This three date mini UK tour was across Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow and was sold out many weeks in advance giving new and upcoming London based band The Raven Age a perfect opportunity to grab the ears of the attendees and try to hook in a new fan base as their music sat firmly in the modern metal sub-genre where clean vocals alternate with growled shouts which caught some of the more guarded people in the audience unawares, but not to the point that they wandered off, though doing so would have meant losing your spot as the place was rammed solid. Fixing myself down the left as close as possible, it was clear the band was gorging on the big crowd and doing their best to milk them for appreciation and for the most part they were rewarded. Within this bands ranks is one George Harris, son of Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) and it was quite clear that link was avoided during band introductions and rightly so as each guy put on a good show though the tunes definitely need more individual identity and the vocalist looked to struggle with his breathing on the more pronounced vocal parts but all in all the band gained a few more friends tonight.
Sweden’s Wolf worship British styled heavy metal, their adoration for the genre is patently obvious on their albums and after the intro piece the set was belted into life with “Shark Attack”. The twin axe acrobatics of Niklas and Simon were tight and executed impeccably as it appeared some in the crowd found them a little too heavy for their liking and promptly buggered off which I thought was strange. Added to that the reception the band received was lukewarm, tepid to the point of apathy which I also found strange considering they were playing what most of the crowd were brought up on in their youth, namely Maiden, Saxon, Priest etc. They were particularly heavy and the vocals were as clean as any you’d hear in modern metal and added to a decent enough stage presence I couldn’t quite figure out why they weren’t better received, possibly due to there being no female fronting them if I’m cynical, and it also appeared that there were a fair few gig virgins that looked bemused whilst Wolf were playing. However as their set warmed into “The Bite”, the reception improved and a few fists were pumped into the air much to the bands appreciation. The two large Wolf banners obscuring the Delain drum kit meant space was tight on the small stage and both supports had their drum kit stage left and unless you were stood to that side or more central then you couldn’t see the drummer at all which I felt was a bit rude, but with space at a premium here I guess that was inevitable. Prowling the stage with confidence “Skeleton Woman” was slung out as more people got into their trad British metal honouring once the audience sing back tune “Voodoo” was aired. By this point I had noted that the band really would benefit from a front man or woman, to bolster the stage presence and inject passion into their show as I also felt the show was just too plodding at times until “Skull Crusher” started up and the Priest like frenetic guitar work was unleashed and led nicely into “Evil Star”, another speedy number before closing with “Speed On”. I’ve seen Wolf seven times now and each time they put on a truly professional and confident show that should have gone down better with the crowd.
My shooter was the only reason for attending this show, though seeing Delain at the Wacken Open Air mud bath in 2012 was my first time seeing the band play. Impressed at the time I vowed to see the band again at the next opportunity and if truth be told I wasn’t that fussed about attending this gig due the sheer numbers of shows still to come even after this one before the end of 2014 but thanks to his persuasion and the fact of being able to review it. That decision was a master stroke as this Dutch band really were extraordinarily brilliant from the moment the show started with its surreal intro piece into the detonating bounce of “Go Away”. The adulation the crowd holds for not just Charlotte Wessels (vocalist) but the whole band was first-rate, though it’s fair to say much of the crowds vision was held on the captivating and charismatic front woman. Initially her voice was a little lost in the power of the overall sound but was soon corrected as all and sundry around broke into voice and joined in for practically every tune played. Leading straight into “Get The Devil Out Of Me” the crowd was by now on pogo sticks as the richly synthed tune was opulent to the point of pop and I mean that complimentary as this was a metal show, the synchronised head banging of all the band was a joy to watch and proved the bands true metal roots was at its soulful heart. Charlotte’s voice was utterly mesmerising as the harmonised choral breaks were enthralling and heart wrenching as the show was off at a scorching pace. A quick chat from Charlotte stated that Otto (bass player) had been injured at the Birmingham show and was unable to play but step forward Merel Bechtold this woman was a bass boss throughout the evening and added to her forceful playing style was her battering head banging ably assisted by everyone else in the band, the stage was a mass of swirling hair at every available opportunity but especially the massive riff and keyboard break in “Army Of Dolls”. Veering between the all out fist pumping vibrant injected tunes were more subtle vocal moments such as the start of “Stardust” right before a very enthusiastic woman bellowed ‘Bring Me To Life’ before Charlotte had a chance, causing a few giggles around me. The slower laid back lead vocal in its middle was pristine; skin crawling was an understatement.
It is quite obvious that the bands support slot on the Within Temptation tour made a substantial impression on people judging by the attendance and the fact that when asked by Charlotte who had seen the band on that tour, a great many of the crowd roared back yes. Toning the pace and heaviness down a notch or two for “Milk And Honey” and “The Gathering” the bands symphonic styling came to the fore before the enormously addictive “Here Come The Vultures”. Its vocals listen like a stage play, the depth of tone and characterisation was phenomenal, before the eruption into a bamboozling rhythmic pulse. Feasting on the ears of the audience, the deep backing vocal manifestations were present too and added to the richness and deft theatricality of the tune which was really quite eerie. Ending the main part of the set was a doublet of “April Rain” and “Not Enough”, the former being a huge crowd favourite it was sang back sinuously by the crowd at every opportune moment. Before closing it was announced the band would be playing with Sabaton early next year as part of their tour but hopefully the band will hit these shores again for another head line tour.
The bellowing shouts for more alongside shouts of Delain, Charlotte and various other permutations, meant the encore was upon us and with only two tunes left to play Charlotte thanked the crowd for their amazing response and total appreciation of the band and went into the magnificent “Mother Machine” before their now obligatory set closer and anthemic homage and mark of respect to the senseless murder of Sophie Lancaster. Dedicated to us all “We Are The Others” was perfect, the sense of camaraderie was poignant, we may be the others but this band was something else and pulled off one of the best performances I’ve seen this year and believe you me I’ve seen over 300 bands in 2014 so it really was fantastic.
Review by Martin Harris
Photos by Andy Pountney