Pathfinder Metalfest IV was something that I was really looking forward to attending. When I heard that one of my favorite bands, Brave, was performing along with While Heaven Wept, I just knew that this was a show that I couldn’t miss. I was also really looking forward to hearing a slew of bands that I had never heard of. In order to keep it old school, I chose not to listen to any of these bands online before the show. I wanted to go into it unbiased and I wanted that element of surprise to be there.
Metalfest IV featured sets by Draekon, Machinage, Brave, Lorenguard, Void of Reason, Theocracy, and While Heaven Wept. At a mere $15.00 a ticket, just seeing While Heaven Wept and Brave alone was worth that and then some so I knew I had absolutely nothing to lose. The festival was held at the 120 Music Hall in Marietta and it was a really great venue. The fact that it was a non-smoking room was a huge plus and the show itself was one of the smoothest running shows I have ever been to. Every band went on like clockwork and there were no huge waits in between bands for changeover. I also have to say that what I loved about this festival was the lack of pretentious douchebags that you tend to get at festivals of the larger scale. The people that were in attendance were here to see these bands, not to try and be part of some elite crowd or to attend so that they could say, “I was there.” This was a great, respectful, and responsive audience and I was super proud to be a part of it.
What you are about to read below are brief reviews of each of the bands that I saw perform. I was brutally honest in my reviews of each band and I hope you will enjoy reading my thoughts on each performance. Remember that these are all personal opinions and that opinions are like assholes: everybody’s got one. I just hope that you will enjoy this review and even take the time to listen to each of these bands as you read about them. Maybe you’ll discover something new you’ll love. Maybe you’ll discover something new you hate. Either way, open your ears up to some new things and enjoy the review.
Being the first band on a festival bill can be a damn near impossible task. You are pretty much going on stage as people are coming in, getting situated, and creating a distracting environment. None of these things seemed to affect Indianapolis’ Draekon. As the band took the stage, I was struck with curiosity as I hadn’t heard one note of this band. The minute the band kicked in with “Only Ashes Remain” I was absolutely floored. This band was so fucking good and it reminded me a bit of Fates Warning with a little bit of Queensryche and Symphony X thrown in for good measure. Lead vocalist Chad Barnes has a dynamic and powerful voice that is all his own. I hear a lot of Geoff Tate and Jon Oliva in his voice while using dramatic phrasing and surprising yet impressive precision in his delivery.
Draekon as a band really blew my mind and had me completely captivated and their song “Darkness Falls” was the one that truly sealed the deal for me. “This song was an awesome piece of epic metal that really showed just what Chad Barnes could do vocally. While the crowd at this time was a bit on the small side, Draekon really seemed to win them over and really turn some heads. They weren’t flashy and didn’t have “the moves” or anything but they had the songs and just watching Barnes’ passionate delivery of these songs was captivating enough. Draekon is without a doubt a band that I will be keeping a close eye on for a long time to come.
Only Ashes Remain, Walls of Anguish, The Division, Path to Fate, The Value of All, Darkness Falls
Brazilian thrash metalers were yet another band I knew nothing about but I was very interested as to what I was going to see and hear. I figured that Machinage would probably be a Sepultura clone being from Brazil but I was quickly proven wrong. Machinage took the stage opening with “Next Victim” with all of the energy and fire of an arena level band with the chops to go with it as well. Machinage is a whole new spin on the “retro” thrash/metal movement. With one foot planted in their Brazilian, Sepultura inspired roots and another foot in the classic sounds of Exodus and Testament, Machinage delivered a powerful set that drew the growing audience closer to the stage with a commanding presence. Each song was met with a roar of gratitude and the band continued to give everything they had on each and every song.
Machinage’s 40 minute set closed out with “Cold 3rd War” and literally had the crowd wanting more. With a burning fire and high level of passion, Machinage won me over and definitely made me a fan. I cannot wait to see more from this band. These guys are going to win the masses over if they keep on putting on performances like this.
Next Victim, Envy, Revolution, Anguish, Beliefs, Mask Behind Some Lies, Cold 3rd War
What can I say about Brave other than they were the very reason I was looking forward to this festival. Ever since stumbling upon them early this year, Brave has quickly become one of my all time favorite bands with their own brand of melodic Celtic infused metal. The fact that they aren’t a touring band was a huge bummer for me as I never knew if I’d ever get to see them live. When I heard that they were going to be a part of Pathfinder Metalfest IV, I was so psyched. While I was really excited to see them, I was trying hard not to build them up too much in my head. As the curtain covered the stage, I could feel my own excitement building up and I was smiling ear to ear. At this point the room had a good number of people present and they all moved forward towards the stage. As the curtain was drawn back, Brave took the stage to a huge applause. As “Escape” from their Searching for the Sun album filled the room, the audience cheered and I was mesmerized. Lead singer/keyboardist Michelle Loose Schrotz has such a subtle yet glowing presence as she urges the audience to participate, groove out, and throw horns as the band performs with spot on precision. Michelle is such a dynamic vocalist and her presence on stage is one you can’t help but connect with. The band’s presence is not cocky or arrogant and there’s no cheesy choreographed stage moves or synchronized headbanging here; just some facemelting music delivered with pure, organic passion.
With a set comprised mostly of songs from 2008’s Monuments, each song sounded way better than the recorded versions that I’ve loved so much for nearly a year now. Michelle even dedicated “Something to This “(my fave song) to me and getting to hear them do “Dark Waters” live without a doubt made that song my new favorite. Brave performed a brand new song (currently untitled) which went brilliantly with the rest of the songs in the set. Hearing this new tune gives me hope that a new Brave album may be on the horizon. Brave closed out their brilliant 45 minutes set with “Words” which definitely brought the house down with a rousing applause and a room full of smiles. It totally left me wanting more and from the looks on the faces of those in the audience, they all looked to be really blown away. A Brave live show is really a heartfelt and melodic metal experience. If you’re not smiling throughout and by the end of their set you need some serious therapy. It’s uplifting, beautiful, and heavy all at the same time. Brave obviously loves the music they make and I loved every minute of seeing it live. This without a doubt solidified them as not just the highlight of the entire night but as one of my all time favorite bands.
Escape, Trapped Inside, Something To This, Sooner or Later , Hold On, New song (tentatively called “surrounds me”), Dark Waters, Driven, Words
Following Brave was going to be a really hard thing to do. In my opinion, I had already seen the best of the best this night but I was willing to keep my mind and ears opened to what the rest of the night had to offer. As Lorenguard took to the stage my first thought was, “You have got to be kidding me.” Decked out head to toe in costumes, I literally felt as if I was seeing a one act play of Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons. I quickly put my bias aside as the band delivered a set of some really tasty, epic, symphonic metal. I really loved the male and female dynamic of vocalists Robb Graves and Amanda Wells. They were spot and they had a great chemistry on stage creating a really great live experience. I also enjoyed the fantasy world inspired lyrical content. My inner, youthful dork completely embraced this as I loved seeing these people on stage not afraid to do something that they truly were passionate about. I really enjoyed their performance and found the visual aspect of their energetic performance fun to see.
Lorenguard’s songs really impressed me as they seemed very inspired by the fantasy filled lyrics of acts such as Ronnie James Dio and Helloween. The songs were very melodic and had some really dynamic changes and catchy, epic choruses. The song “Greenstone” stood out to me as the highlight of the set and proved to also be my favorite songs on their album Eve of Destruction. Lorneguard is a band that I would love to see again live but I’d also love to see them with an elaborate stage production. This is the kind of band that could totally pull it off and do it well.
Eve of Corruption, Wrath Divine, Greenstone, Black Sails, Dragonsbane, Hands of Chaos
Void of Reason
I had seen Void of Reason once before on a bill with a friend’s band earlier this year and was not impressed in the least by them. With that being said, I decided that I would give them another listen just to see if maybe they could do something for me this time around but again I was completely unimpressed. Void of Reason actually are a very talented group of individuals. I just felt that their songs lacked any kind of dynamics, depth, or versatility. All of the songs sounded the same to me and there was very little variation from song to song. I appreciated the fact that they had really great chemistry on stage and that they had some really good energy. The singer had a really good presence but he seemed to just be trying a bit too hard at time. He never seemed quite able to reach the notes that he was reaching for making it all sound a bit pitchy.
I managed to hang on until they played a cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Clairvoyant.” This was a huge mistake because, first off, if you’re going to cover Maiden, you need to do one of two things: put your own spin on it and make it your own or play it as good if not better than Maiden’s version. They tried to match it note for note and in my opinion failed. This was all it took to send me out to the restaurant area to get some air, a bite to eat, and grab a drink. I really wanted to like this band, especially with them placed as high up on the bill as they were but I honestly feel like that they should’ve opened the night. They were the least tight and least fascinating band of the evening so in some ways they kind of killed the mood for me. I’m sure they are really nice guys but unfortunately I just wasn’t impressed by Void of Reason.
Unfortunately, because of needing a break from the music room and from Void of Reason, I ended up completely missing Theocracy’s set. They were obviously placed very appropriately in the set as direct support for While Heaven Wept as these guys had a big following. I know that they are a Christian metal act but this means nothing to me. I mean, I might not be Christian but I love Stryper because they kick ass and have some damn good songs. I decided to pull them up on Spotify to see if I’d like them and I was very pleasantly surprised. They definite had the twin guitar prowess of old school NWOBHM bands mixed with the progressive influence that reminded me a lot of Blind Guardian. I really dug their singer who at times reminds me Dennis DeYoung of Styx. I really enjoyed listening to their 2011 album As The World Bleeds and would probably go check these guys out live. They really seemed to make a great impression on those that I talked to. I’m bummed to have missed these guys.
While Heaven Wept
Much like with Brave (who I discovered because of While Heaven Wept), I have been a fan of WHW since earlier this year and have been looking forward to seeing them live. The crowd was really excited and pumped to see these guys and you could hear it as the band arrived on stage to a rousing ovation. Opening the set with “The Drowning Years” was literally awe inspiring and facemelting. The song literally just crept in with Dio like eeriness as the band plodded through this epic slice of doom metal. As lead vocalist Rain Irving emerged from the dark, the crowd erupted and the look on his face alone guaranteed a gracious, heartfelt performance. Keyboardist/vocalist Michelle Loose Schrotz (also of Brave) adds so much depth to these songs creating lush harmony vocals with Rain while the rest of the band creates this heavy yet beautifully melodic foundation. The songs are definitely the focal point of a WHW performance with Rain playing the role of the dramatic messenger. He approaches each song with so much passion while possessing a very zen like Ronnie James Dio presence. He has such a commanding and magnetic personality that the fans naturally gravitate to him and he obviously welcomes and appreciates this. It is really quite amazing to witness Rain perform live as he puts his heart and soul 100% into each and every song.
While Heaven Wept’s setlist was comprised mainly of songs from the Of Empires of Forlorn album. The only song that I felt was a bit much was “Thus with a Kiss I Die.” While I tend to not mind long songs, after such a long night this song just seemed to drag on a bit for me. The mood took a drastic change as the band launched into my personal favorite song “Vessel” which brought a huge response from the crowd and closed out the set. The band was welcomed back out for an encore with a roar as they brought it all home with “To Wander the Void.” While Heaven Wept is without a doubt a band that brings all of the passion, emotion, and intensity that you hear on their albums and then some. Seeing them live made me go from liking this band to loving this band. WHW put on a stellar performance and this is without a doubt a band I will go see time and time again.
The Drowning Years, Of Empires Forlorn, Voice In the Wind, In Aeturnum, Soulsadness, Saturn and Sacrifice, Thus With A Kiss I Die, Vessel, To Wander the Void
All in all, I would call the Pathfinder Metalfest IV a huge hit. I walked away from this festival with some great new friends and I also left as a fan of a handful of new bands. Every band on this bill (yes, even Void of Reason) gave 100% on stage and really made the most of their time on stage. I have paid double, if not triple, the amount of money to see bands of ½ this quality perform. Pathfinder Metalfest proved itself as an amazing, and very affordable, way to see some really amazing up and coming talent. This show also proved that up and coming doesn’t mean “not as talented.” I would put a good number of these bands up against any of the “big dogs” and they would hold their own without a doubt. Festivals and shows like this give bands that are so sadly overlooked an opportunity to shine and show people just what they are capable of. I highly recommend attending a Pathfinder Metalfest if you find yourself wanting to hear and see some of the best metal bands that you may never get a chance to see otherwise. You just may find your new favorite bands this way. As for me, I’m a supporter for life now. You’ll be seeing me at many more Pathfinder Metalfests from here on out.