Red Dragon Cartel bring classic metal to Pittsburgh

There is a new club in Pittsburgh called The Deadhorse Cantina that is trying to make a name for themselves. Judging from the dismal display put on when Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel came to town with support from Pittsburgh’s own Icarus Witch, Homicide Black and Sick Sense, it is going to be a long uphill battle. Each and every band on the bill soldiered and braved a storm that, despite problems that included the owners (who didn’t seem to have a clue what was going on) announcing they’d just gotten their liquor license that afternoon, lack of lighting, no photo press pit, piles of equipment strewn about the entire facility and taking up massive amounts of floor space, no security whatsoever, a stage riser that was less than a foot high- making it impossible to see the bands and the fact that bands had to walk their gear through the crowd. The first band to brave the storm would be Pittsburgh’s own Sick Sense, who delivered a rock solid set of bluesy, balls to the wall, melodic hard rock complete with harsh emotive vocals and dark subject matter with visceral intensity. The band powered through excessive feedback problems and blew the sound system, jokingly saying “This is what happens when you go on first. You blow shit up.” [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Red Dragon Cartel/Sick Sense/\”] They continued on as charismatic lead singer Scott Boyd held the crowd in the palm of his hand before launching into their last song, which immediately brought to mind Saliva’s “Click Click Boom” and drove the crowd into one final frenzy. Pittsburgh legends Icarus Witch were next and, even thought the vocals were totally lost in the mix, that didn’t slow them down one bit or stop them from kicking out a devastating set of killer melodic old school 80’s metal in the vein of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Queensryche. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Red Dragon Cartel/Icarus Witch/\”] The crowd’s chants of “Turn up the vocals” was finally answered before they played the new song “Say When,” and Christopher Shaner’s voice pierced the darkness, “How’s everyone doing tonight? Can I get a hell yeah?” From there, they ripped into their unrecognizable rendition of “They Don’t Care About Us” from the heavy metal Michael Jackson tribute album and closed their set with the song the crowd had been screaming for all night, “Tragedy” which nearly brought the house down. Homicide Black would be the final Pittsburgh band on the docket and their sound pays homage to the heavier side of 80’s hair metal, like Motley Crue or Skid Row and for being just a trio they sure as hell made a ton of noise. The guitar riffs were as evil as they were epic, the bass lines were both rumbling as well as infectious and the solos were as soulful as they were searing. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Red Dragon Cartel/Homicide Black/\”] Let us not forget the stunning Ronnie James Dio-styled vocals of Sean Nestor, who\’s voice, albeit a bit lost in the mix, came shining through on their covers of the Black Sabbath classics “Heaven & Hell” and “Fairies Wear Boots\” both of which garnered a massive audience sing along with guitarist/vocalist Sean Nestor. From the opening notes and pounding drums of “The Ultimate Sin,” Jake E. Lee and his bandmates known as The Red Dragon Cartel proved they were not here to mess around and drove the fans instantly over the edge. The band continued on mercilessly through a blistering set and a myriad of technical problems. Including, blowing the sound system for the second time of the night after the Ozzy classic “Rock N Roll Rebel.” [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Red Dragon Cartel/Red Dragon Cartel/\”] Darren Smith is as charismatic frontman as they come and his cool and joking demeanor during the problems that plagued the band all night, kept the understandably frustrated crowd from going postal. The vocals were finally restored right before “Shine On.” Although the Badlands and Ozzy material got the best response from the crowd, it was obvious that Lee had not lost a step in his ability to shred with the best and the fans ate up every last note with relentless anticipation. Things got better as the night progressed and the band plowed onward through Red Dragon Cartel tracks like “Shout It Out” and “Feeder” alongside vintage Badlands standards such as “In A Dream” and “Rumblin’ Train.” All of it built to the epic climax of the Ozzy smash “Bark At The Moon” which ended the evening on a very positive note and sent everyone on their way home with a huge smile on their face- even the immensely inappropriately dressed 50-year old woman in the crowd. -Eric Hunker