Old school metal legends tore up the stage.
Date: Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Place: Reggies (2105 South State Street; Chicago, Illinois 60616)
Ticket Price: $20 ($25.94 after fees)
I never really thought I would get to see Exciter live. The band formed in 1979 and created some classic early speed/thrash metal albums. Exciter’s debut album Heavy Metal Maniac released in June 1983, the same year where a month later Metallica put out their first album Kill ‘Em All. Heavy Metal Maniac was recorded in August 1982 while Metallica recorded in May 1983. Exciter are one of the big metal bands from Canada. They could also be considered one of the bands that created thrash metal. I’ve been listening to them since high school in the mid 2000s. Violence & Force from 1984 was my first album of theirs, which I actually had to order from a catalog back then because you couldn’t find it at any record stores. I listened to that album a ton. I also listened to Unveiling the Wicked a lot as well, their fourth album from 1986. The shrieks and screams from Dan Beehler’s vocals went perfectly together with the killer riffs, guitar solos and the apocalyptic tone of the music. Exciter were definitely one of my favorite bands when I was getting more into metal. There’s like barely any live footage of Exciter on YouTube from those classic periods so you had to be there to experience it. I always thought they should have been bigger than they were. It also seems like they don’t get the credit they deserve for their music during those early metal time periods. Songs like “Heavy Metal Maniac” and “Long Live the Loud” are classics and still crush to this day. Those songs just really pump you up and if they don’t then something is wrong with you.
Exciter currently features original members Dan Beehler on vocals and drums with Allan Johnson on bass. On guitar they have Daniel Dekay. I had no idea Dekay was even in the band. I knew him from BangerTV on YouTube and never made the connection. He joined Exciter in October 2018, replacing original guitarist and band member John Ricci. I don’t know too many guys who drum and also are the lead singer of a metal band like Beehler. The only other metal bands that comes to mind are Autopsy and Mastodon. It’s not very common and impressive when you see or hear it. Exciter did some albums in the ’90s and 2000s but it was kind of a different band, without Dan Beehler in the group and also with different vocalists. The band released their last album in 2010 called Death Machine, which none of the current members were part of. I haven’t listened to much of anything Exciter did during these more modern periods.
This was a small tour with seven shows. Chicago was actually the first stop on the tour, which ended on Nov. 4 in Los Angeles. It’s impressive these guys are still going out on the road and performing this type of music.
Wraith are from Indiana and formed in 2016. They have three full-length albums, with the last being Undo the Chains from September 2021 on Redefining Darkness Records. My first impressions of listening to Wraith were that these guys sound a lot like Toxic Holocaust. That’s not a bad thing. Wraith do blackened thrash/speed metal. I knew of the band but hadn’t really listened to them before this show. Their songs like “At the Stake” from their second album are really awesome though. Being from Indiana they’re also more local to Chicago. Wraith seemed like a good pairing with Exciter.
Munition are a local metal band from Illinois and have a lot of potential. After hearing their song “Beyond These Visions” on YouTube I really wanted to check them out live. My first impression from that song was that the singer sounded like John Cyriis from Agent Steel. I guess there’s some Fates Warning vibes from the band too. It seems like Munition is a newer band, maybe even having formed earlier this year. I’m not sure. They apparently have their first album coming out soon.
Backlash are a metal band that almost feels like a mix of Metallica and Municipal Waste. I hadn’t heard of them before but checked their music out prior to this show. That was my first impression of them. They were warming up with some Guns N’ Roses riffs as they set up on stage so that’s kind of that type of influence on these guys, maybe a bit more mainstream. I could tell their influences pretty easily. The band is from Joilet, Illinois. Their first album called Colossus released in March 2021.
It was already getting pretty packed inside Reggies by the time I got there. The show was supposed to start at 7:30 and I got there around 7:15. It was a good sized crowd for a weekday show. Alice in Chains was blaring over the room when I walked in. Three of the bands had their merchandise set up. The Wraith guys seemed pretty cool and were really interacting with their fans, signing a lot of different stuff too. It was definitely a mixed crowd this night, with a lot of older people there as well because of Exciter. There was a group of much older guys in a circle together just talking, probably reliving when they saw the band like 35 years ago.
Munition were great live. The band is just a group of five young dudes. They started playing around 7:30. The first song they did was like a speed metal song that sounded like something from Agent Steel. It was pretty fast. The vocals weren’t loud at first but later in the set they got better. The bass player looked like he time warped from 1984, with his pretty distinct long hair style, all denim attire, bullet belt and white gym shoes. If you saw him on the street you would naturally assume he’s in a metal band. He had a really cool bass guitar though, with the head of it missing. The bass playing was very loud, kind of over the guitars a bit but it sounded good. He played with his fingers too, which I always like to see how each bassist performs live. The singer was wearing a suit jacket with an Alice in Chains Dirt shirt underneath, which is a unique look for a metal frontman. They played “Beyond These Visions” second in the set and it sounded great live.
Munition also did a Judas Priest cover of “Dreamer Deceiver” in their set as the third song, which kind of tells me they might not have enough original material to perform live yet. That’s just me guessing. It takes some balls to sing Rob Halford though, which their singer pulled off pretty well. He had a strong voice overall too. It was hard to tell if the rest of their songs were all originals or they threw in another cover. The last song they did was called “Phoenix Rise” or something like that. One of the band’s guitarists is pretty charismatic. In a way he kind of was their real frontman. He definitely had that vibe to him. He was doing a lot of posing and stuff on stage. He would also talk between the songs, more than the singer did. He even went on the floor into the crowd and played part of a song. His personality was in contrast to their singer who seemed more laid back. Munition played five songs and ended at 7:57. I’m excited to see how their album turns out. I think these guys are going to turn out to be an awesome band. They played great live and had a strong set so I’m really looking forward to their new music.
Backlash were pretty good live. They’re another band of mostly younger guys but I think their drummer is probably older. They started playing at 8:21. Backlash opened with a new single called “False Flag” that’s not on their first album. The crowd got into them. The song had some good riffing. They played “Lost Liberty” next, which had a slower tempo to it. They then went into “Call of the Void” and “Over the Top” (not the Motorhead song). I could have predicted they would also do a bass solo thrown in one of their songs because of the obvious Metallica influence. Their bassist did play really well the whole set. He’s pretty talented. I think the last song they did was “Lenity.” The singer asked the crowd several times during the set if that’s all they had, in like an encouraging way to get people moving more. I didn’t feel the songs were fast or thrashy enough to get people going that crazy. They ended at 8:47 after five songs. People in the crowd were into them with headbanging and stuff. There wasn’t much moshing going on besides a few people. Their singer is a good frontman though and is outgoing with the crowd.
It will be interesting to see what Backlash can do in a couple more years after another album or two. If they speed up their songs and change their songwriting formula somewhat I think they would improve. The songs kind of overstay their welcome and repeat themselves, dragging on a bit. The songs did have some good riffs thrown in them though. Right now it feels like the band is missing something to take them to a higher level. They definitely have the potential to get there.
Wraith killed it live at this show. They had some technical issues before they even got started. It looked like their guitarist’s stack of amps wasn’t working right or something. They eventually started playing at 9:10. I liked the high energy of their songs live. They were also super loud too. When they were testing out their gear before playing it almost blew my ears out since I was near the front of the stage. At the start their singer Matt Sokol asked everyone to get closer to the front, nice and tight. Sokol had a really cool Mercyful Fate shirt on too. Wraith started off hot with one of their new songs from a few months ago called “(Call Me) The Destroyer.” After that they did “Dominator” from Undo the Chains, which sounded awesome live. Before they went into their third song, Sokol told the crowd that this wasn’t a church and we didn’t have to just stand around. I thought that was funny. After the third song they played “Heed the Warning” from their first album then went into “War of Aggression” and “Absolute Power” from Absolute Power (2019). All these songs were killer live.
Wraith went into “Cloaked in Black” from their new album next. This was one of the best songs the did. Before playing it, Sokol again tried to get the crowd more active by saying he knows it’s a weekday but to get some movement out there. The last song Wraith played was “Devil’s Hour” from Absolute Power. Sokol told the crowd this is a metal show and to move around. “Devil’s Hour” is a great live song that has got a sick riff to it.
Wraith are a really tight band. The riffs were heavy and the band all played intensely. Their singer seemed to be increasingly annoyed people weren’t moving around enough. There was a pretty decent mosh going the whole set though. People were really into the band. Wraith had a lot of fans there who knew them. There was definitely a lot of headbanging and movement going on the whole time. I think the band’s set got cut short a bit because of the technical issues they had at the beginning. They probably did around nine songs live in their set. They ended at 9:41, so Wraith played just over half an hour. I have to catch these guys live again. I really liked them in person. The live performance elevated the energy of the songs on the albums.
Exciter are still fantastic live. I feel like with the addition of Dekay to the band, he brings a ton of younger energy that probably wouldn’t be there without him. I’m guessing he’s around like half the age of the two other members in Exciter. He made such a huge difference for the live show. He really energized the whole band, the songs and the crowd too. Dekay is awesome live. He’s a badass guitarist. He even threw in extra solos and playing on a lot of the songs. I don’t know if it was still all three original members with John Ricci in the band if the show would have been as good. At the very least it probably would have felt like a different show. Some of the older metal bands can’t keep up with the speed and intensity of the music that their younger selves created so things are noticeably played different. This wasn’t the case with Exciter on this night. They felt like a fresh band.
Exciter’s set was filled with songs from their first four albums through Unveiling the Wicked. Beehler’s vocals and shrieks were kind of hard to hear live through the whole night. I think the way they had the sound set up caused that because he definitely was still killing it live with his performance and energy. It was impressive to see Beehler both drum and sing on point during the whole set. The songs didn’t feel slowed down even though two members of the band are a lot older now. Exciter started playing around 10:13. Some old guys standing behind me were talking about the old days and how the same people at this show now were there back then. One of them was like the typical middle-aged, older dude who doesn’t know anything about technology, like his life just stopped in 1988. The guy couldn’t figure out how to use his phone or tag people in a post and seemed wasted. It was pretty funny overhearing it all.
Before Exciter started there were some dialogue from a movie playing that sounded like it was from a horror film. The first song they did was “Violence & Force” from their second album and then “Stand Up and Fight” from Heavy Metal Maniac. The crowd was into the songs immediately. The third song was “Victims of Sacrifice” from their third album Long Live the Loud (1985). Before playing “Die in the Night” from Unveiling the Wicked they asked if we all remembered the song. Beehler’s screams during this song were pretty good live. They went into “Iron Dogs” from Heavy Metal Maniac after this. This song was really good live. The crowd sang the “iron dogs” lyric part along with the band. The song ended strong, with an extended guitar solo by Dekay that was awesome. “Rising of the Dead” from the same album was played next. This is one of my favorite songs from Exciter. Dekay absolutely killed the solo at the end of this song too. He went hard on it. The song was great live. “Heavy Metal Maniac” was one of the best songs of the night and also one of their most killer songs they wrote. After that they went to play “Black Witch” from their first album and said they were going to do a song for all the heavy metal sisters. Some women in the crowd screamed out for it. The bass playing by Allan Johnson sounded awesome all night and mixed in well with the rest of the band. The drumming was pretty tight on this song too. “Black Witch” is a really good live song. It’s more laid back, almost like a ballad, but has some killer guitar soloing and drumming to it.
“War Is Hell” from Violence & Force was played next, which has a great chorus to it. Johnson asked the crowd if we were getting tired yet. He said he wanted to party with us, drink and hang out after the show was over. I was like, damn. This dude is way older than me and I’m ready for bed while he wants to keep going all night. They went into “Pounding Metal” next, another one from Violence & Force. This is one of those anthem songs that sounded great live. The crowd got super into it. It’s just a great song. The guitar soloing from Dekay was again pretty awesome. He was posing on the stage as he played, all into it with his eyes closed. The song sounded tight live. After the song, Dekay said he already loved Chicago and it was the first time he was here. The fact that he could buy weed at the store, he said that shit rules. He played another impromptu solo after that and it was great too. They played “Beyond the Gates of Doom” from Long Live the Loud after this. This song really ripped live. Dekay ended up playing a guitar solo like right in my face, which was awesome. It’s a very thrashy song live. He did an extra shredding solo at the end of the song too.
Exciter ended the set with “Long Live the Loud,” which was super high energy live. It’s a great song to end the night with and one of their best they wrote back in the day. Near the end Beehler threw an opened beer can into the crowd while standing all the way back at his kit and someone caught it perfectly without spilling any. That was pretty cool to see. Exciter did an encore and ended the night with a cover of Motorhead’s “Iron Fist.” The crowd got really into this last song. Exciter did a great cover. Afterwards the band came together on stage and saluted the crowd. They ended everything at 11:27, so Exciter ended up playing for over an hour with 13 songs.
I bought a cool Exciter tour shirt after the show for $30. Exciter didn’t have any CDs for sale, just some vinyl of some of their early records. The Backlash bassist seemed like a really nice guy. He was handing out cards for the band by the merch table. This show featured a great mix of old school and new school metal. It would be cool for Exciter to write some new music with their current lineup and put out another album.