Among Creatures: 2 Nights of Huntress

Sunday, 16th October 2016

Having gained a full appreciation for Huntress after their stint on the Arch Enemy US tour back in 2014, their current tour with Trivium and Sabaton seemed a great way to catch up with the band. But then a recent announcement of a headlining set in Clifton, NJ begged the question, why not both? So a 2-night trek ensued, being able to witness the band in headlining and opening act mode.

Huntress – October 13, 2016 – Dingbatz – Clifton, NJ

First time to this northern NJ club, which seems to be pulling in a great number of cool shows in the near future (this scribe plans on being back a few more times before 2017 at this point). Certainly no complaints about the venue itself – a small bar with plenty of space for what it is. Plus free parking in a nearby lot! Starting things off for the evening was the New Jersey-based heavy metal act Fiakra. Some solid metal themed lyrics (“Give Me Metal or Give Me Death”), quality triumphant riffs, a smidge of folk, and an entertaining cover of Manilla Road’s “Necropolis” rounded out their set. Fun classic heavy metal done with all of the trimmings – worth looking into, particularly if you are in the area.

The next band, Winter’s Wake, is one that I have wanted to catch for a while now but kept missing out on. A Viking/folk metal act from New York, they play suitably epic sounding material that is further elevated by the use of an electric violin. Not in a gimmicky way, but rather showcasing some nice interplay between the violin and the guitarwork. The violin adds some depth and majesty to the already entertaining riffwork that maintains a serious yet bombastic approach. An energertic and enjoyable set, as well as an easy recommendation for those into the folk metal scene (particularly those into rising acts like Aether Realm or Wilderun), these guys (and gal) seem to have found a sound that is primed for a larger market. A new EP is in the works, so be on the lookout.

Sounds swung into a different direction as New Jersey’s Lethal Affection hit the stage. More of a hard rock/metal vibe, there was something undeniably catchy about the band, who featured God Forbid drummer Corey Pierce behind the kit for the evening. Vocalist Noah Simon moved across the stage with ease, with some strong vocals that were matched by the melodies behind him, with high-energy and soaring solos to boot. They even tossed in a killer cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” to top things off. The last of the opening acts was that of Ashes of Your Enemy, who again continued the eclectic set of opening bands, with a more thrashy and modern sound. Also continuing the covers approach, they pulled off Sepultura’s classic “Roots Bloody Roots,” in addition to some originals. Tight-knit, breakneck thrash was provided, with some catchy melodies tossed in as well to provide some variety. They were even kind enough to toss out some free cds and shirts to help spread the word.

And so it was then Huntress‘ time to shine after the enjoyable variety of local acts. Huntress on disc is enjoyable enough, but when it comes to the live setting, they really go all out. First off, you have the charismatic performance of singer Jill Janus, whose vocal presence truly shines – the four octave range is impressive enough in and of itself, but she knows how to give the audience a show and commands the stage with her movements and interactions (and facial expressions). Between songs, Janus gave some entertaining banter about New Jersey, Lemmy, and more – going so far as to bring a dedicated fan onto the stage and show off her Huntress themed tattoo. Some later fun included some interaction with a fan who grabbed the setlist before the final song began. But the rest of the band is just as capable as she in this regard, with high-energy antics and movements that aid in bringing their live show to another level. Blake Meahl, Eli Santana, and Eric Harris (who has returned to the band) frequently combined forces in entertaining guitar/bass spectacles that showed they are tight-knit unit as well as all about having fun in the live setting.

The band played a 12-song set, focusing more on their second and third releases, Starbound Beast and Static, of which one couldn’t really argue with the selections. The heaviness factor in the live setting with Huntress continues to impress, as they seem to elevate that feeling with their sound, giving some wicked additions to newer cuts like “Sorrow,” “Flesh,” and “Harsh Times on Planet Stoked,” while “Spell Eater” and “Eight of Swords” maintain a rightful level of polish. Of course, the main attraction to seeing the headlining set was to hear a few selections that the band isn’t doing on their current run as the opening act, with songs like “Children,” “Destroy Your Life,” “Static,” and “Fire in My Heart” being welcome additions to the set. Immediately following the set, the band wasted no time in getting out and chatting with fans – a Huntress staple, and a continued sign at how the band is dedicated to winning over a larger following with each and every set. With a strong headline set like this one, it’s clear that Huntress is ready as a band to reach for the next level.

Trivium/Sabaton/Huntress – October 14, 2016 – The Chance Theater – Poughkeepsie, NY

First thing that struck a chord on this evening was seeing the line outside of The Chance – having not followed Trivium‘s releases for a good number of years at this point, it’s easy to forget how large of a following they have amassed at this point. The line easily rivaled that of Lacuna Coil’s a few months back, if not more so. With such a following, it’s a fair point to make that they could have easily grabbed a different demographic with more mainstream acts in the support slots, so kudos to Trivium for choosing some rising metal acts to expose them to a somewhat different audience (and vice versa).

Interesting to see the contrast with Huntress opening the evening (no local acts) – while there were clearly some die-hard Huntress fans in the audience, Huntress had to work to win the crowd over, of which the growing response to each song in the band’s set provided proof that the band was more than capable of this feat. The band’s energetic performance was pushed into high gear, with the band trying to squeeze out more music for the crowd in their limited timetable (obviously this meant less banter between songs, even if it was closer to a hometown gig for Janus, who grew up in Oneonta, NY). But Huntress’ music speaks volumes for itself, and by the time they got to “I Want to Fuck You to Death,” the crowd was very much in their favor. This also provided one of the most amusing moments of the evening, with Janus apologizing to her mother (her parents were in the crowd) before commencing with the chorus to said song.

Having just caught Sabaton last month in Worcester, MA, where they truncated their current set to squeeze into the Devin Townsend/Between the Buried and Me tour for one night, it was nice to catch a lengthier set from the band. The band impressed in Worcester, particularly in how many fans Sabaton has mustered, but it was even more impressive to see in Poughkeepsie, where it was admittedly less expected. “Sabaton” chants started before their set began once more (US crowds are practically begging for a headline run it seems) and the audience was soaring as soon as the band walked onto the stage. Joakim Brodén and company know how to engage the crowd – jumping, constant smiles, and zipping around the stage as the crowd called out for more. The short song lengths ensured plenty of material in their time slot as well, giving the crowd over 10 songs in their 50-minute space, including “Ghost Division,” “Sparta,” “Swedish Pagans,” and “To Hell and Back.” With a full support slot, “Night Witches” and “Winged Hussars” were great to catch this time as well. The biggest compliment for Sabaton goes in their engagement with the crowd, with Brodén joking between songs, and bringing up an 11 year old fan onto the stage for the final song and really making it a memorable moment – this is one definite reason Sabaton is moving up the ranks so quickly in recent years.

It seems some were at The Chance purely for Sabaton, as some of the crowd vacated before headliners Trivium hit the stage. While from a personal standpoint, their music hasn’t largely been my cup of tea, it’s clear the band is good at what they do – particularly from a live standpoint. Opening with “Strife,” the band charged onto the stage. A different sort of presence than Sabaton, but one that the audience connected with (though did we really need to see Matt Heafy’s tongue every 30-seconds?), and the band encouraged sing-a-longs, “headbanging and ass-shaking,” and jumping throughout the set, of which the crowd certainly obliged. The lengthy setlist (the band played for more than 80 minutes) allowed the band to dive equally into the back catalog, with just as many older cuts as newer ones – even going back to their Ember to Inferno release at one point. All in all, they kept up the energy start to finish, gave a good set of new and old, and provided the entertainment that an established act should have (they were clearly having a good time on stage as well) – can’t ask for more than that.

As for Huntress, the band announced at the Dingbatz gig that album number 4 would be released in 2017. Coming off of three releases on Napalm Records and building up their name to this point (particularly with live shows and support slots like this one), it should be an exciting wait to see where they go next with the initial trilogy complete. With Jill Janus’ unique vocal styling, the band’s guitar heroics, and humble dedication to the crowd, they are deserving of grabbing a larger audience, and this upcoming release should be the tipping point to push them towards metal’s upper echelon.

Huntress on Facebook
Trivium on Facebook
Sabaton official website
Ashes of Your Enemy on Facebook
Lethal Affection on Facebook
Winter’s Wake on Facebook
Fiakra on Facebook