Once again organizer, promoter and top PR guy Dave Tedder brought Ultrasound 2001 to the masses. This years festival was held in beautiful sunny Burbank, California. The skies were blue; the palm trees swayed in the breeze and the metal was ferocious. The bill locked in with the following lineup: FRIDAY - Teabag, Imagika, Steel Prophet and Agent Steel. The Incredible Steel Prophet were in peak performance, guitars blazing and vocalist Rick Mythiasin rattling the rafters. Rick is by far one of the greatest metal singers and easily ranks among the Geoff Tates or Bruce Dickinsons of the genre. Their new CD, "Book Of The Dead" (Century Media) was well represented, but it was last years Messiah that really got the crowd going. Incidentally, Taraxacum ~ Spirit of Freedom (Nuclear Blast) is a supergroup side project involving Mr. Mythiasin and well worth tracking down.
SATURDAY morning had the crowds lined up before the 12:00 noon bell. There were a number of vendors set up as well as bands hosting their own tables, selling merchandise and the like. Colorado Metal band Moore were there in full force often attracting a crowd around their video screen. By far the busiest table was Century Media with a phenomenal selection. It looked like they made a killing from folks waiting for the bands to start.
Inside the hall the brilliant Black Symphony roared onto stage for a cataclysmic pounding. These modern melodic metal masters completely outshined any of the performances over the entire weekend. They came well-rehearsed and ready for action, moving around the stage like a jar full of scorpions. Killer tunes including a handful from their latest release "Tears Of Blood" which left em begging for more. Sicnest (Nu-Metal), Zero Hour (Prog Rock), Byfist (Heavy Metal) Jarra (Melodic Metal fronted by a Doro Pesch look-alike) all displayed a worthy effort but the Symphony had set an almost impossible pace. Century Medias Onward delivered an ambitions hour as did AOR cyclone Talon which, after a day a tympanic assault, was nice to hear their refreshing mixture of lush harmonies, catchy chorus fills and well phrased solos. Cage pounded just as hard as last year pushing their new opus Astrology into the spotlight. It easy to see why they are the buzz of the Wacken festival every year. Extremely polished, both in terms of image and sound and as professional as a band can get. DC4 were another more melodic band with a modern twist. Not quite as heavy as Armored Saint (from which the lead guitarist stems) but well-versed and hungry. The exceptional Burning Rain closed the night. Doug Aldrich (ex-Hurricane) was in top shape and was complimented by vocalist Keith St. John, both were dynamic to watch. Its no wonder these guys rack up huge numbers in Japan - a stadium band for sure.
The SUNDAY poolside morning gig is always the highlight of Ultrasound. The acoustic nature and immense talent is unmatched by any event of its kind. Ken Tamplin and Howie Simon deliver a spectacular, honest set ranging from covers (Neil Diamond) to originals (off some of Kens 18 recordings). Their skill as players and a duo left no doubt why these guys are considered virtuosos especially when they rip into their Flamenco duel. They were followed by the breathtaking pairing of Tony Harnell (TNT) and Mark Reale (Riot) known as Westworld. Harnell held nothing back. His voice was phenomenal and full of emotion, perfectly conducive for Reales highly proficient guitar work. One hour just wasnt long enough, so an extra 20-minutes was coaxed out of the two.
Back inside the spacious hall Sonic Jungle were plugged in and blasting out a good-natured version of Gun n Roses. The ageing Thrust pumped up the volume but when Cut Throat stepped up to bat it was clear who was the band to beat that day. Definitely out for blood, the band packing two guitars and playing a smoking Skidrow meets Judas Priest. Iain Ashley Herseys Fallen Angel was a pleasant surprise. He pays tribute to the blues through Stevie Ray Vaughn/Ritchie Blackmore finger exercises and is fronted by a Tina Turner sound-alike. Robin Brock (A2 Records) was much stronger this year with her band tight and well suited. Stone made quite an impression as a 3-piece turning out 12-bar blues. Vicious Rumors closed the night with a far better display than last year. Back at the helm is retuning vocalist Brian O'Connor who is every bit the right man for the job especially when they dip into the older tunes.