NIGHT DEMON, MIDNIGHT & VISIGOTH - Iron Grip On The New Year's Chalice!

January 9, 2024, 3 months ago

By Mark Gromen

gallery heavy metal night demon midnight visigoth

Been ages since I went to a show on December 31 (Clutch, I believe). Don't need a date on the calendar to tell me when to go out and have fun. So what if the show was 2/3 of the way across the country and required braving the holiday airport onslaught and potential snowstorms, then fly back on New Year's Day, in order to make work? This Iron Grip Management showcase was just too good to pass up, so count me (and a handful of travel-crazy friends) in!

Picturesque snowcapped mountains surround the town (even though there's no white stuff on the ground), as well as the suburbs, which seems to be an endless array of industrial parks, that also house a few micro-brew pubs. Case in point, Uinta (pronounced U inta, like "You inta metal?"): named for the local mountain range, the only East-West structure on the continent. Bar foods are available on the premises, as well as numerous Mexican joints along the way, but beware the "tweakers", local vernacular for the nightly, meth fueled homeless wanders. However, Utah law prevents drafts from being anything above 5% ABV, regardless of style. 

Some establishment’s demand a "membership fee," aka cover charge, just to have a drink and others require you eat/order food, in order to be served alcohol, especially in the presence of a minor (wouldn't want Junior or Missy picking up "bad habits"). Yet, statewide people are free to indulge in Polygamy, a popular porter, or try 5 Wives, a locally distilled vodka. Odd, but then, as the inhabitants say, "That's what happens when people who don't drink (Mormons/7th Day Adventists) make the laws/social mores." Can hardly imagine their views on rock/metal!

Aces High Saloon is a legendary blue collar, shot & a beer joint (24 oz. can of domestic beer was just $6). As such, caters exclusively to metal/punk and "outlaw country." Last minute shuffling sees Night Demon on first, followed by Midnight, then letting Visigoth countdown the new year, in front of their home crowd. The Demons used the evening to practice a set for the upcoming Blind Guardian tour, taking the stage to the pre-recorded Outsider prelude, then kicking right into the title track. Fans were packed right to the lip of the stage and remained boisterous throughout. Red lit "Screams In The Night" sees bassist/singer Jarvis Leatherby, stage right and the hyper-active guitarist Armand John Anthony pressed close to the stage-front crowd, wielding his axe over their heads, as he climbs atop the wedge monitors. Brian Wilson's drums announce the coming of speedster "Dawn Rider”. 

There's little banter from Leatherby, as they tear through the material, the Twilight Zone inspired "Howling Man" up next. The pre-recorded intro shortened, for the impending tour, is punctuated by quick bursts of strobes, as the stringed musicians, their backs to the crowd, face Wilson, to start. Suggest that during the eerie intro, there might be some ankle deep fog, covering the floor, when they play with the big boys? Armand raises the headstock towards the heavens, as he plays. Back-to-back pairing of newbies "Beyond The Grave" (a rare moment of restraint, in an otherwise runaway train paced set list) and "The Wrath" are greeted like old friends. A non-lethal scythe, the guitar sweeps inches from the heads of those down front, as "Welcome To The Night" works the room to a frenzy. Armand and Jarvis switch sides of the stage, the bassist headbangs, like a bobblehead figurine come to life.

The band is in need of a new chalice (any metalwork experts in the fanbase, looking to donate their skills?), the wear & tear of the road having ravaged the namesake drinking vessel. Tonight, Rocky raised a large, clear wine goblet, with a surprise. After a few lines of "drink from the chalice," the mascot stopped the song. Clevelander Jason Parks jumped onstage, with his lady, Brenda, in tow, took the mic and dropped to one knee for a wedding proposal. As the ring bearer, Rocky fished the ring from the goblet, for the happy couple, longtime Night Demon supporters. As a send-off, for ALL the fans, it's a storming rendition of their signature tune. Packed setlist that will introduce Blind Guardian fans to the highlights of the Demon's catalog. Good luck boys, see you on the road!

In addition to his usual mask/hood Athenar had a chain wrapped around his black leather motorcycle jacket and an inverted cross gauntlet on his right wrist. The evil genius, who fronts/plays bass for Midnight, said something about extra soy sauce, since he wasn't having Chinese food on New Year's Eve. Don't know what they ingested, but Athenar and Commander Vanik are possessed, running, jumping, rolling around the stage, blasting aural toxins loudly and rapid fire, in the form of "Satanic Royalty", "You Can't Stop Steel" and "Evil Like A Knife". Aggressive, punk fueled blacken metal that retains a sense of melody, the bassist practically bumped his head on the hanging speaker hovering above his mic stand. Undeterred, he attempted to rip the speaker down, but to no avail. 

They too have an unscripted moment, much to the dismay of one chap in the crowd (who apparently lent some of his equipment to tonight's backline). Midnight blew an amp head, which cuts the set short, losing the tune inwhich the destruction occurred (would have to be "Who Gives A Fuck?" won't it?), as well as the closing "Unholy And Rotten". Still, something about the way it ended that fits the band's chaotic, no-holds-barred milieu. 

There were few visible signs that tonight was anything other than a concert: a few party hats/New Year’s tiaras and some paper 2024 goggles. One of the semi-circular dining booths had some balloons, but the New Year's Eve vibe was secondary to the primary event of the evening, a metal show. Although my third time seeing the band, in the past year, Visigoth, like their similarly musical-minded Swedish brethren Grand Magus, have been absent from sight, for far too long. At first, Jake Rogers wore a patched battle jacket, atop a Mortiis tank top and studded leather on each forearm. He worked the crowd, thrusting the mic into the crowd, who sang the titular chorus to opening "Steel And Silver".   

Around "Traitor's Gate", beach balls (and the odd crowd surfer) bounded atop the crowd, while on the swirling floor, human beings bouncing off one another, with almost as much elasticity. Speedy "Abysswalker" and "Dungeon Master" only up the frenetic scene. As we get closer to the witching hour, the thunderous stomp of "Mammoth Rider" kicks off with the bald/bearded singer's version of Doom Dancing: protracted running motions, arms pumping, knees lifted high with each belabored step. Hunched, close to the arm's distance audience, he adopts something of an Irish brogue for emphasis, on the initial lyrics. The band exits, waiting for the New Year's countdown. A quick Champagne toast and it's back to the metal as it should be. Might be a new year, but the set concludes as it did before, an amazing "The Revenant King".

2024 is off to a great start!

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