Ah, the first full day session, and a bright day in Selby. Fed and watered we arrived to a slight delay due to Petrichor sadly having to pull out because of personnel issues. So first up we had Lillith’s Keep, a young female gothy acoustic duo who were a light start. It was spirited enough and they worked hard too but with a fairly thin sound and a little too much wavering off key I’m afraid it didn’t do much for me but gather they are just really starting out so hopefully better things will come.
Talking of young, Skoll from Devon are next. They look ridiculously young, like I wouldn’t serve them in a pub young, but it’s great to see bands like this getting out and about and gigging. They prove to be an entertaining lot; folk metal with a nice solid and heavy sound between the two guitars (one male, one female) and up front bass. Their lead vocalist is a tiny lass who preceded to shock the crowd by launching at us with a fine, powerful growling style and very expressive face to add to the atmosphere. Their stagecraft needs a little more work, the singer in particular needs to push up front more but their gigging ethic I’m sure will sort that and their music is strong. Very, very promising band to watch out for who got deservedly appreciative response. Nice logo too (yes guys I bought your t-shirt, which I think was designed by the lass on guitar.)
Oh yes and they had a marrow. I’m told this is a ‘thing’…. one I guess I’m thirty years too old to know about!
Fen are on much earlier than originally billed due to a flight out that day, but it’s great they are here as weirdly I’ve never caught them live before. Thankfully everyone knew them and the Venue is nicely full for them. A little initial tech issue and then we are enveloped in their evocative trademark sound of post-rock inflected, wild and progressive black metal. It is a real step up in stage craft and presentation. They grip the crowd from the first riff and The Watcher’s magnificent, impassioned vocals howl out at us. There is just such commitment from the three piece; tight without being regimented and the music just flows from them. It’s a great set, best so far by a distance. “We’ve been told we have three more minutes, but we don’t have any three minute songs. So if they will let us have a couple more we’ll do a last song…” says the Watcher. Of course they do…
A hard act to follow. So I don’t. Well in reality I miss most of Iron Seawolf due to a bizarre 45 minute wait for chips, but from the last song I did catch I can report that they looked and sounded exactly like a pirate metal band and a few people were dancing. Sorry guys but stomach needed lining.
“This song is about sticking your dick in a cat. It’s called Bestiality Killed The Cat.” The nights must fly by in Wales. Yes we’re in the brutal death metal territory of Sodomized Cadaver now. Got to say that whilst this isn’t exactly my taste they are a fun bunch and really impressive on stage with the tight riffing and breakdowns on such delicate ditties as Raped By Ebola, Weapons Of Mass Decomposition and Skull Fracture Massacre. Yeah, not bad at all. Just goes to show.
Ah, Valafar return to Warhorns and proceed to smack us in the teeth with Forged In Iron and its Viking death metal. I think this is the fourth time I’ve seen these guys in twelve months and, again, this is just class from start to finish. This is wading through blood and guts stuff. Huge meaty riffs and ripping vocals driven on by a thunderous rhythm section. They never fail to raise the energy levels and frontman Wayne’s rabble rousing skills are superb. If you’ve never heard them think early Enslaved and Amon Amarth with that rhythmic Entombed sensibility amidst the feral attack. Brotherhood Of The Wolf, Bloody Spoils Of War and The Ballad Of Plainfield round things out before the brilliant Born Of The Nine finishes us of. It’s like running full tilt into a shield wall. Truly excellent.
Things take a turn for the sinister with MartYriuM. There’s a masked lady in latex crawling up a guitarist’s leg, blood or flesh or something from a wooden bowl and soul tearing screams. And that’s just the first song. From Malta, Martyrium allow no room for doubt; this is serious Satanic black/death with just a hint of Mercyful Fate. It’s muscular stuff, and I’m not just talking about the guitarist stage right. The music is heavy and played with total commitment, but most attention is inexorably pulled in towards the frontwoman. A voice that could cut steel and a stage presence that is part Evil Dead demonic possession, part sinuous, seductive serpent. She prowls, she crawls and slithers, she smiles insanely, she even licks one guy who gets too close. It’s a magnetic mesmerising show and the response is great from the crowd. Another to look into.
It’s an unenviable task to follow that grand guignol and Voltumna try but for me these cowled blackened death guys come across as tight but with songs that feel a little shapeless. I’m probably in a minority though I realise looking around and they go down quite well. I’m just a little unmoved.
I should also add here that around this time I realise it’s increasingly annoying me all the backing tapes I’ve been hearing, usually for the keyboards. I mean are keyboard players in that short supply? I really think it’s getting to be a bit of an epidemic.
No problems like that for Friday headliners Old Corpse Road of course. Keyboards have always been an integral part of their live show and their music, wrapping their dark folklore in atmospheric sounds. Dressed like ghostly gravediggers they enter and you can feel the expectation from the Warhorns crowd. The Whispers Of Long Meg Through The Solstice is a beautiful example of why; the mist haunted keyboards, the melodic guitars, shifting tempo into the riffs, the vocals varying from full on harsh to ominous spoken word, Old Corpse Road really work hard at the stories they are telling. And maybe that’s it, that’s what makes them so essential to the UKBM scene is this ability to retell or old tales within their own musical tableaus. They play a mesmerising and enthralling set and the crowd love it. The Crier Of Claiffe has been subtly changed since their debut album and is now an eerie, chanting highlight of their set. We even get treated to an old song, The Oakmen Of Naddle Forest and some fine bass melody before the closing ritual of their self titled song ushers them back into the fog. For me, the band of the day, which considering Valafar and Fen were both so great that is saying something. One of the hardest working and criminally underrated bands in UK metal underground, they deserve much more respect than they get from some quarters.
Words by Gizmo
Pictures with permission from The Warhorns crew & Eric Zahn