Read anything you can find on the Internet about the band KaVaN (pronounced “cave-in,” by the way), and comparison to Iron Maiden comes up consistently. Given that, it’s not surprising that they ended up their set with a Maiden cover tune (more on that later).
There is a natural tendency when describing a band’s sound to compare them to another, perhaps more well-known band. After all, it does help the reader get a sense of what the band is all about. So, yes, a fan of Iron Maiden would not feel out-of-place at a KaVaN show, but the band is much more than just a throwback to the 80’s. In fact, both visually and musically, KaVaN pulls from elements of 80’s metal, along with 90’s and 00’s thrash and hardcore. You’ve got drummer Jordan Brown, wild man behind the kit, shirtless, hair down to his waist, who looks every bit the part of a late 1980’s metal musician. On the other hand, bassist Rudy Nuno is so clean cut and neat if you saw him on the street he could easily pass for a businessman.
For their performance at the House of Blues in Anaheim, the opening song of the night was The Crow. With the harmony lead guitar riffs of guitarists Billy Peale and Thomas Moore, and the soaring vocals of lead singer Paul Harkin, the song sounded like…well…it could have been a newly discovered Iron Maiden track. Then, a few songs later, came Side By Side, which had a very different feel to it. This tune starts slow, then shifts to a 90’s harsh, staccato guitar riff, and at times, Harkin’s vocals approach the classic hard-core growl (although, thankfully, not to the point of the infamous “Cookie Monster” vocals).
Goodbye was another hard-but-melodic song that featured the backing vocals of bass player Nuno, and the lead guitar work of Moore. Moore may look like a fresh-faced kid, but man, can that guy shred with the best of them! Another standout is Brown on drums. He holds the sticks in the proper traditional style, except that he’s using the underhand grip in his right hand (I’m a guitar player, so it’s a bit of a mystery to me, but you drummers will understand). However, any musician WILL appreciate his talent. I may be mistaken on this, but I’m guessing he was using a House of Blues house drum kit, since the bass drum had the HOB logo on it (and with five bands, it would make sense to speed along the down time between bands). If that is indeed the case (hell, even if he was using his own kit) the guy is a beast. One hell of a drummer.
Another thing refreshing about KaVaN’s performance is that all five guys seems to truly be having fun on stage. A trait that many heavy bands fall into is that they try to look so damn serious all the time. You know the look…that half-smirk, half growl, as if they’d bite your head off in a heartbeat if you dared to make eye contact with them. Not these guys. Frontman Harkin, with his grin and lilting Irish accent, sounded (at least to American ears) to be exceedingly polite even as he exhorted the audience “make some fucking noise!” All of them would frequently exchange glances among themselves and smile, as if to indicate, wordlessly, “hey, this really is a blast!”
One visual highlight of the show was when Peele, Nuno and Moore stood on top on the stage monitors while playing. Now, we’ve all seen musicians prop one foot on a monitor (Steve Harris of Iron Maiden is particularly famous for striking that pose). Nope–that just wouldn’t do for the boys in KaVaN. Peele, Nuno and Moore actually stood up tall, with both feet, on the tops of the monitors. Now, the height of the stage at the HOB is about four feet, and add another foot or so for the monitors, so you’ll see that’s no small feat (no pun intended!). The thought of one of them losing balance and toppling over was indeed frightening, but thankfully their sense of balance was as keen as their musicianship.
After nine songs, Harkin said “this is going to be our last song of the night,” but he didn’t indicate the name of the song. As the old cliché goes, that song needed no introduction, as everyone in the audience went crazy as KaVaN blasted the opening riff to The Trooper by Iron Maiden. And, would there be any doubt that they would do the song justice? Covering any Maiden song is a challenge to singers, given Bruce Dickinson’s vocal range and power, but Harkin handled it admirably. Of course, Moore went to town on the solo, as everyone in the house knew he would, while Peele, Nuno and Brown held down the core of the song. The only criticism of the entire night came on this song, during the “whoa-o, whoa-o, whoa” backing vocals in the chorus. They were a little sloppy, but that’s easily fixable, and in the big picture, didn’t detract that much from the totality of the night.
KaVaN’s show was particularly enjoyable in that it crosses musical boundaries and blurs lines. Someone who’s into mid-80’s, NWOBHM melodic-style songs will be able to hang with KaVaN without feeling overwhelmed by their heavier material. Conversely, a person whose music tastes runs to harder-edged metal won’t be put off by the Iron Maiden-influenced stuff. Good band, good show.
Live Photos By: Adley Diaz