I’ll be the first to say I’m in the middle of some pretty rough times right now, especially business-wise. The ol’ economy has hit me hard. Still, with all that, I managed to make my way down to Baltimore’s Sonar the other night and catch a real unique show, coupled with grabbing some good ol’ times with friends from the past & present. Truly going to these kinda metal shows is a very special thing. It’s kinda like a misfits high school reunion! This was a particularly great evening, being that it was a co-birthday celebration between former Grinder Mag publisher Jim Powell and master graphic artist Dave Wright. Besides them I also got to chew the fat with local metal luminaries like Metal Matt (Iron Boss, Rancid Decay) and Raven drummer himself, Pentagram-man Joe Hasselvander.
I only caught a few minutes of the opening act ACID QUEEN, but they went down real nice spinning a fine web of NWOBHM covers like “Wasted” by Leppard, “Princess Of The Night” (Saxon) and others as well as a scorching guitar-solo-laden original. Up next were my new favourite band, SHOKKHER! From Washington, D.C., this 5-piece have been doing a spectacular job of hiding from me up till now…because they fucking kick ass! Fronted by a killer vocalist who could’ve been Rex Smith’s brother (wouldn’t that make him Michael Lee Smith? Well, no but…!) these guys combined massive NWOBHM riffs, Thin Lizzy-styled harmony leads and a slight overtone of glam to sweep me into instant fan-dom. Most of all, I was smitten by the lead guitar work of the young-looking axe man at stage right, who looked like he was 18 and played like Michael Schenker. His melodic soloing at the beginning of “Lady Insane” was enough to raise goosebumps. Completely taken by these dudes, I picked up their debut disc (10 songs for only $ 5!). Expect a full report soon!
It was after SHOKKHER that “Athletic Rock” came barreling full-force into the club, as Mark & John Gallagher plus Joe H took the stage and set everything into a high-energy barrage that didn’t let up for their entire set. John proved he is still as crazy as ever, mauling his 4-string while unleashing high-pitched shrieks that would make Mr. Halford take note to this very day. Joe delivered a thundering cavalcade of drum-storm pillaging that not only cemented his own legendary reputation but also did proud the legacy of “Wacko.” Last but surely not least was Mark, who’s guitar sound was nothing short of nasty as fucking hell. I mean the cat had a snarling, honking sound that recalled Akira Takasaki at Jaxx a few years ago and his playing put him at the forefront of most NWOBHM guys, right up there with Pete Haworth and the Maiden bunch. This Gallagher brother was wrenching screaming harmonic squeals out of his axe when Zakk Wylde was still a gleam in someone’s eye and he was on it this night, through classics like “Break The Chains” and “Rock Until You Drop.”
All in all, you talk about a heavy-assed and fun night from stem to stern! This was it! Best show of 2010 to this point and one hell of a high school reunion!