January 17, 2023 Review by Tim Markel
“How the hell is that even logistically possible?” was my response when I first learned of the Kill Iconic Fest which took place at the House of Blues Anaheim on January 8th. With a total of 16 bands, the inaugural indoor music festival had many immediately rush to buy tickets when the lineup was announced last year.
The show started with bands Record Setter, Moxy, Ahh-Ceh, Concrete Castles, Moondough, Gold Necklace, and Body Thief all taking to their respective stages before 6 p.m.

At the main stage, a large crowd began to form and the crowd’s excitement for Scary Kids Scaring Kids was palpable. I did not know who would be on vocal duties for the band that night; however I was pleasantly surprised when Escape the Fate singer Craig Mabbitt took to the stage. The band pulled out the old crowd favorite, “My Darkest Hour” fairly early in the set and it sounded amazing with Mabbitt on vocals. 

Taking to the Perish Stage shortly after 6 p.m. was Satyr. If I had to describe Satyr, I would immediately draw comparisons to Protest the Hero or Periphery. I can’t believe I had never heard of Satyr before Kill Iconic Fest but I apparently had been living under a rock as this band has been melting faces since 2016.
Sparta was next on the main stage and I again was blown away. This was my first time seeing the band live and I loved every minute of their set. Sparta features ex-At the Drive-In guitarist, Jim Ward. If you haven’t listened to Sparta, I suggest starting with their first album and working your way up to their recently released self-titled album.

Shortly before the end of Sparta’s set, ex-Saosin singer, Cove Reber’s band, Dead American, hit the Perish Stage. Dead American put on a passionately energetic set to a packed house and I counted myself lucky to be upfront taking photos. 

Next to the main stage was math-rock group, Hail the Sun. I had heard quite a bit from Hail the Sun leading up to this show, but I didn’t consider myself a fan. That changed by the end of their first song. The energy level of vocalist Donovan Melero is unrivaled while he maintains a flawless performance. If you ever have a chance to see Hail the Sun live, you better seize that opportunity.
The last band of the evening on the Perish stage was the progressive rock band, Strawberry Girls. I had a chance to see Strawberry Girls live in a small dive bar shortly after their inception and it was amazing to see how much the band has grown since then. The room was packed wall-to-wall for their set. With their perplexing, unpredictable time signatures and a breakneck approach that would make Dillinger Escape Plan blush, Strawberry Girls is a must-see band.

As the night was winding down, mathcore legends The Fall of Troy took to the main stage. The surge of energy as the band went into their first song “Rockstar Nailbomb” was jaw-dropping.

Singer/guitarist Thomas Erak is some kind of mythical guitar god. The speed at which he can play is unfathomable. In a world of hammer-ons, Erak might reign supreme. The band powered through a set of older songs which included: “Spartacus,” “Mouths Like Sidewinder Missiles,” “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.,” and “Whacko Jacko Steals the Elephant Man’s Bones.” As the set came to an end, it became apparent that the band was only focusing on their first two albums. An amazing set for any long-time Fall of Troy fan. 
The Sound of Animals Fighting

January 8, 2023

The hour was upon us. As the lights dimmed, band members Rich Balling, Anthony Green, Matt Embree, Steve Choi, Jonathan Hischke, and Chris Tsagakis crept through the darkness onto the stage. Gleaming brightly at the feet of vocalist Anthony Green was a glowing orb connected to an electrical wire which he immediately picked up and began curiously dangling outward in front of him. “Thank you for joining us this evening. We are The Sound of Animals Fighting,” Green greeted the audience before continuing to hold the luminous sphere out in front of him.

Without warning, Tsagakis started in with the beginning drum roll to “I, The Swan” and the soothing, off-time masterpiece off their 2008 album was underway. The calming, dreamlike, ambient vocals of Balling bled through the speakers until the song eventually crescendoed into the epic chorus. 
As The Sound of Animals Fighting has done in the past, they brought along artist Norton Wisdom to perform live painting behind the band while they played. Throughout the set, he would start new pieces as he painted over the painting that preceded it.

The second song in the set was the titular single from the new “Apeshit” EP. I got chills as the Tsagakis went into that frenzied drumbeat that kicks the song off. The complexity of any one single band member’s offerings throughout this song is unmatched. Balling again provided some delicately woven spoken word throughout moments of the song while seemingly shaking off an ankle injury that he sustained during some of the very first few moments of the set. The song builds into, what feels like it could be, the perfect soundtrack to an epic battle scene from a “war movie.” 
The band’s most popular song, “Act I: Chasing Suns,” was third in the set and created a spike of energy throughout the crowd as the band went into the whirlwind of an intro. Green screamed the opening lyrics with such intensity that I’m surprised he didn’t blow his voice out. 

“Act II: All Is Ash or the Light Shining Through It” was next in the set and was Days Away vocalist Keith Goodwin’s first appearance of the evening. The album version of this song features Chiodos singer Craig Owens, however Goodwin did an amazing job to fill Owens’ shoes, who was not in attendance for the show. 
“This Heat,” “Another Leather Lung,” “Blessings Be Yours Mister V,” and “On the Occasion of Wet Snow” were next in the set and performed so flawlessly that the musician in me felt an overwhelming sensation of inadequacy. Seeing “On the Occasion” live was cool as it showcases the amazing vocal stylings of guitarist Matt Embree, who previously sang for RX Bandits. 
The song “The Heretic,” which features The Autumns vocalist Matthew Kelly, was next followed by “Act III: Modulate Back to the Tonic” which created a spike of energy throughout the room. The final song in the pre-encore set was “Act IV: You Don’t Need a Witness” and was one of the most memorable moments of the night. 

This amazingly special performance was then followed up with a three-song-encore which was kicked off with “The Heraldic Beak of the Manufacturer’s Medallion,” which Green dedicated to the woman he loves. 
One of my favorite songs by the band, Skullflower, was next in the encore. The tribal-like drum beats guide the listener through an ambient, cinematic experience that is accompanied by the reverberant vocalizations of Green and Goodwin. The song samples a female vocalist singing in Sanskrit and it was such an eerily exciting way to wind down the night. 

The final song of the night was upon us and I’m glad to say the band chose “Sharon Tate, Despite Everything” to close out the evening. The brand new song off “Apeshit” builds from a calming, yet busy verse into a very catchy chorus where Green and Goodwin complement each other’s voices perfectly. Under a blanket of red lighting, the band said their goodbyes before exiting the stage.
If you ever get the chance to see The Sound of Animals Fighting, which may be unlikely, I suggest you do it. Until then, check out their latest EP, “Apeshit.”


by Tim Markel Photography


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