Author: Madi Smith

I arrived at Club X on July 2 expecting to have an incredible time, and my expectations were exceeded.

Befouler, Salt Lake City’s new black thrash metal band took the stage first for their debut show, and they were incredible. The vocalist had so much power and the incredible riffing and drumming were a refreshing injection to the scene. They received an excellent crowd response from circle pits to new fans up front chanting along to the choruses.

Deathblow followed, and their recognizable songs had the audience in a frenzy. More circle pits broke out, more chanting was heard, and the band revealed their new guitarist Mauro Diaz in the middle of their set, finishing as a four-piece.

Visigoth stormed the stage next and, as expected, they delivered an amazing show. The great sound at Club X balanced the instruments and everything was audible anywhere in the venue.

Night Demon from Ventura, CA took the stage last. Unfortunately for the audience members who left after Visigoth’s performance, Night Demon closed the night with a fantastic set. They played songs off the new album Curse of the Damned as well as their previous self-titled EP. The band spiced up the visuals with their own lighting rig and a ghoulish figure named Rocky, who appeared onstage enticing the audience to drink from the chalice in his hand.

The bands’ styles meshed well together—there was a little something for everyone. Overall, it was one of the best shows I have attended this year.

Black Tower

Black Tower

Black Tower
The Secret Fire

Unspeakable Axe Records
Street: 06.02
Black Tower = Dissection + Omen

Black Tower’s first full-length album fucking rocks! It’s rough around the edges at first, but full of hooks. Vocalist and guitarist Erin Ewing sings slightly out of tune, but her melodies—especially in the chorus of “Death March”—were burned in my brain after the first listen. The band’s use of harmonies is tastefully done, and the backing vocals layer quite well with Ewing’s. She unleashes her unique, high-pitched snarl on parts throughout the album, my favorite track being “Shadows.” The band performs with elements of punk, black metal and New Wave of British Heavy Metal, picking up speed toward the middle of the album. The production and mix is really well done—you can hear the bass’s awesome melodic puttering around the fret board with ease, and the drums are quite prominent. The album is only 33 minutes long, but it’s a blast of gross, punchy metal, so do yourself a favor and check it out! 
–Madi Smith

Crobot started off the night at the Complex Thursday, August 27 and surprised me with their rockin’ tunes and groovin’ stage moves. Vocalist Brandon Yeagley danced around stage in his halfway unbuttoned paisley shirt and genuinely seemed to be having an excellent time. Their musical style was a great fit for the bill and they opened the show with a blast of energy.

 

Saxon stormed the stage, matching Crobot’s energy and increasing it tenfold. Biff Byford’s vocals were gruff and fantastic, especially accompanied by original guitarist Paul Quinn’s zen yet totally bitchin’ solos. Bassist Nibbs Carter went absolutely bonkers head banging and running around the stage while totally tearing up the bass. I saw Saxon exactly three months prior to this show, and drummer Nigel Glockler’s speed and attack had noticeably improved; he even played “20,000 Feet” off of Strong Arm of the Law faster than it was recorded. Byford’s between song banter was sassy and energetic as he encouraged the crowd to sing along and cheer.

 

After much anticipation, Motörhead commenced their short set of classic tunes. Phil Campbell was immediately engaging the crowd as he ripped on his guitar and darted around the massive, empty stage. Lemmy Kilmister stood stationary and spoke and sang slowly but I didn’t give a damn– I was seeing Motörhead live and in person! They had to cut their set short due to Lemmy’s trouble breathing and when he returned to the stage to profusely apologize, the crowd greeted him with cheers. As he left the stage, all I could hear was, “Lemmy! Lemmy! Lemmy!” It was heartbreaking to see Lemmy in such rough shape, but I had an excellent time seeing a fantastic lineup.

Dead Lord

Dead Lord
Heads Held High

Century Media Records
Street: 08.21
Dead Lord = Thin Lizzy + KISS

Dead Lord’s guitars attack with ripping solos and fantastic double-guitar harmonies. The classic smooth-rock guitar tone supports the shredding wizardry, and the sound on the album is mixed well. However, the vocals don’t do the songs justice. The opening track, “Farewell,” lacks a gripping chorus and is a weak album opener because it doesn’t grab the listener’s attention, nor does it showcase the band’s skills—neither do the two immediate following tracks. The vocal melodies are uninteresting and tend to maintain similar vocal patterns throughout the album, making it difficult to walk away with a tune stuck in my head. There are parts on the album, however, when the vocalist has a similar sound to that of Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy—such as in “No Regrets”—and that is quite promising. Overall, it’s a modern rock album worth picking up. –Madi Smith

Saxon 
The Saxon Chronicles 
UDR Records
Street: 02.13
Saxon = Grim Reaper + Tygers of Pan Tang
 
This re-release of Saxon’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsies 1989 Live album spans the band’s career up until 1989, including hits from albums such as Denim and Leather, Rock the Nations and Destiny. The production on this album is fantastic, especially for a live album. The balance between instruments and vocals is perfect, and Saxon sounds great live. The precise execution of guitar riffs, New Wave of British Heavy Metal drumming and Biff Byford’s vocals make the album sound as if it is being performed right in front of you. This album is an excellent substitute for fans who miss(ed) out on seeing Saxon live, especially during the band’s glory days. –Madi Smith
Photos:
King Diamond elicits cheers from the crowd. Photo by Madi Smith.

King Diamond performing at the Complex on October 31 made for an unforgettable Halloween. Exodus took the stage guns blazing and their unfaltering amounts of energy infected the audience. Steve “Zetro” Souza demanded multiple mosh pits and toward the end of Exodus’ performance, the pit was the largest I had ever seen. Not only that it was probably the most comical mosh pit with a giant banana slamming in to other costumed bodies and a wall of death. Exodus sounded great save for the Complex’s usual kick drum-heavy sound mix washing out some of the guitars. The band had the crowd in a frenzy and heightened the anticipation for King Diamond.

King rolled Grandma on-stage in her wheelchair as “Out From the Asylum” erupted from the speakers. For a brief moment I expected a show similar to that of King Diamond’s last Salt Lake City stop in October 2014, but I was quickly proven wrong. The stage setup was the same save for the gates that were present at the beginning of his 2014 set but he used different theatrics including pulling a doll out of Abigail’s coffin and a performer acting out the songs as Abigail. They played a different array of songs this time around from the albums Them, The Eye, Fatal Portrait and even some Mercyful Fate covers. King Diamond performed “Halloween” as well as Abigail in its entirety. His falsetto sounded a little tired, but his performance was nonetheless spectacular. Crowd surfers were abundant, partial thanks to Santa catapulting people onto the heads and necks of those around. There were fewer costumes than I had expected, but I saw King Diamond’s face paint nearly everywhere. I do not know how Salt Lake City lucked out on hosting King Diamond on Halloween, but it was the best Halloween I have had.

Uli Jon Roth
Scorpions Revisited
SPV Records
Street: 03.10
Uli Jon Roth = Scorpions + Jimi Hendrix
 
Uli Jon Roth reinvents 1973–1978 Scorpions material with modern production and a more sophisticated guitar style. He infuses Scorpions classics, like “Sails of Charon,” “Virgin Killer” and “In Trance,” with heavy metal vocals from Nathan James and reimagines the 40-year-old tracks with gritty hard rock guitar tone blasting through contemporary amps. Every song has a new unique guitar and vocal style while staying true to the early Scorpions’ sound. James lacks the feeling Meine nailed on songs such as “We’ll Burn the Sky,” but his extended range, harmonies and melodic arrangements reinvent the songs that Scorpions have neglected in live performances. This album is not a greedy grab at cash, but a modern adaptation of classic Scorpions hits performed by better skilled musicians. –Madi Smith 
Photos:
Night Viper – Self-Titled

Night Viper – Self-Titled

Night Viper
Self-Titled

Svart Records
Street: 12.04
Night Viper = Metallica + Meanstreak

Initially, I thought Night Viper’s debut album had every aspect of classic heavy metal that I love, but that faded rapidly with each listen. Sofie-Lee Johansson’s vocals remind me of the fantastic Bettina France from Meanstreak at moments, especially toward the middle of the album, but her pitch is all over the place. The vocal melodies have promising sections until a sour note is thrown in, which frequently happens throughout the album. However, I do respect the band’s decision to forego any sort of auto tune. The guitar tone is standard for classic heavy metal—think Kill ‘Em All–era Metallica—but lacks the individuality that would separate Night Viper from the dime-a-dozen traditional heavy metal bands. Their intonation struggles greatly around the third track and never recovers. The bass guitar is hidden deep down in the thin, uninspired mix. I’d like to hear them a year from now. –Madi Smith

Enforcer
From Beyond
Nuclear Blast
Street: 02.27
Enforcer = Skull Fist + Striker
 
Enforcer’s masterful guitar harmonies and exquisitely executed solos combine forces with frontman Olof Wikstrand’s gripping vocal melodies in the band’s fourth full-length album. This record migrates from the overly compressed production of their 2013 album, Death by Fire, to a fuller sound. The style is reminiscent of Diamonds, Enforcer’s 2010 album and my personal favorite, with a blast of speed metal. The tempo variations throughout the album keep it interesting from start to finish and showcase each member’s talents. Jonas Wikstrand’s high-energy drumming establishes a solid foundation for the guitars to shred over, especially on the track “Hungry They Will Come” with an Iron Maiden–esque dual guitar assault and perfectly timed drum accents. Get ready to drive around, windows down, blasting this album on hot summer nights. You will not regret it. –Madi Smith
Photos:
Saxon – Battering Ram

Saxon – Battering Ram

Saxon
Battering Ram

UDR Music
Street: 10.16.15
Saxon = Judas Priest + Tygers of Pan Tang

Saxon is known for their big, catchy choruses loaded with recognizable vocal melodies. Underneath those melodies lie ripping guitar leads drenched in a ballsy heavy metal tone, thunderous bass and deafening drums. Unfortunately, Battering Ram delivers only a few of those things. Biff Byford’s voice is as strong and gritty as ever, but he doesn’t deliver a very strong melodic performance like on Saxon’s previous album, Sacrifice. It took six tracks before I recognized the Saxon-esque chorus with a subtle harmony over the main vocal line. The guitar tone is massive, especially when this album is played on nice speakers, but the overall sound is very stale. However, the riffs are pretty cool. Not Strong Arm of the Law cool, but at least Saxon is heading in a new direction instead of reworking the gems of their discography. I bet the songs hold up live, however, I will stick to Saxon’s previous albums. –Madi Smith