Enforcer and Warbringer at The Haven Lounge on 10/12/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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I’ve been going to metal and rock shows for nearly a quarter of a century now. In that span of time, I’ve attended as everything from the fan in the crowd, to the musician on stage (and for a brief time, was even the security behind the barricades). For over a decade now, my role at shows has largely been that of a music journalist (and when my wife is unavailable, an occasional photographer) reporting everything I see and hear. But at my age (and with having a bum leg), I tend to experience most shows on the sidelines these days (it makes it a lot easier for jotting down notes, anyhow). But last Saturday, October 12 at The Haven Lounge in Orlando (or is it Winter Park?), I broke my own rules, and exerted myself right in the middle of the action for the first time in I can’t even remember how long.

Perhaps it had something to do with the initial opening act, Orlando’s own Darkness by Design, whose immediate intensity (reminiscent of old school Slayer) caught the attention of the entire room, and demanded one to listen up instantly. Guitarist Marcos Mercado’s massive riffs were a definite highlight, making them a force to be reckoned with on stage.

Destructonomicon were next on the bill. I’ve caught them a time or two over the years, and judging by their performance this past weekend, they haven’t matured all that much since then (go figure, with a name like…Destructonomicon). Although they did initiate a decent response from the audience, their “tough guy” brand of crossover doesn’t quite do much for me these days.

Another local outfit I’ve seen a time or two over the years, Thicket, were up next. I’m not entirely sure how to place them. Part traditional thrash and part progressive metal, their lack of cohesion is somewhat of a strange mixture. Still, there was no denying they had the club amped up and ready for a night of more headbanging by the end of their set.

The band that got me through the door that night, Enforcer, were next to play. I’ve been a fan of theirs since another magazine I freelance for, New Noise, asked me to review their 2015 album, From Beyond. With their ability to skillfully mimic the sounds of such beloved ’80s thrash metal bands such as Megadeth (though without ripping anyone off), I was instantly hooked on these Swedish metalheads from the start, and have sought their entire catalog ever since. Prior to last Saturday’s show I had heard that some of the members would not be present for this tour, but had no idea only lead vocalist/guitarist/overall mastermind Olof Wilkstrand would be present from the band’s core lineup, along with touring musicians that included Skull Fist guitarist Jonny Nesta. Warbringer guitarist Chase Becker also filled in on bass, while Hellwitch drummer Brian Wilson rounded things out behind the drumset.

Still, I knew from the moment they hit the stage with “Destroyer” that this particular night would be different, and found myself making my way to the front of the stage to scream along with every lyric (that I could remember anyway) quickly. More crushing anthems like “Die For the Devil,” Searching For You,” “Undying Evil,” “From Beyond,” “Belles of Hades/Death Rides the Night,” ‘Zenith of the Black Sun,” and “Mesmerized by Fire,” followed with fury.

What came as an even bigger shock (other than how hard they played) was the fact they managed to represent every album of their career, including one of my personal favorites from the Diamonds album, “Live For the Night,” as well as “Scream of the Savage” from their lesser known 2008 debut album, Into the Night. After an epic rendition of “Take Me Out of This Nightmare,” the band came back for two more Diamonds-era tracks, “Katina” and Midnight Vice,” before finally calling it a night.

By the time they finished their set, there was no doubt that my wife/photographer and I were both in need of a reprieve before Warbringer hit the stage, and by the time we got back from grabbing some fresh air, the club was already packed again. I have to admit I don’t know Warbringer’s (who were the headliner on this night) material as well as Enforcer’s, but I did familiarize myself with some of their music beforehand, and recognized some of the tracks in their set such as “Remain Violent,” “Firepower Kills,” and “Severed Reality.” Their music is honestly a bit hit or miss for me, at times on the interesting side, while at other times extremely generic. One thing’s for sure, their intensity might have come close to matching Enforcer’s (who no doubt stole the show that night), but were far less superior in comparison.

And the end of the night, we even had the pleasure of meeting some of the members of Enforcer, including said front man Wikstrand and guitarist Nesta, who each embodied the living “rock star” image without tarnishing it one bit.

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The Beautiful Bastards at OB’s Restaurant & Lounge on 9/7/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photo By Brooke Striewski

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It’s not often we feature a cover artist or band here at Rewind It Magazine. But when the group happens to consist of rock royalty such as former Brian Howe (Bad Company) guitarist Dean Aicher, former Skid Row/Slaughter drummer Timothy DiDuro, and former Pat Travers Band bassist Rick Navarro (who has also shared the stage with the likes of Steven Tyler and the late Eddie Money), we’ll make an exception for the likes of The Beautiful Bastards.

Immediately upon arriving at O.B’s in DeLand this past Saturday, September 7, one could here the unmistakable chords from a familiar Beatles song. After taking a seat at the bar, my assistant/photographer/wife and I were instantly greeted with a warm welcome from the friendly bar keep, and after just one quick look around, it was apparent we were in the right kind of establishment.

Some members of the crowd even danced as the band ripped through tracks like Free’s “All Right Now,” Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” Led Zepplin’s “Dancing Days,” The Who’s “Squeeze Box” and “Behind Blue Eyes,” The Beatles’ “Come Together,” and Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” before taking a break. Unfortunately, parenting duties caused us to call it a night earlier than expected for us, and we were unable to hang around for the band’s next set afterwards. But still, it was the perfect excuse for a night out filled with classic rock music (even if it was only for a short time).

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Dio Returns at The Plaza Live in Orlando, FL on 6/1/19 – Words By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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Ever since the Dio Returns tour had first been announced there’s been an abundance of backlash from some fans calling it a ‘cash grab’ (I’d almost guarantee most of those complaining are the same people who went to see Bohemian Rhapsody when it came out last year, too). You can write tours like this off as such (it should also be noted that some of the profits from the tour are allegedly going towards the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund), or you can look at them the way I do; tributes meant to keep the memories alive of legends who rightfully deserve it. Ronnie James Dio was one such icon who I grew up admiring dearly, and unfortunately I was never able to see him perform live before his passing in 2010. The Dio Returns tour gives all those who never saw him the chance to finally experience his music live (and the last time I can remember looking forward to a tour as much as this much was probably when I caught the original lineup of one of Ronnie’s former bands, Black Sabbath, back in 2004).

Essentially, the band itself is one of two current versions of the Dio band that has been going for nearly ten years now (the other being Last in Line, with Vivian Campbell and Vinnie Appice at the helm) called Dio Disciples. This version of the band (which features Dio alumni Craig Goldy, Simon Wright, and Scott Warren) has been performing for years with multiple singers in place of Ronnie, including ex-Judas Priest/Iced Earth vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, and former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan, who were both there trading off vocal duties (along with live recordings of Ronnie when his hologram was present) when the band came through The Plaza Live in Orlando this past Saturday, June 1.

Jizzy Pearl’s current incarnation of Love/Hate opened the show, and I was actually looking forward to finally catching Pearl live as well after interviewing him for Rewind It Magazine just last year (I found it strange however that none of the material from Pearl’s recent album that I interviewed him for made it into the set list).  At this point, the club was still fairly empty, and the band received only a modest response. But still, they played with all their might on tracks like “Straightjacket,” “Tumbleweed,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Fuel to Run,” “Mary Jane,” and “Wasted in America.” A seemingly set up (and awkward) moment found the band being told to leave the stage before declaring they were doing one more song, which ended up being “Blackout in the Red Room.”

After Pearl’s set, there was a sort of calm before the storm as the crowd sat anxiously to finally see what awaited them (this was only the second night of the tour, after all). It was quickly revealed as Ronnie’s hologram made its introduction by way of “King of Rock and Roll.” From there, it was one amazing moment after another from beginning to end.

A pair of Sabbath-era classics in the form of “Mob Rules” and “Children of the Sea,” sung by Owens and Logan, respectively, followed before Ronnie’s image made its way on the screen again for the classic Dio tracks “The Last in Line” and “Holy Diver.” After Owens belted out one more Dio classic (“Stand Up and Shout”), the stage was cleared for a drum solo by Wright, which was a tribute of sorts to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

A tagged-team rendition of “Don’t Talk to Strangers” by Owens and Logan followed  before more Dio/Rainbow classics began making their way into the set, including “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Egypt (The Chains Are On),” “Gates of Babylon,” and “Invisible” (another duel effort from Owens and Logan). Goldy then treated the crowd to a guitar solo before a couple more Rainbow tracks (“Catch the Rainbow” and “Stargazer”) preceded an unforgettable version of Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” (which briefly segued into the classic “Man on the Silver Mountain”).

Owens and Logan then took the stage along with Ronnie’s hologram to close out the night on an epic note with “We Rock,” and finally (after a short reprieve) “Neon Knights.” The only thing I might have changed (other than include tracks like “Time to Burn” or anything off the Sacred Heart album in place of some of the other chosen tracks in the set, but that’s just my own personal taste!) would have been to market the tour itself a bit differently; even though the hologram does indeed play a prominent role, there’s so much more to the entire show than just that. Still, every person in attendance that night seemed to be in agreement of just how well-executed this show truly was.

After the show itself, my wife/photographer and I were extremely lucky to be invited backstage, where we were able to briefly meet and talk to every member of the band, as well as Dio’s own former wife, Wendy. It was apparent that this tour was a collective labor of love from all those involved, and the feelings resonating backstage were that of celebration, and triumph. And as far as all the closed-minded critics of the tour go, to quote Aesop; “The ignorant despise what is precious only because they cannot understand it.” I think if Ronnie were still here today, he would fully approve of what is being presented on stage in his honor right now.

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Queensryche and Fates Warning at The Plaza Live on 3/2/19 – Words By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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Unlike other bands from their era simply running off nostalgia (Ratt, Quiet Riot, etc…), bands like Queensryche are still releasing more-than-respectful material, and not relying solely on their past. And while they may still be largely ignored by modern radio these days, bands from said era such as them (along with Iron Maiden and Megadeth, among others), are still just as strong as ever. After catching them live this past weekend for the second time, there’s no denying these bands are still able to pack a house.

Fates Warning have always been of mild interest to me (especially since Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax bassist Joey Vera first came aboard), so I was looking forward to actually seeing what they could do on stage when they opened the first night of this current tour. But for the most part, they focused a tad too heavily on their (not so) new album, 2016’s Theories of Flight, performing “From the Rooftops,” “Seven Stars,” and “The Light and Shade of Things.” The furthest the band even went in their own catalog was “Life in Still Water” from 1991. While it’s understandable they had limited time to work with (only able to squeeze in eight tracks) this is one case where it would have been nice if they dug just a little further back in time (at the very least 1988’s “Silent Cries” should have still found its way in the set list somewhere).

And finally, Queensryche took over. The last time my wife/photographer and I saw them live, they were still touring for their first album with current vocalist Todd La Torre in 2013. Since then, the band has released a couple of more albums, and were not swayed from playing material from any of them (despite knowing many likely still come to hear their Geoff Tate-era hits). One thing’s for sure, their stage/light show has definitely improved over time. However, it was somewhat disappointing to see original drummer Scott Rockenfield was not on board this time around, though Kamelot’s Casey Grillo filled in just fine.

Opening with “Blood of Levant,” the band continued with mostly newer tracks such as “I am I,” “Man the Machine,” and “Condition Human,”  but managed to throw one from their debut album, “N M 156” in there before finally breaking out with one of their signature “classics” (“Queen of the Reich”) six tracks in. “Selfish Lives,” “Open Road,” “Light-Years,” and “Eyes of the Stranger” all followed before the band took a quick reprieve.

It didn’t take long for the band to come back with a trio of their most well-known hits for their encore, including their biggest (and in my book, extremely overrated) power ballad “Silent Lucidity,” as well as “Jet City Woman,” and finally “Empire.” I say it all of the time; if ever you doubt the ability of a band that’s been around as long as Queensryche, wait to see them live before judging. These guys have been going strong since 1980, and it’s clear they don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Bret Michaels and Lita Ford Live in Orlando on 11/3/18 Words By Jesse Striewski/Photo By Brooke Striewski

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Back in 2013, two kids who had been dating for a few months went to Orlando to quench their mutual thirst for ’80s rock by seeing Poison front man Bret Michaels live in concert. It was at that very show they realized they had finally found something special, and by the next weekend, they were engaged. Now married, the two make up not only a great husband and wife couple, but also a writer/photographer duo that occasionally team up to cover local concerts, such as the recent Bret Michaels show in Orlando this past November 3. This time around the two were there with a purpose, covering the show (which this time featured not one, but two ’80s icons as Lita Ford opened) with photo passes in hand. The result was truly a night to remember for all who were there.

Lita Ford has been on my personal list of artists to see live for some time now, and after several missed chances over the years, that wish was finally realized (and with the best seat in the house -the photo pit – nonetheless).

Immediately packing a punch with fan favorite “Gotta Let Go,” Lita indeed got the staged primed for a night full of great old school rock. And with only so much time to spare, Ms. Ford didn’t waste any of it, belting out classics like “Playing with fire,” “Hungry,” and “Back to the Cave,” before rounding things out with her monster hits “Close my Eyes Forever,” and of course, “Kiss Me Deadly.”

And finally, Bret Michaels took over the stage, getting the party started appropriately with the classic “Talk Dirty to Me.” Michaels wasted no time, and quickly followed up with “Ride the Wind” before going into a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” that the crowd ate up completely.

From there on out, it was one Poison hit after another; their version of “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” followed by “Something to Believe In,” “Unskinny Bop,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and of course, the party anthem Nothin’ But a Good Time.” Although his set may have been cut slightly shorter this time due to a shared bill, the energy was still undeniable. It’s hard to imagine anyone in attendance that night went home unsatisfied.

Be sure to check back for full photo galleries of the show coming soon.

Sebastian Bach at The Plaza Live on 11/2/18 Words By Jesse Striewski/Photo By Brooke Striewski

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The last time I caught former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach live, he was the supporting act for Guns N’ Roses back in 2006. Last Friday night’s show at The Plaza Live in Orlando somewhat paled in comparison to that of the larger, arena-sized production I saw him on years earlier. But despite this,  those in attendance seemed to at the very least be having a hell of a time.

Young Canadians One Bad Son kicked off the night, ushering themselves onstage with the theme from “Rocky” before ripping into their set. Their style ranged from traditional heavy metal (“Scarecrows,” “Lost All Control”), to mainstream mediocrity (“It Ain’t Right”). Despite some of the most awkward silence I’ve ever witnessed at a live show in between songs,  the band truly got it right towards the end of their set with a cover of the Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer.”

Prong/Madonna (yes, you read that right) guitarist Monte Pittman (who the band gets its namesake from) was up next. It wasn’t until about halfway through their set I realized Pittman had devised a super-group of sorts, featuring Holy Grail bassist Eli Santana, as well as former Slayer/Testament drummer John Dette.

Pittman offered a wide range of various rock genres; from metal numbers worth banging your head to (“Changing of the Guard,” “Everything Undone,” “Skeleton Key,” etc..) to even acoustic numbers like “Depth of Perception.” All in all, Pittman’s set was one of the surprising highlights of the evening.

Finally, former (though not “original” – die hard fans will remember that title actually belongs to Matt Fallon) voice of Skid Row, Sebastian Bach, took stage some time after the 11 o’clock hour, appropriately kicking off his set with one from his ex-band’s glory days, “Slave to the Grind.”

The current lineup Bach has assembled for his band offers its own rock royalty as well, with current UFO bassist Rob De Luca and Riot/Fates Warning drummer Bobby Jarzombek rounding out the rhythm section. Newcomer Brent Woods handled guitar duties admirably (though at one point he threw handfuls of guitar picks into the crowd in what appeared to be a fit of anger).

More tracks from both his work with Skid Row, as well as his solo catalog, quickly followed, including “Piece of Me,” “Dance on Your Grave,” “18 and Life,” “Here I Am,” and “The Threat” (a personal favorite of mine that I don’t recall him playing the last time I saw him, and was definitely not expecting to hear this time around, either!) before getting into the “big guns” (literally).

Once Bach and his band went into the massive 1989 hit “I Remember You,” fans were screaming for more. Which they quickly received, as he then broke out with a couple more from Skid Row’s debut album in the form of “Big Guns” and “Sweet Little Sister.” Bach somewhat lost the crowd for a second with a less-than-stellar joke (the punchline, “Motordead,” should give you an idea of what it entailed) before introducing the song “All My Friends Are Dead.”

Thankfully he was able to recover with the hard-hitting “American Metalhead” before lashing out some more classic Skid Row cuts in the form of “Monkey Business” (in which the band briefly segued into a nice cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” mid-way through), “Rattlesnake Shake,” and the classic anthem “Youth Gone Wild,” which would have made for more than a perfect ending to the night. But Bach hit the already-exhausted crowd with one last solo song (which the name of completely escapes me at the moment) before finally calling it a night.

Unfortunately this time around any and all material from Skid Row’s Subhuman Race album was completely omitted from his set list (if memory serves me right, he at least played “Breakin’ Down” that first time I caught him back in ’06). Even so, I’m glad to see he’s still out there giving it his all, night after night.

 

D.R.I. at Bombshell’s Tavern on 12/10/17 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Seth Johnson

Crossover thrash legends D.R.I. (a.k.a. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) recently blew through Orlando’s Bombshell’s Tavern on Sunday, December 10, taking zero prisoners in the process.

 

Local horror punks Disfunction kicked off the night with a fury. After beginning their set with the theme from the TV show “Tales From the Crypt,” they went into some of their own tracks such as “Til Death” and “More Than Meets the Eye.” Vocalist Josh Whitman thrashed about on both stage and floor with an endless amount of energy seldom seen these days.

Another one of Orlando’s own, Sift Knuckle Solution, were up next, and commanded the crowd’s attention with their brand of old-school punk. Songs like “Ruby Red,” “Stalker,” and “Money, Power, Greed” got the room moving even more, and a cover of the Misfits’ “Death Comes Ripping” (with Disfunction’s Josh on guest vocals) topped off their set.

D.R.I. tour mates Kaustik took over next, and showed no mercy with their brutal mix of groove/thrash metal. “Scars of Violence” and “In Bastards we Trust” were just a couple that stuck out, while other highlights included D.R.I. drummer Walter “Monsta” Ryan sitting in for an Agnostic Front cover, and Kaustik’s guitarists joining in on the action on the floor during closing track “Reign in Ruin.”

Finally, D.R.I. took over with a nearly two hour set which covered their entire 30-plus year career. “Hooked,” “I’d Rather Be Sleeping,” “Mad Man,” “Violent Pacification,” “Slumlord,” “Dead in a Ditch,” “Abduction,” “Acid Rain,” and “Syringes in the Sandbox” were just a few that got things going before they segued into newer tracks like “Against Me” and “As Seen on TV.” After a very brief (and very Spinal Tap-ish) break that saw vocalist Kurt Brecht exit stage in order to move the band’s van, the guys got back to business with more classics like “All For Nothing,” “Suit and Tie Guy,” “Beneath the Wheel,” “I Don’t Need Society,” and “The Five Year Plan.” By the time D.R.I. left the stage, they had completely annihilated what was left of the exhausted crowd, thus confirming their ability to still bang some heads this far into their existence.