GIG REVIEW: Unleash The Archers, Striker & Helion Prime Live at Reggie’s, Chicago
Not much sounds sweeter than a sold out, Friday night metal show at Reggie’s in Chicago. I have a feeling this is going to be a recurring theme for me since settling down in the Chicago land suburbs – I can only hope. Last week, after weeks of being teased with photos and video of the Unleash the Archers tour as it scooted around North America, I finally caught the tour along with a blissfully excited packed house on Friday, October 5th at Reggie’s.
Canadian heavy/power metal bands Unleash the Archers and Striker joined forces with California’s Helion Prime to deliver their power metal to the masses, and holy hell was it a successful tour. They packed houses around the continent, relentlessly delivering each and every night, and people are STILL talking about how great their show was in their city. All three bands share a common theme, nerd-dom. Unleash the Archers has a heavy fantasy element to their songwriting and artwork, especially so in their latest release ‘Apex’. Striker’s lyrics and songwriting line up with more traditional heavy/speed metal values, but their artwork has featured a skeleton dinosaur with guns and I don’t think I need to say more than that. Helion Prime similarly enjoys their science (fiction and non) and dinosaur themes, given that their biggest song is called “Life Finds a Way” I think we all get that reference. This lineup has power metal nerds all over the country are coming out of their basements in droves, myself included.
Reggie’s is a great venue, even if it is a bit small. It can be difficult to navigate around the crowd, making it tough to just get a beer. But for its metal dive-bar rough exterior, the bones of Reggie’s are fantastic. The lighting and sound are both amazing, and there really isn’t a bad view in the house (unless you’re a photographer – but that’s a whole other issue). My only real complaint of the evening was the odd choice of jazz playing between the bands, that suddenly skipped to some sort of raprock later on? All I could picture was if Frasier starred the Insane Clown Posse… and I think we can do better than that guys. At one point the crowd was even screaming “change the song” and I completely agreed.
Kicking off the night right, local heavy metal band Shokker took the stage first. It was a quick set of a few original songs, led by a relatively new vocalist to the band, who clearly worships Ralf Scheepers (of Primal Fear) and in no way is that a bad thing. They played two cover songs by Iron Maiden and Queensryche and really got the crowd pumped. One of their guitarists was running around the stage like Dave Murray, even jumping into the crowd at one point – as far as stage antics go, these guys got it, definitely a Chicagoland band to keep an eye on.
Helion Prime came on next, and played a solid set fronted by guest-vocalist Mary Zimmer since their European vocalist was denied a visa for this tour. If the night had an award for “Guitarist with the Cutest Smile”, Chad Anderson would win it. Even so late in the tour, solo after solo, this guy looked like he was having the time of his life effortlessly on stage.
Canada’s speed metal loving power metal band Striker followed with one hell of a set, featuring songs new and old. I’ve been following this band for a long time, since before their 2012 release of ‘Armed to the Teeth’ but this is my first time seeing the songs live. It was tough to shoot the show, because all I wanted to do was join the few guys up front that knew all the words and scream along with them. I did my fair share of screaming though, so sorry, people who unfortunately had to hear that.
Unleash the Archers took the stage, and I swear the venue exploded like there were thousands of people inside. Front-woman Brittney Slayes commanded the stage, unwavering, showing that not only is she an incredibly talented vocalist, but she knows how to put on a great performance. Interacting with the crowd, the entire band had smiles on their faces and sounded phenomenal. You can tell the band has great chemistry and truly loves what they do. I am not a huge fan of the band’s older albums, partly due to production issues and partly to the vocal style. I feel like over the years, the vocals have gotten much more strong and controlled, less ‘wailing’ and more ‘power’. This live show proved that to me, and my respect and appreciation for the band has grown even more.
All in all, it was a fantastic night. I know the tour only has a few more dates, ending in Vancouver on Sunday, October 14th. If you skipped out on the tour, know that you missed one of the best shows to hit the US in a while – so you know… feel bad about that! Even with the addition of Unleash the Archers on 70,000 Tons of Metal, I can only hope the bands will return soon with another full tour, because I can’t wait to see them all again!