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Live Reviews

Live Review: Savage Master, High Spirits, Vandallus, and Throne of Iron

Savage Master and High Spirits kicked off Spring with their Ripping Down the Endless Road tour. Alongside Cleveland’s Vandallus, an Indianapolis date at Black Circle Brewing was booked with experienced newcomers Throne of Iron. Sensing that this would be a high energy and variety filled performance, Vault staff writers Chris Latta and Dustin Miller set out to get the scoop on the highly anticipated show.

Throne of Iron

Dustin: Walking right into “Lichspire,” the first thought that came to mind was that the Bloomington quartet possessed a lot of class. Despite forming very recently, Throne of Iron’s set felt like a newly forged suite of armor that hungers for more battle. Along with “The Allure of Silver” and “A Call To Adventure” (both of which can be found on their demo), Throne of Iron debuted new material “Dark Shrine of Rituals” and “The Fourth Battle of the Ash Plains”, which will be featured on their forthcoming L.P. out later this year.

Chris: We arrived at the venue shortly after Throne of Iron began their set and having seen their live debut at the Hi-Fi earlier this year, I was pretty thrown off when I saw Tucker just doing vocals on stage. Of course, it turned out that his guitar had broken a string. Such flubs are always what we musicians will beat ourselves up over, but the band’s unhalted performance reflects on how already tight they are as a unit. They kept the energy up throughout, and I heard as much influence from Di’Anno-era Maiden or Anvil as I did Manilla Road. They were a great start to the evening, and I get more excited to hear the studio versions of these songs later this year.

All photos by Lindley King

Vandallus

Dustin: The ritualistic kiss and makeup session that’s been occurring between the metal underground of the present and interest in the hair bands of yesteryear has really started to gain momentum, with the results being highly dependent on one’s taste. Truth be told I didn’t feel all that moved by Vandallus’ set; however, it was a performance chock full of energy, enthusiasm, and talent. Nonetheless, it was good to see them come through town and they definitely kept the show flowing.

Chris: Aside from giving Vandallus’s most recent album, 2018’s Bad Disease, a cursory listen, I wasn’t all that familiar with the Cleveland group prior to this show. Their set was full of energy, but I must admit that the live mix wasn’t quite in their favor compared to the other groups on display. Their Dokken meets Van Halen throwback style is cool to see, but it would have benefitted from more balance. It wasn’t out of place and kept the momentum going, so it’s hardly a dealbreaker.

All photos by Lindley King

High Spirits

Dustin: I honestly didn’t know what to expect when High Spirits took. Based on their studio output, I had faith it would be a good performance. Thirty seconds into “Flying High Again,” I was completely blown away by the band and would remain so for the entirety of their time on stage. Clad in black t-shirts and blue jeans, Chris Black and company resembled blue collar reincarnations of Ronnie James Dio era everything. Whether it was the facial expressions or the positive energy that the quintet projected all the way out to the parking lot, I don’t know.

The sing-along vocal lesson that occurred during their self-titled encore was a great way to vicariously get some vocals tips from Professor Black himself. He never revealed whether or not Indianapolis did better than Chicago or Cleveland, but I know we did. Once again, I was utterly blown away by High Spirits’ performance. They played their set like it was a headlining festival performance and every song like an anthem. To rebuttal their song “Thank You”: thank you guys for coming to Indy!!!!

Chris: High Spirits is straight up one of the greatest live bands I’ve ever seen. Their sound is perfectly balanced with a mix that was loud without getting sloppy and energetic performances all around. Every song’s chorus was delivered loud and clear, and transitions between songs were seamlessly executed. I enjoy their studio work well enough, but they are best experienced in the live environment, which is especially fascinating when you consider that all the performers but bandleader Chris Black are session musicians.

Speaking of Professor Black, I think his talents as a frontman are what really sell the band as a whole. As a singer myself, I can tell you that figuring out what to do with your hands when you’re not playing an instrument can be quite the hurdle. This does not seem to be the case for Black as he gestures and hand motions his way through every song, acting out as many of the lyrics as humanly possible with facial expressions and occasional stage banter. What would otherwise be cheesy dad metal fare comes out endearing thanks to its warmth, and it makes you wish there were more frontmen like him who weren’t afraid to ham it up on stage. I got out of the venue with a freshly purchased vinyl of 2011’s Another Night, so it sure worked on me.

All photos by Lindley King

Savage Master

Dustin: Hell yeah, new outfits, and new songs!!!! This being my fifth time seeing Savage Master, I will say that this set had the most effective utilization of tracks from both of their L.P.s. “Ready To Sin” was a great warmup, and the band must have figured out that “Satan’s Crown” is a great way to come down from “With Whips and Chains.” The practical joke involving sacks of ice prank that High Spirits played on the band during “Looking For A Sacrifice” wrote itself and the sense of camaraderie that the tourmates showed each other was heartwarming. In regards to the aforementioned new tracks which included “Myth, Magic, and Steel” and “Lady of Steel,” there’s a lot of descriptors that popped into the old melon hearing them for the first time.

I won’t subject you to these speculative terms, but I will say this new material has a lot of growth to it and just like their live performances, it’s obvious Savage Master isn’t sitting on their laurels as songwriters. Unless they played it the first time I saw them back in 2016, I could not empirically recall having seen Savage Master play “Blood on the Rose” live, so it was cool to see the band, with all of their changes, play the first track from their first album. Savage Master closed out the night with “The Ripper In Black” and hearing your favorite song from your favorite band is always a great way to end a Saturday night.

Chris: In contrast to the other bands’ more grounded approaches, Savage Master closed the night out in a decidedly more theatrical fashion. Their music may be straightforward, down and dirty, heavy metal, their stage setup is all about atmosphere with fog, candles, and an army of hooded subs accompanying their leather-clad mistress. While the results were somewhat muddy compared to High Spirits’ tight cleanliness, the hooks were powerfully delivered with the crowd responding with even greater enthusiasm. I found myself if the band may have blown its load too soon with the early placement of the mid-tempo chanter “With Whips and Chains,” but their set flowed well with plenty of climaxes to follow. High Spirits proved themselves a tough act to follow, but Savage Master was certainly worthy of the challenge.

All photos by Lindley King

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