Double Door, Chicago, Illinois June 16,2007

by Dr. Mality

It's not often that you get to see a TRUE heavy metal show. One that is put on by metalheads for metalheads, one that doesn't bow to whatever the current trend in the "scene" is. Alehorn of Power is such a show. I had to miss the first edition in 2006 (which had Manilla Road, dammit!) but was very pleased to catch the second edition, held in downtown Chicago at the excellent Double Door club. This was a great line-up of bands for the real metal conneisseur...most of them being members of the Cruz del Sur label, maybe the best metal indy around at the moment.

There no mosh pits tonight and no kiddies doing kung fu moves in the middle of the floor. That right there shows the class of the fans. Everybody (almost everybody...there were some duffers who spent the whole time in the downstairs lounge) was there for the METAL. They showed their appreciation loudly during the evening but studied the music with the tremendous concentration of medical school students watching a great surgeon at work.

This was my first trip to the Double Door. It's a great venue with superb acoustics and a very nice lay-out. Security was pleasant and easy to deal with. Only problem I had was with a greedy waitress who tried to extort extra money out of me. This was a top-notich rock and roll club. I know that Greg Spaulding, drummer for Bible of the Devil, has a hand in booking the bands here and being in a band himself, he knows what makes for a good club experience. Parking in the toney Wicker Park section of Chicago is virtually impossible, but thanks to a young gentleman named William from Club Divine, I was able to snag a prime spot for $10! You can't beat that in the big city...thanks, William!

Alehorn of Power got off to a sizzling hot start with Valkyrie from Virginia. This was the only band on the bill that I had never
heard before and they were on fire from the word go. Looking at this band, you simply cannot believe that they are capable of the timeless, classic metal they jammed out with such conviction and authority. These guys don't even look old enough to drive cars! Not only that, but with the exception of the shaggy haired drummer, they have a kind of very clean-cut, preppy type look to them. Well, forget about judging a book by its cover, because these guys are as far away from emo and metalcore as you can get. They pushed out some great, long jams with awesome guitar solos and twin guitar melodies. I could best describe the Valkyrie sound as a mixture of the sort of twin axe driven melodic true metal of Slough Feg and Bible of the Devil with a thick and earthy Southern touch ala COC and Alabama Thunderpussy. Two vocalists also help keep the music extremely interesting. I was utterly blown away by this band and feel that they will soon be a much more high profile name. Valkyrie's set gave me a hopeful feeling that the younger generation is capable of "getting it" and creating metal as good as their inspirations.

Widow was more of a known quantity due to the underground buzz on their two albums "Midnight Strikes" and "On Fire". They hit the stage with a lot of energy and their patented dual guitar attack. They're back to being an all-male unit with the departure of the chick singer they had on "On Fire". I think that was a bold experiment but the band is definitely better with the current line-up. Widow had a good set, but there were a couple spots where sloppiness was noticeable. These guys suffer live from the same problem they have on record...too many songs at exactly the same pace. By the end of the set, their reception had cooled a bit and they didn't get the rapturous response that Valkyrie did. I'm still looking forward to their new album "Nightlife", a couple of strong cuts from which we got treated to tonight.

L.A.'s Crescent Shield was the most "classical" of all the bands playing tonight. Widow, Slough Feg and Bible of the Devil all tip their hat to the glory days of the 80's but Crescent Shield really seems to BE from the age of Omen, Liege Lord and Manowar's greatest hits. They could have slipped into an old Cirith Ungol/Manilla Road gig without a hitch. Lead vocalist Michael Grant is kind of the Meat Loaf of the power metal set...a big fella with extravagant mannerisms and an even more extravagant voice. Grant is certainly the focus of Crescent Shield's show. He is amazingly able to pull off everything live that he did on C.S.'s debut "The Last of My Kind", which is no mean feat. A couple of guys next to me snickered at some of Grant's over the top banter and mannerisms, but I don't doubt for a minute he believes in the music and he got a well-deserved ovation at the end of Shield's set. The band as a whole is super tight...guitarist Daniel DeLucie was one of the best axemen on a show that had a lot of good guitarists, bassist Melanie Cisneros was not only musically tight but also cuter than a ladybug and the drumming was also crisp and aggressive. Crescent Shield's super-tradtional epics such as "Above Mere Mortals", "The Path Less Chosen" and "The Last of My Kind" are for the most hardcore of classic metal fiends.

If Bible of the Devil does not wind up becoming one of the most revered U.S. metal bands, then take out the American metal scene and shoot it in the head. This band is everything that a true metal fan could ask for and they tore the Double Door apart with their breathless, rough-edged melodic steel. Coming off a great album in "The Diabolic Procession", BOTD hit the stage with furious intensity, laying into classic tunes like "Sepulchre" and "Judas Ships" from "Diabolic Procession" and mixing in some of their older material. I can't recall a duff song in the set. They all oozed the same gritty class (or maybe classy grit) that the band is known for...brilliant twin guitar harmonies reminiscent of Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, the bare-knuckled and greasy bluesy thrust of Motorhead and raging axe heroics that would make Iommi and Rhoads nod in approval. Nate Perry and Darren Anaya thrash and headbang furiously while singer/guitarist Mark Hoffman is the picture of intense concentration as he delivers his rough and raw vocals. Can't forget drummer Greg Spaulding's wild eyed skin attack This is the real distillation of the essence of heavy metal, serving up hot and steaming on the stage of the Double Door tonight. If you gotta pull an IV tube out of your nose and get out of your hospital bed to do it, do NOT miss Bible of the Devil live...they are one of the best!

Bible was a virtually impossible act to follow, especially in their "home" club, but this was the task that fell to November's
Doom. I've waited to see these guys a long time. Without a doubt, they were the heaviest band tonight and the closest to "death metal", but there was enough melody in their ponderous tunage to keep the interest of those who were there to see Slough Feg and Bible of the Devil. The slower, doomier tunes of November's Doom, driven by the solemn growls of vocalist Paul Kuhr, do not lend themselves to the sort of frantic crowd response that Bible got. This was very dense and emotional music that you had to concentrate on. The band opened with the very morose and ultra-heavy title track from "The Pale Haunt Departure" and then kicked up the aggression with the brutal "Rain". The mountainous Kuhr is one of the grand masters of the growling vocal...he sounds like he could grind tombstones with his guttural bellow. His softer clean vocals did not come across quite as well live, as they got somewhat overwhelmed by the other instruments.

November's Doom packed a lot of quality into their decent sized set and surely didn't disappoint their faithful. For some reason, a lot of cute Asian girls were headbanging in the crowd during their portion of the gig, which gave me something to focus on besides the action on stage. I will say, though, that if you're looking for a sweaty, orgasmic metal gig, November's Doom is not gonna be your ticket.

Slough Feg were tonight's headliners and by the time they hit the stage, it was after 1 A.M. The crowd had thinned by this time, but not to an embarassing point and plenty of people were left to show their appreciation of this very special band. I've said in the past that Slough Feg is the most underrated metal band in the States and I have no reason to back off that statement after this show. Mike Scalzi and his troops know what makes a metal song work and they demonstrated their mastery of the form tonight. They dug deep into their back catalogue, delving into the arcane likes of "Down Among the Dead Men" and "Traveller". It was a treat for me to hear these old tunes, which frankly sounded just as fresh yet timeless as Feg's more recent tunes. Scalzi is an electric frontman and the only one tonight that had a sense of humor. "Our new CD is called "Hardworlder", which gets the award for world's worst album title, "he quipped. The epic tune he played from said album was probably the longest, heaviest and most complex of the night. Honestly, a lot of Slough Feg's songs are albums in themselves...just as captivating and convoluted as the best Maiden stuff.

The twin guitar work of Scalzi and Angelo Tringali made me think that Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy had died and been reincarnated. I offer up "The Hiberno-Latin Invasion" as indisputable proof. Outstanding! I think it was a dead heat between Bible of the Devil and Slough Feg as to who delivered the most horns-worthy set of the night...they both kicked ass, working the same general territory but in their own unique way.

I left the Double Door with a big grin on my face, which got even bigger when I saw William was a man of his word and my
car was untouched by overzealous cops. The grin continued to expand as I contemplated the quality of the show tonight. Metal by metal fans for metal fans...kind of a revolutionary concept, ain't it? But it works really well in practice.

I'll see you at Alehorn of Power III!