It’s that time again. Warhorns. A time of mead, music and a smorgasbord of death, black, viking and folk metal. A festival with the mission to bring us bands who rarely if ever play the UK along with great UK bands that range from stalwarts of the scene to new bands just starting out. Some old faces, some new, some “What the…?!” surprises. You never come away without some new discoveries to obsess over. All wrapped up in the friendliest, attitude free festival I know.
Some background is in order here this year.
The tragic closing of its previous much loved home at The Venue in Selby had meant a hurried look around the area for a suitable replacement as many attendees had booked accommodation and travel already. Never fear though, with the help of Ian Wright (The Venue’s owner, and now very much in the Warhorns crew) Glyn, Marc and the team found this most unlikely of places and…wow.
Lots of camping space with showers, camper van space, great band room and comfy bar with carvery and a food menu to die for serving breakfast, lunch and evening meal with bar food in between with veggie and vegan options. And beer. Lots of beer. Including Trooper, Black Metal Brewery (stocks of which did not make it to day 3) and a variety of local real ales. Oh and incredibly well organised, hard working and unfailingly friendly staff (most of whom had never seen anything like a Warhorns crowd before poor things…)
I mean talk about falling in your feet. You have never seen so many well fed metalheads at a so-called ‘small’ festival.
Also the venue is a little out of the way, so non-campers kind of weighed in with taxi shares, car shares and local advice so no one had too much trouble getting there. Me and my little group with designated driver ended up being a taxi for a great French lass Elisa, a cool lad from down South named Phil and our lovely friend Zed. Just what Warhorns is about. Pitching in and having a laugh.
This was all needed as….
Fuck me even for Yorkshire this was ridiculous. I wouldn’t say it rained much from 14.00 on but a guy called Noah turned up in a wooden ship offering to ferry people two by two. The power station is about a hundred yards away from the venue door and you couldn’t see half of it… Yes, campers had fun setting up, but help was there in abundance and no one drowned. Well there was this one lad who discovered the hard way his tent wasn’t as waterproof as it had claimed but, as I say, help was there.
Wristbands obtained, Black Metal Brewery bottles purchased we got acclimatised and orientated before things kicked off at later than intended at 19:00 ish as due to Trollort announcing the day before they’d split up (!) there was not a chance of a replacement being organised even with the number of local bands who would have stepped up with just a bit more notice.
Thursday is traditionally a little more power and a little less folky than the other days and things kicked off with a blistering raiding party from Scotland, Runemaster. New to me, the Edinburgh quartet play a totally bullshit free set of real epic driving heavy metal with bass heavy riffs made from girders and great aggressive clean vocals. There were bits that reminded me of a heavier Manilla Road, a little Grand Magus, that kind of vibe and they were so easy to get into that a pretty good crowd gathered and had good fun shaking off the rain. Excellent guys. Yep, great start and a CD went into my ‘sack of shiny things’.
Local heroes and Bloodstock trebuchet legends Sellsword were up next. Despite being gutted at the lack of said trebuchet (venue ceiling too low they tell me) the first notes bring a huge grin. Nobody does power metal like Sellsword and they hit it at a gallop. Huge vocals, hooks to drag on the first time listener and oozing charisma as a band their melodic attack pulls in the crowds and the plastic swords rise. ‘Rise And Take Command ‘ is imperious, ‘Merchants Of Menace’ fierce and fun and ‘Hardrada’ as poignant as ever.They even played a new song in ‘Pendragon’. A band who Take their music seriously but not themselves, it was a fantastic set that really got the festival blood and beer flowing.
Returning from buying more shiny things (ooo look a new Sellsword patch), we were treated to Morpheus Rising. More of a hard rock/metal affair with twists of maybe Magnum and even Pink Floyd and Queensryche they were clearly gents who knew their way around a stage and their instruments. Tight as anything with strong vocals, a guitarist who looked like he was born playing and a great rhythm section including Ian Wright on drums, owner of Warhorns pervious home The Venue’, they got a nice reception, many of whom had probably never listened to a band like them before. Very cool.
Then it was the headliners. Italy’s Wind Rose. Now the thing I was most worried about this year was the fact that I knew very little of two of the headliners and Wind Rose were the real unknowns. Other than the fact they play ‘dwarven metal’ and had heard one YouTube track that was it. However it was clear that many people had turned up very much to hear them and you have to take that as a sign of quality. And they were. With a fantastic, charismatic frontman in Francesco Cavalieri leading everything, every bit the King Under the Mountain, they pounded and pummelled their way through a set of folk tinged power metal with roared vocals. They knew how to use the stage and the crowd threw themselves into it with a great reception.
For those of us new to the band I have to say it was very difficult to find a way into their drum heavy sound in a live environment and I know I wasn’t alone in that. But not to take anything away from them; they played a sharp set, went down very, very well and ended the night in fine fashion.
Up the hammers, raise the horns and out into…er…rain.
Review and Photos Gizmo