By Brett Hoag Photography: Claudia Hoag
Finally. After a 3 year hiatus, on Thursday, January 26th 2023, the Metal Hall of Fame Annual Induction Ceremony and Gala event was live and back in Southern California. It included a huge coup of a reunited Twisted Sister being inducted by Steve Vai and Mike Portnoy, as well as some great performances. This year, in the absence of NAMM, the Event was held in the soulful confines of the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA.
Heart Of Hollywood Magazine: https://www.heartofhollywoodmagazine.com/club
For those not in the know, the Metal Hall of Fame is the brain child of Pat Gesualdo. Pat is the CEO of the non-profit charity D.A.D. (Drummers And Disabilities) which helps children and adults with disabilities worldwide with a special place for wounded veterans. After a few years of witnessing the fiasco that is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Pat decided that Heavy Metal, once again, was getting the shaft and too many influential artists, managers, producers, promoters, etc. were being left out. Beginning in 2015 and running concurrently with NAMM, the Inaugural event kicked off in Anaheim.
Fast forward to last night. The Canyon Club was packed to the rafters and the atmosphere crackled with anticipation and Metal Heads of all ages were standing shoulder to shoulder. Not only was the seminal group, Twisted Sister, being enshrined in the Hall this year, but web posts confirmed that for the first time since 2016 they were going to play a short set as well as be inducted by non-other than fellow New Yorkers and Metal Hall members guitarist Steve Vai and drummer Mike Portnoy!
Joining the hallowed TS this year, fellow inductees included the first major thrash metal band (Metallica use to open for them) the UK's own Raven, International metal sensations and cruelly underrated guitar maestro Chris Impellitteri, Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio, Lion, Dead Daisies, etc.) and Foreigner frontman, Lou Gramm. I know what you're thinking. Lou Gramm and Metal in the same sentence? Go back and listen to the album Head Games and you will hear Metal foundations and his vocal style and range certainly influenced a lot of metal vocalists to come. Joined by an all-star house band consisting of Metal Hall of Fame Inductee and all-around great guy, Rudy Sarzo on bass, Keith St. John most notable of Montrose and Burning Rain on vocals, Sean McNabb of Lynch Mob, Montrose, Rough Cutt and a plethora of others on bass, Joe Travers most recently touring drummer for Duran Duran behind the kit, and recent Inductee Doug Aldrich slaying on 6 string.
Co-hosted by established metal lover TV and film actress Cathy Rankin and Metal Ambassador Eddie Trunk the event commenced with the induction of Chris Impellitteri and his eponymous band. Widely regarded as one of the top metal guitarists today, Chris played a short set with Giles Lavery of Warlord on vocals and mesmerized the audience with bone-crunching riffs and interstellar solos. Only rehearsing once, they kicked off with a solid cover of Accepts Balls to the Wall and finished with a crushing rendition of Back in Black.
Next on the docket was seminal thrash pioneers Raven, Formed in the UK in 1974 by bassist/vocalist John and guitarist Mark Gallagher. Credited with being one of the major influences, along with fellow UK artists Diamond Head, of the thrash metal movement - then soon to dominate the 80s, they have released 14 albums and headlined early tours with supporting act Metallica. More recently, they played an event with Metallica honoring Megaforce records founders and Metal Hall of Fame inductees John and Marsha Zazula. John and Mark were joined on stage by current drummer Mike Heller and played a blistering 3-song set of Raven classics that had the crowd in a fist-pumping mania.
With intermissions covered by local up-and-coming metal acts Held Hostage and Adam and the Metal Hawks, the audience was pumped for the next honoree, Lou Gramm. While sadly, Lou did not perform last night, he was more than gracious and gave an exclusive interview to Neil Turbin of the world-famous metal podcast, The Metal Voice.
Next up was the induction to the Metal Hall of Fame of guitarist Doug Aldrich. Hailing from North Carolina and a founding member of Burning Rain, he has also served vaunted stints in Whitesnake, Dio, House of Lords, Revolution Saints and is a current member of The Dead Daisies. Mr. Aldrich gave a humbling acceptance stage then lit the place up with a short set of Dio and Whitesnake classics along with fellow Inductee and member of Dio and Whitesnake, Rudy Sarzo laying the thunder down on his seminal Quite Riot red checkered bass. Truly, Heavy Metal heaven. How could it get any better than this?
Did I mention this was a charity event? The highlight of the evening was the auctioning of a signed guitar from all Metal Hall of Fame members present, including Rudy Sarzo, Steve Vai, Mike Portnoy and the incoming class for $7000 (what a steal!). Thank you valued buyer for your generous support of D.A.D.
Wait. There's more!! We have come to the final inductees, headliners and major metal influencers Twisted Sister! They hit the stage after great induction stories by Mike Portnoy and Steve Vai and how Twisted Sister were the kings of New York rock and how each of them would sneak into shows whenever they could. With the daughters of the late great A. J. Pero and the absent Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda accepting in their respective honors, the other band members gave short, rousing acceptance speeches and then all hell broke loose as they ripped into their set. With Mr. Portnoy manning the skins as he did on their last official tour ending in 2016, Twisted Sister were as tight as ever, and just like the last time I saw them at a Jack FM show, they completely dominated the evening and stole the show.
Congratulations to the entire 2023 class of the Metal Hall of Fame and thank you, Pat Gesualdo. See you in Anaheim next year. Horns Up!