Flight of the Valkyries 8, The Metro Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, July 30, 2016
It was time again for Flight of the Valkyries, and I was excited! This recurring event is a premier metal festival featuring local, regional, and national touring, up and coming, and established metal bands fronted by female vocalists that has been rocking the USA since 2007. I have been to FoTV 5-7 and every festival has showcased awesome talent and has always been a great time! Bobbie Dickerson of Black Rose Metal Heart Promotions has never failed to arrange a fantastic lineup for us, so, despite having only slight familiarity with one of this year’s bands, I had no doubt this year’s festival would be a grand time as well. Like FoTV 6 and 7, this year’s event was at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore; an indoor club type venue with great bartenders, a fantastic sound system, and stage lighting that makes everyone appear slightly orange. I joked about last year’s Flight of the Valkyries 7, calling it Flood of the Valkyries due to the torrential rainstorm that was occurring at the time. Well, history repeated itself as we had the same monsoon weather event this year! Despite the inclement weather, the venue was filled with revelers waiting to have a headbanging good time!
There were five bands on the roster this time around, and… I may as well get this out of the way right here and now… this year’s event exceeded all expectations. Every band that hit the stage absolutely killed it with their own unique styles of metal. Not to take anything away from the previous Flight of the Valkyries festivals, but, of all the ones I have attended, this one topped them all! None of the bands were necessarily better individually than bands I’ve seen at past events, but the grouping of talent on the stage for this year’s event was just insane! The audience was in high gear was well, and the crowd energy level in the room was just what a metal festival should be… loud and crazy!
The first band to take the stage was Master Sword from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Master Sword is definitely a unique band in that their music is based on themes and melodies from the Legend of Zelda video games. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to think of this band as I never play video games… at least not since Pong and Tank Battle fell out of favor. But what this band delivered when they took the stage was an incredible set of hard and heavy power metal with awesome guitar riffs and soaring vocals! The band’s new vocalist Lily Hoy is an absolute vocal powerhouse who attacks each song with shear ferocity. They played a seven song set of mostly original songs that you would never know were based on a video game if you weren’t familiar with the franchise. They did play one cover song, “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”, from Rainbow’s debut album… which just happens to be one of my favorite songs, ever. If a band is going to play one of my favorite songs… they better do it justice… and this band absolutely killed it! They are currently working on a new album and I immediately went home and donated to their Kickstarter campaign… and you should too, as we all need to hear more music from Master Sword!
Next up was Novarium, a five piece gothic metal band hailing from the northern Virginia area. They are a very active band onstage, with a very heavy variety of metal that seems at odds with, yet perfectly complements the extremely melodic voice of the vocalist, Lisa D’Arcangelis… that is until she launches into her blood curdling screams that frequent punctuate the songs, adding just the right amount of death metal energy! It can be extremely difficult for bands to mix clean and extreme vocals correctly, especially when both are provided by the same vocalist. But Lisa is very talented at delivering both, and Novarium is a band that, in my opinion, gets the mix just right! Flight of the Valkyries was the official CD release performance for the band’s first studio album, “Omicron” and the band played the majority of the songs from the album during their powerful set. I went to the merch stand and bought their album immediately after their show and have been giving it a lot of play; reliving the energy of the night. You should go out and buy it too! It’s awesome!
The awesomeness of the night continued when the Chicago based Shokker hit the stage… and when I say “hit the stage”, I really mean… hit the stage. This quartet of classic heavy metal kicked us all right in the teeth with their blistering eight song set of classic style of heavy metal. Their charismatic front woman, Rachl “Raxx” Quinn, grabbed the audience by the throat and dared them not to jump and head bang… and we responded in the only way we could… by submitting to the band’s demands. Shokker is a very fast guitar riff oriented band, and the energy easily translates to the audience. The crowd’s energy level went up several notches to the extreme! And Rachl’s vocals just seemed to soar to the heavens! We got a brief break to catch our breath mid set when the band staged a protest against corporate greed-inspired music by laying waste to a poster of Justin Beiber with a Samurai sword. The final song of their set was the AC/DC cover: “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You”. No Shokker… we salute you! You are definitely a band that knows how to put on one hell of a show! Shokker currently has an EP that is available for purchase (it’s fantastic), but a full album, tentatively titled “Throw the Switch” is in the works. I, for one, can’t wait!
The fourth band of the night was Dogs & Day Drinkers, and, although I’d never seen them live, this was the one band I had heard of before that night. They are a post-apocalyptic themed heavy metal band that hails from Chestertown, Maryland. Their stage attire is very much in the post apocalyptic theme consisting of rag tag armor and facial war paint. Being one of the most local of the bands that night, they had a lot of fans in the audience as evidenced by the Dogs & Day Drinkers T-shirts, and shouts of “Day Drinkaaahhhs!” as the band took the stage. The band’s music is heavy metal with some punk/folk influences. The sound is highlighted by singer Ashley Marie’s powerful and edgy vocals as well as awesome blazing riffs from the guitars. D&DD is definitely a band that brings the party, making everyone want to head bang… and drink heavily… at the same time! Which, as I found out, leads to a tragic waste of alcohol due to spillage… but, hey… this is metal, right!! We can sacrifice a little alcohol for the cause!! This band also spawned the first circle pit of the night, which pretty much took up the majority of the floor! Like Novarium, FoTV 8 was the official release party for D&DD’s new album “Dogs of War”. And, I know I keep saying this, but it’s an awesome CD. Check it out… you’ll thank me!
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, our host Bobbie took the stage to introduce the final band and headliner of the night: Sorrowseed. Sorrowseed hails from Rhode Island and plays a melodic variety of extreme metal with gothic, black, and, progressive elements merged in. The live band itself traditionally has five members, but, were down one guitarist and their drummer due to reasons that were not fully explained. The drummer they had did a fantastic job, and if they hadn’t mentioned it, I would have never known the tight set performed by the quartet we saw on stage wasn’t the traditional lineup! For me, extreme metal has never been my “go to” genre, but there are a few bands out there that do it so well, that I couldn’t help falling for… and on this night, I definitely added Sorrowseed to that list!. I thought their nine song set was absolutely stunning with a heavy, fast, yet melodic sound. The band’s vocalist, Lilith Asteroth, sings mostly extreme vocals with occasional clean melodies thrown in. What makes her stand out so much, in my opinion, is the diverse styles and tones of her extreme vocals, which make it sound like there are actually multiple vocalists delivering the lyrics. The band has an awesome stage presence as well, with lots of animation and crowd interaction. The overall presence is fierce, but is frequently broken up with smiles and silly faces that remind us all we are there to have fun. There was absolutely stunning black metal style face makeup as well to add to the already amazing stage presence. Lilith herself looked like a beautiful porcelain doll, that you would admire on a shelf at home… only to have it climb down in the middle of the night, slip into your bedroom, and with a big beautiful smile… cut your throat. Yeah… we’ve all seen that movie, haven’t we?! Sorrowseed has already released two studio albums: “The Extinction Prophecies” and “Nemesis Engine”. They have plans to enter the studio soon to work on their next one. I highly recommend you check them out!
What an incredible night of live music! I’ve already been to a ton of shows this year… but this was one of the best so far… definitely in my top three. I like to like to extend a huge thank to Bobbie and Black Rose Metal Heart Promotions, as well as to all of the bands that gave it all on stage. I’m already excited for Flight of the Valkyries 9, whenever that may be! Please say it’s soon!!