At 7 there was already a queue around the corner from the entrance and into the rain, for those already with tickets, and another much shorter queue for those collecting or buying tickets. Little did I realise that molasses on a cold day probably move faster than that short queue did, I spent 20 minutes all but stationary because they were checking ID for every ticket collection and having them signed for before handing them over.
It would also appear that Nightlord started their set a little earlier than 20 past, as the opening strains of “Omens In Entrails” were ringing through the venue as I walked onto the already half full floor, which incidentally was packed solid by the time they were done. What struck me immediately during “Dark Night Dance”, other than Jamie Thorne’s bass notes as they knocked the wind out of me was the clarity of his vocals. While it would be nice to say this was owing to his articulation and enunciation, which did play a huge part, but it was primarily, in my opinion at any rate, because Ferenc Collins and James MacKenzie’s guitars weren’t overpowering in the mix. What I also particularly enjoyed was the tangibility of Neil Wiseman’s kick drum as it rattled my ribcage on the new track “Ghosts From The Machines” which appeared to be really well received by everyone around me. Another new song in the form of “The Gaze of Gorgons” made up for lack of speed by being extremely technical and immensely heavy, exhibiting the 20 years of maturity since their last venture into song-writing. Wrapping up their set with the frenzied pace of “Holy Inquisition”, James’ lead breaks over Ferenc’s driving rhythm still couldn’t whip up the arboreal audience who nevertheless made their support known through heartfelt applause as Nightlord left the stage.
Having never heard of The Generals, I had absolutely no idea what to expect but guessed at them being a thrash band considering the rest of the bill. Labelling themselves as Death ‘n’ Roll is probably a rather apt description with the death vocals and mostly mid-paced music, with the occasional brief blast. I’ve no idea what they opened the set with but they followed it up with “Stand Up Straight” and “Blood for Blood”. It wasn’t until “My Own Demise” that their sound was finally sorted as pretty much each instrument and the vocals were cutting out in turn during the first 3 songs. I don’t recall the name of their final song, but “Shotgun Serenade” and “Consulting with the Sinner” preceded it as they tried to goad the crowd into being more than just passive onlookers, but to no avail.
After more than a half hour wait, the natives were really starting to get restless as they began to sing along to the songs being played over the PA before the lights finally dimmed and we had an audio clip from a movie involving an exorcism as the intro as the Canadian quartet Annihilator took to the stage. I thought it particularly clever to start the evening off with “Alison Hell” thereby setting the bar rather high for the remainder of the gig. And they did not disappoint. Jeff Waters took care of the vocals on “W.T.Y.D.” which had plenty of audience participation, in both movement and vocals. Speaking of vocals Jeff and Dave Padden pretty much alternated vocal duties all night with Dave emphatically belting out “Knight Jumps Queen”, if you know what I mean, as the diminutive Alberto Campuzano strutted from one end of stage to the other while wielding and playing his mighty bass. Once the sounds of the explosions died down “Reduced to Ash” and “Set the World on Fire” followed quickly while Jeff and Dave roamed the stage getting the most out the wall of Hughes & Kettner cabs. The fast “Refresh the Demon” was followed by the meandering leads of “Never, Neverland” which felt slow in comparison. Staying with the early material for the majority of the set they continued with “No Zone” followed by “Bliss” as it ran into “Second to None” then “I Am in Command” before slowing things completely with the ultra-mellow medley comprising of “Phoenix Rising / Sounds Good to Me / Snake in the Grass” which brought the first half mosh to an end. After sitting rather sedately for the ballads, Mike Harshaw got a pleasant warm up in the form of a 5 minute drum solo to start the second half of set and finally coming to the new material in the form of the excellent “No Way Out” and “Smear Campaign” from the new album ‘Feast’, which I’m now looking forward to acquiring. Remaining in this century “Time Bomb” and “Ambush” kept the pit going as the more tired amongst them started to have more and more lie downs on the wet and slippery floor. They ended their set with another new song and the opening track to the album in the form of “Deadlock” which went down a storm. Owing to the extra 15 minutes of nought happening prior to their coming on stage, the encore was limited to “King of the Kill” with its 1000 guest vocalists singing along to every word that Jeff barked. A fitting end to a great show, but as one would expect from a band which such a huge back catalogue there may have been some favourites they had to omit, but I doubt they left anyone feeling they hadn’t got their money’s worth.