Lizzy Borden – The Beautifully Demolished – Icarus Witch – Live Review – 4/27/13

“Spring Stampede” @ The House Of Rock, White Marsh, MD

This was one of those shows that kind of snuck up on me without a lot of prep or forethought, so I’m somewhat shooting from the hip here. I remember seeing somewhere that Lizzy Borden was coming to Maryland sort of soon, but it was the fact that D.K. Revelle (formerly of Jetboy) was coming over the East Coast with his new band, The Beautifully Demolished (TBD from here on), that got myself and the wife out of the house and on the road for the 1.5 hour drive over to White Marsh in Maryland. This would also be our first visit to The House Of Rock, which, with a name like that, built a certain expectation in my mind. An interesting evening followed and not all for the right reasons… read on!

The “Spring Stampede” event was more than I am covering here, and actually included a total of nine bands, with the show kicking off at 3PM. I suspect there were at least a couple of the early playing bands that I would have enjoyed (“Ghosts Of War” and “Modern Superstar”) but since this was our fifth show in two weeks, and with the specter of the M3 festival looming next weekend, dedicating another whole day was too much, so we picked our arrival time to coincide with the last three bands, with Icarus Witch scheduled to start at 9PM.

A quick prelude here – I have always considered myself to be a fair reviewer and base this on playing guitar at a semi-pro level for some 15 years through the 80’s and 90’s, which included touring much of the UK and releasing several CDs and many demo tapes and similar. Additionally, we always pay for every show we see, since I believe that is the only way to be a truly impartial reviewer and also want to support the bands and venues that are trying to bring live music to the fans. Why am I saying this…? Well, not to let the cat fully out the bag, but just to give you a quick peek, not all was wonderful this past Saturday night…

So, first up a quick review of the venue. The House Of Rock is situated on the Northern side of Baltimore, making it a 90-mile trek from the NoVAMetalReview homestead, which is a decent haul, clocking some 1 hour 40 minutes on the GPS. This puts it in the same ballpark as Rams Head Live, which is right in downtown Baltimore, another regular NoVAMetalReview venue. Rollin up to the site, you are greeted by a good sized parking lot, which is a very good thing, so bonus points for easy parking. Walking into the joint itself, reveals a good sized bar, with a half-wall separating it from the standing area in front of the stage, which is nicely raised such that anyone should be able to see the band. The stage area itself is pretty large, so you won’t find the band squished up against their backline – if you were to swing a cat (which I totally would not approve of by the way), I think you’d be fine. For this particular concert there was a decent sized drum riser too. Maybe that is a permanent fixture? The PA was of decent size too, which I also assume was the house rig. The only odd thing was the décor, which seemed to be themed on a Caribbean Island bar – may be this House Of Rock was more used to Reggae at some point…? Anyway, despite some odd little spaces off the rear and side of the bar area, this was pretty decent. If you wanted to sit at the bar you could still enjoy the show and the main floor area would accommodate perhaps 250-300 at a guess.

First up was Icarus Witch, who I had previously seen supporting Y&T a couple of years back and they had impressed me back then. In order to keep this review short-ish (haha!) I won’t attempt to unravel the bands history, except for one point: I believe Icarus Witch are currently on their seventh drummer… at least if Wikipedia has an accurate list of former members?! I can’t help but recall Spinal Tap here – I presume the real story isn’t as interesting as Spinal Taps’, which included a similar succession of drummers, all of whom are said to have died in strange circumstances: one in a “bizarre gardening accident”, another “choked on vomit, but not his own vomit”, and two from “spontaneous human combustion” onstage. Additionally, it is claimed that police described one of the deaths as “a mystery better left unsolved.” Haha! Well at least no one caught fire on-stage while I was watching last Saturday.

The last Icarus Witch CD (Rise) is a great record and one any self-respecting metal fan should treat themself to right now. It’s really good. Go on… buy it now! Based on the record and what I saw last time I caught them, I was looking forward to seeing them again and as we walked into the venue we were greeted with their tight, twin-guitar driven sound – we were running about 10 minutes behind schedule so I’m guessing we missed the first couple of numbers. Fortunately they had a decently long set, and the remaining nine songs were all delivered with drive and passion, particularly the guitarist pairing of Quinn Lukas and Dave Watson, who at times evoke strong hints of early Queensryche, with some deft harmony work here and there. Nicely done! The vocals of Christopher Shaner are powerful and he nailed each song. All of this was drawn together by the tight bass work of Jason Myers. I have no idea how long the latest drummer has been with the band but I don’t think it is all that long, so I’ll save comment on that until next time, but everything was perfectly functional, but perhaps not a feature at this point.

One thing that does enamor me to a band is how they interact with their fans after a show and Icarus Witch played that card perfectly. Michelle had snagged a setlist (Quinn’s I think) and the whole band graciously signed it along with a poster, but more importantly took time to chat with us. They also have a pretty cool “Zombie Witch” t-shirt design, so the wife picked up one of those too and very nice it looks indeed. My score for Icarus Witch was a solid 8/10. Well played indeed.

Next up were The Beautifully Demolished (TBD) who are fronted by D.K. Revelle, who Michelle had previously met when he was with Jetboy. Exactly what the story is with respect to how D.K. and Jetboy split is a bit of a mystery, since I can’t find anything that reveals what happened, at least not on the web, so that will have to remain unexplained for now. However, D.K. was triumphing his new band, so we wanted to see what he had come up with this time. This show was announced as the debut for TBD, so I had high expectations. D.K. isn’t a beginner at this game, so I was hoping for an LA Guns/Faster Pussycat/Motley Crue sort of experience. Well….

After Icarus Witch had cleared the stage, various characters from the TBD crew and band started to swarm the stage and fairly soon the first guitar was plugged in and “WHAM”, it was clear that someone had found the volume control. I guess this one went to “11”. Really? More swarming on the stage and another blast I assume from the other guitar.… hmm? Next up was something I assume was the bass being sound checked, which included the bass drivers from the main PA hitting their end-stops. What was going on? To be honest, at this point I tried to convince myself that the characters up on stage were roadies or techs. I hoped so anyway. But I was wrong.

I honestly can’t really keep it all straight, but may be a couple of songs were played on the PA, while the drums were sound-checked and then it began. Yikes! What ‘began’ was the biggest shambles purporting to be a rock show I have ever witnessed. It was immediately clear that the bass guitar was some un-harmonically related tonal-step out-of-tune with everything else, which was only made slightly worse by the fact that both guitars were also out of tune with each other (but perhaps less obnoxiously so than the bass…). The resulting cacophony was of course made all the worse by the fact that every amp on stage was set to ‘11’, meaning that no matter what the poor sound guy behind the desk did, he could not turn the offending instrument down, to at least give the band a chance. Now, I’ve seen a LOT of shows over the years and what played out in front of us this night was by far the worst I have ever seen.

Let me make this clear, D.K. Revelle was clearly trying his best and what you could make out from the vocals was pretty decent – he came across as a cross between Dave Lee Roth, Vince Neil and perhaps Phil Lewis (LA Guns) – and has all the moves and swagger that you need from a front man. But… a band is the collection of the members and generally brought down to the abilities and performance of the least capable member and today that was the bass player. I have no idea who he was and really it doesn’t matter because he was just a disaster. Now, I’ve been to many shows where the sound is a little iffy for the first 2 or 3 songs and then finds its groove, but this just got worse. Being curious, I wandered up toward the front of the stage (which wasn’t hard, since many of the people who had been near the stage made a dive for the bar or went outside to smoke maybe 20 cigarettes while this train-wreck worked it’s way to some kind of conclusion), and I took a closer look at Mr. Bass-Player and it was clear that whoever was supposed to be inside had checked out a good while ago, and been replaced with Mr. Wasted. I don’t know if it was only booze or supplemented, but the eyes looking out of that head were not seeing reality.

Not only were there serious tuning issues going on, but to make matters much more painful all round there were some rhythm defying timing problems going on. When all else fails, grab the root note of the key you’re supposed to be playing in and bash away in time with the drums. But no, even that was asking way too much. If you can imagine an 8-cylinder engine, with 3 of the cylinders missing, you might be close. The word rough doesn’t do what we were experiencing justice. Now it wasn’t just me having a bad day here. There happened to be two world renowned bass players from internationally successful metal bands in the audience (and no, I won’t name them), but both were being driven nuts by the shambles in front of them. I think it only took 3 songs to give me a mind-numbing headache…

At some point during the set Michelle spoke to a couple of the TBD stage crew, and apparently they muttered something about “bad gear” and tried to blame the amp. Well, sorry fellas, but the band on before (Icarus Witch) had used the same bass amp and it had been just fine then. Toward the end of the set I swear there were two or three songs where it seemed that the two guitarists were playing different songs, so it wasn’t just the bass that was having problems, and the attempted twin-lead guitar harmony was soon abandoned as it was plainly obvious that the result was closer to standing on several cats tails all at once, rather than anything remotely musical. Apologies to any cats that may feel insulted by this. I agree. I’d rather listen to a howling cat. Even several howling cats.

At this point I believe you have gotten the picture. Not good. Not good at all. So, for a debut gig from a new band am I being horribly unkind? If they had been a bunch of 12 year old kids at a School Of Rock band competition then yes, this would be a terribly mean review. But, what we have here is supposed to be a professional band, expecting to get paid for their performance and in return, as a ticket paying member of the audience it is not unreasonable to expect to be entertained. For me at least, the headache they gave me lasted well past 3 Ibuprofens that I slammed as soon as I got home and the only, and I mean ONLY good thing about this performance was when it stopped. I’m not going to score them a level zero because I still believe that D.K. Revelle is a good front-man and the drummer really was pretty good, but unfortunately neither could save this mess: 1/10

OMG, can Lizzy Borden save the day? Confession time. I knew NOTHING about Lizzy Borden (LB) before this show. I don’t own any LB records and at best vaguely remember a few tunes from MTV in the mid-80’s, and in my head had them characterized as a glam metal also-ran. Pretty harsh, huh? However, if nothing else, I will always give a metal band a fair crack at the whip and, given many of the former glam-bands are turning out some great music these days, figured they could be interesting. Now there’s an understatement.

So, this show was part of the “30 years of American metal” tour and that had me interested. Really? They’ve been going for 30 years? Yep, a quick fact check shows they formed in 1983… Activity up on the stage included two large LB banners that basically blocked view of the stage, but soon enough they were drawn back and the show kicked off. Holy smoke, they sounded like angels playing gilded harps compared to the lot on before. My first reaction? Wow, the guitarist is AMAZING! My second reaction? WOW, the bass player is AMAZING! Yeah, the drummer was bloody good too, but the guitarist and bass player had me mesmerized! OK, they were worth the $30 ticket price alone, but suddenly both were eclipsed by the arrival of Lizzy Borden himself. If I try to describe this it will be lame, so all I’m going to say is to check out the pictures below.

What followed for the next, 90 minutes or so was a roller-coaster of amazingly played heavy metal, with a theatrical overlay that perfectly dove-tailed the show to something bigger than the sum of the parts. The music alone would have been good. The show aspect alone good. But together it was exceptional. Lizzy knows exactly how to work the audience and how to give the spotlight to the musicians and equally how to draw it back to himself. An exquisite showman indeed.

I’m not going to list out the set – I have included a picture of the setlist below, but I will mention a couple of high-lights. The first was the bass solo. What? Yes – the bass solo. Rarely will a bass player have the chops to even be worth the time for any kind of solo, but what we saw last Saturday nearly blew my mind – Marten Andersson is the bass player’s name – and he was stunningly good, playing sweep arpeggios and all sorts of hammer-on trickery. I sorely wish I had video of the solo, but it was a musical master-piece. I don’t think I’ve done this before, but this earns an individual performance score of 10/10. It wasn’t just the solo that was good though – the bass playing through the entire set was exceptionally good.

Next up is the guitar playing of Dario Lorina. Holy hell indeed, this young fellow can play the frets off his guitar. Holding back large gobs of jealously, this ‘kid’ is only 23 and I have to say he has to be one of the best ‘new generation’ guitarists I’ve seen in the past 10 years. He immediately brought the fluid playing style of Randy Rhoads to mind and has that same mix of wicked smooth technique combined with a vividly harmonic approach to soloing. He also brought memories of early Paul Gilbert with some vicious sweep arpeggios all over the fret board. His solo was just off the scale. (Yes, I begrudgingly award him an individual performance score of 10/10…).

And then we have Lizzy himself. To me, his vocals come across as a sounding like a better Bruce Dickinson with another octave in his lower register. Couple this with the stage-show that accompanies every song and we have a performance that just draws you in. For those that have seen LB before, I guess the performance for the song “There Will Be Blood Tonight” isn’t so much of a big deal, but the visual of Lizzy chewing through a young ladies neck and sucking her blood until she was dead was well played, and then dousing members of the audience with blood was close to an initiation ceremony for some evil metal worshiping sect. All in good taste of course.

This was one of those sets that as they draw to a close you wish would go on for another 40 minutes and then some more. I’m not sure if there is a current recording available featuring the band members as seen at the show here, but I sure wish there was. Overall this was a great show and one that is right up there as one of the best I’ve seen. Maybe it was the combination of the “less than good” previous band, smaller venue and great sound, but everything just seemed to work. I wholly recommend you go see this show if you get half a chance. There is no way you could be disappointed. My score for Lizzy Borden 9.5/10

Lizzy 001

Icarus Witch in full flow

Lizzy 005

Icarus Witch in full headbanging mode…

Lizzy 008

I only included this because I’m a sucker for Jackson guitars….

Lizzy 011

Our introduction to Lizzy Borden

Lizzy 012

Marten Andersson on bass

Lizzy 020

Dario Lorina with signature model Lag guitar – this sounded amazing

Lizzy Borden

Lizzy Borden

Signed set list

Signed set list

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