Night Demon generated a lot of buzz the last few years, as their self-titled EP from 2012 was picked up by Shadow Kingdom Records and High Roller Records and last year’s ‘Curse of the Damned’ came out on Century Media. The major label support was warranted, as this was some high flying material that was reminiscent of a slew of NWOBHM greats. Who they remind you of might depend on what classic records you spent the most time with, but their ability to do this style justice without sounding like a retread of one particular band or album is great. So when I saw they were on a headlining run where they’d be playing all of the material from ‘Curse of the Damned’ with Visigoth and Against the Grain I knew it was something I couldn’t miss out on. This particular gig was at El Gran Chapparal, a non-descript bar/pool hall in New Carrollton with a nice stage and plenty of space that looks to be where quite a few metal shows might end up at in the future.
The Maryland date was a recent addition to the tour, having been booked only about a week or so ahead of time. Because of this it did seem like attendance on this particular night was a little lower than is sometimes typical for the metalheads in this area, but the bands still made the most of it and those who did make it out were definitely into everyone that performed. It was still pretty sparse when Visigoth took the stage, even though the sets had been pushed back almost an hour to give more people time to get there. But this didn’t stop the band from tearing up the stage with a performance that was high energy but seemed a little bit too short. If you’ve yet to hear Visigoth, they’re a heavy/power metal band from Salt Lake City and released their debut full length ‘The Revenant King’ on Metal Blade last year. Stylistically they go for the galloping/epic variation of heavy metal, with bands like Manilla Road definitely coming to mind. Their live set was my first chance to hear some of this material as I hadn’t had the opportunity to listen to the album all the way through yet, and I came away really impressed. The riffs sounded really powerful as they washed over you, and Jake Rogers’ voice carries over perfectly in a live setting. He’s able to get a lot more range out of his vocals than some of the other heavy metal singers out there, and pulls it off without it feeling forced or unnatural. Even with the longer length of the songs and a killer Demon cover, it felt like the set ended far too quickly, or maybe that’s just because I was so into what was happening on-stage. Hopefully they’ll come back to a bigger crowd next time, as this type of epic heavy/power metal can be hard to do well and they deserve a bigger audience.
Up next was Against the Grain from Detroit, who I had seen the name of before from some promos that came through my inbox a while back but hadn’t had the chance to spend time with. They dub themselves “Motor City Speed Rock” and I couldn’t think of a better description of how to describe what they’re going for. Right from the start I was blown away, as the band kicked things off with a blisteringly fast song that had an absolutely gnarly guitar tone. With the abrasiveness of the lead guitar and the sheer volume of all the instruments, you can definitely tell that these guys have a Motörhead influence and that’s part of what drew me in so quickly. But even if a lot of the songs that Against the Grain played flew by with crazy intensity and speed that was almost hard to keep up with, they definitely aren’t the type of band who uses their fast tempos as the only things they have to offer. Their set had a mix of speed metal sounding moments, straight up rock ‘n roll riffs that were taking influence from a whole slew of classic acts, and even some slower burns where they were able to get some slower grooves going. Vocals are shared by two of the members, with the lead having a slightly higher range than the back-up. Admittedly with the volume of the instruments the singing had a tendency to get buried in the mix, but I’m not sure if that was just because they were maxing out the PA or if that was their decision. It wasn’t a big deal that the vocals went in and out though, because the riffs were so damn good. These guys put on a blistering set from beginning to end, and while I don’t listen to quite as much rock as I used to Against the Grain’s worth paying attention to and I can see why they were picked to tour with two heavy metal bands.
Virginia’s AkerOn went on shortly after Against the Grain finished, and was the one band on the bill that wasn’t a part of the tour package. I wasn’t familiar with these guys, but apparently they go back as far as 2006 and were one of the more prominent local heavy metal bands to write material in Spanish. They also were disbanded or on hiatus for a while, so this was billed as one of their comeback shows and I noticed that the crowd had filled out a bit more when they took the stage so it’s clear that they they’re able to draw the locals. Musically AkerOn goes for slower/mid-tempo heavy metal that also seems to be taking an influence from some of the classic hard rock bands like Scorpions. Though the band had great energy I did find that some of the songs started to blur together a bit by the end of the set, possibly because a lot of them go at around the same speed. The vocalist definitely caught my attention though, as he has a great voice that hits a lot of the upper melodic registers and he was able to get the crowd going on a regular basis. It was a good performance and it was clear from the audience members there were plenty of people that were into it, though it wasn’t quite the type of thing I’m super into.
Night Demon looked like they were ready to be a headlining band, as they had the stage show element down along with the type of overwhelming energy that one needs to be deemed worthy as a headliner. Their stage set up had banners in front of the amps on both sides, and they had a big banner with the artwork from ‘Curse of the Damned’ complete with glowing eyes. They also had a smoke machine and their own light set-up that would change colors and have strobes going during some of the faster moments. All of this came together to create an impressive display, but what mattered the most was how good the music itself sounded. As I mentioned earlier, this tour featured the ‘Curse of the Damned’ album in its entirety, but rather than simply playing it from beginning to end the band chose to mix things up. It was fantastic, and their performance was laid out in a way that had natural pauses with some of the slower pieces in between the faster numbers that whipped up the mosh pit and headbanging. There’s something so enticing about hearing a fast heavy metal guitar lead wash over you in person, and Night Demon was able to deliver one after the other as they blazed through almost all of their recorded discography. Jarvis Leatherby’s voice carries over great in a live setting, and the sound guy was able to get the right balance between the instruments and vocals so that his voice was able to absolutely soar during some of the choruses. During Chalice the group had their merch guy come up on-stage dressed up in a grim reaper costume, and a nice way to lead into the end of their set. The tightness of the performance and the energy from every member of the band, along with the stage set-up made it clear these guys are making the most of their headlining run and are a heavy metal group you absolutely need to see live if you’re a fan of the style.