Live Gig Review and Photos by: Zenae Zukowski
When the announcement was made for Doro’s short but brief Eastern USA tour, I remember saying to myself, “I have to be there.” I never thought I would have the opportunity to see The Queen of Metal herself perform live. Her music alone has sold over 10 million records and reached Gold and Platinum status, and she is a huge icon and a personal idol of mine. Her success began with the German Heavy Metal band Warlock that formed in 1982. Despite the band’s short-lived career, it has made a tremendous impact in Heavy Metal where it has been proven that women can equally Rock out. Through mainstream eyes, there has been a lot of unfairness with how women are portrayed in Rock and Metal, and it is artists like Doro who give me a sign of hope for equality in the scene.
Doro has been celebrating over thirty years of her musical career and on this brief tour, fans were lucky to witness as it kicked off on February 22, 2016, at the Monsters of Rock Cruise. On this evening, March 6th was the last night of the tour and what better place to have it conclude for the Queen in Queens, New York at the intimate venue of Blackthorn 51. The intimacy at this venue has always been an experience itself, and as for Doro, who is known for appreciating each and every one of her fans, Blackthorn 51 was the perfect joint. With that said, Doro brought on the special guest, New York City’s own matron, Madame Mayhem.
On this special evening, Blackthorn 51 opened their doors early and brought in a handful of local bands to support as the doors unlocked itself to the public at 5:00 PM. As a huge supporter for the local scene, I was one of the handful that did, in fact, arrive early to see a total of seven bands perform.
The first act to kick off the Rock energy was New York’s own Unholy Dispute. No strangers to Blackthorn 51, as they performed previously as they stated how much they love it there. Unholy Dispute was formed in 2013 and includes members, Andrew Amendola (vocals), Mario Sleziak (lead guitar), Parker Ellis (rhythm guitar), Nick Carrino (drums) and Matt Trippiedi (bass). Their set remained Heavy, as they held a certain professionalism on the stage. I enjoyed their brief interactions as they announced each track including “City of Fire” and the slower paced tune of “Suicide.” Amendola surprised me when he jumped directly off the stage and into the crowd as he continued to sing. Local bands that demonstrate a level of confidence on the stage are the ones that make me want to see them again. Their music sounded like a mix between Heavy Metal and Grunge, as Metallica meets Alice in Chains and it worked well. Unholy Dispute will be opening for Butcher Babies on March 11th at The Reverb in Reading PA, check them out if you haven’t yet.
Next up was New York City’s Symfinity, who brought in quite a crowd. This act changed the pace to a more Symphonic Rock sound, as they are influenced by bands such as Lacuna Coil and Nightwish. The full group consists of members Seann Branchfield (vocals/guitar/arrangements/orchestration), Lynette Ford (flute), Crystal Kim (piano), Doc (John) Schwartzberg (bass on record/lead guitar during live shows), Tubes (John) Gray (Tuba on record and bass during live) and Tony Sze (drums). What I like about these guys comes down to the frontman Branchfield where aside from his youthful Dio looks, he sure can perform and engage an audience. As a new release and video are around the corner for the group, they played the upcoming new single of “Everything I know Explodes.” It was catchy enough where fans did sing along to this piece. Their style is unique, and if they continue to push with admirable determination, I’m sure they will only grow from here.
As the evening progressed, it was time to hear the New Jersey Metal band Lyken 21. Supporting their latest album from 2015, Taboo’s Tyranny where vocalist Marton Miklos even handed a few CDs out to the crowd which reminded me of an early Metallica days when James Hetfield threw out the record Kill ‘Em All to the audience back in the early eighties. The rest of the band includes Oleg Lipovchenko (guitar), Andres Nuiver (bass), and Matt Biehl (drums) and they were all ready to Rock out. The band focused more on performing than interacting, as they showcased their sound to the crowd that included tracks “Goodbye,” “Doomsday Deception and closing with “Why Ask Why.” They were a talented bunch and fun to watch.
The next band which is no stranger to the New York Metal scene, Metalfier. Every time I see these guys, I am always reminded by Thrash bands including Metallica and Slayer. Metalfier enjoys it fast and Heavy, as they are known to live the Rock N’ Roll life. Perhaps it’s the frontman himself Andrew Janda (lead vocals/guitar) that reminds me of Slayer, and the lead guitarist Jeffrey Monge who reminds me of a young Kirk Hammett. Either way, their performance was loud and aggressive even more than when I saw them in January when they opened up for Venom Inc. at Webster Hall. The rest of the band includes Miguel Angel Rodriguez (bass) and Jedrek Bielawiec (drums), where from the moment they began it was a resilient performance. Tracks included “There’s a Devil Inside My Head” and “Heavy Metal Life” and Janda engaged with the crowd as he led all to raise their fists this evening.
Staying on schedule, it was time for Magus Beast. The lighting changed and so did the sound, as the set blistered through the crowd’s eardrums. What was different about this group is, they just wanted to perform without much of any interaction. Their performance reminded me of 80s Thrash Metal as their included tracks such as “Lost” and “Rise of the Beast.” Magus Beast frequently performs in the New York City area which includes the upcoming show on March 26th at Brooklyn’s St Vitus as they will be opening for Whiplash.
The venue packed up even more as Madame Mayhem took the stage. I could not take my eyes off from her performance, as the entire band was filled with an incredible amount of energy, despite it being the last night of the tour. Her style is unique and diverse where it can be associated with Hard Rock and Gothic Rock. Her ruthless attitude speaks for itself on the stage as the set included “Something Better (Now You Know),” “Monster,” “Left For Dead,” “Witchcraft,” and “More Than Misery.” One thing was for sure; Madame Mayhem was happy to be back home to perform in front of her local fans. I have not listened to much of her before and after this performance I am intrigued and will be checking out her latest album Now You Know that was released in October 2015.
After watching six acts it was finally time for the Queen, Doro to take the stage. Her band consists of the great Johnny Dee on drums, who recently played at Blackthorn 51 with his band Britny Fox last November, Luca Princiotta (guitar/keyboard), Nick Douglas (bass). Bas Maas (guitar) and Harrison Young (keyboard). Due to a few technical issues, the band came on a bit late, so the original setlist was moved around where not every song was performed. Aside from that hiccup, it did not stop Doro nor anyone there for a stunning performance. This is Doro Pesch, and honestly, she could sing “Old McDonald” and I would still be amazed. The crowd’s eyes were intently glued to the stage, where no one wanted to lose their spot to see the Queen perform. Many were dancing around and singing along to practically the entire set with Doro.
Most importantly, I enjoyed Doro’s energy as she made extensive efforts to reach out towards everyone in the venue where she grabbed hands, raised fists, she even walked towards the side of the stage to a lucky few. The set included music from Warlock and her original pieces with songs such as “Earthshaker Rock,” “Burning the Witches,” “I Rule the Ruins,” “Raise Your Fist,” “Metal Racer,” “Without You,” and “Fight For Rock.” The band looked as though they were enjoying themselves, where even Johnny Dee had a thunderous solo act on the drums. It was after his solo when he heartwarmingly spoke out to the crowd stating that everyone should keep music alive and how the fans being there in support is what counts.
As the night was getting late, Doro skipped a few tracks including my personal favorite “Night of the Warlock,” and went into the Judas Priest cover “Breaking the Law.” She gave it her all this evening and the highlight was the ending with “All We Are” that left everyone raising their fists in the air for Doro. What an incredible night that was worth the wait. Hopefully, she will return. A true icon in Heavy Metal performed in front of many eyes that night, and it was filled with endless aggression.