This was a terrific line up on paper and opening band Widow got the evening started with a bang. Widow are from North Carolina and this was their first trip to these shores and what an impression they made. Opener ‘Take Hold of the Night’ was immense as were to vocal harmonies and the general level of delivery. All three members were clearly having a ball and when it came to tracks like ‘An American Werewolf in Raleigh’ you really saw the fret board ripping talent of guitarist Chris Bennett who was coincidently smiling from ear to ear. Widow bolstered their watching punters throughout the course of their set which was completely justified and pleasing and a healthy number of us took in ‘Lady Twilight’ and ‘Beware the Night’ with a genuine level of appreciation. One thing for sure, I was personally very happy to be able to see this band, something I never thought possible when I reviewed their latest album ‘Life’s Blood’ a while back. I don’t know what it is, but these American bands really nail their stage craft and Widow are tighter than a ducks rear end. Widow certainly ruled the night.

Next up were Midnight Messiah a band that feature ex-Elixir members Phil Denton and Paul Taylor on guitars and vocals respectfully. Taylor is a top singer and comes across as a really genuine person whilst engaging in minor crowd banter, especially when the kick drum pedal dies resulting in an acoustic ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ being played. But back in business, the band play tight and perform lively versions of newer tracks such as ‘Damned for all Time’ and opener ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’. But they also please the crowd with their older repertoire like the classic ‘Treachery’ from the NWOBHM classic ‘Sons of Odin’. Proving with this new line up that things are firing on all cylinders, Midnight Messiah and their stage hungry new guitarist Dave Strange are destined for further magical metal moments especially with tunes like ‘The Wise Man Of Roklar’ in their back pocket.

Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper are often spoke about as a cult act, I never had the chance to see them prior to this evening, so this was something myself and many others were immensely excited about. Coming straight for the jugular with ‘Rock You To Hell’ it is clear that the amazing range of Grimmett’s vocals are still present and correct. Throughout the set there was a definite level of musical professionalism including some major guitar work, but when you get to hear classics like ‘Matter of Time’ and ‘Never Coming Back’ you are in a cool place and with the venue almost bursting to capacity on the surface, this is what people wanted. Closing track and the as expected finale of ‘See You in Hell’ gets the crowd singing along and the band take full advantage of this and include crowd participation  to make this a really cool set and a terrific evening all in all.

All three bands provided a level of presence and stage craft that is not as common as you may think, certainly in my mind anyway nowadays. This gig will not be forgotten in a hurry and it will be one of those gigs you just had to be at, plenty of memories will amass I am sure, this was one of the best shows I have attended, the atmosphere and the bands were simply top notch, a really special night of great metal.

Review Paul Maddison, Photos © Chris Kee