Monarch were the fifth an final entry of this battle! THE ANTICIPATION!
(L to R: Bassist Alex Pickard, vocalist/guitarist Matt Smith, and guitarist Casey Trask)

Make no mistake about it, you’re not reading that wrong. Ugh Metal meant to go to round one but life had a funny of getting in the way. Damn you, hurdles. The summary of the spoils for round one went to our first impression alumni, Nightshadow. Although we didn’t go, we sent our wholehearted congratulations to them and had a  serendipitous encounter with  Nightshadow’s own Danny Fang and personally congratulated him and caught up. Anyway, without further ado, the sad sacks shall tell you all about round two.

Chuggo: Thank you, narrating scum. The Klown thinks he’s getting more chipper throughout the collabs. Enough about that and now onto what’s important the WackenOpenAirBattleoftheBands… *takes breath* ROOOUUUUNNNND TWWWOOO!

Jenny Oh: Unlike the Judges, Helsott’s Eric Dow, Beekeeper’s Dylan Marks and The Dread Crew of Oddwood’s Wolfbeard O’Brady I wanted a dirrrrrrrteh fight! There can only be one!

C: Settle down, Highlander. There could only be one… in that round. The night was rather interesting to say the least. The Klown was stoked to see how the night was going to go down. Incidentally, it also happened to cap off our March Madness because the NCAA isn’t the only one that has a crazy month. Praise IT!

J: We were all a little mad so much so that we found ourselves in wonderland. And in that wonderland, we found an eccentric bard and his faithful axe man. We looked at these troubadours and were enchanted by their ways, Gus McArthur was their name.  

Vocalist Gordon McArthur and his bro guitarist Honan McArthur worked their magick.

C: I swear… you see the BBC once and you already see yourself as whimsical. But yes, the opening act went by Gus McArthur the trio, at the time of the performance, looked like a bunch of guys who tapped in to their inner Sunflower Dead and leads us to a time when Nu Metal was at its peak.

J: You’re just a jealous bloke! And the magical Gus McArthur #1, who is also known as Gordon McArthur, enchanted us with his spoken words and showed us that badass mythical figures can freestyle too. Gus McArthur #2, who happens to be Gordon’s bro and is guitarist Honan, destroyed any elitist barbarian that crossed his way with amazing riffs! His clean vocals will surely soothe any wounded soul. My god. 

Gordon McArthur showed us how well an enchanted being can free style AND sing.

C: The Klown will confess that he was thrown off but really enjoyed Gordon’s freestyle verse. Not only was it unexpected but rather spine tingling and in-place. Then they managed to pick it up again without a moment’s hesitation. It was pretty bitchin, it’s a lost art.

J: Gordon not only delivered these verses with raw intensity, crouched, and ready to pounce on us with poetry, but he did it in a dramatic but subtle way that only a true story teller can. I didn’t know what to expect from Gus McArthur but seeing them was mind blowing, more mind blowing than that shady caterpillar’s hashish! Which I still think he stiffed me.    

C: He did. Enough of your usual rip off, it is time to talk about a band that the Klown has seen once before. He is of course talking about Sentinel. It was nice seeing them again, however, why don’t you tell them what you thought of them J-Ohkah? Since it was your first time seeing them. 

Sentinel gave us a set we couldn’t forget.
(L To R: Guitarist Jesus Verdugo, bassist Sal Rascon and frontman Daniel Hernandez)

J: I thought they were cooler than Guardians of the Galaxy and Logan combined. These guys can protect us from the elitist scum!

C: I see… so who gonn be protect yer goofy ass from the geeky horde?

J: SENTINEL MAFAKAS! The quintet made us feel alive with their first track of the night “Reborn.” Guitarists Luis Rocha, Jesus Verdugo and bassist Sal Rascon gave us an epic line up, literally, not one person could look away from their epic play. 

C: Right you are. It has been a “minute” since the Klown has seen this quartet. Much like the first time, they delivered and managed to pep the crowd. For the veterans of the scene, they managed to have Rocha and Verdugo do the tradeoff/riff battle that was synonymous with the old school. Most importantly, frontman Daniel Hernandez made sure we were still alive. 

Front man Daniel Hernandez took a break from singing to observe guitarist Jesus Verdugo’s riff-tastic powers.

J: Danny was filled with a vigor that would put any watchdog to shame! And he had a tremendous amount of charisma that is sure to captivate non-power metal fans.

C: Of course, if Danny boy wasn’t focused on us he would allow the stringed set to take over while he pepped the drummer Rory Packard.

J: Speaking of Temblad, holy shit man. They were not fartin’ around and gave us the first pit of the night and thus the “Stratageddon” descended upon us. We were so ready to receive!

C: Ah chyeah! Shit really picked up once Lorenzo Kemp struck the first chords and unleashed his powerful vocals. But Matthews… the Klown’s nose is off for him. Not to mention Kyle Netland powering the bass. Temblad looked like they were out for blood and had the winner-take-all energy. 

Temblad was hungry to entertain in this battle, and entertained we were!
(L to R: Bassist Kyle Netland, vocalist Lorenzo Kemp, and drummer Marlon Matthews)

J: The mighty Temblad never disappoint, but that night they were ready to eviscerate any competition and were hungry to entertain. But even though this was a battle to the Wacken throne, Lorenzo Kemp gave a heartfelt thanks to everyone, told fans that they make the San Diego metal scene, and sincerely proclaimed “may the best band win!” They then allowed us to “Caress The Rabid.”

C: Of course, all without doing a “Mockery of the Fanatic.” The Klown noticed Temblad newbs being indoctrinated to the sounds of their current album Nevercrown. The erratic and fast paced sounds of Temblad commanded and demanded their attention and definitely got just that.

Lorenzo Kemp from Temblad wasn’t messing around!

J: The ”Mockery…” was so great that it caused the first ferocious pit of the night. This pit was not ordinary one because it shook the Brick to its core! If you thought the pit died there, you got it all wrong because Gravespell joined this battle ring and kept this mother going!

C: It has been a while since the Klown had seen Gravespell. They’re a group that’s definitely worth seeing when they have opened for headliners like Belphegor and Alestorm. This time, the Klown was looking forward to see them as the co-headliners.

Gravespell’s bassist Nick Lepisto and rhythm guitarist Chris MacDonald conjuring up a serious reception.

J: Gravespell threw their gauntlet in the ring and created a pit that threw everyone onto the walls and floors! They effortlessly got a grand reception at the Brick and gave us what we were asking for, their melodic death metal. 

C: Hell, the five-piece even upped the stakes by introducing us to a new one from their upcoming album. The Klown still waits for it, fyi! Lest the Klown forget when the frontman Garrett Davis wanted to open up the pit again.

Gravespell’s Garrett Davis before jumping in to the pit.

J: Oh and they did! Gravespell left us with a memorable performance and were one hell of an opponent. Eek! This battle is too damn hard AND Gravespell was not the last entry! Making this night tougher was the last act of the night, local thrashers Monarch and man were they ready to give it their all!

C: Monarch, they were a force to be reckoned with. They had a pit going, however, they unfortunately had the roughest start, specifically guitarist Casey Trask who was dealing with technical difficulties. Even frontman/guitarist Matt Smith resumed bro duties by stopping himself to help Trask out with his tech issues.

J: Damn you technology! But Monarch were so G, they didn’t let any stupid rebellion of the technical kind stop them from kicking ass. They rolled with all the punches their equipment delivered and gave a hell of a performance. Their jam sessions were to die for and Trask became a one man show too by not only spreading the love around the stage and would get close and personal with crowds by strumming like a mad man in our faces. Motor boat them strings!

Monarch’s Casey Trask was a one man show!

C: Not that he needed to do because he be skilled. The band even treated us all to the sounds from their brand-new album Go Forth and Slaughter. Which for those who haven’t had the chance to check it out probably should. Didn’t you review that album?

J: I did! Thanks for the advert Klown, I might not sneak attack you with pies this time. And you know who else I won’t be attacking with pies or rotten veggies? Monarch! They kept the party going and drummer Adam West was too in to the “Slaughter” fest that night, his right cymbal flung off and kept it going with a grin on his face. Of course, Matt Smith eventually placed the brassy round morsel back in its place. Matt was a great showman, guitarist, vocalist AND roadie, what can’t this man do?!

C: Smith was the true face of bros. Smith and Trask teamed up together for a riff face off, of course even bassist Alex Pickard got in on the action! The Klown’s sure that if given the opportunity West most likely would have found a way to get front and center and do a face off with Smith.

Monarch’s Matt Smith and Casey Trask having an epic riff- off (?)

J: Alas, Monarch concluded their set and quickly dismantled their gear amidst the strong cheers and reception. I’m telling ya, these dudes didn’t let anything stop them from delivering a great show, though I don’t know they seemed a little deflated when they vacated their stage. Screw you technical gear! Eric Dow then came up and thanked the bands and said that him along with Dylan and Wolfbeard would return in a few minutes to announce the winner and emphasize how hard it was going to be to make a decision. I didn’t envy them Klown! Oh and did I mention my anxiety was excited to make a guest appearance that night too?

C: No, you weirdo. But the Klown does agree, he too didn’t envy Dow, Marks and O’Brady. The decision was hard, everyone performed hard and had a unique twist in their own set. Granted, Monarch seemed deflated right after but the Klown could sympathize and understands because technical difficulties can be a huge factor when it comes down to having the judges deciding on a winner. The worst part of it all was the waiting game.

The honorable Jugdes local legend/Beekeeper’s Dylan Marks, The Dread Crew of Oddwood’s Wolfbeard O’Brady, and Helsott’s Eric Dow commending the bands and torturing us with a hellish waiting game.

J: GAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! The suspense man!!! The fucking suspense! Quick, distract me Klown! Do one of your stupid gimmicks!

C: What gimmick?! The Klown doesn’t do gimmicks. He does art and entertainment, you plebeian! Those judges though… masters of suspense, man. Those precious minutes that they claimed that they were going to take…

J: YOU MEAN HOURS! Oh my god! Is it me or was it hotter than our shitty shit shack on a hot summer day??! I…I…I couldn’t take it anymore…Till Dow, Marks and O’Brady took pity on this distressed and sweaty soul. Before anything though, Dow once again reiterated how difficult it was to make a decision and how there were no losers that night. Marks stepped up to the mic too with a pained expression as he gave a heartfelt praise to all the bands that played that night and a big thank you. And when Dow resumed MC duties, at last, the moment we had been waiting for. The winner of this 2nd and final round here in San Diego was announced. They unveiled which band was moving on to THE final round on April 28 at the legendary Viper Room in LA, and who was going to have a chance to go to the heavy metal mecca known as Wacken and be SoCal’s morning star….

C: Holy fuck… you done? The moment of truth came and spoils to the victor. Although the Klown has got to say, he’s glad that somethings were kept in mind and that perseverance was truly a factor. But Ugh Metal was happy to see Monarch as the round two winner for the Wackenopenairbattleofthebands… *takes breath* rroooouuunndd… ttwwwoooo!

Congrats to Monarch! Now “Go Forth And Slaughter!”

J: I wanted to announce our underdog victors too, ya ass! Dammit, oh well. When they announced Monarch the Brick roared with joy and applause and next thing we knew, fans guided one man wonder/guitarist Casey Trask up to the stage who was clearly shocked to say the least and disoriented. I even told him “You won!” as he briefly paused by the steps next to me and he gave me the most lost expression and asked me “I won?” and I said “YES!” Oh the excitement!! Trask hesitantly walked on the stage and looked towards the judges who were waiting for him and the rest of the band. I think I saw the buffering bar hover above his head.

C: Either that or an excuse to avoid talking to you again. But yes, Trask had a look of pure disbelief even as he walked up on the stage. Eventually the rest of his band mates joined him and everyone who stuck around gave them a round of applause and cheered. The Klown still thought it was funny that right before the change of expression, Trask didn’t fully register the victory.

J:  Congratulations to Monarch! And we raise our horns to the amazing bands that competed in this battle. We are so damn lucky to have so many diamonds in the rough, and who ever said San Diego does not have a scene is sorely mistaken and sad. Special thanks to the incredible judges and Eric Dow for vouching for our city and making these rounds happens here, we love you long time! We will put a ring on our metal scene. On to the next and final battle! And may the best band win!!!

Behold! The winners of Wacken Battle Metal Round 2! MONARCH!!!
(L to R: Bassist Alex Pickard, vocalist/ guitarist Matt Smith, drummer Adam West and guitarist Casey Trask)

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