Lillian Axe + Riot Act + Kaine @ The Robin, Bilston – 22nd August 2022


It’s my first time visiting The Robin (I know, shame on me) but I’m breaking my duck in the best possible way, with two American heavyweights, both of whom are very much in the ascendency. But first up, representing the English corner are Colchester’s Kaine. After some major line-up changes (which left founder Rage Sadler as the sole original member) the band returned with their best studio album, Reforge The Steel. It’s from that record that this set is largely culled, and the title track makes for a bruising introduction. They haven’t travelled north to take prisoners, and proceed to dish out a punchy brand of power metal that culminates in the coupling of ‘Master Of Mankind’ and ‘Iron Lady’. With the change in personnel Kaine seem invigorated and energised, and ready to take on the world…and it’s there for the taking.

The history of New York’s Riot is too long and convoluted to detail here, but there’s currently two versions of the band in existence, including Riot Act, featuring guitarist Rick Ventura (who played on classic Riot albums Narita and Fire Down Under), and to my ears it’s this outfit who are carrying the torch from the original band. Like many pioneers, Riot got usurped by those who followed and reconfigured their sound for mass consumption. Not only did they influence the NWOBHM (Raven), but you can hear elements of Riot in thrash (Anthrax) and power metal (Helloween). And if you don’t believe me, then just check out opener ‘Rock City’ and, my God man, that riff! it still sounds fresh and exciting and just when you think things can’t get any better, they pull a full-throttle ‘Road Racin’’ out the bag.

In Don Chaffin Riot Act have the quintessential frontman who radiates charisma (he looks and sounds like he could have fronted Deep Purple MK III) and he’s certainly breathed new life into these classic tunes. The new cuts from their recent album ‘Wanted’ (with its cool Aerosmith shuffle) and ‘Closer To The Flame’ sit easily amongst the older, and they find Rick still throwing all the right shapes while ably supported by a solid rhythm section. Of course, having such a wealth of songs to choose from means someone is always going to be feel aggrieved by the set list selection, and my personal bug bear is the absence of ‘Overdrive’, but when they include ‘Swords And Tequila’ and ‘Alter Of The King’, I can’t complain at all and, as the final chords of ‘Warrior’ fade into the ether Riot Act are rewarded with rapt, and well-earned applause.

Some bands age like a malt whiskey that’s been brewed to perfection in an oak cask, and that’s certainly the case with New Orleans’ Lillian Axe. Like a ripe grape that’s blushing on the vine, it seems now is the perfect time to sample Louisiana’s finest metal band. If proof were ever needed to the band’s verve and vitality, it can be found in two tracks from their critically acclaimed new album, From Womb To Tomb, which open the show: intro ‘Breathe’ and show starter proper ‘I Am Beyond’. Lillian Axe are an unstoppable force of nature who hit the stage like a ten-ton hammer, and rarely let up over the course of a near two-hour show. New vocalist Brent Graham has a versatile set of pipes and ensures ‘I Am Beyond’ swirls towards the heavens before getting low down and dirty on ‘Misery Loves Company’ (from 1988’s eponymous debut). By my calculation, Brent is Lillian Axe’s sixth singer, and in a set which touches all points of their career, he seems capable of handling all bases, and is a perfect choice to move the band forward.

Thankfully Lillian Axe aren’t a band to turn their back on their roots, and guitarist and founding member Steve Blaze orchestrates and leads his troops on a tour de force through the band’s back catalogue, and he gives the fans exactly what they want. So, it may seem strange lamenting the absence of new tracks, but I’d liked to have heard a few more cuts from the new record. From Womb To Tomb is a multi-layered album that’s rich in symbolism, and it would have been cool to hear those songs parred back in the live environment (a version of ‘No Problem’ hints at this), but hopefully, once the album has been out in the world, a few more tracks will be inserted into their set. But that’s a minor quibble when songs such as ‘Hard Luck’ and ‘Ghost Of Winter’ are aired, and played with such panache. Wayne Stokely is an octopus behind the kit and powers the band forward and is anchored by bassist Michael Maxx Darby, while guitarist Sam Poitevent, understated but assured, riffs dependably.

With the exception of a few festival dates, it’s been a long 29 years since since Lillian Axe last toured these shores, and on the strength of tonight’s gig, that’s been way too long. This “best of” show set the venue alight, but hopefully they won’t make us wait another three decades for a repeat performance!

Kaine Set List:

1. Reforge The Steel
2. Black
3. Loudwire
4. Rebirth
5. Master Of Mankind
6. Iron Lady

Riot Act Set List:

1. Rock City
2. Road Racin’
3. Wanted
4. Swords And Tequila
5. Closer To The Flame
6. No Lies
7. Don’t Hold Back
8. Altar Of The King
9. Warrior

Lillian Axe Set List:

1. Breathe (Intro)
2. I Am Beyond
3. Misery Loves Company
4. All’s Fair In Love And War
5. Crucified
6. True Believer
7. World Stopped Turning
8. Waters Rising
9. No Problem
10. Dream Of A Life Time
11. Hard Luck
12. Moonlight In Your Blood
13. Ghost Of Winter
14. Body Double
15. Deepfreeze
16. Death Comes Tomorrow
17. Nobody Knows
18. Show A Little Love
19. Ascension (Outro)