SACRED WARRIOR/ QUEENSRYCHE show- Oct.21, 2023- BMI Event Center,Versailles, OH

by Chris Gatto

Photos by Steele Gatto

Third and final show of the Rocktober concert series at Ohio’s BMI Event Center, and by now you’ve seen the blueprint: venue owner Steve Barhorst books a classic christian metal band to open for a larger mainstream metal artist, often in the same styling, and we watch to see what happens.

SACRED WARRIOR, legendary power metal band originally from the Chicago area, needs no introduction. The band is still made up of 4 founding members: Rey Parra with the golden pipes, Bruce Swift on guitar, Steve Watkins on bass, and powerhouse Tony Velasquez on drums, with more recent member Tom Sanderson on keys. Second guitarist Jonathan Johnson is currently on family leave, while Larry Worley, of Love Life, Fear Not, Deny the Fallen fame, fills his shoes quite capably.

Warrior were known in the late 80’s/early 90’s for their hard hitting melodic power/ progressive metal, topped by Parra’s soaring vocals, inviting comparisons to Queensryche and Iron Maiden. The band juggled their setlist from Immortal and whittled it down to a bullet train of heaviness.

Warrior opened with “No Happy Endings,” from Wicked Generation, returning to the concept album at times through their set. Next came “Temples on Fire,” from Obsessions, that starts with a rousing drum sequence that rivals Judas Priest’s “Pain Killer,” and showcases the mad skills of one Tony Velasquez, who had a heart replacement surgery a handful of years ago and was told by doctors that he would never drum again. Thanks to God, Tony has proven them wrong again and again! Next, “Rebellion,” title track from the debut merged right into the instrumental “Onward Warriors” from Master’s Command. “Remember Me” from Obsessions has a softer haunting melody and proved to be the band’s only “lighter” mood.

“War Torn Hero” is another heavy hitter from Wicked Generation, followed by the depiction of Jesus’ pursuit of us in “Mad Man” from Obsessions. “Day of the Lord,” from the debut (and opened their Immortal set) shows up late in their set this time, closing their stage time with a bang with the title track from Wicked Generation, a poignant track showing just how unpolitically correct it is to read the Bible and take what it says to heart in this wicked generation.

So, a short set, ground to a razor sharp point from our heroes. Sacred Warrior made mention beforehand, how much they had been inspired by Queensryche, and Rey, who can play the ham at times, made a point that there would be no fooling around and he would cut out a lot of the inter-song banter. And that they did, other than Rey encouraging “Everybody up!” a couple times- but just when my heart began crying out for a message that this rare opportunity would not be lost, guitarist Bruce stepped up and gave a brief message of hope, establishing the fact that the band are Christians, and that they don’t look down on you if you’re not believers, but if you find yourself looking for something (or Someone) to look the band up on the internet and talk to them. Just what needed to be said. For believers, the Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us the words to say before our human minds can even comprehend them. The fans seemed to thoroughly enjoy Sacred Warrior and appreciate their musicianship and won many over as fans. Of the 3 concerts, Warrior had the largest crowd of Christian metalheads out to support them, and the largest number of the crowd standing for their performance.

QUEENSRYCHE is also a band needing little introduction. The Seattle area band has been playing their theatrical blend of power and progressive metal since 1981. In spite of their very public divorce with original singer Geoff Tate in 2012, the band soldiers on with original guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson, joined by the talented Todd La Torre on vocals, Mike Stone on guitar, and Casey Grillo on drums. Ryche’s musicianship is sharper than ever, and after treating the audience to a brand new song, they played many of their hits, including numbers from the ever popular Operation Mindcrime and Empire albums.

The volume for their set was exceptionally loud, enough to send fans looking for earplugs, and some to leave prematurely. I did not encounter the singer, but interactions with the rest of the band were amicable, except for their road manager, who was rather demanding and unsavory to deal with.

Though this marks the end of the Rocktober concert series, I am sure there will be more of these “heaven and hell” type concerts in Ohio and hopefully elsewhere. If you see any coming up, please take the time and effort to make a road trip out to support our christian metal bands. They will appreciate it, and as much as I’ve enjoyed spending time with Saint, Whitecross, and Sacred Warrior, I know that you’ll enjoy the bands too.

God bless.

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