LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE! There were plenty of sweat, cheers, and beers on Round 1 of Wacken Battle USA 2020!
Pictured: Defy The Tyrants, (left to right) guitarist Alex Utrilla, vocalist Bill Sanders, and guitarist Anthony Esparza.

Editor’s Note: I’m interrupting the regularly scheduled programming to say a few things. The world as a whole, and the concept of a “normal” life has drastically changed in so many ways since we last attended these shows. So many hurdles have been jumped at this point, and a few more are threatening to rear their ugly heads in this seemingly eternal race, but if there’s anything history has taught us is that we are a persistent bunch. You’re probably all sick of hearing this but I will say it anyway, we will make it through and we will all mosh and laugh again. When the figurative ice thaws, and we are able to safely venture out in our Mad Max attire, we’ll look back and feel that sense of pride when we’re triumphantly standing on the summit of Mt. Perseverance. So please trust the science and continue to show off your cool new collection of face coverings, personal space still kicks ass, don’t be a douche to front line workers, and please continue to wash your hands. Stay safe, healthy, and sexy everyone. 😉

Once upon a time, before COVID-19 drove yours truly back to my natural hermit state, we headed over to the Brick By Brick on March 7 to witness the first round of the Wacken Metal Battle! The line-up was one we could not resist and all the eager fans who attended would agree. 

Kicking off this rumble was the prog quintet called Eridia. Do you love Dream Theater AND female vocals? This will be the band for you! Now don’t think that vocalist Vannia Duran is strictly sugar, no. Duran has a full arsenal of spice in the form of growls which compliments the cacophony of the collective. Eridia also knows how to whisk you away to a different plane and slap you down to this intrepid simulation at the snap of a finger. 

Eridia launched the night with their brand of Prog.
L to R: Bassist Jesse Squire, vocalist Vannia Duran, guitarist Jeremy Macedo, and keyboardist TJ Landry

After paying tribute to the all knowing “Mufasa,” Duran took a break and decided to join us plebs in the pit while the guys played the electric instrumental piece “Narrows.” Prog may not be yours truly’s favorite blend but Eridia knew how to keep this easily distracted morsel’s attention.   

The second contestants of this battle royale were Thrashers Cryptic. Once they took the stage, these hungry hoodlums were in it to win it! The trio kicked off with “Soulless” from their 2018 EP The Gates which was not the only track performed from the EP. When Cryptic wasn’t causing pandemonium in the pit, the charismatic frontman/guitarist Keith Dobson was cracking jokes, and fending off thirsty admirers who were asking him to show them his tits. Dobson ain’t that kind of dude, he’s a classy gent who will join fans in the pit.

Frontman/guitarist Keith Dobson of Cryptic was a one man show

The young bloods even invoked a wall of death to compliment “God of Death (G.O.D.)” in which several obliged while some of us who live life on the mild side etched closer to the stage and out of the impact zone. It was mesmerizing watching Dobson having a strum war with bassist Riley Hutchison while Jesus Olviedo and his drum kit were an unstoppable force. Cryptic’s thrash catapults listeners to memory lane and guarantee a good time!  

Up next were a quintet who are no strangers on this site which are Defy The Tyrants! The collective decided to join the race this year with new vocalist Bill Sanders in tow, and holy hell! If anyone found these ‘Tyrants’ a little tame prior to this night, well let’s just say they made any elitist eat their own words. A vigorous Sanders added an extra layer of ferocity to their familiar tracks like “We Are Sisyphus,” just ask the earpiece that flew out of his ear. The amount of energy and oomph Sanders exerted in his performance effortlessly drew everyone in.

 The collective as a whole were also bursting with adrenaline and had their game face on! We had all become wide eyed children enjoying a metal parade, if we weren’t in awe with the frontman landing impressive jumps, we were admiring axe men, Anthony Esparza, Alberto Lafarga and Alex Utrilla pluck away as one, or the versatile chops of drummer Brandon Lobb. It was a sweet pandemonium with Defy The Tyrants and their efforts were certainly not ignored. 

Defy The Tyrants defied anyone who might have underestimated them on this battle!
L to R: Guitarist Alex Utrilla, vocalist Bill Sanders, guitarist Anthony Esparza.

After Defy The Tyrants, the battle added a tinge of darkness to this metal medley by adding some black metal brought to us by Mystic Ritual. The quartet had a strong legion present who wasted no time to migrate towards the stage when this black mass was getting ready to commence. Mystic Ritual vocalist Chris Bourne dawned the corpse paint on this act too, for those who are not familiar with the local black metal scene, Bourne is also the lead vocalist in the popular band Ruines Ov Abaddon.

Mystic Ritual were ready to attack in this battle royale and played tracks off their 2017 EP Unholy Incantation such as “Hell’s Abomination” and the crowd ate it up. Fans were far from dormant for the duration of the set, so you had to hold on to your drink like dear life itself. Guitarist Jeremy Lenane fired up his powerful windmill as he plucked away. It was obvious that this quartet made quite the impression on fans and judges alike, however, the battle was not over yet…

Mystic Ritual added a darker shade in this mix with their brand of black metal.
Pictured: Vocalist Chris Bourne and guitarist Jeremy Lenane

Sergulath also had a voracious appetite for the chance to move forward and were ready to add more fuel to the amped up crowd. Sergulath flexed their tunes from their 2018 debut album Massokist and also premiered a new song called “Thy Throne of Malignancy,” a common theme of the night. What better time to shine than in this competition?

Frontman/ guitarist Daniel Correa is always a treat to watch, his fun and energetic charisma is always infectious and has the ability to hype up even the stuffiest concert goer. Correa invaded every inch of the stage and would enthusiastically play with bassist Henry Necochea and keyboardist David Correa. 

Vocalist/ guitarist Daniel Correa of Sergulath is always a fun time!

Necrochamber was the second serving of black metal in this competition, and the last contestant of the night. The corpse paint clad Nocturnal Overlord laid out tracks from his 2019 debut album Ceremonies for the Dead. The trio kicked off the musical intro “Death’s Salvation” to set the tone and soon followed with “Lord of the Deceased” which set off the pit once again.

You know those jokes and countless memes in which they poke fun at metal vocalists as to how vicious they seem on stage but in real life they are soft spoken and approachable? Nocturnal Overlord is definitely that guy, a man of many faces which is one of the many reasons he is all the more fascinating to watch him belt out so many guttural growls. 

Nocturnal Overlord of Necrochamber threw a darker shade of black metal in to this mix.

This was only round one and it was the toughest yet as admitted by one of the organizers and Helsott front man Eric Dow. Dow introduced the honorable judges of the night which were Sean Peck (Cage, Death Dealer, The Three Tremors), Nick Harrington (Nightshadow), and Mark Dow (Helsott). After introducing themselves and deliberting their verdict after they regrouped, the judges named Defy the Tyrants, Sergulath, and Mystic Ritual as the victors of the night.

Yours truly did not envy the judges because picking only three victors out of the amazing line up wouldn’t have felt enough! Great job to all of those who played their hearts out, it was truly an honor listening to all of them. Now we are left in this cliffhanger wondering who these dudes will battle next… oh wait! Time and space just douched out the Klown’s colorful Delorean and he’s bearing news from the future…and of round 2 of Wacken Battle. Who were the victors of the second round?! Stay tuned!