By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Senior Correspondent
Venue: The Orpheum, Ybor City/Tampa, Florida–April 8th, 2022
So the night began with Jake, Pat, Evan, and Kevin of High Pressure, self-described as an Orlando crossover band. That’s about all the info I have on them, gleaned from their Facebook page. Guys, you need some social media spreading the word! Although they were called in relatively last minute due to an illness in Beast in Black, they started the night off right, kicking ass and taking names right out of the gate! Looking forward to hearing more from them!
Varanger (pronounced Ver-an-gar) was next in the lineup, an extreme metal band from the Central Florida area. I say Central Florida because the band also lists its location as Sanford and Orlando, and refers to itself as a “Pagan Melodeath band. Okay, the important thing is they whipped up the crowd even more! The band incorporates many different musical styles into its music which creates a massive sound, captivating melodies and an unforgettable performance. They mixed in songs from their 2019 album, “Dark Traditions, like “Varanger, Fields of Misery, Curse of the Swamp, and 10 Years Time” with new songs “Iconoclast and A Song Sung Too Soon.”
In case you’re curious, I found out that The Varangians (/vəˈrændʒiənz/; Old Norse: Væringjar; Medieval Greek: Βάραγγοι, Várangoi; Old East Slavic: варяже, varyazhe or варязи, varyazi), was the name given by Eastern Romans to Viking raiders, conquerors, traders and settlers, who were overwhelmingly ethnic Swedes but also including smaller contingents from Denmark and Norway. Between the 9th and 11th centuries, Varangians ruled the medieval state of Kievan Rus’, settled among many territories of modern Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, and formed the Byzantine Varangian Guard which later also included Anglo-Saxons. So there’s history behind the band’s name!
Speaking of history, the band has recently acquired a new bassist and drummer, though you wouldn’t know it from hearing them. The band’s original lineup members Tyler Futrell (guitarist/vocalist/founder), and Fred McCarthy (keyboards), are joined by three newer members. With their distinctive facial marking style, it’s clear which band they’re in, wherever they go! Speaking of that, I had to steal a fan-posted meme; though they’re not Finnish, the meme fits!
Okay, now it time to be stricken! Striker isn’t a disease, however, but the Canada-based heavy metal champions! RAN has been writing about them since 2015, reported on their pseudo-resurrection, their current tour, their latest album releases, and more. Striker is Dan Cleary-lead vocals, Tim Brown-lead/rhythm guitar, John Simon Fallon-shred guitar, drummer Jonathan Webster and bassist Pete Klassen; they are a JUNO Award Winning heavy metal/AOR/thrash/hella-good band that spiraled the crowd upward! We interviewed the band in 2016, after doing a live review earlier that year.
Striker has a long list of songs behind them, but several new songs made the cut: “Former Glory, Deathwish, Strange Love,” for some examples. By this time the crowd had grown to decent proportions, and there were people obviously singing along. They had the crowd heated up for the next band, Seven Kingdoms.
This was not the first time I’ve written about Seven Kingdoms here. Nor was I the first RAN correspondent, as this album review shows. However, I hadn’t realized, due to the dearth of shows thanks to COVID, it’s been nearly five years since the last time I saw them, at that time supporting Evergrey. Interestingly, the only change since then has been the loss of their bass player. I spoke with Kevin Byrd before the show, and the consensus in the band was that the four of them – his brother, drummer Keith Byrd, and the band’s founder, guitarist Camden Cruz, and vocalist Sabrina Valentine Cruz (who I’m guessing is Camden’s wife) – worked so well together that adding a fifth member was unnecessary. There wasn’t anything lacking in this show, for sure! Sabrina consistently hit all the right high notes, and Kevin and Camden filled in the bass lines flawlessly, so I suspect they won’t be looking for a bass player. Oh, one other thing changed: Camden’s hair got greyer! (Still has a ways to go before he catches up to me!) Hopefully it won’t be another five years when I see them next!