One of those nights: It’s hot and sunny and clammy outside all day so being sensible types a couple of hundred of us decide to jam ourselves into a sauna and jump about a lot. Sigh. Yep the signs were there before the first note; this was going to be…. a tad warm…
A fine early turnout meant that when opening Manchester/Bury trio Vice took to the stage with a big crash of everything there was already a nice atmosphere. Never having encountered them before, their stripped down, thrash infused heavy metal was a neat surprise. The sound is chunky, flashes of an old Metallica grunt in there, and the kind of thrashy heavy metal energy of Old Mother Hell bound together with a real driving force, lead breaks and kind of progressive tempo changes. Two numbers in and they’re sweating buckets and the crowd isn’t far behind. Songs seem to be based around the Seven Deadly Sins, with an added ‘Web Of Iniquity’ and have a great grit to them with some mature hooks. The stage banter is engaging, the music shakes more than a few necks loose with its honesty and enthusiasm and the reception is very positive for hard work. A cool surprise opener and a CD is invested in. Look out for them currently supporting Blaze Bayley, or indeed anytime you’re looking for that heavy metal fix. They’re good.
Everyone then dashes outside to try and remember what breathing is. Only time I’ve been to a gig where that came before refilling your glass… Yes it was getting difficult in there.
I just about feel as close to human as I get in time to dash back in for Dream Troll. There was a great deal of enthusiasm when they were added to the bill and being in the dark about their trollish charms I had decided to not investigate beforehand. A kind of “come on, then, impress me live”. Er..wow. ‘Velvet Drawbridge’ lowers and we’re flung into their world. Yes it is epic metal in essence but battered and formed from a gritty, almost down to earth forge. There’s real veins of NWOBHM in the riff flavours, a snap of thrash energy and even first listen these songs have serious pull. ‘Chrome Skull Viper’ is a blast of pure heavy metal joy, the kind that even I was singing along to first time that refrain comes up.
With cut-offs all round they really look the part too. There’s some great work from both guitars and bass on a small stage, hooking you and it’s impossible not to join in the celebration as the sweat drenched singer puts sack loads of energy and expression into every song. He has a huge voice too, a proper dose of metal singing with clarity and a rich tone and the occasional loud hailer…Honestly it has been a good while since a band impressed me so much on first sight. They know what they are about on stage, look great and they just keep pulling cracking songs out. ‘The Battle For Enki’s Tower’, ‘Steel Wing Warrior’ and huge closer ‘I Will Not Die Today’ are eaten up by the crowd and by me. There’s a great rough edge to them, a gnarly punch but delivered with real skill.
Utterly drenched they leave us to try and rediscover what air tastes like. Just a wonderful, rousing metal set. Time to scoop up their CDs.
It’s about this time you begin to notice things. Like the fact that even the bar staff are wringing wet, the floor is not just wet from spilled beer and you’re not entirely sure how much of your pint is beer and how much…other people’s salty cast offs…Lovely.
Ah well, once more…Unto The Breach. It’s time for our mercenary heroes Sellsword and the reason for this night of battle. Their sophomore album is unleashed and we are here to lay siege. There’s a great new stage setup with a couple of Sellsword shields on the drumkit and they have a very, very classy new pair of banners too in black and silver.
Introduction building they launch into the title track from the new album, ‘Unto The Breach’ to a rousing reception. Even though it is one of the two songs that had been streamed in advance it’s great to see how many already know it. There are inflatable swords and shields waved but for all that there is nothing fake about either the sound on stage or the enthusiasm off. It is an epic start indeed, Stuart Perry’s distinctive, dramatic tones rising with the fluid, melodic guitars from Henry Mahy and James Stephenson. It’s a classic Sellsword sound of galloping, dexterous runs and a real powerhouse rhythm section from the two Toms (Keeley on bass, Warner on drums) that keeps the power pedal down.
Second track is another new one, Sagaborne. There’s a nicely heavier tone to it, a little bit of low end grunt in there without being a sudden shift. Sounds so good to me that when an inflatable sword appears in my hand it gets swung with abandon. Yeah the grim guy in the black metal cut-off. This lot do that to you.
‘Rise And Take Command’ sounds flawless to me despite the heat, which already makes the band look they’ve been in a shower. Lord knows how Stuart Perry is getting air into his lungs, but he does. By the time they hit ‘Pendragon’ another new one it becomes apparent to me that despite only being released that day a lot of this crowd have already done their listening homework. Oh it’s a superb song even first hearing; soaring chorus, just insanely catchy hookline and punchy, driving verse. Huge grins in the audience are mirrored on stage. Yeah, it’s a launch party to be sure.
Got to be honest here; being about the oldest guy in the room the heat gets to me and I duck out for a few minutes during ‘Inquisitor’ to breathe in the car park before diving back in (look, no one wants to trip over me in there I’m sure and I would have gone..). It’s probably a good time for the comparatively slower ‘Meet Your Maker’ before, seemingly unaffected by the heat unlike Your Wimpy Reviewer, they reveal another new one. It’s quite wonderfully silly is ‘Buccaneers’, but I still get the hairs prickling the first time the refrain comes in. ‘The Courage To Die’ and set stalwart and favourite ‘Merchants Of Menace’ follow with a flourish and I think my voice may have gone.
We then all get a little Michael Palin/Monty Python as Stuart Perry leads us in offering thanks to Henry for his above and beyond work on the album (you know “Oh lord thou art so very, very big…” ) which is a lovely touch honestly. They then launch into a bloody flawless cover of Toto’s ‘Hold The Line’ which is a huge singalong (despite most of the crowd not being born when it was a hit) and again just highlights was a remarkable bunch of musicians Sellsword are. The wonderful ‘Hardrada’ closer the night with emotion and a huge farewell.
Post gig tales of drenched to the skin singers throwing up from the heat, fingers sliding all over frets with sweat and the band having to nick their own merch as they were the only dry tops left in the place kind of just sum it up. You never would have guessed in the audience. This is what Sellsword are about you see; five guys with big grins playing like magicians just to make sure we all have a lot of fun. Seriously unserious heavy metal maybe, but a damned remarkable band. Even I can’t be a miserable git all the time and they are just what you need to brighten your night.
It was a great night of heavy metal. Kudos to all the bands for a celebratory time. This was a proper party.
Pictures: Richard Gatecliffe @ https://facebook.com/richardgatecliffephotography
And many thanks to Tom Keeley for sorting access and the review album. Much appreciated.