out “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee” the crowd went nuts and then things went to another level with “Get the Funk Out.” The first track off the new album brought the house down. “Rise” is straight-up rocker that hits with even a bigger force live. You would have thought the song was another classic tune from thirty years ago by the way the crowd reacted to it. The solo is spectacular and was a moment so many people were waiting to see. It was a testament to how loyal the fanbase is and how well the new album has been received. Extreme really pulled out all the stops on the show and this tour and we can only hope it’s not another fifteen years before the next album and tour.


It has been a while since we have seen Avenged Sevenfold. The band finally dropped the follow-up to 2016’s ‘The Stage’ with the album ‘Life Is But a Dream…’ It’s a record that has been debated and dissected among fans since its release and now the band has embarked on a North American tour to support it. The Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota got its turn to host the tour and fans filled the venue with great anticipation. Along with the headliner, Alexisonfire and Kim Dracula were also on the bill.

I had never heard of Kim Dracula before the band took the stage. The guitarist, bassist and drummer wore purple masks while Kim looked like something from the My Chemical Romance “Black Parade” video with his attire and deep purple hair. Trying to pigeon hole what they were musically is difficult, throw in just about everything from metal, rap, hardcore, nu-metal and alternative and that’s a great beginning to describe the sound. It was chaotic and strange set with Kim wielding a chainsaw and also playing chess against himself on a board set up next to the drums. Kim Dracula released their debut album ‘A Gradual Decline in Morale” this year and some of the songs they hit on were “Superhero,” “Killdozer,” and “Make Me Famous.” They also did a Lady Gaga cover of “Paparazzi.” It was quick and relentless set that brought a lot of energy to the crowd. 

The next band on was Alexisonfire and they were absolute fire. Someway, somehow, I have never listened to this band or encountered them live despite the band forming back in 2001. From the opening number called ‘Sweet Dreams of Otherness” I was hooked. The energy they were giving off was infectious and it swept through the crowd quickly. I was so impressed by the band having three distinct voices with George Petit providing the aggressive vocals and Dallas Green supplying the clean voice along with playing rhythm guitar. Wade MacNeil also supplied sublime vocals with a rasp while handling lead guitar duties. The three of them together really gave the band a unique flavor and the ability to pull off so many different approaches to songs. The bass player, Chris Steele, was the most entertaining aspect of the band with his movements and facial expressions help ignite the excitement of the unit while drummer Jordan Hastings held the beat. Some of the songs they played included “Young Cardinals,” “Boiled Frogs” and “Sans Soleil” but the caveat of the set was the cover of “When Doves Cry” by hometown legend Prince. I will be checking out the bands catalog as they dropped their fifth studio album ‘Otherness’ last year which was the first full length album in thirteen years.

The lights dropped and Avenged Sevenfold took to the stage. A lone chair sat in the middle of stage and vocalist M. Shadows, wearing a black ski-mask, sat down in it. The show kicked-off with “Game Over” and then into “Mattel.” The new album ‘Life Is But a Dream…’ is a stylistic change that tied their traditional metal DNA to a progressive soundscape of musical elements that have no boundaries. It is clear proof of the bands musical tastes and ideas had moved forward and the new album is a representation of where the band stands today. Not only has the sound shifted but so has the live show. The stage was stripped down with video panels on three sides of it. Days of the big pyro and elaborate stage set-ups seem to be gone along with massive lighting. The band spent much of the time in the dark under minimal lighting which further proved that the concert was truly about the songs. That being said, each song did have some elaborate images on the video panels which made for a cool experience as they played each song. It was bold statement to open with two new tracks but even a bigger one was made by closing with “G,” “(O)rdinary,” and “(D)eath” and walking off stage without a big goodbye or encore. 

The set ran slightly under two hours and despite the focus being on the new album, there was plenty of time to throw in some of the classic songs that are staples of the bands catalog. Song’s like “Buried Alive,” “Nightmare,” “Bat Country,” “Afterlife” and my highlight “Unholy Confessions” still sounded thunderous after all these years. Guitarist Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance played off each other perfectly, especially during the harmonized guitar solos. The rhythm section was handled by Johnny Christ and drummer Brooks Wackerman. Although he isn’t flashy behind the kit, I was really floored by the skill of Wackerman. The drums sounded amazing in the mix of the sound and it really allowed me to fully hear just how good he is and how much it drives the bands sound. M. Shadows sounded as good as I’ve ever heard him sing. He controlled the stage and after all the issues with his voice, it appeared that all is good now. I really enjoyed the Avenged Sevenfold set. Sometimes you get caught up with all the keyboard warriors who hate on the album and then blast the tour for the direction they have taken with the live show so I wasn’t sure what I was walking into. For me, and I can only speak for me, this showed me why Avenged Sevenfold is still relevant and still headlining arenas two-decades after forming. That crowd that packed the Target Center sang every word, of every song no matter if it was old or new which was proof they are still a beloved band and that people are ready to take a musical journey with no matter what direction they choose to go. That’s all I need to see. 

HELLOWEEN & HAMMERFALL Bring The United Forces Tour To Minnesota [Review & Photo Gallery]

A tour I’ve been waiting for since its announcement was the ‘United Forces Tour 2023’ which featured a reunited Helloween with the metal masters from Sweden HammerFall. The Fillmore in Minneapolis, Minnesota opened its doors and welcomed long-time fans of both bands for a powerful and memorable night of music.

HammerFall was given an hour to hit the crowd with everything they had and that’s exactly what they did. The attack started with the crushing “Brotherhood” and then into “Any Means Necessary.” This was my second time seeing them and once again they were impressive. They have created their own legacy over the past thirty-years with twelve studio albums, the last one coming in 2022 called ‘Hammer of Dawn.’ The first thing that immediately stood out was the energy coming from guitarist Oscar Dronjak. He looks like he lives and breathes metal as he attacked his guitar and enticed the crowd into the show. Watching the other guitar player, Pontus Norgren, was also a treat. He’s a shredder and worked the fretboard effortlessly. The rhythm section was thunderous with Fredrik Larsson on bass and David Wallin on drums. The man at the center that provided the vocals was Joacim Cans. He delivered the goods and sounded fantastic. As they ripped through a greatest hits type set-list the crowd was all in. The audience participation was non-stop and the atmosphere was electric during the set. They closed with “Hearts on Fire” with a tremendous response from the fans.

Helloween fans got energized in 2016 when it was announced that vocalist Michael Kiske and guitarist/vocalist Kai Hansen would rejoin the band. Adding back two members from the iconic ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys” era put the band back in the spotlight and fans, just like myself, waited for the tours to start. Finally, they arrived in Minnesota and from the opening note of “Skyfall,” it was a magical night. That song came off their sixteenth studio album, ‘Helloween,’ that was released in 2021 which was the first release under the “Pumpkins United” line-up. Not only did it feature Kiske and Hansen, but it also included the five current members of that band that have been active since 2005. Original members guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Markus Grosskopf along with Sascha Gerstner also on guitar, drummer Daniel Loble and lead vocalist Andi Deris who replaced Kiske in 1993. For those people that jumped off the wagon after Kiske was replaced, you have missed some great Helloween records as Deris has done a specular job stepping into shoes that were difficult to fill. I was delighted they found a way to bring seven guys together and celebrate the entire history of the band and the tour really showcased why this band has influenced so many that came after them.

The set ran over two hours as they encapsulated the discography perfectly. After “Skyfall” where all three singers had their moments in the song, they began to alternate vocalists, sometimes solo, sometimes together. Kiske took on “Eagles Fly Free,” “Save Us” and “Future World” while Deris struck with “Mass Pollution,” “Power” and “Perfect Gentleman.”  Not to be outdone, Hansen took lead vocals for a medley of songs from the album ‘Walls of Jericho’ and a full ripping version of “How Many Tears.” The songs where both singers were on stage together trading off lines was really fun. Kiske and Deris worked together on “Best Time,” “Forever and One (Neverland),” “Dr. Stein” and the epic closer of the first encore “Keeper of the Seven Keys.” Sonically the band was top notch, with the drummer, Loble, sitting behind a monstrous kit on top of a pumpkin, you couldn’t see him, but you could hear him, and he powered the sound and worked in complete unison with the bassist Grosskopf. The third guitarist, Gerstner, is a real talent, both in playing and also providing backing vocals. The three-guitar attack allowed the guitar players to harmonize with each other while also filling in the rhythm parts which really gave the songs a full sound. Vocally, all three guys were spot on, including Kiske hitting some incredible high notes.

There was nothing I didn’t like about the show. The stage with the big pumpkin in the middle holding the drums, the ramps on each side and the screen playing some really cool images behind them. The obvious closer “I Want Out” ended a perfect evening. I love that Helloween worked out a way for the entire catalog to be represented as there are so many great songs and albums and being able to see the three singers performing together was fantastic. As a Helloween fan, I couldn’t ask for anything more…well, one thing maybe, how did the  song ‘Halloween’ not get played? That’s the only thing that comes to mind but besides that one omission, a perfect night. 

AVATAR, VEIL OF MAYA & ORBIT CULTURE Bring The Circus To Minnesota [Review & Photo Gallery]

The Skyway Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota welcomed in one of the heaviest hitting tours making their way across North America. Avatar was set to bring back “Avatar Country” back to the city that have continued to embrace them in bigger numbers with every stop. Veil Of Maya and Orbit Culture rounded a bill that delivered a fantastic night of music. 

The night was started by a sonic crushing quartet from Sweden called Orbit Culture. They formed in 2013 and are led by vocalist/guitarist Niklas Karlsson. His intensity matched the aggressiveness of the music which made for a great set. The rest of the line-up featured lead guitarist Richard Hansson, bassist Fredrik Lennartsson and Christopher Wallerstedt on drums. They have released three albums but it was 2020’s ‘Nija’ that caught my attention along with 2021’s EP ‘Shaman.’ I have quickly jumped on the bandwagon and they are a force to be reckoned with. They played a short set consisting of eight songs capped by a new track, “Alienated,” that will be on the oncoming new album. Other tunes that hit hard were “Strangler,” “Vultures of North,” and the closer “Saw.” It was my first time catching this band and I’m really looking forward to the new album. 

The band sandwiched between the two Swedish outfits was Chicago, Illinois own Veil of Maya. They just released studio album number seven called ‘[m]other.’ The bands energy and focal point was vocalist Lucas Magyar. From the opening cut “Viscera” he was working the crowd and getting everybody involved into the show. The rest of band featured guitarist Marc Okubo, bassist Danny Hauser and drummer Sam Applebaum and they laid down some incredible progressive and technical stuff. They ripped through a twelve-song set that included some of the new material like “Godhead,” “Red Fur” and “Synthwave Vegan.” Other songs included “Whistleblower,” “Doublespeak,” “Lisbeth” and the impressive “Mikasa” which closed the show. 

For my money, nobody delivers a concert like Sweden’s Avatar. The show they put on goes way beyond five guys just playing songs, this is a carefully constructed  and calculated event that combines theatrical trappings that play in perfect unison with the musicians and the sonic attack of the songs. Starting with the band standing in their own pods, thankfully they didn’t enclose them thus avoiding a possible Spinal Tap moment, towers of sparks shot up beside them as they launched into “Dance Devil Dance.” You could feel the energy from the stage but the energy coming back at the stage from the fans was even stronger as a steady stream of crowd surfers began. The players in this band fit so well together and they took the songs to another level live while also interacting with the each other and the crowd. Guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Ohrstrom provided some unbelievable playing, especially when they dueled each other, and the rhythm section of Henrik Sandelin and drummer John Alfredsson provided the platform for which all the dressing of the music was built upon. The court jester that led the three-ring circus was the infectious lead singer Johannes Eckerstrom. There just isn’t anyone better and more entertaining to watch than he is and it’s very difficult to take your eyes off him. He commands the stage with his crazy antics and facial expressions but it should not be lost on anybody how well he actually pulls off his vocals. He’s spot on and does not take a note off and sounded amazing the whole night which included the song “Tower” where it was just him and a piano. 

The new album released this year called ‘Dance Devil Dance’ is a crusher, blessed with an undeniable groove, it’s as catchy as it is heavy. Five of the eighteen songs played came off the new record and every one of them were incredible, in particular “The Dirt I’m Buried In” really hit in a spectacular way. During the song “Puppet Show” Johannes popped up in the balcony of the theatre with his trombone, but before he played it, he made a balloon animal, only at an Avatar show does that happen and actually makes sense. All the songs you would want were played like “Colossus,” “Let It Burn,” “Bloody Angel,” “Smells Like a Freakshow” and the king made an appearance for “A Statue of the King.” The set closed with “Hail the Apocalypse.” 

I love bands that bring that extra flavor to the stage, that visual that keeps you in the venue until the lights go up. Even with the custumes, staging and props, they never sacrifice the integrity of how the songs should be played live.  Sonically the songs sounded incredible and when you have that in unison with such a high-level stage show with all five guys sharing in the production and the responsibility of giving every person in the venue a night to remember, you have something magical, and that is what Avatar is. 

SHINEDOWN, THREE DAYS GRACE & FROM ASHES TO NEW Light Up Minnesota [Review & Photo Gallery

Shinedown have been ripping through North America and the tour rolled into Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a venue that the band has made a consistent stop over the past few years, and a rabid fanbase once again welcomed them back. 

Before the headliner would take the stage, From Ashes to New, were tasked to warm-up the audience. The band began to take form in 2013 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and have dropped three records to date with album number four called ‘Blackout” on the way. The first single from upcoming release, “Nightmare,” opened the seven-song set. From the moment Danny Case stepped onto the stage he was in command. Belting out every word with emotion and conviction which gave me a whole new appreciation of the material. Matt Brandyberry also brought in his rap stylized vocals that played off Case giving the duo an entertaining dynamic which powered the songs. Guitarist Lance Dowdle, drummer Mat Madiro and touring guitarist Jimmy Bennett matched the vocalist energy as they played “Heartache,” “Hate Me Too,” “Crazy” and the bands first break-through single “Through It All” to close the set.  

Three Days Grace took the stage next to a tremendous response. Opening up the show with the cut “So Called Life” which also happens to kick off their latest album, ‘Explosions,’ which was released 2022. Vocalist Matt Walst is now three albums in after taking over for original vocalist Adam Gontier and has cemented himself among fans as a guy that values the past but continues to push the band forward and gain new fans with every show. The rest of the line-up included bassist Brad Walst, guitarist Barry Stock and Neil Sanderson on drums. The band is extremely tight with the material and songs became stronger and heavier than the album versions. Their music is classified in various different genres like post-grunge, alternative, hard rock and nu-metal but ultimately is just addictive catchy songs that have great melodies and memorable choruses that keep fans singing along and staying engaged in the music. With a forty-five-minute set they kept to many of the hits like “Animal I have Become,” “Pain” and “I Hate Everything About You.” The set ended with the rouser “Riot” with fans standing up and chanting riot with the band. 

The headliner, Shinedown, would attack the stage with the crusher “Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom.)”  They wasted no time in unleashing the pyro as it shot over the band as the song kicked in. Dubbed the “Revolutions Live Tour” the band quickly took ahold of the arena and held it their hand throughout the entire set. They have really mastered the ideals of what makes a great rock show, lots of pyro and fire, great lighting, high-octane energy and getting the crowd fully engaged. Sonically the songs hit you square in the face. I have always felt the bands catalog translates much better live and when you put that stage show around those songs, it becomes a magical concert. The bands line-up has been solidified for over a decade now with Brent Smith on vocals, Barry Kerch on drums, guitarist Zach Myers and bassist Eric Bass. Shinedown have released seven studio albums with ‘Planet Zero’ being dropped in 2022. They pulled “Dead Don’t die” off that album for the second song of the night and it sounded fantastic. A piano dropped from the ceiling for the third song as Eric Bass sat down and played “I’ll Follow You” while guitarist Zach Meyers found a great perch to play on and climbed on top of it to play his parts. The night continued with some of the must plays like “Sound of Madness,” “Enemies,” “Bully,” “45” and the cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” The set came to a close with “Cut the Cord” and it once again, for my buck, solidified Shinedown as one of the must-see bands when they come through your town. They sound amazing, the songs grab you and you can’t help but engage into the music and the energy they bring to the stage every night. Shinedown believes in their audience and appreciates the people that show up and support them, a cool moment after the second song was Brent Smith giving hi-fives to every photographer in front of the stage, a very small moment in time but a meaningful and memorable experience for those photographers and it was a way of saying thanks to the people that help share their vision of what a rock concert should be. Once again, the Target Center in Minneapolis got a great show and I’m sure it will fill-up once again when they come back. 


One of the odder tour packages hit the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week. Metal veterans Five Finger Death headlined the bill that also featured two country acts, Brantley Gilbert and Cory Marks. I was interested to see how this would play out and how the fans would react to each act. I honestly had never heard of the two country acts and couldn’t name a song they would play but the performances of all three were memorable and made for a great evening.

Cory Marks would be tasked to open the show and get people going. From the opening song, and after consulting setlist.fm, that song was “Devil’s Grin,” it was clear that this was not your average country artist. Despite the southern drawl to his voice and some country trappings in the music, he had a harder edge laced within his songs that really played well to the crowd. The band he has assembled around him were fantastic and the energy Marks summoned up as he worked the crowd won fans over during his short set. One song that really stood out to me was the third song in the set called “In Me I Trust” which comes off his latest release ‘I rise.’ The riff in that song is just dirty in the verses and instantly grabbed my attention. He also did a fun cover of Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner.” 

Clearly, I was in the minority by not having any idea who or what Brantley Gilbert was. Fans went nuts as the lights dropped as he and his band took to the stage. He kicked into a song called “Kick it in the Sticks” and from that moment on he held the Target Center captive through his entire set. Although I could definitely hear the country elements, I had expected to be present, like Cory Marks, there was harder element to his music and the vibe that came off that stage played very well to fans that may have been there for just the headliner. The stage along with constant fire pyro sucked even the purest metalheads into the show and won even the cynics like myself over. Even Gilbert himself said he was confused on how he ended up supporting Five Finger Death Punch but he took advantage of every minute of it as he played to his fans and people hearing him for the first time. I nice touch came when they played a piece of an Eagles song and then pieces of Pantera. It showed the wide variety of musical influences he comes from and all those elements are found within his catalog of music. I began to wonder how much of this crowd is actually here for Brantley Gilbert and if there would a mass exit after he was done. Maybe this was more a country crowd than a metal crowd but the answer quickly showed itself as nobody left and people were getting ready for a death punch. This venue was full of music fans and it was great to see different genres playing to the same crowd and having success. 

As soon as the curtain dropped and the pyro and explosion went off, I knew we had entered the metal part of the evening. “Lift Me Up” opened the set for Five Finger Death Punch and the band would flex their muscles through an onslaught of power riffs and precision shredding with a venomous vocal attack. The band has been kicking around since 2005 and even though the faces have changed over the years, the band has never lost its identity and focus of crafting metal anthems that have endeared them to the metal community. Vocalist Ivan Moody has always set the table and this show was no different. He played to the crowd and challenged them to meet his intensity and the musical force coming at them from the stage. Zoltan Bathory and Andy James carried the six-strings while Chris Kael took care of the bass. Minnesota’s own Charlie Engen handled the drums and got a lot of cheers from the crowd. The band dropped a brand-new record in 2022 called ‘Afterlife’ and hit on a couple tracks from it that included “IOU” and “Welcome to the Circus.” The highlights from the set for me were “Wash It All Way,” Sham Pain,” and “Under and Over it.” The most aggressive part of the night was brutal “Burn MF” as the energy in the crowd amped into a frenzy. I also really enjoyed Moody singing A cappella. Just him and the crowd interacting and singing together, it was as if the Target Center was shrunk into a small club at that moment and it felt more intimate. There is no question Five Finger Death Punch has built up a tremendous loyal fanbase and you could see it, feel it and hear it throughout the night. The closing number was the classic “The Bleeding” which was released back on July 10, 2007 and introduced the world to the band and more than a decade later the fans are still filling the venues and throwing down with Five Finger Death Punch

The Trinity Of Terror Tour Bludgeons Minnesota [Review & Photo Gallery]

When it comes to horror movies, every great movie and villain never seems to die. They raise up from the dead and create a brand-new nightmare for fans. One of the great tour packages of the past year keeps coming back and it seems to be bigger with every run of dates. The ‘Trinity of Terror Tour’ has reached trilogy status with the third string of dates ripping through North America. The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota would host the sold-out tri-headline tour that featured Ice Nine KillsMotionless In White and the Black Veil Brides. Added to the bill to open the show were metalcore veterans Atreyu.

Atreyu hit the stage with the song “Baptize.” This was my first time seeing the band with Brandon Saller handling lead vocals but he quickly made his presence known with his personality and energy. He sounded great vocally and the songs came across great. A couple of my personal favorites came next with “Becoming The Bull” and “Right Side of the Bed.” Saller also made his way to the bar for a quick drink during the set and found out, as anyone who has been to the Armory, it’s a little trickly to maneuver yourself to the bar and then back to the stage. The line-up also consisted up guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel, bassist Marc “Porter” McKnight and drummer Kyle Rosa. Throughout the night it was very clear Ateryu was the perfect fit for the tour and I realized just how much their songs have stood the test of time.  The entire band came across like there was no other place they would rather be and looked to be having so much fun that it became infectious to the packed venue. The fan reaction was really fantastic and they really ignited the crowd and that energy would hold up throughout the night. 

The three bands have been alternating slots and in Minneapolis the Black Veil Brides  took the stage next. Led by vocalist Andy Biersack they struck with the song “Crimson Skies” from 2021’s ‘The Phantom Tomorrow.’ They were certainly the most straight forward band of the night and hit with constant riffs from the two guitarist Jinxx and Jake Pitts. Holding down the rhythm section was drummer Christian “C.C.” Coma and bassist Lonny Eagleton. Although they were still supporting the latest album, the set was fun because it touched on all the records and really showcased the bands entire timeline. I really enjoyed “Fallen Angels,” “Faithless,” “Knives and Pens” and new cuts like “Scarlet Cross” and “Shadows Rise.” You could certainly feel the presence of the Black Veil Brides Army as the band made its way through the set. I thought they sounded in great form and delivered a great show.  

Motionless In White was a completely different monster from the previous bands that had previously taken the stage.  The intensity ratcheted up as soon as vocalist Chris “Motionless” Cerulli positioned himself at center stage. They kicked into “Disguise” and the chaos was in full swing. The line-up featured guitarists Ryan Stikowski and Ricky “Horror” Olson with Vinny Mauro on drums and bassist Justin Morrow. The band was supporting 2022’s release ‘Scoring the End of the World’ and played five cuts from that record like “Werewolf” and “Cyberhex.” The crowd surfing was non-stop and it did cause Cerulli to ask fans to take a little break from it to give the people up and front and the staff of the venue to catch their breath. Fan favorite “Voices” blew the roof off as did The Killers cover of “Somebody Told Me.” The entire performance was a high-octane outpouring that the crowed ate up. They even had some extra help as two people came out to provide a little extra visual experience as they threw candy into the crowd, generated sparks that shot off their body, and after the closing song “Eternally Yours” threw roses into the crowd. I’ve never seen a bad Motionless In Whiteshow and was again impressed with what they pulled off. 

The one band I had yet to see would close the night and I was anticipating great things. Ice Nine Kills is a band that I had casually listened to but the last two albums, ‘The Silver Scream’ and ‘Welcome To Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2” really hooked me into the band. The set ripped into “Funeral Derangements” and the onslaught was on. Vocalist Spencer Charnas, with shovel in hand, got people moving and the fans in the crowd didn’t let up. Each track on those albums is a tribute to some of the most iconic horror movies or franchises. Bringing those nightmares to the stage, along with Charnas, was bassist Joe Occhiuti, drummer Patrick Galante and guitarist Ricky Armellino and Dan Sugarman. They kicked into “Wurst Vacation” which takes us into the Hostel movies and I quickly realized that this show was as much theater as it was a concert. It was a carefully calculated set that had actors and props that brought the horror movies to life. “Hip To Be Scared” was a homage to American Psycho with Charnas crushing his victim with an axe. So many highlights in the set but “The Shower Scene” which pulls from the classic Psycho movie was executed perfectly with a shower curtain pulled onto the stage with a victim standing behind it just waiting to meet her demise. With so much going on the stage, it wasn’t lost on me how good the music sounded. The songs came off so crisp and tight and when you add that sonic assault with all the different stuff they did a stage, it made for one of the most enjoyable sets I’ve seen in a while. The set ended with bringing Freddy Krueger out of your nightmares and onto the stage with the ode to The Nightmare on Elm Street movies with “The American Nightmare” and that concluded a fantastic night. 

This was a very unique bill with four bands that seem to have equal footing among the crowd. There  wasn’t any indication that one band was bigger than another and as you walked the venue the merch people were wearing seemed pretty equal.  I didn’t see anybody heading for the doors after any particular set as the venue stayed packed until the last band finished. The ‘Trinity of Terror Tour’ lived up to the hype as every band on the bill impressed me and the five hours I was at the venue flew by.