So here we are, once more; the Warhorns travelling carnival of chaos as the organisers themselves described it, rolls into another new venue after the sad demise of last year’s glorious venue at Eggborough power station. Truncated to two days this year as two stages meant easier change overs and with no camping available that also helped save punters a night of hotel costs. The later start gave people time to book into hotels before the start too. That’s just one of the things I love about the festival; they really do try their damndest to think about the Warhorners attending with stuff like this. Add in a child safe and friendly environment (there’s always two or three with their ear defenders rocking out with their parents) and as a friend asked me to mention (Kimbel Smith, founder of The Metal Society Facebook page – check it out) the organisers also have created a safe festival for autistic people too for which he is very grateful. Me too as it happens…
Well anyone with a brain arrived Friday. So of course I was there the Thursday night too…Ahem. Pre Warhorns beers then…
Anyway a sunny Friday greeted us. The Trades from the outside is an ugly brick bunker next to a lovely old building housing a pub at which we sank a couple of very nice beers beforehand. All good.
Inside The Trades and…wow. A very nice two-level main room with good stage/pit area viewable from the raised entrance and lots of seating to either side. The second stage is through a door to the right and neatly self-contained. Intimate is a good word, but actually a very nice space.
Downsides? No catering (burger van outside, no veggie options but as I was determined to see every band it was all I had. Two days and my guts hated me…) Oh and the venue owners clearly hadn’t believed the organisers about attendance numbers and drinking capacity. They started with two bar staff, cash only and virtually no change. Odd as they put on a lot of metal related gigs. Still they called in reinforcements and thirsts were slaked.
Music already Giz. Music. Not prattling.
The honour of opening the festival went to young raw black metal three piece Andracca. Well knock me down with…ok with a massive great stick…what a fine way to start. Not being familiar with them I was really impressed. Angry, fiery, bass heavy stuff that hit an almost black ‘n’ roll groove at times. Some neat clean vocals edged in too. They were clearly fired up and their highly energetic performance was very well received by the well filled second stage room. Superb way to start and the first cd went into my Sack Of Shiny Shit.
Wyrdstæf followed that on the main stage. With the Trivax presence in their ranks upped to two (Sully helping out on drum, vocals and stick shaking for the absent Azgorn and doing a fantastic job) they once more fucked with heads and mesmerized the excellent crowd. Primal, rhythmic frightening atmospheric ritual black metal from the Palaeolithic age, they seemed far more aggressive than their last performance with the Shaman stalking the stage seemingly daring anyone not to join in the ritual and Qatel channelling the spirits with some superb lead work. In a maelstrom of live electronic noise, harsh but superb guitars and bass and relentless drumming their stage presence is still stunning. Every person on that stage is an intense presence. Drums are smashed, elder gods appeased. We need some recording. Something. Demo, single, whatever…but something. Just stunning once more.
After a suitable pause, and a worrying glance at the beer taps, we pass back to the Hive Stage for acoustic folk duo Sininen. It’s a great change of pace too, much needed, and despite a few sound issues initially and maybe a few nerves their quality begins to shine through. There is some lovely vocal interplay between the male and female voices and their folk gets a warm and respectful reception.
Back on the main stage in contrast come Swedish band Zornheym. One of the bands I has not a clue about (you can only do so much homework you know) they cut a striking sight in black zip and chain adorned uniforms. Musically this is melodic, maybe slightly symphonic metal with great chunky riffs. In what turns out to be the common theme for the weekend not one single band this weekend simply ‘turn up’, they all go for it and so does the crowd. Zornheym really work the crowd to get them going. The singer who looks like he could bench press the entire backline prowls and exhorts the crowd and they respond in kind. Its not my thing really but thankfully hundreds disagree and the band leave with big and thoroughly deserved grins.
Passing back to the second stage, casting a worried glance at beer pumps already capped as ‘off’ I go in search of more delicacy. Well Manchester three-piece Burial might be delicate but they gaffa taped it around a housebrick and smashed us in the head with it…Oh it’s a glorious racket. By the time second track ‘Encircled By Wolves’ batters through the crowd is being pulled in by the gravity well of their riffs alone. If Motorhead had played black metal it might have sounded something like this. It’s a furious performance and I begin to worry for the drummer as I swear I can’t see his hands for the entire set they move so fast. Tight and nasty they excel. Closing with the charming ‘Nun Fucking Black Metal’ it’s a triumph of heads banging and horns raised.
Following that on the main stage My Silent Wake deliver a truly classy show of doom/death under, I gather later, particularly difficult circumstances for their drummer. Honestly you wouldn’t know it as they were pouring everything into it and got a lovely and deserved response. Heavy, melodic and soulful.
Things begin to slip a little timewise from here. The beer situation is beginning to look precarious too. A technical setup issue on the small stage means Dark Forest have to be relocated to the main stage which can accommodate them. I mean for me and a sizeable portion of the crowd this is great but time slips. Still as the opening notes of ‘Under The Greenwood Tree’ spread their folk tinged power metal out across the crowd I cease to care. They have hooks and a joyous nature to their music that never fails to lift my spirits. Centred around twin guitars and glorious classy vocals they use the stage well and the crowd enthuse. Amongst favourites like ‘The Battle Of Baden Hill’ and the quite brilliant ‘Blackthorn’ we get (I think) new number ‘The Midnight Folk’. Closing with a rousing ‘Sons Of England’ my grin hurts. Marvellous.
A little pause as things are reset on the main stage and my fears about the beer are confirmed: We’ve drunk them out of everything but Carling and Guinness (Warhorners have great taste….leaving those). Hmm. Oh well it’ll be fine…there’s mead…
Ah, Demonic Resurrection. Not sure how to explain this but I’ve been listening to them on record this year in preparation, but nothing prepared me for them live. Highly melodic, even symphonic death metal is hit and miss for me but not this lot. Wow. Even with two stand in members (the joys of travelling from India) they are immaculate. It’s great to see they have so many fans here as the reception is warm from the start and just gets better as people like me get pulled in. Their sound is excellent and songs like ‘Krishna’ are immediate and outstanding but full of depth with flashes of Indian melody threaded through the music. Vocals are strong and their stage presence captivating. The crowd throws a little moshing into the works and we’re into celebratory mode! Ah, just brilliant. Also should say frontman Demonstealer is an utterly charming and very, very funny guy and his shout out to the little lad on his Dad’s shoulders (ear defenders bobbing and she nodded away) was everything Warhorns is about. Great to have you guys. You totally conquered ears, hearts and minds.
We wander into the second stage but nothing is going on. Satarial should be on but…hmm. Then a bit of a wait and when a band does come on to the main stage I realise it’s Nightrage the headliners. Mostly because one of the ladies from Satarial comes on and informs us they will be playing after and I think promises us tits…(nope, no idea..). Despite the late hour and it being clear that some of the crowd have had to leave, Nightrage after the intro throw absolutely everything at us. For the uninitiated I guess you’d say their sound is kind of midway between Arch Enemy and old At The Gates. Full of energy and venom, vocalist Ronnie Nyman attacks everything like a hardcore frontman. It’s insanely catchy and thunderous and thankfully the crowd response boils over. ‘From Ashes Into Stone’, ‘In Abhorrence’, ‘Affliction’, an excellent ‘Wolf To Man’ off the latest…it’s top drawer stuff. Leaving us with ‘Insidious’ and ‘The Venomous’ they really did the job and thankfully the crowd ate it up.
So…after a little more delay Satarial finally have the stage set up as they want. No idea what time it is by this point but after their set and a twenty minute walk back to the hotel I’m in bed by 3.00am… So how does a Russian three piece of drum, guitar and…horn stuff…follow that headline set? By being batshit crazy. It’s rhythmic, wild music with the redhead Lolita writhing around like a shaman and although I haven’t a clue about songs it is highly entertaining, even compelling music and the stage show is actually great. The remaining crowd seem to get into it quite nicely as well and the band really do work at it so kudos for that. Not sure what the airing of the tits was about though….
Ah well, the uphill walk awaits after a grand first day.
Photos Andy Pountney