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Judas Priest Leads the Charge at Warlando Metal Fest

Orlando, Florida USAWarlando Metal Fest invaded the Central Florida Fairgrounds on September 11, 2021, and brought with it an onslaught of metal music that shook the ground as much as a one kiloton atomic bomb. The festival, a much-welcomed reprieve to the drought of live music performances, featured a dozen bands. The festival is headlined by Judas Priest, currently touring in support of the band’s 50th anniversary. The solemn date was not overshadowed though, with each band taking a moment to recognize and mention the lives lost on this dreadful day twenty years ago.

The festival covered many variations within the metal genre and included a great lineup. On the musical docket for the day was Madzilla, Sworn Enemy, Cutthroat, The Convalescence, Tommy Vext, Twin Void, Rising Up Angry Uncured, Ill Niño, Soulfly, Sabaton, and Judas Priest.

The event was hosted across two stages at opposing ends of the venue. The schedule was such that you bounced in between stages until mid to late afternoon, at which point the remaining bands performed on the main stage. Stage Left Entertainment did an excellent job of providing a kickass lineup to backup a festival named Warlando Metal Fest.

Las Vegas based Madzilla kicked the day off with a short but powerful set that set the bar for the bands that followed. Madzilla members include David Cabezas (lead vocals, guitar), Dane Haws (guitar), Daniel Gotaire (bass, backup vocals) and Luis Zevallos (drums). Madzilla is currently supporting their latest release ‘Asphyxiating Cries’.

Once the bar was set, it took little time for New York’s Sworn Enemy to meet and raise it. They certainly brought the Big Apple attitude to the stage and wasted no time in getting the crowd into their set. Sworn Enemy’s line up includes Sal Lococo (vocals), Jeff Cummings (guitar), Matt Garzilli (guitar), Mike Pucciarelly (bass) and Taykwuan Jackson (drums).

Twin Void was the first act to grace the Monster Energy main stage at Warlando Metal Fest. This was a band I had not heard of before. I keep an open mind when it comes to music so I was actually excited to see what they were all about.  At first glance, their persona did not seem to fit the hardness of their sound. I saw past that right away and enjoyed what was a solid strong set from Twin Void. Lead singer, Nathan Bidwell exuded pride as he let the crowd know that the bass player was his father, Mike Bidwell. The rest of the Twin Void lineup is Travis Hewson on guitar and Cory McCallum on drums. Twin Void performed a solid short six song set. This Spokane, Washington based band is certainly one to watch. If you enjoy being introduced to new bands and their music, give them a listen to. 

Fans and photographers alike now hurried back to the Frontier stage at the opposite end of the venue to catch LA’s Cutthroat. Neil Roemr led the charge on vocals with solid support from Bobby Blood on drums, Robert Madrigal just pounded the bass, Jason Boccia made the dreads wail on guitar, and former Matriarch guitarist Ben Levi closed out the guitar team. Cutthroat brought the LA grit to Warlando and did not disappoint. With this much energy from a festival set, it should be pretty interesting to see what Cutthroat delivers when playing a full set.

Rising Up Angry was the second band to take the Monster Energy main stage. With its roots in Chicago, Rising Up Angry is no stranger to Florida fans. Lead singer, Ray Reyes was on point. His intensity and delivery was spot on. Chris Williams and Mick Vega owned the set with the guitar licks. They both hammed it up for the crowd (and photographers). The rhythm section with Eric Frate on bass and Justin Dunlap on drums ensured the set was tight. These seasoned veterans of the music scene easily proved why they were on the ticket for the Warlando Metal Fest.

The Convalescence took the Frontier stage next. It was apparent that fans were eager to see them as the crowd seemed larger and denser, that is, except for the circle pit for the mosh enthusiasts. There were apparently a lot of death metal fans in attendance at the Warlando Metal Fest. There was an aura of darkness in the air as the makeup covered band members took the stage. Katie McCrimmon’s (keyboard, vocals) intro, eerily reminiscent of a young Linda Blair in the Exorcist, primed fans for what was to come from The Convalescence. Keith Wampler (vocals) delivered the death metal voice with surgical precision. Zac Lunsford (guitar) had the dreads flailing through the air all through the blood curdling set. Toby Wright (guitar), Ronald Buckley (bass) and Cameron Olaide (drums) rounded out this eclectic combo of characters. 

How fitting that Uncured would follow a band like The Convalescence. Fans hurried back to the Monster Energy stage to catch Uncured. I had not heard of the band other than knowing they were on today’s ticket, but man, did they make an impression. The Jersey based quartet put together by brothers Zak Cox (vocals, guitar) and Rex Cox (vocals, guitar) were not in any way ailing, although they were Uncured… pun intended. Along with Micah Smith (bass) and Liam Manley (drums), Uncured proceeded to surgically stitch together a slammin’ set that had the circle pit abuzz. In addition to great musical prowess, Uncured had an infectious stage presence that had old and new fans alike captivated by their set.

Tommy Vext wrapped up the sets on the Front Line stage, and what a way to end the this portion of the festival. My knowledge of Vext stems primarily from the very public back and forth between him and his former bandmates in Bad Wolves. Vext did not miss an opportunity to poke a few jabs at them via his platform at Warlando Metal Fest. However, as a solo artist, Vext and his band can certainly hold their own. Tommy Vext (vocals), accompanied by a rock solid band that includes Neil Swanson (guitar), Dusty Boles (guitar) Kevin Creekman (bass) and Michael Levine (drums) delivered a high energy set that probably had the most crowd engagement seen to this point in the festival.

With the Tommy Vext set over, the remainder of the evening’s artists performed on the Monster Energy main stage. Ill Niño kicked off the final sprint for the finish line of Warlando Metal Fest. The New Jersey based band presented with a larger than usual percussion, maybe a hint at the latino roots within the band. But make no mistake, this ain’t no Mariachi band. Ill Niño had some hard-hitting melodic rock tracks that were just fantastic. The band, led by founding member and drummer Dave Chavarri, utilized the entire stage as the canvas to paint their live music masterpiece. Lead vocalist, Marcos Leal, drew the audience in with powerful vocals. Jes De Hoyos and Salvador Dominguez absolutely shredded on guitar while Lazaro Pina pounded the bass and Daniel Couto and the percussion team added the extra sizzle to the mix. Ill Niño left fans wanting more as they wrapped up their set. Fans will have another opportunity to catch Ill Niño live at Rebel Rock later in September at the very same venue. They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but in this case it will. If you missed it the first time, you may want to get your ass in gear and get tickets for Rebel Rock to catch Ill Niño there.

The evening was upon Central Florida. One would think that the temperature would’ve cooled down a bit. Well, it’s Florida, so deal with it. So, while the ambient heat had yet to subside, the heat on the stage was only getting hotter. Veteran heavy metal group, Soul Fly, took the stage next. These guys may be long in the tooth compared to the bands that preceded them at the Warlando Metal Fest, but make no mistake, there is a reason Soul Fly was on the schedule just two acts before the headliner, Judas Priest. Soul Fly band members are Max Cavalera (vocals, guitar), Dino Cazares (guitar), Mike Leo (bass, backup vocals) and Zyon Cavalera (drums).

If there was any band that had an obvious fan base present at the Warlando Metal Fest, it was Sabaton. Long lines at the merch tent assured a financially successful day for Sabaton’s marketing team. There was an anxiousness in the crowd as the time for Sabaton to hit the stage got closer and closer. When the moment arrived, there was a vibe in the crowd that is typically only seen in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and the like as fans are getting ready to see Iron Maiden or Metallica. Sabaton finally took the stage and the crowd went wild. The fan devotion was palpable. While only having cursory knowledge of Sabaton myself, I did know that they were Swedish and had a huge, loyal fan base. Their style was different from those bands that preceded them at Warlando. Their songs were very melodic and anthem-like. The vocals were very harmonized, almost like that of a military choir, which may be explained by the fact that much of the subject matter in their music is war, conflict and military themed. As a photographer, you can imagine my disappointment when their tank themed drum riser was excluded from the Sabaton set. No worries, I will make sure I take the opportunity to catch them at a future show for the coveted tank pic.

Sabaton’s lead vocalist, Joakim Broden, led the charge on Warlando.  Joakim had peripheral support flanked by two excellent guitarists in Chris Borland and Tommy Johansson. Additional backup was provided by Par Sundstum on bass and Hannes Van Dahl on drums.

The coveted hour arrived. The pump was primed and the well was ready to burst. The anxious crowd could be heard chanting “Priest, Priest, Priest” as the lights dimmed, indicating that the long-awaited moment was at hand. Judas Priest is currently on tour celebrating 50 Heavy Metal Years. The set opened with a larger-than-life tuning fork lifting over the stage, outlined in red. Judas Priest wasted no time in giving the crowd what they came to see as they opened with One Shot of Glory” from their ‘Painkiller’ album. In true Rob Halford fashion, there were multiple wardrobe changes and an appearance from Halford on his motorcycle as Judas Priest performed.

Judas Priest’s lineup for the 50 Heavy Metal Years is Rob Halford (vocals), Glenn Tipton (guitar, vocals & synth), Richie Faulkner (guitar, vocals), Andy Sneap (guitar), Ian Hill (bass), and Scott Travis (drums).

The Judas Priest setlist for the 50 Heavy Metal Years tour reads more like a greatest hits anthology. Judas Priest fans at Warlando Metal Fest enjoyed the following setlist:

  • One Shot at Glory
  • Lightning Strike
  • You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
  • Freewheel Burning
  • Turbo Lover
  • Hell Patrol
  • The Sentinel
  • A Touch of Evil
  • Rocka Rolla
  • Victim of Changes
  • Desert Plains
  • Blood Red Skies (9/11 Tribute Video)
  • Invader
  • Painkiller
  • The Hellion
  • Electric Eye
  • Hell Bent for Leather
  • Breaking the Law
  • Living After Midnight

As Warlando Metal Fest came to a close, I challenge anyone to find a fan that left disappointed. Stage Left Entertainment put on one hell of a festival and the attendance proves it. There are bands that I was introduced to during this festival that I will certainly follow going forward. It is great to be back in the photo pit and even greater seeing the masses enjoy live music again. Let’s stay safe and continue making music!

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