Event: Rock Of Ages Festival

Artists: Blitzkrieg, Stairway, Liquid sky, Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper, Fury UK, Psychowrath, Hanging Doll, Spiral Dive, Rock$tar, heatray

Venue: The Asylum, Birmingham   

Date: 7 September 2008  

So on to day two of this years Rock Of Ages festival and after the ups and downs of yesterdays bands I was eager to see how today would go.  Day two was a far less chaotic affair than Saturday, so it was off to the bar first thing to take our places at the side of the venue and let the proceeding begin.

Opening up the second days events were Heatray, another band who like Beholder the previous day's opening act, a mighty big band with a mighty big sound, with their hearts solidly set of old school metal.

The band's set was as hard as it was metal, with stand out songs like ‘Nightwitch’ and ‘The Last Ride’, a track dedicated to the memory of one of the bands friends who tragically lost his life while taking his motorcycle out for what would be its last ride.

Paul "Chunk" Watling is a massive figure on stage and has the vocals to match, along with brother Neil and the other brother partnership of Mike and Dave Parker, with Chris Best on drums, the band really got Day Two off to the start all festivals want, big in your face metal that leaves you grinning from ear to ear and wanting more. 

Next up were another of those bands I was really looking forward to over the weekend Rock$tar.  I first caught this band earlier this year at the Z Rocks Festival, which was held in this very same venue in fact, and knew that today the band would put on one hell of a rock show.

Unlike most of today’s tribute bands Rock$tar don’t pick out one particular band, this band gone one further and play tribute to a whole generation of 80’s bands!  If this wasn’t a feat in itself, they not only do it well, they do it with style.

Opening up with Dokken's ‘Unchain The Night’ it was plain to all those around that this was a band really worth watching, as the crowd truly swelled in population right from the first few chords of this classic.

The band mixed some of the more obvious classics with some surprise the first of these being a stunning version of Thunder’s 'Love Walked In’.

The band never seem stretched with any of the songs on the set and when they said that Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ was next I was wondering if they had found their Achilles heal, but fear not the band were just outstanding with new guitarist Al White just spewing out the licks like the guitar heroes who's material he was playing.

The band continued to pull out all the stops with a remarkably impressive version of Tyketto’s 'Forever Young', which instigated the Asylum choir to sing along and when they gave us WASP’s 'Wild Child' that did for me.

They rest of the set included the likes of Skid Row, Whitesnake but the real crowd pleasers had to be Guns N' Roses 'Sweet Child Of Mine' and Billy Idols 'Rebel Yell' which rounded off a splendid set.  This is a band don’t have any gimmicks, they just play what they like and it's all from the heart, they love what they do and we wouldn't have it any other way. 

Next up were Spiral Dive, again a band with their roots firmly planted in old school metal. 

The band consists of Drik, Tony, Mitch and Buzz simply came on like a chainsaw in overdrive with a fast and furious set of rip snorting iconic metal, with guitarist Tony throwing out more shapes that a kindergarten tantrum as he rocked the place like a demented Ted Nugent.

With towering metal anthems like ‘Down On The Upside’, ‘Grinder’, ‘Keep Me Numb’, the epic metal of ‘Justice’, before capping the set off in fine style with the grinding full on metal of ‘Paranoid’, all good guitar fuelled metal tracks.

It's only now and then that these sort of mini festivals bring you something rather special and today Hanging Doll were just a band that simply blew me away.

The band were setting up their equipment on stage and my bud Dave turned round and said "that guy served me yesterday when I went to the bar" pointing at guitarist Daniel Leddy, indeed he and drummer Alex both work behind the band at the venue.

The band led by the slight figure of Sally Holliday were just mind-blowing, at last an all-British Power Metal band to take on the might of Nightwish and the like.  In fact not only could this band take Nightwish on, they surpass them easily and could quite easily become the next big thing in this genre if they get the right breaks.

The bands symphonic Metal was a majestic as it was epic, as they opened up with ‘Sweet Retribution’ from this point on the band could do no wrong as I and the majority of the crowd present just watched in awe as this vibrant young band put on one hell of a show.

They continued their magnificent set with ‘Hope Springs Eternal’ with Holliday’s scintillating vocals being matched by the gruff extreme vocals of guitarist Daniel Leddy as the pair duetted metal style on this superb slice of Symphonic Power Metal.

The band aren’t afraid to put the epic material into the set as the seven minute ‘Iniquity’ showed the bands musical splendour as well as Holliday’s superb vocals, this band have it all.

The band brought the tempo up a few notches with the simply sublime ‘Twist Of A Deity’.  Holliday may be small in stature, but she has a towering and powerful voice that simply has to be heard to be believed.  With the keyboard wizardry of Aryan Amoli, the pounding rhythm section of Alex Cooper on drums and Kev Wilson on bass, this is the perfect band to take on the might of Euro Power Metal.

The band rounded off this quite astonishing set with ‘Forlorn’ another epic.  As far as I was concerned that was it for me, I could have went back to my hotel totally satisfied because I had seen one of the best bands I’ve seen for a long long time.

And I think Roy and Jacki better start advertising for a couple more bar staff because this band are destined for great things and Daniel and Alex are an intricate part of this band.  I can’t wait to see them in support of Power Quest later in the year.  

From the new band to the older bands, the name of Psychowrath may not be familiar but the names of Marc Angel, Eddie Star and Phil Vokins might ring a few bells when the name Wrathchild is put with them.  Yes these three were part of the eighties Glam legends Wrathchild, all that was missing from the line-up today was Rocky Shades, but fear not Rocky was here as well!, only this time not on stage but in the crowd supporting his former band members. The frontman slot for Psychowrath was filled by Gaz Harris.

This band are pure old school glam but unlike the Gypsy Pistolleros the day before, Psychowrath were the consummate professionals as they let their music do the talking with their mix of LA Guns and Tygertailz rock.

The band opened up their account in fine fashion with ‘I Love The Night’ and the grooved filled sleaze of ‘All That You Need’, with Angel still showing how to mix it up big style on the six string razor.

This is pure old school British Glam, never mind the mean streets of Hollywood it was the mean streets of Evesham where these guys learned their trade, as they carried on their impressive set with ‘Your Goin’ Down’ and the equally good lick filled ‘Time To Let You Go’.

As Gaz Harris let his vocals take centre stage with the highlight of the set the excellent ‘Hollywood Or Bust’, which round off a quite superb set from the boys and with them supporting Tygertailz later in the year, you can see them gathering quite a fan base on the tour.  I for one will be trying to catch one of those shows based on this gig alone. 

Another band high on the must see list for today were Fury UK, a band who I caught many moons ago at Trillians in Newcastle and was quite simply blown away by them as a band, but even more so by the guitar genius that is Chris Appleton.

The band have seen a few line-up changes since them but thankfully Appleton is still at the heart of the band.

The band had taken a quite Iron Maidenesque sound in their early days and have developed a much more self grown guitar laden Metal sound that suites Appleton’s guitar sound.

After the bands intro faded away it was time for the band to be unleashed and they'd come here today to sell themselves like no other band as they opened up with ‘Krueger’, a blistering start to the set.

The band came across like a three piece Metallica with Appleton simply sublime throughout as he handled both guitar and vocals, as they pounded through the set with tracks like ‘Natural Disaster’ and the molten metal of ‘Salvation’.

The band simple ripped the roof off the building with a fantastic display of no holds barred metal with the highlights for me be ‘Lost In Forever’ and the superb closing assault ‘Death By Lightening’, with Appleton simply burning up a storm, there were times that I needed to see if he had seven fingers on one hand as the licks were coming thick and fast.

If you like big metal guitar and great solo’s then this band are for you, as my bud Dave put it “their like a young Motorhead but better looking”. 

After the young guns of Fury UK it was time for the might of Steve Grimmett to show us how the older metalheads did things, along with Pete Newdeck on drums, on guitar and on bass they opened up in spectacular style with ‘Karma’ from the bands excellent 'Personal Crisis' album.

Even though this was billed as Steve Grimmetts Grim Reaper it would be hard for a man with so many albums and bands under his belt if he didn’t put a mix of those bands material together, and that’s what we got tonight stuff from The Steve Grimmett Band, Lionsheart and Grim Reaper.

It was straight into ‘Wait Forever’ again from the 'Personal Crisis' opus before the band turned back the years with the first of two Lionsheart songs ‘Portrait’, a real touch of Melodic Metal from the boys which was quickly followed by ‘Can’t Believe’. 

Then is was time to really turn back the years, some 20 in fact, to the Grim Reaper album ‘Rock You To Hell’ for the title track as the metal was unleashed Grimmett still showed his metal credentials with this classic, before rolling back the years even further for ‘Wrath Of The Ripper’ from the '83 album 'See You In Hell’, although both of these tracks were over some 20 years old, they both still are marvellous slices of Heavy Metal and still sounded better than most of the new so called Metal of total.

The band were really in full flow by this time and Grimmett seemed positively joyous on stage as they went into ‘So Cold’, then it was time for Grimmett’s nemesis track from the new album ‘Enemy’, which despite Grimmett’s pre song doubts was just supreme.

The band rounded off in great style with Grimmett signature song ‘See You In Hell’, which rounded off another storming set form the band who just grow and grow in my expectations after every show.  I just don’t understand why this band were not higher up on the bill and with them touring later in the year with the Tygers of Pan Tang this is one tour that simply can't be missed. 

As well as Hanging Doll another band who really grabbed my attention tonight and they were Liquid Sky.  I’d heard great things on the power metal forums about this band but had never had the chance to catch them live until today.

The band came on stage with little fanfare but when they opened up their account with ‘Titan’ it was clear to me this band were going to be something special.

New vocalist Tiffeny Joyce might have looked like Paris Hilton but when she opened her mouth the vocals were just magnificent as she powered through the songs with such grace it was a joy to listen to.

The bands power metal was a mix between Within Temptation and the new Nightwish, sound big keyboards and surging guitars and heavy bass and drums, all the right mix to make up the perfect Power Metal cocktail.

Their set carried on with the massive ‘Ghost In The Shell’ with the keys of Rick Ogden getting things underway, who was quickly joined by the thunderous tub thumper Stuart Wright and the excellent guitars of Jonathan Craven and Andy Midgley, as together they amalgamated into a powerhouse Metal force.

Again Ogden got the next song ‘Dreamstate’ underway, this is probably the bands finest song so far, it's just superb as was the next one ‘Beyond The Divide’.  This band like Hanging Doll are bound for international stardom and don’t be surprised if both bands feature on few Euro festivals next year when word gets round.

'Helpless' was next a song that lead singer Tiffeny informed us was the first song she and the band had wrote together and featured a more gentle refrain, which highlighted the sheer class she has a vocalist as she can bring it down when needed as well as provide a more metal vocal, a great find indeed.

The band continued to impress with ‘Love Labours Lost’, a powerful assault that brought the best out of the band and the magnificent ‘Salvation’, it was just one great song after another with this band, who capped off the set with the mighty ‘Watch The Ocean’, another tremendous mammoth of a song that rounded off one of the sets of the day. 

After the revelation that was Liquid Sky it would take something special to top that and disappointedly this never occurred.  As second on the bill I was expecting something rather special from Stairway but alas I wasn’t impressed.  There were much better bands lower down on the bill that out played them by far.

I was willing to give the band the benefit of the doubt as organiser Steve was seen wearing one of their tee shirts so I persevered.

The band were Classic Heavy Metal through and through with just a touch of Christian Metal thrown in me suspects, there were a couple of silver linings in the clouds, tracks like ‘Under The Gun’, ‘Walk Away’ and 'Soldiers of Heaven’ were relatively heart warming but Graeme Leslie’s voice reminded me of a Heavy Metal Ian Anderson sort of Folk Metal.

Sorry but this band simply weren’t my cup of tea at all, maybe I was expecting so much after the great sets of Hanging Doll, Liquid Sky and Steve Grimmett and maybe the tech problems the band sustained tainted the review, I don’t know! 

Now to the headline act Blitzkrieg, a band who will not lie down and die, as long as frontman Brian Ross still has a breath Blitzkrieg will reign on godfathers of British Heavy Metal.

Although originally a Leicester based band, the band like many of their kind have seen numerous incarnations of the band with only Ross still flying the flag of the original line-up.  Now they're largely a Newcastle based band mainly due to members Ken Johnson, Guy Laverick, Paul and Gary Brewis.

The band came on stage to the intro ‘Inferno’ then it was straight down to business with ‘The Phantom’ as Ross the original "Man In Black" stood centre stage as Johnson and Laverick whipped up a metal storm.

The band let the metal do the talking as it was straight into ‘I’m Not Insane’ from the bands 1992 opus 'Ten' before returning to the bands latest album 'Theatre of the Damned' for the title track, a real heavy bass line from Brewis made this one rather Sabbathesque.

It was metal all the way with ‘Dark City’ and ‘Into The Light’ with all eyes of Laverick and Johnson as the pair were just fired up as they spewed out the licks.

After the frenzied opening assault it was time to slow things down a little with ‘My Life Is My Own’ and ‘Escape From The Village’, before powering back up with ‘Tortured Souls and the massive ‘Hell Express’.

It was time for Ross to roll back the years to his Satan days with ‘Trial By Fire’ before rounding off the set and the weekend with a true classic ‘Blitzkrieg’. The clock had run out and alas no encore for the band but they did whip up a storm worthy of any headline Metal act and rounded off a great weekend.

Can’t wait for Swansea next year!

 

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