Stormbringer Metal Festival – June 10-11, 2022 – Ralph’s Rock Diner, Worcester, MAThursday, 30th June 2022
When you live in New England, it’s not often that an underground traditional heavy metal festival happens in your backyard, but that’s exactly what took place from June 10-11 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts, with the inaugural Stormbringer Metal Festival.
The festival featured an excellent mix of newer, up-and-coming bands alongside veterans and more-established acts in the scene from across the United States and Canada, incorporating everything from doom to power to traditional to speed and thrash metal. A total of 15 bands performed across two days, with seven on Friday and eight on Saturday.
RALPH’S ROCK DINER
Before I get into the band performances, let me tell you a bit about Ralph’s. Before you even enter the club, there’s a good-sized patio area in front, complete with chairs and tables with umbrellas. The club itself is attached to an old dining train car (to your immediate left upon entering), which still functions as a diner offering drinks and standard bar fare such as burgers (including veggie burgers), hot dogs, chili dogs, walking tacos and grilled cheese sandwiches, all served with a bag of chips. Further inside, there’s another bar and an ATM located conveniently along the wall.
Once you head upstairs, you’ll find the stage to your left and a third bar on the right. There’s also a pool table in the back right corner. Upstairs you’ll also find all kinds of quirky and kitschy odds and ends that give Ralph’s its unique charm and character, from a giant blinking eyeball to a bust of Albert Einstein to the famous “Time to Fuck” lit-up sign behind the bar. With a capacity near 200, it’s a small but intimate heavy metal bar that makes you feel like you’re attending a trad metal European festival as soon as you enter.
To say I had been looking forward to this event since its announcement is an understatement. I love just about every genre of metal, but my absolute favorites are thrash/speed and power/traditional, so this festival was comprised of everything I love about heavy metal.
Just as the fans traveled from far and wide to attend the festival, including from Madrid, Spain, and Madison, Wisconsin, so too did the bands. Friday’s lineup featured Archdruid, from New Hampshire; Blazon Rite, from Philadelphia; Adamantis, from Boston; Greyhawk, from Seattle; Gatekeeper, from Vancouver; Glacier, from Portland, Oregon; and Riot City, from Calgary.
DAY 1 – FRIDAY
Archdruid kicked off the festivities on Day 1 with their ’70s rock-infused epic meets stoner doom. Dylan Lee’s drumming, bolstered by Chris Nichol’s thudding bass grooves, serves as a well-suited anchor for the fuzzed-out riffs from guitarists Paul Lennon and Brandon Ward. Out in front of the slow, heavy riffs is Sordid Cimm with her signature haunting, reverbed vocals, which I can’t get enough of. The band writes songs about pagan themes and medieval history and not only unveiled a new song, but also played the fitting “Black Riders” from their self-titled demo, all about the dreaded ringwraiths and their hunt for Frodo. The band may be fairly young but with several shows under its belt and more on the way, things are starting to happen for Archdruid, so keep an eye on them.
Next to take the stage were Philly traditional metallers Blazon Rite, who delivered a ripping set of up-tempo NWOTHM bangers, with loads of twin guitar leads and galloping riffs, which featured a nice mix of old and new material, including “Executioner’s Woe,” “The Nightwatchmen of Starfall Tower” and “Endless Halls of Golden Totem” from their excellent debut full-length album of the same name. The band also played some upcoming new songs, including “When Autumn Fears Bring Winter Doom.” This band was a crowd favorite when they played an outdoor show at Ralph’s last summer, so it only made sense to have them return to slay at Stormbringer and slay they did.
Boston power metal quintet Adamantis was next to take the stage. I must mention here that Adamantis drummer Evgeny Gromovoy is one of the main powerhouses behind making this whole festival happen. He and his bandmates, vocalist Jeff Stark, guitarists Javier Estrada and Vance Simmons, and bassist Alex Scofield, indeed stormed the walls and delivered a heavy hammer blow of crushing epic power metal, highlighted by fast drums, speedy riffs and lots of melodies. Making this performance all the more impressive was the fact that it was only the second live show for Vance and Alex, who both recently joined the band and only had a handful of rehearsals before the festival.
The band closed its power-packed set with a special moment that saw Evgeny’s brother, Vladimir Varyag – who surprised him by traveling from Madrid, Spain, to attend the festival – join the band on stage to sing a song that he co-wrote with Evgeny called “Siege of Arkona,” which can be found on the band’s full-length debut album Far Flung Realm. If you’re a fan of German power metal royalty such as Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Iron Savior, or Running Wild, do yourself a favor and check out Adamantis.
I would have to say Greyhawk delivered some of the most virtuosic guitar moments, along with some of the most lighthearted, uplifting and fun vibes of the festival, with their epic traditional metal drenched in fantasy and mysticism, whether from the shredding of guitarists Jesse Berlin and Jacquelyn Ziel, or vocalist Rev Taylor entering the stage cloaked in a hood and holding a crystal ball that changed colors. I also can’t forget to mention the loud cheer bassist Darin Wall received for his heroic efforts at a show in Idaho last fall when he took a bullet to the leg after confronting and engaging an armed individual before he could act. It was great to see Darin fully recovered and back performing with the band!
Following Greyhawk, it was time to raise our swords for the epic heavy metal thunder from the North with Gatekeeper, featuring new vocalist Tyler “Tex” Anderson. This was a high-energy, blistering set of heavy power, with the legions singing in unison, fists raised to the sky right from the start with “Grey Maiden.” “Blade of Cimmeria” was the highlight, with Tex raising the sword high above the crowd at the front of the stage, but “Swan Road Saga” was also a favorite. There was a cool moment when Rev Taylor from Greyhawk joined the band on stage to trade off vocals with Tyler at the end of the set.
Glacier is a band I thought I would never get to see, along with headliner Riot City, so the fact that it was happening meant these were the two bands I was looking forward to the most on Day 1. Both surpassed my high expectations, starting with Glacier.
Delivering a potent mix of material from their excellent 1985 self-titled EP and their more recent just as powerful full-length album The Passing of Time, what a blast of a performance to experience with a crowd full of heavy metal diehards. It was such a joy to be thrown around in the pit and sing along to classics such as “Ready for Battle” and “Devil in Disguise” alongside newer songs such as “Valor” and “Ride Out.” There were some technical difficulties partway through “Sands of Time” when Vince Ippolito broke a guitar string, but that gave vocalist Michael Podrybau a chance to tell a story from back in the day when the band opened for Mötley Crüe and almost came to blows with Nikki Sixx. “Vendetta” closed a raucous set of ’80s heavy metal glory from a band that was too short-lived back then and has come back with a vengeance.
One of the reasons that made this festival so special was Riot City’s performance. The band has been a favorite of mine ever since hearing their absolutely fantastic Burn the Night album, filled to the brim with catchy melodies, relentless riffs and Canadian speed metal glory of the highest order. Highlights included the title track, “Warrior of Time,” “Halloween at Midnight” and “In the Dark.” Not only did we get to hear the album in its entirety (not in order), but also a song from the earlier era of the band that had never been played in the U.S. in “Tyrant” and two absolutely ripping covers of “The Sentinel” and “See You in Hell,” another real highlight, as it featured throngs of fans taking the stage to join the band in singing a true classic, with crowd surfers shooting from the stage. The pit was a frenzy of flying bodies and I’m pretty sure I bruised a rib after being thrown into one of the poles at Ralph’s. I also caught one of Chad Vallier’s drumsticks. What a wild way to close out Day 1 of Stormbringer!
It was also great to get to chat for a bit with guitarists Cale Savy and Roldan Reimer and vocalist Jordan Jacobs, who can give Halford a run for his money, after the show. When Riot City was announced, it blew my mind, and nothing could have prepared me for the high-octane, blazing performance they unleashed. Just one of many special moments from this festival.
DAY 2 – SATURDAY
Saturday’s lineup featured Olórin, from Illinois; Entierro, from Connecticut; Mourn the Light, also from Connecticut; Ironflame, from Ohio; Seax, from Worcester; Tower, from New York; Icarus Witch, from Pittsburgh; and Attacker, from New Jersey.
Day 2 kicked off with more epic doom, this time from Olórin. I wasn’t too familiar with this band before their announcement. I had heard the name and gave them a quick listen beforehand, but I have to say this was one of my favorite sets of the festival. Heavy, driving riffs; haunting, melodic vocals; and more songs with Lord of the Rings references. If bands such as Manilla Road, Sorcerer, Crypt Sermon or Smoulder mean anything to you, give these guys a listen!
Entierro was the first New England band of Day 2. Featuring former Fates Warning guitarist Victor Arduini and past members of Nightbitch, Entierro always delivers a pedal-to-the-metal, in-your-face heavy metal live attack, equal parts metal and rock and roll. I can’t get enough of their traditional metal meets heavy rock sound, with loads of grit and groove paired with infectious melodies from vocalist/bassist Christopher Taylor Beaudette, tight drumming from Dave Parmelee and hammering riffs and burning leads from Victor and Chris Begnal. The band’s latest release, the El Camazotz EP, is all killer, no filler and includes a cover of Judas Priest’s “Call for the Priest,” which went down a storm at the end of their set. Definitely pick up that EP and check out Entierro if you haven’t yet!
MOURN THE LIGHT
The epic doom meets traditional metal of Mourn the Light is very addicting. Their full-length debut album Suffer, Then We’re Gone was one of the best albums released in 2021. In addition to handling guitar and backup vocal duties, Dwayne Eldredge books shows at Pröst Bier & Music Hall in Jewett City, Connecticut, and was another driving force behind Stormbringer. In addition to songs from “Suffer” such as “Blink of an Eye,” “I Bare the Scars” and “When the Fear Subsides,” we also got to hear the new single from the band’s upcoming EP, “The Hunt,” which leans a bit more heavy metal than doom. If you’re on the East Coast or in New England, keep an eye out for Mourn the Light, as they have a bunch of tour dates coming up.
Getting to see Ironflame was a treat! One of many bands of vocalist extraordinaire Andrew D’Cagna, who pulled double duty also performing with Icarus Witch, as did guitarist Quinn Lukas and drummer Noah Skiba. This was another band that I knew by name but hadn’t delved deep into before their announcement. However, soon after, I remedied that and listened to their discography quite a bit. Soaring melodic vocals, galloping riffs and excellent double lead play made for another fun, powerful and memorable performance. I was happy to see the set was heavy on Lightning Strikes the Crown and Blood Red Victory material, as those are my favorites from the band’s discography. A special thanks to the band for playing an extra song not on the setlist at the request of Archdruid guitarist Paul Lennon with “On Ashen Wings.” I hope to see these guys again soon!
Worcester hometown heroes and speed metal maniacs Seax were up next. Another huge favorite of mine in the New England scene. In addition to being the vocalist and front man of Seax, Carmine Blades was the third powerhouse force behind Stormbringer. He is also one of the most dedicated fans and promoters in the New England scene.
The first show I ever attended at Ralph’s featured Seax, in a different lineup back in 2014, and it blew my mind to know that there was a local band playing speed metal and doing it so well. My jaw was on the floor after that show. I’ve seen them countless times since then. Their shows are always such a blast and tour de force of speedy riffs, blazing leads, supreme air-raid siren vocals, pounding bass and blistering drums, and the pit is always a whirlwind of fury.
I must also give credit to the band for consistently changing up the setlist, and this time around they even played a song they’ve never done before in “Lamentations of Their Women,” which sounded great. Some tried-and-true classics made a return to the setlist with “Forged by Metal” and “Killed by Speed,” along with a new song, “Shock Combat.” I’d have to say though that “Drink, Fuck and Die” was the highlight, with full crowd participation singalong and moshing madness. Keep your eyes peeled, as Seax will drop their fifth full-length album later this year. If you’re a fan of Agent Steel, Exciter, Ranger, Evil Invaders or Stälker, you won’t want to miss it!
Talk about storming the stage and taking the audience by the throat! Tower delivered a wild set of rock-infused traditional metal. The fire and passion from the band emanated from the stage as they blitzed through a frenetic set of high-energy rock and roll that set heads banging and fists and horns high into the air for a raging heavy metal party. There was even a moment when vocalist Sarahbeth Linden jumped off the stage and joined the crowd in the front row for some unison headbanging during an instrumental section. From “Blood Moon” and “Running Out of Time” to “The Black Rose,” “Prince of Darkness” and “Lay Down the Law,” there wasn’t much time to catch your breath; just enough time to have a drink, jump in the pit and bang your head.
Icarus Witch was another band I had been looking forward to seeing the most. I hadn’t seen them since they toured with Paul Di’Anno and then played as his supporting band for his set, which was back in 2010. 12 years is much too long, so I was very thankful they were returning to the stage. The set spanned their excellent discography and even included a brand-new song. As mentioned earlier, Andrew D’Cagna was pulling double vocal duties with Ironflame and Icarus Witch, as was guitarist Quinn Lukas.
Andrew joined the band somewhat recently, only being featured on their 2018 album Goodbye Cruel World, but he fits in seamlessly with the band and can handle all eras and albums of their music. It was a thrill to hear early classics such as “Storming the Castle” from “Capture the Magic,” which was dedicated to John Arch, who was in the audience, and “Out for Blood” from “Songs for the Lost.”
As much as I enjoyed getting to see Icarus Witch again, it was equally great to hear from my friends at the show who weren’t familiar with them how much they also enjoyed their performance. I also got some quality time to hang and chat afterwards with all the guys. It felt good to catch up with bassist Jason Myers and to meet Andrew, Quinn and Noah. You couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of guys!
Attacker has played Ralph’s three times now, including Stormbringer, and I was there for each one. This was the best I’ve seen them. The last time they played here was 2019, and 2017 before that. Both shows featured Seax as well. I don’t know how, perhaps it’s all the shows I go to, but I had forgotten just how potent Attacker is on stage. They delivered a juggernaut of a performance, and it was the perfect way to close out the festival. Pummeling drumming from Mike Sabatini, pulse-pounding thrash riffs from guitarists Mike Benetatos and Jon Hasselbrink, and bassist Brian Smith, and the piercing shrieks of the one and only Bobby “Leather Lungs” Lucas. Starting with “This is Power” from The Unknown, the band rampaged through hammer blow after hammer blow with “Slayer’s Blade,” “World Destroyer,” “Skinwalker,” “Washed in Blood” and “The Glen of the Ghost” before closing with “Zero Hour.”
By the end of the night, I was simultaneously filled with feelings of “I don’t want this night to end” and “I’m glad there are no more bands because I’m spent and have nothing left.” This was a weekend to remember and a festival for the ages! And it’s an even better feeling knowing this is just the beginning, the first of many more, as Evgeny has already confirmed there will be Stormbringer II in 2023, so sharpen those blades, fortify your shields and prepare for the return of the Stormbringer!